Overwatch has a somewhat unique method of storytelling. A handful of multiplayer modes make up the entirety of the game, with no single-player campaign and no real cutscenes to speak of. Despite this, there’s a surprising amount of story—it’s just spread across the game’s voice lines, a separate series of comics, and, most well-known of all, a series of animated shorts.
To date, there have only been a handful of these shorts, which have proven incredibly popular. “Dragons,” an 8-minute tale starring the Shimada brothers Genji and Hanzo, has garnered over 16 million views on YouTube. So why isn’t Blizzard making more of them? According to a new IGN interview with Blizzard, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Speaking in an interview with IGN, VFX supervisor Jeff Chamberlain revealed some of Blizzard’s thought process behind the shorts.
“We knew that we wanted to create a lot of stories as quickly as we could to tell as much as we could for these characters, and we thought that maybe just doing one cinematic for the game release and leaving it at that wasn’t quite enough,” Chamberlain said. “And so we talked about a few different options and we ultimately landed on the idea of doing a series of shorts and we really haven’t looked back since.”
The shorts are difficult to create, though. Chamberlain revealed that it takes six to eight months for a single short to be created, and that two or three are usually in the works at the same time. While many of the shorts are set on Overwatch‘s in-game maps, many aspects still need to be reworked.
“The rooftops aren’t built to be seen [as close as they are in the short ‘Alive,’],” Chamberlain said. “And so often we have to see where the camera will be in the short and then decide where we need to increase the resolution of whatever is there.”
He added that the games team and the animation team often work back and forth to make sure that locations match up.
“They would put something into [Winston’s] lab and we would incorporate it, and then we would put something in and they would re-do the level,” Chamberlain said. “So it was a lot of back and forth, it was pretty fun.”
Not all shorts make it to completion, though. While Blizzard would like to star each of Overwatch‘s distinct characters, some are better suited for other mediums.
“There have been times when we’ll tell a story and it actually was intended for one thing, like the Pharah comic for instance, was intended to be a short initially and then just because of a bunch of different circumstances, it became a comic.”
While time-consuming to produce, though, Blizzard has no intention of ceasing the production of shorts.
“Especially when you consider all of the heroes we’ve announced so far and all the story that we’ve released, I know that just from us discussing it from a story perspective we have so many different stories that we would love to tell,” Chamberlain said. “I think as long as we have stories to tell, we’ll keep trying to find ways to tell them.”