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Today’s post contains a few leftover bits of StarCraft 2 from the BlizzCon event. While not entirely new, these offer a good chance to catch up and perhaps find some information previously missed.

The 2v2 StarCraft 2 exhibition matches were prime example of the fast-paced, unforgiving RTS action that gamers are bound to experience when StarCraft 2 is released. The three videos, totaling just under 30 minutes, contain two full 2v2 matches, from the very beginning to the inevitable GGs. While the videos were available on YouTube during the event, Blizzard have only recently uploaded them to their official exhibition match page. Unfortunately, the quality stayed the same – we won’t be seeing these in HD.

Key quote of the match: “Nerf David Kim“.

Blizzard has also recently sanctioned the release of a five part interview with Dustin Browder, Lead Designer of StarCraft 2. The interview covers little, if any, unknown ground now that BlizzCon is behind us, as it mostly deals with issues which were revealed and analyzed during or immediately after the convention.

Here’s the first video of the 5:


In case you have no intentions of going through this hour-long 5 video interview, check out the following exhaustive summary, courtesy of TeamLiquid:

  • For BlizzCon 2007’s story-mode build, most players would just click through Raynor’s dialog lines, ignoring them. Blizzard wanted the player to choose how they want to play the game based on the missions they chose, not based on something they said in a bar, because that doesn’t feel appropriate for a game about commanding armies and smashing empires. Choices that gave more meaning were; “Where do I send my army next?” and “How do I upgrade my technology?” The choices you were given when speaking to other characters looked like they were important and meaningful, though they really weren’t, that’s why Blizzard removed it from the game. Some people would probably have enjoyed this part of the game, but that’s not most people. Blizzard cut content because they want to keep the best stuff, and overall this makes it a better game.
  • Blizzard does have interest in exporting replays to a video format, but will probably not get around to it soon due to time constraints. Dustin Browder claims “We’re hugely interested in supporting e-sports and this is one of those things we want to do. I don’t know what the status on this is, but we will have patches after ship and expansions yet to come.”
  • The map editor will be released on beta, but not on day 1. Probably somewhere mid beta. Blizzard wants to beta test the editor itself first and see how it interacts with Battle.net. Also Blizzard wants to let modders try it, so when release comes we will see some cool mods pretty early.
  • Some RPG-style quests in StarCraft II take hours to create, others could take weeks or months, depending on how difficult it was to put together. Blizzard wants some of the quests to have multiple solutions. They did not want an RPG system that implies that there will be hundreds of quests. They want it to be more about the starmap and tech purchase.
  • StarCraft II has a lot of unit models that are no longer in the multiplayer, and some who were made specifically for single player. Dustin didn’t have a number, but claimed we will probably have to wait until the expansions to reach the same amount of models that were in WarCraft III.
  • The BlizzCon demo takes place at the middle of the beginning part of the campaign, there are three missions previous to the mission branch playable at BlizzCon. The Zerg are making their move into Terran space, but Jim Raynor at the time is leader of a relatively small and helpless faction.
  • Blizzard has put equal emphasis on the importance of single-player and multiplayer. Many fans of the series that are still active in the community are focused mostly on multiplayer, but much of StarCraft’s popularity is based on its campaign modes.
  • Dustin’s biggest hope for the game is racial balance and living up to StarCraft’s expectations and legacy.
  • The campaign has a full tutorial system, with videos and interactive missions. Skirmish mode also includes starting tutorials for the non campaign races. The campaign also includes multiplayer oriented challenge modes that help practice skills and tactics used for multi-player battles.
  • Internally, Blizzard feels the Zerg are vastly underpowered, namely in tier 2. Beta will be the period where they direct the game’s balance.
  • Racial identities and playstyles are being treated as self-emerging through development. Terrans have developed into a much more mobile race, but this is not the final decision for their overall playstyle feel.
  • Unit upgrades and unique ability upgrades are not segregated in order to make the building choices more varied and interesting.
  • Macro mechanics are still being reworked, overall they are happy with spawn larvae and MULE calldown, while Proton Charge is still being looked at for big changes.
  • Dustin feels that Zerg and Terran are close to equal difficulty, with Protoss being the easiest to use.
  • The Raven is close to how they want it designed, with some changes possibly needed for the point-defense turret to make its role more clearly understood.
  • Infestor’s spells are currently being re-worked.
  • Burrowed Banelings contain Terrans until they acquire mobile detection (Ravens).
  • Some Protoss missions are playable in WoL for storytelling purposes.
  • The campaign currently has approximately 15 tilesets.
  • Multiple tilesets can be used in single maps.
  • The basic idea for the Protoss campaign is the ultimate shattering and re-unification of the Protoss factions. The basic gameplay idea is to utilize the strengths and weaknesses of different Protoss factions to create your own new Protoss unification.
  • The Protoss campaign will be more focused on the Star Map and planet exploration than the Terran campaign.
  • The DLC plan includes additional challenges more geared to the evolution on the current meta game. Other DLC plans are still not decided.
  • Map editor features not necessary for StarCraft II (such as an inventory and hero system for DOTA clones) are included.
  • Models and graphics from the campaign can be used in custom maps, animations can not.
  • The Zerg have more “iconic” units that they feel could not be removed (Zergling, Hydralisk, Mutalisk), so it is more difficult to make the Zerg fresh and interesting.
  • The campaign will feature a lot of super high powered unit upgrades and abilities that won’t be in multiplayer.

