Overwatch 2's Mauga is part of an evolving way of adding new heroes to the game

Overwatch 2's new hero, the twin-minigun-wielding Samoan tank Mauga, officially launched earlier this week with the game's eighth season. Before that, Blizzard Entertainment added Mauga to the roster for an early preview weekend, coinciding with this year's BlizzCon.

Mauga's early access weekend was more than just a nice surprise for Overwatch fans; it was also a test for Blizzard. The tank hero was polished, debugged, and adjusted in response to that hero preview, resulting in a more powerful (and hopefully balanced) addition to the game's hero lineup.

Lead hero designer Alec Dawson said in an interview with Polygon ahead of Mauga's release that the Overwatch development team hopes to conduct similar player testing with future heroes. Dawson also talked about some of the lessons learned during Mauga's preview weekend, and how the Overwatch team is evolving its approach to adding new heroes to the game.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Polygon: For Mauga, you did a kind of unprecedented test of a new hero almost a month before launch. Can you tell me what led to the decision to do that?

Alec Dawson: If you look at the team in general, and the way we've handled development over the last (few) years, it's really been about opening it up a lot more, being more involved in the community and try to make sure the relationship is as transparent as possible. Especially with Mauga we had a chance: BlizzCon came back. We wanted to do something big, especially for all the people back home, and we thought it would be a good time to show them Mauga early, and also gather feedback on Mauga before it actually launches.

We think it's something that turned out really well, and we look forward to doing it again in the future with future heroes.

How did it go?

I think overall we were very happy with the weekend, and there were a number of things we wanted to improve, especially around Mauga's survivability. We saw that when he gets in there, gets close and is in the right situation, he can be incredibly deadly. We also saw players using his ult very well early on. But there were some things in terms of survivability, in terms of his being on the front line: He was a tank. So we increased that (survivability) before launch. There were even small creatures we were able to catch, especially with the speed at which he set enemies on fire. So we can solve that and arrange it. We also got to see that first user experience with millions of players (and) how they play with Mauga, and what some of the shortcomings were there.

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

One of the biggest things was Overrun, and players don't feel as capable with this ability where he runs at you and then jumps up and does the big, big punch.

Looking at everything, Mauga's performance over the weekend was clearly in a very different structure than what we are used to. But we want to make sure that those (new hero) releases are launched on the strong side and make sure that those launches can be as exciting as possible. Make sure they make up for some of the time you might have on heroes you've been playing for hundreds or thousands of hours, so that your first experience won't be something that will be detrimental to the rest of your life. team, something you can pick up quite quickly.

Thinking about the addition of Lifeweaver in season 4 and how many changes were made, in terms of his healing and damage output in the following weeks, it seems like you really buffed Mauga quickly too. When you bring in a new hero like this, what is your comfort level with where they are? You really don't know that millions of people are being thrown at it, right?

I think we've been conservative about certain things in the past. And there are still things we're going to be conservative about, especially the gameplay mechanics. At the preview, we were a bit conservative about the amount of support we gave Mauga, because too much support can feel like: Hey, this character will never die. I think we will also be conservative in the future, if you know, for example, we are making a second Widowmaker – a kind of sniper or one-shot mechanic. We will approach things like that a little more gently.

Lifeweaver and BOB stand atop a petal platform in a screenshot from Overwatch 2

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

With Lifeweaver in particular, we knew there was a lot of healing in the kit, and we knew there were also things that take away your teammates' player freedom (with Life Grip and Petal Platform). Those are some of the things that we're being a little more conservative about at launch because we knew those were going to be some of the pain points. But overall, we saw that we could have been a little more aggressive in launching Lifeweaver. Since then, we've learned a few things about how we want to launch heroes and how we want to release them. Doing these previews is just another step in that learning.

Previously, the cadence of hero balance was seasonal and mid-season adjustments, and obviously you would fix things if something was noticeably broken. How did you and the team adjust your reaction time to balance heroes?

I think with a hero launch, or even a hero rework, we want to be very active in that first week to two weeks. With Roadhog, we had buffs ready for Roadhog to go (out) by the end of the week. So we want to be very responsive, and if there's anything special, we'll come in and make any adjustments that need to be made.

Speaking of BlizzCon, I know it's early to talk about the next Overwatch hero, Venturebut I wanted to see what kind of feedback you got on that hero reveal and how you incorporated that in terms of ongoing work.

A lot of work has been done since the music video was shot, so it's very interesting to look back; that was a while ago when we did that playtest. But it was just exciting for the team. We saw fan art popping up everywhere, and there was a lot of excitement around Venture, and people were just talking about them as the next damage hero for 2024. That was really encouraging for the whole team.

Artwork of Venture, a new damage hero from Overwatch 2 Season 10, and their drill weapon

Venture, a new damage hero coming in Overwatch 2 season 10
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

What we showed in terms of gameplay was so short, so there's not necessarily much to take away from what people saw. At the same time, we saw excitement, and that was really great for us to see, and it makes us feel a lot better about how early we can show some of these things. Because I think it will be something that we will continue to do.

Mauga obviously came with BlizzCon, but let's say you're taking a hero test for Venture. Do you have any idea when you would roll that out?

We're still figuring out the exact timeline for that. I think you can expect somewhere in that month's notice, where it gives us enough time to make adjustments before launch and is close enough where (it joins) other teams working on a hero. These are some of the conversations we are having with the team about how exactly we want to implement this. But we know we want to do it.