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BlizzCon 2009 provided Blizzard with a massive stage, upon which it has made multiple important announcements concerning every single one of its game universes: Diablo, StarCraft and WarCraft. The most impacting news from this year’s event is, however, the lack of a certain, highly anticipated announcement – that of the StarCraft 2 Beta.

BlizzCon 2009

For StarCraft 2 fans, this year’s BlizzCon 2009 was all about two things:

  • The new Battle.net – Battle.net 2.0
  • The StarCraft II Galaxy Map Editor

BlizzCon served as an excellent stage to showcase StarCraft 2’s unprecedentedly powerful editor – the StarCraft 2 Map Editor called Galaxy, the new and much more presentable name replacing Scumedit. Throughout the last two years, Blizzard has released many statements boasting about the editor’s virtually unlimited powers. The editor can do anything, can be scripted to do anything, and can integrate any model, ability and UI into a playable package. Talk is cheap, and Blizzard wouldn’t be the first company to over-hype its own product in order to get the modding community on its side as early as possible.
This is NOT the case.

Watch the presentation:

Video highlights:

  • Without the need for script coding, custom units, abilities and scenarios can be created.
  • Mouselook will be availiable. Associating aim/view angle with mouse movement in a 3D world gives modders endless possibilies in terms of world exploration and FPS games. Among the crowd, people could be heard mumbling “World of StarCraft…  “.
  • Scripting allows custom HUDs, quest interfaces and dialogue. Complete makeovers will be relatively easy to produce.
  • Custom units and 3D world models are implementable as well.
  • Fully custom controls and AI, as shown in the “Lost Viking” shooter game.
  • Notable appearance by Nova of StarCraft: Ghost fame, making very clear the endless possibilities the Galaxy editor offers.

Nova in SC2 World

A Q&A session followed the presentation:

Q: Any plans for group collaboration on maps?

A: Yes, there are plans to give modders and artists products and share it with other people. You can import triggers so a person can work on a different part of a map.

It seems the editor is becoming a full-blown IDE, with collaboration and versioning tools. It will be interesting to see how far the higher, professional end of the modding community will push its limits.

Q: Any plans to stop map stealing?

A: We haven’t locked down on what our exact plans are. But we are going to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for it to steal from you, the mod maker.

Q: To what extent can the UI be customized?

A: We asked for lots of extra things. We’ve tried to give you as many UI customization tools as you can. One of the things we’ve added is an item system, which we don’t need, but it’s useful for modders so we’ve added it anyway.

Q: How will hero system be more flexible?

A: You can do same things as in WarCraft III? The data editor is extremely powerful.

The above question resurfaces repeatedly since the RTS community wants to make sure that a StarCraft 2 DoTA will indeed be as good and feature-full as the massively popular WarCraft 3 version, which is, itself, based on StarCraft’s Aeon of Strife custom map.

Q: Will it be possible to adjust armor?

A: Yes, we’ve made it possible to be able to reproduce armor systems of past games.

Q: Has StarCraft 2 has been pushed back because of battle.net?

A: Well, it wasn’t just battle.net. We knew we wanted to work on the game longer. As developers we want you guys to play this game ASAP, but we saw a bunch of things in the campaign that we wanted to make better. So really, the delay started with battle.net, but we saw lots of things we could do better to make this game meet your expectations. The delay has been a blessing for us.

Q: Will there be a way to save your characters?

A: We do have support for what we’re calling banks. Basically you can store info on your local system, any kind of info you want to store.

Perhaps, in the future, Blizzard will be kind enough to allocate some server-side storage space for each user, allowing custom maps to use it for securely storing game data and characters. This will let players carry certain characters, achievements and items between games: imagine a DoTA-style long running game where players can resume playing, using their stored character – or even carry it to other, similar game worlds.

The new World of WarCraft Battle.net. Will a similar version become available for StarCraft 2 mods?

Q: Any possibility to record shoutcasting in replays?

A: Not in shipped version of the game, but it’s a great idea for e-sports. There’s alot of technical details to be discussing and we might implement it in patches.

Q: Can you load multiple maps at once?


