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Some things are bound to happen. Considering the cataclysmic events that have recently hit the Korean StarCraft scene, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Blizzard has officially decided to cease their negotiations and relations with KeSPA – the Korean eSports Players Association.

Taking things public, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime discussed the issues with Yonhap News during their visit to Blizzard’s HQ, and a kind soul over at the TL forums translated a significant portion of the articles for the community. It all boils down to the following statements – and coming from Blizzard’s #1, it likely means that this is the company’s final stance on the issue.

“We’ve been negotiating with the association about intellectual property rights for the last three years, and we’ve made no progress at all”


“….We’re going to stop negotiating with them and look for a new partner”

“…Blizzard obviously has the IP rights to the Starcraft series, but those rights aren’t being respected, and we can’t keep having these fruitless negotiations with the release of Starcraft II at hand”

Over the course of StarCraft 2’s development, a big portion of which happened in the public eye since its unveiling during the World Wide Invitational in May 2007, Blizzard has made multiple statements about its eSports ambitions. Notice how this time span overlaps exactly with the three-year negotiation period Mike Morhaime mentioned above.

1) In early 2008, Blizzard RTS Community Managers released a Q&A that included an answer specifically stating the sort of role Blizzard’s eSports team is gearing up to play in their upcoming flagship RTS title:

the planning and operation of Blizzard tournaments around the world in places such as Asia, Europe and the United States. They also provide third-party support for the eSports leagues that host both online and live events using Blizzard titles.

Additionally, they help provide balance feedback to our development teams based on interaction with professional gamers and response from the eSports community. They will have an integral role in promoting StarCraft II as an eSports as they have done for the previous Blizzard titles.

To sum it up, Blizzard’s eSport’s team expects to handle the following aspects of competitive StarCraft 2 gaming:

  • The planning and operation of StarCraft 2 tournaments around the globe.
  • Support for league managing – both online and live competitive events.
  • The active promotion of StarCraft 2 as an eSport.

2) While the first statement hadn’t mentioned Korea, during BlizzCon 2008, Blizzard representatives specifically expressed their commitment to the highly-developed Korean StarCraft gaming scene.

We know about the popularity in Korea. Because Koreans love competitive gaming we’re trying to make this an e-Sport game. Just revealing the game in Seoul should tell you how much we love the Korean market.


…the e-Sports department is doing all that they can to create the best multiplayer experience. This can change depending on the players’ opinions, however. On a side note we’re preparing a WC3 tournament and are expecting to host similar leagues for SC2.

A Massive Televised StarCraft Event

3) Early 2009, in Q&A #50, the Chat with the Devs section emphasizes StarCraft 2’s inherent eSports oriented design and replay features:

StarCraft II from its conception has been designed to be an eSport and one of the backbone features to helping players learn more about their own gameplay as well as their opponents is through replays. In our chat with Dustin this week, he highlighted various features that will be available to players while viewing replays. These features are designed both to help players improve in StarCraft II as well as serve as a platform of statistics for eSports commentary.

4) April 2009, Blizzard re-iterates the unchanged goals of the eSports team:

The role of our eSports Team is to operate tournaments and competitive events for Blizzard games.  We will release more information on our plans for StarCraft II tournaments, both official and third-party, as we get closer to the launch of the game.

5) July 2009, Dustin Browder talks about Blizzard’s intentions to push for the mainstream adoption of eSports and their plans to promote public broadcasts – televised StarCraft 2 matches.


6) Towards the end of 2009, the message grows even clearer, as Bob Colayco, Blizzard’s PR Manager for StarCraft 2, provides the following answer during an interview:

You know, we have an E-Sports team for a reason and I think you’re going to see some 3rd party stuff as well, but we definitely like to get hands on with our own things. If you look at what we’ve done with WoW Arena, we do have the tournament realms and we do regional finals that we run and we sponsor.

By this time, just a few months before the beta, Mr. Colayco is almost certainly aware of the situation with KeSPA, the failing negotiations and the inevitability of the clash that is due to occur when the StarCraft 2 beta goes live and public in Korea.

