Blizzard outlines Starcraft II gameplay

Studio's top creative talent discusses Starcraft II gameplay details at a Worldwide Invitational panel discussion.

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SEOUL--Believe it or not, even though the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational 2007 event is home to music concerts and some of the biggest game tournaments in the world, one of the most intriguing activities is actually sitting quietly in a theater. Three of Blizzard's top creative talents--creative director Andy Chambers, senior game designer Dustin Browder, and vice president of game design Rob Pardo--sat on a panel to discuss gameplay details for the company's newly announced sequel, Starcraft II.

Pardo began the discussion by revisiting several of the studio's previous games, going back as far as Warcraft II, which the vice president cited as the first Blizzard game to garner a significant following as a competitive multiplayer game. Pardo explained that the original Starcraft arose from the team's desire to create a fast-paced real-time strategy game like Warcraft II, but in a different universe, then described how Blizzard's subsequent RTS project, 2002's Warcraft III, took a very different approach by offering slower-paced gameplay with smaller armies, hero units, and many units with activatable abilities to appeal to "the average gamer." Pardo suggested that the units in both the original Starcraft and in the sequel will instead act as "movers and shooters"--mostly autonomous forces that generally lack special abilties but will be used in large control groups to "do their own thing" in battle, rather than requiring the micromanagement of high-level Warcraft III play.

Pardo continued to contrast Warcraft III against Starcraft II, explaining that Warcraft III had less of an emphasis on economic buildup to allow more focus on battles. The 2002 game, suggested the VP, also was much less about early-game victories. While that game did introduce "creeps"--neutral creatures that could be fought to gain experience points for your hero units--early armies in Warcraft III were generally capable of only harrassing your enemies, not defeating them outright. Pardo suggested that "with Starcraft II, [Blizzard is] really going back to its roots to make a true sequel to Starcraft"--a sequel where resource management will be much more central to gameplay, with less micromanagement of different units with special abilities, and in which full-on early-game "rushing" (making an all-out assault at or near the beginning of a new game session) will be much more viable.

In fact, the VP went on to state that the game will probably offer more early "tech tree" options--different development paths players can take by building different structures and researching different upgrades--which will make early-game scouting more important, and will make early-game rushing a more diverse, deeper strategy.

Pardo also suggested that Warcraft III might have been a more forgiving game for beginners--differences in skill levels seemed less pronounced in that game. The VP said that in Starcraft II, there will be many more nuances that will separate highly skilled players from beginners, and good players from great ones. So in contrast to the sometimes-protracted matches of Warcraft III, Pardo expects the average Starcraft II multiplayer match to last about 20 minutes of real time, possibly even as little as 15 minutes when played by the pros. Pardo pointed out that there will be numerous subtleties added to the game that expert players will learn to use to their advantage, such as a revamped "high ground" system. In the previous Starcraft, ground units that had a height advantage by standing on high ground gained attack bonuses, but would also reveal themselves when attacking. In the sequel, units with high ground will still gain the attack bonuses but will remain concealed by the "fog of war" (the black shroud that covers unexplored areas)--a fact that can be used together with other line-of-signt nuances to your advantage.

Pardo ended his part of the talk by emphasizing that Blizzard remains committed to making the three factions distinct, and to making Starcraft II's gameplay true to the original game, but also different and new. For instance, the VP cited the new Protoss units and abilities that have been shown, such as the ability to "warp-in" to different locations, and the powerful mothership unit. Pardo said Blizzard could have also attempted to create a "Terran version" and a "Zerg version" of these new units and abilities, but the team did not. It is instead looking to balance the factions against one another while keeping them distinct.

Pardo suggested that Starcraft II will, like the original game, be a game about "hard counters"--how certain units can be directly "countered" (defeated decisively) by specific counterunits. As an example, Pardo showed a brief demonstration of Protoss templar units, which are the counterunit to zerglings, annihilating a swarm of the tiny Zerg infantry with their "psi storm" ability. Said Pardo: "Yes, [Starcraft II] will stil be fast-paced and have 'multitasking' for resources and combat, but it'll be a very different game."

The floor was then given to game designer Dustin Browder, who used his time to cite specific examples of different units in play. To begin with, Browder showed a demonstration of the Protoss stalker, a ground-based unit that can attack both air and ground enemies and isn't all that tough, but can "blink" (warp in and out) to any location to which they have line of sight. The obvious uses of this handy ability include pursuing fleeing units by constantly "blinking in" in front of them, but they can also apparently be used as powerful base raiders.

