Talking Overwatch on Nintendo Switch with producer Wes Yanagi
Overwatch: Legendary Edition was announced for the Switch just a little under a month ago and now it’s less than a month away. Things are moving pretty fast!
We wanted to know more about it before we get our hands on the game at PAX 2019 and its release soon after that. So we asked, and we got to chat to Principal Game Producer on Overwatch, Wes Yanagi.
We asked about motion controls, how it works on the Switch and more.
Vooks: What were the challenges associated with using the Switch’s hardware to get Overwatch running in both docked and handheld modes? What workarounds and changes did you need to make to hit target performance on Switch?
Our goal was to deliver an experience where when you picked up the Nintendo Switch, you thought “yep, I’m playing Overwatch… but on this tiny device.” A lot of the work went into looking for areas we could optimise performance and finding the right visual settings that looked and felt like Overwatch. While it’s easy to focus on the graphics when thinking about performance, there were a lot of other systems like physics and audio that contribute to the overall frame rate. We spent a lot of effort optimising those systems to make the game feel just right.
Vooks: Excitingly, this will mark Overwatch’s first portable release; what do you believe are the benefits of playing the game in handheld?
The ability to take the game anywhere is one of the most exciting things for me and the team. Most of the time when you’re playing Overwatch, you’re at your PC or console in the living room. It’s a much different experience when you’re with your friends in the same room facing each other and playing together as a team or as opposing teammates. Bringing people together for that shared social experience is amazingly fun.
Vooks: How does using the Joy-Con or Pro Controller compare to other consoles and keyboard + mouse?
Controls for the Nintendo Switch version of Overwatch is basically the same as the other consoles. However, one big addition is gyro-aim support. With gyro-aiming, you can tilt the Switch or Pro Controller to give a little nudge to your aim and help line-up shots. Or, you can detach the Joy-Cons and point it at the screen like a laser pointer. One of our designers plays this way and dominates.
Vooks: What level of controller remapping and customisation will be available on the Switch version? Will players be able to remap individual heroes’ abilities to different buttons like on PC?
Support for customising settings will be very similar to the other console platforms. We also have additional gyro-aim settings that can also be configured on an individual hero level.
Vooks: As you’ve previously stated, Overwatch will be running at 30 FPS in both configurations: Are there any plans in the works to potentially allow players to adjust performance settings?
For the Switch version of Overwatch, we really want to deliver the authentic Overwatch experience. The gameplay has to feel like Overwatch and the game has to look like Overwatch. For fixed platforms like the Switch, we do our best to configure the game to the optimal settings to achieve this goal.
Vooks: We’ve seen an example of how motion controls work with Junkrat’s RIP-Tire, and I could imagine Reinhardt would be cool to hold the Switch up like his massive shield. What heroes do you believe players will gain the most enjoyment and use out of motion controls?
I think hit-scan heroes will benefit a lot with gyro-aiming. Overwatch has a lot of verticality in its gameplay, and I think players will eventually find it much easier to track targets on that axis.
Vooks: You’ve mentioned that Nintendo encouraged investigating motion controls when bringing Overwatch to Switch – how did this come up in conversation? What other input did Nintendo have in bringing the game over?
It came about early on with our initial discussions with Nintendo. They expressed how it was a popular feature on the Nintendo Switch and encouraged us to investigate it. A few of us were a little skeptical at first, but after doing a bunch of research and experimenting with various implementations, it really grew on us. I think most people who spend time learning the controls really like it a lot.
Vooks: Game porting specialists Iron Galaxy previously brought Diablo III to Switch, so what was the Overwatch team’s experience in working with an external studio?
Working with Iron Galaxy has been awesome. Their team is very experienced working on the Nintendo Switch, and they taught us a lot about developing on the platform. It was also nice to have a fresh perspective on the codebase, which led to collaborative discussions on ways to better optimise the game.
Vooks: Diablo III reportedly took nine months to port to Switch – what was the timeline of porting Overwatch to the platform? Was it a case of waiting for community features such as endorsements and role queueing to go live before finalising the Switch version?
Work on the Switch version of Overwatch started a little over a year ago. There is a bit of complexity trying to catchup to a constantly evolving game. But getting Overwatch running is just the tip of the iceberg. Adding a new platform also means making sure it works within the entire Blizzard infrastructure. Many developers in all parts of the company, especially Battle.net, had a hand in bringing the Switch version to life.
Vooks: Ganondorf and various Zelda-themed items featured as Nintendo-exclusive bonuses for Diablo III players, what potential Nintendo skins or loot might we see in Overwatch? Please say a Donkey Kong Winston skin!
That would be a cool skin! Unfortunately, we don’t have any plans to share.
Vooks: For players who already own and play Overwatch on other platforms, what’s your elevator pitch to entice them over to the Switch version?
Gyro-aiming is legit. Spend two hours learning it, and you may not be able to play without it.
You can also take Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch anywhere. Imagine taking it to a friend’s house to play on the porch with 6 other players, it’s totally different and an amazingly fun experience.
Vooks: Our Editor is from Western Australia and couldn’t help but notice that the car licence plate Roadhog wears is modelled after the real-life design seen in the state – what ties does the lovable tank have to the western state?
Roadhog hails from the Outback. We have Australian developers on the team and we thought it would be a cool homage to show regional cues in his design.
Vooks: A fun one to finish on – what classic Nintendo character would make the best Overwatch hero and why?
Hmm… there are so many iconic characters to choose from… for me maybe Wario. He’s got a very Talon vibe going on.
Thanks to Wes for answering and Blizzard for organising the interview.