Starcraft II Preview - What We Know So Far

This preview covers all the details about this highly anticipated strategy sequel that GameSpot has obtained from Blizzard's Worldwide Invitational 2007 event.

SEOUL--Though the most exciting events on hand at Blizzard Entertainment's Worldwide Invitational 2007 event seem to be the international game tournaments, the most exciting development for game players worldwide is clearly the announcement of Starcraft II, the sequel to the classic 1998 real-time strategy game, which many consider to be one of the best RTS games ever, if not simply the best. GameSpot was present at the event and has reported various details on the game since its announcement. We've also compiled what we've seen and gathered so far into one place for your convenience, culled from various demonstrations, interviews, our original announcement story, our interview session story, our gameplay panel story, and our art design panel story.

Starcraft II's single-player campaign will feature an all-new story that takes place four years after the events of the last Starcraft product, the Brood War expansion pack. Brood War featured campaigns with epic battles fought among the series' three main factions: the underhanded human Terrans, the swarming Zerg aliens, and the ancient and mysterious Protoss. Each of the three factions were led by key characters, such as military officer Jim Raynor of the Terrans, Kerrigan (a former Terran soldier who later became "infested" by the Zerg to become one of that faction's most powerful champions), and Zeratul, a Protoss "dark templar" who, after suffering a series of tragic betrayals, eventually assumed leadership for his race.

In case you hadn't heard, one of the most loved real-time strategy games in history is back.

According to vice president of creative development Chris Metzen, all three characters will reappear in Starcraft II's campaign in some fashion, and according to creative director Andy Chambers, the enigmatic Xel'Naga, the mysterious race that helped the Zerg and Protoss evolve into what they are, will also figure prominently into Starcraft II's story. Over the course of the single-player game, you'll explore new worlds associated with the story, such as the new Protoss world of Bel'Shir, an abandoned religious retreat that has fallen into ruin after a Zerg invasion, and the deep-space Terran base of Braxis Alpha, a craggy world covered in spots by industrial sprawl. You'll also see familiar worlds, like the volcanic Zerg home planet of Char.

In terms of basic gameplay details, Starcraft II will be what vice president of game design Rob Pardo calls "a true sequel to Starcraft." The sequel is confirmed to feature only the original three playable races from the previous games: the Protoss, the Zerg, and the Terrans; there will be no fourth race, not even the Zerg/Protoss hybrid that appeared in a mission in Brood War. There will also be no hero characters, unlike in Blizzard's last RTS, 2002's Warcraft III. Instead, the sequel will be very much about what Pardo calls "mass armies"--large groups of units doing battle at once. Pardo has pointed out that unlike previous Blizzard games, Starcraft II will have no "selection limit"--that is, you'll be able to click and drag your mouse to select an unlimited number of your own armies to control.

The VP suggests that while Warcraft III often featured battles among 20 or so units and sometimes among as many as 60, Starcraft II's battles will be much larger skirmishes among as many as 300 units onscreen at once. Apparently, like those of the previous game, most of Starcraft II's units will not require a great deal of micromanagement (unlike the ability-heavy units of Warcraft), and will instead be what Pardo calls "movers and shooters"--mostly autonomous units that can continously attack their enemies using standard abilities.

Some other gameplay details about Starcraft II have been revealed, including the fact that the new game will, like the original Starcraft, include "positional" gameplay that gives attack bonuses to ground-based troops who are standing on high ground. In Starcraft II, units with height advantage will also not be revealed out of the "fog of war," a nuance that could come in handy in advanced play. Terrain height will also provide barriers to most units, who will have to walk around mountains and cliffs, though in Starcraft II, some units will have the ability to mantle over height obstacles, and flying units will be able to simply fly over obstacles, as they could before. And like in the original Starcraft, a key component of the sequel's strategy will be making use of "hard counters"--commissioning specific units to "counter" the ones your enemy is throwing at you. For instance, Protoss templars will be counterunits against Zerglings thanks to their powerful "psi storm" ability that conjures a brief but intense barrage of energy that can liquidate the Zerg's basic infantry.

