Bringing Capture the Flag to Overwatch was harder than you think

The Overwatch Year of the Rooster event brings with it a lot of very cool new skins and loot, but even better is the addition of a new, oft-requested Capture the Flag game mode called Capture the Rooster. CTF is an age-old mode, but game director Jeff Kaplan explained that the unique abilities of the Overwatch heroes—in particular, how fast some of them can move—made adapting it to this particular game a greater challenge than you might expect.  

Tracer, for instance, could initially triple-blink to the enemy flag, grab it, and then recall out, leaving her safely of reach before defenders even realized their flag was gone. Blizzard experimented with various ways of slowing things down, such as forcing heroes to drop the flag if they used any of their abilities, but Kaplan said that idea was eventually abandoned because it took away the feeling of being an Overwatch hero.     

In the end, instead of modifying the characters to fit CTF, Blizzard decided to embrace their special abilities and instead tweaked the mode itself in a couple of minor ways—just a light tap on the brakes. First, flags have a capture timer, and taking any damage at all while it's counting down resets it. Second, because of the game's high degree of lethality, enemy flags can be captured even if your own flag has been taken. 

"Ultimately, we really went with more of a free-form Capture the Flag, where we're embracing more of what Overwatch is about, which is your awesome hero, with your awesome abilities, and letting you use them all the time," Kaplan says in the video. "And we kind of want to create those crazy moments where ... you might think Tracer with her Blink is the best flag carrier. [But] wait until you see Winston with primal rage, what he can do. It's pretty amazing." 

Kaplan clarified that Capture the Rooster will be part of the Overwatch arcade, and isn't being added to the Quick Play or Competitive rotations, at least for the foreseeable future. "We just want players to see it as as fun mode that exists in the Arcade for the sake of fun and fun alone," he says. "It's not going to be perfectly tuned and balanced for the way Overwatch works in competitive or Quick Play. And we're sort of okay with that, because we want it to be a 'blow off steam mode' that you go and do in addition to those other modes." 

The Overwatch Year of the Rooster event is live now and runs until February 13. Find out more (and get a closer look at those new skins) right here, and check out some screens below.

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.