Interview with Overwatch Dev Timothy Ford, Regarding Symmetra Turning into a Defense Hero and the Channel System

Overwatch has been opting for many changes along with the Archives - Retribution, which was recently added to the game.


Along with the Archives, Rialto, the new map, is waiting for testing in the PTR; a patch for Symmetra and Hanzo has been foretold. Although Symmetra previously went through a change, it did not satisfy players. Also, the ‘Avoid as Teammate’ system has been added, and players are glad that Overwatch has finally decided to take a step against abusive players.

Inven Global had the chance to meet with Timothy Ford, the Lead Software Engineer, to talk about the recent update, the Retribution, the hero balance patch, remakes, and the further steps they’re taking against abusive players and aimbots.


▲ Timothy Ford says it’s his first time interviewing via Skype with Korean media.



The Overwatch Retribution has been getting good reactions from players. It seemed that the update size this time was fairly big; what was the reason?

Sometimes we don’t realize how big our patches can be. But this was one of our biggest patches due to the all the new AI that was included in Retribution. It basically required players to redownload the game.

There has been much discussion among players saying that the Overwatch Archives is great for newbies to understand the overall game lore of Overwatch since it sheds light on Overwatch’s history. What are your thoughts on making it available for play at any time instead of as a limited time event?

I do agree that game modes like the Archives are good for novice players. However, I don’t know if it will be good to have it played over and over again permanently. I am basically concerned for the queue taking a long time for PvP, which is the heart of the game, and I think it is good to give a fresh feeling to players with a new game mode for every event.

The video shown in-game after completing the mission for the Retribution ends with Gabriel Reyes (Reaper) being rebuked by Jack Morrison (Soldier: 76), the commander of Overwatch. Can you tell us what kind of situations the Blackwatch members were placed in during the period of a year before the Uprising takes place?

It would be a bit hard to provide exact details about it right now. (Laughs)


The voice lines in the Retribution, as well as the ones for Gabriel Reyes, were newly recorded with the quotes suitable for the event before Reyes becomes ‘Reaper’. Do you have any plan on applying these voice lines to Reaper's legendary skin, Blackwatch Reyes, and Soldier:24, the new skin released with the event?

We’ve been getting requests for the voice lines to be applied to the skins before. Like the voice lines for the time Ana or Soldier: 76 were younger? But, the technical issues have to be fixed prior to the application, and in this case, new voice lines and hero interactions have to be done as well whenever the skin is changed, which means the recording with the voice actors have to be done again. We do not have plans to do this as of now although that would be fun.

There is a tendency for the story to be told through the POV of Soldier: 76, Reaper, or Winston, when there are heroes who haven’t even had their comic shorts released yet. What are the factors that go into determining the order the animated shorts, comics, or the in-game events are planned and made?

The devs consider the story part of the game to be very important, and all heroes will have a chance to tell their story eventually. Like during last year, Roadhog and Junkrat’s story about Junkertown was added, and many devs poured a lot of effort and time into it. In fact, we get many of these requests for D.Va, which I am also looking forward to personally as a fan. (Laughs)


▲ Tim Ford is also looking forward to D.Va’s story...

To be honest, the biggest complaints among players are about the queue matching for Competitive Play. The role queue or role preference system seems to be what many players have been mentioning until now; could you give us a bit of more details on why you are not adopting these systems?


Many players have been requesting this. However, one of the things the devs are considering as most important in the matchmaking is the time [it takes for a queue], and issues like the ones Jeff Kaplan mentioned about the queue time for instances in WoW ( ※ In the case of WoW, the dungeon queue time is quite short for tanks and healers but fairly long for DPS) are what we’ve been concerned about.


Even so, the balance in roles for queueing is also important so we are trying to find an appropriate solution between the queue time and reasonable matchmaking.

In a recent interview, Jeff Kaplan mentioned premade groups as the main solution to the imbalance in role queue. However, the system within Overwatch is not a great way for players to find their teammates; is there any way you can improve it? For example, with something like the channels on Battle.Net in StarCraft 1?

