Just yesterday, a few of StarCraft’s developers took to Reddit for an “Ask Me Anything” session with the fans. Afterwards, Blizzard posted a neater version of the transcript as a Q&A on the Battle.net blog. Here is a brief rundown of some key questions, with a few interspersed throughout which I found particularly amusing.
First here’s a quick recap of the devs who were on tap to answer the questions:
“Dustin Browder, Game Director
Q&A Focus: General game design, eSports, versions, campaigns, community
Alan Dabiri, Lead Software Engineer
Q&A Focus: Game systems, UI, Battle.net, Heart of the Swarm launch, player quality of life
David Kim, Game Balance Designer
Q&A Focus: Unit design, race balance, multiplayer”
And now for some questions:
“Question- Archvil3: In a year from now, how far are you into the development of Legacy of The Void, and what else will you be working on? How many people are working in the StarCraft department of Blizzard? While StarCraft 2 was well received in most of the world, the transition from Brood War to StarCraft 2 in Korea was very rough. If you could go back in time to 2010, what would do different in regards to KeSPA and the Korean market?
Dustin Browder: We have started on Legacy story, scripts and missions.
80+ developers, hundreds of QA + Cinematics + other support personnel. Look at the credits for Wings. All of those people made significant contributions to that game.
We were very happy for KeSPA to support SC2. I was not part of any discussions with them and I don’t know the details, sorry.
I get to play David Kim quite a bit when he runs out of real players to play against or when we are not yet in Beta. I barely beat him in a game one day and went over to his desk to celebrate my victory only to find out he had been reading email during the decisive battle.
Question- Userstupidname: Will you open up the unlockables? More than just skins. Unlockables like: SC1 music, SC1 sounds for each unit, Pro player avatar pictures, Famous team symbols, Avatars for the default/buildings. Will you work on having a calendar on the welcome screen that shows upcoming eSports events? Currently you depend on third part sites to know when eSports events is up and coming, making the millions who only play for the campaign miss the chance of eSports. Will you help Barcrafts in the same way? Will you add systems to support teams better? Will you add an introductionary page for eSports? History and current state; famous players and major events?
DB: Those seem like some interesting ideas. I don’t know if we could do pro player pictures. Those guys own their own faces I think?=) There are some memory limitations to how many unlockables we can do but your ideas don’t seem out of bounds to me.
We are going to do what we can to promote esports in the client. We won’t have a calendar element when we first launch but it’s something we can certainly talk about.
We will continue to promote Barcrafts, and we are actively talking with teams and other eSports leaders about how we can help them be successful.
Question- Markrem: 1) Will there be more skins than revealed in the current client, or more added in the future? 2) What happened to the possibility of a Blizz version of Stronger Team Colours?3) What happened to changing the game clock from Blizzard Time to Real Time? 4) Probably the most requested thing ever is to bring Lurkers back into multiplayer. Why hasn’t this happaned, even in beta? Surely that’d be a good time to prove your point of “Look, here’s lurkers, they don’t work in SC2.” 5) Will the custom observer UI revealed in the eSports and Multiplayer as an example be released to public? I thought that looked amazing.
DB: We have some memory limits that prevent us from doing too many skins in the game with raising the minimum hardware requirements. We will try to find ways to add more but we do have some limits. 2) This didn’t end up happening. My understanding is that we had some technical challenges that would have hurt lower end systems to have two types of colors in the game. 3) This turned out to be more complicated than we thought. We will get to this down the road. We understand why this is important. 4) We did try lurkers again, and they were not what we hoped they would be in Heart of the Swarm. With all the changes from Broodwar they were not as cool/fun/effective as newer units.
Yes, our example will be patched into the game and released to our community.
Question- Fazer2: Gabe Newell said on the DICE conference that a free-to-play business model can increase your audience 10 times and your gross revenue 3 times. Do you have any plans to move StarCraft franchise in that direction?
DB: We have no plans to go free-to-play in the traditional sense. We do have a trial version that allows players to check out the game but it isn’t like Team Fortress 2. Valve did make a lot of changes to Team Fortress 2 to make that game work for free-to-play. We have not yet found design choices for StarCraft II that we would be happy with to make it free-to-play, so we aren’t going to do it.
