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Overwatch Developer Makes Changes to Sombra after Character Aggravated Players’ Medical Conditions

Sombra Artwork Cropped

Overwatch developer Blizzard has leapt into action after a number of users complained that a number of sound effects in the team-based shooter was aggravating their pre-existing medical conditions.

As part of its latest title update, released earlier in the month, Overwatch received a number of new games modes, a new map, and an all-new hero, in Mexican hacker extraordinaire Sombra. While most players have been thrilled with Blizzard’s additions to the popular shooter, a small section of its user base has been less enthused – and the blame lies with the aforementioned Sombra.

In the game, Sombra’s ultimate ability takes the form of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), which discharges in a wide radius, disabling enemy barriers and shields, and hacking all opponents within the blast range. For opponents caught up in the EMP, the game emits a loud, high frequency static noise, before the soundtrack is subsequently muffled and distorted – akin to the sound effects you might expect in a film after a loud explosion.

It is these sound effects that have reportedly been causing issues for some players: users with anxiety, autism, tinnitus and misophonia have taken to the official Blizzard forums over the past week or so to complain that their conditions have been aggravated by the effect.

It’s not only Sombra’s ultimate that has been causing discomfort to some players, however, as one user in particular described the sound of her sub-machine gun fire to have triggered their sensory processing disability, causing them to throw up and experience a number of other unfortunate symptoms.

To its credit, Blizzard has acted swiftly to help alleviate the issue, and has made several changes to the character’s associated audio clips in the game’s latest PTR (public test realm) update, which should eventually carry through into a bonafide title update. In a statement, Overwatch’s audio director, Scott Lawlor, said:

“We are always really happy to hear sound feedback, even in the cases where things aren’t working so well. Please keep it coming. So there were two issues with Sombra’s sounds that you brought to our attention:

1) Hack/EMP State Effect – this is the muffling effect that happens alongside the hack sound. We were thinking a bit about this, and it occurred to us that maybe the effect wasn’t too strong, but feeling that the effect isn’t wearing off caused it to feel a bit stressful. We’ve decided to still have the muffle hit equally as hard for the first 1-2 seconds, but slowly wear off over the 6 second duration of the ability. This does a couple things, it will hopefully still give the same information to the player that they are silenced, and it will also communicate the duration of the Hack. The feeling that the effect is wearing off will hopefully alleviate any discomfort some of our players are feeling. I personally really like this solution, and I think the ability sounds better this way.

2) SMG Sound Effects – This is tricky problem for us to solve because we don’t have the same reaction to the sound as those who are affected by it. We also don’t want to alter the sound too much for those who like it as is! We have decided to make a couple subtle changes to the sound. We have lowered the volume just a touch, and also added an equalizer that reduced the frequency (4600Hz) where we saw a slight bump in an analyzer. I hope this helps!”


Have you experienced any issues with Sombra’s sound effects in Overwatch? Let us know in the comments section.

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