Overwatch's new Workshop lets players prototype new heroes and make strange game modes

In a surprise reveal, Blizzard has just announced the Overwatch Workshop, which lets players use custom scripting to further customize their own game modes or even design their own heroes. Game designer Jeff "Papa Jeff" Kaplan breaks down the Workshop in the developer update video above, but long story short, the Workshop brings exciting new possibilities to the different ways you can play Overwatch.

Ever since Overwatch first introduced the Game Browser, the community's concocted all kinds of Overwatch custom games by tweaking variables to create unique modes. From the sounds of it, the Workshop will massively expand those capabilities, provided you can work your way through the complex scripting system. "The Workshop is a scripting mode that will allow you to make custom game modes within the custom game browser," says Kaplan. "For example, you can even prototype your own Overwatch hero using this system." The Workshop is coming to PC and consoles, but for now it's being tested exclusively on the PC's PTR servers.

The Workshop started as a pet project for two of the team's programmers, and soon ballooned into its own in-game tool. You won't have to be an expert programmer to mess around in the Workshop, but it sounds like it'll help. "I have to warn you upfront: this is more of what I would call a 'power user' feature," Kaplan notes. "The people that I think this will speak to most immediately are people with some experience with other scripting engines... or people with programming backgrounds. Really, anybody who understands the logic of game-making, and how game events are sort of chained together, will have an easier time creating things."

Aspiring Workshoper tinkerers will be able to compare notes and ask questions of the Overwatch developers directly on a special forum dedicated to the Workshop, and the folks at Blizzard have already created a few example modes to show off what the Workshop can do. Molten Floor brings the classic 'floor is lava' childhood fantasy into Overwatch, where the ground sets you on fire (so Pharah and Lucio have a big advantage). Mirrored Deathmatch (which Kaplan hopes to use in the Arcade someday soon) is a free-for-all deathmatch where everyone's playing as the same character for one minute before the hero switches and the chaos continues. The Workshop could also be used to create a more balanced version of Mystery Heroes that generates appropriate team comps for each side.

To help the community fine-tune their Workshop creations, a debugger called the Workshop Inspector will catch any errors and attempt to explain them. "We're hoping that this opens up a whole new wide array of game modes that the community is going to create, and that there'll be some really fun stuff out there for all of you," says Kaplan. The Workshop won't let you create a map from scratch or import custom assets, but it should let you reassemble Overwatch's existing pieces to come up with your own creations. Any work done in the PTR will be copied over when the Workshop goes live, and can be shown to the world using the new Share function that generates special codes which let you easily access specific modes.

Giving players the tools to make their own fun is always hugely beneficial - just look at what Fortnite has accomplished with Fortnite Creative codes, or the rise of the Auto Chess map in Dota 2 creating a new kind of strategy genre. I'm certain that standout Overwatch Workshop modes will spread like wildfire and make for entirely new ways to enjoy Blizzard's shooter, and I can't wait to play whatever the community creates.

If you're still coming to grips with the hero roster, check out our complete list of all the Overwatch characters. Or see what's happening this week in games and entertainment with our latest Release Radar: