Regardless of your thoughts on how Overwatch plays, there’s no denying how impressively varied its character roster is.
It’s been among one of the more intriguing elements of Blizzard’s approach to the genre: how Blizzard has managed to balance such a broad range of characters, each with their own extremely unique and individualistic styles and personalities.
That the studio manages to continually add new heroes and work to constantly evolve and improve how the game plays is only further testament to what it is that makes Overwatch so popular.
So how exactly does Blizzard build and design heroes?
Chu explained that heroes “come from a lot of different places”, suggesting that different heroes have different starting points in terms of why they’re added to the character roster.
“But mostly,” Chu explained, “from one of three places: art, design, or story (or some combination of them).”
“There have been times when we’ve wanted to introduce a character to fill a specific gameplay space. Early on, we knew we wanted an indirect fire character to go against turrets and Bastion (enter: Junkrat), when we wanted a flying rocket launcher-using character (Pharah), or when we decided we wanted to introduce a sniper support character. Other times, characters have really come about because a really strong visual character design was dreamed up by one of the artists, like Zarya or Winston.”
Then there’s a character like Soldier: 76, who Chu explained came out exclusively as an important pillar in Overwatch‘s lore.
“We wanted to have a character who could shine a light on certain parts of the narrative (in his case, he’s basically at the spine of the entire history of Overwatch),” Chu said.
It’s all a little cryptic and it doesn’t really dive into the technical elements of hero design, but it’s interesting to see how different heroes are introduced for different reasons, be it for balancing, artistic design, or even simply for narrative purposes.