Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2’s Lead Designer, has gone on an interview spree, giving three full interviews to representatives of German and Polish fansites along with Joystiq, an international gaming news website. Dustin talks about many aspects of StarCraft 2, providing long and detailed answers to all questions. We bring you the new and most interesting bits of info:
Polish interview extract. First up, a question about the end of the beta:
Q: This will be few days before release date or maybe some more?
It won’t be necessarily just a few days. We do have to take down the servers to prepare for the launch so there will be some time between the launch and when the beta comes down. I don’t know how long it’s gonna be right now. There will be at least couple weeks or maybe more where the beta is down before launch.
If you managed to get addicted to StarCraft 2 already (we sure have), prepare to go cold turkey for a few weeks.
Q: What can we expect in the future patches? We already know that there will be some Facebook integration from today’s announcement. Can you tell me something more about that? Or maybe about map publishing system?
So we’re obviously working on map publishing so that you can publish your map on Battle.net and share it with all your friends. We’re adding two levels of publishing plant. We have sort of a beta test publishing which will share with just you and your friends so that you can test your map and see if it’s any good enough before you publish it live for whole world to see. At that point you will be able to control versioning of your map, decide what version of your map you want people to be playing. We also continue to polish a lot of UI elements that you guys aren’t seeing today. Like we have some very rough version of achievements in the beta right now which we’re gonna keep working on before we go live. We’ve got improved profile functionality, we’ve got lots of little tweaks and fixes across Battle.net to sort of bring it up to speed. Once we go live we have patches planned in the future for things like tournament support, for things like obviously chat channels, lots and lots of little features to happen after we go live as well. We’re sorta viewing Battle.net as sort of a more of a living service in StarCraft II. A little more like we do In World of Warcraft where we’re sort of adding as we go and it’s not just major games that see improvements to Battle.net we also do improvements along the way. I don’t know a lot about Facebook integration functions you probably want Greg Canessa for that stuff but that is something that gonna go live with the product. They are putting it in beta patch so that will just allow you to sort of import your Facebook friends into Battle.net allowing you to quickly populate your friends list with people who are playing StarCraft with you.
Q: How do you assess commitment of players in beta test? Do they provide you enough statistic data?
We’re seeing lots and lots of play on Battle.net right now. The average Battle.net player right now is playing over 20 games a week. Which is really great. Our highest end players up in platinum leagues are playing upwards of 50 games a week. And this is including players who tried it out for two or three games got beaten down decided they didn’t want to play anymore until game went live when they had more time to learn and left. So that means that the players that are active are playing well above 20 games. They are playing lots and lots of games. We’re seeing a lot of information about balance, we’re seeing lots of feedback on the Battle.net service itself. Like all our betas it’s a great learning experience for us. The fans have really sort of jumped in with both feet, played our game is not the most polished experience yet but they played our game and gave us a lot of great feedback to improve final product.
Q: Is there any possibility that units from the single player will be some day in multiplayer mode? Maybe in expansions?
It’s totally possible. It happened in the past, right?. Like Dark Templar was a single player unit in StarCraft and became a multiplayer unit in Broodwar. So anything is certainly possible. I don’t anticipate that at this point but we’ll be certainly looking at that stuff as we’re moving to the Heart of the Swarm and multiplayer elements of that game.
Since Blizzard’s creativity is truly set loose in single player design settings, not hampered by the constraints of balanced play, there’s little doubt that the campaign will feature a few very interesting, unique units. Hopefully, the most popular and useful ones will eventually be made playable in multiplayer in StarCraft 2’s expansions, just like the Dark Templar had been when Brood Wars was made.
German interview extract:
At BlizzCon 2009, we saw that there is also the possibility to make 3rd person view maps with the editor. Will we see anything like this stuff used for the campaign?
No, we don’t have anything of that stuff in the campaign, we leave all that to custom maps. In the campaign we really focused on making a great real-time strategy game and we’re not throwing in 3rd person elements. So, that kind of stuff will be for our mod makers, for our custom maps, but not used in the campaign.
So you won’t redesign StarCraft: Ghost as kind of campaign mission?
Dustin Browder: No
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty single player campaign will be an RTS. Not FPS, not 3PS; no scrollers or tower defense scenarios.
In contrast to the campaign the new Battle.Net is probably a huge disappointment for a lot of the fans. That’s on the one side because of the fact that features we know from the original Battle.Net won’t be included and on the other side, we have to read news, that even the social networking website facebook will in some way be included. So what can you tell fans who say “Just give us chat channels now and leave it with the other stuff”?