A: We supported it in WarCraft III as “campaigns” and we are looking to support it for StarCraft II. Don’t know if it will be in ship.

Q: Will you be contacting your map makers because you track their quality?

A: Yes. Battle.net will show us who made the maps and who authored it. We’ll have access to the map-maker’s account. And yes, we’ve been doing this for years.

Q: Will we see this third-person perspective in any of the actual single player missions? Will editor be in beta?

A: I don’t know if we will include the third person thing in the game. It requires lots of teaching. We are trying to get people used to RTS gameplay in the single player, let alone third-person gameplay. We are planning to ship the beta in the editor. It probably won’t be in day one, but it will be there.

Q: Is there going to be any content filtering for uploading maps? Or is it wide open for everything?

A: Not sure yet, but our plan is to have a rating system where players flag the map and our staff comes by to confirm and the person will be warned/banned.

(Q&A transcript courtsey of BlizzLive)

Modders will also have water and lava control, despite the fact that Blizzard has made it clear that it does not wish to make liquid a “playable surface” by default. Of course, with the editor’s virtually endless capabilities and the newly added control schemes, we’ll be seeing naval warfare StarCraft 2 maps soon enough.

Lava Level High Lava Level Low

Most importantly, Blizzard’s statements clearly indicated that the StarCraft II Galaxy Map Editor will be available to players during the StarCraft II beta, and that during the beta, custom games will be available for play over the new Battle.net.

The StarCraft 2 Galaxy Map Editor, as an editor, is what StarCraft is as an RTS, what World of WarCraft is as an MMORPG, and what Diablo is as a hack’n’slash. It’s an industry standard.

Providing an incentive to really push the Galaxy editor to its limits, Rob Pardo, Blizzard’s design lead, has revealed plans for launching a fully-featured marketplace for StarCraft 2 mods. At launch, the marketplace will provide gamers and modders with a streamlined free distribution channel for the newly created mods, and full commercial features will be added as the game and community mature.

Imagine what could happen if you could hire a small dev team and use StarCraft II almost as an engine. This is an opportunity for [modders] to share in the rewards of our success.

We want to make sure the best amateur game designers out there are making content for StarCraft II, and not for Kongregate or Steam or anything like that.

Blizzard has built an impressive set of development tools for StarCraft 2, but making gamers pay for mods in order to encourage adoption is quite a novelty. The Apple Store model will be used, where a portion of the map’s cost will go to Blizzard, the rest to its actual developers. It’s important to note that payment will be reserved to special mods and total conversions and not the normal custom maps Blizzard RTS players are familiar with. Dustin himself has said that even DoTA would not qualify for payment.

Moving on, some more interesting details have surfaced during the art panel.

Art Panel video 1:

Beautifully rich worlds, with unique doodads and terrain, each with a different look and feel – as if designed for an entirely different game.

Environments shown in the video include:

  • Bel’Shir – a  rich Protoss world, with nature unbound and forests untouched.
  • Valhalla Installation – Terran Thor construction station.
  • Castanar Installation – Laboratories for Zerg research.
  • Monlyth– a Protoss world with distinct Protoss structures.
  • Avernus – doodad rich tech/lab installation.
  • Redstone – lava planet with reactionary doodads and changing lava levels.
  • Zhakul’Das – a dark ancient world.
  • Port Zion – a tech junk world.
  • Korhal – a very rich Terran world, with monorails, billboards, skyscrapers and even pedestrians.

Art Panel Video 2:

Death animations include actual physics, so multiple death animations also produce particles which interact with the world in a random way. Each unit will have 4 or 5 different death animations, each corresponding to different ways of dying. It should be noted the Zerg building death animations are extremely bloody, and it is reasonable to assume that StarCraft 2 will include a toned-down, less bloody mode, in order to not set off too many age restriction alarms in certain countries. Be sure to watch the entire video, as it features the Terra-Tron, Blizzard’s live and kicking (and burning, shooting and cutting) April fool’s joke.

