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This year’s Blizzard’s April Fools’ stunt introduces a new unit that’s going to leave a heavy hoofprint on the StarCraft universe: The Tauren Marine. This fictional-fictional unit was born in a crossover between the WarCraft and StarCraft universes, and the end result is a superunit of epic proportions.

Tauren Marine

Tauren Marine

Trains From: Mulgore
Armament: 88mm Impala Gauss Rifle
Role: Shock Troops

 

The Tauren Marine is not much more than a Marine with extra damage, health, and a shield. Make sure to watch the video in the Tauren Marine page to see a small group of them going through a Terran base, obliterating it in a few seconds.

 

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The obscure planet of Azeroth was found to harbor a dizzying selection of humans, mutants, and aliens in a state of perpetual superstition and conflict. The most physically imposing of these warrior races were the so-called ‘tauren,’ an anthropomorphic bovine genotype with super-human stamina, overpowered racial combat abilities, and bizarrely well-developed horticultural skills.

 

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While most tauren were satisfied with their agrarian culture and primitive existence, the Confederacy was able to lure away large numbers of young bulls for a life of adventure and violence along the galactic rim. Other tauren referred to these adventurers as ‘mad cows,’ and they were ostracized from the rest of their kine. The newly created tauren marines didn’t care–they got neat-looking armor and big guns to own everyone else with. These beefy new soldiers are now an integral part of the Confederate military, and have managed to horn in on the roles traditionally filled by firebats and other infantry units.

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We are very likely to encounter the Tauren Marine again in StarCraft 2 – even if not in the full game, Blizzard is undoubtedly going to include this abomination in the map editor.

 

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IGN has conducted an extensive interview with some of Blizzard’s main developers: Chris Sigaty, lead tester; Sam Didier, art director; and Frank Pearce, a Blizzard cofounder and now executive vice president of product development. They discuss the development process of the original StarCraft, how they perceived it back then, and how they felt when it started becoming popular. All in all, a very interesting read which provides an insight into the minds of the Blizzard developers. Here are a few highlights:

IGN: How did the idea for StarCraft first come about?

 

Sam Didier: Back in the day, after we did Warcraft, we were kind of thinking, “Well cool, should we do another one?” Everyone was kind of geeked-up about doing a science fiction one. We had entertained ideas–we were still kind of small back then–but we entertained ideas like, “Oh, maybe we could do something with the Star Wars guys?” And at the end of the day we kind of just thought, “You know what? We’d probably have more fun just doing something on our own.” We wouldn’t have to worry about the licensing guys saying, “No, you can have those guys shoot like that because they don’t shoot like that in the movies.” So we just kind of decided to screw that. Let’s do our own thing, then we could be or our own creative control.

IGN: That’s kind of the story about StarCraft: It’s like the national game of Korea. Do you have theories about how that came about?

 

Chris Sigaty: There is a lot of theories about it, and the one that I hear that seems to make sense is: right place, right time. Korea being in a recession, the game being available for the public to play–being a great game and well balanced–and these game rooms popping up all across Seoul. And it sort of building up along with the economy at the time, and StarCraft just being that really well-balanced competitive game, the nature of the Korean community being competitive, all those actors combining into this weird, cool crazy phenomenon.

Excellent responses to the next questions reveal the different qualities of StarCraft. It’s interesting to see what each developer has to say, answering from his perspective:

IGN: StarCraft has sold over 9.5 million copies worldwide. Everyone agrees it’s a great game. But there has to be a reason it caught on as it did, worldwide. Because many great games don’t sell anywhere as close to what StarCraft has done. Do you attribute to Battle.net? What do you think is the catalyst?

 

Frank Pearce: Definitely Battle.net is a factor. The personality that we inject into the experience through the sounds; the personality that we inject through the portraits. Because the units are only so high. Looking at it from the top-down perspective, the units have a distinct look, but they don’t have a lot of visual personality beyond their distinct look. But when you throw the portrait of the unit on the screen and you give it that voice, all of a sudden you’ve injected personality into this.

 

Chris Sigaty: The thing that we’ve always done–not me personally, but the company–has ended up hitting on are these sort of common themes. Grabbing the right portions of these common themes so that it’s more accessible, so it’s the coolest aspects of those things. So the coolest parts of the Star Wars thing, and the coolest parts of the characters and the story, and they all end up adding to why those games, and why particularly Blizzard does well, or why StarCraft does well in a situation where another great game didn’t necessarily, maybe that accessibility? Not always necessarily due to the actual user interface or that sort of thing, but really the big themes that are there.

 

Sam Didier: I kind of attribute the longevity of it, it all boils down for me to the gameplay. Because I look at the art now, and it’s horrible. [laughter]. It’s not the art that’s keeping the game going. But the gameplay is super fun, everyone loves to play it. It’s simple to play, but if you want to be a bad ass, it also has that component of the game. It’s sort of like chess. The art is nothing really great to look at; it works, but it’s still a fun game to play. You can play it against your friend; it doesn’t take four hours to play a game, you can play a couple of games at lunch, and you’re done. It has a good, timeless feel to it.

What really happened to StarCraft: Ghost?

IGN: Let’s talk about StarCraft Ghost. What was the thought about spinning StarCraft into an action game, and what happened to that project?

 

Frank Pearce: One of the challenges that we face here is that we never have a shortage of great ideas. The challenge we always face is that we only have so many resources available to us to actually implement those ideas. And so we have to be able to pick and choose which great ideas we’re able to execute on. And at the time, we just didn’t have the bandwidth for everything we were doing. When we were working on Ghost, we were working on StarCraft II, it just wasn’t publicly known that we were working on StarCraft II. And we also had World of Warcraft that we were supporting, and we had no idea when we launched World of Warcraft that we end up supporting a subscriber base of 10 million people, right? We anticipated in North America when we first launched WoW, that we were going to be supporting a subscriber base of 400,000 people, and we had 400,000 subscribers in the first month.

 

So, for us, it was just a matter of focus and resources and what made the most sense for us to focus on, and with World of Warcraft growing as quickly as it did, that had to be our primary focus. That’s not to say that Ghost wasn’t fun, and wasn’t shaping up with a lot of potential, but we had to choose.

Check out the rest of the interview over at IGN.

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