Jeff Kaplan, the game director of Overwatch, has parted ways with Blizzard Entertainment after 19 years with the company. Kaplan started out as a game designer on World of Warcraft in 2002, developing quests for the iconic MMORPG. He was credited as a game director for World of Warcraft before leading Project Titan from 2009 to 2014. Elements of Project Titan eventually made their way into Overwatch, where Kaplan served as game director until today.
Kaplan oversaw the iconic game’s development, which won numerous Game of the Year awards and resurrected the team-based shooter genre. Overwatch‘s popularity also spawned an esports league called the Overwatch League, which is currently in its fourth season. He announced his departure in a letter on Blizzard’s website. You can read the full text of the letter below.
Greetings, Overwatch Community,
I am leaving Blizzard Entertainment after 19 amazing years.
It was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience. I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone at Blizzard who supported our games, our game teams and our players. But I want to say a special thanks to the wonderful game developers that shared in the journey of creation with me.
Never accept the world as it appears to be. Always dare to see it for what it could be. I hope you do the same.
GG, Jeffrey Kaplan
Development on Overwatch and Overwatch 2 will continue with assistant game developer Aaron Keller as the new game director. “Jeff’s been a great leader, mentor, and friend, and he knows how much we’re going to miss him,” Keller wrote in a letter to the community. “I’ve been lucky to work alongside him and the rest of the Overwatch team for many years in building something that continues to inspire people all around the world, and I’m honored to carry the torch forward.”
Lead Overwatch Writer Searches for New Opportunities
After 20 years at Blizzard, Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu is leaving the company to pursue other adventures. Chu is a significant contributor to the ongoing Overwatch lore and story outside of the game. He’s written many of the hero’s origin stories and flushed out the universe in which the game takes place both through comics and short fiction. Two of Chu’s pieces, “Bastet” and “Reflections” were celebrated throughout the community for revealing Soldier:76 and Tracer as LGBTQ+ heroes. Chu also worked on Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, and the in-development Overwatch 2.
On Chu’s website, he stated that: “Overwatch has been a life-changing experience. I have always felt that games and the stories they tell have the unique ability to bring people closer together and that the empathy you feel from stepping into someone else’s shoes, even virtually, can bridge the gap between miles, cultures, and nations.”
Whoever takes Chu’s place has big shoes to fill. Overwatch 2, which will feature a story-driven campaign, will rely heavily on the writing done by his replacement. While Overwatch lore has always been a hot topic for discussion, I’m hoping that Overwatch 2 will teach us more about the characters and the world they inhabit than ever before. While lore exists in the game, many players don’t seem to know much about the world, nor do they care. Hopefully, a game based around the story aspect will entice players new and old to learn about the characters that make up this world. It’s one of my few expectations for the new game.
Here’s Blizzard’s statement on Michael Chu’s departure: “Michael’s contributions to the games and stories of the Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch universes have been a source of inspiration, and we will always be thankful for the time he spent at Blizzard. We wish him the best for the future.”
When Blizzard announced Overwatch 2 at Blizzcon, it left many fans wondering what it meant for the original game. Would we still see consistent updates? Or would Overwatch be put on the backburner during the development of the sequel? Only time would tell.
Luckily, it turns out that the developers still have a couple of surprises for their fans and players alike. On March 18, @PlayOverwatch tweeted the reveal of the new hero Echo. Her origin story revolves around Dr. Liao, a Singaporean scientist who worked to create and eventually fight the omnics. Liao was an expert in artificial intelligence, an employee of the Omnica Corporation, and the sixth founder of Overwatch. When she was killed in an attack on the Overwatch facility, Echo, Liao’s creation, adapted to Liao’s personality and goals. Dr. Liao built Echo to fulfill her dream of helping the world; she is an echo of her legacy.
Echo was initially introduced back in the 2018 “Reunion” short for Ashe and McCree and later took a more significant role in the Overwatch 2teaser trailer. It turns out her origins go back before the 2018 video and before Overwatch itself. Echo was formerly an asset from Blizzard’s MMO Titan, which was canceled in 2013. Her appearance has changed since then – she’s much more humanoid and sleek – but her concept has stayed relatively the same.
It turns our Echo is Overwatch’s newest DPS hero and not a support character like many players assumed. Her abilities are energy-based and seem to be quite strong so far. Her primary, Tri-shot, lets her shoot a triangular burst from her hand. She also has a sticky bomb ability that explodes after a few seconds, and a Focusing Beam that deals high amounts of damage for a limited time. Not to mention, she can fly and glide in a way similar to Mercy and Pharah.
Echo’s most substantial ability is her ultimate Duplicate. It allows her to copy any enemy team hero – minus another Echo – and use their abilities as her own for a short period. This technique means she can fill any role, tank, support, or DPS, and use their ultimate to her advantage.
According to Jeff Kaplan, Echo is most likely the last new hero we’ll see until Overwatch 2. If you want to try her out for yourself, she’s currently live on PTR servers.