Overwatch director discusses the PTR, upcoming changes

Jeff Kaplan talks about what you can expect in the next patch

Overwatch released a video earlier today in which director Jeff Kaplan talked for a bit about the Public Test Realm (PTR) and how it relates to the main game. Among the topics discussed were the differences between the PC and console versions of Overwatch and some of the reasons for the changes currently being tested.

Kaplan starts by explaining the purpose of the PTR. While most players understand it’s made available so that they can offer feedback on upcoming changes, Kaplan explains that the primary reason for it is to check the stability of patches and make sure that they’re ready to go live. As for why it’s available on PC and not on consoles, Kaplan explained that since Blizzard owns the platform on the PC (Battle.net), they’re the ones who have to fix things if they break something. That’s not the case if a patch messes something up on the Xbox One or PlayStation Network, which is why every patch that gets put out has to go through a certification process on the consoles. On the plus side, the time it takes for these patches to go through certification allows Blizzard to test them thoroughly on the PTR and release them simultaneously on all three platforms.

One thing that comes up frequently among the Overwatch players I play with is that there really isn’t any incentive to play on the PTR other than seeing what we can expect next month or whenever the next patch goes live. Kaplan said that his team are looking into ways to make playing on the PTR more enticing, including possibly allowing the experience you earn on the PTR to migrate to the main game, or providing PTR testers with loot box rewards. He mentioned that either of these solutions would take some development time to implement, which would unfortunately take time away from developing new content.

Kaplan closed the video by discussing some of the balance changes that are currently being tested on the PTR. While he didn’t say as much, it’s pretty clear that the changes being tested are intended to break up the triple-tank metagame that’s been dominating top level play for the past couple of months.

Sombra got a minor buff, and her hack ability’s casting time was reduced from a full second to 0.8 seconds. This makes it a little easier to hack someone you’ve gotten the drop on, since they don’t have as much time to react and shoot at you to disrupt the hack. Kaplan said that they don’t want to change Sombra too drastically right now because the development team believes she’s a powerful character, but that “a lot of players haven’t mastered how to play her correctly yet.” He said that her role is more of a disruptor than an assassin, sort of a hybrid between support and attack.

Roadhog is the hero who’s receiving the biggest change in the next patch. His hook has been a source of contention since the game came out, but the changes on the PTR do seem to make it more fair. If you hook someone and then one of you goes around a corner, they won’t be pulled, and line-of-sight checks are now done from Roadhog’s position rather than the hook’s. Targets that are hooked will now be pulled directly in front of Roadhog instead of straight to him, meaning there shouldn’t be any strange situations where you successfully hook someone and they end up somewhere they don’t belong. Kaplan said that his team must represent both sides, hooker and hookee, and that their goal is to make the hook more consistent. Having played a little bit with the changes, I’m happy to report that the hook feels much more fair from both sides now.

D. Va is getting a nerf after her huge buff in the last patch. Her mech suit currently has 200 health and 400 armor, but in the next patch it’ll be changed to 400 health and 200 armor. Additionally, her mech’s guns are having their bullet damage reduced, but will fire more bullets per shot. Kaplan says that D. Va feels like she’s “doing too much right now.” He explained that the team likes her mobility and her ability to get in, disrupt an enemy team, and then get out, but that her survivability is a little too high right now. Reducing the armor should help with that. Playing Reaper against a D. Va right now feels like your shotguns are blowing her kisses, so this is probably for the best. Kaplan said the team will keep a close eye on D. Va, and “if we get her wrong we will fix her.”

Ana was the last hero Kaplan discussed, but she’s probably the character who’s getting nerfed the most. Her Biotic Grenade’s healing boost on allies has been reduced by 50%. Previously, it had boosted any healing done on an affected target by 100%, which could lead to some crazy situations like a boosted Roadhog healing himself in the middle of Reaper’s ultimate. Kaplan said that the team wants to scale back her overall healing on coordinated groups, but that they don’t want to see Ana disappear. She still has a lot of utility, but will require more finesse to provide value after the change.

Developer Update | PTR Philosophy | Overwatch [YouTube]

Kevin McClusky
I'm a longtime member of Destructoid, and you may have known me in a prior life as Qalamari. In other words, hi. I've been here a long time. There's a good chance I'm older than you. I write freelance articles for other publications, so you might see my name elsewhere occasionally. Disclosure: I wrote a paid testimonial for the Speedify VPN service in April 2017.