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Q&A: The Starcraft II Brain Trust

Blizzard's Chris Sigaty, Dustin Browder, and Bob Colayco talk about the Starcraft three-way news, a week later.

Even if you've been living under a rock for the last week, you probably heard the momentous announcement out of BlizzCon about Starcraft II being split into three games. Wait, I know you heard, because I've been listening to you complain about it ever since. We were curious what the Blizzard guys thought about the fan reaction to the news--and we had a few questions ourselves about this strategic menage a trois--so I managed to get producer Chris Sigaty, lead designer Dustin Browder, and PR rep (and international player) Bob Colayco on the horn for a quick chat this afternoon.

Here's an only slightly abridged transcript of the conversation, or if you're the lazy type, you can also grab an audio file of the entire thing and listen to it on your portable music device, or whatever floats your boat. Read on for discussion of the new Battle.net, the contents of each multiplayer game, and how you might actually play a little bit of the Protoss in the first, Terran-themed Starcraft II release after all.

You guys had your big announcement, the three games, at BlizzCon. There was a reaction, you could say, from the fanbase. It was mixed, but there was definitely a negative component to it. Did you expect that at all, going into the announcement, and how do you answer the critics of your decision?

Sigaty, shredding.
Chris Sigaty: Well, first thing's first, there's a ton of misinformation out there right now. I've seen responses to the fact that there will only be one race per box in multiplayer as an issue, as well as our big money-driven decision that came down from executives from above. Those two major factors are completely not the case. It's a full multiplayer game. Look at it just like Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, The Frozen Throne, and then if we'd done a third, this is exactly how we're looking at this. And on the multiplayer side, of course there's all three races in there. So part of the negative reaction I think is just due to misinformation.

Dustin Browder: Yeah, I totally agree. There's a lot of folks out there who think that we're just trying to split it up into multiple boxes, and that's just not the case. We're looking at the creative problem that we're dealing with, we're trying to do something new, it's sort of a first for us. It's a little bit of a first for any kind of major RTS to have this kind of choice going throughout a campaign, and it just wasn't possible for us to generate the necessary amount of content, to have 90 missions in one box. We just weren't going to be able to do that. And the other choice we had, of course, was to not do something cool and new, and we didn't think that was appropriate either.

We definitely went with this choice and knew that there was going to be some confusion among the fans. But there was a little more confusion than I thought there [would be]. We had Rob Pardo get up there and do his presentation and really try to show the fans exactly what we're trying to accomplish. But I think a lot of guys on the Internet just saw the headline and just assumed that this meant "Oh my God, I have to buy three different boxes and they're probably all going to ship at the same time, and they're just trying to milk me for money." And that's just not the case. These things are going to be a trilogy; it's chapters of a story. They're going to be months or years apart as we work on them--obviously, closer to months, we hope. [laughs]

Bob Colayco: Minimum, a year between each.

DB: Yeah, as we work on these things we're trying to tell this huge story that sort of worked itself out of the creative process.

When you talk about the decision to split the game, would you say it wasn't just a question of quantity of content but also a design issue?

DB: Totally. We definitely wanted to have enough space for these characters in the story to breathe. A 10-mission campaign was just not going to cover it. Starcraft II is in kind of a unique position: We have this very deep story in the original game, and then we have years and years and years of novels and all kind of development on these characters that's happened since then. I think the guys who have been working at the studio for 10 years have had a lot of time to put into these characters and make them really cool. They've got a lot of story to tell. And if we had to cram all of that into a smaller space, we really wouldn't have gotten a chance for these stories to really run loose.

How about on the racial design side for the three different factions? You've got your RPG elements--what you're calling the metagame--between the missions. Is that going to be distinctly different between the three? Some of the Terran concepts, with the economy and the technology, don't necessarily map to the Zerg or Protoss.

DB: Absolutely. That's definitely the goal. When we were looking at it we were running into that as well. It's really developing a lot more than we've ever done before for a real-time strategy game. We do want to have this metagame for the Terrans, but then the Protoss and the Zerg will be completely different stuff. It needs to be a whole different problem set. We don't know exactly what we're going to do with those.

Browder, designing.
We've talked about Kerrigan evolving herself personally. Raynor is not the kind of guy who can leap to the front of the battlefield and take a Yamato shot to the chin and survive. That doesn't make a lot of sense for him. He would be somebody who's more of a commander, like a real general in a modern army. But Kerrigan, she's a monster of legend. This is a character who could potentially survive a fight with a battlecruiser--or several battlecruisers, possibly--so she may be more about evolving her own personal abilities, as well as evolving her forces, as she controls more and more Zerg creatures.

The Protoss are a whole different thing entirely, and that's the least fleshed out at this point. The Protoss are something we're looking at as, you know, this is a dying race that's struggling to unite under the threat of all the terrible forces in the Starcraft galaxy. They're really struggling to survive. The dark Protoss and light Protoss have split apart, and now they're back together on Shakuras and they're trying to reunite their tribes. As a player, you're going to have to figure out how to work these factions to make a coherent, effective force that can keep the Protoss alive. But those are obviously not developed at this point.

So it's safe to say that little or no work has been done on the following two games? Everything that exists right now is for the Terran package?

Both: Yes.

So the design work has yet to be done. Do you have the full three-game story in mind? Do you know where it's going to end at the end of the third game already, or is the story going to develop along with the design?

DB: We've got a pretty good idea of what's coming.

Obviously certain details will change over the time we develop these things, and we get better and better ideas, but we definitely know where it's going, we know where it's starting, and we've got a pretty solid idea of what will happen throughout the three arcs.

CS: And in specific, for example getting down to the campaign level, the Zerg and Protoss portions of the game have not been examined. But where it's going is definitely known at this point.

You talk about 30 missions in each package. Is that total number of missions? You've got branching storyline possibilities, so you aren't going to see 30 missions start to finish your first time through, right?

