The return of competitive play
"We were hoping that from the beta version of Competitive Play, we would need to do some polish and iteration and then release the feature but we felt like the feedback we got was basically asking for a different direction," Kaplan wrote. "So Competitive Play is quite a big effort for us this time around — almost as much work as the first version."
The version of competitive play that was in the beta was heavily criticized, and Blizzard learned from its mistakes.
"Some were wary of the system’s structure, which let pretty much anybody make their way into the big leagues if they just played enough matches," Kotaku reported. "They felt like it didn’t place enough emphasis on skill, overcoming challenges and improving. Others felt like the tier system was poorly thought out, emphasizing grinding over actual long-term progression."
But the reworked system is close, even though it will continue to be adjusted.
"But it's really far along," Kaplan wrote. "We're playtesting it multiple times a day. We're also looking into/debating putting up a Public Test Realm for this feature so that we can test it in a larger environment before putting it live. Even when it goes live, I anticipate our first few seasons will require iteration on the feature."
More heroes are also on the way, although it doesn't sound like we're see them soon:
"We have some that are very far along and others that are just getting started," Kaplan stated. "We also have some prototype heroes that may or may not ever see the light of day. We do a lot of prototyping ... I don't think we're at a point where I can really talk openly about the release schedule for the new heroes because I don't want to set expectations and then have something come up and suddenly we're backing out on a "promise" we never really made ... if that makes sense."
There is one new map that's in active development and play testing, with the art group making sure it looks as good as possible. There are hints about some interesting new ideas potentially coming into the game as well.
"For example, we tested a map yesterday that was amazing yet a total disaster at the same time," Kaplan wrote. "Aaron [Keller, assistant game director] tried some very innovative level design tricks that we hadn't done before in OW. On the upside, the map was very unique. But the we ran into problems with sight lines and the map was basically dominated by long range heroes, leaving heroes like Reaper practically useless. So if we can fix the sight lines while not losing the overall vision, that map might turn into something some day."
All these updates will be free, but the team isn't committing to any specific dates and all of these details — such as some updates to the social experience and more customization — are in flux.
"Obviously, there is a lot more going on — stuff I am forgetting to mention as well as some surprises," Kaplan explained.
"I can't stress this enough: some of this stuff might not happen," he continued. "The reason developers usually don't give insight like this is because if something changes or doesn't happen, players get very angry at us. I would like to change that dynamic but we need to do that together. We'll share more information with you guys so long as you understand none of this is a promise and things do change throughout the course of development."