SEOUL--After announcing that a Starcraft sequel is in the works, Blizzard Entertainment held a follow-up press conference for reporters from Asia Pacific, American, and European territories. The conference included a panel of the studio's heaviest hitters, including president Mike Morhaime, chief operating officer Paul Sams, vice president of creative development Chris Metzen, vice president of game design Rob Pardo, Blizzard Korea managing director Jungwon Han, lead game producer Chris Sigaty, and lead game designer Dustin Browder.
The panel answered questions on numerous topics, including Starcraft II's development history, which Pardo explained "started shortly after Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne" back in 2003. According to Pardo, the game is "very far along" and is already playable in multiplayer with all three factions. When asked about the release date, Pardo gave the answer you may have come to expect from Blizzard: "The game will be released when it's ready."
According to the panel, the game is being developed by a team of approximately 40, though on the matter of the budget and the schedule, Morhaime simply said, "We don't really have a budget; we'll spend as much time and resources as we need to make this game great."
When asked about how Blizzard was approaching the challenge of making a game that would appeal both to hardcore and to casual players, the panel replied that the game will appeal to hardcore fans by being geared toward "highly competitive, skill-based gameplay," as well as by efforts to "continue to drive new features onto Battle.net," Blizzard's in-house online game service. Also, Blizzard is trying to encourage players to watch match replays to get into the "drama" and emotion behind competition, similar to the way that close-in cameras helped popularize tournament poker.
To address concerns from hardcore fans, Blizzard commented on questions specific to gameplay and the competitive community, such as the play speed of the demonstration videos, which didn't run as quickly as the original Starcraft. This is because, according to Pardo, the game played during the demonstration was set on a slower speed; Pardo suggested that Starcraft II will have multiple speed settings, similar to Warcraft III.
The panel also confirmed that the sequel will have only the three factions of the Protoss, Terrans, and Zerg; there will be no fourth faction. To address another question, the panel suggested that the resource-management system in the sequel will feature "some enhancements, but it will still be very similar to the resource management in Starcraft, and just as important."
When asked about system requirements, the panel replied that the requirements haven't been fully finalized, but the game will support Pixel Shader 2.0 graphics and PCs with either Windows XP or Vista. Given that the trailers shown at this morning's presentation featured cameo appearances from key Starcraft characters like Zeratul, Jim Raynor, and Kerrigan, creative development VP Chris Metzen confirmed that those three characters will definitely appear in the game. He added the sequel will definitely expand on the story from Starcraft and Brood War, but the studio would otherwise have to stay "tight-lipped" on further details.
The panel also fielded broader questions pertaining to the sequel's future and Blizzard's future. When asked why Blizzard decided to develop Starcraft II rather than, for instance, another Diablo sequel or another massively multiplayer game, Morhaime replied that Starcraft II was a project that much of the company had wanted to work on for years, and the current level of technology made the game seem like the right choice. Morhaime also pointed out that the new development proved that Blizzard "wasn't just a massively multiplayer company" that would rest on the laurels of the highly successful World of Warcraft.
The panel also fielded a thorny question on the creation of new intellectual property (IP). Blizzard has become known for focusing on creating games only from a select few IPs it owns (Starcraft, Warcraft, and Diablo), and although several team members "would like to explore the creation of new IPs, [they] are still very much in love with the three." Also, with Blizzard's approach to developing games--that is, developing very few games at a time--the company often finds itself focusing only on these properties.
Morhaime also fielded a question on Blizzard's commitment to the PC as its primary game platform. He cited the "indefinite hold" status of the studio's console game Starcraft: Ghost as an impetus that eventually drove the company to focus on the PC as its primary platform. Morhaime said that decision "paid off in spades," given that Blizzard's new focus now lets it work on Starcraft II and World of Warcraft expansions.
The executive also suggested that Microsoft's new initiative to bring the Xbox Live experience to the PC in the form of Live Anywhere wouldn't change Blizzard's online strategy. The company remains committed to supporting and developing its Battle.net Web site for online play.
For more on Starcraft II, check out GameSpot's coverage of the official unveiling.