CS: You can. You can see up to, right now, we're saying between 26 and 30 if you play comprehensively. If you're a player who's not really interested in that, and just completing [the game], you can make it shorter. So it's really up to the player to choose how they want to play it, and follow the story arcs that they're most interested in. So it could be less in most cases, but yeah, we're targeting between 26 and 30 if you're somebody who did exhaustively everything per campaign. So at the end it starts heading upwards of 80, 90 missions total across the whole ting.

DB: There's a couple of places where we do ask you to make a choice, a hard decision, when playing a mission. You know, am I going to help this character, am I not going to help this character, am I going to kill this character, these kinds of things. There's not too many of those. We've only got right now in the game a handful of those in place. We'll see what happens in the future expansions, of course. Generally speaking, it's up to the player how much content he wants to do, and only a couple of places do we force you to choose A or B. So you'd certainly see the whole experience if you played it through once. You'd have a pretty good idea what's going on. It's not one of those cases where you have to play the game start to finish three times--you'll see a lot of the game on one playthrough. But if you really want to be super completionist, you can go back and choose those couple of places where you went left, choose right instead, and see some different results.

Colayco, pimping.
CS: I think the bigger, different discussion, the interesting part is, you know, I played through it this way and got this technology. I'm more of a turtle player, so I bought upgrades to my bunkers and made my siege tanks more effective. This other player may have upgraded the air units on his side or whatever, and now we had a different experience in how we played through in that direction.

Since you talk about there being so many choices on the tech side in the campaign, are there any differences between the units and the tech in the campaign, and what you're going to see in the multiplayer? Is there single-player-specific stuff?

DB: So we've gone away from one of the things we've done in the past and I think other developers have done as well, which is to pitch the solo campaign as a learning tool for online play. We are not doing that anymore. The feeling is that it's never been that successful. You can go ahead and beat the campaign, maybe all three campaigns, or beat the campaign on the hardest difficulty. Then you go online and you still get just destroyed by the first player you run into. It's just not the same kind of environment. There's a lot less pressure in the solo experience than there ever is in an online game against an aggressive opponent.

So we've definitely said these two parts of the game can live separately from one another. We can have a solo play experience with its own technology choices, its own options, and then for multiplayer it's a completely different rule set. Now there will be a lot of similarities between the two, but we'll definitely have units in the solo play we don't have in multi. In multiplayer everything's perfectly balanced, and we have to know that you can remember everything you need to do, and your opponent can be aware of everything you could do. But for solo play, if we want to have 16, 17, 18, 20 units for the Terrans, that's fine. If we want to have things that are out of balance in favor of the player, awesome. No problem. So we're looking at having a lot of units, especially for Raynor as a mercenary, he's getting access to and buying technologies that are apporpriate for the kind of down-and-out mercenary scumbag like he is. So he'll have access to things like Goliaths and Wraiths and Vultures, and all these old weapons that are not part of modern Dominion forces like we see in the multiplayer. Maybe some prototype stuff that would simply be way too powerful for any kind of multiplayer experience, but he can steal it and make use of it. So you'll definitely see not only new units, but lots and lots and lots of upgrades that simply would not be appropriate for multiplayer.

You buy the Terran game, you've got all three races to play online as if it were a full game with all three in the campaign, is that correct?

Both: Yes.

So is multiplayer the only way people can ramp up on the Zerg and Protoss before those games come out? Is there any other way to explore what they're about, or should you just play a lot of multiplayer?

DB: We are planning on using some tutorials to allow you to get into them and understand what they're about. A lot of players won't remember how creep works, and of course we've got a lot of new stuff in there as well which you'll want to learn, so we're going to look at doing what we can for that. We are planning a mini-campaign within the Terran campaign for the Protoss, so, you know, Raynor and Zeratul are kind of buddies--

CS: But just to reemphasize, we're not looking at the single-player as the way for you to learn how to play multiplayer anyway, so to tackle that, our plan right now is to have a multiplayer tutorial and on top of that we're exploring racial tutorials so that you could understand what larva are, and that they're a totally different build mechanic than how Protoss generate their units, or Terrans do.

You're saying it's a minimum of a year between, say, Terran and Zerg. Can you peg or at least estimate what year we'll see Starcraft II Battle Chest on shelves?

CS: That's an unanswerable question. [laughs]

Expect a two-year release window at the bare minimum.
We're going to try to do it as fast as possible, but if you look at a product like The Frozen Throne, it took a year from the time we shipped Reign of Chaos, almost to the day, to release Frozen Throne. That was a case where we didn't have this really ambitious total remake of what we did in the last product; it was a continuation, basically, the same style. So our intentions are to change it significantly for the Kerrigan and Zerg experience, so that's going to add some time. But we do know where we're going at the same time, so that also puts us ahead in some ways. But there's no scenario where I can imagine we beat that one-year timeframe, and beyond that I just don't know it goes beyond a year. That's for one product.

Do you guys expect a greater sense of urgency once Terran is out? Do you feel like you'll want to get those games out as fast as you can, or stick with the typical Blizzard design cycle of "keep iterating till it's awesome?"

CS:
There's a whole bunch of things that will come together because of us releasing the first. A lot of this has been technology, we fully wrote a new engine for this, all the cinematic and in-game elements we have are new to us, we've never done that before. So in doing this product, in getting it shippable and polished to the Blizzard level, we will have answered a lot of questions that will help us a lot. Our intention would not be to then have a cycle as long as it took to do this particular product up till now, which has been quite some time. At the same time, yeah, we're going to polish it until it's ready. We're going to be exploring a new take with Kerrigan and the Zerg's metagame, and the same thing with the Protoss. Each of those will have their own series of design decisions and explorations that will take some time. We'll want to do it as quickly as possible, but again, it will be a year or more.

BC: I want to throw in there, it's also important to note that the next box, it's not just "Well, let's make 30 more missions." Since the metagame mechanic is going to change from expansion to expansion, that's going to take some time to figure out and make the branching work that way.

