The story of Overwatch has been progressing for some time now, and the rate of big projects like cinematics and comics have slowed down. It’s possible that Blizzard are simply preparing to slow down on telling stories in the world of Overwatch... but that doesn’t seem likely. In fact, it seems more like they’re gearing up for something big. The way that Blizzard has developed lore over the last two years has been interesting: everything seems to be setting up a chessboard and a foundation for a well of stories. Overwatch: First Strike was nearly completed when the team decided it would limit more stories than it would open, and so it got the axe. The Overwatch Archives event will now deliver us stories like Uprising and Retribution each year.
But what if there was a way to consistently deliver lore in a way that didn’t require the commitment, work, and risk of a cinematic or comic?
Enter the idea of a lore podcast.
To be clear, this wouldn’t be an “out of character” podcast that would have writers and various Blizzard employees discuss lore. This could fill the role of shows like Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, and Friends at the Table. This is the perfect vehicle to advance the world of Overwatch, and it would also perfectly supplement and support Blizzard’s existing storytelling initiatives.
Here’s how it could work: imagine if there was a simple Overwatch pen and paper system. Blizzard is a company that has pretty substantial resources, and is also comfortable working with external partners to make products that tie into their existing IPs like, oh, say, Nerf guns. Imagine if there was a system that allowed you to have adventures in the world of Overwatch.
Here’s the problem with that system: It’d be really awkward to play as the main cast or have them tagging along on adventures, and the B-cast isn’t fleshed out enough to make for convincing set pieces for a pen and paper campaign. But what if there was a way Blizzard could introduce a lot of new, non-hero cast members without having to worry about developing a comic or cinematic around them? What if there was a way we, as fans, could hear more about what its like to live in Oasis or Numbani in a very genuine way?
An actual play campaign staffed with a crafty DM and a set of clever roleplayers could make for some amazing Overwatch stories, played out through improved dialogue, thrilling combat encounters that turn on the roll of a dice, and the thrill of seeing a band of adventurers coming together.
Also, oh, I don’t know, what if Blizzard employed Matthew Mercer, one of the most visible faces and voices behind the modern pen and paper campaign renaissance? What’s that? They do? He’s the guy who voices McCree?
By jove, I think we’re onto something!
Right now, it seems like all the “major” parts of Overwatch are locked up in stories or tied to a piece of plot in motion. It seems difficult to have a throwaway story starring Tracer or Brigitte without begging the question of what’s going on with the A-plot. Similarly, we haven’t seen too much in the way of big plots that see characters and environments go through serious changes.
It’s not as though there’s a shortage of possible characters who could appear for a pen and paper campaign. When Winston initiated the Overwatch Recall, we saw dozens of former agents pop up. Blackwatch was also bigger than Moira, Reyes, Genji, and McCree—we saw a pilot and heard of support staff during Retribution. What about the scientists of Oasis, or the Russian soldiers serving under Katya Volskaya? What about the Junkertown fighters who are competing for the crown Hammond’s left vacant, or the scientists at Petra? There are hundreds of possible stories that could be explored, but they’re not quite cinematic material. If these were NPCs in a pen and paper game, however, that’d be an awesome way to dig deeper into the world of Overwatch. (It’d also be way cheaper than setting up a new cinematic or drawing a new comic.)
The world of Overwatch is meant to be multilayered and constantly moving, but it seems at the moment a lot of resources are tied up in future stories. An actual play D&D-style podcast could allow Blizzard to start telling a flow of stories with meat and consequences without having to spoil their plans for the 28 heroes we currently play in game.