It's all kicking off again in the world of digitised butts. On today's episode of Teen Boys And The Things They Love, Overwatch takes the spotlight after game director Jeff Kaplan responds to a thread complaining about the above pose for Tracer. He agreed with the poster's assertion that it didn't really fit with Tracer's character, and said that it would be replaced soon. Naturally at that point the very loud usual suspects made sure their voice was heard when it comes to not removing stuff like this, claiming everything from censorship (by a company of their own product at their own volition) to pandering. Kaplan has since clarified that, like with most decisions made by a games development team about their game, they're taking it out because they want to.
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The original post was titled "Overwatch's Strong Female Heroes and that one Tracer Pose." You can read the full thing over on the Battle.net forums, as well as the 11 pages of discussion it generated, but the key point is that the poster feels the pose is out of character for the fun-loving, agile Tracer. "It's not fun, its not silly," says Fipps, who probably wasn't planning on becoming a community battleground today, "It has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces Tracer to another bland female sex symbol."
After a few hours of lengthy debate, Kaplan popped up and locked the thread with this message:
"We'll replace the pose. We want *everyone* to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented.
"Apologies and we'll continue to try to do better."
At which point, both the forums and official subreddit became something of a mess. There's been parody vidoes, massively upvoted petitions to bring it back, cancelling of pre-orders - an equal amount of drama and outrage to the months spent wondering if the game's heroes and maps would remain free for all time, condensed into about five hours of posting. Along with the normal outraged cries that this only panders to people who want the world to be a nicer place for everyone, and how dare they, there was the complaint that Blizzard was taking a single thread of feedback and immediately making a change.
Exactly why people would think that was the case is very odd to me personally. It defies literally everything we've heard not only from the Overwatch team, but the general philosophy of game design from the company as a whole over their past decade of super-stardom. They consider a lot of options, rarely act rashly (or even quickly) and most of all do their own thing - sometimes with the help of community feedback, sometimes not. Kaplan showed up again a few hours later, after 75% of the front-page of the forums was threads on the topic and the relevant Reddit posts were some of the most upvoted in the community's history, to make that clear.
"While I stand by my previous comment, I realize I should have been more clear. As the game director, I have final creative say over what does or does not go into the game. With this particular decision, it was an easy one to make—not just for me, but for the art team as well. We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer. We weren’t entirely happy with the original pose, it was always one that we wrestled with creatively. That the pose had been called into question from an appropriateness standpoint by players in our community did help influence our decision—getting that kind of feedback is part of the reason we’re holding a closed beta test—but it wasn’t the only factor. We made the decision to go with a different pose in part because we shared some of the same concerns, but also because we wanted to create something better.
"We wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch, and we’re not going to remove something solely because someone may take issue with it. Our goal isn’t to water down or homogenize the world, or the diverse cast of heroes we’ve built within it. We have poured so much of our heart and souls into this game that it would be a travesty for us to do so."
He also commented that he realises not everyone would agree with their decision, and that it's okay for them to do so. It wouldn't exactly be the first time.
As for me, I got to show off my sweet legendary Tracer skin. Look at that helmet. Rad. Until next time, this is Ben Barrett signing off on Asspocalypse Now.