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Overwatch 2's new Antarctic map has ice drills, fishing, and immortal penguins
By Tyler Colp,
Overwatch 2's new Antarctic Peninsula map will drop with the launch of season 3 on February 7, and in it, you can find penguins, snow, and a sort-of-functional ice fishing spot.
The Control map has three distinct points to capture: one that takes place in science labs, another that surrounds a mining drill, and a third on an icebreaker ship. Each of them are surrounded in natural paths made of ice and snow, which was a considerable challenge to make, according to its designers.
"We're used to working on you know, sort of modular, street, city-based stuff that has a lot of like real world reference, that's great to look at. All of a sudden, we say we're gonna do Antarctica and you Google 'Antarctic,' and you go, oh , you know, that's a problem," level designer Trey Spisak said, expressing that Antarctica has few visually distinct locations apart from its general climate.
For that reason, the iteration process on the new map took longer than others as Blizzard had to think deeply about what it should look like. "We really had to work with [art director Dion Rogers'] team to figure out not only what looked right, but what we could feasibly achieve on the technical side to make sure we didn't have too much of that ice or too much of that snow."
The studio did have a little bit of reference material to work with; lead narrative designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie said the map is loosely based on a specific, real world location. "We were able to look on an actual map, a world map I mean, and say, okay, this is precisely on the world map where Mei's lab was, here's where the icebreaker ship is." "That was one of the things I started arguing for in terms of the map name, for 'Antarctic Peninsula,' because it's on an actual peninsula. It's a giant like—it's the part of Antarctica reaching out towards the southern part of South America."
I wasn't able to see footage of the map or play it, but the screenshots Blizzard provided show a map that retains Overwatch's landmark-based map design with surprisingly uneven and unstructured terrain around them. Existing maps based on New York City and Toronto are, obviously, built like the real world cities they're based on. Streets and alleyways feel realistic as you dart around the map in a normal match. Antarctic Peninsula isn't the first mostly original map in Overwatch 2, but it might be the most visually impressive one.
One of the three capture points has a massive drilling machine near it that was almost an environmental hazard that would damage you when you're near it. It didn't work out, but the team said they'd still like to play around with similar ideas in the future. "I don't know about environmental hazards," Jurgens-Fyhrie said. "But we did add some environmental bonuses to this map in the form of penguins." The penguins can't be killed, but they do react if you are the type of monster to shoot at them. You can also go ice fishing by shooting into the water, which causes fish to pop out. And the snow in the map uses new shader tech that leaves deep footprints in the ground.
"Say you wanted to make a snow angel, you can actually walk your character around and actually create this and we found a lot of players on the team were just creating nice designs in the snow with this new shader that we developed," Rogers said. "There's a bunch of easter eggs and fun things to discover inside Antarctica."
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