Me and my buddy Teko had chance to sit down with Dion Rogers and speak about new Antarctica Peninsula map, and other Overwatch 2 related questions. Transcript of the interview is added below.
Blizzplanet: First question about the new map – why Antarctica? We already have some snowy maps like Ecopoint Antarctica, Nepal, Shambali Monastery or even Toronto. Why another one in that winter climate? How do you decide on world location?
Dion: Yeah, that’s a great question why Antarctica. Part of the reason is, when we first created the original Antarctica, it was the smaller arena map. That was related to Mei’s pre-rendered cinematic where we showed a bit of like, there’s a lot of lore and that smaller map and we’ve always wanted to revisit what a bigger version of that map could be especially since Mei had a lot of friends that tragically, you know, passed during that moment in the story line. So we wanted to build a space where her teammates and her scientist friends were doing during the time when they were trying to figure out the superstorm and what was this anomaly? Antarctica is actually a big part of the lore moved forth in Overwatch. Antarctica plays a large part in that storyline so we needed to revisit it in some ways to help continue the story of Overwatch. This is one of those maps that when we decide to build a map, sometimes it’s just having a fun place when we go to, or we have a location that is related to character like London. We wanted to build King’s Row for Tracer, and then there’s maps that are directly related to the storyline of overwatch. Antarctica is one of those places.
Blizzplanet: While most maps have large open spaces, this map seems to be quite claustrophobic, specifically in places near points. What is your map geometry philosophy?
Dion: We kind of approach the map geometry differently depending on the map making. So, when we started to revisit Antarctica, we wanted to build a much more organic map than we do for a normal Overwatch space. So for example a place like Midtown is a city, is our bread and butter style map for Overwatch, we build lots of cities and they tend to have somewhat of a 90-degree, kind of placement of things, things are on a grid. There’s an occasional angle. So when we approach an article at this time, since we’re essentially extending a map, we already have, we wanted to approach it from a much more organic state of meaning there’s a bit of a tighter spaces, there’s ice caves curvature to the walls and things that were not accustomed to see in an Overwatch usually. Cities is the main path, you get the occasional map like Route 66, you’ll get some rocks and organics. So this time with our approach with Antarctica, let’s do as much ice and snow and uneven surfaces that we have not done before with the Icebreaker, the large ship with tighter spaces that were not accustomed to in Overwatch as well. We have some tighter spaces, but to directly have it like affect the capture point, we thought would be an interesting break up for things.
Blizzplanet: Can you tell us what the whole process of creating a new map looks like? How many people need to work on maps? And how long does it take on the average?
Dion: That depends on the scale of the map. So if the map is a little bit smaller or pretty thematic, use Midtown as an example, it represents our version of New York in Overwatch. This is one easier to build because we can use real life reference to begin the creation of it. And we start to draw some concepts. Some of our concepts are for high fantasy areas of the map like, when we want to build our version of Union Station. But on a map like Antarctica it’s a lot more difficult to get real life reference. We have people who can travel to New York, take photos and really study the area. You could totally do this with Antarctica, but it’s very difficult (laugh). So we need to draw a lot more. The pre-production for Antarctica is a little higher than the usual map. Be, we draw a lot of early concept art mood pieces that set the tone for the space. What does a person’s office look like in an area that’s been somewhat abandoned over a long period of time. Antarctica for the map took a little longer than usual. It takes this roughly on average, three to four months, to build a full map for Overwatch, and about for artists to work on it. So, that’s a mixture of artists’ work and architecture props. And then there’s a lighting artist who will focus on just how the world lits. And eventually a VFX artist will join as we start to develop the space. But they’re usually people leave and come and go temporarily. That this is what we talked about Antarctica is that it’s a type of map where it’s a little bit more difficult to achieve reference for. This one would take a little longer but we gradually have the team enter and leave through various stages of its development.
Blizzplanet: This question is rather personal. You have repaired Numbani airport. But…on the new flightboard there is a Gdansk city. It happens I am a Gdansk citizen for 32 years, born and raised. And I was literally screaming when I saw that. So… what’s the reason, why did you put my beloved Gdansk there? Does it have any lore meaning? We might see, or it’s just to fill up the space?
Dion: It’s really funny you mention that. I love that you’re able to see that in Numbani. Actually on those screens we sometimes hint at things for the future. So we might put, I think, when we were developing Overwatch, at first, we had places like Ilios on there, and eventually we created Ilios, so can’t confirm or say what’s next, but we carefully write names on objects in the game and every part of that game world is handcrafted. So whenever we write something is used with the certain intent.
Blizzplanet: At the Cryonic Research Lab there’s a big broken glass, and lots of blood with an axe stuck in the wall. What can you tell me about the lore regarding this map? If you can’t, can you tell me at least if this map plays any role in the upcoming PvE mode? Or maybe it’s just an Easter Egg of The Thing movie? Since even on Ecopoint Antarctica we have MacReady’s cryo-pod, a main character of this movie.