Question- SammyTBags: How can you reassure everyone that the Heart of the Swarm launch will go smoothly?
Alan Dabiri: We’ve learned a lot from our previous launches, including the Wings of Liberty launch, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure this launch goes as smoothly as possible. We have the advantage that we’ve been building on an existing platform that’s been evolving for several years.
Question- Lordofsoup: How many users are you expecting online within the first 5 minutes of launch?
AD: Over 9000.
Question- Applesaws: What do you think about technologies like the GameHeart Overlay? The features seem to extend beyond what we’ve been shown of the new HotS overlay stuff, do you intend to try to incorporate more viewing features in the future?
AD: GameHeart is very cool. We were all really impressed with the latest video they released.
Yeah, our custom observer UI feature was initially designed simply to allow tournaments and streamers the ability to customize the UI (on any map) in any way they want. It doesn’t actually allow you to do scripting. We’ve got some cool ideas about this for the future. Some of those ideas will actually end up helping out projects like GameHeart as well.
Question- Agiantsmurf: When HotS multiplayer was first announced and the oracle was introduced, you stated that you wanted to move towards more “worker friendly” raids and harass as there was currently too much focus on who can kill more of who’s workers. Since then we’ve seen changes to units including the oracle, the widow mine, the hellbat, and the mutalisk. All them have gained great potential to clear out mineral lines very quickly. What has changed in how you wanted harassment to work?
David Kim: Our main goal was to have variation in how you harass your opponent. Worker friendly raid was something we tried on the Oracle but it didn’t work out.
Although we haven’t succeeded in creating that specific difference, we think the new options are still unique.
Oracles kill really fast while having an energy limitation. Widow Mines fire very infrequently that you can still mine with workers even after they hit. Hellbat is different dropping other units in that they lack the movement speed vs. their damage is much greater.
Question- Static989: Do you plan on making any changes with the corruptor at all? Are there going to be more unit skins/dances then the ones we could see in the hots beta?
DK: We’ve tried a few different abilities on the Corruptor. But the problem was that whenever we put in an ability that’s not effective, even if the idea is creative or cool people just see it as a nerf. Therefore, for now we decided to keep the ability because even though it’s not one of the most exciting abilities to use or watch, it works and it is a strong/effective damage buff ability.
Question- Nerak33: As a professional RTS player and designer, what games beside the Starcraft franchise do you think were paragons of balance or imbalance? Do you feel your job as a “RTS balance specialist” is very specific, or do draw inspiration from people and projects that came before you, be it in the gaming industry or somewhere else? What does it feel like to beat your boss in his game?
DK: It’s hard to compare a competitive eSport like Starcraft with most other games in the world. For example, World of Warcraft does an excellent job of balancing the game for what it is. Whenever I go on a raid, it feels like whoever has the better gear/skill is more favorable than a specific class.
Surprisingly, I work on all parts of multiplayer of Starcraft and am a general Game Designer for it.
One of the most important things we stress on our design team is to not take wins or losses so seriously but focus more so on what we need to get a good grasp on. So beating my boss in the game doesn’t make me feel that great compared to if those games we played somehow contributes to making the game cooler, that’s when we feel the most excited.
Question- Archvil3: Tell us a funny/embarasing story that happened durring the developement of Heart of The Swarm!
DK: A few weeks ago, our multiplayer design group was just having a casual meeting at my desk about something while I was just working on something else. Unintentially, I wasn’t really listening and I wanted to talk about what I was working on so i said “Yeah I know, but what do you think about this?” And everyone started laughing so hard.
Supposedly, what one of our tech designers said right before I started talking was something along the lines of “Well I completely suck at this game and will never improve.”
It was pretty embarrassing, but we know each other so well that he knew exactly what happened”
There are literally dozens more questions the team went through and posted over on the blog so if you’re interested in game mechanic adjustments and the more gameplay-centric answers, I encourage you to head over and read the full transcript.
Oh and here’s an obligatory trailer for Heart of the Swarm, just because it’s so visually satisfying:
Are you folks excited about Heart of the Swarm? Or would you prefer games that take the free-to-play approach like League of Legends? Let us know in the comments.