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How Blizzard is building Overwatch out of the ashes of Titan

Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan speaks to GameSpot about how the Overwatch team took shape after the fall of Titan, and how modern MOBAs have shaped the design of Blizzard's first FPS.

Alex Wawro

April 27, 2016

2 Min Read

" I worked on World of Warcraft. But guess what? That was in 2008. My most recent game was an utter failure called Titan that got canceled. What can I do next to prove that that's not who I am?"

- Blizzard game designer Jeff Kaplan

Nearly two years ago Blizzard made a public show of canning its long-in-development MMO project Titan and announcing development of Overwatch, an online first-person shooter built on the remnants of the Titan project. 

It's a notable Blizzard project for a number of reasons, not least of which that it's the company's first (released) FPS and its first new IP in more than a decade. That presumably puts some pressure on the Overwatch team, and in a recent conversation with GameSpot Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan spoke to his experiences working in that environment.

"You had a really amazing group that was working on Titan, really talented individuals, but we failed horrifically in every way. We failed in every way a project can fail," said Kaplan. "So when we took that smaller group and said, 'Hey, what do you guys wanna do you? What do you guys really believe in?' We saw it as a last chance."

Kaplan, a fan (and former modder) of Half-Life and Half-Life online deathmatch specifically, makes a point of describing how Overwatch's concept evolved from a class-based shooter to one that revolves around distinct heroes, much like modern MOBAs do. 

That MOBA-like focus on characters, broadly categorized into roles like "Support" or "Tank", seems to have also influenced the design of the game's modes (more focus on objective-based matches rather than team deathmatch, where healers would be at a disadvantage) and core elements like the user interface.

Overwatch doesn't have a traditional post-match screen tallying kills and deaths, for example; instead, it highlights notable plays during the match and showcases a handful of players who accomplished, say, most healing in a round. 

"if you go back and look at older versions game, we used to have a scoring system. We iterated endlessly on these scoreboards and scoring systems," said Kaplan. "The scoreboard that a lot of players want is what I call the spreadsheet--it's just rows and columns of everything...but that feels like a give-up moment to us. We want players to be able to look at the scoreboard and go, 'I know who's performing really well, and I know who's not.' If we just make it about kills and deaths, it doesn't tell the complete story of who's doing well and who's doing not."

For more of Kaplan's comments on the project, including how Blizzard is sorting out how to make Overwatch viable on both console and PC platforms, check out the full GameSpot interview.

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