Sun 15th May 2016 - 11:34am : Gaming

Overwatch is an upcoming multiplayer first-person shooter in development by Blizzard Entertainment. Unveiled at BlizzCon 2014, the game emphasizes cooperative gameplay using a cast of various "heroes", each with their own abilities and roles within a team. The game entered closed beta in North America and Europe on October 27, 2015, with plans to bring the beta to Asia at a later date. The final closed beta weekend began on April 15, 2016 and primarily served as a stress test for Overwatch's servers, lasting 36 hours.[2] The game is scheduled to be released on May 24, 2016, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Overwatch features squad-based combat with two opposing teams of six players each.[3] Players choose one of several hero characters, each with their own unique abilities and role classes. The four character roles include: offense characters with high speed and attack but low defense, defense characters meant to form choke points for enemies, support characters that provide buffs and debuffs for their allies and enemies respectively (such as healing or speed alterations), and tank characters that have a large amount of armor and hit points to withstand enemy attacks and draw fire away from teammates. Players can switch between characters in-game following deaths, which is encouraged by the game's overall design.[4][5] The game's maps are inspired by real-world locations;[6] the first three maps unveiled ("King's Row", "Hanamura", "Temple of Anubis") are inspired by London, Japan, and the ruins of Ancient Egypt, respectively.[5]

Overwatch currently has four main game modes, including a hybrid of assault and escort:[7]

  • Assault: The attacking team is tasked with capturing two target points on the map, while the defending team must stop them.[4][5]
  • Escort: The attacking team is tasked with escorting a payload to a certain delivery point before time runs out, while the defending team must stop them. The payload vehicle moves along a fixed track when any player on the attacking team is close to it.[4][5]
  • Assault/Escort: The attacking team has to capture the payload and escort it to its destination, while the defending team tries to hold them back.
  • Control: Each team tries to capture and maintain a common control point until their capture percentage reaches 100%. This game mode is played in a best-of-three format.

Characters in Overwatch come in four varieties: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. These roles serve to categorize the heroes of Overwatch by similar characteristics that can be used to describe them and their playstyle. The first appearance of an Overwatch character in a released game was on April 19, 2016 in Heroes of the Storm.[8]

  • Offense: Offense characters have high mobility and are known for their ability to deal large amounts of damage. To balance this, offense characters have a low number of hit points.[9][10][11]
  • Defense: Defense characters excel at protecting specific locations and creating choke points. They can also provide several means of field support, such as sentry set-up and trapping the enemy team.[9][10][11]
  • Tank: Tank characters have the most hit points out of all the characters in the game. Because of this, they are able to draw enemy fire away from their teammates to themselves, so as to disrupt the enemy team.[9][10][11]
  • Support: Support characters are utility characters that have abilities that enhance their own team and/or weaken the enemy team. They might not deal the most damage or have the most hit points, but the buffs and debuffs they provide ensure that their teammates who do will make short work of their opponents.[9][10][11]

Overwatch is set in the near-future Earth, years after the resolution of the global-scale "Omnic Crisis". This crisis put humanity under threat of the "Omnic" artificial intelligence.[12][13] This led to the uprising of robots all around the world and a massive conflict on the global scale.[13][14] To end this conflict, an international task force called "Overwatch" was formed by the United Nations to protect humanity, ending the Crisis.[14][15] In the years after, Overwatch remained as a peacekeeping force, but after multiple incidents of criminal activity popped up around the globe,[15] accusations of corruption and sedition[16] began to surface. The people turned against those who had saved them. Once regarded as heroes, members of Overwatch were then looked down upon with suspicion.[14][15] Then one day, the headquarters of Overwatch were suddenly destroyed—apparently by accident. Officially, the attack took the life of Overwatch leader Jack Morrison and second-in-command Gabriel Reyes.[14][15] After this event, the task force was eventually disbanded.[17] It is believed by some that the cause of the downfall of Overwatch was due actually to an elaborate conspiracy by those who wanted to see the end of the organization, although nothing has been confirmed officially by the UN.[14][15][18]