Terrible, Terrible Damage

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_development_environment

The unveiling of the features and interface used in Battle.net 2.0 came as no surprise to most StarCraft fans, most of whom already configured their new accounts as a requirement for participation in the StarCraft 2 Beta, and were eagerly anticipating Blizzard to come out swinging with more information about the massive platform.

And by massive, we mean the largest in the world. Rob Pardo has confirmed that Battle.net is currently the world’s largest gaming community, topping World of WarCraft by a mere 500,000 users – 12 million.

***

Battle.net 2.0:

The new Battle.net online gaming system is not, in itself, a new concept or a groundbreaking development. Each and every one of its components has been available in different gaming services or in the current Battle.net version. However, in keeping with Blizzard tradition, Battle.net 2.0 is going to be the most refined and functional of them all, taking the best features available and polishing them to the extreme. This official word from Blizzard sums it up well:

… will include a complete set of around-the-game features including a state-of-the-art matchmaking system, achievement system, social networking features, structured competitive play options, a marketplace, and much more. Our vision is to create an environment where gamers can compete online, develop an online persona, and stay connected to friends and the rest of the community while enjoying our games.

Logging on to battle.net, the player also connects to a Battle.net-styled, fully-featured instant messaging client, where he can communicate with his friends (who may be logged on to Battle.net from any of Blizzard’s games), set a status, and make announcements. All of this is achieved with a very elegant tab system, allowing easy access to chat rooms, conversations with friends, and forming games.

Battle.net IM

Battle.net’s integrated social platform will follow players into games themselves, as an overlay that can be accessed at any time during the game.

Battle.net chat overlay

The player statistics screen features recent game history, achievement progress, and just about any relevant piece of statistics about the player’s performance in every aspect of the game.

Statistics, statistics, statistics

Match making has received a great focus in Battle.net 2.0. Blizzard is attempting to provide the complete gaming experience for players of all levels, implementing a system that will match players against each other based on their skill levels. This will be made even easier considering Blizzard’s anti-smurfing measures. Another interesting change further complicates the ladder process by dividing it into separate leagues and divisions.

Seven Leagues will be created:

  • Pro
  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Practice

These leagues will be broken down further into divisions, which will be comprised of similarly-skilled players, 100 in each. Players will be ranked against others in their division, and there will be seasons of play. Tournaments will be held at the end of the season to determine division winners, who will go on to compete for the league championship. This elaborate system ensures that all players can play in a competitive manner even if they aren’t “pros” and enjoy this aspect of StarCraft 2 as well.

The match making system also allows arranged team play, and these teams will maintain their own skill-ranking and be independent of the player’s skill level in his 1v1 endeavors or those achieved with other teammates.

Battle.net match making system

Another improvement comes to creating and hosting games. Players will be able to create a game in private mode, invite their friends, and then open it up to the public. Soon enough, no one will remember the days when a game’s host had to kick people joining his game while frustratingly messaging his friends to join, trying to keep slots open.

Battle.net game creation screen

The game searching screen has not been neglected, of course, and offers the best tools available to sort through the thousands of concurrent games expected to take place on Battle.net, allowing players to easily focus the search on their game of choice, whether they’re looking for official melee maps or for the most customized mods.

Battle.net join game screen

Lastly, Avatars and Decals will be unlocked to players as they win games, similar to WarCraft 3.

Battle.net avatars

Watch it all in the Battle.net 2.0 presentation, where it was also announced that, for the first time in an RTS ever, rewinding is now possible in replays:

Battle.net 2.0 presentation Pt. 2:

In other StarCraft 2 news, the voice actor for Kerrigan, the infamous Queen of Blades, has been replaced. The new Kerrigan will be voiced by Tricia Helfer, better known as Six from the hit show Battlestar Galactica. Tricia has participated in video games before, performing as Kane’s aid in the last Command & Conquer game.

Tricia HelferKerrigan Statue

BlizzCon 2009’s playable build also included several unit statistics and role adjustments: Roaches have gained a significant HP boost, but their uber-regeneration is now active only while burrowed, changing the details but keeping the “burrow-dancing” mechanism intact. Colossi had their beam damage increased, and are now capable of wiping out many Tier 1 units, workers included, with a single pass of their laser beam.

