Jetpack Cat and a hockey player with rocket skates: the Overwatch heroes that could've been

Early ideas for Overwatch heroes included a hockey player with jets on his skates, a cat with a jetpack and a bear that dual-wielded AK-47s, the game's development team revealed at Blizzcon yesterday.

During the Overwatch Archive panel, director Jeff Kaplan and assistant art director Arnold Tsang took the crowd through some pretty wacky early hero concepts that the team drew up in 2013 before the game was officially unveiled. My favourite was a Russian woman who rode around on a bear carrying two rifles, and during her 'ultimate' the bear reared up and grabbed two guns of his own.

The hockey player can be seen in the image below alongside a skinny alien and a hero in a mech suit carrying what looks like a cross between a drill and a chainsaw. Below that are designs for the Jetpack Cat, which Blizzard has mentioned previously—I especially like the grumpy pose on the far right. Click on the full-screen icons at the top-right of the photos to see them in more detail.

Some designs made it further than others: when the team pitched the idea for Overwatch to Activision executives they used the image below, which features twenty or so characters. Some of them are early versions of the heroes we know today. Mercy and Bastion are on the left, while Torbjörn is in the middle at the front of the pack. The big red robot eventually became Reinhardt, and Blizzard revisited the design when it created Orisa, Kaplan said.

Kaplan and Tsang also showed a sheet of early character concepts, including their abilities. Again, some are instantly recognisable. My favourite of the unfamiliar bunch is Luc, on the far right, who has spikes coming out of his skull and an ability called "Chain Sword". Yes please.

It wasn't just old characters that the duo showed off, either. The audience saw some footage of an early game mode with a capture point that moved through the level, almost a hybrid of payload and Control game modes. The idea was tossed aside because the space needed to move an entire capture point through an arena was just too large.

We also learned that Torbjörn originally had a 'Claw Trap' that stuck to a ceiling or wall and held anyone that passed by in place (it was ridiculously strong at choke points), while Bastion's initial ultimate fired a volley of bouncing grenades.

If you've bought a virtual ticket to Blizzcon you can watch the presentation here, and skip to 13:30 for the early character designs. Before that, the pair talk about the MMO that they nearly made instead of Overwatch, which you can read about in a story I wrote earlier today.