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BlizzCon 2016: Overwatch Q&A liveblog

Today’s big Overwatch panel is nothing but a gigantic Q&A in which all questions will be answered! Or many of them, we hope. It should be starting up shortly and we’ll be keeping you posted on questions and answers.

In this liveblog, you will need to refresh the page to see the latest updates. Please be aware, depending on the pace of the panel, the liveblog will not include verbatim quotes unless otherwise noted. While we will strive for accuracy in the information presented, nothing should be cited as a direct quote from the developers.

5:15 And here we go! Kaplan is re-capping — Sombra announcement, the Arcade is the next big feature, the new map Eco Point Antartica, the Oasis map hopefully coming in early 2017 — on the PTR in December. And of course, Overwatch League!

Answering questions today are Jeff Kaplan, Jeff, Michael Chu, Bill Petris, Tim Ford, and Dave, who makes slides.

Q: We know that they’ve created this rich story — when are we going to get a story mode for the game?

A: Junkenstien’s revenge was an experiment in some PVE style content, they’d like to do more of that kind of thing.

…and we had a computer crash! We missed a couple of questions here. Sorry, everyone.

Q: Question about Hanzo and Roadhog and other characters who have abilities which behave strangely. Hanzo’s arrow hitboxes, for example, and the awkward hooks that happen with Roadhog.

A: They need to make a Lumberjack Hanzo skin and replace his arrows with actual logs for clarity. (Jokes!) They continue to iterate on these abilities for fairness — there’s a tradeoff to find between what’s fair for the shooter and what’s fair for the shootee. Roadhog’s hook in particular is being examined and we may see a Hook 2.0. They’ll assess what’s fun about Roadhog and try to hit that. The Roadhog change is “pretty soon.”

Q: Question about Sombra and Los Muertos. In a short, Los Muertos have crossed out Junkrat’s tag in Dorado. Have the two gangs clashed?

A: Yes, but not much more information was provided.

Q: It’s very common for a member of the defending team to drop the game if the first point is taken, creating a frustrating match. Anything that can be done about this?

A: Kaplan says data doesn’t show it’s happening that much. They still want to do something about the situation, but it’s not too frequent.

Q: Addressing toxicity. There are people who won’t join team chat or speak a different language. Any way to avoid players you don’t want to play with again, or more get grouped more frequently with people you like?

A: There’s a common request to force people into team chat, and Overwatch used to have that, but the developers think it feels terrible to force people into a public voice situation. They’d rather encourage people to use team chat instead. As for grouping with people you like but aren’t necessarily friends, they want to implement new systems to allow that, like being able to party up without having people on your friend’s list. They also want to improve the report player system so it behaves better than it does now.

Q: Any plans to introduce changes to existing maps? Not just day/night cycles, but weather effects and so forth. Also: What happened to Ireland during the Omnic Crisis? Does it still exist?

A: They love the idea of modifying maps like they did for Halloween and they’re very interested in doing it. As for Ireland, it’s “definitely still there.” The UK was hit pretty hard during the Omnic Crisis and others in the region were, too.

Q: Could other game modes be played competitively?

A: This is something you could use the Arcade for, and eventually, many of these options will come to custom games. They’re also aiming to add a server browser so you can find servers playing exactly what you want to play.

Q: A young woman thanks Blizzard for making a game which includes characters like her and who look like her. People of color, etc. Why did Blizzard decide to do that?

A: They wanted to set the game on Earth and it made sense to integrate multiple walks of life and represent the populace as a whole.

Q: Any plans to integrate skins and loot from prior events into other loot boxes?

A: They’re still figuring out how these work and are making changes as they go. For example, you couldn’t buy Summer Games skins with credits but you can with Halloween skins. They’re figuring out what people like.

Q: It was revealed at last year’s panel one of the Overwatch characters was LGBT, but nothing has been revealed since then. Will we get more information about LGBT characters?

A: They haven’t forgotten they said that. They want to represent LGBT characters just as much as racial diversity. They want this information to come out through the stories they tell, but so far, they haven’t had an opportunity to do so. There’s a story coming soon which will address this.

Q: Why are Mercy and Reaper the only ones who have the ability to interact with the souls of the dead?

A: This was a lore question, but they’re providing a development anecdote first. At one point in development, if Reaper ate a dead player’s soul, Mercy couldn’t res them.

On the story side, Michael Chu says the soul angle is a game mechanic. In canon lore, neither Mercy nor Reaper see soul globes floating around.

