BlizzCon 2010: Why Is the StarCraft II Team Making Custom Maps?


What does Blizzard’s StarCraft II team stand to gain from making Blizzard DotA and StarJeweled?

One of the most unexpected announcements out of this year’s BlizzCon was the news that Blizzard would be adding four custom game mods – all developed in-house – to StarCraft II for free. It turned out that all four games – Blizzard DotA, StarJeweled, Left 2 Die and Aiur Chef – were actually pretty fun, but the question remained: Why do it in the first place?

The Escapist sat down with Blizzard’s Alan Dabiri – the Lead Software Engineer on StarCraft II – last week at BlizzCon 2010 and asked him exactly that. “Part of it is that we’re showcasing the engine and how flexible it is,” said Dabiri. “These are a completely different style of games from StarCraft. I haven’t worked on any of them [as an engineer], though – I don’t need to, it’s totally in the engine.”

With these four new mods, Blizzard hopes to inspire its mapmaking community and show them the sort of things that can be done. Beyond that, though, Dabiri said that Blizzard wants to understand the difficulties mapmakers are having in order to improve the tools it provides. “We saw a ton of people making custom maps, and we wanted to see the problems that they were facing, so we could get a better handle on the issues.”

For instance, take the engine’s support for, say, inventory management – a huge part of an RPG map. “Our inventory management was pretty clunky,” admitted Dabiri. “And we never used that while making StarCraft II‘s campaign, so it wasn’t on our radar until we were making the DotA map.”

Blizzard will be updating the map-maker and the engine as it releases its mods, and Dabiri thinks that the community will put the updates to good use – especially the art assets that come with Blizzard DotA. At the moment, the DotA map had only characters from Warcraft and StarCraft, but Dabiri said that the team was definitely going to add a Diablo presence as well – mentioning the archangel Tyrael by name – to make it more of a pan-Blizzard Smash Bros game.

Beyond that, though, Dabiri said that the StarCraft II team was just hoping to foster the creativity of the community. “Developers can foster creativity – it comes from us making this a flexible engine to work with, and putting in art assets and different units. That’s why we’re doing this.”

The four games are to be released in the coming months for all owners of StarCraft II. Blizzard DotA will be the last of the four to be released, and Dabiri says that the developer intends to keep updating it with new heroes and the like after launch.

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