Dion: I think it means more of an Easter egg. I came to get to it too much. Yeah, we are fans of movies (laugh).
Blizzplanet: We know that there’s a hint of a story arc in Overwatch about climate changes, anomalies, and so on. And what kind of anomalies were found by Overwatch on Ecopoint Antarctica? Earthquakes, biological threats, or maybe aliens as Mei suspect?
Dion: They don’t know what it is yet, but that’s what the story were telling with Antarctica, you’ll get more hints if you keep exploring the map. There’s little pockets of what it might be, but it’s more likely an energy-based anomaly. There’s some sort of energy that’s coming, that makes them not understand, they believe this is what caused the superstorm that trapped them in the Ecopoint, but obviously, you wouldn’t want something like that to happen again because we lost lives and then the rescue team even needs to be rescued. You know, that the Icebreaker ship that stuck. That was the rescue. Team comes to rescue them. So now the rescue team needs to be rescued, so they want to solve what caused this superstorm and it does play a role in the lore of Overwatch.
Blizzplanet: I love fishing game and Antarctica. Who came up, who came up with this idea?
Dion: It came out once we had the Penguins working in the game, like, what else can we do? They restarted doing that fishing thing. What was really funny. At first, it was almost an endless stream of fish. You could just keep shooting into the fishing hole and just the fish are everywhere that are lying around the zone. It was really funny to see. It’s a fish that wouldn’t fade away. They just hang around. You just keep shooting and the whole area was with this, but ultimately we had to do something that keeps the game performance and still keeps this kind of fun, little Easter egg thing to do. But yeah, one of our Tech artists, she created an efficient way to work.
Blizzplanet: What artistic or architectural styles we haven’t got yet, you think would fit in the futuristic world of Overwatch?
Dion: That’s a great question. I don’t know if you saw when Aaron and I did the holiday stream, that we let the community help us develop a map. We ended up going towards something like Atlantis and an underwater city kind of thing. Definitely think there’s room for maps like this in Overwatch. Something that’s actually not very futuristic, but something in the past, and maybe the characters are excavating these older places. I think we eventually should do things like underwater supercell for pretty much like when you have a supervillain and we need to capture them. There’s this really cool sci-fi kind of system to hold people of great power. In general, a kind of as we go, especially with Overwatch 2, we do want to make much more futuristic or modern locations and actually want to revisit what I call what we talked about earlier, more high fantasy location places, that are difficult for people to visit in real life, and we also want to hit places that are unusual. Not unusual just like not the norm, like everybody knows London, everybody knows Cairo or Japan. Let’s really start to hit places that are unexpected and candlelight fans with these locations that they thought may have never visited in real life, but our depiction in Overwatch makes it. Like “Oh, I never thought about that place. I should go there”. We’ve hit a lot of Europe, vehicle out of North America. I think we need to start visiting areas that just can surprise people. So combination of surprising areas that we know in real life and more high fantasy masks. Another high fantasy map I would think of is Junkertown, although it takes place in Australia. Also, the map is kind of this unusual crazy junkyard place, you know. This is the type of map that I think we can tend to do a little more with Overwatch 2.
Blizzplanet: So now, we’d like to talk about the first collaboration in Overwatch history. One punch, Man. What was the inception of One Punch Man crossover? When did the idea come to be and do you have plans for next collaborations?
Dion: Yeah, that’s a great question too. We actually wanted to do collaborations with our game for a long time, but we wanted to do it right. And something that the team felt really good about something that we thought was fun. We’re fans as well. You may remember, Lego Bastion. We consider that a collaboration.We worked with Lego and at the time they built the Overwatch sets and it was super fun. This was really collaborative; they flew down to the campus and we all hung out and just talked about what we would do. So as time goes on, we want to do more with Overwatch. One Punch Man was definitely very creatively driven on the team. So there were the artists on the team. They come to me and ask, “Dude, we should do this anime. We should do this”. So we had a commercial team get together and we finally put together a team that was seeking out, can this be a possibility? We had a lot of options, but One Punch Man came across the table and I was really surprised because Aaron Killer is a huge fan.He knew this story and the characters of One Punch Man. So, especially as the game director liked it, we just decided in our team that would be the one to start with. We started to work with Bandai, and thinking how do we integrate this with Overwatch? And what we kind of came to was Doomfist as Saitama, he cosplayed as Saitama. It’s not Saitama in the world of Overwatch, just Doomfist is a fan too and he’s very well done. And this felt like the right way to integrate another anime or IP within Overwatch where it is almost like the IP does exist in the world of Overwatch. Our heroes are aware of this and they celebrate it just as much as people in real life, too. So, that’s kind of how we arrived at it and we do plan to do more. We just don’t have anything to talk about right away, but we had a blast working with Bandai artists. The team was super excited, and we definitely want to do more if we had such a great experience with Bandai and our team totally will do more. I just don’t have anything yet to say.
