Overwatch Stagnated Because Of Its Sequel, Says Director

Conspicuous is the word you might use to describe the lack of meat on Overwatch updates’ bones for the past couple of years. Seasonal events like summer’s Lucioball, fall’s Junkenstein’s Revenge, and winter’s Winter Wonderland have ground to such a screeching standstill that players don’t get excited about them anymore. What happened? Here’s a hint: It rhymes with “Bloverwatch Blue” and also it’s Overwatch 2.

During an interview at BlizzCon, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said that it hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk for the development team to split its focus between the live aspect of Overwatch 1 and the secrecy-shrouded incubation of its bouncing baby sequel.

Overwatch 2 was 100 per cent the reason” for the sluggish Overwatch 1 updates, Kaplan said. “And that was the reason that we were so excited to announce Overwatch 2. We now feel like we can have that open dialogue with the community of, ‘This is what we’re doing, this is why we’re doing these things.’”

Kaplan said that repeatedly trotting out the same seasonal events with little in the way of improvements “pains” the team. “Like, I sit right next to one of the designers of Junkenstein’s Revenge—this brilliant guy named Mike Heiberg—and he’s like ‘I have all these ideas I want to do for Halloween this year.’ And I’m like ‘I understand, Mike, but we’re focused on this other thing right now.’ So it’s hard for us.”

Kaplan insists, however, that Overwatch 1's current state is not a slow death, but a temporary stasis. Overwatch 1 and 2 will be updated with new maps and heroes at the same time, and when Overwatch 2 goes live, Overwatch 1 will also receive all of its graphical improvements, he said.

“There will be a point where the clients merge,” said Kaplan. “We think this is important, especially as a competitive experience. The whole idea is to avoid fragmenting the player base and giving anybody a competitive advantage. If we’re playing in the same competitive pool, you’d better not have a better framerate just because you’re on a different version of the engine.”

Kaplan believes that, all things considered, the team has pulled off a pretty decent juggling act, keeping Overwatch 1 aloft with new heroes, role queue, and the custom-content-focused Workshop while quietly plugging away on Overwatch 2. But he thinks that updates will once again flow like so much lava from a Torbjorn ult after Overwatch 2 comes out.

“I think Overwatch 2 is kinda gonna be the greatest moment in Overwatch history,” said Kaplan, comparing the impending pace of updates to 2016 and 2017, when Overwatch 1 was the team’s full focus. “The fact that we can pick up again with that live service cadence, where we’re 100 per cent focused, is really exciting to me.”

This could mean any number of new things, but one element of the game Kaplan is especially interested in expanding is mode selection. Overwatch 2 will add “Push,” the first new non-Arcade mode in years. More will come, he said—if they’re good enough.

“People think I’m crazy when I say this, but we are always working on new modes,” said Kaplan. “They just rarely work out to be fun and balanced. They have this high propensity to be fun for, like, a day or two, and then you realise that it’s impossible to balance, or it doesn’t have a long tail to it. What tends to happen is, the ones that are relatively successful, but we don’t feel like they’re strong enough for competitive or the Overwatch League, they make their way to the arcade. So many modes, we just kill outright. But we love making new modes.”

Regardless of how that pans out, though, Kaplan repeatedly emphasised that Overwatch 1 isn’t going anywhere. In the lead up to Overwatch 2's release date of “TBD,” the first game will still receive “some meaningful” updates. He doesn’t want to “abandon” players like other games have when they shut down.

“We’ve all seen when the servers shut down on X, Y, or Z game. It’s always a story. I always remember the Halo 2 players who just wouldn’t log out. They kept it up. I thought that was so awesome. I wish I was one of them.”


Comments

    I am still struggling to see the point of calling something Overwatch 2 simply for a bit more "fleshed-out cooperative mode" and "story missions", when literally every other piece of content is going to be backfilled to "Overwatch 1".

    Seems like a glorified expansion pack, and not even a particularly interesting one when the whole point of team shooters is the competitive matches.