Colossi roasting some Hydralisks

The Thor has perhaps finally found its role on the battlefield, as a 300/300 costing beast that deals 60 damage to ground units and 40 damage, with a splash effect, to air units. On top of that, it has regained its fan-favorite barrage ability.

Zerg Brood Lords, StarCraft 2’s Guardian version, will now be mutated to from Corruptors instead of Mutalisks. This will allow Zerg players to quickly switch between air superiority, once achieved with the help of Corruptors, to a devestating air to ground force which will go unopposed. Zerg Lurkers require a lot of tech to produce – first, a Hive is required to upgrade the Hydralisk Den to a Lurker Den, in which the player will further have to research Lurker aspect. This path might be worth going through, though, as Lurkers have also received an upgrade granting them greatly improved attack range.

Burrowed Lurker

More on the Protoss front, the High Templar’s Psi Storm now has a cooldown, which will be another limiting factor for its use aside from energy. The purpose of this change is likely to encourage use of the High Templar’s other abilities. The Immortal, the Protoss’ damage tank, has been moved to the Robotic Facility, and will not be able to warp-in anymore.

Immortals

Finally, what is the main reason the beta has not been announced during Blizzcon? Dustin said:

At this stage in development, the Zerg is having a lot of issues

Dustin went on to say that there’s a difficult issue with the Zerg’s iconic units – The Zergling, Hydralisk and Mutalisk – which are very hard to either change or remove from the game. This has made evolving the Zerg to deal with the changes to StarCraft 2 very challenging, which is part of the reason why they are currently not competitive with the Terran and Protoss races. These were indeed changed much more in StarCraft 2: the Terran no longer have Medics, Marines have had their health buffed, and Siege Tanks have been relegated to a more secondary role. The Protoss have lost their mainstay unit, the Dragoon, and the Reaver has been removed as well. The Zerg have their core three units in the same exact role, and the rest of the units have been implemented around them.

It will be interesting to see how Blizzard will deal with this issue, and whether or not they feel brave enough to drastically alter, or even completely remove, one of these basic Zerg units.

All the screenshots released during BlizzCon are available here.

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After a long month of waiting, Blizzard has finally approved the public release of information which was gathered by attendees of Blizzard’s HQ press conference last month, on the 20th of July. The videos, screenshots and interviews provide the deepest look yet into the much anticipated StarCraft 2 Single Player Campaign – Wings of Liberty.

In this post, we transform the information released and rehashed by the numerous sources into one chewable, concise piece.

StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty

First up, new tidbits of information about the single player from the newest version of the official StarCraft 2 FAQ:

  • The campaign will focus on the adventures of Jim Raynor and his Raiders as they fight off Arcturus Mengsk’s New Dominion.
  • Kerrigan has resurfaced with her Zerg Brood, laying waste to all life as she sweeps across the galaxy.
  • Completing missions and specific secondary objectives in them will reward the player with new units and currency, which can be used to customize the army between missions.
  • Some of the units in the campaign are unique to the single player, and include classic StarCraft 1 units (Firebat, Wraith) as well as completely new ones (Diamondback Tank).
  • Credits earned can be used to unlock the service of mercenaries, which can then be recruited from Merc Havens during missions. Mercs are normal units with better stats.
  • Credits can also be used to purchase upgrades to units and buildings, allowing players to customize their army to suit their playstyle.
  • More than 25 missions will be available in the campaign, each designed to offer a unique gameplay experience.
  • Many side missions and optional objectives will yield researchable artifacts which have to be collected to unlock further upgrades.
  • In between missions, the “story mode” will let players explore an interactive environment which will have them interacting with NPCs, getting reports about current events, and learning more about the background story.

Blizzard has revealed the story mode locations in which the player will spend his time between missions:

Hyperion’s Bridge:

The bridge

The main area of the ship and the story mode. Tychus Findlay, of Marine suit-up video fame, can be found here. In older builds, Raynor was able to use the large Starmap view, but this has been taken out from the game to simplify matters, the functionality and information integrated into other parts of the gameplay experience more seamlessly. The decision about which mission the proceed to will likely be taken here, where Hyperion’s ship captain, Matt Horner, also resides.

