In typical Blizzard form, Overwatch isn’t a graphical powerhouse. It makes up for this by oozing style. A style you either love or hate, but a style all the same. Blizzard’s aim with this was to get Overwatch running on as wide a range of PCs as possible, with the development team aiming to get it up and running on Intel integrated graphics in particular.
Speaking at GDC in San Francisco, Blizzard senior software engineer Ryan Green said "Blizzard historically supports a very large number of players. It's just something we work towards and always has good benefits."
Normally there’s a bit of blowback when a game doesn’t look great on technical level, and yet Blizzard has managed to skirt that issue completely thanks to Overwatch’s art style. This in turn filtered through to the design of the entire game. If a gameplay mechanic or map design wouldn’t run on integrated graphics chips, it wouldn’t make it into the game. With that in mind, Overwatch was always worked on with aim of running on a predetermined minimum spec machine.
"Not everybody was excited at first, but as we got going on it, people really felt the value in it," Greene said. "We set up playtest labs with various machines all configured with different hardware. We got different people to play on it, and they were surprised at how well it ran, and how much it felt like Overwatch."
It’s an interesting point because there’s often the argument that console hardware holds back PC. In this case it’s the exact opposite - Blizzard built Overwatch to run on just about any PC out there. At this point it’s a Blizzard trademark to do exactly this, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt the beloved developers one jot.
Greene did go to explain that working with the minimum spec in mind also helped both the top spec visuals and with running on console, saying "We found that optimizing for the minspec yielded really good gains on the high end and on console. It was a really synergistic relationship."
Taking Overwatch as the ideal example, would you like to see more AAA games made with integrated GPUs in mind? Or is this just a waste of the enormous power of gaming PCs? Let us know what you think!