In celebration of the new Busan map and the D. Va animated short, “Shooting Star”, an Overwatch Fan Festival was held in Seoul, South Korea. Jeff Kaplan, the game director for Overwatch and vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, came to South Korea to introduce the new updates himself.
We had the chance to interview Jeff Kaplan about D.Va, her backstory, the new Busan map, during which he mentioned that they “made sure to reflect the Korean culture as positive as it is” about Busan, and that “more chapters to come in D.Va’s story that will show her interactions”.
The following is the interview with Jeff Kaplan.
I heard that David Kang, the concept artist working for Blizzard, visited South Korea last year, which was related to the development of the new Busan map. Jeff, could you please tell us what kind of image or impression you personally have of South Korea, and if any of that was reflected in Busan?
We were lucky to be exposed to the Korean culture as Irvine, the area we are in, has a thriving Korean populace and culture. Coming here has been very impressive since everything exceeded my expectations, especially Seoul -- so clean, so modern, so beautiful.
There were beautiful moments of history -- across the hotel we stayed at was an old temple. I’m not sure but I think it dated back to the 700’s. To have something historical in the middle of a modern city was amazing.
The maps in Overwatch tend to reflect the actual places or the characteristics of certain countries, so what parts of South Korea will the Busan map feature? Also, as the main director, what was the element you thought was the most important?
In order to reflect Korea as it really is, we investigated a lot. We put different traditional instruments in the different spawn rooms. We also have elements that are parts of more modern Korean culture in the downtown area, like a PC Bang, Karaoke, and dance machine (This is an easter egg -- if you dance on it, something special will happen). We put small details inspired by South Korea in the map as well, like the big inflatable cow above the barbecue sign.
There are two elements we thought were important. The first element is excellence in the level design. The second element is staying true to the Korean culture. We made sure to depict the Korean culture as positively as it really is.
(What do you mean by level design?)
Like the geometry of how the map is built. For example, where the doorways and choke points are, how the traffic in the map flows to the objective, and the overall construction of the map.
Rialto, which was recently added, did not really have the right balance between the attacking and defending teams. In that aspect, you must have took a lot of care for the Busan map. Could you please tell us what aspects of balance you mainly focused on with the Busan map?
The Busan map was much easier to balance for us because it’s a control map. It’s more equal and symmetrical than other maps are. There have been moments where the maps had minor differences in symmetry which we considered to be bugs and fixed them. For example,in Illios, there was a tree on one side while there wasn’t one on the other side so it wasn’t quite balanced, but we fixed it. It is far easier to balance control maps than any other different map type.
There must have been many internal tests on Busan as well. Are there any team compositions or heroes that you would recommend from a developer’s perspective?
I’ll start with the sanctuary. In the sanctuary, mobility is less important than it is at other points. You can go around the sanctuary by using non-mobility heroes very effectively like Reinhardt, Zarya, and Ana. On the other hand, the MEKA base is the opposite -- you want heroes with high mobility like D.Va, Winston, Genji, Hanzo, and Mercy since you need to get up and down quicky; with low mobility, you are easily trapped in the dropdown.
It seemed like D.Va was somewhat separate from the main story in Overwatch (Blackwatch, etc.) until now. What is the reason she didn’t make almost any appearance in other cinematics or comics, and what is the backstory behind her being chosen as the main character for the cinematics this time?
D.Va is one of the most beloved heroes in Overwatch, and her animated short was a good way for us to highlight that. D.Va’s story has not merged with the main Overwatch story yet because we are building up to something bigger. The Overwatch universe is about heroes coming together. There are more chapters to come in D.Va’s story that will show her interactions.
Some time has passed since the find group and endorsement systems, and player profile privacy has been added to the game. Do you think the amount of toxic or abusive players has decreased through these changes?
We saw great results from the release of the find group and endorsement systems in terms of players using it and the player behavior. We have also seen a tremendous positive increase in social interaction where players switched the default profile to friends only, although I can’t go into details. One thing I can say is that ongoing improvements will come as the future patches are updated.
The find group system has increased the game quality but it still comes with some inconvenience. The groups are usually comprised of 6 players, so there are problems with the group having a lack of roles once there is a deserter, and there are problems with the queue time increasing since players in groups are matched against other groups. Many players within the KR community are still asking for some matchmaking based on role preference regardless of the group. How do you feel about such a system?
The difference between League of Legends and Overwatch regarding this is that Overwatch allows you to switch heroes as you play. If we lock heroes, at some point, Blizzard has to decide what the metagame is. I think the look for group system is a step toward becoming a metagame. We are looking for a way to put two together, so some players can queue into a certain role while players who don’t want to can still play as is. We plan to keep a close eye on this and monitor it during the next few months.
Heroes like Mei or Torbjörn are still either picked in limited situations or not played at all (sometimes, players are reported just for picking those heroes). Don’t these heroes need to go through reworks like Symmetra did since they have now become damage heroes?
Definitely when it comes to Torbjörn -- we are working on it. We’ve also tried experiments, although we can't give specific details now on what will happen. I can only tell you that some of his abilities will stay the same while some will change.
As for Mei, I think that the falloff damage of her icicle makes her a more viable pick. She’s a tricky character because she’s play situationally. However, when you do [play her in the right situation], you play her well. We are concerned about Torbjörn more than we are about Mei.
Lastly, would you like to say anything to Overwatch fans?
We are excited to be here more than anything. It’s been absolutely amazing -- a beautiful country, amazing people, and a beautiful culture. I am thankful that I got to come here in person to introduce the new updates. Thank you! 감사합니다!