According to Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Michael Morhaime, Overwatch is intended to "create an awesome FPS experience that's more accessible to a much wider audience while delivering the action and depth that shooter fans love."[6] Chris Metzen of Blizzard acknowledged that parts of Overwatch, such as maps, share "continuity" with the company's cancelled MMORPG, Titan, though the games are completely different.[19] Due to the cancellation of Titan, Overwatch became Blizzard's second attempt at launching a new franchise since StarCraft in 1998.[20] Citing a desire to keep its game styles "simple", and because it contradicted its emphasis on accomplishing goals as a team rather than trying to achieve large numbers of kills,Overwatch will not contain a traditional deathmatch mode.[4][5] Metzen stated that "we have a long legacy of developing multiplayer games, and it came down to 'is it even possible to build a shooter that doesn't feel cynical, that doesn't feel cruel, that doesn't feel nasty? Can you build one that really promotes teamwork and relationship and having fun with your friends, and not getting killed with a thrown knife from halfway across the map as soon as you jump in?'"[21]

The cast of playable characters in Overwatch was stated as being intended to portray diverse representations of genders and ethnicities (including males, females, and non-human characters such as robots and a gorilla).[6][22] Jeff Kaplan explained that the industry was "clearly in an age where gaming is for everybody", going on to say that "increasingly, people want to feel represented, from all walks of life, boys and girls, everybody. We feel indebted to do our best to honor that." Metzen admitted that even his daughter had asked why the characters in a Warcraft cutscene were wearing swimsuits.[22] Despite this, however, a writer for Kotaku still remarked that "Overwatch's women are mostly super slim and clad in cat suits."[23]

The United States Patent and Trademark Office suspended Blizzard's application for a trademark for Overwatch due to "a likelihood of confusion" with a previously registered trademark by Innovis Labs.[24] On October 13, 2015, Innovis Labs and Blizzard settled a pending lawsuit. A week later, on October 21, 2015, Innovis Labs surrendered their trademark registration for Overwatch.[25] During PAX East 2015, Blizzard Entertainment revealed new maps and new characters. They also announced that the closed beta would begin on October 27, 2015.[26]

On November 5, 2015, Blizzard revealed the game's Origins Edition, alongside the announcements that the game will be released for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game, to be sold for a one-time charge, is set to launch worldwide on May 24, 2016.[27] In December, Blizzard then announced that the beta would close down for an "extended break", beginning on December 10 and returning in February 2016.[28] The pre-order of the game was announced and made available for pre-purchase on November 6, 2015.[29]

The game will be supported by new updates, which include new maps and characters, after the game's launch. All of the additional content will be free for existing players and will not require additional payment. Blizzard hoped that through this method they can alleviate the concerns of some players.[30] During beta and at launch, the game's online multiplayer mode will be segregated by console, though Blizzard expressed interest in potentially supporting cross-platform play in the future.[31]

Comparison between Tracer's original pose (left) and altered replacement (right)[32]

On March 6, 2016, IGN's website accidentally displayed an advert for Overwatch that suggested an early-access open beta period would be available from May 3 for those that pre-ordered with an official release date set for May 24. The advert was removed shortly after the mistake was noticed. The next day, Blizzard confirmed the May 24 release date.[33] Unlike previous Blizzard releases, there are no plans for a version ofOverwatch for OS X.[34]

In March 2016, Blizzard decided to change a victory pose of the female character Tracer.[35] A player had expressed concerns through the official online forum that the pose was an example of inappropriate sexual objectification of an otherwise friendly and heroic character. The thread regarding the pose gained significant attention. Blizzard game designer Jeffrey Kaplan revealed in later interviews that concerns about the pose had previously been expressed internally. Members of the gaming community had mixed reactions to the change, expressing both appreciation of Blizzard's recognition of this problem and disappointment at Blizzard's apparent yielding of creative authority.[36] The pose was replaced in the beta, before the game's launch.[37][32]




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