248: A Master Craftsman

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A Master Craftsman

How do you follow up one of the best-selling games of all time, a game that was so successful it spawned an entire sport and became the archetype for its genre? If you're Dustin Browder, Lead Designer of StarCraft II, you do it very, very carefully. John Funk speaks with Browder about the immense pressure - and satisfaction - of creating Blizzard's next great RTS.

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Seeing how Blizzard tries its very best to deliver a full game and listens to its massive fan-base, I can see that the second game will either be a huge hit, or even bigger than the first one's release...
I, for one, have been watching many beta matches (almost daily) and I will buy it when it comes out :D

great article... youv'e got to hand it to them, blizzard knows EXACTLY how to approach and create games, and its awesome to see that they're doing the same with SC2

though i would like to know what new races the developers had in mind...

I wish Blizzard would give in and put in LAN. I'd rather not get this whole movement to remove LAN and dedicated servers as a method of DRM.

Starcraft 2 is a lotta lotta fun. Great article, I love knowing what goes on in developers minds.

I would buy SC2 in a minute if it had LAN support. As it stands, I won't be able to play it because my college blocks the gaming ports on campus.

While I'm looking forward to it enormously, I just can't see the point of having constant Battle.net support for Single Player people. If you like Campaign, then I don't see the possible advantage to not being able to play if your net is down. Other systems have methods of dealing with what happens to achievements you earn while offline, or if you go to a LAN without a 'net connection. I think CnC4 showed us all that unlocking stuff in Singleplayer for Multiplayer is a terrible, terrible idea. So I'm failing to see how Battle.net can -possibly- help me, if I don't care about multiplayer.

...but to be honest, if they put in "use map settings" so I can play tower defense, etc, I'm sold anyway.

Fenixius:
While I'm looking forward to it enormously, I just can't see the point of having constant Battle.net support for Single Player people. If you like Campaign, then I don't see the possible advantage to not being able to play if your net is down. Other systems have methods of dealing with what happens to achievements you earn while offline, or if you go to a LAN without a 'net connection. I think CnC4 showed us all that unlocking stuff in Singleplayer for Multiplayer is a terrible, terrible idea. So I'm failing to see how Battle.net can -possibly- help me, if I don't care about multiplayer.

...but to be honest, if they put in "use map settings" so I can play tower defense, etc, I'm sold anyway.

You don't need to be online to play Campaign, there's an offline "Guest" mode. You just won't earn achievements or get the cool stuff like painting your own emblems on your SCVs.

One thing I don't understand is why he said there won't be a cover system. The original Starcraft had a limited cover system. Put your units behind a tree and you could be sure that they would defeat a force of equal strength. Hell, there were scores of UMS maps that were built around exploiting that very thing.

incrediblegeek:
I would buy SC2 in a minute if it had LAN support. As it stands, I won't be able to play it because my college blocks the gaming ports on campus.

Try this for unblocked internet, but be warned, the trial has time limits and is slow, but the ping shouldn't be too bad. If you want to pay for it I'd recommend the vouchers, not the time packages. Don't pay for anything until you manage to get the trial working.

matrix3509:
One thing I don't understand is why he said there won't be a cover system. The original Starcraft had a limited cover system. Put your units behind a tree and you could be sure that they would defeat a force of equal strength. Hell, there were scores of UMS maps that were built around exploiting that very thing.

The full transcript is going up on WarCry later, but how he explained it was that it was pretty significant, which meant that matches got bogged down JUST going for cover.

John Funk:

Fenixius:
If you like Campaign, then I don't see the possible advantage to not being able to play if your net is down.

You don't need to be online to play Campaign, there's an offline "Guest" mode. You just won't earn achievements or get the cool stuff like painting your own emblems on your SCVs.

I thought I heard them say that you can only save your progress through the campaign if you connect to Battle.net. Maybe I heard wrong. I'll dig around for the article.

