Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan reveals why it took so long for Blizzard to add capture the flag to the game, citing challenges with imbalance due to character movement.

Overwatch players have been ecstatic about the Year the Rooster event that Blizzard recently added to its popular shooter. The Chinese New Year-themed special event adds numerous festival skins to the game, as well as a capture-the-flag game mode called “Capture the Rooster”.

Many gamers have wondered why it took Blizzard so long to add capture the flag to Overwatch, especially considering the game mode is so popular in the shooter genre. Game director Jeff Kaplan addressed these questions in his latest “Developer Update” video:

“Over the years, when we were iterating and testing various versions of capture the flag, we actually gave up on the mode for awhile. We felt like what we didn’t want to do was add a bunch of rules that no longer made Overwatch heroes feel like Overwatch heroes.”

Essentially, the team at Blizzard tried to incorporate capture the flag into Overwatch, but was unable to for so long due to unique challenges created by the characters’ movements. The fact that some characters could move through the map quicker than others presented a problem with balance between the teams.

This isn’t surprising considering the way many of the highly-acclaimed shooter‘s characters traverse the landscape. Tracer, for instance, could blink across the map to capture the flag, then use her recall ability to swiftly pull the flag back to her own base. These tactics would be nearly impossible for the opposing team to defend against, and would effectively make the game mode and characters imbalanced and unfair.

This reasoning isn’t new for the developer. Both Kaplan and assistant game director Aaron Keller have previously discussed the challenges in developing a capture the flag game mode for Overwatch. A few months ago, Keller revealed that in order to introduce the game mode, Blizzard had to figure out a way to make capture the flag work despite the speedy abilities of the characters.

overwatch tracer easter egg

However, since then, the team decided to change their thinking. Kaplan said:

“When people think of capture the flag they think of those great movement abilities. Instead of trying to overly balance and overly tune Overwatch around this concept out of fairness, why don’t we embrace what our heroes do?”

With that in mind, the team decided to keep the Overwatch characters’ abilities alive, but tweak the gameplay so it felt balanced for both teams. One of these tweaks is a brief amount of time between when players grab the flag and can run with it. This keeps the fastest heroes from whisking away with the flag before the opposing team can react.

At the moment, “Capture the Rooster” is a short-term game mode available for the duration of the Lunar New Year event, which ends February 13th. Kaplan said he’s not sure if the game mode will be available long term, but hopes that if the team can get it right, they can make it a permanent part of Overwatch.

What do you think about Kaplan’s explanation for leaving capture the flag out of Overwatch for so long?

Overwatch is currently available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.