The Protoss colossus will pack some serious firepower.

The game will also apparently offer variable play speeds (such as "slow," "normal," and "fast"), similar to the options in Warcraft III, and at its fastest, it should play about as quickly as any competitive match of the original Starcraft. To ensure that the sequel's multiplayer play is suited for "e-sports" (professional video game competitions), Blizzard representatives have stated that the game's special effects will "definitely make the game look good," but are being designed to have a minimal effect on the game's actual performance on your computer (and of course, you'll be able to dial down the detail levels for various effects). Blizzard will also apparently consult with professional players during the course of the game's development, most likely during the game's testing phase, which will likely take the form of a by-invitation closed beta--the same kind Blizzard has held with its previous games--at an undisclosed date in the future. The studio is trying to ensure that Starcraft II has a more pronounced "differential in skill levels" among players. The game will feature many nuances that only highly skilled and dextrous players will be able to use regularly. Pardo estimated that the average Starcraft multiplayer session will last about 20 minutes--a highly competitive match between pro players might last as little as 15. However, the vice president also pointed out that the game will offer other features that will appeal to beginners and will hopefully encourage them to begin playing actively, such as a replay system that will let players watch match replays and possibly also act as spectators during matches.

The units in Starcraft II will evidently consist of a combination of brand-new troops and holdovers from the original games. According to Pardo, the team is taking the approach of evaluating units from the original Starcraft and deciding "which ones are so essential that it wouldn't be Starcraft without them" and keeping those, while axing others in favor of new units, since Starcraft II will not have a significantly larger number of units per faction than Brood War. Returning units are being evaluated for their strengths and weaknesses to see how they fit into the new game; in some cases, they're being upgraded or rebalanced with new abilities. For example, the zealot, the low-level melee grunt of the protoss faction, is being upgraded with a new "charge" ability that lets them take an instantaneous leap forward, which will be a great help for them to pursue fleeing units. The zealot is a solid trooper, if somewhat slow, but since the charge ability can be used "passively" (that is, it won't require you to actively select and use it each time you wish to perform the ability) the new ability will make the unit considerably more useful and flexible.

Apparently, though Starcraft II has been unveiled at this event in South Korea, the focus of the announcement is primarily on the protoss faction and its new and updated units and abilities. One new unit that has been revealed is the phoenix, a swift flying ship that can be used as a fast scout and as a powerful air-to-air combatant. The phoenix's real power seems to be its "overload" ability, which lets it briefly sacrifice its own functionality to generate a powerful and damaging energy field around itself (essentially immolating itself like the mythical bird it's named after), but which causes the unit to then become temporarily helpless. Another new unit is the immortal, a tough, crab-like tank with dual mounted turrets that acts as powerful artillery and also possesses a heavy-duty energy shield which is triggered only when it sustains severe damage--and therefore makes the tank an ideal "counter-unit" to use against enemies that deal lots of damage at once, such as the terran siege tank.

The protoss' warp-in ability makes them much less predictable...but the terrans and zerg will have new tricks up their sleeves too.

Blizzard has also revealed the protoss stalker, a medium-power ground unit that can attack both grounded and airborne enemies and can use its "blink" ability to instantly transport itself to any spot on the map to which you have line of sight. We saw several demonstrations of how this unusual ability can be used creatively to effortlessly pursue fleeing enemies by constantly "blinking" right in front of them, but also to bypass terrain obstacles by using a phoenix to scout impassable areas to gain line of sight to them (and then "blinking" in), and even to spar with slower enemies by repeatedly shooting them while continually "blinking" away just out of their reach. In addition, the protoss colossus has also been revealed--this powerful and huge unit resembles a "protoss version" of the gigantic alien walkers from the recent War of the Worlds motion picture remake--a metallic walker studded with glowing aqua-colored beacons. The colossus will be one of the units with the new ability to mantle over terrain with differing heights simply by ascending or descending with its long, spidery legs. The protoss will also have a new flying unit, the flying "warprey" ship, whose powerful, concentrated laser weapon deals successively more damage the longer it fires upon the same target.