In addition, extremely skilled players will be able to defeat slower-moving melee enemies with stalkers by sticking and moving, repeatedly blinking in and out of range. The designer showed a demonstration of stalkers up against a group of Protoss zealots, somewhat slow melee units that simply weren't able to close in for a hit as the stalkers kept blinking away and firing constantly, eventually winning the battle.

Browder showed how the new units and new abilties for existing units will help diversify gameplay and work within the counterunit system. For instance, the Protoss immortal, a ground-based tank unit, is extremely tough, but slow. It can therefore be countered by quick-thinking players with enough resources to build up counterunits, and therefore is also unable to effectively flee from a losing battle. However, it does possess a powerful energy shield that is triggered only from heavy-duty fire. This makes the immortal a natural counterunit for the Terran siege tank, whose powerful cannons can't do much against the immortal's energy shield. However, the slow-moving immortals themselves can be easily countered by a large swarm of zerglings, which don't deal enough damage to trigger the immortals' shields, and are too quick for the tank to outrun.

Browder then showed an additional example of the kind of subtleties that will separate skilled players from unskilled players. The Protoss phoenix, a flying unit, has a special "overload" ability that creates a damaging energy field around itself, then renders it immobile and helpless shortly afterward. Browder showed a simulated battle between a player with six phoenix units and another player with only four. The player with six phoenixes choked and used the overload ability too early, allowing the other player to dodge out of harm's way; then the player arranged the four phoenixes around the now-immobile six in a loose formation and overloaded the six into oblivion, which suggests that sheer numbers won't always prevail in the face of high-level skill in Starcraft II.

Browder then showed a demonstration of Protoss warp-in technology, which can be used to mount a powerful surprise offense by summoning a large army seemingly out of nowhere. However, the same tech can apparently be used for base defense; the designer showed how an early zergling raid on a Protoss base went sour as the tiny Zerg suddenly found themselves boxed in between Protoss buildings and a small contingent of melee-attacking zealots, with immortal tanks lobbing fire from a distance. The designer closed by stating that the team's goals are to "recapture the magic of the original Starcraft, which was a wonderful, wonderful game," and to "make Starcraft II about these three unique races by generating new tactics and strategies."

The panel then took questions, which revealed some intriguing new details about the sequel. An audience question about future beta plans prompted Pardo to state that Starcraft II will likely have a "closed beta by invitation, similar to [Blizzard's] other products--though this time, [Blizzard] will also enlist the help of pro players to help test for balance."

When asked about the status of the Terrans (who were decimated at the end of the Brood War expansion pack for the original Starcraft), creative designer Andy Chambers explained that "the UED terran forces were destroyed by Kerrigan's Zerg armies (though a few surviving companies may still be around somewhere)," and that the Terran faction in Starcraft II will primarily consist of the "evil empire" of the Terran Dominion. When asked about the status of lead character Jim Raynor, Chambers replied that since Starcraft II takes place four years after Brood War, "Raynor has been having some adventures for sure," but he declined to comment further.

Chambers also suggested that the ancient Xel'Naga, which helped both the Protoss and Zerg races become what they are (but were later destroyed by the Zerg) will also figure into Starcraft II's story "in a rather epic tale." To cap the presentation, Browder fielded a final question that may come as a relief to some players: There are "no plans at this time for naval combat in Starcraft II."

Discussion

153 comments
xxXxxMCRxxXxx
xxXxxMCRxxXxx

It is cool that they are trying to ressurect the wonderful game and update them with new graphics and and a higher strategy concept that will surely seperate the pro from the noob...

Deyyhayederaned
Deyyhayederaned

Blizzard is amazing mean they develop and publish there own games and on top of that almost all their games are in the best seller series. For Starcraft II I do not doubt that it will be a brilliant game in every way a Blizzard game is, aswell as that the wonderful fact of the Starcraft series was is it was Blizzard's giant leap for mankind. Starcraft II is everything a Blizzard sequal usually is and thats brilliant. Blizzards tenth birthday of brilliance is looming with the release of this game. I pray that it has a good storyline. Love the music! anyone any ideas on where to get it?

