A ‘large’ new Overwatch feature will be announced soon, possibly ‘really soon’

There’s a fuzzy border between Overwatch and the upcoming Overwatch 2. The sequel will include new co-op missions and a retrofitted engine, but Overwatch and Overwatch 2 owners will be able to play competitive matches with and against each other. When it comes to PvP, then, the Overwatches will be two versions of the same game, which means that the original hasn’t become irrelevant: any big changes made to Overwatch now will be also be part of Overwatch 2. Apparently, one such change will be announced pretty soon.

During a Reddit AMA yesterday, Overwatch 2 game director Aaron Keller said that a “large” new Overwatch feature will be announced “in the timeframe between soon and really soon.”

And that’s all we really know about it, although I can say that it probably isn’t an Apex Legends-style ping system, if for some reason that seemed likely. In an answer to a different question, Keller said that the dev team has made a working prototype of a ping system and is “excited” about it, but that he doesn’t want to promise anything prematurely. Maybe it’ll be added when Overwatch 2 launches. 

Regarding the OW2 release date, it doesn’t have one yet—next year seems likely—but technical director John Lafleur said in the AMA that there will “almost certainly” be a beta testing phase sometime before launch.

“If I knew when, I couldn’t tell you,” wrote Lafleur on Reddit. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

As for the mystery feature, Blizzard’s idea of “soon” varies too much to say anything definitive, but “really soon” perhaps puts us in the range of one to three months. I’m just guessing.

Elsewhere in the AMA, Lafleur commented on the graphical features of Overwatch 2, saying that its engine will be an extension of the original game’s technical foundation that includes “many optimizations, better lighting, and many new features.” During last week’s Overwatch 2 PvP stream, we also got to hear some of the revamped audio with better directional sound and new effects for many weapons (Soldier 76’s rifle was highlighted).

“PvE has also allowed us to look much more at how our environments tell our story, so we’ve added many features that help with that,” wrote Lafleur. “In addition, since the hardware landscape has changed a lot since Overwatch was launched, we’re taking the opportunity (both on the artist side and the technical side) to beef up our high end features and assets.”

On top of those little details about Overwatch 2, the full AMA contains some fun commentary on Overwatch’s general design and history. Asked about ideas that didn’t make it into the game, Keller described an underwater map featuring a giant “walking machine.” A bit of concept art for the map, called Galapagos, made it into an early pitch slide for Overwatch. Keller said that he still wants to build an underwater map, so maybe we’ll get to see Blizzard’s version of Rapture someday (a Big Daddy would make a pretty natural Overwatch hero, actually).

Keller also talked about the most common mistakes he feels people make when designing Overwatch maps: making them too complicated and too large.

“The community talks a lot about power creep, healing creep, etc but not many people mention size creep,” wrote Keller. “I think over the years OW maps have grown larger. Think the opening area of Junkertown. When we have too many spaces like this our core gun play begins to break down. We’re really investigating map size with OW2.”

That’s a particularly interesting comment because size recently became the most notable and contentious topic of discussion around Overwatch 2. Last week, we learned that competitive team sizes are being reduced from 6v6 to 5v5 when Overwatch 2 releases, and only one tank per team will be allowed. 

The reaction has been mixed—those who enjoy the tank role are especially nervous—but PC Gamer Overwatch-liker Morgan was pretty receptive to the idea. “As a mostly casual player, it could help queue times,” wrote Morgan, “and the Tank changes may encourage my DPS-focused friends to give Winston a shot.” 

Well spotted, TheGamer.

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