The final new protoss unit revealed at the event is the mothership, the protoss' most powerful and presumably also the most expensive and time-consuming unit to commission. When completely "built," the mothership actually "warps in" out of thin air from a series of pale-blue, cubical light patterns that divide and shift to reveal the superpowerful unit. Pardo has stated that "the protoss can only have one [mothership]," but this exceptionally powerful unit has two devastating abilities that should make the rarity and the (presumed) expense worthwhile. The mothership can generate a localized black hole that seems to completely destroy any enemies that get caught within it by sucking them into oblivion. It also possesses a "planet cracker" ability, which lets the mothership rain a stream of multiple laser beams onto any target below it, dealing a devastating amount of damage. Yet in addition to these new units, the protoss will also have new structures, like the phase prism, which lets them "warp-in" (instantly transport units into the vicinity of this structure)--a powerful new ability that could prove to be a cornerstone of this faction's strategies.

Although Blizzard is primarily showing off the protoss faction at the event, a few other details have emerged about the other two factions. The terran faction will apparently have at least one new unit in the reaper, a medium infantry unit equipped with "jump-pack" jets on his back that lets him mantle over height obstacles, just like the protoss colossus can. In the meantime, the terrans will still have mobile bases, marine infantry, and siege tanks. The zerg will still have standard zerglings (the small, four-footed basic infantry units) and mutalisks (the zerg's basic flying unit), but it will also have nydus worms--giant worms reminiscent of the sand worms in the motion picture Dune that can leap out of the ground to attack enemies--and "banelings," a new mutant form of zergling that glows an obvious bright green color and can sacrifice itself to splatter its enemies in toxic, damaging acid. From what we've seen, the zerg will still be able to overwhelm their enemies with sheer numbers--we saw a demonstration at the announcement address that showed dozens of zerg onscreen at once.

Unlike the original Starcraft, which featured hand-painted 2D sprites, Starcraft II will be a fully 3D game. Graphically, Starcraft II looks noticeably better than Warcraft III--the game's units seem more-detailed (they consist of more polygons, which makes them look far less "blocky" and far more defined), and the brief demonstrations we saw made generous use of bloom and lighting effects for lasers, explosions, and engine flares. Starcraft II's graphics will be DirectX 9.0-based and will support Pixel Shader 2.0, with all the attendant DirectX 9 effects, such as high dynamic range lighting; HDR bloom; and normal, specular, and emissive mapping, among others. Faithful PC game fans may be encouraged by Blizzard president Mike Morhaime's statement that Starcraft II represents Blizzard's "continued commitment to focusing on the PC as a platform," brought on by the decision to suspend development on the console game Starcraft Ghost. However, high-end PC owners may be less encouraged to hear that although the game will be playable on both Windows XP and Vista, in its current state, it does not support the recently-released DirectX 10 graphics interface. Blizzard representatives were quick to point out that this is subject to change before the game ships.

We'll be able to rejoin Zeratul, Raynor, and our good friend Kerrigan, here, when the game is ready.

Like Warcraft III before it, Starcraft II will ship with editing tools that will let players create their own maps and modifications. Though there aren't many details available, the editing tools will be based on, according to lead producer Chris Sigaty, an enhanced version of the Warcraft III editing tools. And even though the game has apparently been in development since 2003, shortly after Blizzard shipped the Frozen Throne expansion pack for Warcraft III--and even though the game is, according to Blizzard, already playable in multiplayer with all three factions--Starcraft II will be released "when it's ready." As president Mike Morhaime stated, Blizzard doesn't "really have a budget; [the studio will] spend as much time and resources as [it needs] to make this game great."