DB: And multiplayer we'll want to add to it as we go into these expansions. We'll want to add Battle.net features, potentially. Just whatever stuff we can think of to add value across the product we'll be doing in each of these expansions.

CS: Our plans from the beginning, we knew this was going to take some time to do. We set out to make a brand new 3D engine for this and revamp everything--from a tech perspective, push the boundaries a bit. And putting all this time and effort into it, we knew we were going to do two expansions right from the beginning. We don't think those plans really have changed here, we're just switching up how it's happening, but the plans are identical. A base first game with two expansions.

We looked back at Frozen Throne, we looked back at Brood War, and both of those felt like, from the perspective of fans and even internally, if we'd had the resources and the time we could have easily done a second expansion for both of those. So we set out from the get-go to do that here.

You talk about subsequent products adding value into the overall experience. For instance, are we going to get new Terran units out of the Zerg experience that will roll back into multiplayer?

Both: Yes.

So what are the compatibility logistics between all these boxes? If I only have Terran, and two or three years later my friend buys Protoss, can we play together? Do you limit the available units to the products you own? How does that work?

CS:
We haven't finalized those details yet. We're still talking about it. We do understand that it becomes more challenging when you add a second expansion. But if you look at Reign of Chaos as an example, we then release Frozen Throne, it added a new campaign and then it added upgrades to the units. If you weren't interested in those upgrades to each of the races, you could stick with Reign of Chaos and continue to play it. Right now, that looks like how things will work here. You could buy the new expansion if you're interested in the Zerg campaign and you're interested in the multiplayer units that were added, then you'd get it. And if you weren't, you'd still be able to play the original experience.

Some comments came out of BlizzCon about the possibility of monetizing certain aspects of Battle.net. What can you say about that with regard to Starcraft II? Is it going to be free to just jump online and play another person?

CS:
We're right now getting into the real details from a design perspective of what Battle.net is. We have a lot of grand plans, we talked a little bit or alluded to some of that stuff in previous interviews, but we're not going into a lot of detail right now.

As far as the business model goes, that's not something we discuss on the development teams and isn't fleshed out yet. Blizzard has always delivered a great experience and done well on the side of the fans, on what they can expect for their dollar. We're going to want to continue to deliver on that and not change our reputation, so take that as you will.

DB: We were hoping to roll out more Battle.net stuff at BlizzCon, but we were looking at the feature set, and it wasn't quite working for us. So we just went back to the drawing board on it about a week before BlizzCon, so we're still working on Battle.net, we don't know what it's going to be yet.

Giant Bomb requires more vespene gas.
BC [statement added after the fact]: We do get that a lot of people are worried that we're not talking a lot about how Battle.net is going to work, but one thing to understand is that there are still a lot of undecided issues for us. and it's a matter of figuring out how it's going to work in every single region we operate in around the world before we can come out and start answering those questions. The bottom line is that we recognize that different regions have different needs and expectations--the way the business model is going to work could vary accordingly. We want to make sure we're taking those regional needs and expectations, as well as the design of each game, into account.

Is there going to be an achievement system like you've rolled into WOW recently?

Both:
Yep.

OK, Jeff wants to know if you guys have recorded any voice overs yet.

CS: Yeah, we have. Some of the voices that appeared at BlizzCon and some of the footage you can find around, those are actual actors. Of course we're not final, we haven't shipped the game, and all of that is subject to change. In fact, a lot of it will change for sure. But those are actual real lines that we intend at this point.

BC: I think Brad's asking because one of the running jokes in our old office--

That is why I'm asking.

BC:
Jeff's favorite thing from Starcraft was when you clicked on Raynor and he went "This is Jimmy." So he really wanted there to be like nine different ways that he says "This is Jimmy."

We just wanted to know if that line was still in the game or not.

CS:
Wow, I didn't know there was such a love for that particular line, but now that you've said that we're going to make sure [creative VP Chris] Metzen knows and when he goes to recording, we can get something like that.

DB: That line in particular has not been recorded yet.

Jimmy Raynor is a popular guy, let me tell you.

CS: Is that in a sarcastic way? Yes it is. [laughs]

Actually, no, we really do love James Raynor. Thanks so much for your time, guys. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
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Posted by Brad

Even if you've been living under a rock for the last week, you probably heard the momentous announcement out of BlizzCon about Starcraft II being split into three games. Wait, I know you heard, because I've been listening to you complain about it ever since. We were curious what the Blizzard guys thought about the fan reaction to the news--and we had a few questions ourselves about this strategic menage a trois--so I managed to get producer Chris Sigaty, lead designer Dustin Browder, and PR rep (and international player) Bob Colayco on the horn for a quick chat this afternoon.

Here's an only slightly abridged transcript of the conversation, or if you're the lazy type, you can also grab an audio file of the entire thing and listen to it on your portable music device, or whatever floats your boat. Read on for discussion of the new Battle.net, the contents of each multiplayer game, and how you might actually play a little bit of the Protoss in the first, Terran-themed Starcraft II release after all.

You guys had your big announcement, the three games, at BlizzCon. There was a reaction, you could say, from the fanbase. It was mixed, but there was definitely a negative component to it. Did you expect that at all, going into the announcement, and how do you answer the critics of your decision?

Sigaty, shredding.
Chris Sigaty: Well, first thing's first, there's a ton of misinformation out there right now. I've seen responses to the fact that there will only be one race per box in multiplayer as an issue, as well as our big money-driven decision that came down from executives from above. Those two major factors are completely not the case. It's a full multiplayer game. Look at it just like Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, The Frozen Throne, and then if we'd done a third, this is exactly how we're looking at this. And on the multiplayer side, of course there's all three races in there. So part of the negative reaction I think is just due to misinformation.

Dustin Browder: Yeah, I totally agree. There's a lot of folks out there who think that we're just trying to split it up into multiple boxes, and that's just not the case. We're looking at the creative problem that we're dealing with, we're trying to do something new, it's sort of a first for us. It's a little bit of a first for any kind of major RTS to have this kind of choice going throughout a campaign, and it just wasn't possible for us to generate the necessary amount of content, to have 90 missions in one box. We just weren't going to be able to do that. And the other choice we had, of course, was to not do something cool and new, and we didn't think that was appropriate either.