Hyperion’s Armory:

Bunker Shrike Turret, now available for the low low price of $29,999.99!

Where story-aversive players will spend most of their time. This is where Raynor’s hard-earned credits will be spent on upgrading his available units and buildings. In last year’s single player presentation, units were purchased and unlocked here as well, but the Armory will now serve only as an upgrade center, with units being unlocked throughout the missions.

Hyperion’s Lab:

Screenshot074

Stetman, the ship’s scientist, will brief you on the research aspect of the game: finding artifacts in secondary mission objective and investigating them to procure upgrades to equipment.

Hyperion’s Cantina:

Screenshot078

Lore center. Chat up the ship’s crew members and learn about the StarCraft universe. Graven Hill, sitting at the left with his laptop, will be your contact to the available mercenaries.

Cantina television screen:

Screenshot079

More lore and relevant “current events” will be presented through the Cantina’s TV screen. Many of the featured characters will be recognizable from StarCraft’s various book and comic spin-offs.

The campaign will have four difficulty levels: Easy, Moderate, Hard and Insane. According to Dustin, only the “Insane” AI will actually cheat; the rest are pure AI, which will have to gather all their resources and scout the map. Skirmish games will also feature a Beginner AI to help newcomers adjust to the quick pace of StarCraft 2 matches.

During the campaign, the player will be able to choose between several available missions, but will not have to complete all of them to proceed with the campaign. However, these missions and ones that the player has already completed will still be available if the player wishes to return to them.

It’s also worth noting that it will be possible to record replays of single player missions.

***

Two massive Question and Answer sessions have been released, spanning 37 Q&As in total and covering in detail many aspects that were brushed over up until now.

The full Q&A session with Rob Pardo is availible at Starcraft-Source. Here’s our summary of the juicy parts:

  • The Blizzard game development method mandates the creation of the hard-core, multiplayer aspect of the game before approaching its more casual parts. This, they believe, is the key to creating depth, making for games that people can enjoy playing for 500 hours or more. Units and their design come from the requirements of the multi-player game first and are only then used for the campaign.
  • Blizzard will go with digital distribution for StarCraft 2, but will give physical retail stores an exclusivity window. Another Blizzard box for the collection!
  • The StarCraft 2 expansions, featuring the Protoss and Zerg campaigns, will likely be priced as expansions and not full retail games.
  • Battle.net 2.0: “Will it require a subscription?” We are certainly not doing that for Starcraft 2.
  • Single player will be playable offline, but Dustin believes that not having access to achievements, which do require a connection to Battle.net, is game breaking. You’re basically saying, “Please, I would like to break your game now because I want to play offline for some reason.”
  • Dustin and Rob confirm that demo or spawn versions will be available in some way.
  • Match-making will work similar to WarCraft 3, where players are matched based on their approximate skill level. Anti-smurf measures will be taken, though no details have been provided.

And a few of the more interesting answers in full:

1) You build in-depth to the hardcore first, then work backwards into making the game more accessible for more casual players. Is that a design philosophy that you employ across all of your products, or is that a product-specific thing?

n

It’s something we do across all of our games. I’m a big believer in that it’s the right way to develop a multi-player game, one that is capable of lasting for years and years. It’s a little bit counter-intuitive in the gaming industry that I think most other gaming companies tend to tag multi-player on at the end. From an hours of play standpoint, it’s logical if you want a game to last for 500+ hours, which is something we strive for in all of our games. You have to spend a lot of time making sure that your game has that much depth to it. Then you really want to put in that single player element and read that story through, once you have those fundamental foundations of gameplay if you consider single player can last anywhere from 24-50 hours of gameplay. People go through it once, twice, maybe a few times. But multi-player is really what has longevity that can last for years and years.

Five hundred hours of gameplay per title is quite an ambitions mark, and an absurd one to aim for for virtually any other video game company in the world. Blizzard’s games are indeed unique in this regard, containing enough depth to keep people playing for extremely long periods of time.

