Overwatch 2 devs discuss Lifeweaver's troll potential: "We understand the risk"

Overwatch 2 devs discuss Lifeweaver's troll potential: "We understand the risk"
Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Sascha Heinisch


4th Apr 2023 19:00

On the surface, he’s nice enough. Lifeweaver, the newest hero to join the Overwatch 2 roster as part of Season 4, hails from Chiang Mai, Thailand, and possesses a unique technology called Biolight which he developed himself after travelling the world and finding a desperate need for it everywhere. This flower-power technology enables him to create biological materials that rapidly heal wounds.

Combining the artistic themes of the mandala, Botanics, and perhaps more accidental flamboyant paladin energy, he delivers a more organic contribution to geometrically aligned peace than his childhood friend Symmetra.

His gameplay loop promises bold and inclusive fun that also poses an at least mildly worrying danger to the way Overwatch 2 will be played both from a gameplay and social angle. Did Lifeweaver open a can of worms to help with the soil quality?

Blizzard Entertainment
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The goal is a superhero, not a cork for development holes

“It's about creating a new superhero. We are all working together to decide whether it's meeting that superhero fantasy and whether that fantasy of this hero is being lived up to” Overwatch 2 Lead Narrative Designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie shared about the development process of the now regularly expanding hero roster in the game.

As the sort of big bang of Lifeweaver, in the beginning, there was Healing Blossom, his primary fire skill that allows the player to charge a healing ability with forgiving targeting. As Lead Design Producer Alec Dawson explains:

“It was really this aim to not create another support hero that relied on aim skill.” 

His damage ability, Thorn Volley, is similar in its aim requirements and packs a punch. In initial playtests it became clear that duelling Tracers in the backline was not out of the question for Hero 37.

Despite the forgiving aim requirement implying a minor design goal to create a character with an equally accessible profile as Mercy, the development team doesn’t see their process as a way to fill holes or fix issues within game balance or other dev goals as Dawson argues:

“What we really aim for the most is “Is this hero exciting to play? Does it bring something new to the game? Do you look at the game differently when this hero releases?”

“It's not really like: “Hey, we're trying to balance something and here's this new hero that balances this problem that we see in the game.”

Lifeweaver’s large kit delivers in providing novel ways to engage with Overwatch 2, making his impact felt in how virtually everyone, friend or foe, has to think about the game. Things like cooldown management, positioning, and sightlines are significantly altered for every hero on the battlefield when Lifeweaver enters the fray.

In that, Petal Platform allows for entirely new ways to rotate and take high grounds or escape with his abilities. 

Life Grip provides a Get Out Of Jail Free Card to allies that overspent their cooldowns offensively, requiring everyone on the battlefield to calculate with that additional out.

Blizzard Entertainment
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The ultimate Tree of Life even provides body block potential at a healthy life pool of 1000HP, pulsing healing for extended fights around the objective.

Where Kiriko broke the rule of being able to teleport through the terrain, Lifeweaver reinterprets what space means for all 10 players.

Despite the large impact he could theoretically have, Dawson thinks there are enough levers to pull to keep him in check, arguing that “all those buildables have health [...] so there are a lot of tunable numbers there.”

Beyond the game balance aspect, a sizeable number of concerns brewed regarding a different issue. Namely, how do Lifeweaver’s abilities function in the social environment of an Overwatch 2 game?

A new toolbox for trolls?

During our Q&A session, various questions streamed in for the developers, many concerned with one topic: Trolling. 

Arguably more so than even Mei, Lifeweaver’s abilities offer an opportunity to take away the agency of a teammate in a meaningful way.

His Life Grip can be misused to throw teammates off cliffs or pull them into undesirable positions at the worst moments. From dunking a teammate into Illios’ well to pulling a teammate away from a defenceless group of enemies during that friend’s ultimate, one doesn’t have to be creative to come up with methods to annoy a squadmate.

Lifeweaver's ultimate, Tree of Life, can block escape routes due to line-of-sight limitations, and even his Parting Gift can be picked up by an enemy if not carefully placed.

Blizzard Entertainment
Click to enlarge

Similarly, Petal Platform can even be used to disrupt friendly ultimates by lifting them above their effective range and rendering their ultimate useless. The opportunity to break certain map positions with the lift and find unintended or possibly bugged spots isn’t out of the question.

“Petal platform is a pressure-sensitive platform so when you walk over it, you'll be lifted up. I don't think there's that much trolling going on with that ability in particular," Alec Dawson, Lead Hero Designer, countered.

"I think this is one of those things where we understand what the ability does, we know what type of interactions it's going to have, and we'll take care of them as they come up.

“So, but at the same time, we know what this ability does in terms of your team composition, in terms of your strategy, in terms of unlocking your allies to repositions that, you know, they may not have been able to get to by themselves.

"So we're fairly comfortable with that risk.“

Granted, it is unlikely that at least trolling becomes a major issue if the anecdotal amount of Mei Wall misuse is anything to go by. It will likely see more play in silly nagging among friends.

Indeed, some may even argue that given the vitriol a low-aim-requiring support hero tends to attract, maybe giving some tools to fight back on occasion isn’t the worst idea.

For more from our dev Q&A session, be sure to check out a long-awaited update on the Gothenburg map, and confirmation that, no, Overwatch 3 isn't planned.

Sascha Heinisch
About the author
Sascha Heinisch
Sascha "Yiska" Heinisch is a Senior Esports Journalist at GGRecon. He's been creating content in esports for over 10 years, starting with Warcraft 3.
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