We definitely went with this choice and knew that there was going to be some confusion among the fans. But there was a little more confusion than I thought there [would be]. We had Rob Pardo get up there and do his presentation and really try to show the fans exactly what we're trying to accomplish. But I think a lot of guys on the Internet just saw the headline and just assumed that this meant "Oh my God, I have to buy three different boxes and they're probably all going to ship at the same time, and they're just trying to milk me for money." And that's just not the case. These things are going to be a trilogy; it's chapters of a story. They're going to be months or years apart as we work on them--obviously, closer to months, we hope. [laughs]

Bob Colayco: Minimum, a year between each.

DB: Yeah, as we work on these things we're trying to tell this huge story that sort of worked itself out of the creative process.

When you talk about the decision to split the game, would you say it wasn't just a question of quantity of content but also a design issue?

DB: Totally. We definitely wanted to have enough space for these characters in the story to breathe. A 10-mission campaign was just not going to cover it. Starcraft II is in kind of a unique position: We have this very deep story in the original game, and then we have years and years and years of novels and all kind of development on these characters that's happened since then. I think the guys who have been working at the studio for 10 years have had a lot of time to put into these characters and make them really cool. They've got a lot of story to tell. And if we had to cram all of that into a smaller space, we really wouldn't have gotten a chance for these stories to really run loose.

How about on the racial design side for the three different factions? You've got your RPG elements--what you're calling the metagame--between the missions. Is that going to be distinctly different between the three? Some of the Terran concepts, with the economy and the technology, don't necessarily map to the Zerg or Protoss.

DB: Absolutely. That's definitely the goal. When we were looking at it we were running into that as well. It's really developing a lot more than we've ever done before for a real-time strategy game. We do want to have this metagame for the Terrans, but then the Protoss and the Zerg will be completely different stuff. It needs to be a whole different problem set. We don't know exactly what we're going to do with those.

Browder, designing.
We've talked about Kerrigan evolving herself personally. Raynor is not the kind of guy who can leap to the front of the battlefield and take a Yamato shot to the chin and survive. That doesn't make a lot of sense for him. He would be somebody who's more of a commander, like a real general in a modern army. But Kerrigan, she's a monster of legend. This is a character who could potentially survive a fight with a battlecruiser--or several battlecruisers, possibly--so she may be more about evolving her own personal abilities, as well as evolving her forces, as she controls more and more Zerg creatures.

The Protoss are a whole different thing entirely, and that's the least fleshed out at this point. The Protoss are something we're looking at as, you know, this is a dying race that's struggling to unite under the threat of all the terrible forces in the Starcraft galaxy. They're really struggling to survive. The dark Protoss and light Protoss have split apart, and now they're back together on Shakuras and they're trying to reunite their tribes. As a player, you're going to have to figure out how to work these factions to make a coherent, effective force that can keep the Protoss alive. But those are obviously not developed at this point.

So it's safe to say that little or no work has been done on the following two games? Everything that exists right now is for the Terran package?

Both: Yes.

So the design work has yet to be done. Do you have the full three-game story in mind? Do you know where it's going to end at the end of the third game already, or is the story going to develop along with the design?

DB: We've got a pretty good idea of what's coming.

Obviously certain details will change over the time we develop these things, and we get better and better ideas, but we definitely know where it's going, we know where it's starting, and we've got a pretty solid idea of what will happen throughout the three arcs.

CS: And in specific, for example getting down to the campaign level, the Zerg and Protoss portions of the game have not been examined. But where it's going is definitely known at this point.

You talk about 30 missions in each package. Is that total number of missions? You've got branching storyline possibilities, so you aren't going to see 30 missions start to finish your first time through, right?

CS: You can. You can see up to, right now, we're saying between 26 and 30 if you play comprehensively. If you're a player who's not really interested in that, and just completing [the game], you can make it shorter. So it's really up to the player to choose how they want to play it, and follow the story arcs that they're most interested in. So it could be less in most cases, but yeah, we're targeting between 26 and 30 if you're somebody who did exhaustively everything per campaign. So at the end it starts heading upwards of 80, 90 missions total across the whole ting.

DB: There's a couple of places where we do ask you to make a choice, a hard decision, when playing a mission. You know, am I going to help this character, am I not going to help this character, am I going to kill this character, these kinds of things. There's not too many of those. We've only got right now in the game a handful of those in place. We'll see what happens in the future expansions, of course. Generally speaking, it's up to the player how much content he wants to do, and only a couple of places do we force you to choose A or B. So you'd certainly see the whole experience if you played it through once. You'd have a pretty good idea what's going on. It's not one of those cases where you have to play the game start to finish three times--you'll see a lot of the game on one playthrough. But if you really want to be super completionist, you can go back and choose those couple of places where you went left, choose right instead, and see some different results.

Colayco, pimping.
CS: I think the bigger, different discussion, the interesting part is, you know, I played through it this way and got this technology. I'm more of a turtle player, so I bought upgrades to my bunkers and made my siege tanks more effective. This other player may have upgraded the air units on his side or whatever, and now we had a different experience in how we played through in that direction.

Since you talk about there being so many choices on the tech side in the campaign, are there any differences between the units and the tech in the campaign, and what you're going to see in the multiplayer? Is there single-player-specific stuff?

DB: So we've gone away from one of the things we've done in the past and I think other developers have done as well, which is to pitch the solo campaign as a learning tool for online play. We are not doing that anymore. The feeling is that it's never been that successful. You can go ahead and beat the campaign, maybe all three campaigns, or beat the campaign on the hardest difficulty. Then you go online and you still get just destroyed by the first player you run into. It's just not the same kind of environment. There's a lot less pressure in the solo experience than there ever is in an online game against an aggressive opponent.

