Overwatch has one of the most diverse casts ever seen in a video game, with men, women, robots, and gorillas representing many countries from around the world. Lead writer Michael Chu joined in for our Best of 2016 stream, to celebrate Overwatch coming in as GameSpot’s number 1 game for 2016. “I think what we were really inspired by was all the diversity in our world,” Chu said. “Different cultures, history, the different pop-cultures that are in different places, like anime and manga, movies and comic books – we wanted to take inspiration from all these things.”
According to Chu, diversity is very important to Blizzard and the Overwatch team, and is a topic they can explore in more detail in the ongoing comic series available on Blizzard’s website. “It’s something we focus on,” he said. “Obviously in this comic we were able to shed a little bit more light on some of those things.” The latest comic is about Tracer, entitled Reflections, and confirms that the zippy offence class character is queer by showing Tracer and her partner Emily sharing a tender moment after a gift exchange.
“What we were really excited about in this comic is we don’t often get a chance to see the personal lives of the characters,” Chu said, “I think when we were talking about what a holiday comic could be, we thought this was a really great opportunity to see those characters away from the battlefield and see their friends, families and loved-ones. Just see them in a slightly different setting.”
Russian readers won’t have a chance to see what Reflections has to say about those personal moments, however, due to the comic being unavailable in their region. On viewing, Russian readers are presented with an error message that states “In accordance with Russian law we cannot share this comic with our players on territory of Russian Federation.” In a statement to Eurogamer, Blizzard confirmed that it preemptively decided not to publish the comic in the region, citing “the climate in Russia and Legal feedback.”
On the subject of deciding which characters to add to the game, Chu told us that it often came from experimenting with crazy ideas. “What about a skill-based support healer,” he said, acting out a partially remembered discussion in the writers’ room. “We’d gone through a lot of different ideas; our lead hero designer Jeff Goodman had suggested an alchemist. I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but someone threw out ‘what about Ana, she was a sniper,’ and we were like ‘oh we can’t do that because we already have Widowmaker, how is that going to work?'” By making Ana’s sniper kit go in a different direction to the Russian assassin’s, Chu and his team were able to elevate Ana from a supporting character, to a playable hero. “Ana was a character we were talking about years before. When we were talking about Pharah’s character, we wanted her parents to be like a really big influence on her as a character, and we were like ‘cool, we have this character called Ana and she’s really important,’ but I don’t think we ever thought she’d end up in the game. But because of this game idea, we got the opportunity.”
You can hear more from Chu in our Best of 2016 segment celebrating our number 1 for 2016 (skip to 4:14:22), or check out the full list of GameSpot’s Best of 2016.