So let's start with a bang. Ever since I left I started playing a lot of videogames and, in spite of my usual hate for online games, I got hooked to Overwatch. I don't know exactly why, but the game just works for me, in spite of the fact that I still can't bring myself to play most online shooters.
Development: Project Titan
According to Jeff Kaplan -- Overwatch's Lead designer and vice-president of Blizzard -- the first form of Overwatch was a M.M.O. called Project Titan. The entire concept behind it was to create a future Earth that was "worth fighting for", with a super-badass team of heroes at its core: Overwatch.
Titan was eventually scrapped, but this particular concept laid the foundation for the new project.
In Game Background
Sometimes around 2045 the entire world faced its biggest danger yet: the Omnic Crisis
were self-upgrading robots capable of autonomous learning created by the Omnica Corporation
to serve as workforce for the humans. A series of rogue A.I. called the God Programs
modified the automated factories to build Omnics geared toward war.
Russia was the first country that had to face them in battle and the causalities were nothing short of bone chilling. In an attempt to retaliate, the Russian military fielded the Svyatogors
, gigantic combat mechs built by the Volskaya Industries
. Other countries followed suit, the U.S.Army started the Soldier Enhancement Program
, trying to create soldiers capable of facing the Omnics in single combat; the Bundeswehr
created a specialized unit, the Crusaders
, armed with a massive power armor, meant to tackle the Omnics units at close range. However, the self-improving algorithms at the heart of the factories allowed them to adapt and counter each individual nation's measures; no country alone could effectively fight back against the omnics.
At the eleventh hour, the United Nations, at the urging of under-secretary general Gabrielle Adawe
, played the last card: banding together the best soldiers and scientists of the various nations in a single strike team aimed at destroying the Omnics' command infrastructure. The initial team was put under the authority of two U.S.Army veterans: Gabriel Reyes
and Jack Morrison
, both test subjects of the Soldier Enhancement Program. Reyes was the field commander, but it was Morrison who really shaped the team into the future Overwatch, he had a knack to bring out the best from the others. For the rest of the Crisis the team -- codename Overwatch -- became the tip of the spear aimed aginst the Omnics and the God Programs. Their surgical actions forced the Omnics back more and more until it became clear that a truce was the only viable option.
The Overwatch Generation
So, the war was over and the rebuilding began. It was impossible to destroy all the Omnics, there were simply too many and they were too useful. Still, in most countries they became second class citizens, a new working class of slaves. The Omnica Corporation went bankrupt and the majority of the factories were derstroyed or quaratined, but not all. Australia negotiated a separate peace and handed the factories over to the Omnics, but the Australian Liberation Front
nuked them, transforming most of the Outback into a Mad Max style desert. Nigeria was the other exception, thanks to the influence of Adawe, in this country the Omnics were able to get better deals and live as almost-equals to humans.
Instead of being disbanded Overwatch endured, but was subject to a substantial reconstruction: Morrison was promoted field commander, while in spite of Reyes's seniority. To compensate, Reyes became the commader of Blackwatch
, a secret black ops team meant to tackle those problems that Overwatch couldn't. Simply put, while Reyes was the better soldier, Morrison proved to be the better man. As a result Reyes started to resent his old friend and his growing popularity, but for the the better part of two decades the team worked.
All in all it was nothing short of a golden age, the members of Overwatch became not just Earth's guardians, but also innovators, the ranks expanded to include scientists and medics, pushing forth the bounduaries of research. All was well to the point that some countries started to revise their stance on Omnics until the so-called Venice Incident
The details are unclear, but Blackwatch blew up the Venice operation big time and the U.N. decided to suspend all Blackwatch agents pending an investigation. At this point there were already rumors of unethical and illegal operations spreading throughout the media. Shortly thereafter a group of Omnic terrorist called Null Sector
attacked London and -- at the urging of the team most recent recruit Lena Oxton
-- Morrison dispacted a strike team in spite of the U.K. goverment prohibition.
