This year at Gamescom, we had a talk with Tim Morten, lead producer for StarCraft 2 and David Kim, senior game designer for StarCraft 2.
EmuGlx: What can we expect from the new singleplayer campaign in Legacy of the Void (LotV), and maybe from the new gameplay system that fans did not experience before?
David Kim: In terms of general flow of how campaign plays out, you can expect the very similar type of system from Wings of Liberty (WoL) or Heart of the Swarm (HotS), but the things that are unique now is that you unlock this massive capital ship called the Spear of Adun, and this ship has the access to all these powers. So throughout the course of campaign, you unlock resources to be able to access more parts of the ship, so what this allows is the Spear of Adun, flying overhead when you play missions down on the planet, so you can access some of these powers to call down to the field. Things like damaging abilities, buffing abilities or utility stuff. On the army side, we have choices depending on the faction types. So each unit in your army has three choices. For example if you look at the Zealot, you have version that is more stealth based, version that is more mobility-based or heavy damage. So you can kinda pick each of these types per unit type, and customize your own army and play like that.
EmuGlx: They say in Hollywood that last sequel that got to be made is the one that failed to make any money. Obviously that is not problem with you at all, and obviously you can’t talk too much about narrative and give away the plot points, so mu question is, do you think that StarCraft is like Facebook, that it’s never going to be finished, you will always work on it, develop it, or can you actually see the time when you will say “we have taken this franchise as far as we could”?
Tim Morten: I’ll answer the first part of the question. If we look back at SC1, WC3, these are games that are still today being actively played. In certain sense even when LotV is done, SC2 will live on, and definitely as the development team, we plan on supporting SC2 after the LotV. But I think the part of the question is will there be a point of resolution. Definitely, our goal from story perspective is to tie up this narrative and to have the sense of satisfaction for players who have been following these characters since SC1, so that they feel like their story is resolved. So it is possible to tell different stories perhaps in the future, but this story arc will come to the conclusion.
EmuGlx: This last release of SC2 is going to be a standalone release. I am wondering will the story of this game be friendly to newcomers?
Tim Morten: We are gonna set the story of this one in such way that players who come into it, who have not played WoL or HotS can catch up quickly with the story, we will have recap of story for them. This arc is very much focused on Protoss. From the gameplay perspective it is very much distinct from WoL and HotS, so it should stand own on its own in that sense. Our motivation behind doing this is taking away the barrier for players to get in to the game. They should not feel like they have to go back and play the first two games, or certainly feel like they have to make additional purchase before they can try LotV. We want them to be able to just jump in and enjoy the game.
EmuGlx: Do you plan making other games standalone?
Tim Morten: Yeah, we have just made HotS standalone, so players who want to, can jump straight in HotS.
EmuGlx: Legacy of the Void will end the saga that started with the first game, but can we expect any kind of spin-off or new game after LotV in the future?
Tim Morten: (smiles) We are so busy right now just finishing LotV that we haven’t actually made a decistion on what we will do next, but there is no question that as a team we plan more games in the future. I think the question is what will those games be, because we don’t even know.
EmuGlx: With the introduction of the new Protoss units into campaign and multiplayer, and since many successful e-sports players are regularly winning with Protoss already, how are you ensuring that you are not giving those players an edge and also encouraging players to use all other races?
David Kim: Well first, it really depends on who you ask I think, in terms “who wins most”. I think people will say different things, and we kinda like that fact that some people think that Protoss always wins, or other that Zerg always wins. We have a good balance now in HotS, which is good. And another thing is, for multiplayer, this new game does not add units only to Protoss. We are treating every race equally, so every race is getting 2 new units each and maybe 5-6 redesigned units each. The goal for MP is that just because this is LotV, that does not mean that Protoss should get best changes. We want to keep it very fair and competitive, across all player skill levels.
EmuGlx: But Protoss are like Decepticons, they always get the best stuff. 🙂
David Kim: (laughs) No, they always get the most high tech weapons, but they are not always strength-based.
EmuGlx: SC2 is actually one of the last great RTS games around. Back in the day we had loads of those games everywhere, but now the e-sport scene is getting flooded by MOBA games. As your company has entered that fray as well, do you think that you will have to rethink what SC needs to evolve into, in the future?