That’s the last of it for this year’s BlizzCon. To celebrate the final ending of the event, here’s a video of a real StarCraft party!

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.

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.

It’s been a busy day for the good people at Blizzard Entertainment. The BlizzCon ticket sale schedule has been announced, an official StarCraft 2 Beta FAQ has been posted to StarCraft2.com, and a comprehensive Q&A interview with Chris Sigaty, Lead Producer of StarCraft 2, has been disseminated to fansites – including our own.

BlizzCon  2009 is Coming

The first batch of tickets to the “‘Celebration of All Things Blizzard” convention, BlizzCon 2009, will become available on May 16 – nine days from today, with the second batch of BlizzCon tickets becoming available on 30th of May.

Due to BlizzCon’s popularity and the small window of time of ticket availability, Blizzard has struggled with site load and purchase volume issues in recent years. This year, a brand new Queuing system has been introduced, taking advantage of the recently implemented Battle.net account system in order to make sure fans won’t run into problems purchasing the $125 BlizzCon 2009 tickets.

Here are a few important Q&As from the Queue FAQ:

Why did you introduce this queue system?


The queue allows controlled groups of Blizzard Store visitors to finalize their purchases, helping ensure that the purchasing experience for everyone goes smoothly when high-demand items go on sale in the Blizzard Store.


If I am in the queue, am I guaranteed to be able to purchase all of the items in my cart?


No. Being in the queue does not guarantee you will have an opportunity to purchase an item, as it’s possible that the remaining stock will run out before you reach the front of the queue. While in the queue, you will receive regular updates about the remaining stock of items you wish to purchase, along with an estimate of the time remaining before you reach the front of the queue.

And most importantly, what happens when you get to the front of the queue:

What happens when I reach the front of the queue?



When you have reached the front of the queue, a message will be displayed prominently to alert you, along with a link to proceed to checkout and finalize your purchase. If you do not click the link immediately, you will be taken to checkout automatically after a few moments.



How long do I have to finalize my purchase?


Once you reach the front of the queue, you will have 15 minutes to finalize your purchase. To help speed up the process, we recommend you have a valid Battle.net account (create one now!) with up-to-date payment information ready to go, as this will be required to make a purchase from the Blizzard Store.

So be sure to have your Battle.net account set up correctly and verify that it contains up-to-date payment information so you won’t run into trouble once you’ve reached the front of the queue.

In Soviet Russia, ...

StarCraft2.com has been updated with a highly detailed FAQ covering the different aspects of participation eligibility and clarifications concerning beta requirements, availability and sign-up instructions. The FAQ is available here, and you can download the FAQ in PDF format here. The most important new item on that list is the system profiling application, that scans your PC‘s specification and reports it to Blizzard.

What is a beta profile?


A beta profile is a snapshot of your current system specifications. It includes such information as how much RAM you have, available hard drive space, your graphics card and driver, and other information about your system. We gather this information to ensure that we are able to test our games on a wide range and distribution of systems.


Why do I have to download an application to create a beta profile?


Our beta opt-in application allows us to gather information about potential beta testers’ systems quickly and accurately, helping us ensure that the resulting pool of beta testers we select most closely represents the range and distribution of systems we wish to test.


How does the beta opt-in application work?


Running the beta opt-in application quickly and automatically generates a profile based on your system specifications. It then displays this information and asks if you wish to submit the specifications to create a beta profile for the Battle.net account you used to download the application.


Does the application also profile the software I have installed on my system?


No, the opt-in application simply scans the major hardware components of your system, along with your graphics card driver. Other system information, such as the contents of your hard drive, is not scanned.