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Q: Overwatch League is great. Any chance to bring that team-level gameplay to everyone’s level? Competitive team signup seasons, etc.

A: Nothing to announce today, but they’ll soon start discussing amateur/grassroots systems. If you hit a certain rank in the game, you’ll have an avenue to take the next step.

Q: Any chance for a solo only queue?

A: Kaplan stresses Overwatch is a solo game, but he understands the frustration. In a worst case scenario, you’re solo queuing, teamed with other soloers, and get matched against a full stacked team. However, they don’t want to break down the social experience of the game by making a solo only queue. They’d rather encourage people to group more. Kaplan isn’t saying this will never exist, but they’d like to try other things first.

Q: There’s no map callouts. Will we get those? Any improvements coming to matchmaking?

A: Kaplan says Blizzard wants everything in their maps to be identifiable, but feels they messed up in some cases. Players think the courthouse in Dorado is a church, so players call out the church and he needs to correct them it’s a courthouse — but if he asks for help in the courthouse, nobody knows what he’s talking about. They do want callouts to help with this kind of situation.

They’re continuing to work on matchmaking and have experienced developers on it. Kaplan says it’s complicated, though, because if you play a series of matches with the same teams, sometimes you’ll get a steamroll one way or the other. One game could have a completely different outcome than the next or previous. Still, they’re iterating on it.

Q: This question used a lot of competitive buzzwords. TL;DR: Matchmaking, what do?

A: In the next season of Overwatch competitive, placement matches will be improved. Season 2 placed far too many people into Platinum and they probably didn’t belong there. Season 3 will put more people into Gold or Silver as appropriate.

Q: Are any of the characters amputees? Pharah, Symmetra, Hanzo, and Lucio all appear to have artificial limbs. (I might have heard this character slightly wrong. If so, I apologize.)

A: Symmetra is an amputee but the others are not.

Q: Can they add jump pads to the game, or give Symmetra the ability to create jump pads to make her more useful?

A: They do want to tweak Symmetra, but not give her that. They’d want to build an entire character around something like that rather than force it in. They want to do something with Symmetra’s shield ability, because giving people shields is powerful, but it doesn’t feel very exciting to use. They also want to make Symmetra more viable across more maps, or useful at Point B rather than just Point A.

As for jump pads in the game in general, their upcoming map has a jump pad. They want to see how players like it and interact with it, and if players enjoy it, they will continue including them.

Q: How will they prevent American sports culture from leaking into Overwatch League? The announcers often only cheer for the home team because they’re local. Esports announcers don’t do that. Can it be avoided with local teams?

A: They won’t necessarily have local radio and television announcers even if teams are city-based. They haven’t thought too much about this problem, but they’ll keep an eye on it to see if it becomes a problem.

Q: Can they enable Hanzo to pin people to a wall when he kills people? Can the killfeed provide information about what killed you rather than your character just falling over? Can the game implement damage numbers?

A: Hanzo question: “That might be a ratings question.” Killfeed: They want to give more information on the killfeed, yes. For damage numbers, they had it enabled in early builds of the game, but there was a tug-of-war between keeping clutter off of the screen and providing helpful information. It would suck if floating numbers blocked your view of an incoming rocket. It’s possible it could come back.

Q: Could they add more status alerts? For example, if someone is asking for healing, but Mercy is dead… allowing Mercy to tell them she’s dead.

A: They definitely want to help healers communicate that kind of thing. They want to give players a way to customize the wheel or swap lines in or out, depending on what a player finds particularly useful.

Q: Sombra’s health pool feels low. Winston shredded her at the demo. Can she get a regenerating shield?

A: Sombra is tricky to play and Winston is a bit of a hard counter. Hacking health kits and placing her translocator near it can be a big help. When players figure her out, she will be more survivable. Kaplan says a mistake he often made when first playing Sombra was using the translocator as a blink forward and attempt to use the stealth to escape. More often than not, it’s better to use them the other way around. Stealth to set up a gank, teleport back to the translocator to escape.

Q: The UK was hit hard in the Omnic Crisis. What did the UK do during the war, like how Germany created the Crusaders?

A: No known answer. There might be a story about it later, but right now, they haven’t decided.

Q: Gets motion sick easily. Could there be a camera stability option in the accessibility options?

A: Others have asked this and it’s a good suggestion. They’ll work on it.

And that’s the end! And other than the Weird Al concert, that’s pretty much it for BlizzCon as a whole. Thank you for following along, everyone.

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