I’ve seen Jeff Kaplan’s interview, and I, just like him, think the premade group is the main key. However, I don’t think it is the perfect solution since these groups could end up creating several different issues like longer queue time. Even if you do get to play a game in premade groups, wouldn’t there be cases where things wouldn’t work out during the communication? That is why this needs to still be inspected from several viewpoints.

The chat system was used as an example of ways Overwatch could improve player communication.


▲ StarCraft 1 Battle.Net channels where you could find other players to play with.
(Image from starcraft.wikia)

There was a feature similar to the ‘Avoid as Teammate’ one during the early period of the game. Many players expressed discontent when that feature was removed back then; was there any reason you decided to apply the system again?

We removed it due to the issues with the long queue time back then, but many players within the Overwatch community have constantly been asking for it back. The feature applied this time isn’t the same as the old feature, as we extended it a bit; we designed it so that you also won’t meet certain players on your team, so it is applied rather more effectively than before.

The main reason for applying the system was apparently to give a ‘warning to abusive players’. You can only designate 2 players to avoid for now but we are considering increasing the number.

We are curious what feedback the players gave after the ‘Avoid as Teammate’ feature was applied.

There hasn’t been any detailed feedback yet since we have just applied it; we are keeping our eyes on the situation.

We think trolling and hacks are the biggest problems that endanger the foundation of the gameplay within Overwatch. Is there any way you are planning to regulate this behavior?

We have been continuously working on anti-cheat efforts. Actually, we are in the middle of a new project where we recently recruited new workers in charge of hacks. We cannot give you details on what they do due to security issues, but we are investing many people and resources into this. Also, a new hack detecting system was applied to the game with the Overwatch Retribution. 

As for the trolling behavior of abusive players, we are waiting for the player reactions since we just applied the ‘Avoid as Teammate’ system. We are testing several possibilities to prevent trolling, although we are weighing on players to stop such abusive behavior by themselves - sort of like ‘social pressure’ - through the ‘Avoid as Teammate’ system.


▲ ‘Avoid as Teammate’ has been rated positively by players.

Hanzo and Symmetra will soon get remakes. As for Symmetra, Geoff Goodman revealed a new vote card for her as he mentioned there will be a ‘big change’ through the blue post. Many players have been making speculations on Symmetra’s Teleporter becoming a normal ability; what part is Symmetra’s rework focused on mainly?

We are discussing the change right now, and although we can’t tell you the details of each change, we would still like to let you know it will be a fairly dramatic change. One thing we can tell you is that Symmetra will turn from a support hero to a defense hero after the remake. Our aim is to make the usage of Symmetra even more flexible from it.

Since you mentioned Symmetra changing to a defense hero, there have been comments like ‘having defense heroes is useless’ among some players since the release of Overwatch. With the roles within a team divided into 2 tanks, 2 DPS, and 2 supports most of the time, there are players who assert that having the defense role in-game is rather meaningless; is there any reason this particular role is kept in-game?

The reason we divided the roles into 4 when the game was first released was so that we could help players understand how to use that hero intuitively. We have already seen the situation with the role re-designation but it will need a fairly long time and much communication for that to be actualized in-game.


▲ Symmetra will be changing from a support to a defense hero!


As for Hanzo, we remember there have been discussions about the power of Scatter Arrow. Can you explain a little bit about the main part you focused on in Hanzo’s balance change?

Scatter Arrow was designed to melt tanks in the first place. However, it didn’t feel great to be killed by it in the actual game. It felt like you don’t get why you died? There were times players couldn’t accept it.

To go into details, we’ll be keeping the damage as it is; we are aiming to change it to some other form that the person hit can accept. It would be more advantageous for players with good aim, I guess? It will be changed so that even if you do get killed, you’d approve of your opponent’s good aim.

There is a strong impression either in tournaments or Korean Competitive that Tracer is a hero that you must play and play well in order for your team to win. How do the devs see Tracer in regards to her balance?

A change for Tracer is included in the Hanzo update patch that is to come later. Also, Tracer players will feel a bit different after Brigitte’s addition.


▲ Tracer will get a change along with the Hanzo patch!

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