Today I woke up at 5:30 AM, slightly earlier than my usual 6:00 AM for work, but with far more enthusiasm. Why? Today was June 22, 2009, and I had taken a day off work to drive the 100 miles in order to attend the press event hosted at the Blizzard Headquarters in Irvine, California. After a quick stop for some coffee, I hit the freeway and took off. If you recall my first visit to Blizzard, you would remember that I hit some nasty traffic on the legendary 405 freeway because I left too late. However, I was determined to not repeat the same mistake, and left extra early, avoiding most of the rush hour traffic, arriving in Irvine around 8:00am. I lingered at a local coffee shop close to Blizzard headquarters, and headed over at around 9:00 AM.
After parking my truck in the visitors section of the parking lot, I walked over to the center of the grounds to see a crew of workers setting up the decorative foundation to a statue of an Orc rider that was still in the planning stage on my first visit. The statue itself had almost been completed, but the area around the statue was not. Another thing I noticed was the large number of people that were hanging around the main entrance. What I discovered later was that today was also the first day of Blizzard's internship program, and half of the group I saw in the morning were new interns anxiously waiting to start. I went through the main entrance inside the lobby and filled out the necessary documents that would allow me to attend the press event. The documents threatened death if I were to leak any of the sacred secrets that the group might have accidentally happened upon that we were not supposed to see. Afterwards, I walked back outside and met up with AJ, Rylin, and a few others who were engaged in a pre-event discussion with Karune. It was mostly a friendly conversation, sharing our thoughts and concerns about certain parts of StarCraft II and a few other games. As 10:00 AM approached, those present for the press event met inside the main lobby, ready for our day to start.
The first stop on the press event was Blizzard's theater room. Here, the press were given a unique opportunity to see a battle report done live, with the commentators Dustin Browder and Robert Simpson in the room, doing their commentating right there. We watched three battles, played by two of Blizzard's balance designers: David Kim and Matt Cooper, from their respective desks. Before going into the first match, Dustin Browder explained that the multiplayer set-up we were seeing was not Battle.net, but a temporary multiplayer system to be used until battle.net was ready. For the matches, the game was set up in the theater, with the player being set in observer mode, an aspect that will undoubtedly be used in the new Battle.net. The observer mode allows any player watching the match to take part without having to play as a Terran and moving their Command Center to an unoccupied corner of the map. Observers will be allowed to chat amongst themselves with in-game messaging, but will not be able to send messages to any of the competing players. One function of this mode is the ability to set your vision. The vision can be set to "Everybody", or to a specific player or team. Vision includes being able to see every players' moves: their units, buildings, current researches/upgrades, units-in-progress, and even where they're clicking. The observer's view can also be set up to be used manually, or to follow the exact screen in real-time of one or both of the players. Dustin Browder warned about not being too focused on the view if the observer's setting is on automatic and focused on every player, because the screen view will jump between each player, whichever made the latest action. This observer mode is the same that you can currently see in the StarCraft II Battle Reports on the official StarCraft II website.
The first battle was a Protoss versus Protoss match, on the 2-player map: Blistering Sands. Both players had an amazing start, calling forth scores of Zealots and Stalkers to battle each other. This was the first time that I had really seen the Obelisk, formerly the Dark Pylon, being used so much. At their main bases, both players stationed an Obelisk, and would continually cast Proton Charge over their Probes, in order to allow them to carry additional resources for a short time. As the battle pressed on, Matt Cooper gained the advantage, and kept David Kim from establishing a stable expansion. After destroying the Nexus of the expansion, Cooper pressed forward with Immortals and Dark Templar in addition to his Zealots and Stalkers. Kim sent forth a Colossus in defense, but Cooper's forces stormed up the ramp into his base and overwhelmed the Colossus. Kim declared "GG" and the first match was over.
For a change in pace, the second match was Zerg (Cooper) versus Terran (Kim), on the 2-player map: Steppes of War. Kim worked quickly, building a Barracks to train his Marines. Meanwhile, Cooper quickly morphed a Drone into a Spawning Pool and grew a Queen from the Hatchery. As Kim sent out Marines to attack, Cooper met the challenge with Zerglings, and eventually Roaches and Banelings. At this point, Kim performed a Terran strategy of lifting off and moving his Factory which had an attached Tech Lab, and replaced it with his newly built Starport, which allowed him to immediately build Medivac Dropships, rather than waiting for his Starport to build a new Tech Lab. Kim sent over two Medivac Dropships filled with Marines over to Cooper's expansion. Cooper successfully defended it with a number of Roaches and a Spine Crawler that had been stationed there. Although the Terran offensive lost, the Zerg were short on defenders, and Kim was ready for another offensive, this time with Marines, Marauders, and Hellions, relentless destroying everything in their path with little resistance. Upon making their way into the main Zerg base, Cooper admitted defeat.
