One of Overwatchplayers’ biggest requests has little to do with the actual gameplay. As director Jeff Kaplan told Polygon during a New York City press event celebrating Overwatch’s first anniversary, players want more lore — but maybe a graphic novel, like the canceled project Overwatch: First Strike, isn’t the best way to deliver that to them.
“The art was beautiful and the writing was excellent,” Kaplan said, “and it was a really hard decision for us” to cancel First Strike, a full-length graphic novel which was canceled last November, just before its planned digital release.
“The reason had less to do with the specific content in that novel and more to do with the way that it would have limited us,” he told us. “It was a very specific, contained story.”
First announced at San Diego Comic Con in 2015, First Strike told the origins of the original Overwatch strike team. The graphic novel took place during the Omnic Crisis, a major turning point in the game’s universe; that plot has been teased out repeatedly in animated shorts, digital comics and, most recently, the in-game Uprising event.
First Strike’s cancelation took fans by surprise, but Kaplan argued that ditching the graphic novel was in the best interest of the very active, very creative Overwatch player base.
“We sort of saw Overwatch really open up to the world, and listening to players and the stories they were telling and what they imagined the Omnic crisis to be really made us second guess what we were doing in First Strike,” said Kaplan. “We thought, ‘Hey, if we go down this path, it really closes all these doors.’”
Fan theories about the Overwatch cast’s pasts abound, and players produce fiction, art and other original content in droves. Although animated shorts and digital comics have had success in filling out the game’s universe — particularly the most recent comics, “Uprising” and “Reflections” — the Overwatch team found that a 100-page graphic novel no longer made sense as supplemental reading material, six months into the game’s life.
“Part of the magic is that everything is not tied off and explained to players,” Kaplan said of keeping Overwatch’s canon less defined. “There’s a lot going on in Overwatch right now where I think that the story in players’ heads is often even cooler than what we can deliver to them.”
A sheepish Kaplan then corrected himself: Fans dig the pieces of lore that Blizzard Entertainment has released, too. But the multiplayer shooter’s rampant fanbase has taken ownership of Overwatch regardless, which means it could be a while until an official longform narrative based on the game hits shelves.
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