Starwatch: Galactic Rescue is live, and the fight for the universe is on! Have you been fighting with the Watchers in their rescue mission, or do you serve the Infinite Empire? Only time will tell which side prevails, but in the meantime, we’d like to share how the team built this new world within Overwatch.
Building a New World
Starwatch takes place among the planets and stars, so ensuring we could deliver an environment that felt like a space opera was important. The first step was to design the interior of a starship. With the launch of Overwatch 2, we removed Assault (2CP) maps from the core game mode lineup—meaning there are some amazing maps that aren't currently being used in game—and we saw this opportunity to bring back Horizon: Lunar Colony.
Horizon: Lunar Colony was a perfect fit because it already has a very sci-fi feel within its design language. So, we transformed this map from a lunar colony into a starship that sets the stage for an epic space opera adventure.
The new mode takes place on the Infinite Galactrius, the flagship of Galactic Emperor Sigma, leader of the Infinite Empire. When first approaching the design for the starship, senior lighting artist Peter Tran already had a vision for the map. “Initially, I wanted to keep things relatively simple but while iterating on the lighting for this event, it became such an awesome and exciting passion project for all of us. At some point, I realized that simple lighting wouldn't do it justice, and that’s when we doubled down on the darker, moodier lighting for this event.”
When it came to changing the actual look of the map, senior environment artist Tim Wasson also had a clear vision set in mind. “With such big ideas for a dramatic environment transformation, Starwatch became an exercise in ‘resurfacing’ the existing geometry with new materials. This, along with the lighting overhaul, provided us with a big win early on.”
Creating a New Experience with New Challenges
The original Horizon: Lunar Colony was a friendly and fun map built to show the potential of a scientific moon base. For the event, the team wanted to make this place more sinister and darker to help deliver a story of a rebel cause fighting against a galactic regime. First, the moon terrain was removed from the map to make it feel like you are deep in a faraway galaxy. Then, once the team placed a small spacecraft outside the window, the overall map started to feel like a massive starship.
With the exteriors of the former moon base adjusted, associate art director Peter Lee turned to the interiors. “We made a test lighting concept painting to see how far we could push the vision. That was the moment we started to feel we'd found something we wanted to pursue.” The color palette changed from sterile greys and tans to a classic sci-fi evil empire look by using blacks, whites, and reds. Finally, additions of new elements like the turrets that serve the Infinite Empire and the dangerous Gravity Implosion Barrels create unique traps in the environment that help set the stage for a galactic brawl.
Lighting Paint Test for the Infinite Galactrius
In-Game View of the Infinite Galactrius
From Overwatch to Starwatch
Changing the story from a ‘bright and hopeful future Earth’ to a much darker space opera was a huge undertaking. “Usually, we keep bright lighting in our maps, even for our night settings. However, this event became an opportunity for me to experiment with moodier lighting that would be exciting for our players,” said Peter Tran. “This event had to be special for both our veteran and new players to remember, especially because we're resurrecting one of our classic 2CP maps for a new purpose. The Horizon: Lunar Colony map has always been one of my favorites because of its unique narrative that connects so many things in the Overwatch world. It's really satisfying to me to be able to repurpose it in such an epic and fun way.”
Gameplay is our top priority, and Starwatch pushes the boundaries of what we can do with our environments. Dark reds and blacks are colors we try to avoid in-game when making competitive maps, however, this was a unique opportunity for the art team to try something new while keeping our high gameplay standards.
We hope the players have as much fun playing in this event as the environmental art team had working on it. Starwatch: Galactic Rescue is live now on Overwatch 2 through May 23.