16) How does match-making work on the new Battle.net?

n

Dustin: It’s similar to how it works in Warcraft 3. After about 5 or 10 games, we have a pretty good idea of your skill level, and we’re matching you at that point based on your skill level. So assuming you’re paying attention, you should win about half of your games. As you begin to improve, we upgrade your skill level once again. I know a lot of players would rather win 60-70% of their games because that would be the most fun, but that means that somebody else is losing 60-70% of their games. We had some – not a whole lot – of issues with players re-rolling characters in Warcraft 3 and coming back through ranks and being rematched. So you’d be enjoying your lower rank of gameplay, and here comes somebody who’s obviously meant to be at level 25. He’s going to be there in a minute, but meanwhile he’s going to pound on you. We’ve got some ideas on how to smooth that kind of thing out and prevent a lot of that kind of behavior.

The matchmaking algorithm, as well as perhaps other means, will be implemented to prevent experienced players from repeatedly plowing through the lower ranks every time they create a new account.

This smurf is unhappy about the changes.

The second Q&A, with Dustin Browder, focuses mainly on single player and campaign gameplay issues, and is also availible in full at StarCraft-Source.

  • Missions will not “evolve” or change if you don’t complete them right away.
  • There are two incentives to doing well in missions rather than just finishing them: Achievements, which are for bragging rights only and have no impact on the game, and secondary objectives, which provide research artifacts that unlock more upgrades.
  • There are only few and very specific points in the campaign where the player’s decision affects the plot and events, but all paths eventually converge to one ending. Blizzard wants to maintain one continuity line that’s congruent with the books and comics of the StarCraft universe as well as the beginning of the next game in the series.
  • A Protoss mini-game will be a part of the campaign, providing the opportunity to play as Protoss for a bit.
  • Heros will mostly show up on more specialized maps so they don’t get lost in the confusion when large armies clash. While heroes cannot use items in the campaign, this option will  be easily available to modders through the game editor.

n

5) Does it matter if you succeed “very well” at a mission or just “OK”?

n

Well, it does in some ways. We do have these achievements that you can show off to your friends which is one measure of success. The second is whether you completed all the secondary objectives as they relate to research. If you complete those objectives, that will add additional firepower to your forces. Again, we’re still working on what those bonuses are going to be, but it will give you additional access.

10) How many endings will the game have?

n

There’s one ending. We really wanted to have a game that still had a continuity to it, and this is the important thing, too – that this is not Fallout, you’re not choosing whether Raynor is good or evil. Raynor is who he is, a conflicted man, a troubled man who’s seen too much war; and it will have a very specific ending, and the next game will have a very specific beginning.

A single ending, to segue into the single beginnings of the upcoming expansions. StarCraft is a universe with its key characters and its own lore, and players can not change the fate of neither villains nor heroes, at least as long as StarCraft is an RTS game.

17) If you use a hero, does it have the ability to get and use items?

n

We have the ability to put in items for mod makers, but it’s not something we typically use in the Starcraft environment. They’re not around often enough for you to collect a lot of items; it just didn’t make sense to include that in the gameplay. But we are working on the interface and having the UI available for people who want to make mods because we know that there’s a huge tradition of mods from Warcraft 3 that are dependent on that interface. We’ve got that interface in and we’ll be polishing it up as we get closer to ship so that we have that available for the mod makers.

StarCraft 2’s editor, Scumedit, supports items, despite the fact that this feature will not be incorporated into the the campaign. The support for unit items was made available to capitalize on the massively popular hero-based WarCraft custom scenarios, such as DoTA.

20) How do the units change from single player to multi-player?

n

The actual units are the same. A marine is a marine; a medic is a medic. We do, however, have units in the single player that are not in the multi-player, such as medics, cobras, wraiths, and cannons on top of your bunkers.

Over at ShackNews, an Interview with Chris Sigaty, lead producer, yields this new piece of interesting information:

Chris Sigaty: Challenges are something we’re trying. We always hear people say, “You look at singleplayer as the training ground for multiplayer, right?” And we don’t really.