The aforementioned six public statements are, undoubtedly, just the the tip of the iceberg; a drop in a pool of statements and actions Blizzard took to make sure the message is clear: Blizzard made StarCraft 2. The future of StarCraft 2 belongs to Blizzard.

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If you

A) Don’t have a StarCraft 2 Beta key
B) Want a StarCraft 2 Beta key

… and you’re witty and/or creative enough to think of a cool T-shirt concept, getting a StarCraft 2 Beta key is just one comment away!

Noob Shirt - Close But No Cigar

Over the next 72 hours, we’ll be giving out 20 StarCraft 2 Beta keys to readers with the sickest, wittiest, most creative StarCraft-related T-shirt ideas. Yes, it’s that simple.

Instructions:

1) Write or sketch out a T-shirt idea.
2) Post the text or link to the picture in the comments or post on our Facebook page, along with your email address.

On Friday, April 30th, we’ll exchange a key for your idea if you’re in the top 20!

P.S W8VY64-8XVH-HNXD6Z-HFY6-T2NZRW
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On April 19th, SC2Blog representatives visited Blizzard’s Headquarters for an exclusive press event focusing on the StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty single player campaign, exhibiting new single player missions, new campaign features, and fully clarifying key single player mechanics: mercenaries, research and challenges.

Mission Progress and Campaign Management

Players will manage their mission progress, research for upgrades, interact with NPCs and hire special in-game units from four different locations in Jim Raynor’s massive Battlecruiser, the Hyperion. Navigation is done by simply selecting the desired destination on the Hyperion navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.

A visit to the Hyperion Cantina

Armory – BridgeCantinaLaboratory

These areas have actually been revealed after the press event in July, 2009 – an interesting complimentary read to the current post, which is the result of hands-on experience with the most recent version of Wings of Liberty.

The Bridge

This is where you choose your campaign missions. Key characters will appear on the Hyperion bridge during the campaign, allowing Raynor to interact with them.

Players can also access all of the previously completed missions and unlocked cinematics here. It is possible to go back and replay a mission once you have unlocked more units and upgrades, and it is sometimes the only way to get to some previously inaccessible areas and unlock some extra rewards and achievements.

The Armory

Here players can inspect, in great detail, various units that can be deployed to the battlefield, as well as access the unit upgrade console which allows purchasing upgrades for each unit in the game.  Unit screens include cool bits of information and awesome, highly detailed models of the units. You’ll  find quotes by “Franko Tildon, widely credited as the first fighting firebat, reformed mass murderer” along with other profiles for the people behind the units we know and love.

The Firebat Armory Screen - StarCraft 1 Nostalgia

Unlike in multiplayer StarCraft matches, during the campaign, players do not research things like Stim Packs or Neosteel Plating in each mission. These are instead purchased while staying on the Hyperion with the credits you earn by completing missions.

Once you buy an upgrade, your units will have it for the rest of the game; no research required in-battle. Every unit in the game has two such upgrades: for example, Firebats gain +40% splash damage area for the first upgrade and +2 armor for the second one. The second upgrade is usually more expensive and powerful than the first.

The Cantina

There are many interactive objects spread across the room, like a television that plays news reports based on Raynor’s recent activities. A retro arcade machine featuring The Lost Vikings is on the scene as well – a classic Blizzard puzzle/platform game. The game was not functional during the press event, but the development team was pretty excited that they were able to integrate this classic into StarCraft 2, meaning it will likely be available when the game ships.

UNN TV transmission from the Cantina

The fellow Cantina patrons will speak shortly when you click on them (but offer no real conversation options), but the Cantina is mainly the place to go when you wish to speak to the mercenary vendor. Once you unlock certain units in the campaign, these will be available through the mercenary, who you’ll pay with your credits.

The Laboratory

In the lab, players can research special upgrades that enhance existing units and buildings, as well as introduce completely new units to the campaign. There are two distinct tech trees: one for Protoss technology and one for Zerg technology. During missions, depending on which race you are facing, research points can be gained that can later be spent in the lab. Sometimes, this is as simple as thoroughly searching the map for pickups, and at other times specific enemies must be killed.

When starting a mission, players are informed about the total amount of research points that can be gathered, and you can go back and replay the scenario in case you missed some.

