GamesBeat: What kinds of changes are you making?
Keller: We’re actually making changes to [support character] Symmetra right now based on feedback we got from the beta. Some of it is quality of life issues.
Somebody in the beta wrote up this six page feedback from the beta on Symmetra and it was all really good, and we were passing it around to all the gameplay designers and the engineers and commenting on it. That’s where a lot of those changes came from.
What we really need for things like map balance is a ton of data. We don’t have quite enough yet.
Ford: We’re looking at [dwarven damage dealer] Torbjörn and Bastion. At low level, they’re really dominant; they’re really strong against people who are new to the game. At the high end, they’re very easily countered, so they’re not getting a lot of play at the high end.
Keller: [Highly mobile damage dealer] Tracer can get behind a Bastion pretty easy.
Ford: Map awareness and hero awareness goes a long way. It’s making those heroes a little more challenging to balance. We don’t know yet what we’re doing with those guys.
We’re not happy with where it is now.
[Ed.: Shortly after this interview, those changes to Symmetra went live, reducing her shield cooldown and tweaking some other abilities.]
GamesBeat: So what changes did you make for Symmetra?
Keller: When she would first start the match, one of her jobs is to put shields on everyone on her team, and if you’re on defense, you’re trying to do that while they’re all running away from you.
Ford: “Who has shields?!” [He sighs dramatically.]
Keller: Lowering the cooldown on that actually doesn’t make it much more powerful. There aren’t a lot of times in the middle of a match where you’re like, “Oh, I really need to shield four people right now!” But you really need to do that at the beginning of the match.
GamesBeat: What adjustments are you making to the game for console players’ reduced accuracy?
Ford: I wrote a lot of code for the controller. We use similar techniques to what all the other top-tier first person shooters use, with respect to acceleration curves on the look stick and soft aim assist while you’re tracking certain targets.
That was actually my personal snafu. You can also play gamepad on Overwatch on PC, and aim assist was on. If you were playing with an actual controller, aim assist wasn’t that big an advantage over mouse and keyboard. But if you have a physical device that the mouse and keyboard you’re using are a gamepad, THEN you have an unfair advantage.
So I made this total rookie mistake, the first day of beta, and the internet exploded and I went, oh shoot. I very promptly disabled that code on PC and then shipped an update that turned it off. My bad!
It feels good on console though and it’s an even playing field.
GamesBeat: Will there be a console beta test?
Ford: There will be a console alpha or beta, which might be internal, and a wider one among Activision family. Activision has a much larger pool of console developers, and we’re really anxious to get their feedback.
GamesBeat: What was it like when Blizzard senior vice president Chris Metzen finally announced the game at BlizzCon last year?
Ford: That was one of the most amazing moments of my career and life. I was sitting with my wife and brother, who didnt’ really know what was going on. What’s better is that I can watch it on-demand anytime I want.
We’re about to release a new genre to the Blizzard audience, our fans, how the hell are they going to respond to this thing? I had no clue how they were going to respond.
Now, a year later, I’m looking at the support we get from our fans and from the developers within Blizzard and from folks on the internet who are just interested in Overwatch and I am absolutely humbled by it. It’s mind-blowing.
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