Overwatch Blizzard World map "very soon", hero 27 in internal testing
Kaplan for 2018.
Stubbly Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has given a rough overview of what's coming to the game in 2018. (He also sat in a chair next to a fireplace for 10 hours for a Christmas livestream on Twitch, which is brilliant.)
We won't have long to wait. Closest at hand are the launch of new map Blizzard World, this year's Chinese New Year event and new non-event, permanent content for loot boxes.
"We're going to release Blizzard World very soon ... and that map is one of our best," said Kaplan. He didn't mention a specific date but Blizzard World has been on the Public Test Realm since November so should be nearly ready to go.
Last year's Chinese New Year Overwatch event kicked off 24th January, a few days before the actual Chinese New Year. This year, however, Chinese New Year begins 16th February, so the Overwatch event may be held back until closer to the time. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, and, "There's some pretty significant content that players are going to be very happy with," Kaplan said.
Regarding loot box content, Kaplan said: "Speaking of skins, the feedback we always get from the players is, 'We wish you would add more content to the base, non-event loot box.' Coming up very soon, hopefully sometime this month, will be a ton of new content into that base loot box."
January will also see the launch of the Overwatch League for professional teams, which has been a major focus for Blizzard of late.
"Beyond that, there's a lot of stuff in the works," Kaplan went on.
"We are well along the path on hero 27. We think the hero is going to be awesome, we think the hero is very needed. We're not really sure when the release date is. The release date is less important than getting the hero right. We have the hero in internal testing.
"We're also thinking about heroes beyond 27 as well," he said.
There are new maps in the works too, apparently.
Last year's cooperative PvE event, Uprising, will return in 2018 as well, albeit somehow evolved. "We want to evolve it and put more thought against what that event could be," Kaplan said. "We have a lot of really big ideas and we think that's going to be a lot of fun for players as well."
Blizzard plans to celebrate the Overwatch launch anniversary in late May, too, bringing back dance emotes and offering Legendary skins.
Another focus for the Overwatch team in 2018 will be Competitive Play. There will be short-term fixes such as no performance-based Skill Rating for players Diamond level and above in the upcoming Season 8, as well as the formulation of a longer-term plan.
"Long-term we keep listening to feedback and talk internally about what do we want Competitive Play to feel like, ultimately?" Kaplan said. "Does it take a different shape or form?"
Blizzard also wants to continue telling the Overwatch story through animated shorts and comics, following the same 'reacting to the Winston's Overwatch recall' theme as in the recent Mei and Reinhardt animations.
Jeff Kaplan didn't, however, say anything about Overwatch's increasingly toxic community, which has been a hot topic of late.