Blizzplanet: One of my biggest fears is that Ovewartch would lose its identity, for example because of too many collabs. How do you plan to preserve Overwatch identity, but still bring in completely different franchises?
Dion: 100%. This was the carefulness we needed to be, because we have a big IP already, right? The team feels this way, which was a challenge when we first started to talk about this. We listened to the team and that was very much one of the top topics that the team had returned to the directors, that they worry if we do too many, what is the balance? What is the right amount that feels acceptable for Overwatch? So we will move with much care on this, and it really has to work, like, I don’t know what IPs ultimately work with Overwatch just yet, but we did feel that One Punch Man makes sense. It does work with our heroes and the way we want to approach IP collabs in the future. So we will be very, very, very careful with this.
Blizzplanet: Let’s jump to Battle Pass and skins topics. We think the recent addition of Legacy Credits to Battle Pass has been received extremely well by the Community. Is it for now, or do you have plans to evolve Battle Pass even more?
Dion: Yeah, we’re listening to the community and I really like it to see that we have the Legacy credits and things in Battle Pass. So as time goes on, I think we talked a long time ago about ways to update faster than we’ve ever done before. It was pretty challenging for Overwatch 1, its architecture and the systems we had, but for Overwatch 2 it’s not. As we learn more and more about what’s working, especially as Seasons go on, we want to make sure Overwatch feels rewarding and fun to play. You know, you could jump and you can earn meaningful rewards, you’ll see with One Punch Man. There’s a very nice legendary skin, you can get it for free just by playing the game. So we are paying attention and listening, but do it as fast as it makes sense. We want to make sure we do it smoothly and bug free as possible. But yeah, you can expect to feel a much more rewarding Overwatch as time goes on.
Blizzplanet: Let’s say someone is again Genji main. And who also loves the cyberpunk style, but started playing Overwatch just recently. And this person really, really wants to get a cyberdemon skin. It is kind of a bummer that we can’t get it anymore. So what do you think about the ability to get rewards from previous battle passes?
Dion: Yeah, that’s a really good comment. Cause you know, I love the skin so I would love a chance to revisit it. I could take this question back to our team and see how we could do it.
Blizzplanet: The next question is about game modes. In the Battle of Olympus, we fight on modified Ilios ruins, jump pads, little bridges, or more covers. Even over Health packs were nice. Did you create those things with the Battle of Olympus in mind or we might see those again somewhere else?
Dion: Yeah, that’s a great question. The Battle of Olympus was part of the gestation of the idea but the idea is to use these techniques in future events. So we want to make sure events are super cool and we want to do something that’s nice and modular and redoable. So we created some ideas that came out of The Battle for Olympus that allow us to do pretty cool stuff with the artwork and do more events like that. You might have seen that a bunch of characters were adjusted a little too, to celebrate the Poseidon skin for Rammatra. Or Minotaur Reinhard charging everywhere. So we intend to do more of that in the future. Yeah, from an artistic perspective too.
Blizzplanet: We know your current answer about remaking assault maps like Hanamura to other modes like Payload that it would take almost the same amount of time as creating different maps but is this case closed? Or is it like you would love to do it? Maybe sometime in the future?
Dion: Hanamura is one of my most favorite memories of playing Overwatch. We definitely intend to reuse these aesthetics. We just haven’t figured out what’s the right way to do it just yet. But the core idea is there a payload version of Hanamura? Or is there a control map version of Temple of Anubis? Something that feels like we could even expand on the idea and there is a bit of time saving because you don’t need to discover the aesthetic of the map again. We know the tone, we know the look, Basically we have plans that are really deep, so there’s things that are in progress, that we just have to wait for those things to complete and then we can focus, but from our perspective, we intend to reuse that look in some way. You can play those modes during our like events and you know, the arcade, if you want to see them again, but to get them back into a core game mode, that’s our goal.
Blizzplanet: We know that we’ll hear more about PvE when the time is right. But… Could you guys tell us, what are you most excited about? And what the community might enjoy?
Dion: Personally I’m ready to move the story forward and that’s what we will do when the time is right. It will move all these lore tidbits that you guys are talking about. And we’re kind of talking about, over time forward finally. We will close some questions and we’ll create new questions with PVE just when the time is right. So I’m looking forward to the story of Overwatch moving forward. And play in the game more in a Cooperative since, you know, I love PVP and I love Co-op, so it would be fun to do both.
Blizzplanet: Dion, thanks for your time. It was a pleasure to have you here today. Dion: Yeah, thanks for your time as well. I really enjoyed chatting with you guys. Any time.