Overwatch’s newest hero, Ashe, is actually a playable duo – she’s always got her burly sidekick B.O.B. at her side. But one of the most unique things about Ashe is that she was created for the Reunion short first, and Blizzard’s designers worked backwards from there to make her and B.O.B. into in-game characters.
Overwatch lead designer Geoff Goodman told us that many of Ashe’s design elements came out of watching Reunion come together. Instead of designing the duo for the game and then introducing them in a short, in the case of Ashe and B.O.B., the process was reversed.
Goodman said Overwatch’s design team members had different ideas about how to realize Ashe in the game, but that B.O.B. was non-negotiable.
“The one thing that was pretty consistent was having B.O.B. in there, usually as the ultimate,” he recalled. “It was like, okay, that’s probably definitely happening if we’re all that excited about it.”
Both characters presented their own challenges, Goodman said. The Overwatch team worked with Call of Duty developers Treyarch and Infinity Ward to tune Ashe’s aim-down-sights and audio so that her lever-action rifle feels good to fire. But introducing B.O.B. was one of the most daunting design challenges they had faced.
First, they had to nail down how he was going to be introduced into the gamespace – was he a full new hero? Was he someone who Ashe could resurrect? The team experimented with several ideas, and came back to the drawing board after running into problems (for instance, summoning B.O.B. while waiting for a game would trigger a match to start before both teams were full).
Once they’d settled on pulling B.O.B. in as an ultimate, more problems arose – and keeping the character within a strict memory budget was a big one. At one point, someone suggested not having skins for B.O.B.
“Almost immediately, everyone was like, ‘There’s no way, are you crazy? Everyone’s gonna immediately want skins for both of those pair,’” Goodman said.
As frustrating as getting B.O.B. to work was, Goodman said the team agreed he had to be part of the Ashe package.
“We were talking a lot about that and what we kind of decided was she probably wasn’t worth doing if we couldn’t get B.O.B. in there,” he said. “Because it was such a strong concept.”
Matt has had a chance to get hands-on with the results of the process, and he says Ashe feels satisfyingly fresh in Overwatch’s pantheon of heroes – although he warns that she’ll be more viable for players who are more patient than most.
We’re looking forward to seeing how Ashe and B.O.B., Overwatch’s first reverse-engineered heroes, shake up the Overwatch meta.