Wrecking Ball (Overwatch)
|Created by||Blizzard Entertainment|
|Voiced by||Dee Bradley Baker (Hammond)|
Jonathan Lipow (Wrecking Ball)
Wrecking Ball, also known as Hammond, is a fictional, playable character in the 2016 video game Overwatch. He is an intelligent hamster who controls a quadrupedal robot mecha that can transform into a high-speed wrecking ball equipped with a grappling hook. The character was introduced in late June 2018 as the title's 28th hero, and made available for all players in late July 2018.
Wrecking Ball is one of the playable "hero" characters in the team-based multiplayer first-person shooter video game Overwatch. The character is a tank-class mecha robot driven by a genetically engineered hamster named Hammond. The mech's move set includes a quadpedal combat mode with automatic assault weapons known as the "Quad Cannons", and a high-speed "Roll" mode in which the mech condenses into a ball armed with a "Grappling Claw". The grappling claw can attach to surfaces and use the mech's rolling momentum to launch into enemies and the air. While in the air, the ball can slam into the ground, sucking in and damaging enemies using his "Piledriver" move. Wrecking Ball also has an "Adaptive Shield" ability, which adds temporary shields based on the count of nearby enemies. His ultimate ability is "Minefield" that scatters a proximity mine minefield around the character.
Hammond does not speak human languages, however the Wrecking Ball mech translates his voice into English. Dee Bradley Baker provides Hammond's squeaks, while Jonathan Lipow voices the mech's translation.
|Developer update introducing the character|
The concept of Wrecking Ball had been proposed early in Overwatch's development cycle, though never given significant development work until after release, according to Geoff Goodman. Writer Arnold Tsang said that the idea came from two different tracks of thoughts when they were designing the first set of characters of Overwatch. One track was for a demolitionist character which would ultimately become Junkrat. One proposed idea was named "Ball Guy", a robot that could transform into a sphere and roll around. His skill kit would have included aspects of magnetism, with one ability to draw in enemy bullets, store them, and then fire them back at opponents. However, at the time, the game already had several other Omnic characters and developers did not feel the need for an additional robot. The rolling aspect became the basis of Junkrat's ultimate ability, his Riptire. Another train of thought was to see if Overwatch could support a "cute" character, and their artists came up with several animal-based concepts, including the infamous Jetpack Cat. However, none of these ideas worked within the Overwatch theme. At this point, the groups working on these two tracks came up with the idea of making a robotic hamster to be combined with the spherical tank idea, playing off the idea of a hamster ball. While they liked the idea, they decided to put the design on hold to focus on the initial roster of characters for Overwatch's release.
The team came back to explore Wrecking Ball while developing out the Horizon Lunar Colony map, which features into Winston's backstory, while at the same time planning on a new Tank hero. Previously, they had considered Winston, a super-intelligent gorilla who was part of an experimental study at Horizon, to be their most out-there idea. They were able to revisit the robotic hamster idea, but to fit into the Horizon setting, made the hamster a living creature - one of the Horizon test subjects with boosted intelligence - and gave him the spherical mech to pilot. Hammond’s design was meant to be a mix of Western and Eastern art styles, somewhere between Zootopia and Hamtaro.
One ability that was tested involved Wrecking Ball gaining momentum as the character rolled through the level, causing more damage to enemy heroes. However, this had unintended consequences as Wrecking Ball's momentum could be redirected by certain abilities, like Pharah's "Concussive Blast", and damage unintended targets; as Overwatch was developed to avoid friendly fire, the ability was scrapped. During this period, developers came upon the idea of including a grappling hook as part of the character's skill kit, which Goodman believed cemented the character. For the grappling hook feature to work, Blizzard had to refine some parts of how the Overwatch game was run related to their physics engine; most physics calculations were made on the client side, so how objects moved under the control of physics may appear different to all players. Blizzard had previously explored a full server-side physics engine, which was helpful for testing, but was a strain for regular matches. Enough of Wrecking Ball's physics were conducted server side for consistent behavior for all players. Developers also experimented with several variants of what would become Wrecking Ball's adaptive shield, which at one point involved the character firing off up to four beam turrets that would provide shields for the hero, but like Symmetra's turrets, these could be placed in difficult-to-hit locations, making it hard for opponents to destroy them. As Wrecking Ball was designed to fare well in clusters of opponents, the design team ultimately went with shields boosted in accordance with the number of nearby opponents. Wrecking Ball's piledriver ability was originally envisioned as his ultimate. In this iteration, the ultimate would launch Wrecking Ball up before slamming into the ground, and would have left opponents hanging in the air for five seconds. Once they added the grappling hook, these additional effects were deemed unnecessary and piledrive eventually became a regular ability.
