Gameplanet: We last saw Heart of the Swarm in May and at that time much was still up in the air. What’s changed since then?
Kaéo Milker: All you saw then was a part of the campaign and the core two missions demoed in May are playable here again today, there are some changes – polish and cosmetic changes that have gone into the missions itself. But we’ve made some more dramatic changes to Kerrigan’s progression and the unit progression. We’ve continued iterating as we always do, just trying to improve the overall experience of playing through the campaign. We’re experiencing Kerrigan gaining powers and evolving as campaign missions progress, but as we’re getting into the later missions we’re having to make adjustments to make sure that the arc she’s growing through in the campaign fits together well and plays nicely from the beginning to the end.
Gameplanet: On Kerrigan, when we saw her she was using Battle Focus load-outs, that were caveated strongly. Are they still in the game?
Milker: She has similar sets of abilities but we’ve given a lot more options to the player now. As she unlocks abilities she has the opportunity to change them on the fly in missions whereas before you’d make decisions in story-mode before missions and lock your focus, and then get a mission. We thought that was maybe a little too restrictive and you might regret choices or be a little hesitant about the changes you made, [so] we’ve kind of given the player the option now that when they get into a mission they can change their abilities on the fly and cater things to the mission, which is kind of cool – you get to experience the whole breadth of powers as you go through the campaign.
Gameplanet: And are they still broken into subsets such as Zerg and Ghost abilities?
Milker: Yeah, the current sets we’re playing with are themed like that, where they’ll have distinct themes and colour schemes that go along with them but it’s not so locked into a tree like it was before. [Now] as you play you’re unlocking individual abilities that offer you a one-off, really cool option [as to] how you want Kerrigan to do something.
Gameplanet: You’ve mentioned that the unit evolution system has changed as well. Can you elaborate on that?
Milker: Yeah, when we showed it in May we had a couple of units available that you could evolve. I think the Zergling was there and you would make a couple of choices as you gain mutagen as you played through the levels, and that would allow you to pump up individual abilities, and then you had the option of doing a split and doing a more dramatic change on them.
So there’s something very similar to that in place now, only you’re actually playing through it a little more than before. You actually get the option to kind of experiment with the different types before you make your choices now. So that’s something that’s new [and] one of the many things we’re trialling right now. It’s all about getting into what the Zerg are, their nature and the fact that they’re evolving and changing and are so adaptable and they can constantly be absorbing new things and new abilities.
Gameplanet: When we spoke to Dustin Browder he mentioned that they were having some trouble balancing Kerrigan against the power of the stack, and that while it’s looking at getting back to the Warcraft III hero unit, it’s quite hard to do with the Zerg play-style. Have you found a work-around to that?
Milker: You know, I think we’ve had a lot of success with what we’ve been doing in the campaign. We’re hovering around 20 missions in Heart of the Swarm right now. They’re all playable, we’ve been testing them and polishing them, and we definitely have everything we need to dial all that in. Our team play-throughs have been really positive, it’s really fun and it’s just a question of fine-tuning the smaller details now, so I think they’ve got the overall game figured out pretty well at this point.
Gameplanet: Are you able to play any other races in the campaign as we were with the Zeratul missions in Wings of Liberty?
Milker: Yeah, we haven’t really talked about anything like that. We did that in Wings of Liberty, you got to play your Protoss-themed missions. Maybe we’ll have a little more information on that later in the development of the campaign. Definitely the focus is going to be on Kerrigan, she’s going to be in every mission, if not, almost every mission. But she’s right there on the battlefield, and you’re controlling her, levelling her up. So that’s really where the focus is on this one!
Gameplanet: Moving on to the multiplayer, will it be necessary to own Heart of the Swarm to use the new multiplayer units?
Milker: Yes. So Heart of the Swarm is an expansion and it’s kind of in the same vein as our previous RTS expansions such as the Frozen Throne for Warcraft III where if you own Wings of Liberty now and you purchase Heart of the Swarm, it unlocks not only the campaign but also this whole new multiplayer balance. So you can still switch back to Wings of Liberty and play that still with friends if they haven’t purchased the expansion.
Gameplanet: You’re introducing new multiplayer units in Heart of the Swarm. Can you talk us through the design intention of each, and the gap they fill in each race’s gameplay?