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540 comments
ddraig_danio
ddraig_danio

Ohhhhhhhhh i cant waitwait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait

luq_crusher
luq_crusher

i remember when i was 4, i saw my brother playing starcraft and the only line that i could remember was "Go, go go!" by the terran infantry. That was in '98 or '99. Now, i just hope they make the sequel much better and dynamic. Since they started in 2003, that should be enough time to "mush" all the stuff we want in it. Btw, i hear some people r saying something about "no naval combat" as a thumbs up. What is it, and how does it make the game better? Pls reply. thnx.

leop4rd
leop4rd

well i dont think you can base starcraft 2 on the other blizzard games...particularly the strategy ones...i mean theyve totally changed thier approach...no more seleciton limit and all that...in my own opinion thatll be much better but i did like teh lil strike forces i used to send in on the old one..i guess youll still be able to do that with all the changing units and the jump jetters

mageddo
mageddo

BIG NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DIABLO 3 CONFIRMED, I SAW IN THE BLIZZARD HOMEPAGE THAT IT SAY: "BLIZZARD THE CREATOR OF DIABLO, DIABLO 2 IS LOOKING FOR (SOMETHING) PROGRAMMER, SADLY THEY DELETE THE IT FROM THE HOME PAGE

LordBelgarion
LordBelgarion

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TheProphecied1
TheProphecied1

As long as Blizzard takes its time and makes this the best RTS game ever i am content to wait... and it gives me time to get a good computer. :)

killah220
killah220

Maan i was 5 when i got the original starcraft and broodwar i know i havn't waited as long as some of you guys but im just as excited... Blizzards rep for game development is unmatched it takes them a hella long time to get a game out but when it does i an assure you it will be AWESOME p.s how do you like my art i made it in class last day of school

Nexrad
Nexrad

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

If blizzard had given me that reason, I'd have gone to war with them long back, Ghost was a promising game and nearly finished too. Truth is, as I've said before on this forum, blizzard faced an internal power struggle with a third-party developer, something terrible enough to stop any game development. But don't worry, if the worst comes to the worst, u can always read a nice BOOK called Starcraft 2. mwhahahaheeheeho! Me... I'm keeping my bazooka trained on blizzard - I WANT that mothership! Arr!

holypaladin22
holypaladin22

I totally agree with Nexrad (fanboyism aside). It's way too far into the development process to be canned. They abandoned ghost because it was looking too much like every other shooter out there and they don't want to be like that. There's just not much room for growth in that space (that's why basically every modern shooter is just a graphics tech demo). but a Blizzard knows damn well how to make a great RTS game, and there's too much at stake not to deliver it (the nation of Korea would go to war with them).

Nexrad
Nexrad

why would you jinx it like ghost? and they have been working on it for 4 yrs and they are not going to stop making it

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

Don't count your chickens yet Rikimaru55, its still not out. Remember Ghost? mwahahahaha!!!

Rikimaru55
Rikimaru55

HA...I knew it, I knew that I wouldn't die before Blizzard got out a new StarCraft game. HUUUURRRAAYYY. I wonder if they will have an open-beta, fat chance but....who knows

Nexrad
Nexrad

no raplips actually i just speak the truth about the greatest RTS game ever made and soon to be the next gen greatest RTS game like it will be. you could trash talk it as much as you wanted it doesnt change the fact that it will be the best RTS game.

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

I hope they don't take out the protoss scout with so many other...alternatives. Also, why should the protoss have just one mothership...in the original, Terrans dominated with their battlecruiser, let the protoss have good fleet too just beef up the price! I also hope the zerg get an equivalent air unit... I know! Dragons!!

raplips
raplips

nexrad u kiss this game's a.s.s so much, it wouldnt suprise me if ud marrie it.

Nexrad
Nexrad

its nothing like any other RTS

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

The same as others? Starcraft is starcraft, a tactical game with exotic units. Did you really expect a Total Wars replica?

