ANAHEIM, Calif.--Blizzard used Friday's Starcraft 2 gameplay panel session to make the announcement that it would be moving away from a single-box, three-campaign storyline for the sequel to its hit real-time strategy game Starcraft. Despite the rousing reception it received from the loyalists at BlizzCon, many gamers were quick to jump on the accusatory bandwagon and aimed their sights firmly on Blizzard’s perceived profiteering. The decision to move from one retail product to three was sold to gamers as allowing the development team the opportunity to focus its energy on providing players with a deep, rich story and fully fleshed-out Starcraft universe characters for all three factions. It's something we're interested to keep an eye on, and though it was hinted at during the keynote address on the main stage, the follow-up lore session gave a glimpse at where some of the extra development time is being put.
The first character we were introduced to was Dr. Ariel Hanson, a female colonist in need of rescuing. Exploration of the universe will net you some interesting new friends, and each will open up side missions for you to complete. Hanson began concept as a male character, but was ultimately changed into a woman to provide not only a nonmercenary contact for Jim Raynor, but also a potential love interest. When we saw her she was dressed in traditional hospital garb, but alternative costumes included a set of army camouflage gear, so perhaps she'll take to the battlefield too.
Rory Swann was next up and featured slightly more than a striking resemblance to Arnold "Poet" Jackson from HBO's Oz series. Described by the panel as the game's own version of Scotty from Star Trek, he brandishes a huge mechanical claw as a replacement for one arm and doesn't mind getting down and dirty in the engineering bay. A people's freedom fighter from way back, he has a strong New York accent and looked quite detailed in the live character renders we saw.
Blizzard is selling Gabriel Tosh as Starcraft II's Boba Fett since he plays the role of an outlaw and a pirate. There's apparently a connection between Tosh and Nova from the Starcraft novel series, but the panel was keeping much of the connection secret for fear of spoiling the game's storyline.
We met Tychus Findlay on day one of BlizzCon 2008 during the gameplay panel, but it was here during the lore session on day two that we got a better indication of his connection to Jim Raynor. The two were apparently "thick as thieves" previously, but while Tychus went to jail, Jim went on to become marshall of a colony far, far away. Metzen described Tychus as representing what Jim could have become had he made different choices, while Andrew Chambers said it also gave them a chance to visually represent the physical differences between a human being and a guy in a big tin can. Gabriel Tosh and Tychus Findlay also represent two very divergent pulls by offering Jim Raynor distractions from the overarching goal of freedom fighting.
Matt Horner is Jim's second in charge and the captain of the Hyperion. He also represents the straight-up, by-the-book yin to Tosh and Tychus' yang and is a believer in the revolution. He believes in Jim and the cause (sometimes more than Jim does) and is determined to keep him focused when other temptations may sway his attention. Matt Horner's character model draws on multiple artistic influences including fascist uniforms, while the straight cuts and clean lines let you know that though he's younger than both Jim and Tychus, he's a career military man and just as able to get the job done.
Valerian Mengst was the last character we were introduced to and is Arturus Mengst's son. Valerian offers the chance for Jim to interact and accept Dominion missions during the Terran campaign. Valerian has more than a passing similarity to Arthas and is described as being thematically similar in the role as a young prince. Dressed in a regal-styled outfit he features a flowing red cloak, a black and silver chest piece, and gold shoulder armor.
Metzen and Chambers confirmed during the session that Starcraft II will feature four times as many in-game cinematic scenes as it will prerendered sequences. Both were happy with this decision because it provides a much more agile storytelling mechanism since specific details don't need to be locked down a year out from creation and the team can more readily develop on the fly.
We're optimistic about the trilogy concept for Starcraft II for the sake of creating well-rounded characters and about the adherence to the lore the franchise has established over the last decade. We've already had a sneak peek at some of the faces that are going to be in the Wings of Liberty Terran campaign, and we're eager to see who else pops up as we get closer to the game's still unknown launch date.