Due to Wrecking Ball having two sets of voice lines (one for Hammond's squeaks, another for the mech's translation), Blizzard had to rework the system that characters would use at the start of matches to account for Wrecking Ball's lines. Other sound effects for the character were taken from various weapons firing recordings, and from the sound of rolling metal balls and bowling balls alongside the spinning of a hamster wheel. For voicing Hammond, Blizzard had constructed a fictional language of hamster-speak and was looking to use a mix of animal noises, such as coyotes pups, to create the voice lines. Blizzard then received an audition tape from Dee Bradley Baker, a voice actor well-known for his work doing animal sounds, and Blizzard changed direction to incorporate Baker's lines.
Goodman considered that, at the time of Wrecking Ball's release, the hero would become disruptive to the metagame at the time. A frequent strategy at that point was for defenses to stack up at an objective with shield-bearing characters like Reinhardt and Orisa providing sufficient defense to make it difficult for the attacking team to break through. Existing characters like D.Va and Winston can hurl themselves behind or within enemies lines, but without support, these characters do not survive long on their own. Goodman said that with Wrecking Ball's combined abilities, the character has a way to get into a defensive line, survive long enough, and escape quickly due to the mech's mobility. Goodman said that Wrecking Ball is still fragile, as if the character is trapped or slowed, it becomes very easy to take down.
Wrecking Ball's release was an interregnum from preceding Overwatch add-on content, which was based on new villains and geopolitical conflict. While Overwatch developer Blizzard had hinted at the character's existence, the game's official Twitter account conspicuously teased the character in the days prior to its announcement in late June 2018 as the 28th playable hero on the roster. Wrecking Ball was released for public testing on the Public Test Region (PTR) the same day as the announcement. Wrecking Ball was fully added to Overwatch on all game servers on July 24, 2018.
|Wrecking Ball origin story, an official, animated short|
Hammond's backstory was first introduced through changes made to the Horizon Lunar Colony map in May 2018, and later expanded upon the character's announcement. In the game's story, Hammond is a hamster and one of the test subjects at the Horizon Lunar Colony, given heightened intelligence by the human scientists, from which he gained a liking for mechanics. Amidst a test subject uprising, Hammond planned to escape to Earth alongside the gorilla Winston by tethering an escape pod to Winston's capsule. Approaching Earth, Hammond's capsule broke loose and fell into the Australian Outback, near the fictional city of Junkertown. He modified the escape pod to become a battle mech, through which he competed in Junkertown's robot combat arena under the ring name Wrecking Ball, becoming its champion.
Within gameplay, Wrecking Ball's Grappling Hook ability was described as a positive addition to the game by gaming journalists. The hook enabled players during testing in the PTR to pull off previously unused flanks on certain maps. The ability not only allows Wrecking Ball to be more mobile than previous tanks, but enables him to get to elevated locations that are out of reach of most characters. This also enables the player using Wrecking Ball to pull off previously unused flanks on certain maps, which some gaming journalists expect to affect the metagame of Overwatch. Players also experimented with a custom game type in which they race in wrecking ball mode to traverse the game's levels the fastest. PC Gamer described the character as the game's most inventive.
Wrecking Ball had been introduced after the conclusion of the Overwatch League's inaugural season, but was available to play in 2018 finals for the Overwatch Contenders, a type of minor league to the main League. Players there had tried experimenting with Wrecking Ball, and while some of their attempts ending up costing their teams certain matches, the hero was found to fast enough to move from spawn to a control to help sustain a team's attack or defense, but required strong coordination with the rest of the team to make his other abilities useful.
While many journalists were struck by the outlandish premise of a hamster commandeering a mecha robot, the character's introduction was well-received by the game's community. Lead game producer Adam Gershowitz said that Blizzard knew the character would likely be divisive within the Overwatch community, but they worked to establish a backstory and an interesting set of powers that would make Wrecking Ball's introduction fit within the game. Kaplan said that even within Blizzard, Wrecking Ball was a controversial character to add, with some developers thinking they had gone too far and wrecked the game. Kaplan reiterated that Wrecking Ball was designed to explore the edge of how far they could take a unique character in the game, and does not anticipate that there will be a hero more "wackier" than Wrecking Ball for future heroes.
Through the game's story, which unfolds through the release of new in-game assets, players had expected the character to be a monkey companion to Winston, based on his scientific facility's backstory, rather than a hamster. Many players complained about the name choice of "Wrecking Ball", preferring "Hammond" instead, which is shorter and easier to use in callouts. However, Goodman stated that Blizzard would be unlikely to change the name, as the lore established that Hammond would want to keep the name "Wrecking Ball".
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