After the drawn-out reveal of Sombra we were all taken by a bit of a surprise when Orisa burst onto the PTR while we were all distracted with the expected announcement of Doomfist.

I recently got the chance to sit down with Michael Chu, the lead writer of the Overwatch team, to discuss Orisa and the Overwatch universe and the very first thing I had to find out was how to say Orisa. Yes I could have just YouTubed it but that very morning my daughter had told me it was pronounced Or-i-ssa but Michael says it is pronounced Or-eee-sa.

Dad 1 – 0 Smart Alec Teenager

We’ve already been told that the idea behind adding Orisa to the hero list was to add an alternative “Anchor Tank” to the game, an anchor tank being one that the rest of the team acnhors their strategy around. Winston and D.Va are are great at launching themselves into the battle, sucking up damage and then escaping while Zarya is a great protector and damage dealer but Reinhardt had become the must have tank for offensive heroes to hide behind.

Blizzard wanted to offer up an alternative to this and this is why Orisa was conceived. Exactly when the idea behind Orisa was conceived is up for debate but according to Michael it was around when they were finishing up with Sombra, however the idea was older than that.

I (Michael Chu) don’t remember exactly when but I believe it was closely around when we were finishing up Sombra, I believe we started to work on Orisa, she sort of bounced around a little bit as a big concept from before that because earlier on we had the idea that we wanted a counter point to Reinhardt and so I think there was always a desire to make another one of these big characters – that idea sort of bounced around but I would say that the specific character of Orisa has sort of been a more recent development

I wanted to do some more traditional Reinhardt style inter-tank and we had this idea for a character and so it was a very vague archetype at that point, like okay you know a big shield, a lot of damage, focussed, being pushed to a point etc., once we sort of had that idea, then we dug more into Orisa and that’s where Orisa’s character came out, that’s where Orisa’s design came out and that stuff didn’t really exist until we started working on her in earnest

The one thing I did always wonder about when it came to multiplayer games like this is what comes first. Does the gameplay team come up with an idea of a hero they want in the meta or do the writers come up with ideas of cool heroes and then the gameplay team tweaks their abilities to work in the game.

According to Michael Chu the reality is actually a bit of a mix of both. For example, Orisa was mainly created due to the desire by the gameplay team of having her gameplay mechanics in the game –  however, those game mechanics don’t necessarily have to be attached to an Omnic or a human. That part is led more by the story and art departments.

So when the gameplay department put down their ideas for a new hero Michael and his colleagues sat down and came up with ideas, and according to Michael the idea that Orisa would be a peace-keeper came out pretty quickly. The other heroes in the game are all basically warriors where Orissa is the first police-styled hero in the game who is simply there to keep the peace and protect the civilians from danger.

This idea led to the creation of little Efi, the Nigerian wonder-kid who created Orisa after seeing how helpless the general population was against Doomfist. This is the first time in Overwatch that a hero is actually based around 2 independent characters. Efi who created the artificial intelligence that powers Orisa and then obviously Orisa herself who is entirely independent and isn’t remote controlled. However, she is forced to follow her programming… for now.

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Personally I hope that this means we are going to get some cool Efi emotes and poses in the game. Something very similar to who D.Va is shown outside her mech in many of her intro reels or victory poses. When I posed this question to Michael he responded

Um yeah we talked about it a little bit, we have some plans for stuff we want to expand with but we honestly just haven’t been able to try them out yet because there is a little bit of tech requirement and I don’t know if we’ll see Efi in the game – I would love to show her in some form but you know it’s sort of challenging obviously because she’s not the main hero

Now I get that putting an 11-year-old child in the game to possibly take a rocket to the face is simply not going to happen, but I personally love Efi’s back story and would love to get some more of her character in the game so here’s hoping.

Obviously being a fan of the story around Overwatch I had to do my best to try squeeze out some comments on Doomfist but you can see the team have been told to be coy around that, the very best I got out of Michael around Doomfist was the following –  which gives away absolutely nothing at all.

Well, Doomfist appears a little bit on the Numbani map, he is sort of a weekly reference and obviously he is hiding a little bit to Orisa’s backstory, but I think that’s about all we’ve really explored with Doomfist and he also got a quick mention obviously in the original he could level a skyscraper and I think that’s about all we have on him so far

When he says they have nothing on Doomfist apart from the above I simply don’t believe him. We know Blizzard are very active on the official Overwatch forums and Doomfist is a constant topic of discussion so there is absolutely no way they aren’t prepping a proper back story for him. There are even some tinfoil hat theories that Doomfist was actually ready for release but was then pulled back at the last minute, either due to the fact that Terry Crews wanted to voice him and they had to re-record all the lines or that his game mechanic was simply breaking the meta.

I personally believe in the second one. Previous to Orisa being launched there were no heroes that could survive a crowd control ultimate like Orisa can. When she applies her fortify ability she locks herself to the ground and becomes an immovable object. Reinhardt’s dash, Mei’s cryo-freeze, Winston’s primal rage and Pharah’s concussive blast do nothing to move her.

If Doomfist’s ability is to knock back the enemy and cause huge concussive blasts to kill everything around him then Orisa will be the most obvious counter to that. Which is why, in my opinion, she has been added before him. Not to mention that at the same time as Orisa landing on the PTR Zarya’s bubble was nerfed to no longer stop the protected hero from being knocked back.

That’s it for now. A big thanks to Blizzard and Michael Chu for the interview and congratulations on the launch of Orisa. I for one have actually started using her on a semi-regular basis in competitive and have found her to be amazingly good at breaking through choke holds on maps such as Numbani and Temple of Anubis.

Last Updated: April 28, 2017

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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