Edit: Hrm. I can't actually seem to find the article. I remember hearing about it working like Uplay: you log in, and all progress is saved to the cloud, not your computer. I've found plenty of mentions of cloud storage capability when I googled about just now, but none seemed to say whether it was optional or whether it was compulsory. I found a mention on a blizzard website "can be saved online" or something like that, which implies that it's optional, but I'm still concerned that it's going to be compulsory. If anyone on Escapist ever gets a chance to ask, I'd appreciate a clarification <3

I see what you guys at The Escapist are trying to do with this issue. Trying to get me worked up over Starcraft 2 again PSSSSSSSSSSSSH! Well i'll have you know... it's working. =P

Fenixius:

John Funk:

Fenixius:
If you like Campaign, then I don't see the possible advantage to not being able to play if your net is down.

You don't need to be online to play Campaign, there's an offline "Guest" mode. You just won't earn achievements or get the cool stuff like painting your own emblems on your SCVs.

I thought I heard them say that you can only save your progress through the campaign if you connect to Battle.net. Maybe I heard wrong. I'll dig around for the article.

Edit: Hrm. I can't actually seem to find the article. I remember hearing about it working like Uplay: you log in, and all progress is saved to the cloud, not your computer. I've found plenty of mentions of cloud storage capability when I googled about just now, but none seemed to say whether it was optional or whether it was compulsory. I found a mention on a blizzard website "can be saved online" or something like that, which implies that it's optional, but I'm still concerned that it's going to be compulsory. If anyone on Escapist ever gets a chance to ask, I'd appreciate a clarification <3

I'm almost positive that they said (at Blizzcon, perhaps?) playing as a guest would only rob you of the integrated Battle.net features like friends, stat tracking, achievements and decals. But you can still play the Campaign all the way through - it's just MEANT to be played while you're logged in.

A good overview of Blizzard's mentality in general and StarCraft in particular. Nice work!

The lack of LAN support is certainly disappointing. How big it is going to be now that broadband connections are so prevalent remains to be seen.

I have known a few people who claim they are not going to buy StarCraft2 because of it. Who knows whether they will really follow through on it, StarCraft was a big part of most people's lives in my area but the lack of anything better than dial-up at the time meant LAN parties.

Even then though, there are plenty of people who have internet connection woes. People who are going to have to consider whether they want to purchase a game where the designers made a purposeful decision to not let them play with their friends. Maybe the pseudo-LAN may be enough.

Clearly though, this game will be huge. This 'one' negative decision on Blizzard's part will not chip away enough consumers to not make this game a great success. It does however feel like an unnecessary chip away from their sales, plus I would not be surprised if a hack surfaces that will just force LAN supporters away from the checkout at a game store and into the pirating community (assuming it is possible, I in no way claim to have any idea how hard a LAN version of StarCraft 2 would be to hack).

Sillyiggy:
The lack of LAN support is certainly disappointing. How big it is going to be now that broadband connections are so prevalent remains to be seen.

I have known a few people who claim they are not going to buy StarCraft2 because of it. Who knows whether they will really follow through on it, StarCraft was a big part of most people's lives in my area but the lack of anything better than dial-up at the time meant LAN parties.

Even then though, there are plenty of people who have internet connection woes. People who are going to have to consider whether they want to purchase a game where the designers made a purposeful decision to not let them play with their friends. Maybe the pseudo-LAN may be enough.

Clearly though, this game will be huge. This 'one' negative decision on Blizzard's part will not chip away enough consumers to not make this game a great success. It does however feel like an unnecessary chip away from their sales, plus I would not be surprised if a hack surfaces that will just force LAN supporters away from the checkout at a game store and into the pirating community (assuming it is possible, I in no way claim to have any idea how hard a LAN version of StarCraft 2 would be to hack).

I honestly think that this will be one of the times where a pirated version will be legitimately worse than the one legit consumers buy.

Pirated version: You get hacked LAN, whoo. This means you can play with people you know IRL and all of the other pirates. Since it won't be played on dedicated servers, there's no way to stop hackers.

Real version: You get a global multiplayer network of hundreds of thousands, if not millions. You get all the cool Battle.net features, you get the matchmaking system, you don't have to worry about people hacking since if they get banned they need to shell out an extra $50.

