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Summarizing December’s Monthly Discussion: Artistic Direction

December’s monthly discussion topic was everything Blizzard had hoped it would be. It generated input from both casual gamers and dedicated fans; the amount and quality of feedback was enough for the development to commit to changes just a week after it was submitted to Blizzard.

Over the next few weeks we will be trying out a few things on the upcoming screenshots, including a reduced saturation which will increase the realism of the units and environment.

In this post, we will go over some of the comments we’ve submitted in the discussion summary that was sent to Blizzard as part of the monthly discussion fan-site choir.

First, our questions:

1) Are you satisfied with the general artistic direction of the units in the game, which are mostly comprised of 3D versions of the old designs?

Aaron Kaplan says what most people think:

No. SC2 is a new game, not simply a 3D mod of SC1; if I wanted that, I’d download the mod they have for WC3. I want to see new buildings, new building designs, new tech trees. I love that they’re giving SC2 a lot of revamps in terms of RTS style, and I think a lot of new C&C-style ideas are perfect complements to the Blizzard way of running an RTS. But I don’t want just the play to be different; I want it to be a new game entirely.

Tom provides an example of a well implemented change:

More change is better, I think. The new phase cannons are a good example.

phase-cannons-2.jpg

 

 

2) Do you feel that the new look, compared to StarCraft 1, is more, less, or equally “cartoony”?

Jebbou‘s comment represents the general concensus:

Maybe a bit more, although I would like to keep “some” of the cartoonish. I believe it should be a bit more cartoonish than C&C, but obviously less than WC3.

Anonymous has a specific complaint, about the Terran Nomad:

Some of it looks cartoony, especially the NOMAD and its auto-turrets. I don’t think it really fits into starcraft.

nomad.JPGauto-turret.JPG

Of course, some have a different take. Here’s what D.Man thinks:

I feel like it is more cartoony, which is a good thing. The only bad part is those units need to also be serious. Like I said above, the baneling is too big, too bright neon green. They remind me of Enemies from the game “PIKMEN”. I love would love to see the units be Amazing, and 3-D like in some artwork, by the way, good job artists who made those masterpieces.

 

3) Which of the returning units from StarCraft 1 has received the best StarCraft 2 design? Which is the worst?

Dill provides some good feedback:

Siege tanks as the currently are seem the best, as they appear a bit more “tank with powerful guns” ish than original starcraft.

The worst seems to be Carriers, they seem to have too much stuff on them currently. Zealots are also one that doesn’t seem to have translated well, they seem too rigid when fighting, with psi-blades more spread out than they need to be.

And Aaron Kaplan follows:

First of all, as far as Terran design is concerned, I think the Battlecruiser hit it spot-on; it’s completely got the badass high-contrast metallic look to it, and it preserves the look&feel of the original SC Terrans. I think that the Siege Tank does the same thing as far as color scheme, but the shape, as was mentioned, feels too squat. I’d like to see a longer barrel on the cannon.
Suggestion for the Banshee: replace those propellors with some turning rockets like the ones on Vertical Takeoff Aircraft.

 

Question about the SCV: does it have to look so boxy? Everything is at right angles… it looks like a pile of boxes. At least make it look like it’s not a plastic toy.

An honorable mention goes to Bherm18, whose high quality comment about the Dark Templar’s impractical weapon design on a different post should be taken into account by the Blizzard developers.

 

Moving on, the official Blizzard questions:

* Do you like the new look of the landscapes?

Lanmao is a bit negative:

Not as great a leap forward as I expected, still looks a lot like Warcraft 3 terrain. Overall, the 3D renders are not detailed enough and look sort of blocky when comparing two items such as the terrain and the rock doodad (like War3). The surfaces of the two doesn’t join together very well. In SC1, all the doodads seems integrated into the terrain since it was in 2D, but he switch to 3D made the doodads unnatural in appearance.

Guy likes the attention to detail:

Yes. The landscapes are alive and have much more detail, i like them alot. All the little affects such as flowers, or trees “swaying in the wind”, make all the diff.

THE_BANANA_REPUBLIC voices his concern about returning issues:

Yes. But objects and models seem a bit bulky and removed from the landscape — they do not blend well with the foreground. Warcraft 3 also faced this problem. Of what I’ve seen of Starcraft 2, it is a huge improvement over Warcraft 3, but that is not to say that it cannot be better.

 

* How does the Terran faction look visually?

Dill makes a foreshadowing comment:

The terrans have the basic look down, but could use some extra dirt and grit, as well as more metallic and less plastic looking.