Tim Morten: I think, SC originally was the only e-sport. Now we’ve seen other games including Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm also becoming e-sports. But that has not actually taken anything away from StarCraft in terms of the growth of our own e-sports community. We had the biggest attendance in our season finals for WCS Blizzcon last year and we are expecting this year’s one to be even bigger, this year we have the most frequent e-sport worldwide event schedule than we ever had. We’ve really seen the growth of e-sports and growth of other genres as actually creating the bigger addressable market for us, creates more interest in e-sports as a space, and I think there is really complimentary aspect to MOBA and SC, certainly from the camera perspective, controlling units, I think they are things that players learn watching Heroes of the Storm lets say, that sets them up to really understand StarCraft better. I think it has the potential of positively impacting the StarCraft.
David Kin: It’s gonna shake it up quite a bit. Balance is very solid now in HotS, but throughout the beta and after LotV launches, all that will be offset. Our current plan is, we were in beta for more than 6 months now, so we are approaching that phase when we switch our focus to fine-tuning balance passes, but on top of that we obviously try to do our best before launch, and hopefully we will get close to that ultimate goal. But even after the game ships, as we see more MP games, as we see player strategies evolve, we will have different areas of the game to balance out. It is just something that comes with every expansion of edition, we just have to work it through.
EmuGlx: Do you have plans of providing additional singleplayer content after LotV launches?
Tim Morten: Well, I can definetley share that we do plan to provide additional maps for our brand new cooperative play mode after the launch of LotV. Whether we provide other types of content is something we still have to talk about as a team. Our number one priority is to give players an experience that they enjoy, so we do spend a lot of time on taking consumer feedback, I think we are always considering new things.
David Kim: Regarding user feedback, we will continue to support our games after LotV. We don’t have plans for more content now, but those plans can change after receiving feedback from players. (EDIT: Later at the Blizzcon 2015, it was announced that LotV will get some micro single player updates from time to time, frist one will be few new missions with Nova Ghost)
EmuGlx: What would you say is the main feedback you’ve been getting from beta?
Tim Morten: It’s hard to distil it to a single thing.
David Kin: More recently we had a lot of talking about removing or toning down the macro mechanics (chrono boosts, mules and larva spawns) and we got a lot of feedback that is currently split around 50/50. We believe that we are not just quite there yet with that part of game design, but we are exploring many new things and balance concerns around some of the new units.
David Kim: When we create a unit, it is not that one unit that we designed. We discuss about so many different ideas, we maybe tried to improve upon other games, we don’t think just about Heroes of the Storm, but also games like Diablo, Hearthstone, WoW. We try to be more open minded in terms of what can be brouht to SC2 and make it fit for SC2 that is really fun. In that exploration we heavily depend on other games, including games outside of Blizzard games.
EmuGlx: How do you plan supporting e-sports after Legacy of the Void is launched, do you plan to introduce new units as time goes by and refresh gameplay?
David Kim: Yeah, those are all ideas that flow around, but we don’t know what the answer is. For the moment we want to create this perfect experience in the LotV, but it is hard to say for certain that we won’t make any major changes. Our current thinking and our current goal is to locate every little hole that we can locate, that we address everything that we can, so that we can release LotV multiplayer in a really solid state and then leave it, so that it can live forever just like Brood War did.
Tim Morten: To answer the first part of you question about e-sports, Blizzard is very much behind continuing Starcraft II World Championship Series well past LotV, we will continue to do Seasons, balance updates, and talking about new units, it’s not something where we have specific plans but if it turns out that it makes sense for us to do that, that the game will benefit from it, we are certainly open to exploring it.
David Kim: Community feedback is very important in this area.
David Kim: Most important thing we learned up to now is importantce of working together with our community and working together with our influencers, pro-players and casters. In LotV beta we really stepped up in our effort, in terms of communication on weekly basis, exactly what our plans are, our thinking and even things that we really don’t know answer to. The fact of having the smartest people our there helping us develop, and working together on a game have helped us greatly. This has always been the case, ever since the Wings of the Liberty, but I think that the degree of collaboration has increased so much in Legacy of the Void and I think that at a really high level that is one of the most important things we’ve learned.
EmuGlx: Your other Blizzard games are known for evolving, adding new playable races and changing things on a dramatic scale. Has your focus on three core races limited the full potential that StarCraft can achieve?
David Kim: The three races thing is something that we have decided because one of the main goals for SC2 was to become one of the best RTS games out there, not necessarily to explore and try to force new things into the game. Three races I hink is a really good number, expecially in term of race identity as well as e-sport side of thins. For example, the more races we have, the fan watching the game has more chances of being disinterested in watching. With just three races, chances are that any SC2 e-sports fan will have something interesting to watch. From a playing perspective, we also don’t want to break player rivalries (Zerg vs Terran), or potential of making friends with someone just with the fact that you both enjoy playing the same race. I think that this tree-race decision was the correct one even in the original, and it is correct to keep it for LotV.