InterviewsDesigning StarCraft II: An Interview With Blizzard's Dustin BrowderInterviews - RSS 2.0
-What defines "StarCraft-y-ness" for you guys? What did you HAVE to have in the game?
For us, it was obviously the idea of the "rush." We love the speed, the chance to lose - or win - the game at any moment; these were all critical components. We don't want it to be the sort of RTS where you're absolutely safe for 15 minutes and after that, that's when you might lose. We really wanted to make a game where you need to be on the edge of the seat from the first 10 seconds onward, thinking, "I could win or lose right here. Oh man, I need to harvest, I need to get ready as quick as I can!" That speed, that urgency, was really definitive for us.
Another thing that defined StarCraft was the ability to build up from small armies to massive fleets - and like I said, either could decide the game. StarCraft is a game where you can see the game end in a fight with 5 Marines vs. 8 Zerglings. You could have won it right there, you could have overcome your opponent depending on how you play. You could use the marines at chokepoints, you could put their backs to walls - if you have a unit's back to a wall, it's a lot safer than if you're in the open field where you can get surrounded. It's different if the Zerglings can attack from two directions at once. You can demonstrate a lot of skill and win the game playing with just five marines.
At the same time, this game is going to scale if both people are of equal skill to the point where I could have a fleet of 15 Battlecruisers. So you go from a very small scope that's almost squad-based, to this epic, insane battle with dozens or even hundreds of units all fighting in a massive clash, over a twenty minute period.
That sudden change of scale is really crucial to StarCraft's success: Every moment is critical whether big or small, you can win or lose anytime.
Something that we've learned... well, we didn't know when we made the original, but Blizzard has since learned that the game needs to be as fun to watch as it is fun to play. There's lots of strategy that players can use, lots of turns you can take, but it's also really enjoyable to watch people play and cheer them on, and that was something we wanted to preserve as well.
-Was this more of a reaction to the StarCraft scene in Korea, the Arena competitions for WoW, or something else?
Well, we've seen it grow around the world for a bunch of games. It's true that Korea's embracing of StarCraft and Brood War showed the world just what an e-sport could be. We're seeing a lot of growth in e-sports around the world: Europe embraced it, Korea's still the leader in that field, just for their unbelievable enthusiasm for the concept. It doesn't matter if it's for our games or our competitor's games, I don't care. I just want e-sports to be more successful here in the States, in Europe, in South America, wherever! It's just a really fun way to experience and promote this hobby that we all love, and I'm hopeful that it continues to grow.
Certainly, we think that StarCraft II can help this along, and make this e-sport industry a bigger part of the gaming experience as a whole.
-How do you think that the removal of LAN play will affect the game's popularity, especially in tournament situations where you can't have 50 people on one DSL connection, or less-developed areas where broadband is restricted?
The question really is, for us... I feel like broadband is available in a lot of places. Most of our users are already able to connect via broadband, and if you don't have broadband your online gaming experience is probably suffering on its own already. We're trying to create a stronger internet community, to encourage people to play on the internet, which is how it's meant to be played: With achievements, with the matchmaker, with your friends - you can see them if you're logged on wherever you are in the world.
We've found that certainly for us, StarCraft is a vastly superior experience when playing against someone of equal skill as you, and that might not be your friends. It's much, much more fun when you're being matchmade against someone with your skill level, and believe me, that's something we've been working on perfecting in StarCraft II. In the beta, we're still ironing out all the kinks but you almost always feel like you should be matched against somebody of your skill level, who can play at the level you can play at. In StarCraft, if you're playing someone who is better or worse than you, it really loses some of its teeth.
Sure, there'll always be someone who likes beating up on noobs, who likes pulling wings off butterflies, but that's not a fun experience. But by building a huge Battle.net community and bringing it together, we want to get them to play together. That was our goal from the beginning: to have everybody all on the same server, playing as one huge community.
I certainly hear the concerns about it, but it's something we're going to try and see how it goes, first.
-And what about the situation where you have a tournament where everyone is on one DSL line? Internet play would be impossible there - there was a "pseudo-LAN" solution mentioned where you'd be connected directly as long as there was some sort of internet connection, is that still in the cards?
I believe so. We're still looking at tournament solutions, we don't know what our final set of solutions will be, but we're actively looking for something that will allow that situation to be a lot more positive experience. We've gotten a ton of feedback, we've heard that even that solution that you mentioned isn't enough, I don't know what the final form will look like, how that will finally shake out - but we're really aware of the problem, and we've heard the feedback, and we're trying to deal with it.