Zerg And Protoss Tech Trees in the Laboratory

Check out the researchable abilities and their costs in the game (big thanks goes to SCLegacy for creating this table):

Protoss Research Points
Tech Reactor

Your Tech Labs also work as Reactors

25 Orbital Strike

Units from Barracks are deployed through Drop Pod

Raven 20 Science Vessel
Automated Refinery

Refineries do not need SCVs to operate

15 Reactor Command Center

Your Command Center can train two SCVs at once

Orbital Depots

Supply Depots build instantly

10 Micro Filtering

Increase gas harvesting by 25%

Ultra Capacitors

Weapon upgrades at the Armory and Engineering Bay increase weapon speed by 5%

5 Vanadium Plating

Armor upgrades at the Armory and Engineering Bay increase health by 5%

Zerg Research Points
Hive Mind Emulator

Create a building that can Mind Control any Zerg Unit

25 Psi Disruptor

Decrease the movement speed of all Zerg units

Cellular Reactor

Increase starting energy of all units by 100. Increase maximum energy of all units by 100.

20 Regenerative Bio-Steel

Damaged ships and vehicles recover hit points over time.

Predator

Unlock an anti infantry unit

15 Hercules

Unlock a massive transport with instant deployment of all units.

Planetary Fortress 10 Perdition Turrets

Unlock flame turrets that hide underground when not in use.

Strike Turret

All bunkers are equipped with a Strike Turret. (Similar to an auto turret on a bunker)

5 Fortified Bunker

Bunkers gain 150 Health

Early Merc Compound Model

Merc Compound

Originally called “Merc Haven”, the Merc Compound was a Terran building that Blizzard created to be a part of the StarCraft 2 multiplayer game, producing Terran Reapers and Marine upgrades. In 2008, it was removed, and during the press event in August 2009, its current function was established.

The Merc Compound is similar to WarCraft 3’s Mercenary Camps, where special units can be recruited based on a unit production cooldown. The units are available during gameplay, however, unlocking the units for production is done by visiting the Hyperion Cantina in between missions.

Campaign Missions

During the visit, we got the chance to play a few missions and were also given a video with gameplay footage of two brand new missions, focusing on Raynor’s quest for Terrazine, an important gas resource found only on sacred Protoss ground. StarCraft Scientist has created a version of the video with descriptions and explanations of the gameplay, so make sure to check it out:

Each mission in StarCraft 2 has a unique feature, gameplay mechanic or goal that sets it apart from the rest. This is something that old RTS games did very badly – rehashing the same scenario over and over – and that newer ones have attempted to correct in recent years. As expected, Blizzard is trying to perfect the RTS campaign design with the lessons learned, and the results show.

Many Terran Units Not Availalbe in StarCraft 2 Multiplayer

Like StarCraft 1, the missions are sometimes interrupted with transmissions from units on the ground or NPCs who broadcast messages to you, the player. Unlike StarCraft 1, where the majority of information and commutation occurred in the pre-game briefing, StarCraft 2 transmissions are often interspersed with the game, greatly enhancing the immersive experience, keeping the player focused on the objective, and setting the mood for the mission. A portrait is shown on the side of the battlefield screen with the relevant unit or character until the transmission ends.

Terrans Reach Their Goal

As previously described, the mission progression/selection screen has also been enhanced greatly, and is now a part of the story itself. You enter missions by clicking planets from the galaxy map, where available mission-planets are clearly shown. When you click on a planet, a relevant NPC explains what he wants to hire you for, and you can view the research point opportunities and credit reward before deciding whether or not to commit to it. Some missions, however, are mysterious. Questions marks cover the details, and there’s no telling what reward the mission might yield!

Once the player chooses a mission, the game returns to the bridge in a special zoomed in view where the computer terminal is seen. It displays videos, overviews of the mission, and dialogue between Raynor and NPCs prior to launching the actual mission. Overall, all these sequences are highly engaging and work very well for setting the tone for the following mission.

