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Echo Is Not Overwatch's Next Hero, Hero 30 is Fully Playable, and More from Jeff Kaplan at BlizzCon 2018

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At BlizzCon 2018, Jeff Kaplan sat down with Twitch streamer FRAN to answer a plethora of Overwatch questions.

The streamer was doing a gameplay session for her viewers while waiting for a developer to sit down with her and chat all things Ashe and Overwatch. Little did she know that Kaplan, the game’s lead designer, would be the one to sit down with her. Kaplan shared a multitude of insights, small teases for the future of Overwatch, and insights into the team’s development process and plans.

Kaplan shared that the Overwatch team currently has six new heroes in the works, with hero 30 (in other words, the next hero, as Ashe is the game’s 29th) being fully playable in the developer play tests already. Some are currently still concepts or prototypes, but he’s excited for all the heroes to come and says that announcing heroes can be deeply personal and exciting for the development team.

He next confirms that Echo, the omnic seen at the end of the “Reunion” short revealed at the convention’s opening keynote, will not be the 30th hero.

Kaplan later asked the viewers in FRAN’s chat what class they think Echo will be a part of. Most viewers replied with “support,” but there were a few who expressed hope that she would be a tank. One viewer guessed that she’s part of the damage class. Kaplan says that although he knows perfectly well what class Echo is in, he likes to know the expectations of players because the team doesn’t like to entirely betray them.

He uses the example of Genji: Genji could be a tank, but he doesn’t look like one, so he feels it’d be odd if the team just went ahead and made him a tank and betrayed certain expectations. He says that the team is trying to prioritize support and tank heroes; upon seeing the hero roster, it’s incredibly clear that the damage category has the most heroes, so the team wishes to bring more balance to the roster. Kaplan is also aware that many fans want to see the addition of a third main tank, since Reinhardt and Orisa are the only tanks who provide shields, which are incredibly important to the gameplay of Overwatch.

Following the reveal of Ashe’s abilities in a gameplay trailer, fans have been excited for her companion B.O.B and its role in affecting the meta. B.O.B is Ashe’s Ultimate ability—when she summons him, he wreaks havoc by lunging and shooting at players. B.O.B is a big ol’ robot, and Kaplan shares that this plays a role in his gameplay: B.O.B can body-block, so you could send B.O.B to spawn-trap the enemy team to prevent them from stopping the payload.

In regard to development on Overwatch, Kaplan touches on a variety of features that chat participants asked about. He shares that the team is against the idea of hero banning because Overwatch incorporates hero switching as an integral part of its gameplay. The team wants to avoid hero banning because it would lead to a static meta in which only certain heroes are allowed. Between banning Doomfist and fixing Doomfist, he would much rather the team focus on fixing Doomfist than preventing Doomfist fans from playing as him.

Role queue, Kaplan says, is something that is discussed “every day” in the studio. The team hopes that people adopt the Looking For Group feature and make full use of it to form their teams.

Story mode had been heavily rumored in the last few weeks, but Kaplan was quick to shut down any hopes that it’s coming. He says, “It’s a lot of work, practically a new game altogether.” If it were to happen, which he doesn’t completely rule out, he says it will not be any time soon. The team wants to deliver a bit of what everyone wants, and everyone wants different things like different modes, heroes and/or maps.

For tournaments, Kaplan says this is also a lot of work but that they would indeed like to do it someday. He states that more people play competitive Overwatch than non-competitive Overwatch, so he knows which one the player base leans toward.

Lastly, Kaplan assures that Ashe will be up on the PTR this week and hopes that everyone will enjoy playing as her.

Watch the entire stream here.

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