It's playing with a few hundred pirates over Hamachi (meaning you need to manually set up games) vs playing with a few hundred thousand legit players over Battle.net at the click of a button. For me, it's no contest.

Im just thinking afew months in the future...

"This just in, North and South Korea have both declared war on the popular gameing company Blizzard. Solders are raiding company buildings and takeing hostages. The leaders of both nations have said that one hostage will be killed for every hour that LAN support fails to come through."

One hour later...

"An update on the Korea, Blizzard war. Blizzard still refuseing to put LAN in Starcraft 2. More details as thay arrive."

Wareve:
Im just thinking afew months in the future...

"This just in, North and South Korea have both declared war on the popular gameing company Blizzard. Solders are raiding company buildings and takeing hostages. The leaders of both nations have said that one hostage will be killed for every hour that LAN support fails to come through."

One hour later...

"An update on the Korea, Blizzard war. Blizzard still refuseing to put LAN in Starcraft 2. More details as thay arrive."

That's a fun idea, on a more... "serious" glass googles, wars could be made with Starcraft, instead of sending youngsters to death for no reason. At least one could say those zerglings died for the country.

Tharwen:

incrediblegeek:
I would buy SC2 in a minute if it had LAN support. As it stands, I won't be able to play it because my college blocks the gaming ports on campus.

Try this for unblocked internet, but be warned, the trial has time limits and is slow, but the ping shouldn't be too bad. If you want to pay for it I'd recommend the vouchers, not the time packages. Don't pay for anything until you manage to get the trial working.

I've actually used that before, but found it too slow and unwieldy for regular use. I also don't like the idea of paying money to do something I could do free elsewhere. :P Thanks though!

I'm not big on multiplayer, personally, so I would be interested to hear more of the single-player campaign. If not details, then at least some idea of how they approached it. I mean, the original had an actually compelling (love that word) story with enough characterization to make us care just a little bit; so how are they going to create something "completely fresh and new for the series with the solo campaign?" Hmmm... I for one, would not be upset if they managed to make it into something of a "choose your own adventure" (tm) where we actually get to make overall strategic or story decisions between or even during missions. That's the only way I could see them advancing storytelling for RTS titles, but they may well have more imagination than I.

Kiithid:
wars could be made with Starcraft, instead of sending youngsters to death for no reason. At least one could say those zerglings died for the country.

Sure, except then Korea would quickly come to the fore as the pre-eminent world super-power. So of course the US might argue that we should fight wars with Basketball instead, and Canada would argue for Hockey, etc. We'd probably have to settle for soccer (football) as the international standard, which would put South America and Europe in power. All in all, not going to happen, but it would be interesting!

Chasmodius:

Kiithid:
wars could be made with Starcraft, instead of sending youngsters to death for no reason. At least one could say those zerglings died for the country.

Sure, except then Korea would quickly come to the fore as the pre-eminent world super-power. So of course the US might argue that we should fight wars with Basketball instead, and Canada would argue for Hockey, etc. We'd probably have to settle for soccer (football) as the international standard, which would put South America and Europe in power. All in all, not going to happen, but it would be interesting!

Settle for Peggle then, may the best marble drop country win.

Also, all this talk about the lack of LAN overshadows the BIG thing I love about Blizzard RTS's.

I love creating custom maps. No other company (as far as I know) has given so many tools to the fans to create content. There hasn't been much talk about it unfortunately. I love making maps to share with hundreds of people (getting their feedback, adoration, hate, etc.) Back with Frozen Throne I made a few that proved somewhat popular, maybe because I would actually make tournaments for my custom games.

I can't wait until I actually start creating content to share. I also enjoying playing what other people make especially when you find the rare gems. I already have ideas in the noggin' that must be released on the unsuspecting public.

Wow, the escapist dedicated an entire article to silencing old curmudgeons like myself.
Hats off to you, sirs (and ladies).

As an afterthought, what does it really say about the RTS genre when the most expected title of the genre is primarily based on game mechanics that are more than 10 years old. Quick someone make some comparison with old wine and quality!