So we've definitely said these two parts of the game can live separately from one another. We can have a solo play experience with its own technology choices, its own options, and then for multiplayer it's a completely different rule set. Now there will be a lot of similarities between the two, but we'll definitely have units in the solo play we don't have in multi. In multiplayer everything's perfectly balanced, and we have to know that you can remember everything you need to do, and your opponent can be aware of everything you could do. But for solo play, if we want to have 16, 17, 18, 20 units for the Terrans, that's fine. If we want to have things that are out of balance in favor of the player, awesome. No problem. So we're looking at having a lot of units, especially for Raynor as a mercenary, he's getting access to and buying technologies that are apporpriate for the kind of down-and-out mercenary scumbag like he is. So he'll have access to things like Goliaths and Wraiths and Vultures, and all these old weapons that are not part of modern Dominion forces like we see in the multiplayer. Maybe some prototype stuff that would simply be way too powerful for any kind of multiplayer experience, but he can steal it and make use of it. So you'll definitely see not only new units, but lots and lots and lots of upgrades that simply would not be appropriate for multiplayer.

You buy the Terran game, you've got all three races to play online as if it were a full game with all three in the campaign, is that correct?

Both: Yes.

So is multiplayer the only way people can ramp up on the Zerg and Protoss before those games come out? Is there any other way to explore what they're about, or should you just play a lot of multiplayer?

DB: We are planning on using some tutorials to allow you to get into them and understand what they're about. A lot of players won't remember how creep works, and of course we've got a lot of new stuff in there as well which you'll want to learn, so we're going to look at doing what we can for that. We are planning a mini-campaign within the Terran campaign for the Protoss, so, you know, Raynor and Zeratul are kind of buddies--

CS: But just to reemphasize, we're not looking at the single-player as the way for you to learn how to play multiplayer anyway, so to tackle that, our plan right now is to have a multiplayer tutorial and on top of that we're exploring racial tutorials so that you could understand what larva are, and that they're a totally different build mechanic than how Protoss generate their units, or Terrans do.

You're saying it's a minimum of a year between, say, Terran and Zerg. Can you peg or at least estimate what year we'll see Starcraft II Battle Chest on shelves?

CS: That's an unanswerable question. [laughs]

Expect a two-year release window at the bare minimum.
We're going to try to do it as fast as possible, but if you look at a product like The Frozen Throne, it took a year from the time we shipped Reign of Chaos, almost to the day, to release Frozen Throne. That was a case where we didn't have this really ambitious total remake of what we did in the last product; it was a continuation, basically, the same style. So our intentions are to change it significantly for the Kerrigan and Zerg experience, so that's going to add some time. But we do know where we're going at the same time, so that also puts us ahead in some ways. But there's no scenario where I can imagine we beat that one-year timeframe, and beyond that I just don't know it goes beyond a year. That's for one product.

Do you guys expect a greater sense of urgency once Terran is out? Do you feel like you'll want to get those games out as fast as you can, or stick with the typical Blizzard design cycle of "keep iterating till it's awesome?"

CS:
There's a whole bunch of things that will come together because of us releasing the first. A lot of this has been technology, we fully wrote a new engine for this, all the cinematic and in-game elements we have are new to us, we've never done that before. So in doing this product, in getting it shippable and polished to the Blizzard level, we will have answered a lot of questions that will help us a lot. Our intention would not be to then have a cycle as long as it took to do this particular product up till now, which has been quite some time. At the same time, yeah, we're going to polish it until it's ready. We're going to be exploring a new take with Kerrigan and the Zerg's metagame, and the same thing with the Protoss. Each of those will have their own series of design decisions and explorations that will take some time. We'll want to do it as quickly as possible, but again, it will be a year or more.

BC: I want to throw in there, it's also important to note that the next box, it's not just "Well, let's make 30 more missions." Since the metagame mechanic is going to change from expansion to expansion, that's going to take some time to figure out and make the branching work that way.

DB: And multiplayer we'll want to add to it as we go into these expansions. We'll want to add Battle.net features, potentially. Just whatever stuff we can think of to add value across the product we'll be doing in each of these expansions.

CS: Our plans from the beginning, we knew this was going to take some time to do. We set out to make a brand new 3D engine for this and revamp everything--from a tech perspective, push the boundaries a bit. And putting all this time and effort into it, we knew we were going to do two expansions right from the beginning. We don't think those plans really have changed here, we're just switching up how it's happening, but the plans are identical. A base first game with two expansions.

We looked back at Frozen Throne, we looked back at Brood War, and both of those felt like, from the perspective of fans and even internally, if we'd had the resources and the time we could have easily done a second expansion for both of those. So we set out from the get-go to do that here.

You talk about subsequent products adding value into the overall experience. For instance, are we going to get new Terran units out of the Zerg experience that will roll back into multiplayer?

Both: Yes.

So what are the compatibility logistics between all these boxes? If I only have Terran, and two or three years later my friend buys Protoss, can we play together? Do you limit the available units to the products you own? How does that work?

CS:
We haven't finalized those details yet. We're still talking about it. We do understand that it becomes more challenging when you add a second expansion. But if you look at Reign of Chaos as an example, we then release Frozen Throne, it added a new campaign and then it added upgrades to the units. If you weren't interested in those upgrades to each of the races, you could stick with Reign of Chaos and continue to play it. Right now, that looks like how things will work here. You could buy the new expansion if you're interested in the Zerg campaign and you're interested in the multiplayer units that were added, then you'd get it. And if you weren't, you'd still be able to play the original experience.

Some comments came out of BlizzCon about the possibility of monetizing certain aspects of Battle.net. What can you say about that with regard to Starcraft II? Is it going to be free to just jump online and play another person?

CS:
We're right now getting into the real details from a design perspective of what Battle.net is. We have a lot of grand plans, we talked a little bit or alluded to some of that stuff in previous interviews, but we're not going into a lot of detail right now.