Ken likes the general look better, but has one gripe:

Terran is getting its metal look in a serious way which is really good for me. One thing I don’t like about it however is the bulky, clumsy-looking viking, hope it gets a slicker look.

vikings.JPG

Aaron Kaplan begins with overall Terran feedback and continues to spill his thoughts about many of their units:

A little bit too smooth, I think; the SC1 Terrans had more of a “beaten metal” look to them that was rugged and hardcore. These Terrans are too polished and smooth. In general, I’d like to see a tougher look to their metal. [read the rest of his valuable comments here]

 

Lanmao says:

I would recommend the redesign of all terran buildings to make them look less cartoony especially the bunker and supply depot. They are ugly as hell. The units look good except for the cobra and viking. The old vulture design is way better and the viking looks too bulky in both forms, should have improved on the original lean and mean goliath model.

 

* How does the Protoss faction look visually?

Donald Winship feels strongly about unit colors:

Now here I have a big issue: the glow color. Protoss attacks and energies (blades, energy plumes, etc.) were never supposed to be radioactive green (which did show up in a couple of shots). This would seem to be an especially big problem with the twilight archons, which are, frankly, SUPPOSED TO BE PURPLISH-BLUE!!!

greenblades.JPG

Another fan with strong opinions, Ken, has this to say:

please allow me also to comment on following 1) immortal attack is too damn lame, it looks like it can’t hurt a zergling! 2) carriers should be bigger and interceptors must NOT look like flying binoculars anymore, please change that! 3) Observers and probes look almost the same! why it this? 4) the high templar must not look like a human priest!

Aaron Kaplan with another spot on comment:

On to the Protoss, again. Something that I liked about SC1 was that it made all the units look like they were real critters… they had that gritty feel, slime on the Zerglings and weird gray skin on the Protoss. But these new Protoss look like they came out of Santa’s workshop. I realize that the Protoss are a shiny and smooth race, but… well, they should look like they’re made out of metal and flesh, not out of plastic.

THE_BANANA_REPUBLIC agrees:

Like shiny robots. I would like to see more of the scaly texture of Protoss skin. The templar of starcraft 1 looked a bit more spiritual with their unit movement. I do not like the permanent light blue outline of cloaked units. The new dark templar are looking pretty badass (I especially like their concept art), but I do not like the controlling player’s view of them on the battlefield. The carrier’s interceptors could perhaps look more like vicious interceptors rather than binoculars.

Due to Ken’s and THE_BANANA_REPUBLIC’s observations, we at the SC2 Blog will forever think of binoculars whenever we see interceptors flying around.

 

* Additional Feedback you would like to give

battlarmd says it best:

I would like to see Blizzard add NEW components to the game, not just a make over of SC1.

Dill laments the Zerg:

The zerg units so far in close up don’t seem slimy and rough enough. Zerglings are fine with their new body shape, but mutalisks seem to almost be plastic toy models of mutalisks, instead of a living, breathing creature.

 

mutalisks.jpg

Guy wants to see a new gameplay action movie and has a great suggestion for unit deaths:

Judging by this blogs screen shots, i’d have to say that the units visual look is downplayed majorly. When you created the announcement trailer, we got to see the units move and be in action (and they looked great). I think that to get a better opinion you have to really show each unit “in action.” – like in the announcement trailer. Also, maybe you should have different ways a unit can die – a zergling explodes when killed by a tank, but falls to the ground when shot by a marine…

Tom has a few good words for the animations:

The animations make a big difference. I really like the way reapers explode out of control when they die, the viking change animation, the colossus and mother ship attacks, and the nydus canal explosion.

And then finishes up with this smart comment:

A lot of the comments above run along the lines of “X doesn’t have the same feel as Starcraft 1, please change it back.” Before playing starcraft 1, we had no preconception about what a Zerg or Protoss should look like. Now we have this notion, so we expect new units, etc. to fit into it. But maybe we just haven’t had a chance to get used to the new look. I think the comments about zerglings are a good example. When I first saw the new zergling, I thought it was pretty ugly. Who wants to attack with grasshoppers? But then I thought, maybe there’s an upgrade that let’s them hop cliffs, similar to reapers. That would be pretty cool, and then the wings would make sense. And then I thought, Swarm of Locusts is a classic plague, and 100 flying zerglings swarming your base would probably be pretty terrifying. Now I like the new zergling, and I haven’t even played with it yet!

 

Change is good. This isn’t your old Starcraft.

starcraft2logo.jpg

It’s great to see that these discussion topics and the feedback generated by them are actually affecting the game’s development in a positive way, with Blizzard closely monitoring what their fans have to say. StarCraft 2 will be filling the biggest RTS shoes in history – its design is the eventuality of 10 years of feedback, and while fans can help with the finishing touches, everyone is looking up to Blizzard to deliver a game worthy of succeeding the aging masterpiece.

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