GotMilkXtreme2
GotMilkXtreme2

This isn't looking good. Why? Because it just seems the same thing as any other RTS game. Sorry. :-(

Nexrad
Nexrad

i know you are and so am i, its a forum im allowed to disagree with you

raplips
raplips

nexard ur getting on my nerves im just giving my opinion, keep ur comments to urself

Nexrad
Nexrad

haha raplips the graphics are amazing on the video i have no clue what your looking at still they are just fine how they are. I dont want all of the old units of starcraft in the game...the whole point of the sequel is to have new units with new technology and some of the old units upgraded. Having a new game with all the same old units would be stupid...there would be no point because all it would be is sc 1 with good graphics. It doesnt look blocky at all you need to look again buddy

raplips
raplips

People, download the gameplay video directly from blizzard, watch it with DivX and ull c 4 urself! th graphics got loads of cool new technologies but u can still c the blockyness, the art also looks very similar to WC3. Honestly I will be very disapointed if I dnt find all of the units from the previous SC, they were crucial all of them, one thing im happy about is to see old units with new tricks, that charge ability really makes the zealots a lot deadlyer. The game looks like its laking from the new gameplay mechaniks from previous games like squadron control. The resource gadering is the same as before by the looks of it, that makes it a bit unlogical and fake. My conclusion is I would like to c all of the old units from previous SC, Better graphics, squad control and give the resource gathering something new, to make it more realistic.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Between this and Fallout 3, we all seem more interested in games 18 - 24 months away than what's out next month. Could it be with so few PC game releases nowadays all we can look forward to is games a long way off, because the short-term is not that interesting? Well, can anyone tell me if there is nothing for the short term how PC gaming is going to be around in 18 months? It's like saying you have no income and a mortgage to pay but are just talking about a cruise ship holiday in 18 months. Most people would immediately ask 'but how are you going to survive the next 18 months with no income - shouldn't you be talking about that?' - And they'd be right!

Nexrad
Nexrad

i agree with cyrus i dunno what raplips and holystix and caelus are talking about the graphics look awesome and compare it to new RTS games recently hmmm c&c 3 or supreme commander maybe? the graphics are definately better than those graphics so i wanna know how they suck? and its funny cuz the ONLY units you have seen are SOME of the protoss units and if i recall almost every protoss unit is new besisdes the zealot so im not sure how it has all the same units from before...and i guess all the new technology for the protoss teleporting all over maps and making black holes is nothing new either? they still havent showed anything about the terran units or zerg. they couldnt have made starcraft 2 any better than they are becuase they are doing every sc fan a favor and keeping the amazing gameplay and upping the graphics with new units and not just a couple new units

cyrus151
cyrus151

haha dude are you kidding me it looks nothing like warcraft 3 the graphics look amazing the way they are

raplips
raplips

I just hope theres gonna be some type of squad cotrolled units and better graphics, download the 20 min video from blizzard and ull see for urself, the graphics look like WC3, all blocky, Im honestly very disapointed about no squad control and graphics, this is 2007, 2003 graphics is starting to look old!!!

liamoliver2
liamoliver2

i was looking forward to starcraft ghost but i was not finshed and sold, starcraft 2 is going to be the game of the year in a second after its realised

caelus666
caelus666

So far i'm not impressed, I mean It's been 10 years!!! That's all they could do??? Yes the graphic is better but not much, the units are exactly the same as 10 years ago, I really hope they would make some major improvement. :(

kdamian
kdamian

Starcraft II hey? Well, it has to be better than Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40000 otherwise...The one certain thing is that there will be a great storyline and clever scenarios but graphics and gameplay has to be at least equal to the games metioned above. We'll have to wait...

holystix
holystix

New (and not-so-good) graphics, few new units, and thats it? Sounds more like an expansion, instead of sequel. ok, will judge when it's out, but so far i'm not impressed. And one shouldn't say that SC2 graphics are teh PWN, only because it's better than SC1 graphics. It's 2007 now, SC1 was released in 1998.. of course that graphics are better, but try comparing it to other RTS titles that have been around lately. Someone mentioned Starcraft being the first one to bring spacey-like battles to the scene.. z0mg, never heard of Warhammer universe? And, couldn't Blizzard really think of a better name for the new terran unit - the reaper? Then why don't go all-out and rename the siege tank to chaos predator, and marines to chaos space marines :)

azukar
azukar

Cant wait for this game!!!!!

