Between Fortnite and PUBG, battle royale games are thriving at the moment, so it’s not entirely surprising that developers of other online games are looking on the genre with interest as fans clamor to see battle royale modes crammed into all of their favorite titles.
One game that receives a particularly large number of requests for a battle royale mode is Overwatch and its director, Jeff Kaplan, has told Kotaku he would like to see it happen himself. Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as some may think.
When Epic Games revealed that the battle royale offshoot of Fortnite only took around two months to put together, players were given the idea that integrating such a mode of play into any other title should be a fairly straightforward process. According to Kaplan, however, there’s a lot to consider.
For Kaplan, it’s important to add a battle royale mode that not only works with Overwatch as a game but also isn’t just a carbon copy of other members of the sub-genre. “There's a lot of design and tech work to get us to that place and not just feel like a me-too game,“ he told Kotaku.
The team behind Overwatch are apparently big fans of PUBG and have talked at length about how to make a battle royale mode work for Overwatch. But they have identified stumbling blocks, the biggest of them being things that make Overwatch such a distinct and specific online shooter experience itself.
As a result of its Heroes, for example, Overwatch would struggle to offer the equality needed for a battle royale. “First and foremost, Overwatch is a game about heroes, and part of what makes the core loop work in a battle royale game is the search, the looting, and the fairness that everybody's sort of equal,” Kaplan said. “Overwatch wasn't designed to be a 1v1. Every hero's not balanced against every other hero.”
Even if that issue was overcome, however, Kaplan also identified space as another issue - Overwatch’s maps are rather small compared to Fortnite and PUBG’s which makes engagement distance much shorter and unsuited to battle royale play.
“Our primary engagement distance is usually around 15 to 40 meters,” Kaplan explained, adding “Part of what makes Fortnite and PUBG so awesome is that you can have these really long engagement distances.”
Overall, to successfully integrate a battle royale mode into Overwatch would almost require turning it into a new game.
Despite the fact that Kaplan is interested in a battle royale mode, and Activision Blizzard has said it’s actively looking into bringing the phenomenon into its own games, it’s probably going to be a while before we see it come to Overwatch. Our desire to see games create new moulds rather than crush themselves into those created by others says that may not be such a terrible thing.