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Blizzard details Overwatch, its inviting, accessible, hero-focused multiplayer shooter

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Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment's new team-based multiplayer shooter, is designed — much like the company's other games — to be inviting and accessible, the game's leads said at BlizzCon 2014 today. That means giving players more to do than just shoot each other, focusing on more objective-driven goals.

Blizzard's senior vice president, story and franchise development, Chris Metzen said that "approachability is very important to us" in Overwatch. That design approach is evident in Overwatch's clean, colorful art style and the design of the game's heroes, which are being created with the idea that their skills and behavior should be easily identifiable at a glance. Many lessons learned from entering the MMO space with World of Warcraft, Metzen said, will apply to how the developer is building Overwatch.

Game designer Jeff Kaplan said Blizzard wants to give players less lethal "non-twitch options" when playing Overwatch. Players will be given "other things to do besides put crosshairs over targets," he said, because focusing solely on combat is "what drives a lot of people out of other shooters."

"We want to welcome everybody into this universe in a lot of different ways," Kaplan said. That also means that players will, hopefully, die less frequently than they do in modern military shooters.

"More survivability means more interaction with the people you're playing with," Metzen said, saying players will likely experience "longer uptime" while playing Overwatch.

Overwatch will emphasize six-versus-six gameplay modes that are objective driven. Instead of focusing on deathmatch, Blizzard will instead highlight modes like point-capturing and payload delivery.

Metzen said that the game is "about heroes, not classes" and that character personality plays a big role in Overwatch. He and Kaplan highlighted Tracer, the young British heroine who plays slightly out of time, teleporting and temporally blinking in battle. She's outfitted with a pair of pulse pistols, and a trio of skills that let her move unpredictably. Her most interesting skill is called Recall, which sends her back to where she was three seconds ago — both in location and in her physical state, meaning she can quickly regain any health she lost in the last few seconds.

Blizzard brought 12 of the game's heroes to BlizzCon 2014, but said to expect "many, many more to come."

Those heroes are broken down into some familiar roles and archetypes. The game's hero roles (Pharah, Reaper, Tracer and Hanzo) are the offensive types. They're designed to scout maps, harass other players and push for objectives while delivering high damage. On defense are Widowmaker, Torbjörn and Bastion, characters who can guard, create choke points and establish fronts. There are two currently revealed tanks, Winston and Reinhardt, who can cause disruptions and absorb heavy damage. Support characters include Mercy, Zenyatta and Symmetra, who will heal and buff other players.

The game's roles will likely be familiar to players who have experience with games like World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends, games in which a balance of skills and teamwork are required for success.


In terms of the game's fiction, Overwatch takes place in a "highly fictionalized version of future Earth," Metzen said. Players will see familiar landmarks in the game's world, in an attempt to ground them and give them context. The game takes place after an unspecified global crisis, seemingly borne of a robot uprising, though Metzen wouldn't give away much detail. The titular Overwatch strike team, formed to battle the mysterious crisis, has somehow fallen apart prior to the events of the game. But, Metzen said, "the world has darkened in the last five years," and "as the world darkens again, it still needs heroes."