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.”
Echo is currently live on Overwatch servers, and you’ll be hard-pressed to play a quick-play match without her flying around the skies on one team or the other. Because she’s so new to the game, most people have not figured out the best way to play her; we’re all just experimenting and learning at our own pace. After a little bit of research – and a lot of in-game practice – I’ve found a couple tips and tricks to playing Overwatch‘s newest hero.
Tip 1: Play With a Mercy
Tip one has less to do with the Echo player and more the heroes that make up the rest of her team. If you’re lucky enough to be queueing with a group, this tip should be easy enough. You’re going to want a Mercy on your team. Now, I’m not claiming that other supports don’t have the capabilities to keep Echo in tip-top shape, they most certainly do, but pairing Mercy with Echo can make for a deadly duo.
Echo can launch herself in the air and glide as she falls – a combination of Pharah and Mercy’s flight abilities. Because of this, Echo is reminiscent of the Pharmercy combo many players despise. It’s hard to focus an airborne Echo with a Mercy in her pocket, and killing a Mercy protected by an Echo can be just as challenging. That’s why the combination works so well.
Tip 2: Understand the Beam
At first, I thought Echo’s beam felt pretty weak. It hardly does any damage and doesn’t feel like a viable attack option. The beam ability does 50 damage per second for 2.5 seconds, which isn’t that bad, but it most likely won’t help you secure a kill. On the other hand, if the enemy is under 50% health, the beam does 200 damage per second. That means if your tracking is perfection, you could do a total of 500 damage in one use of the ability. On top of everything, this ability also works on shields. Once a barrier starts showing cracks, which only happens once it’s under half health, using Echo’s beam can shred through the shield’s remaining health.
Tip 3: Practice Duplicate
Echo”s ultimate, Duplicate, allows her to copy an enemy player and turn herself into them, abilities included. Does your team need more healing output for the last push? Now you have a third support. Need more damage? Echo copied the enemy reaper, and now their team’s tanks don’t stand a chance. Her ultimate depends heavily on timing, as most do, and you need to know when the best time to invest is, or when you should back out.
The best way to use this ability is to get up in the sky. When you have a bird’s eye view, it’s much easier to pick and choose your Duplicate target. One of the best heroes to duplicate right now is Reinhardt. This choice gives your team an extra shield, not that the copy is going to use it, as well as a target to tank more damage if necessary. One of the best things about this Reinhardt duplicate is that the Echo can charge in without worrying about death. If she loses all her health, she reverts back to her original form and can fly right on out of the fight. If you manage to build up the copy’s ultimate, which you probably will, your hammer down can change the whole flow of the battle.
Be careful though, if the target you’re intending to copy is close to death, you might miss out on the window to Duplicate them.
Tip 4: Know When Echo isn’t Working
Echo is similar to Pharah, and we see a lot of the same counters between both characters. A good Widomaker, Ashe, or McCree can take Echo out of the sky before she has time to do anything, and a competent Sombra can keep her on the ground indefinitely. If the enemy team suddenly switches to hard counter your Echo, it may be time to switch it up. Of course, don’t expect anybody to give up Echo at this point in the game. A new hero will be all the rage for a few weeks, but once the hype dies down, common sense should rear it’s head again.
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.
Since Overwatch’s launch, Blizzard has released some stunning animations to show players the character lore and to explain essential events in the world’s history. We’ve seen a deathly dual between Hanzo and Genji, the reunion between McCree and Ashe, the loss of Mei’s team, and many other heart-wrenching scenarios revolving around the heroes and villains of the game.
After watching these animated shorts, it’s no surprise that an animated show based on Overwatch’s lore may be in the works. While nothing is confirmed yet, some leaked information may prove that both Overwatch and Diablo may be on more than just our computer screens in the future.
According to the LinkedIn profile of Nick van Dyk, the co-president of Activision Blizzard Studios, he states that he worked on both a Diablo and an Overwatch series. It seems that Diablo will get an adaptation “rendered in anime style,” which is in pre-production and will release globally through Netflix. Based on this rudimentary description, I imagine it will be artistically comparable to Castlevania’s adaptation currently on Netflix.
Further down, van Dyk also lists that he “developed and sold an animated series based on Blizzard’s Overwatch franchise.” There is no confirmation about this project, and it’s not yet clear who bought the series, but it does suggest potential in a future animated show.
Even if this information is accurate, it does not mean we’ll ever see these shows. The Overwatch series has only been bought, not greenlit, and the Diablo show can only be said to have been in pre-production at some point. If we do see some new animated series of the two, they will join the ranks of video game turned show along with games like Castlevania and The Witcher. Both show a lot of potential.
Blizzard has not yet made an official announcement surrounding either project.
Like many games, Overwatch is no exception when it comes to creating in-game events to celebrate real-world holidays. Virtual commemorations for Halloween, Christmas, and New Years reward players with new cosmetics and decorated maps on top of game modes that are only playable for the duration of the event. These celebrations tend to entice both old and new players into picking up the game, so it’s no surprise that Blizzard has made them yearly occurrences.
Recently, players have seen an increase in stand-alone challenges, where they can obtain a new skin and sprays through winning a certain number of games. We saw these types of events for the Nano Cola D.Va skin and the Brick Bastion skin. These challenges are also becoming more popular for the more significant holiday events, where players can earn exclusive skins each week an event takes place by merely winning their matches.
Mardi Gras Challenge
Thanks to a recent leak on Twitch, it appears that Overwatch will have a stand-alone event to celebrate Mardi Gras. Twitter user La Nimi claimed that her friend received both a four-hour and six-hour Ashe Mardi Gras bundle presumably for watching specific Twitch streamers. La Nimi also provided video proof of the drop in their Twitch inventory.
Naeri, a well-known Overwatch leaker on Twitter, also tweeted some higher resolution images of the drop. This information, combined with the latest Overwatch background update, proves a pretty convincing case for the Mardi Gras challenge.
While the in-game loot content is still unknown, fans are speculating that we’ll see cosmetics for several characters. The images suggest new sprays of Zenyatta and McCree, and the bundle name indicates that Ashe may be the focus of this event. Maybe we’ll see a new themed legendary skin for Ashe and her counterpart BOB.
We’re not yet sure when this event will take place, but most fans are expecting it to begin on February 25, the day of the Mardi Gras celebration. If that’s the case, make sure to log in to Overwatch and win some games to earn some fresh new cosmetics.