Overwatch's Torbjorn Influenced The Game's Art Design

Blizzard Entertainment's peppy team-based shooter title has caught many fans' eyes since its release in May 2016, both for its energetic gameplay style and for its unique art aesthetics. But have you ever wondered what exactly shaped how Overwatch looks in its final form, and where the inspiration began? Look no further than the game's Swedish defense hero Torbjorn.

Though the time-traveling Tracer was Overwatch's very first playable character, a fact that has been well-known and well-documented in the game's community, Torbjorn was actually the foundation of what the title ended up becoming. He was even named after Torbjorn Malmer, a technical artist at Blizzard.

During a panel at the Game Developers Conference earlier today, Overwatch's art director Bill Petras and assistant art director Arnold Tsang explained that "Blizzard molded the game in Torbjorn's image" (via Kotaku).

Torbjorn was the first fully-realized character, according to Tsang and Petras, and influenced how the entire game—even down to its multiple levels and maps—looks and feels today.

Tsang also mentioned how Torbjorn's entire identity, his aesthetics and his personality, marked a stepping stone between Blizzard games of the past and what the company was looking to present with Overwatch. The archetype for the defense hero is what truly set it in motion, Tsang said:

"The dwarven blacksmith [archetype], Torbjorn, was so integral in not only bridging that gap between classic Blizzard and Overwatch, but also in how he helped develop our art style. He wasn't the first hero that made it into the game—that was Tracer—but artistically we used Torbjorn as our art visual target, and he was the first one we modeled. We did a lot of our R&D around Torbjorn."

Sam "Samwise" Didier, an art director at Blizzard, reportedly helped push the art team in the right direction as they made changes to the character. Tsang discussed the evolution of Torbjorn, and how his stand-out features helped shape those of other Overwatch heroes.

"You want everything in your visual design to say something about your hero," said Tsang. "So Sam was like, 'What are these blue Tron lights? What if, instead, his belly was, like, a living furnace?' So he was steaming with molten energy. And then he had this random claw, and Sam was like, 'What if that's the way he manipulates molten steel? You've gotta have that all tie together.'"

Petras backed this up, stating that the team was "really careful to make sure the level of exaggeration was correct" and that the world was cohesive. He mentioned that they used Torbjorn as their guide, "constantly evaluating" him as they made changes to the game. According to Petras, Torbjorn was the standard around which the entire game was molded: "Whatever he felt like, his stylization, had to fit into the world."

Beyond the origins of the game's art design, there are plenty more secrets to Overwatch, like best ways to play its heroes. Try out the sniper-support hero Ana first.