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As Blizzcon looms near, Blizzard’s key employees and community managers have been dishing out quite a few interviews and have re-iterated through almost every key aspect of StarCraft 2. Karune, Frank Pearce and others have commented on key issues such as MBS, the new Gas Mechanics, Single player and Account unification issues. However, the build used as the basis for all this coverage is none other than the WWI two-month old version of StarCraft 2.

Out of two dozen Interviews, we have picked the bits of info that shed additional light on what is already known about Blizzard’s RTS flagship.

Gameindustry Interview highlights:

So like Warcraft III, the replay functionality wasn’t something we contemplated from day one, it was an afterthought and wasn’t implemented as well as it could have been – so that’s something that we can do from day one for StarCraft II, which should be pretty cool.

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We want to take the storytelling component in the single-player campaign to the next level, so we’re talking about branching missions, decisions on the gamer’s part in terms of the technology that’s available to them – there’s a lot of buzz on the Internet around social communities, and we’ve got those social communities around our games and we want to leverage that to bring those players closer together on Battle.net.

Blizzard is definitely aiming high with its next-generation unified gaming platform. Blizzard’s new account system, the online store and the Global Achievement system. Coupled with Frank’s “social” vision, these ingredients form a recipe for a unique and unprecedented gaming platform, bringing together gamers from very different genres under one massive roof. It should be noted, however, that the social gaming niche is already being explored by services such as Raptr.

Rapt Graph, StarCraft 2

Q: Do you see lots of crossover between the different players of your games?

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Frank Pearce: We did some research, and I can’t remember which direction we did it in – whether it was StarCraft players that played WoW or vice versa – and there’s a fair amount of overlap.

In a brief reply to VG247, Pearce also confirmed one of the most obvious estimations one could make – StarCraft 2 is not planned to be released in 2008.

This year? Like, 2008? Too much work to do,” Pearce told VG247.

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He added: “We don’t have a specific release date in mind yet. We still have too much work to do.”

StarCraftWire, Incgamer Network’s new StarCraft site, managed to score quite an informative Q&A with Karune during the PAX expo:

StarCraftWire.net: Will the Medivac Dropships be able to heal each other?

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Karune: No, the Medivac Dropships will not be able to, however, SCVs can still be brought to them in order to repair them

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StarCraftWire.net: Will it be possible to play Starcraft II at LAN Parties?

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Karune: While the idea is still there, the main focus right now is Battle.net and Multiplayer to determine whether or not LAN will be available.

Unlike StarCraft: BW’s medics, Medivacs won’t be able to keep themselves at full health throughout the battles, and will require maintenance to be kept operational. We will be seeing more SCVs coming with every Terran infantry drop in order to keep these vital support units alive.
Considering the wave of coverage about Blizzards grand account unification plans, we can expect Blizzard to pay significantly more attention to the way players interact with their centralized systems, and implement only the minimal, if any, features for closed multiplayer environments.

StarCraftWire.net: When can we expect to see more updates to the Starcraft II official website, and what can we expect to see?

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Karune: Not really sure when there will be an update to the site, although there may be misc. updates now and then for units, but otherwise waiting for closer to the Beta to really update the website.

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StarCraftWire.net: Has there been a decision on what units will make it into the final game?

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Karune: No real decision has been made really, we’re still trying to decide what units will make the cut, as you’ve seen that we dropped a couple units, one of our goals may be to try to keep the unit number closer to to that of the original Starcraft as we don’t want to have a unit be in the game and have it be useless to the battle.

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StarCraftWire.net: What is Blizzard currently focusing on in Starcraft II?

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Karune: Single player. Single player is still our primary focus right now, as it’s our main concern, afterwards, our focus will be on the multiplayer aspect which shouldn’t be too difficult, with the Editor being our final focus for Starcraft II.

Hyperion Engineering bay

Blizzard Developers’  StarCraft 2 single player efforts have long been mentioned, but it was the technical aspect that has really shown how much development and thought is invested in this somewhat overlooked aspect of StarCraft 2. SC2’s single player campaign was worth developing a separate and innovative 3D engine for, and the hype just keeps coming.

An interesting glimpse into the long term StarCraft Universe strategy is provided in this TotalVideoGames interview:

VG: You talk about expanding the lore this time around in a similar manner as Warcraft II to Warcraft III; the next step after Warcraft III was World of Warcraft, so I have to ask – is this laying down the foundations for the often rumoured ‘Universe of StarCraft’?

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Pearce: Anything we do to evolve the storyline in a franchise lays the foundation for whatever we want to do in the future. One of our goals with these franchises is to create rich, deep worlds that we can use to leverage for all sorts of things, whether it’s novels, comic books, games of different genres, or even movies. We’re also in the process of trying to have a Warcraft movie made.

