The past few days have been significant ones in the Overwatch community. Not only did Mei get her moment in the spotlight with a new animated character short, but we all got to see the reveal of a new escort map set in Junkrat and Roadhog’s old stomping grounds. The Junkertown map was accompanied by a funny new animated short, too. We spoke with Overwatch’s production director, Chacko Sonny, about the new map, experimental animation, and a host of other things. Did you know that Orisa used to be Zarya (kind of? sort of?)? Read on to learn what that means and much more.

Game Informer: Let’s get right to it! Tell me about the new Junkertown map!

Chacko Sonny: Junkertown is a map that I feel like started in a narrative conception. This was such fertile ground for exploration for the team, because we had these two heroes – Junkrat and Roadhog – which everybody loved. And they’re different in many ways than a lot of the other heroes, they have a different tone. I think even Terran [Gregory, cinematic project director] refers to it when he talks about the animated piece, he says most of the other animated pieces that we’ve done are focused on these themes of honor and hope and compassion and all this kind of stuff, and they’ve taken a different approach with Junkrat and Roadhog, because that’s the actual tenor of those characters.

We always knew that Junkertown was a place we had to go, and I know that [senior designer Michael] Chu had some really interesting ideas about how it fits into the world, so there was this rich sort of background behind Junkertown, narratively speaking, which is how it fits into the story. There’s a destroyed Omnic production facility, a factory city, they call them Omniums there, and it was destroyed by The Junkers. They wanted to keep that area for themselves, and it’s ruled by this character who is the big boss, The Queen. She was a former Omnic-combat gladiator who basically rose through the ranks in influence in power to become the leader of The Junkers, and she’s the queen of Junkertown. As you see in the animated piece, she’s thrown Junkrat and Roadhog out. You can even see in the map there’s a point where you get in and it shows The Queen’s edicts, and the last one is “Troublemakers will be exiled.” And who are the most troublemaking people that you know? Junkrat and Roadhog.

So they’ve been thrown out. There was a design for the payload, which had all of Junkrat and Roadhog’s riches that they’ve acquired – I shouldn’t say all, but much of the riches that they’ve accumulated through their heists around the world – on a payload along with some dynamite along the bottom. That was sort of the foundation for that animated piece. How are they getting back in, and what’s their plan? It’s a really unique map. It’s an escort map, and I know a lot of people have really been waiting for an escort map, with three distinct areas. The farm, town area just outside, where you see where Junkrat and Roadhog live, because they’ve been exiled. Then the interior of Junkertown, going through the areas with shops and different places where The Junkers will essentially get services like tattoos or go to a bar and maybe even do karaoke or something like that. Then in the back is the arena, where The Queen’s throne is, and her area where she keeps her own loot. It took a long time from the development standpoint to lock in the look and the feel, and that went through a lot of iteration both visually and from a design standpoint. We’re really happy where it turned out, and the playtesting has been fantastic. There are some really unique high-ground opportunities for players and there are some good sniping spots as well.

There’s that big rotating element in there, too.

Yeah, the fan. There are a lot of really clever ideas there. I’ll say this, because we’ve said it before: Everybody thinks to build Torbjorn’s turret on top of that, but imagine what Symmetra could do…

Oh, that would be just like a car wash!

Yeah. 

When you’re playing the map yourself, do you prefer playing on attack or defense?

When I personally play this map, I love being on attack. There are so many really cool places for flanking, at least in the early part of the map. There are great ways to run around and harass the back line. There’s great height availability if you’re a Pharah player like me, you can bounce up and rain some justice from above. There’s a really, really tough push at the end that has this big U shape where you come around, but there’s also a lower portion, a bridge that goes under, and it has the remains of some Omnics in there. It’s an interesting way to get two fronts in there against a really concentrated group of defenders. It’s super challenging.

Why do you like Pharah? What’s going on there?

Oh, I sit in a room with a lot of designers, a lot of people who have played hundreds and hundreds of hours of this game, and I’m not as good as any of them. But I come from, in my own personal gameplay history, I used to be a big Unreal, Unreal Tournament guy, and the rockets feel good to me. It feels good. The other guy I play a lot is Soldier: 76, and Soldier is kind of like a gateway character to get you in and you start to understand and feel what it’s about. Certainly, those playstyles feel very comfortable to me. But it’s not all I play, let’s be fair. I’m a big Zarya guy. I love that style of soaking up all this damage, as much as you can, and then returning it to them. I will say, a fully charged Zarya is a thing of beauty. And I’ve been playing a ton of Orisa. It feels really good to be giving other players the shield that you need and then also pull enemies into the view of all these high-damage players that might otherwise be able to knock them out. It’s really fun.

The dynamic between Junkrat and Roadhog is really fun to watch, but what did Roadhog do to get kicked out? He seems like such a chill go-with-the-flow guy. Was it guilt by association?

We are going to be revealing stuff about that soon. I’m pretty sure it’s not out yet, but there’s a very interesting story behind that, and it further helps to highlight the differences between the two and their background and how they view the world and Junkertown in particular. You’ll learn a lot more about that very, very soon.

One of the interesting things about Roadhog is that you don’t know what he looks like. Is that a mystery that you don’t want to reveal? Do you, internally at Blizzard, have a good sense of what’s going on underneath that mask – whether or not you ever plan on revealing it to the rest of us?

[Long pause] I’m trying to think if I can even answer that. I think… there is a lot about Roadhog that is great as mystery. But there’s also a lot that we feel will help the overall story of Overwatch by revealing to players in pieces where it makes sense. This piece that I’m referring to that will give you some context about him and his relation to Junkrat and how they got thrown out of Junkertown I think will hopefully satisfy a lot of people in terms of learning a lot more about that. But there are still pieces that will be kept for further reveals later.

For more from Chacko Sonny, like how Soldier: 76 transformed into a dad, head to page two.