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How Blizzard embraced fantasy to create Overwatch's reality

"I would rather have the Hollywood as it appears in the mind of the guy from Belgium or Sweeden than the Hollywood that exists in the real world," said Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan.

Alissa McAloon, Publisher

March 9, 2017

2 Min Read

"It's all about tapping into the imagination of your players. Your players can imagine things far greater than we can build them."

- Game director Jeff Kaplan shares the design origins and inspirations for Overwatch in his talk at DICE. 

Blizzard has crafted many iconic fictional settings for games like StarCraft and World of Warcraft, so, as Jeff Kaplan recounted at DICE last month, Overwatch’s own 'fantasy' setting, a slightly-futuristic Earth, was a departure for the developer. 

Kaplan explained that Overwatch, which was ultimately borne from the ashes of a canceled MMO project, wanted to capture the mantra of ‘a future worth fighting for.’ The team was inspired by post-apocalyptic titles, such as Fallout 4 The Last of Us, and Battlefield-esque war shooters, but felt that those bleak, grungy settings didn’t do the mantra justice.

'A future worth fighting for' is far more believable when looking at the locations Overwatch transports players to now. Kaplan said that those locations, spread all across the world, captured a fantasy-like setting of Earth, rather than a realistic one.

To accomplish this, Overwatch locales were drawn up based, not on realistic cityscapes, but instead on that idea of fantasy. The Ilios stage, for example, was loosely modeled on Santorini, Greece; a place Kaplan had always wanted to visit.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood stage was created by a group of multinational artists who had never actually seen the iconic location. Because of this, Hollywood became this fantasy-like take on a real-world landmark that fit perfectly into the theme of Overwatch

"I would rather have the Hollywood as it appears in the mind of the guy from Belgium or Sweeden than the Hollywood that exists in the real world,” said Kaplan. "We’re not after realism."

Kaplan’s full DICE talk can be found above and, at only 30 minutes long, is well worth a watch if you’re at all interested in Blizzard’s worldbuilding process or just want to learn more about the refreshingly bright world it created for Overwatch. 

About the Author(s)

Alissa McAloon

Publisher, GameDeveloper.com

As the Publisher of Game Developer, Alissa McAloon brings a decade of experience in the video game industry and media. When not working in the world of B2B game journalism, Alissa enjoys spending her time in the worlds of immersive sandbox games or dabbling in the occasional TTRPG.

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