PhycoK
PhycoK

This games gonna rock, and what they mean by "No Heros" is no warcraft 3 type heros (Leveling up, getting items) Single player will most likely include the good old Stat increased Heros, Multiplayer will most likely not have trainable heros.

mrxdemix
mrxdemix

This game is going to destroy.

Barbowan
Barbowan

Starcraft, the original version was awesome, compelling and entertaining and challenging. When I saw the twenty minute gameplay demo, I honestly fell out of my chair, and began to spin around on the floor, beside myself with joy. I finally have a purpose again. I feel that they kinda botched Warcraft 3, it just couldn't beat Warcraft 2 in terms of gameplay. They tried messing with it. This though, I have a hunch it will be beyond anything out there. The graphics are dynamite, the new changes to the controls and little quirks shall undoubtedly make it even more stimulating. And new units, that's not always a bad thing. In order for it to not be the same as the original to some degree, they need to add new units with their own unique abilities. The Protoss Mothership? Now that's how its done baby! And they still have Nukes, so I'm happy. Let's blow some Zerg up yall!

Snakeist
Snakeist

i think they will quit using the old style and game mechanics when it quits working phantom. i.e. when people quit buying the product. "if its not broke, don't fix it"

blackwar1
blackwar1

do u see screen shot ? it 's awesome ! but i hope my computer can play star craft 2

phantom3165
phantom3165

You know back in the day Starcraft and Warcraft were innovative and fun to play but now just like C@C Tiberium Wars aside from the graphical upgrade it's still pretty much old gameplay and overused gamemechanics. When are these developers going to create something completely new instead of rehashing games we've all played already when we were kids? Don't get me wrong I watched the gameplay videos and felt a twing of nostalgia but it passed and I realized yet another giant extravagant remake (do I see the Hollywood trend) generally designed to make Blizzard richer at the expense of what got them where they are today...innovation! Come on guys enough with the warcrafts and the starcrafts make something new and stop being so creatively stale. It's been a really long time since a game developer came out with something really unique and innovative. Where's the new Warren Spector's and Looking Glass Developer's where are all these great new things we were going to do once the technology caught up with our imagination? Has monopolization (EA) and greed (all the rest) completely stifled and sterilized our imaginations or has money just made us lazy. I know it takes years to develop new game engines and millions of dollars and blah @*#$ blah. There's enough new engines out there to last us a while. Lets get back to basics and create something new instead of polishing old gems. Well that's it, I'm steppin of my soapbox....I'm sure Starcraft will make millions but I'll be lookin for something new.

F1_2004
F1_2004

Wait...no heroes??? So no kerrigan/raynor/marine cigar smoking dude?

gaara378
gaara378

I love in the official trailer the Marine says in the end " Hell its about time" That is so hilarious because the marine has not seen action in over ten years.

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

neo, I hear ya. I spend days cursing Blizzard for that catastrophe! But I think we can count on this one. Blizzard had third-party issues with Ghost and that's not the case here.

neo5387
neo5387

Now are we sure this game is back or is it gunna say it is and flop? Bc i was pretty mad when i learned that they decided to cancel Star Craft: Ghost for 360. Are we really gunna be able to play this game?

chongon
chongon

I have friends who stopped playing video games years ago suddenly interested in gaming again.

kalifornia1985
kalifornia1985

thats is going to be the game of the year its awesome

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

I hope the Phase Prism's presence doesn't mean the demise of the Arbiter. I loved the arbiter's cloaking field and stasis field. I also think it'd be cool if the phase prism could warp Star Trek style.

DanteRules
DanteRules

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

cobrax80
cobrax80

Why didn't they mention the Mothership's "Time Bomb" ability?