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Episode three of BlizzCast has been posted on Blizzard’s site. This one features the most interesting interview to date – a long chat with Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2’s lead game designer, and a community Q&A.

BlizzCast

Here are the highlights of the talk, of which there are many:

* Dustin reiterates many times that the Zerg is the least mature race, lacking many gameplay elements and a good “feel”. He thinks the Protoss are complete for the most part, with the Terran not far behind. “They feel the crispest, the sharpest, and feel the meanest in a lot of ways, and have the best counters, and the most interesting new strategies.

* Dustin describes the feel of the StarCraft 1 Zerg, which they are now trying to recapture in StarCraft 2: “The Zerg were very fast, very aggressive, very mean, very flexible, and strategically able to rapidly change their technologies on the fly.”

Zergish creatures

* StarCraft 2 will also bring to the foreground a few of the neglected Zerg elements from StarCraft 1 – namely, infestation and a more convincing Queen unit.

* Dustin describes the Queen as a “mobile buff“. Previously, it had an even bigger role, laying eggs and creating specialist units, but the development team decided to reduce the dependence on her, which was too hard to balance and ended up not being fun.

Old Queen?

* The Ultralisk hasn’t gotten a lot of play-testing time, being at the end of the tech tree. Currently, it has trouble actually engaging enemy forces (being a huge melee unit), but Dustin says it’s fun to use – especially since it can now burrow like all other Zerg units.

* The development team is trying to balance the interface so that it includes many of the new RTS features modern players have been accustomed to with the more “old school” control scheme that requires a lot of attention and speed. One of the attempts to increase the level of macromanagement needed for competitive play was Warp-In, which, when used proficiently, provides a boost to unit production time.

* Dustin assures us that the UI, micro- and macro-management requirements have not been finalized in any way, and that the team is still trying to come up with ideas. Even rolling back to the antiquated StarCraft 1 control scheme is an option, Dustin says. Of course, the team would prefer to implement as many new interface improvements as possible – as long as they’re satisfied with their impact on the game.

* The Zerg can now expand even more easily. Not only that, their creep-spreading capabilities coupled with the new mobility granted to their defenses make the Zerg play more aggressively. “It feels like sometimes their base is invading your base, which is very Zerg and feels very, very cool.

* Dustin mentions the increased mobility as a means to handle these new expansionist strategies. “Between Reapers, Vikings, Stalkers, and Nydus Worms – these races are more mobile than they have ever been.”

Nydus Worms

* “The whole board has now become a very threatening place as everyone has additional mobility and you really never know where you will encounter an enemy and you can’t rely on the map alone to wall off and protect you.”

* “I would say if you pick the single unit that has been the biggest pain to deal with would have to be the Queen. We have worked on the Queen for probably two years straight, trying variations from one to the other. I don’t want to say we’re even done yet, because I don’t think we necessarily are but she has probably been the single most challenging unit, much is something like the Mothership was probably and remains one of the most challenging units to work on for the Protoss.”

Next up is the community Q&A section:

The first question is: Can the Zerg unit, the Queen, build on enemy Zerg player’s creep? And what strategies would this allow?

 

Well creep is creep, we’re trying not to have player owned creep in the game we really want to have just regular creep and anywhere creep is that’s just where creep is. So yeah, anything that you can do on creep you can do on enemy creep because there isn’t really such a thing, it’s all just the same stuff. So the Queen can potentially get to an enemy base and create some base defenses there. In all practicality we have slowed the Queen down a lot when she’s not on creep, certainly since the play tests that went out a few weeks ago and the people were playing, it’s really changed a lot already. So the unit is much much slower when she’s not moving around on creep and she’s, as a result, a lot more vulnerable. So we’re really not seeing a lot of Queen rushing, in our opening game in Zerg versus Zerg, in fact currently we’re not seeing any right now. That’s not to say that players won’t ultimately do that and we won’t need to ultimately address that potential issue but we think we have the tools to limit it, making it a rare possibility, something kind of exciting that players can do if they catch the enemy off guard but most of the time it’s not really practical.

Offensive Queen usage, which, according to Karune, ruled Zerg 1v1 matches, is no longer a prevalent strategy now that Queens are less mobile when not traveling on creep.

With the ability to do Multiple Building Selection, it will be easy for a Zerg player to build a huge group of reinforcements over a small period of time once you have the Hatcheries setup. Are you increasing macro for the Zerg player to balance this out?

 

Well we’re trying to figure out how to do that, so we haven’t decided exactly what we are going to do or even exactly what our approach is going to be. It is a very real issue and it is something we have been working on for quite some time and we will keep working on until we get it pounded out but I do not have an answer for you today as to what specifically we are going to do but it is definitely real and we are totally aware of it.

That’s it from Dustin Browder, who provided some great insight into the stage of development StarCraft 2 is in right now. Dustin mentions the beta a few times, hinting that many things in StarCraft 2 will not change until feedback from the beta arrives. Of course, he also makes it clear that there are many things to change and improve – especially when it comes to the Zerg.

Old Queen?

Check out the rest of the Cast, which deals mainly with the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King WoW expansion, here.

The second episode of BlizzCast, a new feature which gives fans a chance to get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes at Blizzard, has been posted on Blizzard.com.