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Colayco: In recent months we’ve had a StarCraft board game introduced, and manga comics. So having a greatly fleshed out lore and background to a story lends itself to all these different projects.

These are not fantasy plans, either. The WarCraft movie is due to be released some time during 2009, and is produced by none other than the makers of 300 and The Dark Knight – Legendary Studios. Serious business, so to speak. Leveraging a rich and immersive Universe to build a multi-million fan base that follows it across multiple genres and platforms is perhaps the best and most challenging long-term strategy a VP of Product Development can embrace.

We have read through many StarCraft interviews, articles and videos in order to extract the maximum updates from the recent news wave, which to remind you, is still based on the WWI build.

Brace for Blizzcon.

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Five sketches of what initially appeared to be unidentified artifacts have been posted on the official StarCraft 2 website, along with a new illustration of the Queen Bitch of the Universe herself, Kerrigan.

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Blizzard has remained silent about these updates, but our highly talented investigative team has matched them to pieces of Zeratul’s new armor:

 

zeratuls-armor.JPG

 

Blizzard’s art and lore updates are being closely monitored for clues regarding the powerful artifacts that were mentioned in the BlizzCon single player video.

The lights blacking out in succession, a sharp musical note revealed Zeratul, a character from the original game. “I bring tidings of doom,” said the Protoss warrior. “The Xel’Naga have returned. The cycle nears its end. The artifacts are the key.”

 

“To what?” Raynor said, to which Zeratul replied, “The end of all things,” before falling to his knees, apparently wounded.

These artifacts, that the player will pursue during the single player campaign, might eventually form Zeratul’s armor. The significance of the armor is not yet known, however. Of course, it is more likely that the artifacts Zeratul mentions are different items entirely, and these pictures are just early design sketches.

Another concept art picture, depicting Kerrigan, clearly shows her “wearing” stylish, organic heels.

 

Hot or not?

 

This immediately brings to mind the following illustration, which Blizzard has included in their fan-site kit:

 

Can't wait to see this cinematic in action

Kerrigan‘s Zerg-enhanced heels versus Zeratul and his mysterious armor! This is the match-up we’re all looking forward to, and it looks like Blizzard is telling us that we will indeed witness it in StarCraft 2. Who will win in this battle of giants?

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archon.jpg

 

Blizzard has updated its StarCraft 2 page with another Protoss unit – the Twilight Archon. As usual, the page features a short gameplay video, a new screenshot, concept art and a short backstory and description.

 

 

Builds From: Merging Templar
Armament: Psionic Shockwave
Role: Heavy Assault

The Archon is a late game, heavy, ground assault unit. It has a lot of health and a devastating attack, which can target both ground and air units.

The terrifying power of the high templar is rightly feared by the enemies of the protoss. A mere handful of these potent individuals can lay waste to entire armies of foes.

 

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These swirling, burning effigies of the protoss spirit radiate incalculable power. Their devastating psionic storms can be unleashed against cowering enemy forces both in the air and on the ground. With the halves of the protoss race reunited, an archon can now be brought into being by the merge of two high templar, or two dark templar, or even the unification of a dark templar and a high templar. Although the protoss are loath to sacrifice valuable templar, those who do achieve this final level of commitment are forever honored in the memories of their people.

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The Twilight Archon seems similar to StarCraft 1’s normal Archon, which was created by merging two High Templars. A Dark Archon version, created by merging two Dark Templars, functioned as a dedicated spell caster. Will the Dark Archon be forgotten in StarCraft 2? Perhaps the Twilight Archon will now be able to both attack and cast spells.

As mentioned in the update, the Twilight Archon can be created by merging any two templars. This opens the possibility of having the final result being dependent on the composition: An Archon created from two High Templars might have a stronger shield, while an Archon created from two Dark Templars might be able to use more spells or have more mana.

 

Don’t forget to take a look at the short gameplay movie, embedded in the StarCraft2.com unit page. Note how the Archon now walks on two legs instead of hovering slightly above the battlefield. The StarCraft 1 Archon was effectively immune to mines – will the updated Archon trigger them?

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dustinbrowder.gifDustin Browder, lead game designer, has posted on the Battle.net suggestions forum.

 

Here’s what he had to say:

 

This is the lead designer of StarCraft 2. I just wanted to stop in and say hello and let everybody know that the Dev Team is looking at this board as often as possible. We have our community manager, Karune who keeps us well informed about the top issues from this group of gamers. We also have a team of blizzard employees who keeps the team up to date about issues from gamers from all around the world.

 

I will try to post from time to time when I see things that I can comment on.

 

I hope to see lots of you folks at Blizzcon.=)

 

– Dustin Browder

It’s nice to see that the StarCraft 2 developers are continuing the long tradition of relying on user feedback and are treating it as an integral part of the development process. Blizzard’s developers are getting pitched hundreds of ideas per day; some of them must be good. 😀

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