The Overwatch development team has been extremely open about what’s happening with the game going forward and what Overwatch updates will happen in the future. As a partner to keeping you updated on what's happening in the game right now, we’ve gathered everything Blizzard have said about what happens next.
While we’re at it, here’s all the info we have on new Overwatch heroes.
We’ve split this into sections based on rough estimates of when different features are planned for. In cases where we don’t know, we’ve estimated based on perceived workload, but make it very clear that it is our estimation, not Blizzard’s. On that note, at least for the forseeable future, it looks like we can expect one major patch at the end of each month, though varying depending on big factors like BlizzCon and holidays.
It’s worth noting that none of this is guaranteed. Game director Jeff Kaplan and the Overwatch team have been more open than most development teams about what they’re working on, specifically under the caveat that plans do change, delays can happen, better ideas pop up and life gets in the way. There’s a lot of things Blizzard would like to do here, particularly planned for further down the line - that doesn’t mean they’ll get around to it, or it will be in a predictable form when it launches.
Overwatch - what's coming in early 2017
Assault map improvements
Kaplan has said that assault maps and their more-frequent draws are being actively worked on.
Custom game tweaks
A number of changes for custom games were confirmed to be on the to-do list by Kaplan. They are:
- Option to turn off kicking for inactivity.
- Ability to switch teams in lobby.
- Options to change who is the lobby moderator.
- Option to enable all chat.
Kaplan also mentioned in his big future post that making it easier to get into custom games and to have them grant XP was on the to-do list. More recently, he said that there would be a way to "attract other players" to custom games and that they plan to be discussing open custom games very soon, plus that XP-gain was still something they wanted to sort once exploit issues had been worked through.
This was reconfirmed in early January.
Lucioball will be back (presumably as part of the Arcade) as it is one of the most popular brawls Blizzard have made. Kaplan said as much quite a while back. Other possible brawls include 4v4 or 8v8 as mentioned by Kaplan in a recent post.
Sound toggle hotkeys
Kaplan confirmed this feature but it was never implemented - whether they've forgotten or it was harder to implement than originally thought, we'll presumably find out eventually.
Genji and D.Va ult-block voice-lines
No ETA on it yet, but this was confirmed as happening, but requires more voice acting work (obviously).
Symmetra Shield Generator voice-lines
Also on the way are lines for reacting to and destroying shield generators placed by enemy Symmetras. It'll take a while though as all the voice actors need to come back into the office.
Play of the Game improvements
Kaplan specifically mentioned making Plays of the Game “more cinematic” in his interview with Eurogamer, and that he hoped they’d get to it during summer. Doing this should allow the system to become more robust, as more things will look cool. With the introduction of Ana, this has become a very commonly requested feature due to her ultimate. Kaplan also spoke about this on the forums in September.
Blizzard also plans to introduce the ability to save highlights, and it looks like it should be coming soon - before replays and spectator mode. This was reconfirmed more recently and again as on their roadmap in January.
In a massive post, Kaplan laid out the whole current matchmaking system, as well as saying they’re constantly improving it. This most likely won’t even be called out in notes every time it happens, just know that things are being tweaked to give better matches pretty much all the time. Season 3 of competitive play also refactored skill ratings once again. Scott Mercer also expanded massively on the problems in matchmaking and the solutions being looked at.
Similar to matchmaking, social improvements are being developed and implemented constantly, though normally will be called out in patch notes. This was covered in Kaplan’s big future post. Elsewhere he also talked about hiding the chat box and the possibility of having an appear offline option. He's also spoken about improving the reporting and banning system, as well as just removing poor sports from competitive play.
An in-game way of seeing who is in the top 500 and where they rank in comparison to others is in the works. It kept being pushed back by more pressing concerns, according to Kaplan, but they're shooting for this year.
Bug fixing, anti-hack and anti-cheat
Not a lot of info on these beyond that it’s happening, but again, they’re constant efforts. Naturally, Blizzard can't really go into detail on the specifics of anti-cheat measures.
Kaplan’s said that new heroes won’t be released in batches, but that several are “very far along” in the production process. Ana and Sombra are now out - for who is coming next check our dedicated new Overwatch heroes post. Community bets are on Doomfist.
Christmas brought more of the re-skinned maps so expect those to continue. There's also this post giving hints as to further map development plans.
So far we've received seasonal upgrades and the odd added cosmetic between them. Expect that to continue, but Kaplan also pointed out that each new hero was going to be developed over time, rather than always come with a full selection of what's been released before.
More animated shorts
Obviously, Blizzard want to make more of their incredibly successful animated shorts. Timing is more of the question. We saw the Bastion animated short at Gamescom and Sombra at BlizzCon - Zarya seems likely for the next, but there's no clue when we'll see it.
Longer-term Overwatch updates
There will, one day, probably, be an Overwatch map editor, but it's a long way off. The tools just aren't ready for public use yet, says Kaplan, along with loads of other issues.
More competitive point rewards
Specifically, Kaplan said they'd like to add more things to buy with competitive play points beyond the golden weapons. He also said they don't want to allow the buying of normal skins through competitive points, keeping that and the gold/loot box economy seperate. More recently he said again they want to add stuff, but are worried about over-rewarding. He also gave a timeframe of beyond Season 4.
