Some questions about OW Development

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Hey there, I'm interested in the process of how the OW Team makes games. Partly just to know, and partly to repeat in other threads.

How many people work on Overwatch?

In Aaron Keller's interview with Muselk he said that him and another guy (whose name I missed) build the maps in greyscale, and then once they're satisfied, they hand the map over to a team of 8 artists who make it pretty.

I found this really interesting, along with questions of how long something takes etc.

So what work gets divided into teams? How many teams are there, and how many people are on them? Do those teams work on other teams too? (Like Aaron building maps AND building new characters or whatever).

How long does it take something to go from being mentioned to being implemented?

I know that things vary based on what they are. A bug is easier to deal with then a new game mode. But how long does it take, on average, between "I see someone mentiond this, this is an issue or a good idea" and "This is now added".

The reason I ask this is because many people will post "Hey they said they were going to fix this and they haven't, what gives".
These are great questions. My best friend works for a large video game company, and I can tell you - the effort that goes into these games is huge, and that same effort is usually not understood or acknowledged by the gaming community.

When it is close to a patch day, or a new game release, these guys don't sleep. Think finance hours, but instead of being responsible for a project that your boss and perhaps a few clients will see, you're polishing off a potentially years long product that will go out to millions, and be critiqued by millions.

These guys don't just work hard to get the job done by a specific date. They work as hard as they can because they love games, and they want you to love their game as much as they do - whatever time that may take. That's why it is a great idea on Blizzard's part not to officiate patch dates. The last thing they want is to promise something to millions of people only to be have a DDos attack on the day.

Game designers are just like you and me. Difference is, they've found the secret to life - earning your keep by doing what you love.
yeah it would be great to know how a big videogames company works
Bump.
09/01/2016 09:17 AMPosted by Kiwifletch
These guys don't just work hard to get the job done by a specific date. They work as hard as they can because they love games, and they want you to love their game as much as they do - whatever time that may take. That's why it is a great idea on Blizzard's part not to officiate patch dates. The last thing they want is to promise something to millions of people only to be have a DDos attack on the day.


You mean like the D3 team? That took 3 times longer and three times the manpower to create a Diablo "sequel", that after 6 years of development was delayed for another 6 month because it still was not finished, then they simply doubled end game difficulty and released an untested mess with auction house, weird stat rolls on items and many more failures. God, Jay even promised billions of viable builds during the Blizzcon hyping phase. That's when you believe you are great at making games, but in reality you are beyond mediocre.

I do not think Overwatch devs are as bad as D3 devs which is by far one of the worst teams I have seen working on triple A titles. But Overwatch devs are not stellar either. Devs with brain are working on SC and Heroes, maybe WoW. Overwatch devs are like D3 devs just another trial & error team. Null planning or forsightful intelligent decision making, just punching ideas through the pipeline and testing them on live servers in the worst case (ranked mode iterations, ...).

Yes, you can plan the game design of a product to a certain degree and do not have to rely on resource intense trial & error methods. That's exactly what separates good game designers from bad ones and the same applies to programmers. Good ones will think about possible bugs while coding the solution. Bad ones just do what they were told and give a !@#$ about possible issues.
09/01/2016 08:40 AMPosted by Lackofname
How many people work on Overwatch?


The Overwatch Team (internally at Blizzard we are called "Team 4") is comprised of about 100 developers at this point. The disciplines who comprise the team are Audio, Art, Engineering, Production, and Design. We also have two full-time Business Operations people and an esports director who are part of the team. Our size fluctuated throughout development from around 40 developers to about 75 at launch. Around launch we brought our audio team onto the team full time (they were technically a shared, central resource although primarily focused on OW). We love that group way too much to share them with anyone! We also brought our automation group onto the team (thus bringing us to our current number). The automation team is particularly awesome -- true unsung heroes. They had literally hundreds of thousands of "players" playing the beta for most of the time that the beta was running. The reason we were able to have such a smooth launch and keep the beta small was because of their fantastic work.

We also have two amazing "embedded" groups that sit with us and we consider them part of the team as well. This is our dedicated Quality Assurance team and our dedicated Community team. Quality Assurance makes sure everything works and is stable. They call us out on our bugs and try to get the game as rock-solid for you guys as possible. The Community team does all of our community outreach activities from our social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc...) to influencer interaction to scheduling stuff like developer presence on streams, our "Developer Update" series and generally, telling me to capitalize and punctuate my sentences.

So that's the "immediate" team that works on Overwatch. But we're just a small part of a bigger picture. We get amazing support from so many groups. Blizzard Animation makes those AMAZING animated shorts you've been enjoying. They are part of a larger organization called Story and Franchise Development that does so many great things like the Overwatch Comics, the awesome collectible statues (like 76 and Tracer), our gameplay videos, our training videos, our developer updates... etc.

We have a licensing group who makes all of the cool products that you can get on gear.blizzard.com (wow, shameless plug!). We are lucky to have an entire group in Battle.net that maintains the launcher, keeps our games running, allows for cross game chat, hosts the web and mobile teams, helps make voice chat a reality, allows for cross-region persistence and the list goes on... We have an amazing team of lawyers who makes sure that all of our "real world" representations are fair and legal (for example the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood map). They do amazing, unspoken work to keep our game safe from cheaters as well. Which brings me to our anti-hack, anti-cheat and security group. This team is constantly hard at work and yet we can't really discuss their success publicly at all.