Well, we’re working on the chat channels but the reason they are delayed is that we have something, which we think is much better than what we had in the original games. In the original games the chat channels were used by some of our users but they were largely misused just for spam. It was kind of a mess that they weren’t focused on only one particular topic. While we definitely feel the fans sort of enthusiasm to get them back, we don’t want those chat channels back. We feel like those chat channels were not a huge success for us and we can do them much better. So we will be looking into chat channels down the road that are more focused on specific topics, that are better organized around different social structures. We could certainly just jam the old channels back in but we didn’t feel like those were a huge success for us. But we really want this thing back, just much more interesting than before. So we’re definitely working on it and we definitely hear the users’ complains, but we think we can do better down the road.
I hear what you’re saying but as you know there are already a lot of tournaments and other events run through the new Battle.Net and they all need some kind of place to meet without having to know the opponent’s account first. So what about implementing just a kind of chat channel system now, maybe just for private channels and redo the other stuff later?
It’s not gonna happen with the launch, it’s just a production issue and we don’t have the time to do it at this point. We disappointed our fans, that is a huge bummer, right, and that is never a goal we intentionally pursue, but it’s not gonna happen for launch at this point. We simply got too much polish left to do on the rest of the game to also get that in. And we certainly hear that from some of the players but a lot of players are also enjoying Battle.Net quite a bit at this point. So, we surely hear the people’s need for additional features that we don’t have and we definitely keep working on those down the road. We’ve got what we’ve got for launch at this point and it doesn’t include chat channels.
Dustin knows that Battle.net can not exist without chat channels due to the nature of interaction between players, tournament organizers, clans and communities. While channels will not be part of Battle.net 2.0 when StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty goes gold, Blizzard will indeed implement a new chat channel setup afterwards.
Sticking to feedback: You might actually get a lot of feedback from all over the world now, concerning very different issues. Especially the responses on the balance of the game must be contradictory sometimes. So on what are your balance changes based on?
We use the feedback to sort of let us check things out. We have some pretty skilled guys in the office playing, we have some pretty unskilled guys in the office playing, so we can use the feedback to sort of validate, verifying our points in a specific direction. Nevertheless, we also want to see it in replays or in live games that we play, so we don’t just take someone who send us a note and then say “Okay we just gonna fix that because somebody said we should fix it.” We actually go out and check it ourselves playing 50 or 60 games with that race and see what’s going on in that match-up, trying to understand what the feedback tells us. Then we make a decision how to fix it, based on our playing experience.
How many people do actually work on the Battle.Net team?
I don’t know if I know that answer, but there are quite a few guys. It’s well over 50 at this point, but it’s difficult to calculate everything that’s going on, because you’ve got 60+ guys on team one, you’ve got 50+ guys on Battle.Net, you’ve got, I don’t know, maybe 100 guys working on cinematics, right, you’ve got 80 or 90 people in QA working on the game, you’ve got customer support, you’ve got all kind of people around the studio from IT to whoever giving us all kinds of tactical support as we got. At the end of the day, you look at the credits and it’s gonna be hundreds and hundreds of people who worked on this game.
Around 50 people are working on Battle.net…. and 100 people are working on the cinematics. Throughout the last 15 years or so, Blizzard’s cinematics have always stood out in terms of quality, detail, art and atmosphere. StarCraft’s ending sequence is widely considered to be one of the best game endings ever.
Joystiq interview extract:
How will balancing continue with the expansions? I’m assuming the expansions will affect the multiplayer, right?
They have to. I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. Once we get done with this, we’re going to be working pretty hard to figure out what we can and can’t do, but we obviously want to add. We’re sort of doing them as expansion packs. If you got a Brood War expansion pack, what would you expect? Well, you’d expect two to four new units per race and you’d expect maybe some gameplay modes or something and you’d expect a great new campaign. That’s what you’d expect. Right? So, we want to try to hit that quality bar for our fans and try to give them something that’s rational — that is both fun for them, but is also something that’s not 17 units, then 21 units per race, which would be insane. So, I don’t know what the magic bullet is yet, but we’ve got some ideas. We’ll see if they pan out.
Dustin hit the nail right on its head. Blizzard has quite a challenge on its hands – StarCraft 2 multiplayer gameplay is planned to expand twice, and given the fragility of a three-way balance setup, it won’t be easy to come up with creative, fun and worthwhile additions to the game.
Yeah. I know you’re all focused on Wings of Liberty, but have you guys been able to even conceptualize or think about the next title?
A little bit. Not a lot. That’s going to be challenging for us to make that transition. But we’ve done a little bit of thinking about it. I think the biggest challenge for us is we’ve got so much content that we’re so comfortable with here, and the challenge is to really make it feel like a Zerg game. We really want to make sure that, “Hey, I’m sort of playing the villains!” I want to feel that. I want to feel that switch over to the dark side and I want you to feel like, “Dude. This is the bad guy game. Woo! Yeah!” And not feel like it’s just a slimy version of the Terran game.
And what about having a unit that looks just like you in the game?
it’s just fun to see yourself in the game, as well as flattering. It’s just one example of how we have some fun while making the game.
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