It's no secret that Overwatch is one of the most-played games in the world. With more than 25 million copies sold across all platforms, the game is a mega-hit for Blizzard, in no small part thanks to its excellent optimization across a wide variety of hardware specs. In fact, around 22 percent of the Overwatch PC playerbase are playing the game using Intel integrated graphics.
For most of us, playing a game—let alone a fast-paced competitive game like Overwatch—without a dedicated GPU sounds... less than ideal. But there are a lot of systems on the market—namely ultrabooks—that fit that bill, and I don't blame users on that hardware spec for wanting to get in some Overwatch. And unlike most higher-end PC releases, Overwatch runs surprisingly well on integrated graphics.
In a talk at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, Blizzard senior software engineer Ryan Greene explained that Blizzard built Overwatch with a wide variety of hardware in mind.
"Blizzard historically supports a very large number of players," Greene said. "It's just something we work towards and always has good benefits."
Blizzard built a brand new game engine from the ground up for Overwatch, and in doing so was able to make design decisions with the "minspec" in mind. From the beginning of the project, Greene says that players using the "recommended spec" should be getting at least 60 fps, while those on the "minspec" should be able to get 30.
To get to that point, Greene said it was important to get the engineering team "excited about minspec." After all, Overwatch is a game characterized by its colorful characters and vibrant world—what would be the point in getting the game to run on low-powered hardware if it lost all of its soul.
"Not everybody was excited at first, but as we got going on it, people really felt the value in it," Greene said. "We set up playtest labs with various machines all configured with different hardware. We got different people to play on it, and they were surprised at how well it ran, and how much it felt like Overwatch."
But that doesn't mean that only players at the bottom of the totem pole reap those benefits. "We found that optimizing for the minspec yielded really good gains on the high end and on console," Greene said. "It was a really synergistic relationship."
The result is a game that runs well on a wide variety of hardware platforms. Sure, Overwatch looks a little bit blocky on low settings, but as you can see from these comparison images, it's clearly Overwatch. Good news for those players on integrated graphics.