We were also given a chance to see a part of the Protoss “mini-campaign”, centered around Zeratul and his few Protoss allies. You get to relive the memories of Zeratul as he goes to a planet with archives of Xel’Naga-related information. There, he meets Kerrigan, and hears a disconcerting message about the future…

Zeratul must then fight his way through a map full of narrow canyons that is infested with Zerg. The StarCraft 2 Zeratul is very powerful, dealing 100 damage per psi-slice. Zeratul also possesses Blink – a short teleport ability –  along with “Suppression”, an ability that stuns units and is used by Zeratul to sneak pass the Overseers which can detect him and Brood Lords which are out of his reach. Later, a few Stalkers join Zeratul as he continues his quest, complicating matters and keeping the gameplay intense. It’s clear that the designers put a lot of thought into starting out simple while constantly adding more obstacles and variables for the players to watch out for, never letting the mission go stale!

Zeratul, Kicking Ass and Writing Down Numbers

The unit attributes, or “balance” in the single player game is very different from that of the multiplayer game. Units have different stats, abilities, and upgrades. With quite a few units that are not present at all in the multiplayer game, the single player gameplay is going to be quite different from what StarCraft 2 beta players are now used to.

Challenge Mode:

Blizzard is aware of the cold-water-dip sort of shock that players go through when they decide to dabble in multiplayer StarCraft. Most get completely crushed by even the lowest ranked players due to the difference in gameplay mentality.

Challenge modes will hopefully lessen that initial shock by presenting players with scenarios that are challenging  enough to force players into using the game’s more advanced mechanics. Currently, There are a total of nine challenges, which are divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced mission groups. We got to play in two such challenges, one focusing on Protoss caster control and one focusing on multi-front army management. Both challenges were graded Bronze, Silver and Gold according to the amount of enemy kills attained – 75, 150 and 225 kills respectively.

The first challenge was of the intermediate level, and it involved controlling some High Templar and Sentries. This is a very challenging mission as you are positioned on a platform and required to use force fields and hallucinations to keep the enemy from attacking your fragile units while using Psi-Storms to deal AoE damage to masses of incoming enemies. One cool feature is printed messages in red text , saying “9 kills… Terrible Damage” when killing that amount of units. The challenge is not random, so players will eventually learn how to beat it by correctly saving energy and using the units’ abilities with maximum efficiency – an excellent preparation for online battles!

Challenging Single Player Doesn't Prepare You For Multiplayer

Another challenge puts you in command of a large Protoss army of a dozen Stalkers, six Carriers, some Zealots, High Templar, and a group of Phoenixes. You also get three Warp Prisms and six Warp Gates as well as full tech for ground units. Each group of units is positioned to attack one segment of the map with units that are easy to kill. For example, the Phoenixes fight against groups of Mutalisks with one Hydralisk that players are expected to target with the Gaviton Beam. Carriers fight against Marines and Missile Turrets, while Stalkers fight Terran Reapers on cliffs. To succeed, one must maintain control of everything that’s going on. Interestingly, one part of the challenge in this mission is that button clicking is completely disabled! In order to build units, issue orders, or use abilities players must press the correct hotkey on the keyboard. This is a great way to familiarize new players with hotkeys, which are absolutely required in competitive games but are often overlooked by beginners.

Get Ready For An Epic Campaign, Commander.

Overall, the single player component of StarCraft 2 is shaping up to be an epic experience. A lot of effort has gone into making it a unique experience among the somewhat generic gameplay normally found in the RTS genre, and it looks like it won’t be for naught!

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If you

A) Don’t have a StarCraft 2 Beta key
B) Want a StarCraft 2 Beta key

Well then, things just got a lot simpler for you. We will be handing out 24 StarCraft 2 beta keys to anyone posting a real picture of themselves with “SC2Blog.com got me into the StarCraft 2 Beta” boldly hand-written on either shirt, skin or anything large enough to not fit into an oven!

StarCraft 2 Beta Logo

All you have to do is publish that picture on one of the following:

1) An active public forum
2) Our Facebook wall
3) A YouTube video

And then post a link to it, along with an email, in the comments!

Yes, this time it’s that simple. And even simpler, here’s a freebie for ye of high APM!

HY6TY9-RKNY-Z2F2ZY-Y6FW-TH9ERK

Update: This giveaway has come to an end. GL HF in the next ones!

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