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Overwatch 2's maps won't be locked to one moment in time

Four examples of lighting changes on Overwatch's Numbani map
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)
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Tired of only seeing Numbani at noon, or Necropolis at the stroke of midnight? It looks like Blizzard may be getting more playful with its maps in Overwatch 2 (opens in new tab), as the developer showed off some fresh new lighting tech earlier this week.

Writing in a rather technical blog post (opens in new tab) on the Overwatch site, software engineer Marco Alamia and developers Bruce Wilkie and Fabien Christin ran through a new feature the team is using called "Environment States". These, in the simplest possible terms, allow all the environmental properties of a map (fog, lighting, shadows, weather effects) into a single entity that can be hot-swapped between levels.

Currently, lighting and environmental effects are put together on a level-by-level basis, carefully crafted to get the look and feel of a specific Overwatch space just right. But with environmental states, that atmosphere can be plugged into an entirely different arena.

"Let’s take the fast-paced deathmatch map of Necropolis," explained Christin. "You’ve probably played it in its night scenario, which marries the contrast of the cold blue colors of the night-time with the bright orange of the torches lit around the buildings."

An Egyptian tomb in the baking sun.

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

"But let’s say we want to experiment with a different scenario, and we decide to try the hot desert colors of Temple of Anubis. With the new Environment States system, all we need to do is take the Environment State from the Temple of Anubis and apply it to Necropolis."

The rest of the blog post largely dives deep into the technical details of how this all works. This is very much a developer tool, and many of its uses are far less dramatic (changing the camera exposure on certain parts of the map, for example). But it sounds like a whole world of gameplay scenarios have been opened up, well beyond simply seeing what King's Row looks like in the daytime.

Overwatch's necropolis map, in a sandstorm.

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

"Imagine that you are sent on a mission to Necropolis to restore the connection to an Overwatch satellite link, and while defending against a Null Sector attack, a sandstorm quickly approaches the location and rises all around you! We can make your mission a bit more challenging by adding a new sandstorm Environment State on top of the Sunny Scenario, which will slowly increase cloud coverage and sand effect density."

We recently got an extended look at Overwatch 2's PVP, with Blizzard announcing some significant changes (opens in new tab) to the format. The hope, it seems, is that 5v5 matchups and more capable tanks will lead to more dynamic fights. What could be more dynamic than a thunderstorm suddenly rolling in on the map?

Natalie Clayton
Natalie Clayton

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.