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BlizzCon 2019 – Overwatch: Evolving the Art

BlizzCon 2019 – Overwatch: Evolving the Art
Join the Overwatch developers as they discuss the evolution of the heroes and environments in the game and the technologies that support them.

Overwatch 2 Design

  • Overwatch has always been about the heroes, so for Overwatch 2 the team wanted to give them a fresh new look while keeping the spirit of the original design.
  • Superheroes are a great example of how the team approached the process.
  • You watch the first Iron Man and he has the classic armor. Iron Man 2 changed some of the details of the armor. The team wanted to tweak details to enhance the look.
  • Wiston got a few upgrades, his armor is a little more sleek, his backpack is a little more techy, and he has a little console on his arm.
  • Mei is a long way from being a scientist anymore. She got some upgrade so that is ready for battle. Her suit is a little sleeker and has more tech.
  • Genji had a hoodie on the story board, but didn’t have any pants. The team figured if they were going to give him a hoodie, they should probably give him pants as well.
  • Torbjörn chose to not answer Winston’s recall, so he is wearing something more casual, something he’d be wearing at home.
  • Reinhardt has an 09 version on his armor now, up from his previous 08.
  • During work on Titan, there was a character called the Juggernaut. They went through lots of iterations on the design. By the time they got to the 8th design it was Reinhardt, as the team had moved on to Overwatch.

Tracer’s New Look

  • The team wanted to preserve the iconic parts of the character.
  • For Tracer, the color palette, silhouette, and sense of motion were the core elements.
  • The team wanted to move away from the retro design and towards a sleeker and more techy look.
  • The team tried a few variations of Tracer, including some that were more casual and with a modified silhouette.
  • They also tried a poncho look.
  • They landed on an updated version of her battle armor.
  • In Overwatch 2 the team wanted to tell more story and get more intimate with the characters.
  • You need more detail if you are going to zoom in more on the characters.
  • Shaders, materials, and geometry all needed updates.
  • Tracer’s original hair doesn’t feel very natural if you zoom in, there’s a bit of a plastic look to it.
  • The team wants to have the same fidelity as the animated shorts.
  • Detail maps were used to bring out the freckles.
  • New geometry and shaders for the eyes.
  • New detail maps for the vest and sleeves.


  • The team wanted to add more locations from around the world, more memorable themes, and a more dynamic world.
  • Bill Petras (Original Art Director on WoW) took lessons learned about creating worlds in WoW and applied them to Overwatch 2.
  • The heroes are all about motion and being dynamic and the team wants to bring that to the new worlds that they create.
  • Temple of Anubis was their first map. It’s all the same theme, sandy and ancient.
  • When the team was making the art style guide for the original Overwatch, they had a theory that if environments had a wash of color and they made the heroes vibrant enough, the heroes would pop out in the name of readability.
  • One of the values on Overwatch was allowing players to switch heroes at any moment. If they swap heroes, they needed the model to pop in pretty quickly. With the singular theme maps, they were able to keep it resident in memory all of the time, as the lower amount of textures and models was small enough to fit. Less themes in a map is less memory used!
  • Rio de Janiero has a lot more themes. Lots of different washes of color. Spaces between the themes to prevent abrupt transitions. It’s easily 2x larger than previous maps.
  • The team had to do offline calculations of potentially visible set and give the artists new tools to tell the engine what the player can see at any given moment.
  • The team will be streaming map data into memory as you play through the story.
  • Unit visibility is still very important and there aren’t the red outlines from PvP. Enemies had to be visible within all of the themes on the maps.
  • The team used some new tech to boost the amount of light on enemy units in story mode.
  • The team was testing Rio de Janiero and everything was blue. The moonlight was bouncing around and making things blue, so the team changed the outdoor lighting to more of an orange color.
  • The team didn’t want to put things in the original Overwatch maps that would distract from the gameplay, so the maps were fairly static.
  • In Overwatch 2, maps in the story missions are a character and can be used to tell a story.
  • One of the first dynamic map demos that was done was a sandstorm on Anubis.
  • Weather systems will make the map more dynamic, rain and fog.
  • Lighting and exposure have also been improved.
  • Cloth simulation has been improved. The simulation is better and more efficient.
  • More particle effects have been added.
  • Sequenced Events – Storefront explodes as you run around a corner, and enemies descend on the area.