The London Spitfire weren’t sure what to expect. They sat on the couches in the common area of the Overwatch development team’s offices—a stuffed Winston plushie in Seung-Tae “Bdosin” Choi’s hands (perhaps a hint?), team captain Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong holding a pillow festooned with tiny Jeff Kaplan faces.
Unlike the Zen-Nakji skin that last season’s MVP, Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang helped customize, the Spitfire’s championship skin was to be a surprise—a gift from the development team to the players who made history last year in Brooklyn at the Grand Finals. So, a day after the one-year anniversary of that championship moment, the Spitfire went down to Blizzard headquarters for an unveiling.
Which hero were they expecting to see? The players threw out some familiar names—D.Va, Winston, and classic British hero Tracer were all brought up. (As for least expected, Symmetra was the overwhelming consensus.) As for what they hoped the skin to be, “I would like to see a visual showing that we won,” said main support, Jong-Seok “Nus” Kim.
After months of research and work, the dev team was finally ready to reveal the Flying Ace skin—a whimsical twist on a vintage design for Winston that incorporates plenty of the Spitfire’s team branding.
Have you seen the London Spitfire's championship skin?! Go behind-the-scenes as the team headed down to Blizzard HQ to check out the skin celebrating their historic victory. #OWL2019 pic.twitter.com/xU9NNm8yhZOverwatch League (@overwatchleague) August 16, 2019
The players’ first glimpse of the skin made them lean forward, eager to soak in all of the details. Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim, who had correctly guessed Winston earlier, exclaimed, “See, I knew it!” before delightedly pointing out Winston’s bushy black mustache.
The mustache is one of several period-specific details the artists zeroed in on to make the skin a historically accurate homage to the actual Spitfire pilots who fought in World War II; the Flying Ace skin features a blue-and-orange life preserver vest, aviator goggles and hat, and leathery pilot gloves.
The dev team also took inspiration from the Spitfire Mark II plane itself for additional elements of Winston’s gear, including the battle-worn “Aces High” iconography painted on the side of the fuselage and the propellers themselves, which add dynamic motion to the skin, even at rest.
As senior outsource supervisor Nathan Brock explained, “We spent a lot of time trying to make sure we did a correct homage to that particular plane, so everything from the shape of the wings to his booster packs, which are actually a fuel tank that certain models had, and then on the sides, the exhaust vents—they all match the engine of the original Spitfire.”
Dylan Jones, lead character technical artist for Overwatch, said the team had one more inspiration for making the Flying Ace skin: “Just seeing you guys hold that trophy on the stage, and us recognizing that we needed to do something special for that moment.”