Overwatch 2The game’s new hero, the dual minigun-armed Samoan tank Mauga, was officially introduced earlier this week with the game’s eighth season. Previously, Blizzard Entertainment added Mauga to the roster for an early preview weekend that coincided with this year’s BlizzCon.
Mauga’s Early Access weekend was more than just a fun surprise for Overwatch fans; It was also a test for Blizzard. In response to this Hero Preview, the Tank Hero has been improved, debugged and optimized, resulting in a stronger (and hopefully more balanced) addition to the game’s Hero roster.
Lead hero designer Alec Dawson said in an interview with Polygon ahead of Mauga’s release that the Overwatch development team hopes to conduct similar player testing with future heroes. Dawson also talked about some of the lessons we learned during Mauga’s preview weekend and how the Overwatch team is evolving its approach to adding new heroes to the game.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Polygon: For Mauga, you conducted a kind of unprecedented test of a new hero almost a month before its release. Can you tell me what led to this decision?
Alec Dawson: If you look at the team as a whole and how we have tried to deal with development over the last few years [couple] The last few years have really been about opening up a lot more of it, engaging more with the community and making sure that the relationship is as transparent as possible. We had a chance at Mauga in particular: BlizzCon came back. We wanted to do something big, especially for all the people at home, and we thought it would be a good time to show them Mauga early and also gather feedback on Mauga before it actually hits the market.
We think it worked out really well and we look forward to doing it again in the future with future heroes.
How did it go?
I think overall we were very happy with the weekend and there were some things we wanted to improve, particularly with regards to Mauga’s survivability. We’ve seen that he can be incredibly deadly when he gets in there, gets close and is in the right situation. We also saw players make good use of his ult early on. But there were some things on the survival front when it came to its frontline presence – as a tank. So we increased that [survivability] before the start. There were even small bugs that we were able to catch, especially because he set enemies on fire so quickly. So we’re in a position to fix that and make it right. We’ve also seen this first-time user experience with millions of players [and] how they play with Mauga, what flaws were there.
One of the biggest things was overrun, and players don’t feel as capable with that ability when he runs at you, then jumps up and does the big, big kick.
If we look at everything, Mauga’s performance over the weekend, it was obviously in a very different structure to what we are used to. But we want to make sure that this [new hero] Launch releases on the side of the strong and ensure that these releases can be as exciting as possible. Make sure they compensate for some of the time you may have on heroes you’ve played for hundreds or thousands of hours so that your first experience isn’t detrimental to the rest of the team, something that can be learned fairly quickly .
Think about that Addition of Lifeweaver in Season 4 And with how many changes were introduced to his healing and damage output in the following weeks, it seems like you buffed Mauga really quickly too. When you bring in a new hero like this, how happy are you with the situation he’s in? You really don’t know that millions of people face this, do you?
I think in the past we have been conservative on certain things. And there are still things we will be conservative about, especially game mechanics. When we previewed it, we were a little cautious about the amount of sustain we gave Mauga, because too much sustain can just feel like it is Hey, this character will never die. I think we will also be conservative in the future if you know, for example, we do a second Widowmaker – a kind of sniper or one-shot mechanic. We’ll be a little gentler on things like this.
With Lifeweaver in particular, we knew that there was a lot of healing in the kit, and we also knew that there were things about taking away some player choice from your teammates [with Life Grip and Petal Platform]. Those are some of the things that we’re a little bit more conservative about at launch because we knew those were going to be some of the pain points. But overall, we saw that we could have been a little more aggressive in rolling out Lifeweaver. Since then, we’ve learned a number of things about how we plan to market and release heroes. Conducting these previews is just another step in this learning process.
Previously, the heroes’ balance cycle consisted of seasonal and mid-season adjustments, and of course if something was particularly broken you had to fix things. How have you and the team adjusted your reaction window to balance heroes?
I think for a hero launch or even a hero rework, we want to be very active in the first week or two. With Roadhog, we had buffs ready for Roadhog at the end of the week [out]. So we want to respond very quickly and if there’s anything else that stands out, we’ll come in and make any necessary adjustments.
Speaking of BlizzCon, I know it’s still early to talk about it next Overwatch hero, Venturebut I wanted to see what feedback you got on the reveal of this hero and how you took it as you move forward.
A lot of work has happened since this video clip was recorded, so it’s really interesting to look back; It’s been a while since we did this playtest. But it was just exciting for the team. We saw fan art increasing everywhere and there was a lot of excitement around Venture and people were just talking about them as the next damage hero for 2024. That was really invigorating for the entire team.
What we showed of gameplay was so short that you can’t necessarily take away much from what people saw. At the same time, we saw excitement, and that was really great for us to see and makes us feel a lot better knowing how early we can show some of these things. Because I think we will continue to do that.
Mauga obviously came with BlizzCon, but let’s say you’re doing a hero test for Venture. Do you have any idea when you would introduce this?
We’re still figuring out the exact timeline for this. I think somewhere in this month you can expect that we have enough time to make adjustments before launch and that we are close enough [it aligns with] other teams work on a hero. These are still some conversations we are having as a team [in] exactly how we want to implement it. But we know we want to do it.