As far as the business model goes, that's not something we discuss on the development teams and isn't fleshed out yet. Blizzard has always delivered a great experience and done well on the side of the fans, on what they can expect for their dollar. We're going to want to continue to deliver on that and not change our reputation, so take that as you will.

DB: We were hoping to roll out more Battle.net stuff at BlizzCon, but we were looking at the feature set, and it wasn't quite working for us. So we just went back to the drawing board on it about a week before BlizzCon, so we're still working on Battle.net, we don't know what it's going to be yet.

Giant Bomb requires more vespene gas.
BC [statement added after the fact]: We do get that a lot of people are worried that we're not talking a lot about how Battle.net is going to work, but one thing to understand is that there are still a lot of undecided issues for us. and it's a matter of figuring out how it's going to work in every single region we operate in around the world before we can come out and start answering those questions. The bottom line is that we recognize that different regions have different needs and expectations--the way the business model is going to work could vary accordingly. We want to make sure we're taking those regional needs and expectations, as well as the design of each game, into account.

Is there going to be an achievement system like you've rolled into WOW recently?

Both:
Yep.

OK, Jeff wants to know if you guys have recorded any voice overs yet.

CS: Yeah, we have. Some of the voices that appeared at BlizzCon and some of the footage you can find around, those are actual actors. Of course we're not final, we haven't shipped the game, and all of that is subject to change. In fact, a lot of it will change for sure. But those are actual real lines that we intend at this point.

BC: I think Brad's asking because one of the running jokes in our old office--

That is why I'm asking.

BC:
Jeff's favorite thing from Starcraft was when you clicked on Raynor and he went "This is Jimmy." So he really wanted there to be like nine different ways that he says "This is Jimmy."

We just wanted to know if that line was still in the game or not.

CS:
Wow, I didn't know there was such a love for that particular line, but now that you've said that we're going to make sure [creative VP Chris] Metzen knows and when he goes to recording, we can get something like that.

DB: That line in particular has not been recorded yet.

Jimmy Raynor is a popular guy, let me tell you.

CS: Is that in a sarcastic way? Yes it is. [laughs]

Actually, no, we really do love James Raynor. Thanks so much for your time, guys.
Staff
Posted by Webby

Bob Colayco! Been a long time

Posted by PremierOctopus

Thanks Brad, that answers alot of the things I had been thinking about. This whole thing just erupted into a lot of speculation and misinformation. Good to get it straight for a change.

Posted by breton

Mind changed? Ehh... kind of. Mostly the fact that they mention the two other campaigns aren't even started(hard to believe).

Posted by uhrag

I'm pretty optimistic about the whole "spread the experience to maximize quality & quantity" for the game. As a gamer I'd like to see one huge game with lots of content and the best replay value for the money even if it would cost a little more than usually (lets say 80-120$). But as a developer the episodic realease of games is better for the cashflow and making sure that the next version does better job than the previous one. And for Battle.net I hope it would be free of charge without any monthly subscriptions so I don't need to check my wallet every month. From my experience the company can make the most buck by getting big and strong fanbase to the game they develope, make it competetive & modding friendly like half-life did.

Posted by McPlated

Colayco my main man - so that is were you went off to

Cool
Posted by Vager

Giant Bomb has some good Connections eh?

Posted by Vgsounds

Doesn't matter, the original voice cast is still not being used for Kerrigan and Jim Raynor. Screw it :/

Posted by lordofultima

THIS IS JIMMY. I remember that from the Nintendo 64 version, lulz.

Posted by Tortoise

I think what they are doing makes sense, and it will be cool to see the different ways the races go about business in more depth. It's just a shame it has to take quite so damn long.

Posted by MooseBurger

This game(s) sounds like it will be amazing.  Blizzard can do whatever they want with this, I trust them at this point.  Having to pay $150 for 3 games over the course of a minimum 3 years (hopefully) is not bad for what they are offering.

Posted by Demilich

I'm glad Chris can afford a very expensive PRS guitar...

Posted by datarez

Thanks for the audio file of it!!

Posted by Computerplayer1

I don't really have a problem at all with the three releases. I'm just really sketched out about the whole Bnet situation. It makes me shutter to even think of that service costing cash.

Posted by Crono

All of this is very exciting and while I feel the campaign additions and multi-player additions from the "expansions" will be worth my money, I still can't help but feel like I am being milked.  I mean they are already talking about how Bnet isn't complete yet and a lot is yet to be done while simultaneously stating that they will be adding more Bnet features with each expansion... even though none of the expansions have any work begun on them...?

Posted by RHCPfan24

Wow.  Big interview.  Good job.

Posted by TheHBK

I think this just makes sense, the releases that is.  The terran campaign is a full game on its own and the multiplayer is a full experience, so you could think of it as if they announced expansions early.  Bob, man I haven't heard anything from him!  He was the first GS member who's absence I noticed.

Posted by Overwatch

I think it's gonna be great. The only fear I have is about waiting time for another expansions. Don't wanna wait three years for the Zerg campaing.

And thanks for the audio file guys, great job!
Posted by makari

its just episodic content taken a little too far i guess. eh, everyone's gonna buy it anyway so it hardly matters.

Posted by AlucardaLaCarte
Posted by giyanks22

If they manage to deliver on these games than the Starcraft II Battlechest could be the greatest collection of games ever.

Posted by Joey2683

I'm really glad they  are really diving in and releasing this in a trilogy. This game really does sound like it will be 3 times the size of the original. Also knowing that new additions will be added to all 3 races with each expansion is awesome. If they charge monthly for battle net, for a simple deathmatch service, that will be a big dissipointment.

Posted by ratzombie

Nice interview, Brad.

But you need to bold and unbold a few sections, as some parts are where you're asking a question but since it is unbolded it looks like it is something they said.