Also, this

Sillyiggy:
Also, all this talk about the lack of LAN overshadows the BIG thing I love about Blizzard RTS's.

I love creating custom maps. No other company (as far as I know) has given so many tools to the fans to create content. There hasn't been much talk about it unfortunately. I love making maps to share with hundreds of people (getting their feedback, adoration, hate, etc.) Back with Frozen Throne I made a few that proved somewhat popular, maybe because I would actually make tournaments for my custom games.

I can't wait until I actually start creating content to share. I also enjoying playing what other people make especially when you find the rare gems. I already have ideas in the noggin' that must be released on the unsuspecting public.

Very interesting article on blizzard I must say.
This RTS (Starcraft 2) is what I have been looking forward to getting for some time now.

Future Hero:
Quick someone make some comparison with old wine and quality!

Old wine is good. I'm bad at this :|

Future Hero:
Wow, the escapist dedicated an entire article to silencing old curmudgeons like myself.
Hats off to you, sirs (and ladies).

As an afterthought, what does it really say about the RTS genre when the most expected title of the genre is primarily based on game mechanics that are more than 10 years old. Quick someone make some comparison with old wine and quality!

The comparison between old wine and quality holds true here because the original concept isn't actually broken.

I don't grasp how people can insist that the game needs a cover system when that lends itself to smaller games. It'd work in WC3 before it worked in SC2. It works in CoH and DOW but not SC2. You're trying to put something in the game that just isn't needed.

In all honesty if Blizzard did decide to do something like that they'd likely make a whole new IP to do it. People are coming to SC2 with a lot of expectations, but throwing them for an unnecessary loop by making it very much not SC would be a huge problem.

If nothing else if you really want to be that anal about SC2 not having some random feature you want it's easy enough to add it through the map editor.

John Funk:

Fenixius:

John Funk:

Fenixius:
If you like Campaign, then I don't see the possible advantage to not being able to play if your net is down.

You don't need to be online to play Campaign, there's an offline "Guest" mode. You just won't earn achievements or get the cool stuff like painting your own emblems on your SCVs.

That suits me, as I'm not an achievement whore, and emblems only make more sense in multiplayer.

John Funk:

Fenixius:

I thought I heard them say that you can only save your progress through the campaign if you connect to Battle.net. Maybe I heard wrong. I'll dig around for the article.

Edit: Hrm. I can't actually seem to find the article. I remember hearing about it working like Uplay: you log in, and all progress is saved to the cloud, not your computer. I've found plenty of mentions of cloud storage capability when I googled about just now, but none seemed to say whether it was optional or whether it was compulsory. I found a mention on a blizzard website "can be saved online" or something like that, which implies that it's optional, but I'm still concerned that it's going to be compulsory. If anyone on Escapist ever gets a chance to ask, I'd appreciate a clarification <3

I'm almost positive that they said (at Blizzcon, perhaps?) playing as a guest would only rob you of the integrated Battle.net features like friends, stat tracking, achievements and decals. But you can still play the Campaign all the way through - it's just MEANT to be played while you're logged in.

Yes, but on a cold blizzardy night when all the lines but power get knocked down, you can warm up your pylons and play some Starcraft 2. Unlike that other company that-shall-not-be-named-in-this-thread.

Chasmodius:

Kiithid:
wars could be made with Starcraft, instead of sending youngsters to death for no reason. At least one could say those zerglings died for the country.

Sure, except then Korea would quickly come to the fore as the pre-eminent world super-power. So of course the US might argue that we should fight wars with Basketball instead, and Canada would argue for Hockey, etc. We'd probably have to settle for soccer (football) as the international standard, which would put South America and Europe in power. All in all, not going to happen, but it would be interesting!

My vote would be for Griffball. If not that, then dodgeball.

Sillyiggy:
Also, all this talk about the lack of LAN overshadows the BIG thing I love about Blizzard RTS's.

I love creating custom maps. No other company (as far as I know) has given so many tools to the fans to create content. There hasn't been much talk about it unfortunately. I love making maps to share with hundreds of people (getting their feedback, adoration, hate, etc.) Back with Frozen Throne I made a few that proved somewhat popular, maybe because I would actually make tournaments for my custom games.

