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Official Update From Blizzard, 29 June 2010:

Note that every other prediction from this rumor about the Korean Air-Blizzard event was dead-wrong.

If you’re wondering what the facts are — we will be addressing StarCraft II tournament functionality in a post launch patch to the game, soon after ship. This patch will include features to address the needs of location-based pro tournaments, but we have not discussed any specifics about tournament support beyond that.

Original post:

Even with the StarCraft 2 Beta down until further notice, the eSports arena is heating up. Rumors and teasers mentioning of a massive event scheduled to take place on June 24 have been released, and it appears that the event is not only meant to generate hype.
Big thanks goes to the TL and SCL communities for posting translations of the original material, which was released via PlayXP and sc2.178.com.

The event will take place in South Korea on June 24

June 24 11:00~14:00
Gimpo Airport Korean Air Hangar

This event will run from June 24, from 11:00am until 2:00pm at the Korean Air Hangar, with the attendance of Blizzard HQ executives, national VIPs of the industry, reporters, and community members.

It was asked if the general public could participate, but unfortunately the event is planned to be invitation-only.

It is expected that all the details of StarCraft II’s release will be made public here.

Following Blizzard’s lockdown of the StarCraft franchise, many were expecting a major announcement to come out of Korea regarding the future of major league StarCraft competition, one that is approved by Blizzard. The event is planned to have Blizzard executives in attendance, so this just might be what fans and progamers worldwide have been waiting for.

1. There will be an upcoming “Ongame Net Starcraft 2 League,” or OSL2.
2. The sponsor of the first one will be Korean Air.
3. The first OS2L will have preliminaries all over the world and then the players will be gathered in Seoul for the Ro16.
4. There will be a “Starcraft 2 Professional Edition” that will only be provided to tournament organizers, which will include LAN functionality. Only with a special account + password that gets activated will it work. Blizzard staff will be present at tournaments to assist. Apparently, this news was first told to the organizers of the Stars War tournament after it had ended.

While the actual GomTV/OSL arrangement is not clear or fully confirmed yet, it is reasonable to assume that GomTV has found a way to work with one of the scene’s largest and most established operators. However, the most interesting part of this story is the StarCraft 2 Professional Edition, which is said to include LAN functionality.

LAN support, or the the lack of it, has been a major issue throughout StarCraft 2’s development. The gaming community did not approve of Blizzard’s decision to not support gameplay over local networks, and many fans have vowed to abstain from StarCraft 2 as long as it does not support this type of connection. It will be interesting to see if Blizzard actually does launch this “StarCraft 2 Professional Edition” and if the requirements for acquiring it will be made standard and public.

Update: Note that every other prediction from this rumor about the Korean Air-Blizzard event was dead-wrong.

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In this update, we willl cover the StarCraft 2 news bits and updates from the last 2 weeks, during which a few small pieces of information popped up around the world.  The most important announcement comes to us from Russia’s massive gaming convention, IgroMir (GameWorld in English).

For this event, Blizzard has effectively produced a Blizzcon parallel in Russia. StarCraft 2 was playable for two whole days and fans got a chance to talk with Blizzard’s representatives, who were also present. No new information was revealed, but Chris Sigaty, StarCraft 2’s Lead Producer, has unequivocally confirmed that the StarCraft 2 beta will be released in 2010, and not during November of this year as previously promised.

IgroMir Screen

To the same effect, Blizzard’s President, Mike Morhaim, gave a talk to BlizzaVision’s investors, stating that the game is set to be released towards the end of the second quarter of 2010. This is in line with the statements regarding the length of the beta – 4-6 months – and lends more credit to Sigaty’s statement. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the dates won’t be pushed back yet again, even though Morhaime said that the bulk of the work on the game has been completed, with the project still progressing according to the established timeline.

Last Saturday’s Blizzcast dealt with a few open issues from August’s event, and, most importantly (or relevantly) for the StarCraft 2 audience, produced two new screenshots:

BlizzCast 11 StarCraft 2 Kerrigan Screenshot
BlizzCast 11 StarCraft 2 Screenshot

Blizzard has reinstalled the Vespene Laughs competition, allowing artists to submit StarCraft-themed comics and win some much coveted beta keys. The competition was likely scheduled to end close to the original planned date of the beta, but is now being extended in conjunction with the recent delays.

Comic!

Lastly, Cydra has been kind enough to answer a series of Sensor Tower related questions on the official StarCraft 2 General Discussion Forum.

1. Is the proper name Radar Tower or Sensor Tower?

Sensor Tower

2. What model is being used: Radar Tower, Sensor Tower, or a completely new one?

Sensor Tower has a passive Radar ability which expose enemy movements within its radar capacity.

3. What are the stats? (mineral cost, gas cost, build time, HP, armor)

It costs 125 mineral and 100 geyser gas and it takes 25 build time. Sensor Tower has 200 hp and 0 default armor. You can upgrade the armor of buildings by 2 at Engineering Bay.

5. Do cloaked and burrowed units appear as blips within the radar’s range?

No. Cloaked and burrowed units don’t appear.

7. Does the Tower have any other special abilities besides its radar function?

No.

8. Is the Tower salvageable?

Yes. you can salvage it for 100% fund.

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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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