Posted by Dryker

First off, I'm not a big RTS fan if at all, but I'm definitely a Blizzard fan. Concerning this three box strategy, I'm all for it. I don't know if anyone else here has made the same comparison, but this is a business decision not too unlike the one made for the Lord of the Rings movies. It's just more economical to build something that is greater than the sum of its parts in order to up the quality of the products as a whole. You may get cliff-hanger endings and some characters aren't fully fleshed out, but once the trilogy is complete, the whole is one of the greatest things ever created. It has been said that a production on the scale of the Lord of the Rings movies will never be done again, regardless of its potential. Taking this into consideration, I applaud Blizzard decision to "Go Big" and spread it out over Three games instead of cramming it into one, which, to return to the analogy, is what Peter Jackson originally approached Movie Studios with, it just so happened that New Line said, "This is three movies, not one." And the rest is history. Oh yeah, by the way, another company that had made the same decision about "Going Big" and being more concerned with the ultimate quality of the whole, at the possible expense of each game, is Silicon Knights with their Too Human trilogy. Well, I think most of us know what kind of response that got and now that Blizzard is seeing a similar response, pre-release, to their Starcraft II plans, they are jumping to clarify. To round out the analogy, each Lord of the Rings film taken on its own merit is incomplete and not as impactful as when considered beside the other two. It required all three movies to be released before the Academy awarded The Return of the King with its highest honor, Best Picture. And, yes, I am well aware that many said that it was a foregone conclusion that it would win regardless of the competition... in light of the other two movies' achievements. So again, I applaud Blizzard and anyone else attempting the same.   

Posted by sofakingcool

This DOESN'T CHANGE MY MIND! There are pleanty of huge games out there, Oblivion, Mass Effect, The Oange Box, Zelda (all games)... and on and on, that by this logic could have been split into at least 3 games. Nothing these guys said made a good point about why the game couldn't be 60 hours in one package as opposed to 20 in three (@50$). 150$ is simply an outrageous amount to have to shell out for what amounts to three caimpains. They will all be on the same engine, have the same multiplayer and be part of the same story arc. Oh, did I mention that Blizzard is planning to start charging for Battle.net? This is absurd!

Posted by Destroyeron

Honestly I'm not interested in what Blizzard has to say anymore. Maybe I'll think of buying the SC2 Battlechest when its about $50, in about 4-5 years, when its completely out of date and there are better games available.

Posted by Isaiah

Thanks Brad, I was really hoping someone on giantbomb would do a little digging.  I think I feel a little bit better about the whole thing now.

Posted by Chocobo_Blitzer

I think the only problem is the multiplayer segmentation. Because hey, if you play the first one and decide two more campaigns aren't worth it, then no big deal. But they imply those boxes are going to have new stuff for multiplayer, locking you out of the newest version of the game. That's bad.

I guess, every game has an expansion you have to buy to stay with multiplayer, but this feels slightly worse because the pricing on these could be rude and also, you'll have to expand twice.

But hey! The campaigns might be revolutionary and the multiplayer only people might be in the minority. I don't know.

Posted by KnightsofRound

I really hope they bring back the old voice actor for Jim Raynor.  It just wouldn't be the same without him.

Posted by HatKing

I don't know...for some reason I'm not that amped about this game...it being split into three didn't help.  Yeah Starcraft was a fantastic RTS and still is but this really doesn't look that much better...even the graphics I mean yeah it isn't animated sprites anymore but all the ships and characters look the same.  I just don't have that attraction for it because it looks too simular to the first game...maybe that is why so many people want it so bad.

Posted by baller

This interview should be smashed into the face of everyone who was hatein' on blizzard.

Posted by briansanderson

Excellent interview Brad.  Thanks a bunch.

Posted by TwoOneFive

this game is gigantic in south korea, they build stadiums for it

Posted by toadstule

That interview clarified some things but I'm still kinda confused; are the three games standalone (i.e.: I can choose to skip the the Terran game and start my SC2 experience with the Zerg game) or are they expansions where I need the Terran game before I can install the Zerg game?

Posted by Overwatch

It will be like expansions. And as far as installing the Zerg campaign only on top of Wings of Liberty, I don't know, but I don't think they said something definitive about this issue. We'll see. And multiplayer "compatibility" - look at it as it is a standard expansion. I mean like StarCraft and Brood War. Or like WarCraft 3 and Frozen Throne. It's gonna work exactly like that. Wanna play with new units in multiplayer? Buy an expansion. Wanna play only with the old units? Keep the Wings of Liberty game and play with people who don't wanna buy Heart of the Swarm. Simple.

Posted by Floppypants

Thank you for the audio file!  That was a great interview.  I hope I can expect more Blizzard interviews in the future!

For SC2, I couldn't be more excited for it.  If I had actually been able to buy tickets to Blizzcon this year (I'm looking at you Blizzard online store), I would have been there in the aisles of the Aneheim Convention Center cheering my lungs out at the annoucement of the two expansion packs.

Bob Colayco, you landed my dream job.  Live it up.

Posted by Pico

@vgsounds
"Doesn't matter, the original voice cast is still not being used for Kerrigan and Jim Raynor. Screw it :/"

Ugh, really? Did they say why they're recasting the main characters like that? That seriously kills a lot of my excitement for the game...

Posted by ProsaCC

A interesting listen.

Posted by momentarylogic

Still entirely unimpressed. I hope it becomes a thing you have to "see" to understand... sigh

Posted by hanktherapper

Try not to fall into Valve's plan of releasing episodic content.

Posted by Alphazero

My favorite lines were all from  the Siege Tanks.

<click> "I'm about to drop the hammer!"
<click> "And dispense some indiscriminate justice!"

Posted by Giantbombr

The different multiplayers still make me think this is nothing but a money grab

Posted by JuggaloAcidman

Here's the problem with all of this... I don't want to buy 3 seperate games to play all three campaigns... So, people that are interested in more than one of the races' story lines are going to be shelling out top dollar. It all depends I think... Are all 3 games going to be sold at a expansion packs price? Cause if they are at a discount price, say $30... I could see myself buying 2 (protoss and terran). But if they are for full price.... I'm not going to buy one! That would be rediculous. If they are looking at it like the Warcraft 3 expansion... It better be for the same price.