The third and final match was Protoss (Kim) versus Terran (Cooper), on the 2-player map: Kula's Ravine. Both players started off the match by each sending a worker out to scout their opponent's base. Meanwhile, Cooper began by blocking his choke point, first with a Supply Depot, and then sealing off the choke with a Barracks. The scouting Probe and SCV met each other, and engaged in combat. The Protoss Probe, with its regenerating shields, was winning the fight, and Cooper ordered his SCV to retreat back to his base. Unfortunately, when he opened his choke point temporarily to allow the SCV to enter, Kim's Probe was able to slip inside, being able to scout out the Terran operations. At this point in the game, the main view jumped around, as the camera setting was changed to automatic, and the view would adjust to whichever player was performing an action. Within the Protoss base, Kim was using his Gateways to call forth Zealots and Stalkers. Cooper was busy as well, upgrading his Command Center into an Orbital Command and utilizing its energy to call forth MULEs to aid in his resource gathering, which was necessary for his growing number of Marauders and his new Starport. The Protoss Zealots and Stalkers charged to battle, but suffered defeat at the hands of the large group of Terran Marauders. The Protoss countered with more Zealots, Stalkers, and a Nullifier. Despite the intense battling, both players continued to climb their respective tech trees. Kim warped in a Robotics Facility, while Cooper built a Tech Lab for his Starport to research cloaking for his Banshees. In a pivotal battle, the Protoss forces destroyed the Command Center of the only Terran expansion, but at the cost of their attack forces. The Terrans retaliated by attacking a Protoss expansion on a gold mineral patch, but Kim defended it with Zealots and Stalkers. With the Terran expansion gone, his expansion safe, and the Terran forces beaten back, Kim assaults the main Terran base with a massed group of Zealots, Stalkers and Immortals, overpowering the Terran defenses and forcing Cooper to admit "GG".
After the final match, Dustin Browder went over the current replay system. For the full details of the replay system thus far in the game's development, check StarCraft: Legacy's June 22, 2009 StarCraft II Review
At 11:00am, we were done in the theater, and the group was taken upstairs to the third floor and shown our private computer room. There were just enough computers for everyone to have their own. At this point, everyone present instantly engaged themselves to 1v1 or 2v2 games, or indulging in the observer mode while watching someone else's match. The group was able to play for about an hour before being pulled away for lunch. Also, during this time, everyone present was given the opportunity to pair up with another player and sign up for a 2v2 tournament. Although both casual players, the StarCraft: Legacy team consisted of myself and the other Legacy representative: Ryan, AKA Rylin.
When 12:00pm rolled around, it was time for lunch. At the last press event, the Blizzard cafeteria made excellent pizzas and had them sent up to us, but today, the press group was escorted over to the Blizzard cafeteria for a buffet-style lunch, consisting of various hot sandwiches and sides. It was a tougher choice than my StarCraft II battle strategies, but I decided on the pesto chicken panini over the hot ham and meatball sandwiches. The difficult decision-making was worth it, probably because that choice turned out better than my "strategies". Joining a table with two representatives from the War Center, we had a discussion about gaming backgrounds while we ate. Although the two guys were far more familiar with the WarCraft series than StarCraft, the visit was an opportunity they couldn't refuse. After lunch, the press group waited outside the main lobby until we were called back inside, around 1:00pm, to continue our gaming.
When we returned back to the computer room, we noticed a piece of paper by the door, posting the first round matches for the pairs tournament. The StarCraft: Legacy team faced our first opponents, JoeOrange and Nocturne from Gamer-Source. We both played as Terran, versus Zerg and Terran opponents. This match was a wonderful lesson in how well the Zerg Hydralisk has been strengthened for anti-air. A group of several banshees, even using hit-and-run tactics, were no match for massed Hydralisks, along with Roaches, devastating the unfocused Terran defenses. In case you weren't sure, we didn't win this one. The tournament was double elimination, so Rylin and I were ready to face another pair of fierce opponents, but since the time was nearing 2:00pm, we would have to wait, because it was time for the scheduled tour of Blizzard Headquarters.
Our press group left the computer room and went back downstairs into the main lobby. The first stop was the art and awards sections, located to the left of the lobby. Looking through the StarCraft artwork section, I noticed that some of the artwork I remembered from last year was no longer there, but replaced with more recent artwork, made for StarCraft II. Next we went back upstairs to the second floor, which was focused on the WarCraft series. Throughout the whole floor, there were group offices, which would house several employees each. The idea of the group offices was so that they would be open to each other and feed off each other's creativity. Also, there were several large pieces of artwork on the walls that had covers on them, likely because they were part of upcoming projects that aren't meant to be receiving publicity just yet. Afterwards, we went to the next building over, taking a quick stop by the cafeteria again, then a small peak into the top secret server room, and a quick walk through the on-site gym before making out way back outside near to the volleyball court.
