Blizzard is looking at a Public Test Realm and a "server browser-type feature" for Overwatch

In a lengthy message posted on the forums, Game Director Jeff Kaplan revealed some of Blizzard's plans for the future of Overtwatch. Much of it we've already heard about, but he dropped a few surprises, too. Competitive Play, for instance, is “really far along,” as you'd expect—it's supposed to be out within the next couple of weeks—but Kaplan said Blizzard is currently giving thought to launching a Public Test Realm so it can test the feature in a larger environment before it goes fully live. And even after it's rolled out, he expects Competitive Mode “will require a few season's worth of iteration before we're in the place we want to be.” 

Blizzard also wants to improve Overwatch's “spectator/broadcast/observer functionality,” which Kaplan hopes will have benefits that extend into Plays of the Game and Highlights, and to do more with Brawls and Custom Games. “We want to improve overall functionality but figure out a way for players to play more Custom Games with their friends or with strangers (for example, we're researching what a server browser-type feature would look like in OW),” he wrote. “This is a ton of work so would not be on the immediate horizon. But in our dream world, you could play Custom Games with 11 other people (friends or strangers) with fun rules in play and gain EXP while doing it.” 

“There is more we want to do with the progression system eventually (this is more long term—not immediate). We want to give you more customization options (we know people want to have random option for Poses for example),” he continued. “We have some cool ideas of how you could equip more than one spray or voice line... so those are fun things we'd like to get to. But they are minor and are far off. We also have some pretty cool new content we want to add to the progression system—so we're looking forward to getting some of that in eventually.” 

Along with the many gameplay changes, Blizzard also has an “endless list of social feature improvements” it wants to make, although most of those will likely be incorporated incrementally through patches. He cited as an example the ability to “instigate social actions on another player” whenever you have control of the mouse—in Hero Select, Assemble Your Heroes, and the end-of-round screen, for instance—which will be added as part of the Competitive Play update. “It's a minor thing but makes a big difference,” he said. “We cannot stress enough the game is best played with other people—it's a team game.” 

Kaplan said there's a lot more going on behind the scenes, like bug fixes, anti-cheating efforts, and technological improvements—and he also emphasized that “some of this stuff might not happen.” 

“The reason developers usually don't give insight like this is because if something changes or doesn't happen, players get very angry at us. I would like to change that dynamic but we need to do that together,” he wrote. “We'll share more information with you guys so long as you understand none of this is a promise and things do change throughout the course of development. So when we see a 'HOW COME WE DIDN'T GET THE HIGHLY PROMISED RANDOM POSE OPTION' rage post 2 years from now, please feel free to quote this paragraph in the reply...” 

Overwatch, in case you hadn't heard, recently broke the ten million player mark. Not bad for a game that's been out for less than a month.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.