As with the last BlizzCast, we will focus on the StarCraft universe portion of the interviews.

First up, an interview with Chris Metzen, Vice President of Creative Development and creator of the original WarCraft, StarCraft, and Diablo storylines. Chris talks about his work – juggling three different stories simultaneously, coming up with new ideas and integrating them into the core of his stories, and the how working at Blizzard is like compared to other companies. Here are some interesting excerpts:

… about StarCraft in particular, how did that particular story-line get started with you?

 

We had done Warcraft II and now we’re interested in trying to do the next RTS outing in science-fiction. And early ideas like ‘well, let’s blend them together man, we can do this kind of space-vampire-clan-thing and real-time-strategy.’ … the group response is like ‘well, let’s simplify this, right. People, they understand space-ships. They understand creepy, spidery aliens. They understand psychic brain aliens, right? So let’s just cut down to the core motifs that are really classic in science-fiction. That’s where we should start.’

 

It wasn’t the story-line, specifically, the linear flow of events, the overthrow of the Confederacy, Kerrigan, Raynor, the Protoss, the destruction of their homeworld. A lot of that stuff wasn’t clear from the get-go. We were just making the broadest science-fiction universe we could and trying to make sure it really resonated with people.

Zeratul

Chris reveals the process which led to the birth of one of StarCraft’s most important characters: Kerrigan.

… the whole character of Kerrigan didn’t really exist until the middle of our construction of that first campaign. We knew we had Ghosts and the joke was – I don’t know if this is common knowledge but I think it was Command and Conquer that had a character named Tanya, back in the day. She was kind of like an assassin, a badass. And we just had this conversation one day using a Ghost character on a map, like ‘ha ha, how funny’, the whole ice-skater debacle was going on with Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. ‘Haha, how funny, we’ll make our super assassin named Kerrigan on this one map.’ And it was a total throw-away character but as we started discussing it and really getting in to this character, we kept coming back to her; she had a lot of gravity. It really created a cool, kind of triangle of tension between Mensk and Raynor and this emergent Kerrigan character.

 

Ultimately, it was pretty late in the game when we decided that she would be betrayed and become the Queen of Blades. The Queen of Blades was never an original concept; it really came about just at that, kind of in the final stretch of that campaign.

Kerrigan

 

Andy Chambers, StarCraft 2’s lead writer, reveals the mystery of the planet featured on the bottom of StarCraft2.com:

The question we have for you today is a bit of a two-parter. What planet is seen at the bottom of the page at starcraft2.com and what is happening at the planet’s surface at the red dot? People are referring to it as ‘the explosion.’

 

Well, as befits a two-part question, I’ve got a two-part answer for you. The first one is the lore answer to it all. The planet itself is Bel’shir one of the moons of the Mackan system which has not previously been seen in StarCraft I. It’s a Protoss ex-shrine world that was invaded by the Zerg and much of the Protoss have now been pushed out of the area. It keys in with the sort of jungle tile-set that you may have seen in some of our previous videos for StarCraft II. Now, the little explosion as people call it, is actually a vent for an artificial volcano the Zerg have pierced through the surface of Bel’shir to produce a heat-source for their nests full of hot magma –because it saves them having to knit little cozies for their eggs and things like that – so, that’s the lore reason.

Ex-shrine Protoss world, Bel'shir

 

The actual reason there’s a little dot there goes back even further. Goes back to our career announcement. The world that you’re actually seeing there is the same sort of brown ringed world that we saw in the announcement behind the space platform. As part of a test during that, some of our artists wanted to do plasma bombardments, little explosions going off all over the world all the time. So, when the guys in the Community Team got hold of this piece of art, they reshaded it into the green world you now see. But as part of that process, one of the little explosions carried over into the new image that you now see.

 

So, as ever, lore must be responsive to art as art must be responsive to lore, so I’ve incorporated that into the back-story for Bel’shir and it’s actually added this little unexpected bonus of like ‘oh, cool, artificial volcano. I like it!’

Bel'Shir from space

 

Check out the rest of the cast, which deals mainly with WoW, here:
[Transcript | Audio]

Blizzard have launched the official “BlizzCast” page. In the first episode, Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, interviews Sam Didier, art director for StarCraft 2.

We’ll focus on the StarCraft relevant information.

Highlights:

* Sam describes StarCraft as more serious, grittier and darker than the WarCraft universe. He says StarCraft is a more focused universe while WarCraft is freer and less constrained (the Panda hero, the Brewmaster, is a good example).

* The StarCraft 1 Dark Templars were all based on the prototypic “secret-agent-type-ninja guy” that Zeratul was designed to be. In StarCraft 2, more variation was planned for the different Dark Templar units and a more hardened look was given to the Dark Templar unit itself – Zerg bones and other trophies were added to them.

darktemplar.jpg

* About the Zerglings: “It’s StarCraft II, baby, you know. We don’t want to be doing something we did ten years ago and just doing a 3D version of it.”

zergling.jpg

* Samwise recommends taking courses in Max or Maya if you’re looking to get into the gaming industry as an artist. He says people with multiple skills, such as texturing and modeling, are more highly valued.

The rest of the cast deals with World of WarCraft. You can read the transcript of both interviews in the episode 1 page.

For more Samwise Didier, check out these video interviews from the Leipzig Games Convention.

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