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Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2 Game Director, gave a lengthy and interesting interview to TeamLiquid, focusing on key StarCraft 2 issues such as the balance and development process, the patching strategy planned for the game, E-Sports, and, of course, the major goals Blizzard has set for itself with StarCraft 2. We bring you the important highlights.

Dustin begins by describing the early influences which led him to be interested in games, citing Dungeons and Dragons as a main one. He goes on to talk about movies and how they affect both StarCraft’s story and actual game scenarios.

We’ve got a mission in game now that’s largely inspired by 300, which obviously is not a science fiction movie but has those core dramatic moments that we really really enjoy. And that is one of the great things about being a geek and being in this business – it’s something that comes naturally.

D&D

Dustin comments about how different making games for Blizzard is:

After I got here I sort of saw the difference in quality level but also depth of the gameplay and the detailed experience the players have while playing it…and all the fine control that goes into a ‘craft experience as opposed to games made by other studios. And so it was really, really challenging to relearn – I think the hardest part was learning that I HAD to relearn it.

Would you like some WoW in your StarCraft? Dustin Browder is in a unique position, having access to the brains behind today’s most highly regarded games in different genres.

I’m surrounded by a group of guys who are so talented, who ultimately just by osmosis you can pick up so much from. One of our great strengths at this point is that we’ve been able to attract, really, really AAA talent to the studio – guys that really know their stuff. Then we are able to just teach each other as we go. I’m able to have lunch with Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton [game directors for WoW] whenever I want and I tell you, I learn something new everyday from those guys.

A true manifestation of Blizzard osmosis

How ideas are born at Blizzard:

I’ll get an idea and I’ll take it to a designer and we’ll talk about it and say “that’s kind of cool, we’ll see how we feel about it tomorrow”. We go back the next day and say “you know what, I like it but maybe we should change this from protoss to zerg and maybe it should be plus armor instead of % damage lost”. It will slowly get tuned and it goes through me talking with the designers, talking with Rob Pardo, talking with the lore guys, the artists, the balance guys. At that point it’s changed so much that was it really my idea (laughs)?

Truly a dream job. Talking about StarCraft balance and unit design for a living, getting payed well and making immortal gaming history in the process. Not an easy job, though:

The real challenge is making it easy to learn and difficult to master, which makes everybody happy. The casual gamer has learned it easily, the hardcore guy is finding it very difficult to master. And like I’ve said before, and you see this in World of Warcraft all the time – there’s not a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer, there’s a continuum. Casual gamers can and will become hardcore gamers if you let them.

Indeed. The hardcore gamers, then, turn back and influence the game:

The other possibility of course is that we’re wrong, and you guys are correct. And because we haven’t gone to beta yet, maybe we are seeing the wrong thing. Now while you guys don’t have enough time with it, we have a lot of time but we have a very limited player pool.

… we’ve already been in discussion with some of the high ranking players around the world. We talked to people at Blizzcon and I think we sent a professional build overseas so some of the high ranking players could take a look at it and I’ve gotten the feedback from them on that.


I really do feel like using map balance as a method of racial balance is something that the community has quite correctly evolved because we aren’t doing a lot of patches. And so you guys have taken over the balance for us in many ways by doing the map balance which I think is glorious and I think you do a great job. But initially we won’t be doing that because we know we can patch and will be patching frequently.

… some people said that and I didn’t agree with that – but that we were missing the difference between a macro player and a micro player. That we were destroying the sense of style of the player. I could be playing a micro game and you could be playing a macro game with both the same race, and we are still playing a very different game from one another. And when I saw that I was like “Ohh!” I was opening my eyes like “Thanks! THERE IT IS! That’s great! That’s genius! That’s exactly what we need to try to accomplish”.

Few companies in any industry, including software, can openly admit and even take pride in being dependent on:

  • Public beta testing
  • Constant user feedback and community modifications
  • Frequent patching and improvements regardless of expansions

As Dustin put it earlier, the methods of development and implementation are so inherently different from the industry, you have got to relearn the key aspects of development and deployment to be a product director for Blizzard.

Dustin Browder

On the balance front, the Zerg are still lagging behind:

… we’ve certainly found specifically at tier 2, the Zerg lack legitimate ways to really push an advantage. The Mutalisk has been running into a little bit more trouble with stalkers than say it would against dragoons. Where using Blink and Warp In are fundamentally game changing kinds of moments that suddenly change the relationship between these old units.

Zerg forces being slaughtered in the amazing 3rd Battle Report

Zerg forces being slaughtered in the amazing 3rd Battle Report

Moving on, some E-Sports talk from Bob Colayco, Blizzard PR Manager for StarCraft 2:

Bob: 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. And then there’s the grand finals which we have at Blizzcon, so I think you’re going to see a mix of things. I can’t say anything specific.

Blizzard is currently in great position to reap the rewards for creating a perfect E-Sports RTS 10 years ago. However, while user-created game servers are taboo, 3rd party competitions are certainly encouraged:

I think the important message for the community with this one would be, that we love the 3rd party tournaments as well. We love watching those, going to them and seeing them live etc. So we want to do stuff as well, and we want to promote E-Sports overall. We want E-Sports to grow and grow and grow – ideally with our game of course, but even in the wider world of everybody’s games. We think E-Sports is an important component of what video games could become, and we want to take this opportunity with Starcraft 2 to push E-Sports forward.

Blizzard E-Sports

We are trying to make this game complete – like if nobody buys any other product, this game needs to be awesome. Like if Blizzard gets hit by a meteor tomorrow and we all die, at least StarCraft II was awesome – that’s what it needs to be.

Quite a fascinating way to work and live by – if you get hit by a meteor tomorrow, make sure the last thing you did was biblically awesome.

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