Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has answered a fan question about why Blizzard don’t use the public to test more of their early concepts and prototypes. The short answer: they’re a lot rougher than you might think.
Melt fools with lasers and skills in the best multiplayer games on PC.
Over on the Blizzard forums, a user named Apple asked why Blizzard don’t release content “that’s developed to some extent” as options for the public to test via Custom games.
Kaplan says the Overwatch team often uses “very rogue development tactics to create content quickly – just to see if it is fun or not.” When prototyping a new hero, they use an existing hero’s model and animations to see if their early ideas are “going in the right direction.” There are no visual effects, so when a hero uses their ultimate ability, Blizzard print text over their head simply saying ‘ULT’. Early level builds are just grey mesh with very basic lighting.
“It looks really terrible… really, during this type of testing or prototyping, the game is in no shape to be shown or played.” As an example, Kaplan tells the story of the first ever playtest of Overwatch.
“The entire level was gray and blocky and the only hero was Tracer. We had no visual effects or attachment points on her guns so she just shot laser beams out of her eyes…”
I’m pretty sure that would change your perception of Overwatch at a fundamental level, and probably not in the best way. Maybe we can add videogames to sausages and laws on the list of products whose manufacturing process you never want to see. It sounds interesting though, and Kaplan says there’s a chance we may get to take a look one day.
“I have a lot of videos of these types of early testing,” he says. “Maybe at some point we’ll find a way to share some of that with you guys. I think if you saw how truly rough our early tests are, you would have a better understanding of why they never make it into the public.”
In the meantime, picture a scrum of Tracers blinking around an entirely grey level, one-shotting each other with laser beams from their eyes. New arcade mode? I’d play that.