Considering the fact that StarCraft is 11 years old and WarCraft 3 was released 7 years ago, Blizzard’s RTS fans may still be using 10 year old systems which have no chance of running even StarCraft 2’s single player campaign – precluding some of them from being able to test StarCraft 2 at all.

Lastly, we’ve received a Q&A Interview by Chris Sigaty, focusing exclusively on the StarCraft 2 Beta. The interview clarifies several key issues which have been mentioned in the official Beta FAQ, and explains the regional release plan.

Questions answered by Chris Sigaty, StarCraft II lead producer

Q. StarCraft II opt-ins are now available through Battle.net. Does the opt-in process mean that the start of the StarCraft II beta is imminent?


A. We’re getting closer and closer to the start of our closed beta with each week that passes. Several months ago, we expanded our internal testing of the game to the entire company, and we’ve made significant progress since then. We’re looking forward to inviting external testers into the process soon, which is why we’re starting sign-ups now.

Q. What aspects of the game will be available for testing in this beta?


A. As with previous betas for our real-time strategy games, the StarCraft II beta test will be multiplayer only, and players will have access to all three races — terrans, protoss, and zerg — and all of their units. We’ll include a selection of multiplayer maps, but they won’t necessarily include all of the maps that will be in the final version of the game. We’re making some great progress on the single-player campaign, but we don’t plan to do a public beta since we want to keep the story under wraps until the game’s out.

Q. Will we be able to try the new Battle.net during this beta?

A. You’ll be connecting to and playing on the new Battle.net in the StarCraft II beta, and you’ll definitely have a chance to play around with a few of the new features — but what you’ll see in the beta is really only a taste of what’s to come.



There is no mention of two important components of StarCraft 2:

  • SCumEdit, the much anticipated and powerful map editor
  • The enhanced replay viewer

StarCraft 2 Replay Viewer Includes Detailed Ingame Data

Both these features are of key importance to the community. Replays and custom maps are the fans’ bread and butter, and their absence is bound to disappoint many should Blizzard decide not to make them available during the beta.

Q. What updates and changes have you made to the game recently?

A. We’re constantly tweaking the gameplay and balance, and we will be all throughout the beta process, but perhaps the most visible changes have been made to the zerg. Our art team has done a polishing and iteration pass on many of the zerg unit models and structures, so players can look forward to seeing a lot more detail there. Compared to the versions you’ve seen before, the zerg units and bases now look a lot slimier and more sinister.
We’re also really looking forward to seeing testers try out the new gameplay mechanics we’ve introduced to each race, like the proton charge for the protoss and the MULE for the terrans that allow them to harvest minerals faster. The zerg also have a spawn larvae ability that gives them a new way to expand their production. We’re hoping these abilities increase the strategic tension for players and force some tough tactical decisions when managing economies and micromanaging battles.

Updated Spawning PoolUpdated Queen

Q. Which regions can join the StarCraft II beta test?

A. Our plan is to include multiple regions and countries in the StarCraft II beta-testing process. We’ll be starting with a North American beta, where testers from the United States and Canada, as well as Australia and New Zealand will be able to join. We’ll then phase in testers in other regions such as Korea, Taiwan, and Europe as soon as we’re able to set up in those areas.

It is not entirely clear whether BlizzCon 2008 attendees that have acquired a StarCraft 2 Beta key but are not living in the aforementioned regions will have access to the beta.

Q. Why aren’t you running StarCraft II beta simultaneously in all regions?

A. It’s more efficient from a development standpoint to phase in each region one at a time. A big part of the beta test involves setting up new hardware and networking infrastructure, which is not a trivial process. If we set up one region at a time, we can more quickly address any issues we run into at the start, and take the lessons we learn from that experience to establish a smoother setup experience for the next region.
We can also implement all sorts of gameplay and balance changes, view the results, and react to what we’ve observed much more quickly in a single test environment, as opposed to getting bogged down trying to push those changes out across several test environments. Once the major issues are ironed out, we can expand the testing to additional regions. Going region by region will also put us in a better position to test localized versions of the beta.

Q. Will testers be allowed to write about the beta? Take screenshots and videos?


A. Yes! Beta testers will be free to write about their experiences playing the beta as well as take screenshots or videos. We’re really looking forward to getting the game into players’ hands so we can hear their feedback, since that will help propel us into the final stages of development and balancing. We’ve been working hard on StarCraft II, and we can’t wait to finally be able to hear what everyone has to say about it.

This is an important aspect of the beta, as it allows fans who won’t get to participate in it a chance to enjoy the beta process, during which the game will be explored intensively and changes will constantly be made.

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