Overwatch Director Says Balancing D.Va Was His 'Low Point' Of The Year

It's no secret that Overwatch players are precious about the game's balance changes. On the internet, fans act as armchair game devs, flooding the Overwatch forums with strongly-worded opinions whenever there's an unpopular or surprising change. Most recently, the forums overflowed with salt after the popular tank hero D.Va received a brutal nerf, making her far less powerful. For months, players begged Blizzard to revive the old D.Va.

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At an Overwatch anniversary event in New York on Wednesday, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan told me that his personal "low point of the year" was tied to that balance patch. But he does not regret nerfing D.Va. His low point, he says, was leaving her overpowered for too long.

Late last year, the Overwatch team gave the hero D.Va a huge buff. She became an agile fighter, more mobile while firing her gun. Her mech suit's health skyrocketed from 100 to 200. And it became much easier to charge her ultimate ability, which often kills two or three enemies at a time. In the patch notes, the Overwatch team explained that the changes would help the tank hero "withstand attacks, which will allow her to keep pressuring enemies".

Then, Blizzard turned off its lights for Christmas, postponing any balance changes for at least a few weeks. "People were burned out," Kaplan said. He and Overwatch's seven other designers took a break to visit their families over the holidays, when Blizzard essentially shuts down. Of course, Kaplan and Overwatch's dev team didn't take a holiday from games, or, apparently, from looking at Overwatch play data. D.Va was way overpowered. She had become too essential to the meta and too difficult to kill.

"We [Overwatch lead designer Geoff Goodman and I] were literally talking through Steam chat about how we're gonna nerf D.Va and as soon as we got back," Kaplan said. (He wondered whether Valve president Gabe Newell was reading his chats, laughing, "All Blizzard secrets are probably available in Steam chat.")

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Players got used to D.Va's strength over that Christmas break. So, in January, when Blizzard nerfed her, the forums went mad. Popular complaints described the new D.Va as squishy, ineffective and not a true tank hero. Kaplan doesn't regret the nerf, though. Of her current state, Kaplan says, "D.Va is totally fine."

In a few instances, the Overwatch team has been quick to roll back dramatic changes after strong player feedback. In March, Bastion received a huge boost that Blizzard reversed just a few days later. Players barely had a chance to learn how to counter him. It's easy to forget that there's a learning curve after developers make big changes. Describing his decision to scale down Bastion's power, Kaplan wrote in an Overwatch forum post, "Balance changes can be very difficult to make when emotions run so high in the community."

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But why was Bastion scaled back so quickly? "Part of the quick response to Bastion, it's sort of like, D.Va's our Alamo," Kaplan said today. "If we put something in and leave it for too long, the players will gravitate towards that and it's going to be hard to back people off."


Comments

    Players say, "D.Va is broken. Needs nerf."
    Kaplan says, "D.Va is totally fine."

    Players say, "Roadhog's new hook is trash."
    Kaplan says, "Roadhog is totally fine."

    Players say, "Symmettra is OP and her beam is impossible to counter."
    Kaplan says, "Symmettra is totally fine."

    Players say, "Bastion is so broken it's ruined Season 4 competitive mode."
    Kaplan says, "Bastion is totally fine."

    Seriously, Kaplan's goto line for anything that needs balance is " is totally fine". Well Mr Kaplan, they are not. You do not know balance in competitive games. You fucked up World of Warcraft PVP, now you're doing the same in Overwatch. Please step away and let someone else take care of the class balance and just stick to designing skins, sprays, maps and heroes.

      As a Paper player, Rock is in a good spot. Scissors however needs to be totally nerfed.

    honestly.. constant nerfs/buffs are annoying as hell.

    as long as the game doesn't turn into x5 roadhog or x1 roadhog + x4 mercy.. then just leave it alone.

    people still played druid in vanilla wow, despite being less than optimal. This constant search for "balance" just turns a number of players away.

      I disagree. Part of the fun of watching esports is watching players adapt to the changing metagame based on tweaks to characters by the devs. Plus, you would lose way more players if the meta gets stale and people get bored.

      I mean, think about how boring the tank meta was to play... and it was even worse to watch. Imagine if that was it - tanks were the Overwatch experience, forever. THAT is how you lose players.

    If that's his low point for the year then I think he should take a moment to appreciate how wonderful his life is!

    The only reason dva is fine is because of soldier as she's essential to making sure he doesn't just destroy your whole team. Other than that, she needs a tweak in one area of her kit. I propose reverting her damage because she currently can't kill anything, literally everyone can either de-suit her in a duel or run away laughing with 75% health.

    Players say, "Symmettra is OP and her beam is impossible to counter."
    Kaplan says, "Symmettra is totally fine."

    >.>, Whatever Kaplan, you just lost any creditability you had

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