And in fact here we’re kind of training you all wrong, because you can have any unit depending on what missions you went through, and there are units that aren’t in multiplayer at all, like Firebats, Medics, all sorts of stuff. We kind of created challenges out of this, and our concept behind challenges is to train you at some of the things that are important to a good competitive player, to be at least aware of. They’re little minigames that teach you about things like economy, how to maximize getting resources, unit countering, control grouping, micro, spell usage, all sorts of things like that. Those two things are available when you’re offline.

n

Shack: It almost sounds like a tutorial-plus.

n

Chris Sigaty: Yeah, it’s like a master version of a tutorial. And you can best yourself too. There’s a minimum bar we want you to hit, and you can try to best yourself by playing them again and again. It’s pretty cool stuff–I’m really excited about it, because I think that’s one of the things we haven’t done as well in the past, is really helped out people who aren’t really experience in multiplayer. And when they jump on there for the first time, nobody’s telling them these things, they jump into a game and get their assed handed out, and they just walk out of the experience. We want people to have a place they can go to learn, and eventually get to the point–some of the better players do research, they get replays, they see what the best players do.

A great new idea from Blizzard. Such challenges have appeared in many other genres before, but this is a first for RTS games, and it’s certainly a welcome addition. Coupled with replay capability for single player, this feature will certainly become an integral and fun part of StarCraft 2.

Another Q&A session with Chris Metzen, vice president of creative development, has been published over at SC Legacy. The interviewer challenges Chris with lore questions from the StarCraft 2 books to the disabled mission on the original StarCraft CD. Where Chris fumbles a bit is the question about the possibility of infesting the Protoss:

Q: Can Protoss get infested?

n

A: I’m trying to think if there are specific fictional answers to that, I could have sworn we had a story or two like that in the manga recently. But I’m spacing out… I feel like I wanna take the 5th on that too. It’s a weird one. Off the top of your head you’d think “sure!”

This conforms to Blizzard’s original stance regarding the concept, but directly contradicts a statement from last month:

Based on the lore, the Protoss do not become infested. The combination of the two result in a hybrid race.

Can the Protoss become infested? It is a mystery.

***

The new single player HD video provides short glimpses into the first few missions of the campaign and showcases the various mission types available. Among them are a quest to find Zerg Crysalis DNA, a turtling mission against the Zerg horde, an obligatory civilian escort objective, and a mission to retrieve Protoss relics.

Lastly, a somewhat single-player-unrelated but quite interesting, strictly gameplay/development interview with Chris Sigaty and Dustin Browder delivers a few highlights:

  • Terran buildings can be repaired in mid-air.
  • Emphasis is put on tech paths that do not over-simplify unit countering decisions, i.e. no “one tech path fits all”.
  • Immortal Hardened Shields are now available by default.

n

That’s it for the single player information explosion. With BlizzCon coming up in just a couple of days, it’s safe to assume we’ll get just as much new information about the multiplayer part of the game, if not more…

The entire collection of screenshots which were released during the event is available for download here.

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With BlizzCon, Blizzard’s massive yearly celebration, due in just 11 days, details of the tournaments, competitions and the video streaming solutions available to fans have been coming through all week.

Blizzard’s partners for this event provide several video streams to cater to fans that will not be able to attend, with the full live HD video stream available via DirectTV, just like with last year’s convention. The stream, however, will not be free:

AIR DATES
August 21-22, 2009
PRICE
$39.95
DIRECTV Package Includes:

  • Over 16 hours of crystal clear high definition coverage
  • Live internet streaming footage
  • Exclusive interviews and commentary
  • Main stage presentations including opening ceremony
  • Tournament coverage and team highlights
  • BlizzCon 2009 exclusive World of Warcraft in-game pet, Grunty the Murloc Marine

Fortunately, not all of BlizzCon’s video streams are Pay-Per-View, as tournament play will be streamed live, free of charge, as recently announced by Cydra on Battle.net official StarCraft 2 forums:

We are pleased to announce that this year, for the first time, all of our streaming tournament coverage for BlizzCon will be available in both high-resolution and low-resolution formats, and you can choose whichever fits your available bandwidth. The BlizzCon website (http://www.blizzard.com/blizzcon/tournaments) will host one stream featuring StarCraft and Warcraft III events and another dedicated to World of Warcraft. As in previous years, all of this streaming tournament coverage will be provided free of charge. Be sure to tune in to find out which teams and players are the best in the world by visiting the BlizzCon site on August 21 and 22.