I can't wait until I actually start creating content to share. I also enjoying playing what other people make especially when you find the rare gems. I already have ideas in the noggin' that must be released on the unsuspecting public.

Very true. As Browder mentioned, the community can do some amazing things once the game is good enough to keep them going. So far Blizzard RTS games have done an great job of giving tools to the users and letting them spring forth creations. It's a genius idea and I don't understand why some other companies don't do this.

What's really interesting though is that they're taking the editor a step further, and this interview also reveals they've got more tricks up their sleeves. Perhaps those cancelled ideas will make it into the editor. We've already seen a third person shooter custom game demonstrated, and now there might actually be compatibility for a cover system and stuff.

There's only one problem: Didn't they say they were planning on a "marketplace" of some sorts on Bnet? The best thing about custom maps/mods was the fact that it was all free and made by fans, for fans. If a marketplace is introduced, sure, people will compete for money, but this could be problematic as many do not want to pay for what is supposed to be free stuff by the community.

As for the connected experience: A tad lame. You should be able to play the single player and unlock stuff without having to connect. At least you can still play single player offline. Taking out LAN also kind of sucks since people love options. While currently I'm not particularly affected by these issues, in the near future when I got to university, this could very well blow up in my face. Here's hoping the campaign will be amazing.

Chasmodius:
I'm not big on multiplayer, personally, so I would be interested to hear more of the single-player campaign. If not details, then at least some idea of how they approached it. I mean, the original had an actually compelling (love that word) story with enough characterization to make us care just a little bit; so how are they going to create something "completely fresh and new for the series with the solo campaign?" Hmmm... I for one, would not be upset if they managed to make it into something of a "choose your own adventure" (tm) where we actually get to make overall strategic or story decisions between or even during missions. That's the only way I could see them advancing storytelling for RTS titles, but they may well have more imagination than I.

Well you're in luck. I don't have the link but if you go digging that's exactly what they're doing, a sort of 'choose your own adventure' thing. First of all the units scrapped from multi-player, like medics & firebats will all be there, and oyu can upgrade and overpower them through the campaign, you'll also be able to hire mercenary units for missions, and finally you'll have some sort of good/liberator vs evil/mercenary decisions that you balance through the course of the game. I don't have the article/interview handy but if you dig around for it you should be able to find it.

It seems like Blizzard had two sets of goals for SC2.

Make SC2 as good as possible vs make SC2 as faithful to the original as possible

and

Make SC2 as easy to play as possible vs lay down the foundations for charging for multiplayer.

In neither case were they trying to make SC2 as good as it could be.

Starcraft 2 has been my most wanted game for a long time now.

But I am confused. Isn't LAN just a bunch of computers in the same room/house connecting directly? Why would there not be an option for this?

With Starcraft, I always went on Battle.net and played with friends/strangers. Then there was one time my internet was down. I had a friend over and we played a LAN game together. Why not include this feature? It seems easy to just have it there as an option.
I agree with Sillyiggy. If there is no LAN option people will create some kind of mod to play Starcraft 2 with LAN. Not a pirated version or anything like that, just a program that runs with Starcraft to provide this feature, like PenguinPlug. Well, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Like I said, I'm confused.

Rack:
It seems like Blizzard had two sets of goals for SC2.

Make SC2 as good as possible vs make SC2 as faithful to the original as possible

and

Make SC2 as easy to play as possible vs lay down the foundations for charging for multiplayer.

In neither case were they trying to make SC2 as good as it could be.

I'm curious how you came away with both of these from the interview, since that wasn't the impression I came away with at all. SC2 is faithful to the original because they were trying to make it good.

While I haven't spent much time with either of those, I've had the impression that Diablo I and Warcraft II have been mearly the first notable games of their kind, the trailblazers in, respectively, the amusingly called "third person looter" sub-genre of RPGs, and in RTSs(with RPG elements). And its their successors that flesh out the whole sub genres, pave the way for later, different and more modern games and are in fact the "influential and beloved classics"..

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