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

Specific counter-units is something I find boring now. How about giving units a fighting chance against their weaknesses, just to make things more interesting. For instance, maybe the Immortal could have an immolation ability - not a very powerful one - just enough to dish out small damage to small units

Cmdr_Mike
Cmdr_Mike

i just hope they allow bigger maps like in supcom sometimes/usually maneuvering on the field of battle involves much more strategy than simple rock-paper-scissors balancing and special ability microing (which is a huge pain) i just hope they pick up a few more ideas from supcom (protoss mothership = CZAR saucer) so a strategic zoom and huge maps shoud be "borrowed" as well yeah i'm a supcom player (used to play sc but it's hard to switch back to an rts with no zoom)

keinuveye
keinuveye

TO clarify, I think the naval thing was a response to it being in Warcraft II but not III. If you look at the new(er) BFMEII games the naval combat is pretty much the same as it was in Warcraft II all those years ago. You got the weak ship, the strong ship and the transport ship.... what else is there? Plus I think it detracted from the great air to ground battles... just no place for H20!

p00phead
p00phead

Ive waited so long for this wish i still had star-craft 1

Alvaro_20
Alvaro_20

It's been NINE bloody years i tell you!!!!! Release it fast Blizzard!!

jzen_
jzen_

i'm so excited! i've gotta show this footage to my brother. he's going to pull his hair out!

rogermao
rogermao

I might buy this, i've never played starcraft1, but i've played both warcraft and dibalo, and know wat to expect from blizzard, not to mention the millions that say how great it is...

protossdragoon
protossdragoon

wow, dragoons and dark templars trashed! hope the immortals are just as fun as the dragoons. zealot looks cool though...

durodura
durodura

it's all about the resources. early rushing is cowardly. i enjoy a long slow game of total domination to a quick bloodbath.

dragonwarlock77
dragonwarlock77

hope the story really leaves me breathless after such a long wait :)

VigorousApathy
VigorousApathy

The reason naval combat is dreaded would be that ships designed to travel in water would be unnecessary as all the ships already travel through air and the void of space. Although I would like to see one of the races learn to take advantage of hiding under the water. Seems like a pretty good place to make a base when none of the units can even swim.

jknight5422
jknight5422

I hope the single player campaigns are fun. I doubt I'll play much mp.

AzureWind213
AzureWind213

i always thought rushing was kind of cheap, but I wont care as long as there are a few more viable defenses for said rushes this time around. If you're a protoss player and those 4 zerglings get to you before you pump out a zealot or 2, you never get that massive, all out war that makes starcraft so exciting... it's just over! I'm not crazy about rushes or 20 minute matches(it oughtta be longer, kind of like monopoly), but as long as every game doesn't degenerate into a rushfest then I'll be happy. And Protoss owns all! :-D

tony2077ca
tony2077ca

on mp i play to lose because that what i seem to do alot

ymcop
ymcop

win is fun :)

Brendonius
Brendonius

That is one mouthful of a outline... but as always, Blizzard keeps our mouth left wide open! Thisa game is going to be huge!

Sepincourt
Sepincourt

My brother and I have always found it funny how similar the teams on Starcraft are to 3 races from "Warhammer 40k" Zerg being Tyranid Terran being Space Marines Protoss being the Elder I'm sure people who are familiar with both can see the obvious similarities.... So something struck me as odd when I read this, mention of Andy Chambers: "Three of Blizzard's top creative talents--creative director Andy Chambers" Because in my 40k rulebook, published around the time of Starcraft's release there in a mention of "Andy Chambers" as "Game Design and Development" I realize that there are most likely thousands of people out there with the same name, but this seems like a good explanation of the similarities to me. Either way, I must say both games kick @$$ and I really can't wait to play this, love your work Andy. Does anyone know if Andy worked on SC 1 or if he was only put onto SC 2?

maxxorz
maxxorz

rushing is such a lame strategy, it takes away from the fun. I guess I'm an old school gamer that way. I'd rather play for fun than to "win"

grafkhun
grafkhun

all those new units and stuff... i'll stick w/ good old zerg mass rushing :P (only thing i can do decently in multiplayer anyways) no naval combat is good, air and ground combat get the job done.

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

I think a game made for hardcore gamers would be great, so casual gamers have their own games to play.