Competitive 3v3 / 1v1
This is something both the community and Blizzard want to see implemented, but wasn't an immediate feature due to wanting to make sure the system worked first. It clearly did, and is quite popular, so we'll hopefully see it one day.
Kaplan said on the forums that this is a lower priority than highlights improvements, and is therefore “not on the immediate horizon” but they do have a system working internally. He later pointed out that the same team is working on high-bandwidth servers, which has taken priority as it actually improves the level of play in-game. Replays still weren't on the horizon at the end of 2016.
Kaplan has said that despite improvements already made, more could be done with the spectator UI. No immediate timeframe on that, though Kaplan did post again saying that they want to make it possible to spectate friends' competitive games.
Last we heard about both this and the replay system, Kaplan was saying they were handled by the same team as the Season 2 competitive improvements, matchmaking improvements, high bandwidth servers and highlight saving, hence the delay.
As part of this, Kaplan said that a mini-map would eventually be in place for spectators to more easily understand how a game was developing, but specifically said they wouldn't be adding one for normal in-game situations.
Permanent progression in PTR
As part of an effort to get more players testing on PTR, Blizzard and the community both want a system whereby progression and loot boxes could be moved to the main client after being earned on PTR. Blizzard are finding coming up with a solution quite difficult but continue to work on it.
More recently, Kaplan said this was still being worked on but is a "significant development tasks that would directly take away from development time on the core game."
PTR account update
Geoff Goodman has said that work is ongoing to make PTR accounts closer to live accounts in record.
Mercy and Lucio in 1v1, more 1v1 modes
Progression system improvements
Specifically described as “more long term” in, again, Kaplan’s big future post, further improvements to progression and cosmetics are planned. This includes the possibility of a random pose/highlight intro function and the ability to equip multiple sprays or voice lines. Here’s Kaplan also saying they’d like a random cosmetic option.
Cosmetic selection in-game
Kaplan has posted that Blizzard want it to be possible to change skins in the game-beginning phase, but not at will while mid-match. In a similar vein, they'd "love" to add multi-voice-line support, either through random selection or an extra chat wheel. Ditto on victory poses. This was "half done" in August according to Kaplan.
Character backstories in-game
Lead story-man Michael Chu has said that Blizzard would like to make backstories and biographies, as well as other lore-entries, readable in-game. It's probably not the highest priority, and would require some new UI elements, hence its position in this section.
Hero language options
This one is likely a long way off, but David Clyde, a programmer, confirmed on the forums that Blizzard would like to do XCOM 2-style nationality-based language select for hero voice lines, for an extra touch of realism. It isn't supported by the code currently, but he wants to "make it work in the future."
Three-round burst gun
Kaplan said that he'd love to put a burst-fire gun in the game at some stage, similar to the M16 from Modern Warfare 2.
Kaplan mentioned on the forums that the team isn't a big fan of the way the forums work currently, especially the way voting is presented and the ability to 'bump' your own thread. Obviously, when this gets fixed is more down to the Blizzard web-team than the OW developers.
In January, he mentioned the changes were still "months away."
Competitive queue confirmation
While not definitely on the way, Kaplan posted in a thread about this in January, noting a couple of possible solutions.
Arcade stats and achievements
Kaplan posted further about this in January, saying that stat tracking is in active discussion. He also mentioned that while they want to do achievements, it will be a way off.
Features not coming to Overwatch
This section is for things that the team have explicitly said they don’t want to do, can’t do or isn’t worth the time investment.
Some players have been asking for a surrender option so losing teams can throw in the towel if they wish. However, game director Jeff Kaplan says this isn't likely to happen. "We do not currently agree that the game needs a surrender option, especially with our quick match lengths," he said.
For either currency or loot boxes, Kaplan says the team “aren’t super keen” on doing these, at least as far as they’re implemented in Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. They don’t want players creating poor team comps because they want to finish, for example, their offensive class daily when their team desperately needs a tank or support.
They tried this and it didn’t work across the board, then felt weird on specific characters.
Increased FOV or 'proper' 21:9 support
Kaplan made it clear in this post that they'll never increase the FOV above 103, even for resolution reasons. This makes proper 21:9 support impossible.
Multi-hero in competitive
Kaplan confirmed that the 1-hero limit would remain in competitive, as feedback and results had been good.
Deathmatch mode in regular games
In response to a question about the addition of a kills-based mode, Kaplan confirmed that it's not something they want to put in the game as part of regular play. They could see it as a Brawl or other side-event, however.
Scoreboard icons reflect skin use
This isn't being implemented to make sure the scoreboard is quick and easy to read as far as members of each team are concerned.
After some confusion on the topic, Kaplan made it clear that they are "not even remotely thinking about retiring heroes right now or anytime in the foreseeable future."
Vertical Tracer blink
Kaplan said they experimented with this but it created imbalance and totally changed how Tracer played.
A forum user brought up the idea of increased health, altered spawn times or ult charge changes for teams that have had leavers in competitive play. Kaplan said they'd thought about it, but didn't want to change core gameplay values, and also pointed out problems with catch-up mechanics in general.
Kaplan revealed Overwatch used to have a fewest deaths medal but it created some toxic gameplay patterns to try to get golds - like not leaving the spawn room.
Emote invulnerability and cancelling
Arcade rewards based on games played rather than won
Kaplan said this would create deviant behaviours.
Easter or Valentines event in 2017
That's the future laid out for you! Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.