Posted by mrsmiley

EXCELLENT excellent Q&A session guys. I'm gonna think of GB every time I click on Jimmy now... :3

Posted by Nick8708

To the guy who said a game like Oblivion, because it's so big, should have been split up into multiple games if you follow Blizzard's logic:
They never said it'd have been impossible to fit all of it into a single game.  Their reasoning is that they have very high ambitions for the game and each campaign is going to take a long time to create, therefore producing each part separately they're able to get out a high quality, long and involved game  primarily focusing on one of the races in single player, as well as full multiplayer support, in approximately 1/3 the time it'd take to create all three of them for release at the same time.  I don't think it's stretching to say that the majority of fans would rather have that show up in 2009 (hopefully, maybe 2010), than to wait for anything at all until 2011 or 2012.  Either that, or sacrifice quality/length to put the game out in a more timely manner.

That being said, they have every right to make more money off their game(s) if each one is as high enough quality for an individual release as other top tier games.  If they aren't individually good enough to warrant full retail price, I believe Blizzard should have earned enough trust from the gamer community by now to take them at their word when they say they'll adjust the price accordingly.  Remember, they're one of the companies that is built from the ground up and staffed almost exclusively by people who are passionate about games; their goal isn't to rip people off.  Likewise, a game like Oblivion (which I've logged more than 100 hours on the 360 version), or the upcoming Fallout 3 if it's as good as it sounds, probably deserves more than a $60 pricetag, but unfortunately games typically all release at the same price point that is standard on any given platform, so $50 or $60 for one game is probably a hell of a deal, but for another a total rip off (the bad games do tend to drop in price more quickly than the good ones, but on release day they're almost always equally priced). 

What Blizzard is doing with SC2 is what we should want from companies.  They're doing everything they can to not compromise on the quality while still delivering as good a deal as possible.  They're trying to take into account the different types of players by making it possible for the multiplayer-heavy fans to buy a single game and be good to go, and indulging the storyline, single player enthusiasts with long, involved, campaigns that delve deep into the storyline and incorporate more than a simple mission structure that most RTSs employ.

As far as Battle.net goes and it's effect on multiplayer, it sounds to me like they want to keep it free for normal usage and have optional services be paid for, similar in model to how, besides the monthly fee, WoW only charges for paid char transfers, etc., things most people don't use.  My guess is that an optional service they'll have is to pay a fee to have access to the extra units/multiplayer updates that come with the second and third game if you only own the first or second.  For instance, instead of paying $50 or whatever for the whole second game, you can buy just the multiplayer component for $15-20.  Something like that.  That makes sense to me since it'd be optional and you could otherwise keep playing without it.  This is obviously speculation of course.  Ideally they'd make that part free too, but if it isn't necessary to continue using the original product....I kind of doubt it would be.

I probably sound like a Blizzard fanboy, but that's hardly true.  I've never played any of the WC games nor have had any interest to, I've played WoW on and off (mostly off) for a few years as a time killer with friends, and if I get SC2 it'll probably only be because I have a few friends who are diehard SC multiplayer fans and it was always fun to play with them from time to time; I'll pretty much play any multiplayer game my friends are into just to have some fun and BS (except Phantasy Star games...ick).  I just see this for what it is.  I'm hoping it'll help in breaking the traditional business models for game pricing.  I'd love to see in the future games launch with pricepoints that accurately reflect their inherent value, but I doubt most developers, and especially publishers, would be willing to give games unofficial "ratings", if you will, by saying "Well this game is top of the line, $60.  This one is really awesome, but not quite there, $55."  I can see them fearing gamers looking at two games with slightly different prices and thinking that, "Well if that ones cheaper it must not be as good" therefore unintentionally lowballing their own games...but if we were used to "getting what we paid for", i.e. if we didn't have to wait for weeks or months for a game's price to hit it's actual value, I imagine as a whole there'd be less outcry about a higher pricetag for higher quality.

Posted by spazmaster666

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Honestly all this fuss is unfounded IMO. Relic made two stand alone expansions to their Dawn of War series and no one made any fuss about it. In fact, those expansions (Dark Crusade in particular) actually dramatically changed the game in a positive way. And considering how much Brood War improved the original Starcraft, I don't see how releasing two expansions in a couple of years can be a bad thing.

Posted by Media_Master

Not a PC gamer, too much money to have a good one

Posted by Jayzilla

I really think they should have taken their precious time(they do anyway) and released this as a 3 disc game all at once. but hey, they are blizz and they know what they are doing.

Posted by No_Pantaloons

I still dont like this. The extra units and such makes it seem much more like a real expansion, and thus a more worthwhile investment. But their atempt to correct the "misinformation" really just leaves me thinking that they bit off more then they could chew. Ambious plans for sure, but that doesnt matter if they cant deliver what the fans (consumers) want. SC greatest strength wasnt its story, it was multiplayer, so pushing this farther and farther back to address that gap seems a bit foolish to me.
It's been 10 years....seriously..... and SC2:WoL wont be out this year or Q1, any bets on Q2 arent safe, so while I would love 30 lvs of action, I personally would rather have played the 10 and be logging on every night to play with my friends. And its not like the fans wouldnt be cranking out their own campaigns and such, if you really like that style better, in fact some of the customs ive played are equal or better then blizzards story (ty bloodwar "lets help kerrigan regain control of the zerg, she wont turn on us, im sure of it.....duke dies* fenix dies* wtf )
Sure we'll probibly buy all 3 but  after this dissapointing interview its clear to me they have almost nothing completed on zerg or protoss(i assumed so when they stopped adding untis to the site.)
In the end it should be good, but we have nothing to cheer about now, and if they start charging for bnet I can see blizz support failing completely.

Posted by baller

Typo found

"So at the end it starts heading upwards of 80, 90 missions total across the whole ting."

2 Paragraphs up from the "Colayco, pimping" photo



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