'Overwatch' Needs More Stories Because We Love Them

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Tracer and Emily, the internet's new favorite obsession.
Tracer and Emily, the internet's new favorite obsession. Blizzard

Much has been written about Overwatch ’s story and the unique way the Overwatch team disperses it. Scattered in character profiles online, special events, free online comics, developer videos, in-game voice line interactions and short cinematics, the world of Overwatch seems to be constantly developing and evolving.

And it’s good -- really good. Playing Overwatch is an entertaining, even addictive experience, but delving into the world and setting of Overwatch is even more fun for me and comes with zero risk of tilt. I always end up scouring YouTube for videos about datamined voice lines, easter egg character interactions and lore overviews to make sure I didn’t miss a crumb of story anywhere. I know I’m not the only one.

This model -- a little off-the-cuff, a little planned, flexible enough to take a good idea and run with it but solid enough that the world and its characters feel cohesive -- has been wildly successful for Overwatch , differentiating it from other FPS games and making it the Game of the Year for 2016 roughly five billion times over.

“I think what we've learned about development through the years is that when you're making these heroes and you're making these levels and you're making the art it helps to have the story background… We basically made the decision that stuff would exist outside of the game and you'll just sort of it see it reflected inside the game,” said lead writer Michael Chu at the Tribeca Games Festival.

Is it selfish to hope that Overwatch updates more of that stuff outside the game a little more regularly? Waiting for the short films is like being caught in a time loop just before you reach Disneyland. The Overwatch comics happen more regularly and are often tied to in-game events, but it still feels like Christmas morning when you get one (and each one seems to drop some kind of story bomb, like Tracer being gay or Soldier’s square ass ).

You know the outline of the drama between Reyes and Morrison, you know the tragic fallout, but you still don’t know what exactly happened. You know Tracer had some kind of timestream mishap, but you don’t know precisely how it went down. You know Hanzo and Genji’s relationship is complicated, but you never see it before Genji achieves his cyborg body and Hanzo achieves his tiddy out. You know Mercy hecked up real bad on Reyes’ wraith form, but you don’t know what she did or their immediate reactions. You know Widowmaker is Black Widow fanfiction, but you still want to know the details about that dead husband and the brainwashing and turning blue and all of that.

Do I think Overwatch will ever have regular story updates, like prequel comics with vignettes that fill in these background details, or any other kind of consistent lore delivery? Probably not. The flexibility the Overwatch team enjoys as they expand their character roster allows them to make space for new characters both in the past and the present. It also lets them carve a niche into their world and setting where that character can exist without needing to retcon a whole lot of previously disseminated information. But if Overwatch comics came out every two weeks or every month, I’d make the trip down to the local comic shop for them, no question.

According to game director Jeff Kaplan, “The heroes we’re creating no longer belong to us” and are now a part of the community instead. Fan enthusiasm is its own kind of triumph: fanworks reflect the passion people have for the world and characters the Overwatch team has built. Perhaps that enthusiasm is a reflection of the nebulosity of the Overwatch canon, allowing players to fill in the blanks as they wish. But would a campaign mode, regular comic updates, a companion novel / short story compendium or more short films interfere with that fan enthusiasm or ignite it?

I vote ignite.

What do you think? Should Blizzard commit to regularly story updates in one form or another? Do you have a preferred way you would like the Overwatch narrative to be delivered? Or are you way more concerned about finetuning the game’s balance and challenge? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

'Overwatch' May Not Be Perfect, But It's Damn Near Close
Overwatch doesn't care if you've ever tried an FPS before, it holds your hands and makes you feel okay while you shoot rocket launchers, icicles and sound waves.
  • Amazing Art Style
  • Balanced Mechanics
  • Characters Keep You Coming Back For More
  • No Single Player
  • Overwhelming At First
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