Jeff Kaplan has opened up to the Overwatch community about his biggest regret regarding the development of the game — fusing together offense and defense heroes into one damage category.
Overwatch has been Jeff Kaplan’s baby since well before it was released to the public. He is the beloved face of Team 4, who the community adores whenever he graces our screens with another Developer Update video.
The game has evolved a lot since it started out. 11 new heroes have been added, as well as a handful of maps. Some old favorites have been reworked. Game mechanics which existed for years have been replaced as demand changed.
However, at the core of it, Overwatch is still the ability-focused FPS title people loved back on release. Some changes have been made for the better, however, others have proven to be for the worst.
Kaplan reflected on those in a July 30 Reddit AMA, where he recapped a moment that not only shifted the way Overwatch would be developed, but is also his biggest regret in the game’s existence.
“Sometimes I wish we had kept offense and defense heroes rather than merging them into damage, and only allowing offense heroes to be played on attack, and defense to be played on defense,” he admitted.
“I know that idea might sound crazy and stupid but I think it would have allowed us to more ‘all in’ on some ‘niche’ hero designs like Torb, Symmetra and Bastion.”
Overwatch's heroes were once split into four categories: Tank, Support, Offense, and Defense. However, that changed in 2018 with the merger of Offense and Defense. This limited what the devs could potentially do in the future with hero design, however.
The system Kaplan is proposing is similar to how Siege’s Operators work. In the Ubisoft-developed tactical FPS, attackers and defenders can choose from two distinct pools of Operators. There are no overlaps between any characters that can be flexed on either side.
Implementing the system in Overwatch would have been a bit more nuanced. Supports and tanks would remain open to everyone, but DPS heroes would be split between sides. It would have, however, opened the door to developing heroes in all roles optimized for a certain side.
Back when the idea was being considered though, it was a battle between the devs and the community. While the devs thought it would have been healthy, the community wanted all heroes — no matter their specialties — to be viable in as many situations as possible.
“Much of the issue we face with the hero balance on these heroes is our player expectations that these heroes should be fully viable on all situations, and that really wasn't our intent or vision for the game.
“We believed that with hero swapping, people would be more willing to adapt to ‘solve the problem’. We're fighting some amount of human psychology and game design, I know.”
There’s still potentially time for Blizzard to implement such a system, if they so choose. With Overwatch 2 around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to overhaul the core mechanics of the game that have been bugging the devs. It seems unlikely, however, they’ll pull the trigger on such a drastic change.