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Michael Chu AMA - 15th May 2017 - Overwatch

Overwatch's lead writer talks writing for games and getting in the industry.

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Michael Chu stopped by the Overwatch sub-Reddit to answer some fan questions yesterday evening, giving his thoughts on a number of subjects from getting into the games industry, to his least favourite parts of the Overwatch lore, and who he believes was the hardest hero to create.

Here's what he had to say:

Alright, here we go! I'll try to keep everyone awake, but I'm no Jeph Kaplan!

What sparked your interest in writing?

Pretty much all my life, I've always been interested in telling stories. I grew up with a book glued to my hand (my mom would always be yelling at me to go to sleep as I tried to read after my bedtime). I loved playing tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and as anyone who has played a board game with me before (see: Geoff Goodman) can tell you, I usually value playing my role more than actually trying to win. As far as specifically writing for games, my first introduction was working with Chris Metzen on the quests of World of Warcraft, and I loved it! A few years later, I got the opportunity to do quite a bit of writing for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II with another Chris (Avellone!) and that really cemented my interest in it.

How did you start working at Blizzard?

First, a disclaimer: I do not recommend using my career experience as a guide to what you should do. Okay, that's out of the way:

When I was growing up, I didn't really have any idea how people got jobs in the game industry. (Side note: I originally wanted to be a composer like my hero, Nobuo Uematsu.) So, with no specific plan, I went to college instead. After about a year, I decided to give up on pursuing my degree in computer science to take a job as a temp game tester (quality assurance analyst, technically) at Blizzard. The first game I worked on was Diablo II. I immediately fell in love with working on games and knew that I was where I wanted to be!

What are your most and least favorite parts of Overwatch lore?

Wow! How to choose? My favorite parts of Overwatch lore are when we get the opportunity to go in depth on the characters. One of my favorite things to work on are the origin story videos we do for new heroes. We try to find new ways to reveal the heroes' backstories, and seeing them come to life, both artistically, and in the voice of the hero is magic!

What other projects have you worked on?

At Blizzard, I was one of the first quest designers on World of Warcraft (along with Jeff and the infamous Pat Nagle--whom I have worked with on just about every project of my Blizzard career). After WoW, I worked on the Diablo team for many years, doing writing (I wrote the monk, Covetous Shen, and an number of other characters, and a short story about the wizard called "Firefly") and quest design for D3 and Reaper of Souls. I also helped design the seasonal events for WoW and the garrisons system in Warlords of Draenor.

Away from Blizzard, I was one of the designers/writers on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

What hero/character in Overwatch is your favorite and why?

I don't think I'm allowed to have a favorite! If you look at my time played, Reinhardt is far and away the hero I play the most, and I do really love his story and his character. (And when I'm frustrated I rage Bastion... which doesn't really help most of the time.) As you might have heard me say before, I identify the most as a combination of Winston, Mei, and Sombra.

What comic/short is your favorite and why?

Again, I don't think I'm allowed to have a favorite. I really love Reflections, because I am a cheesy guy who loves rom coms (and Love Actually, obviously), and I had so much fun tackling a holiday story for Overwatch, and getting to show little flashes of our heroes off the battlefield. Also, I could write Tracer stories all day!

Which hero was the hardest to create in terms of story?

The two heroes that were the hardest to nail down in terms of story were Mei and Orisa, for a similar reason. When we create the backstory for a new Overwatch hero, we try to keep things as simple as possible. We had a lot of story ideas for Mei (she was a bounty hunter, eco-warrior against evil polluting companies, famous mountain climber and adventurer, etc.) and it was a matter of finding the one that we felt was the strongest. It turned out to be (in large part because of her abilities and kit) one about her being cryogenically frozen.

Did you think Overwatch would become big as it's become?

Not at all, it's incredibly humbling for us. We love Overwatch and we love the heroes, and our hope was that people would like them too. To see them be embraced like this has been an amazing experience.

How often do you browse Reddit and the Battle.net forums?

I usually try to check in a couple times during the course of the day.

What game, other than Overwatch, do you play the most?

I play a lot of everything, particularly story games. Right now, I'm playing Persona 5 (I am a huge fan of the series) and Breath of the Wild, like most of the design team. Some of my favorite games are: Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, EarthBound (I like JRPGs), Grim Fandango, BioShock (and many more).

SOURCE - Reddit

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