Overwatch 2 Developer Blog: Designing heroes for a new era

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Overwatch 2 Developer Blog: Designing heroes for a new era

The Overwatch team has been ideating and experimenting with a handful of heroes since the PvP Beta wrapped up. Here’s a hint to one of the heroes we’ve been working on so far:

"The true struggle is for the superiority of ideas."

We’ve been cooking up some new ideas for Moira, and we’re considering how she will perform as we step into the future of the game.

Led by Associate Hero Designer Alex Kwok, the Hero Balance and Design Team is looking at how to best update Moira’s kit for Overwatch 2. She’s an effective support—sometimes too effective in certain metas like GOATS. However, we believe she lacks the play-making ability and utility possessed by other supports on the roster. To improve the feel of her gameplay, we’re iterating on fresh changes that will give her kit more depth; as we navigate toward this goal, we’re here to give you an inside look at how we ideate and iterate on hero design.

Hero Balance and Design Iteration Process

We have two goals for Moira’s kit: we wanted to give her more utility and the power to make game-changing plays. The design process is multi-faceted and sometimes spontaneous. New ideas are shared with the entire Hero Balance and Design Team, and they collaborate and iterate on these concepts to see what works best. Some of these ideas make it into an internal playtest, while others send the team back to the drawing board.

When an idea passes through an initial round of internal tests, it gets shared with leaders across the entire Overwatch team to turn this idea into an ability. After the ability comes to life and gets polished, it goes into a wider internal test where anyone on Team 4 and extended support teams can play and share their thoughts. If the ability makes it through that final test, it’s ready to share with the players.

All the following iterations to Moira’s abilities are still in the early stages of the iteration process, meaning they haven’t been tested outside the Hero Balance and Design team.

Iteration 1: Pain Converter

One of the first changes the team thought to make was referred to as Pain Converter. This ability was a damage reduction that, when cast on allies, would enable Moira to convert the damage she mitigated to fill up her healing bar. Pain Converter would cancel some of the damage an ally received while simultaneously allowing her to heal allies with Biotic Grasp, massively increasing her target’s survivability.

This iteration didn’t stick because of a few issues: Pain Converter felt like other existing abilities, like Baptiste’s Immortality Field, that prevent teammates from dying. The ability also felt too situational because you got the most value from using it on the tank and not on teammates getting dove or flanked. Lastly, Moira already has a complete kit, and we struggled to find room where we could add another ability.

“We tried binding Pain Converter to the reload key, but this felt awkward since Moira wasn’t reloading a weapon,” Kwok explains. “There was a brief iteration where players could activate it by holding down primary and secondary fire simultaneously, but the key binding added a level of clunkiness to her kit. Moira frequently switches between primary and secondary fire, so the ability would often accidentally trigger.”

Iteration 2: Purge & Nullify

The next two abilities, Purge and Nullify, were separate iterations that were both bound to Damage Biotic Orb. Purge was heavily influenced by World of Warcraft’s Shaman class, and it would remove buffs from enemies.

“Since this type of ability fits with Moira’s personality, we started thinking about what buffs could be removed,” says Kwok. “We considered Purge canceling Ana’s Nano Boost or Soldier: 76’s Sprint, but it wasn’t super intuitive about what else should be removed. For example, Dragonblade gives a small speed boost to Genji while active, and it was not clear if something like this would be removed by Purge.” It was difficult to tell which abilities would be removed with Purge, so the ability was archived, and the concept behind it led to the creation of Nullify.

Nullify came to life when we started to reign in the scope of Purge. Nullify negated damage reduction, damage boosts, and movement speed while active. For example, it would suppress the effects of Nano Boost for a few seconds. “The team’s goal with Nullify was to come to a consensus about what types of abilities should be suppressed,” says Kwok.

One way the team attempted to add depth to Nullify was by enabling Moira to stop her orbs in place, creating areas of healing or Nullification for teammates and enemies. Another iteration of Nullify dealt extra damage to Overhealth, so if Lucio used Sound Barrier in Nullify’s range, his shields would be destroyed rapidly. This change felt tacked-on and difficult to understand, so Overhealth damage was eventually removed.

However, it still wasn’t super obvious what Nullify did while playing a match. You only noticed it for the most part if you had damage boosts, reduction, or speed on yourself when it applied. Otherwise, you couldn’t really feel the ability, especially compared to something extremely visceral like Sleep Dart. This thinking eventually led to the conception of a third new ability: Weaken.

Iteration 3: Weaken

Weaken is the current iteration that the team is working on. This ability begins charging when reload is pressed once, causing Moira to build up energy in her hand. After Weaken is charged, Moira can fire a projectile that significantly lowers attack and healing output. She can choose when to fire this projectile or hold it at the cost of not being able to use her primary or secondary fire at the same time.

“We are considering something with a small projectile size, like Ana’s Sleep Dart,” explains Kwok. “When we have an ability that requires players to manage things like timing, ultimate tracking, or accuracy, we have more room to make something that is going to feel both impactful to use and fair to play against.” Skillshots are broadly more counterable, which is another reason we can make them powerful in game. We like Sleep Dart even though we are removing a lot of crowd-control from Overwatch 2 because it requires more to effectively use than non-skill shot abilities.

The team played around with the idea of attaching a passive effect to her alternate fire but found that we would have to lower the overall potency due to the damage beam’s high uptime. Weaken won’t have the same uptime, so we have more room to turn it into a play-making, game-changing ability. It won’t feel free to land, and Moira will have to manage timing, positioning, and cast direction to successfully use Weaken.

We aren’t sure if this iteration will make it into the game because we are still testing it within the team, but it’s looking promising so far.

Designing a New Era of Overwatch

Ideas and iterations aren’t always discarded when we don’t initially use them. They’re often resurfaced and used for future heroes—an example of this being Overwatch’s first post-launch hero, Ana. Originally code-named, “Alchemist,” her first incarnation tossed potions at her teammates and wielded a healing grenade launcher. Once we decided the Alchemist would be Ana, her potions became a Biotic Grenade, and her weapon transformed into a healing rifle to fit with her story. The Alchemist’s original weapon would later become Baptiste’s Biotic Launcher.

The ideas we’re sharing with you are intended to offer more insight into our development process and a preview of the type of changes we may implement in the future for Moira. These iterations are completely independent of balance and solely focused on making Moira a more fun and exciting hero to play. We balance heroes after we can take a look at their complete kit all at once. Balance and design aren’t mutually exclusive to one another, but rather they coexist at the same time with multiple factors that influence them both.

The Moira iterations are one piece of what's going on within the Hero Design and Balance Team. There are many other changes being tested and considered across the entire roster! While we aren’t quite sure what we will be changing for Moira, or when those changes will happen, we are confident that we won’t add something that isn’t viable for our community and the game. Like all heroes within Overwatch, Moira is incredibly important to us. We want to do justice by both her character and kit, and we’re excited about what’s in store for her!