      New back-end means opportunity for a full redesign once everything is properly merged.

      Someone on reddit mentioned Borderlands as a good example - all built on the Unreal engine that was available at the time. Should Gearbox have just updated Borderlands 1 with more guns and enemies?

      It's a new game that is doing something really different, and making the first game backwards compatible. Maybe thinking about it like that might help reframe the idea that it's a sequel?

        Thats not 1:1 as Borderland content was all new, this is literally just adding coop and graphic updates. There will still be no progression to the core pvp experience. So yeah, this could have been an expansion like say DoW Dark Crusade.

          DARK CRUSADE WAS THE ZENITH OF THE DOW FRANCHISE A DIZZYING HEIGHT IT HAS NEVER AND WILL LIKELY NEVER RETURN TO FITE ME

            I hear you man, so long as you don't come at me with none of that "Soul Storm was a good expansion" shit, we are great.

        The new back-end is for both overwatch 1 and 2, including all maps and graphical features, so no reason to upgrade there.

        The first game will be forwards-compatible, which I think is what you probably meant, but that's quite different from, say, making your old save games still playable which is what backwards compatibility usually means.

        The devs have already said that the two games will be functionally indistinguishable and owners of O1 will play in an integrated queue against O2 owners. No new characters will be introduced into the expansion that are not also available in O2.

        Supposedly, the games are meant to be indistinguishable except that O2 adds "story mode" and cooperative content, so you need to be interested in one or both of those features for O2 to be a worthwhile purchase.

        Certainly story and coop are not features that attracted any of the current active player base, although I guess that O2 might slightly broaden their base by appealing to a wider range of interests.

        Sounds a hell of a lot like it'll work like this:

        Overwatch 1 owners are getting their O1 client replaced with the Overwatch 2 client at some point, with the PVE content locked out and an O1 skin to it. Any time they attempt to open the old O1 client, they'll be told it's out of date and needs to be updated to the 'new O1' client,. which is actually just the O2 client, with a different skin on it.

        If they buy 'Overwatch 2', their 'new' O1 client (still just the re-skinned O2 client) will remain exactly the same, but they'll get the PVE content unlocked and the O2 skin unlocked, and little else will change.

          It'll absolutely be that, but I'd be surprised if they even bothered with the client reskin for OW1 owners.

          I'm expecting an all encompassing Overwatch client/hub for both games, but the PvE content will simply be locked for OW1 accounts and not for OW2 accounts.

          It lets them dangle the PvE stuff about and entice people into 'upgrading' to OW2, and saves them having to even bother maintaining two slightly different clients.

            Ugh, that's appalling. You'd have to be pretty manipulative to do something like that.

            ...So I guess we've cleared up how that's going to work.

              Yeah, it's pretty much how Blizzard do it with WoW and new expansions. You always play on the new expansion's client but expansion content is locked off... And Blizzard lovingly remind you about the new expansion until you buy.

              I know they're not calling OW2 just an expansion but that's really all it is if we're being honest, so I'll be incredibly surprised if it doesn't follow the same format.

    Sequel is a strong word for some basic PvE content

    Man a lot of people are upset about this and i don't understand it, if you think the PVE content is not worthwhile you have just gotten an update for Overwatch 1 that updates the PVP and the graphics for free. If you do think its worth it then you can buy the PVE content. To me this seems like a pretty pro-consumer move and i'm looking forward to an excuse to go back and play more Overwatch PVP (probably for free)

    I dont quite understand the point of the sequel. I love that it their is going to be a face lift and I love that there is going to PVE and I dont care if I have to pay for the pleasure, even at full price. The base Overwatch is one of the few games in recent years that have paid for itself ten times over. I also love that we lose nothing for the first game, but I simply dont understand 'the sequel'

    I know my concern and confusion doesnt really make sense. And at the most. I am just arguing semantics, yet still, some part of me just thinks Overwatch 2 sounds silly. No idea why.

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