Overwatch is an inspirational story of how Blizzard snatched victory from the jaws of defeat

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Every game wants to be remembered. Every game wants to be enjoyed for months and years by a passionate audience who fall in love with even the smallest of details that goes into the construction of a project. Unfortunately not every game is capable of retaining such an audience for several months, let alone several weeks after launch.

Overwatch is one of the rare exceptions, however, a fresh new franchise from the house of StarCraft, WarCraft, and Diablo. Blizzard’s take on team-based shooters didn’t just raise the bar for its genre, it rewrote the rulebook and ushered in a new wave of competitors who all looked to emulate the success of their approach to creating a game which is still going strong two years after launch.

Which is impressive when you think about it, because Overwatch is also a living and breathing example of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Overwatch was born from the ashes of another game that never saw the light of day at Blizzard, an ambitious MMO that was known as Project Titan back in the day. Finding the right angle to commit time and resources into making Project Titan never materialised fully, with the experimental MMO eventually being cancelled.

It was out of that project, that the seeds for Overwatch were planted, as Blizzard saw ideas and elements from Project Titan that could be used to shape a new franchise for the developer and publisher. “Overwatch came about through this series of meetings to brainstorm a new game after we stopped development on “Project Titan,” which was the codename for the MMO we’d been working on,” game director Jeff Kaplan said to the PS Blog.

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an inspirational Blizzard story for years to come

We had three pitches, one of which was a new class-based MMO-thing. One day we were in a class meeting deciding how many classes this new MMO should have. Geoff was the class designer on Titan originally, and in this meeting he said, “I would much rather make a game that had fifty classes that each did far fewer things and were much more focused—that’s what sounds really interesting to me right now.” I really hung onto that. We tried to make that work for that MMO, but it just wasn’t working.

Later I was sitting at my desk thinking about what Geoff had said, and I started to take a bunch of character concept art that [assistant art director] Arnold Tsang had made. For example, in Titan there was this enemy group called the Junkers with this big bruiser guy. And I’m looking at Arnold’s art and start thinking: well what if that guy is the hero? And what if we made a game that we had way more, but way more concentrated classes . . . and that became the heroes.

And instead of them being random characters, they were actual characters with backstories you could identify with. So instead of having a generic “Jumper” class, it’s Tracer, who’s played by Cara Theobold, and these are the four abilities she has. Once we all knew what the game was, we were able to work very quickly. It was never a question if we were going to make it to BlizzCon or not that year [2014]; it was a matter of how many maps and how many heroes would we have.

I remember after Titan shut down, [Executive Producer] Ray Gresko pulled the team together for an inspirational talk. He wanted Team 4 to become a story that would go down in Blizzard history. And he wanted that story to be: We were the team that got shut down one year, and then announced a game at BlizzCon the next year. He said that would become an inspirational Blizzard story for years to come. And Ray made everyone a believer.

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I’m a big believer in failure. I know it’s a strong word to throw around, but I mean it in the most sincere way here with Project Titan and Overwatch. We are the failures that we outgrow and learn from, and Blizzard is a key example of this idea as Overwatch just continues to grow stronger every month thanks to the company’s belief in its game and its community. That’s just inspirational stuff when you think about it.

Last Updated: May 23, 2018

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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