_HunterX_
_HunterX_

evac156 (and this isn't to flame you lol) you forgot a good point for rushers. It's not always about completely wiping out your opponent with that quick rush. A good rush can weaken or even cripple an opponent making it easier to take them over and gain control of their unused resources in order to better battle your other opponents. When it comes to multiplayer the game becomes so much more diverse because your opponents aren't just programed algorithms but can anticipate, counter, and plot. I strongly suggest you give it another chance because to me multiplayer just adds so much value to games. To be honest guys I'm alittle disappointed in what they did to DTs. Immortals look interesting, and so do some of the other units. I wish they'd make the Xel'Naga a playable race lol, but just by who they are they could be very easily be over powered. (at the same time though they could be perfectly balanced because they were overrun by he zerg.) edit- I wish they'd stop giving hints at what units could be good for lol

speedy2295
speedy2295

that was a long article but a good one i can't wait for this game.

Bluetemplar15
Bluetemplar15

Rushing in SC1 is not "just build scads of the simplest, cheapest units". You have to scout first, and know how to control your units, if you just throw them at the enemy you will lose. Also, there are lots of different viable rushes available to all 3 races - You can rush with Dark Templars or with a Reaver drop, and those aren't the simplest units! BTW drops are one thing that makes this game so unique - and they are not really compatible with heroes.

pro_gamer12345
pro_gamer12345

wow i cant belive i read that entire thing..but it was all worth it..reading about starcraft 2 is worth every second. Cant wait for this =D

libbi68
libbi68

Why would Starcraft even consider naval combat when there is space battles to do battle with big ships? It be weird to say the least to have navies on top of army, air force and space type units!

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

Ah, I expect to see Duran back in the story...Maybe this time with the Xel'Naga... Anyways I want the gameplay to be the same as the first one. Simplicity is best.

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

It seems that gameplay and strategy will be more complex. I hope this doesn't tend to leave out casual gamers. :|

jedismurf2
jedismurf2

Ok, someone needs to clue me in. What's up with the no naval combat being so cool? Is there a particularly negative association with naval combat and the RTS genre? I enjoyed it in the Red Alert series...

the_jokers_wild
the_jokers_wild

I'm frickin exstatic to hear about SCII and I've been passing on the word to everyone I possibly know. After reading the article it seems like the team is really trying to give us a genuine sequal that I can personally say I've been waiting a long time for. Can I get a Hell Yeah for no naval combat!

evac156
evac156

I was never a rusher, but I also don't do multiplayer. I understand the idea behind the rush, but don't find it an interesting way to play. Why get a game that has an interesting tech tree and huge diversity of units, if your goal is to just build scads of the simplest, cheapest units and get the thing over with as quickly as possible? (Before the flamage kicks in...I am not saying rushers are wrong; it's probably a very effective strategy in multiplayer, and everyone's entitled to their own preferences. I am expressing mine.) I like to fortify, gather the resources, build the tech, and then unleash the fury of massive forces. Because of this, I'm more interested in a good single-player campaign (which both the original StarCraft and the Brood War expansion gave), which allows experimentation and immersion in the different play styles afforded by the unique units. It sounds like Blizzard is making an effort to really make the units more distinct than ever, but still keep them balanced. Even if this was nothing but a new set of campaigns for StarCraft, with updated graphics, I would be quite interested in playing. If they've kept the old flavor, as well as giving us a new look and some modified unitis, I'll be quite happy. So I hope that when game and the reviews come out, we're told that the single-player campaign is as good as the original.

stealth89
stealth89

this is going to be so epic.

Zarzha
Zarzha

hey, I agree that in wc III skill levels are indeed less pronounced, too bad they didn't say which skill. Macromanagement skill is next to none in WC III, u can throw that out of the window, but thank god they bought it back in for SC II, if you suck at macroing, improve now, before you get annihilated. Anywayz, the rushing "strategy" can be briefly summed up as "war happens every second, you look away for one second and you're dead" simple eh? I like sc ii a lot so far, because this feels more like what a tactician would be doing in a battle. I mean you dun see generals ordering their lieutenant's special ability all the time. This would allow players to control the movement of units, location of units, and which units attack which enemy units. (btw, whoever builds the most might not win, because unit selection and unit location is VERY key) I love players who thinks teching fast, building the most is the way to win. This brings me back to the old carrier rush joke that's been floating around. (u know, the guy who got an entire fleet of carriers frozen by 3 arbiters, and then all of his base raped by enemy before he could raze the enemy base). best wishes to all players.

