Overwatch devs open up on inspiration behind Zarya’s iconic design

Andrew Amos
Florida Mayhem Zarya on King's Row

Zarya is one of Overwatch’s most popular characters, with the Siberian weightlifter remaining relatively unchanged across her five years in the title. Now, with Blizzard’s 30th anniversary on the horizon, they’ve opened up on the inspiration behind the off-tank’s design.

Every Overwatch has a backstory that goes deeper than what the game’s lore tells you. While Blizzard pushes the storytelling element, those characters have to come from somewhere.

The heroes you love today didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Their designs have been curated by Blizzard, and each one has a unique backstory.

When it comes to Zarya, it might seem pretty straightforward. The Russian tank is a welcome presence on any roster with her can-do attitude – let alone her flexible kit.

Blizzard has opened up on their inspiration behind the Overwatch hero, saying, “she was designed to be a tank that ‘wanted to take damage’,” and they’ve certainly hit that goal.

“[Zarya’s] personality and background really lean into this ‘c’mon and try to hit me’ vibe that our game design was built on,” developer Geoff Goodman elaborated in a January 29 blog post.

“Initially we were thinking maybe she could absorb damage and give herself shields, but later settled on powering up her gun instead.”

However, Zarya wasn’t always going to look the way she does today. The Overwatch devs tinkered with a number of different kits, but ultimately, their gut feeling on her iconic Graviton Surge won.

Zarya’s ultimate is one of the most powerful in Overwatch.

“It took a lot of iteration to tune and tweak it, but we knew it was iconic and special from the first playtest,” Goodman added.

One of Zarya’s original ultimates was going to project individual barriers to allies, but it didn’t have the same impact as a huge Graviton Surge ⁠— one of the most satisfying abilities to hit in the game.

It was this iconic kit ⁠— easy to understand, yet deep for those willing to master ⁠— that made her a great adaption into other titles like Heroes of the Storm and won hearts over in the Overwatch community instantly.

About The Author

Hailing from Perth, Andrew was formerly Dexerto's Australian Managing Editor. They love telling stories across all games and esports, but they have a soft spot for League of Legends and Rainbow Six. Oh, and they're also fascinated by the rise of VTubers.