To clarify, the tournament coverage streams are free, but to watch panels, see new announcements as they are made, or receive the in-game pet, you will need to order the Pay Per View Internet stream (http://blizzcon.rayv.com/).

Intel Choose a Champion

Intel, one of the event’s key sponsors, will be holding a giveaway contest for not only the event’s physical attendees, but also via an online “guessing game”, where entrants will be able to win prizes by correctly guessing this year’s champions.

Intel at BlizzCon 2009

We’re excited for BlizzCon 2009 and we hope you are too! If you’re a fan of Blizzard games, this is the place to test out your skills. We’re hosting the Choose a Champion: BlizzCon 2009 contest where fans like you can submit your guess for which contestants you think will win this year’s tournaments for Warcraft III, World of Warcraft Arena Tournament and StarCraft Invitational.

Submit an educated guess (or take a stab in the dark) to select winners for either one or all three BlizzCon tournaments. Those who guess correctly will be entered to win one of three Asus G50Vt Laptops powered by Intel technology – one prize will be given away for each tournament.

How to enter Choose a Champion:


  • Register for the contest and submit your selections for Warcraft III and World of Warcraft Arena Tournament by clicking here
  • Entries for the StarCraft Invitational will be available in early August when Blizzard announces the bracket for this tournament. Check back for more info!
  • One entry per person

People on the floor will be presented with even more opportunities, as Intel will be giving out hundreds of prizes to this year’s attendees, including its latest generation of Core i7 processors.

Game On at BlizzCon 2009:

Fans lucky enough to be at BlizzCon this year will have even more chances to win. We’ll be giving away hundreds of prizes, including five Core i7 processors daily, for the Intel Game On: Wear it to Win contest. To participate, BlizzCon attendees can visit the Intel booth during regular BlizzCon 2009 show hours to receive a button. If Intel’s Prize Patrol spots you wearing or displaying the button during the show, you will be given a game card that can be redeemed at the Intel booth for a prize.

For the inside scoop on where our Prize Patrol will be at throughout the show, follow us on Twitter.

Let the BlizzCon 2009 countdown begin… We’ll see you there!

Blizzard has also made some unique merchandise available for those who have purchased a BlizzCon ticket, so if you’ve got one, pay a visit to Blizzard’s official store. Since the stores in the event (in accordance with other Blizzard’s public offerings… ) are notorious for their long waiting lines, this is a chance to avoid wasting time and pick up some goodies. Here’s a sneak peak, and be sure to visit BlizzPlanet for screenshots of the entire selection of unique products.

BlizzCon Store Page 1

In other, completely unsurprising news: in an official Activision Blizzard press release, titled

Activision Blizzard Announces Better-Than-Expected Second Quarter CY 2009 Financial Results, Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, has finally confirmed that StarCraft 2 will not be released in 2009.

As we prepare for next year, we have moved the expected release dates for two games, Activision Publishing’s Singularity and Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft® II, into 2010. However, we are increasing our calendar year earnings-per-share GAAP outlook and reaffirming our calendar year earnings-per-share non-GAAP outlook and still expect to deliver record non-GAAP operating margins. Although there is a great deal of economic uncertainty in the global marketplace, we remain focused on the opportunities afforded by our industry and will continue exploring potential new markets and business models that should enable us to continue expanding our operating margins,

Company outlook summary, however, adds the following clarification:

Blizzard Entertainment has moved the anticipated release date of StarCraft II to the first half of 2010 to coincide with the relaunch of its upgraded Battle.net® online -gaming service.

To those following StarCraft 2’s long and complex evolutionary path, this comes as no surprise. The social, E-sports and care-bear features planned to be implemented in next-gen Battle.net are extensive, and together with the actual StarCraft 2 balancing, testing and debugging left for the upcoming beta, the improbability of achieving Gold status within the five months left for 2009 is clear.

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