ksyme99
ksyme99

I shall have to wait and see about this one...as others have said it seems they have focused a lot on little things for the pros...which is all well and good but just makes things harder for us noobs :P. Although, as long as they have a decent and longish single player campaign, should be ok for me. I just hope they work on more than all these little tactics that really only pros will be able to use well!

haesuse
haesuse

bottom line here after all that was said. the game will be about resource management more and choosing your rush or attack styles than single unit micro-management. as much as i love all thing WC, it was killing me that in essence the game became simple as totting your heroes as high as possible. thus DotA became so huge. now while DOTA is cool as it gets i am VERY glad to know that SC2 is going back to roots of itself and any true RTS!

GabrielN
GabrielN

lostn: "Well, I hate RTS-games that are won thorugh rushing (never did understand the "strategy" in that), so I'm probably out." You're an example of someone who doesn't understand RTS well, if you never understood the strategy behind it. I'm not going to bother explaining it -- it's just not for you. Don't bang your head into the door on your way out. -------------------- Cute. "I won't bother explaining" usually means "I don't get it either, but that's what better people than me say." Even if that's not the case (don't bother arguing about it - it doesn't matter), the fact is most players aren't that good; every rush feels the same to them, so if they always have to perform one or defend against one, it makes the game dull for them. There aren't enough pro players to profit from selling a game only to them (of course Blizzard will sell millions of copies just because of their history, but it'd be nice if the game actually justified it). Variable game speeds are bad for similar reasons, unless ladder games are fixed at a speed where regular players actually have time to do anything. You can make a game that appeals to both top players and the casual crowd, but it seems like Blizzard might be neglecting the latter in favour of the tiny elite. I hope I've got it all wrong, but I guess we'll see...

Sonicwizard
Sonicwizard

people who hate rushing are the same people who play Team games on BGH or fastest.

lostn
lostn

"Well, I hate RTS-games that are won thorugh rushing (never did understand the "strategy" in that), so I'm probably out." You're an example of someone who doesn't understand RTS well, if you never understood the strategy behind it. I'm not going to bother explaining it -- it's just not for you. Don't bang your head into the door on your way out.

Bowser05
Bowser05

Hahah great. Rushing was why I never had the chance to get good in normal SC multiplayer...looks like the same for SCII. That sucks. Nonetheless I like the sounds of this, can't wait to get it and have some good times with my friends all over again. Until then, time to go back to Zelda Mass Attack :-P.

Alvaro_20
Alvaro_20

DOW was great. I hope SC II is greater.

Praetorian25
Praetorian25

Well so far it sounds like the same game with better graphics and some new units. This could be a good thing, but it also means that SC II will likely possess the same shortcomings of the older strategy games. After Dawn of War, I don't think I could ever go back to building individual infantry units. (e.g. one Terran marine at a time) An absence of active hero units also seems like a step back as well. I'm not asking for the level of hero micromanagement in WC III, but some passive hero abilities like in DOW would be nice. Some hardcore fans will probably be glad these aren't in SC II, but focusing on pure old school play with better graphics seems like a big step back and an obvious bait for Blizzard at Starcraft's many, many rabid and old-school fans.

RomisSandthief
RomisSandthief

This could end up really good or really bad. With Blizzard's track record really good probably but the biggest problem to me is the difference between real life combat/strategy and video game strategy. Games like the Total War series are very real life battles with counter units for certain enemies but games like the old Starcraft, Warcraft, Command and Conquer etc. have a different "video" game strategy because they are nothing like real life. However they have a flavour of their own which still needs a level of strategy. The article makes it seem like the game is going away from the video game strategy which means uncharted waters and possiblity for gamers to end up not likeing it. I don't have to many worries though because Blizzard always makes good games. However, none of the games with "video" game strategy has ever been able to pull me away from the Total War series for very long. Including C&C, Starcraft and Warcraft (which I have beaten and got bored with)

TrevasGallant
TrevasGallant

Thank goodness for no naval combat announcement. I dislike naval combat.

leonhartt
leonhartt

Less mirco is good. Now it's about counter units vs counter units and who builds the most who wins.

relset
relset

Nice. a game for proganing !! Halo, what is that?