Overwatch's New Hero Was Created For Blizzard's Canceled Project
The latest hero to join Overwatch was first conceived way back in Blizzard's past.
Overwatch's 32nd playable hero is Echo, a flying artificially intelligent robot with the ability to mimic other heroes and borrow their abilities. Echo has popped up in Overwatch's fiction a few times over the last two years, and it was with her appearance in the McCree- and Ashe-focused story video "Reunion" that the team really started developing the character for inclusion to the game. But Echo's origins stretch back much further than that cinematic from 2018.
"Typically, heroes in our game can come from a bunch of different angles," Overwatch lead designer Geoff Goodman explained to GameSpot. "So often they come from design by prototype--like, we really need a sniper or something, we should try to get a sniper there, and build a character around the gameplay. In other common cases, we'll have somebody whose story just gets created for background, or an artist has a cool idea, and they just draw something. We don't have a gameplay part yet. So we have all these cool characters hanging out. And in Echo's case, it was more that we had the art for her for a long time ago. Technically, the real origins of her as a character goes back to Titan, which was our earlier projects that got canceled before Overwatch 1."
Titan was an MMO project Blizzard was developing in the years following the release of World of Warcraft, but the project was eventually scrapped. Much of what was created for Titan eventually was repurposed into Overwatch, and that included a number of characters. Concept art for Echo was among the things originally made for Titan, and Goodman said it was one character the development team particularly liked, which helped Echo to be eventually added to the new game.
"She was not nearly the character she is now, but she was drawn and talked about for that game, and we really liked the character a lot," Goodman said. "So when we started making Overwatch, one of the first things we did when we were laying the framework for what the game would be is, we had a bunch of characters that we didn't even know what they were yet. It was just cool art. And we lined them all up, like, we have all these superheroes to make this cool game. She was one of those, even way back then before we even shipped."
When Echo appeared in the "Reunion" cinematic, the Overwatch team had to start figuring out what she would be like, Goodman said. That led to working on the character's playstyle and abilities. Echo later also appeared in the "Zero Hour" trailer for Blizzard's Overwatch 2 announcement at BlizzCon 2019, which also pushed the team to figure out her capabilities.
"The cinematics guys were like, 'What's she going to do? How does she leave the scene? Does she teleport away, does she fly away?" And I remember, back then, I was like, 'Man, I don't know yet. We're still working on it. I don't even know what role she's going to be yet.'"
Eventually, Echo's identity started to coalesce as the team found an ability for her they really liked: her ultimate, Duplicate. That ability lets Echo turn herself into a copy of a character on the opposing team, complete with all their abilities. Though the team considered Echo for the Support role, Duplicate ultimately caused them to settle on making her a Damage character, because they found it was tough to justify a healer character potentially using Duplicate to take on another role, even briefly.
You can read more about Echo's capabilities as a character and what she brings to Overwatch in our Echo character preview. Blizzard also released an origin story cinematic for Echo that details how she was created and came to be a part of the Overwatch team.
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