After the announcement that PvE Hero Mode was being scrapped from Overwatch 2, Game Director Aaron Keller has published a Director’s Take to give some more insight.
This week—much to fans’ disappointment—it was announced that Overwatch 2 would not be following through with the previously promised PvE Hero Mode. Today, the Overwatch 2 Game Director Aaron Keller published a lengthy letter explaining that the team was not cancelling PvE outright.
Keller further explains that Overwatch 2 PvE will still see Story Missions and that Hero Missions (Hero Mode) are what they will be eliminating. He goes on to say, “We are still committed to building many of the elements we talked about at BlizzCon 2019, including the Story Missions that delve into the next chapter of the Overwatch universe, new types of co-op content we haven’t yet shared, and new stories that we’re planning to tell both in and out of the game.”
You can read Overwatch 2 Game Director Aaron Keller’s letter in full below:
“Hey all. It’s been an emotional week in the world of Overwatch. A few days ago, we talked about our change in approach to PvE in Overwatch 2 and released a high-level roadmap for the year. We’re really excited for everything we’ll be launching soon, but much of the discussion this week has been about how we’re cancelling PvE outright, which isn’t accurate, so I want to take some time to discuss some of that with you here.
When we announced Overwatch 2 in 2019, the idea for the game was centered around the PvP game we released last October, and on the PvE side, Story Missions and Hero Missions.
Story Missions focus on fast-paced, co-op gameplay, as well as story, cinematics, and cutscenes that expand the world of Overwatch. Story Missions tell a linear narrative about the heroes of Overwatch reuniting and battling the new Null Sector threat, pushing the story of Overwatch forward for the first time since our original game released. These missions take place on huge maps with new enemies and new cinematics. We will begin to release them in Season 6. The work done here is amazing, leaps and bounds above what we’ve built for PvE previously in our game, and I can’t wait for our players to get their hands on them. We’ll be sharing more details there in the coming weeks.
Hero Missions (or Hero Mode), on the other hand, encompassed an in-development game mode that allowed players to upgrade individual heroes through talent trees, providing a deeply replayable version of PvE in Overwatch 2. It was a really exciting concept, something that not only resonated with players, but that the team was passionate about and really dedicated to. This is the mode we’re no longer moving forward with.
To give you some context for this change, I’d like to talk about the past and the origins of Team 4. The Overwatch team was founded in the wake of a cancelled game at Blizzard called Project Titan. That game had many facets, but at its heart, it was an FPS MMO. The Overwatch team, especially at its inception, considered itself an MMO development team. As we transitioned away from that original concept and started creating Overwatch, we included plans to one day return to that scope. We had a crawl, walk, run plan. Overwatch was the crawl, a dedicated version of PvE was the walk, and an MMO was the run. It was built into the DNA of the team early on, and some of us considered that final game a true realization of the original vision of Project Titan.
When we launched Overwatch in 2016, we quickly started talking about what that next iteration could be. Looking back at that moment, it’s now obvious that we weren’t as focused as we should have been on a game that was a runaway hit. Instead, we stayed focused on a plan that was years old. Work began on the PvE portion of the game and we steadily continued shifting more and more of the team to work on those features.
Things rarely go as planned in game development. We struggled to find our footing with the Hero Mission experience early on. Scope grew. We were trying to do too many things at once and we lost focus. The team built some really great things, including hero talents, new enemy units and early versions of missions, but we were never able to bring together all of the elements needed to ship a polished, cohesive experience.
We had an exciting but gargantuan vision and we were continuously pulling resources away from the live game in an attempt to realize it. I can’t help but look back on our original ambitions for Overwatch and feel like we used the slogan of “crawl, walk, run” to continue to march forward with a strategy that just wasn’t working.
We had announced something audacious. Our players had high expectations for it, but we no longer felt like we could deliver it. We needed to make an incredibly difficult decision, one we knew would disappoint our players, the team, and everyone looking forward to Hero Missions. The Overwatch team understands this deeply – this represented years of work and emotional investment. They are wonderful, incredibly talented people and truly have a passion for our game and the work that they do.
Lastly, people have wondered why this announcement came at this time. After Overwatch 2 had launched, we started refining our plans for future seasons. As those plans grew, we tried to find ways to make all of our ambitions fit together in a plan that we believed in.
We couldn’t. And we also knew that we couldn’t go back to pulling people away from the live game in service of that original vision again. So, we made the difficult decision to cut Hero Missions and started planning for the future.
From there, we needed to update the vision for the game, gain confidence in our new direction and roll out the changes to the team. The decision was the start of a long process, not the final piece of it. This has been hard for us, but as the director on this project, I have to do my best to make decisions that put the game and the community first, even when those decisions are disappointing. In this case, I had trouble pivoting away from a vision that just wasn’t working. And for that I would like to apologize to our players and to our team. I’m sorry.
We are focusing our efforts and our passion into making this game an ever-evolving experience. We are still committed to building many of the elements we talked about at BlizzCon 2019, including the Story Missions that delve into the next chapter of the Overwatch universe, new types of co-op content we haven’t yet shared, and new stories that we’re planning to tell both in and out of the game. We’re excited about this direction and we can’t wait for you to finally get to experience what we’ve been building.
Overwatch was born from the ashes of Project Titan. It was a moment of metamorphosis for the team and the project… and something beautiful came out of it. This is another moment of change. And the future of Overwatch will be born out of it.”