On the tour at the last press event, we were never allowed to enter the third building due to top secret projects being developed within, but this time, we were allowed to go in, so long as we didn't disturb the employees, who were hard at work. Upon entering the building, we entered a large room that housed the Kerrigan statue that was showcased at last year's BlizzCon. We passed by the room housing the development of Blizzard's Project Hydra, the top secret project of which no one outside of Blizzard knows the details about. Next we went through the StarCraft development area. The whole area was very quiet, with all of the developers focused strongly on their projects. After going through the StarCraft development area, the tour was over and we returned to the computer room to continue playing or competing in the 2v2 tournament.
Upon our return to the computer room, the second round of matches began. This time it was myself as Terran and Rylin as Protoss, facing off against two Protoss opponents. We both held off early attacks, and my strategy consisted of surviving long enough to mass Battlecruisers. Unfortunately, Rylin wasn't able to hold off our opponents relentless attacks and was defeated, leaving an uncertain future for our team. However, with Rylin's defeat, there were already six Battlecruisers ready for action, and several more being built. Turning the fleet toward the first enemy base, they were helpless against the onslaught of Battlecruisers. For every Battlecruiser destroyed, two more took its place. Seeing his opponent fall, and the wave destruction coming his way, the other Protoss player focused his efforts toward the Terran center of operations. Both bases fell at roughly the same time. However, quick thinking and a hidden third Command Center on an unreachable island kept the StarCraft: Legacy team alive, as the Battlecruiser fleet stayed strong, destroying the Protoss buildings one by one. However, the game didn't end. Searching the minimap, another Protoss Nexus had been warped in. By the time the Battlecruiser fleet found it and destroyed the Nexus, another replaced it somewhere else on the map. This went on for about 30 minutes, with a large crowd cheering both players on. Eventually, with the last of his resources, the Protoss player surrounded his last Nexus with several Pylons and Photon Cannons. The weathered and beaten Battlecruisers were able to hang a bit longer, and after probably the longest match of the entire day, the StarCraft: Legacy team emerged victorious, for this battle at least!
At 4:30pm, Dustin Browder entered the computer room. Everyone who was playing at the time either paused or quit their game quickly to take part. Browder stationed himself against one wall of computers, facing the rest of the group, and started getting feedback about our experiences with the game, and any questions or concerns we may have had. To read about the discustion, check out the June 22, 2009 StarCraft II Review.
Our discussion with Browder finished around 5:00pm, and those of us that were still participating in the pairs tournament continued their matches. With the win of our previous match, the StarCraft: legacy team faced off again with our opponents from the first round, JoeOrange and Nocturne. Feeling good after the previous win, and stronger with a greater knowledge of StarCraft II competitive strategy, we played double Zerg versus JoeOrange as Zerg and Nocturne as Protoss. Needless to say, the game didn't last too long, being utterly devastated by their great teamwork, and swarm of massed Roaches, Zealots, and Carriers.
As the tournament drew to a close, several of the remaining press attendees watched the impressive finals on observer mode as Karune and his ally crushed their opponents, being the top winners of the day. As the afternoon grew late, many of the representatives of the fansites left or were leaving. A few of us remained behind, to play around with some of the less familiar game mechanics to report on later, and for continued conversation with Karune.
Around 7:45pm, the few of us still remaining pulled ourselves from our computers, and headed for lobby. Out in California, the sun still hadn't set yet, so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the Orc statue in the center of the grounds without the work crews around it. Then I hopped into my truck, and followed Rylin and the others from our group out the main gates. After dropping off one of the guys at their hotel, I took a short walk with AJ, Rylin, and the other representative from starcraft.org over to a restaurant that claimed to be "Home of the World's Best Hamburger". It was a good burger, definitely better than any fast food burgers, but I don't think it was the best in the world. After eating, I walked with the guys back to the hotel and said our goodbyes until the next press event at Blizzard. So about 9:00pm I took off for home, a long drive, but definitely worth it.
Finally, I want to thank all of you, the members and other watchers of StarCraft: Legacy. Without your support, our site wouldn't be what it is today. If you have any questions or concerns about something that wasn't addressed in my article or the other articles spawned from this event, please ask in our forums, and I or any of the other who attended the press event would be happy to answer your questions if possible.
So, until next time, this is Zero, signing off. See you in the forums!
This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) feature event article.