Gameplanet: Why is Heart of the Swarm structured differently to Wings of Liberty? Was there something about the way Wings was structured that you wanted to address?
Dustin Browder: Yeah, there’s a couple of issues. One is that we want it to feel more “Zergy” and that means a number of things.
It’s important for us in the multiplayer [for each race] to feel as fundamentally different [they] can, so it almost feels as if you’ve bought three different games depending on which one you’re playing. It [should feel] like a fundamentally different experience and that applies to the campaign as well: we want you to feel like “this is a different experience, this is this crazy Zerg environment now with these crazy characters and I’m feeling like the bad guy, it’s really different and fun.”
So that’s one cornerstone of course, and the other one is from feedback we received on Wings, that we gave ourselves, or got from fans: we really enjoyed the four different sets on the Hyperion but it did sort of get repetitive after a while. So we felt like going down to the surface of a world and showing you from a first-person perspective what it’s like to be on some of these “hell worlds” in the Korpulu sector, would be a lot more fun than always being on the ship!
We could’ve put you on a Zerg Leviathan and you’re sort of looking through a window at the world below, but it’d be so much more fun to get you on the surface and see. We did that in Wings, on the surface of Char, and that came to us towards the end of development: We put Char in [and were blown away], and thought, “That! That’s cool!” right? So we did that set and were happy with it. The cinematics guys did a great job on it. And we thought, you know what? We want to do more of that. So we thought it’d be really cool to get you on the surface a lot more often.
Gameplanet: So I saw on Char that Warfield is in his—
Browder: Fortress of Doom!
Gameplanet: Exactly, he’s sequestered up there. There was nothing on Koldir—
Browder: Not yet!
Gameplanet: Sure, so we can expect each planet will have its own unique areas?
Browder: We’re hoping to do as much of that as we can.
Gameplanet: So the only two rooms on the Leviathan are the Evolution Chamber and the viewing room?
Browder: Yeah, so I’m not sure where it’s going to go. Right now we are planning to stick to two rooms, but we are going to be jamming in some more stuff, more characters will be showing up, it’s possible there’ll be some more mechanics. Then how thick it is will determine whether another room comes in or not. If it feels too [cluttered] then we’ll put in another room. But if it feels comfortably correct, like there’s a lot of stuff to do but it’s not overwhelming, then we’ll keep it to two rooms!
Gameplanet: So obviously the Zerg don’t have – or wouldn’t hire – mercenaries. But is there a feature you’d like to introduce to replace the mercenaries?
Browder: Maybe. I don’t know yet. We’re talking about it. [The Zerg] don’t hire mercenaries, they’re individually not that special: what’s true of one Zerg is true of them all – maybe to a fault! So I don’t know what we’d do for that. We have talked about Kerrigan summoning creatures directly to her side, and that would be a Battle Focus [special skill load-outs selected before a mission]. Maybe she could have some hunter-killer Hydralisks that she pets and hangs out with. They’re her buddies and they go into battle. They might give some of that mercenary feeling? Or not. I don’t know for sure yet.
Gameplanet: Are we looking at playing another race as we did playing Protoss in Wings of Liberty?
Browder: We definitely want to do it. The challenge for us is that Raynor has a lot of buddies. If Zeratul shows up and says, “Dude! Check it out!” [Raynor can say] “Oh! What’s this Zeratul?” Then you’re looking through his memories and playing his battles. That was really fun for us to work on, we loved doing that because we got to play with some new toys when creating missions. Kerrigan doesn’t have as many friends – in fact she has no friends! And nobody would willingly put themselves under the command of a Zerg character.
So I don’t know. We’re definitely looking at it, we’re definitely exploring it. We’ve heard [from the community] that need. We’d definitely like to do it, we’re just working out the details.
Gameplanet: Is there anything, even now, that has failed to make it into Heart of the Swarm?
Browder: Oh yeah tons, I just discard them so quickly now! We’ve been through seven versions of Kerrigan’s hero mechanic and I don’t know that we’re done but [what you’ve seen today] is where we’re at. She’s had skill trees, she’s had slots for different skills that you choose and she’s had an aura slot. She’s had levels – all these things. What we have now [Battle Focus] feels better than we’ve ever had before, but maybe there’s a way to make an old version work and suddenly it comes back! Or maybe we’ll keep polishing that and it sings? I don’t know. But we’ve definitely thrown out a ton of character kits.
The Evolution Chamber has gone through eight or nine versions easily – not fully implemented, some of them are just concepts. But again, we’ve had crazy [unit upgrade] trees, we’ve had, at one point, nine different zerglings and you could kind of weave your way down the tree to get to the end one. It was kind of insane! It looked really cool, it sold itself, but when you started playing and [having to pick upgrades you think] are crappy [just to get to the top upgrades]. So we went through a bunch of different versions to come up with something that feels a little bit more controlled. Maybe it’s not as sexy looking, but I think it plays better. But maybe we’ll evolve it later!
Gameplanet: We’ve seen two Battle Focus skill load-outs for Kerrigan: the ghost-like Spec Ops and the Zerg-like Corruption. There are several more placeholders on the menu. What would you like to do with those other sections?