We have a centralized esport group that helps organize our esport activities and interacts with groups like ESL. We have the world's most amazing marketing team who did cool stuff like the Colossal Collectibles around launch. We have a whole IT/Networking/Live Ops organization that makes sure Blizzard servers are running worldwide at all times. We have a public relations team that interacts with the press and schedules any interview you see with a OW team member. We have a BRILLIANT business intelligence group who provides us with statistics and analysis. We also have a great executive team running the company who help guide the high level strategy of Overwatch. Many of these guys like Mike and Frank (CEO and Chief Development Officer) spent many years as game developers... so they really understand what we do.

There are even more groups here at Blizzard that are helping us all the time. We have the world's best Customer Support team known to existence (fact). A great HR team... I know I am leaving out some well-deserving-of-praise folks -- and I apologize. But you can see, we get a lot of support.

But at it's core, it's about 100 gals and guys trying to make cool stuff that makes you guys happy.
There are even more groups here at Blizzard that are helping us all the time. I know I am leaving out some well-deserving-of-praise folks -- and I apologize. But you can see, we get a lot of support.


I'm sure caffeination is probably one of those that is going unmentioned.
Darn good information there. Thanks a bunch for that look at the team.

09/02/2016 04:04 PMPosted by Jeff Kaplan
the awesome collectible statues (like 76 and Tracer)

Wait, what? There's a 76 statue? Do want.
Thanks to Jeff for the answer. It's great to hear some information about the development process from an insider.
Blizzard has been amazingly open about their development process. Now compare that to Valve.
You've all made a really fantastic game, thanks for sharing and giving us some insight into what goes into it.
09/01/2016 08:40 AMPosted by Lackofname
How long does it take something to go from being mentioned to being implemented?


This question is more difficult to answer because it depends on the task.

Something like a new map or hero takes months for us to get into a polished state that would be acceptable for release. We can get new map and hero prototypes up extremely fast, but these look very ugly and often re-use existing art assets. When we prototype things, they often are created hastily and in a way that is very buggy and unoptimized. So even though we can stand something up very quickly, if we decide it's fun and want to see it through, it can be a very long time before it gets released to the public. We're held to a very high standard so we cannot just "rush something out" and not get called out on it.

We always have a high level prioritized list of features and content that we are working on. But at the same time, we leave room in our schedule to be agile and adapt reactively to new tasks that we might not have planned for. For example, we had always planned to do competitive play as our first patch following launch. However, midway through the beta, there was a high level of demand from the community that "the game was going to fail" if we did not have competitive play in at launch time. So we shifted on to work on a competitive mode. We thought that once we were complete with that work, there might be some minor iteration (there always is) but for the most part, we'd be moving on. What we had not accounted for was the negative reaction we got to the feature. So now everything on the schedule got pushed back so we could work on a new version of Competitive Play (Season 1). Again, we expected minor not major iteration after this release but it turned out that we needed to fix more than we originally planned for. So Season 2 became another major chunk of "discovered" work that was not part of our original plan. The majority of Season 2 work was done in a 3-4 week period.

In addition to the "big" reactive stuff we have to sometimes do, we have our lists of "low hanging fruit" that we like to sneak in between major tasks. For example, in 1.3, Geoff added the ability for all allies to see health bars. This was a pretty easy task for him to implement and an oft requested feature but it was never worth pulling Geoff off more important work (like Ana for example) to move onto this. If you constantly make developers do "low hanging fruit" tasks, they get into a "death by a thousand cuts" syndrome where they really don't have time for those big, meaningful tasks. So you try to balance a mix of scheduled/strategic planning, urgent/reactive tasks and "quick and easy" quality of life tasks.

It's interesting because things you think might be really easy (like "let me pick a skin before the match starts") are actually a lot of work. It's not always obvious which things will take a lot of time. We're basically always prioritizing and re-prioritizing. At all times we have a plan, but we're also expecting the plan to change.

Hope this helps answer the question.
09/02/2016 04:09 PMPosted by Greylight
Wait, what? There's a 76 statue? Do want.


The collector's edition!
Wow, that's really indepth! I was just asking about the people working on game design, how many people make new characters vs. work on existing character balance, and little minutia like that. Didn't expect you'd mention HR and the lawyers. :) Thanks for taking the time to answer.

Also that's cool that, in addition to all the designers who playtest the game, you have a dedicated group of in-house beta testers.
Pretty cool thread, it’s nice to see all that goes into the game from a development stand point. As a computer science and engineer student it is especially interesting to learn about teams and overall work behind some of my favorite games.
09/02/2016 04:04 PMPosted by Jeff Kaplan
We also have two amazing "embedded" groups that sit with us and we consider them part of the team as well. This is our dedicated Quality Assurance team and our dedicated Community team. Quality Assurance makes sure everything works and is stable. They call us out on our bugs and try to get the game as rock-solid for you guys as possible.


Can you please explain how that 21:9 support was approved by QA? I worked for so many game studios, noone would have approved it in its current state.
Hi Jeff, do you have any plan for community's skin works ? (like workshop in stream,player studio like planetside2) Because lot of us love new skins but it's seem like Bilzz take long time to release new one.
This thread should be sticked, so everyone would see their problems with game from different perspective.
This is the kinda thread that brings back focus from saying blizzard isn't working their hardest to make a high quality product thanks jeff!

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