Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan Discusses The Many Mercy PTR Changes

Mercy has seen a lot of changes come and go from the Public Test Realm since Overwatch launched last year and it seems like, just as players start to adjust to said changes, she gets altered again. Game Director Jeff Kaplan discussed all these Mercy PTR changes in a recent interview and according to him, “Mercy is a challenge”.

The healer has had many parts of her abilities modified, including her core ability “resurrection”. Kaplan says that it’s hard to mess with characters that players are emotionally attached to, because no matter what, someone will be upset. According to him though, every one of the Mercy PTR changes was carefully thought out with the best of intentions.

At this point in Overwatch‘s age, people are very emotionally attached to the characters, which is what we want. There are times we want to be extremely careful about making change – we always say, in videogames: any change is bad. It doesn’t matter what the change is, any time you change what a player thinks about something it’s bad and scary. In the case of mercy, what we’d run into was the fantasy of what the character exactly was: primary healer, angelic mobility, diving to people to save them with rez as a very defining ability.”

Despite what players think Mercy should be, Kaplan says there have been issues with some of her characteristics and her core ability was causing a lot of frustration for other players who would use their ultimate, only to have her swoop in and resurrect everyone.

The problem with it was that the ‘right way to play’ her had developed into actually stopping healing sometimes. There were certain moments where Mercy would drop off, knowing it was the right thing to do (she could bring you and four of your buddies back in a smart play), but it felt wrong for everybody else. The other thing was that teams could set up awesome Zarya/Pharah combo s- graviton into rocket barrage, only for them to be erased entirely, and that was super frustrating.”

Mercy PTR changes

Some fans have even gone so far as to ask for Mercy’s resurrect ability to be removed for good. When asked if he has ever thought about going through with that, Kaplan says that removing it altogether seems “extreme” and they would rather try to adjust it first.

We talk about it because the community talks about it; it comes up threads a lot. But it feels very extreme, and it doesn’t feel like we’re doing our job if we don’t try to balance it first. People complain that we don’t listen to PTR feedback, but we really try to. But I want people to go back and read threads during the period when we first put Valkyrie on the PTR. The two leading things we heard were — from Mercy mains — we heard that she was awful now and she’d never be played again, and from non-Mercy mains was that she was a DPS killing machine. That was the level of feedback we got from the PTR. We didn’t get a lot of talk about the resurrect coming back too quickly. It took for us to start watching pro players and playing the game ourselves for us to say ‘this is out of hand’.”

Kaplan says that they will continue to work on her resurrect ability until they get it right. They are starting to feel like the perfect balance is right at their fingertips with these latest Mercy PTR changes, but if not they have plenty of backup plans.

Our goal now on the PTR is to fix it: we have 10 different fixes to try if this one doesn’t work out. We’ve tried a bunch of them internally and feel comfortable enough with this one to put it onto the PTR. This week, even, between BlizzCon rehearsals, we’ve been sitting on the PTR and testing Mercy for balance. We think she’s in a decent place now: it feels great when you’re resurrected and it’s a little less devastating for the other team. If it’s not, though, I hope everybody has faith that we can do another patch- we’re never at the end of testing and trying. We don’t want Mercy to go away, but we don’t want rez to define her.”

What do you think about all the recent Mercy PTR changes? Do you feel better hearing what Kaplan had to say? Let us know in the comment section below and then make sure to follow DFTG on Twitter to stay updated on all the hottest gaming and pop culture news 24/7!


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