14 July 2019

LEGO® Overwatch: Designer interview with Woon Tze

Posted by Admin
In May we chatted with LEGO® Overwatch designer Woon Tze in Billund about the theme and its new elements. This was prior to the reveal of the upcoming wave of sets, which is why we didn't ask him about those!

How long have you worked at the LEGO Group?

I’ve been at the company three years now. I started off at Super Heroes, I moved on to Harry Potter and Jurassic World, and now Overwatch. I built D.Va & Reinhardt [75973, read our review here] and the exclusive Omnic Bastion [75987].

Were you an Overwatch fan already?

I was a fan of the artwork, and once I got added to the team, I started playing the game… quite a bit! Probably a bit too much, I would say. I’m also a family man with three young boys so I need to control that a little bit! So at the moment it is controlled, I would hope to play a little bit more.

You couldn’t play it at work then? All part of the job?

I wish it was during working days, but no. We do have models to finish! There are times we launch the game, but just to check on something.

How did the new weapon piece come about?

We made a blaster in general for the whole project so that we can build the different weapons in the game. These are as iconic as the characters themselves. For the blaster, again it is a general element and other projects can use them, but we developed it with this project in mind first. The element designers studied the art style of the weapons in the game: how they would depict the futuristic look of the weapons. They try to create one that is generic across all the weapons that they have, with the intention of making this element that is able to use eventually build all the weapons of the game: the starting point is this element.

Were you involved in the design process of the blaster?

For this particular element I was involved quite a bit. When we drew this up we looked at all the weapons available in the game to see if we’re able to build most of the weapons in the game with this one particular element. I think we’ve achieved that. For example in the case of D.Va the weapon is fairly cylindrical in the game itself so this element [1x2 plate with stud shooter, Design ID 15403] works well with it so we don’t need our blaster element. Also it has the shooting function; for this the design of the weapon itself in the game is different.

Are these the progression of builds for D.Va and Reinhardt you made along the way?

These are some of the sketch models i did before arriving at the final design. So we started off fairly small because I was trying my best to build the most detailed model in the smallest possible size. In the reference material, the mech isn’t that much bigger than the pilot itself. But we tested how people handle it, and also with the amount of detail we need to add into it and we arrived at this because we felt that makes a better product.  So at the end of the day, what the size would be wasn’t as important as what would be the best product.

Can you tell us about the shoulder element specifically created for Reinhardt?

When we first went to make the model we did try to brick-build the shoulder armour as a start but the element designer went on to sketch one of these shoulder pieces and she said, “Do you think it’s going to work?” We put it on and it did change the silhouette drastically. It made the model so much closer to how the character is. It brings out the character a lot, so yeah, let’s do that new element for it.

I look at it and think of CCBS but it’s actually got a 2x4 brick connection inside! Was that the way it came to you?

Yes, she made it a System connection, we always try to keep it a System connection if its a System model. We wouldn’t use a Technic connection for example.

But a 3.18mm bar would have been System?

Yes, we talked about that but even right from the beginning she wanted to try and make it connect with studs. In fact I asked if it is possible to make it a 3.18 connection so you just clip it on but she really wanted to try this connection. I’m not sure why but often when it comes to element designers, there’s a lot of expertise and we trust them to make the best possible elements.

There is often a desire to make elements as universal as they can be, was that present for this piece?

Yes, it is. So although the piece does carry a level of detail that is very close to the reference material, as much as we can it is designed with the intention of making it fit within the whole System and being generic.

There was disappointment among some fans about the hip spacing.

As you can see, the hip spacing that people wanted was present in the sketch models but it wasn’t a good product. It’s more difficult to handle.

And you even went for a bubble canopy on D.Va for a moment.

That was an experiment! Sometimes we try things just to see that it really doesn’t work as well as we think it might!

But the feet worked, obviously!

Yes, many variations of how we can build the same thing. Given the same reference materials, many people can just produce a different way to build it and you have different results. Then you weigh that up with stability, complexity of the building steps and all that.

Did stability play a big part in the choice here?

Reinhardt went surprisingly well. We were quick to arrive at the final solution.I think the biggest change between those models and the final one was, instead of a ball joint it’s one of those clip joints. That has a lot to do with stability in how people handle it. Of course we consider children when we made it, although these are targeted at an older age of fans. You know when children pick toys up and start to play these will move quite a bit. As children they don’t necessarily try and hold it carefully so that it stands. If the leg was say at an angle like that and it doesn’t stand they would just tell you, “that’s not working, the leg’s broken.” And we see that a LOT in the tests. Those clip joints just ensure that no matter how you do it, even if it does fall out of place a bit, all you have to do is like one click and it’s done – you can put it back down. With the ball joint, you really have to do an adjustment, it’s just a lot more challenging for them.

And so the other decisions, were they quite early on which mechs and scenes you were going to go for in the range?

The short answer is no. What happens is normally before a project starts or right at the beginning we just free build; what we call “boost”. We just experiment with what we think would be a cool product. At that point there is no brief or no specific restriction as to what it’s going to be – in fact, that’s the whole purpose of the exercise, to find out what it could be. Model designs build anything that we think is going to be cool and from the we have a collection of sketch models, and we look at it and that’s when we start to have a discussion like “alright, we think that is going to work, and that one is going to work, we think that is going to work but maybe if we tweak the colour or maybe make it bigger – maybe that’s a better model. That’s how it starts, the whole position as to what would be a cool set at the end of the day. Once we have those it also gives you a good platform to discuss with partners, they have a lot to say about what they think would work as well.

Although you wouldn’t be working to particular price points at that stage, do you at least have a limit on how big they are allowed to be?

Of course you don’t go crazy and build everything that’s giant. You at least have an idea that these are going to be sets that are either a model people can display and play with versus a display model that is highly detailed. We think about the range of complexity that spans across the whole spectrum; you start with someone who maybe has not built with LEGO that much, they can pick up a set that’s fairly easy to put together, versus someone who might want a bit more challenging building, who would pick up one of the bigger sets.

How are you and the team feeling about the theme so far?

I don’t have the sales figures but from the response and noise on the internet, we’re very excited about it. A lot of fans are very excited about it and that’s good for us, seeing people are excited about it because we really want to do more and if people want more, than we can do it.

Aside from Overwatch, what's been your favourite LEGO set to work on?
I worked on the playset Hulkbuster for Avengers. Not the giant one, the Infinity War one. I built mechs before joining the company, I’m also a big fan of Marvel cinematic universe and I’m a big comic fan. Being able to work on Hulkbuster was a dream come true for me. I was really excited.

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Products mentioned in this post were kindly supplied by the LEGO Group. All content represents the opinions of New Elementary authors and not the LEGO Group. All text and images are © New Elementary unless otherwise attributed.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree about ball-jointed legs. Arms are fine. They either just hang in space, or they hold stuff that does. But several years ago, I quickly learned how difficult it is to pose legs on Bionicle characters so they’d have a stable stance. What I eventually figured out is that you can press down on the feet, and then rock the body back and forth, and that breaks the moment of inertia on the ball joints just long enough for the pressure of your hand to force the feet flat. In a matter of seconds, you can accomplish what is almost impossible if you’re just trying to freehand pose the feet before standing the character up.