With more than eleven million copies sold to date, StarCraft is one of the most popular and influential games of all time.
Although the multiplayer may have captured the hearts of millions over the past decade (many of whom reside in South Korea) the single-player campaigns have been widely praised as being compelling experiences in their own right, mostly due to the creative abilities of the lead designer Chris Metzen.
We continue our interview with Chris Sigaty at Blizzard's HQ in Los Angeles to learn more about their approach to StarCraft II's single-player campaigns.
Dan: When you were developing the story, did you know how it was going to end before you started or did it evolve organically?
Chris: No there was definitely a period where we were working out where the story would end, what the big hits were, that sort of thing. It's something that our chief creative visionary Chris Metzen has been sitting with for a number of years now and he loves the universe, we all love the universe, and he had ideas, but there was definitely a lot of sitting down and talking through what would happen, what are the big cinematic moments, that sort of thing. But then even once we knew the big hits with characters like Jim Raynor, there are still other hits that happen as you play through the story, like what was shown in our Blizzcon footage, like the escape from Mar Sara footage which is a huge reveal for the player and those happen through out the campaign.
What all those were took an even longer amount of time to figure out, and all those things had to be pretty well defined and figured out before we could start in earnest on the campaign or even building the levels, because we do want there to be some cohesion that makes sense and what planet you are going to and why and when you return, why do characters have the reaction that they do. and then why this cinematic plays. All the elements have an affect on each other and that took some time to work out.
Dan: Setting out, what were the key features or game mechanics that you guys were focusing on for StarCraft II?
Chris: For StarCraft II our key features when we sat down and actually made the decision (which was just after Frozen Throne shipped in mid 2003) - basically we, at that time, decided that we wanted to harken back to the legacy. We wanted it to be something that original players of the game could see and recognise and get that nostalgia "oh this is StarCraft" but also when they sit down and play that it is a new experience. The build strategies, the core mechanics do feel different and that it is a new fun game experience.
So that was decided early, and so was the fact that where we were really going throw the innovation, at least from our perspective, was in the single player and into the online service, so we made those decisions early, and pulling all those off has been the interesting journey along the way. And actually I think one of the main reasons we wanted to have this get together here is to show really how it's all come together. The multiplayer game - we have just gotten the art to really where we want it to be. A lot of the little death animations on characters are in there now, our buttons and UI are finally coming together, getting to that very final pass. All those sorts of things are so we are really ready to go into beta, and have a meaningful beta and prepare the game after that.
Dan: Coming from StarCraft, did you have any key ideas that needed to be improved, or even removed?
Chris: As far as the core game, as far as the balance or the units that are in game, there are all sorts of things.
It's been this really crazy juggling act, like, "no, don't touch that unit, that ones golden" and, "this one's ok, go ahead" and so what we have stuck with and kind of identified early on is that we need the marine or the zergling, or you need the zealot, and then there's some of the units that we have taken and people have been like "you can't take that one!", so its been a balancing act there.
As far as the rest, one of the big ones we knew for sure we needed to improve, and this is even coming from WarCraft III, is just the service online, getting onto Battle.Net and what you experience in StarCraft. We improved it, we think, significantly to WarCraft but still if you are a new player and you are walking into RTS for the first time and you go online and go "oh, ok I'll play a game" you can still start out and get your ass handed to you, and then not walk away feeling warm and fuzzy about that experience, and that's an area where we knew we needed to improve and that will be stuff we talk about later.
But certainly we are looking at ways to make the online service something that is more amicable to new players and people who are new to RTS and online services and matchmaking and that sort of thing.
Dan: With the announcement that there will be expansions, have you already started working on the storyline for those games?
Chris: We definitely know the big picture, we definitely know where the story is heading at the end, what we don't have are all the little hits. We know some of the things that are going to happen with Kerrigan and some of the characters that happen in the story but we are still in discussion of all the big hits within their own story. We haven't really started in earnest with that stuff and while their are discussions happening, we are still fully focused on the Wings of Liberty right now.