From here on the team faced numerous bittersweet victories. They were able to aprehend the third Doomfist
, one of the leader of the terrorist group Talon
, but several agents were gravely wounded in the process and Captain Ana Amari
, Morrison's second-in-command, was officially K.I.A. during a rescue operation, but the worst was yet to come.
Finally, the U.N. stopped all Overwatch operations, but they were unable to prevent what followed. Reyes, now completely out of control, attacked Morrison right in the Overwatch's HQ in Zürich. During the following fight the entire structure exploded and both soldier were apparently killed. With both gone the dismantling of the entire roganization was largely cerimonial, but Director Petras
decided to go a step further and drafted a resolution, later know as the Petras Acts
banning all of Overwatch's operations forever.
Heroes Never Die
While Overwacth was gone, many agents kept fighting and helping people on their own, for the better part of a decade. Meanwhile their enemies didn't stand idle: Talon expanded its influence, thanks in no small part to his new top agents: Reyes (now using ther alias of Reaper)
and Moira O'Deorain
(Blackwatch's former chief geneticist). At the same time Russia and Korea faced a resurgence of Omnics.
At the old Watchpoint Gibraltar, Winston
, a former Overwatch agent, was attacked by Reaper and Widowmaker, who were after the team database. Hoping to help his old comrades, Winston decided to drop the act and recalled all the former agents.
So this is pretty much it: Winston's call is the starting point of the game and the beginning of my headaches. All in all, Overwatch is a pretty interesting setting, merging several classic superhero tropes with a cyberpunk aestetic, but with a much more positive vibe than usual. Often a cyberpunk vibe equates to a very bleak and unappealing future, but here the Blizzard team worked really well to gave the impression of a world that is really hanging by a thread, but a might strong one. There's a definite sense of hope, but desperation is very tangible as well.
Power Level, the Great Unknown
Translating Overwatch characters in M&M isn't easy: the entire game is a shooter and many characters use weapons that are, more or less, common, like Soldier 76's rifle or Reaper's shotgun. This seem to imply a lower PL than most superhero settings. At the same time there's a problem with relative PLs: in game most characters are balanced to shine in certain specific situation and such in others, making a correct assessment a nightmare.
My personal guess is that most charactersset around PL8: they're the best of the best, but they're not beyond the reach of other humans.
Johnny and His Gun
Another big point in the Overwatch universe are weapons (of course). Almost every character has one (Moira and Zenyatta are only possible exceptions), but they're not just a toll or a functional element, like in many other FPS. The weapons of Overwatch are very much representative of the personality of their wielder: 76's rifle is a old but well oiled and brutally efficient fighting machine, like its owner has seen it all, but it still has some fight left in it; Winston's gauss cannon is appropriately heavy and can dish out some pretty devastating damage, but it's not a weapon of war, just like the big gorilla isn't a primarily a fighter.
The big issue in M&M is: are they devices or equipment?
In my opinion both answers are correct and a lot hinges of the individual, rather than the weapon. Many are more or less standard issue guns, other are clearly custom-build or feature elements that can't be standard in any way, shape or form.
The last big problem I faced is that a franchise based around a FPS doesn't work all that will to determine the characters' out of combat skills, especially when working with a system as details as M&M 2nd edition. This, paired with the fact that I'm now more interested into lighter gaming system, made me realize that I needed a slightly more efficient format. Enter the 2.5 skill system. This is more or less an attempt to import something closer to the 3rd edition skill system into its predecessor. I'll make a dedicated post later on, but for now these are the general rules:
- There only about 12 skills and only one of them -- Profession -- is a "open skill"
- Skills cost 1pp for every 2 ranks
- The Task Focus feat now adds a +4 bonus to a single skill within a limited scope (Attractive is now a form of Task Focus)
- The Language skill provides 1 Language per rank or 2 if you're using the Graded Language System (whcih I do)