Blizzard has been releasing a continuous stream of new characters for its game Overwatch since it originally launched more than two years ago, and this is no easy task. The process for bringing a new playable hero to the game is massive — so massive, in fact, that more than 150 different people are involved in the implementation of a single character.
During the panel “Creating a Hero” at BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard ran us through the different steps in bringing an Overwatch hero to the game. Initially, about five developers are involved in the concept development phase, which consists of creating basic gameplay and narrative ideas for a new hero.
From there, a team of between 10 and 15 people attempt to “find the fun,” working on elements like design, engineering, art, and audio, before a roughly 40-person team takes the character into full development. This stage involves finishing core work on the hero, as well as designing various skins, emotes, and voice lines.
The team size then doubles for the story development phase, where the team creates short videos, animations, comics, and books to help flesh out the hero and give them a place in the universe. In order to then implement the final hero into the game, localize it for different regions, and share it with the community, the final team size on one hero is more than 150 people.
Were it not for the development tools Blizzard has at its disposal, this process would likely involve more people and even more time. During a series of panels at BlizzCon 2018 on November 3, Overwatch developers ran us through the art and animation design for a hero, starting with the concept art before handing off the piece to a technical artist who gives models a “skeleton” that can then be manipulated by animators.
Animating heroes in Overwatch can be particularly tricky because several of them have more than one form, and the pieces present in one form must have a place in the other. Bastion, for instance, undergoes a massive change when switching from “recon” mode to “sentry” mode. However, every component you see in one mode is folded or unfolded to exist in the other — it likely helped in the design process for the character’s buildable Lego model, as well, which doesn’t have to be broken down to change between the two.
Overwatch is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Check out our BlizzCon 2018 hub for even more information on the game, including new hero Ashe.