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The BlizzCon 2010 StarCraft II Art panel revolved almost exclusively around the new custom maps Blizzard is making.
Aiur Chef, Left 2 Die, StarJewled and last, but not least Blizzard DotA!

 

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Aiur Chef:
You're controlling a Protoss Zealot/Celebrity Chef and you're running through the level, trying to defeat your opponents. As well as doing a lot of cooking.

Left 2 Die:
Basically a Multiplayer version of the second Dr. Hanson mission in the Wings of Liberty campaign.

StarJewled:
A jewel crushing game. When you crush jewels, you get cash, which you can use on troops that you can send on your enemy to smash their castle area.

Blizzard DotA:
Made because Blizzard are huge fans of the original DotA. This gave Blizzard an opportunity to remake many of their old favorites from WarCraft III. Will most likely include Diablo characters as well.

Left 2 Die Zombified Models

 

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Allen Dilling (lead artist StarCraft II) explains that for Left 2 Die they modified existing models and zombified them. The four mods will not be using only the basic campaign art, as many of the models are created from scratch.
Model modifications in Left 2 Die:

The Baneling has been modified to the Kaboomer. A scaled up version with more polygons and spikes.
The Brutalisk, which you might recognize from the campaign, is now the Hunterling. It's been given some wings, some green zombified goo coming out of him. He will jump over your troops and walls and will fly all over the place.
The Infestor is now the Choker. Desaturated and greyed out texture. Steam clouds around him, tentacles that will grab units and pull them into him.
The Overseer with some tweaks is now the Spotter. Eyeballs removed, smoke coming out of him and his big snout that he shoots out huge spit balls on his enemies with.
And of course the Ultralisk. This version is called The Stank, he's all gnarled up got emmisive glowies all over him, and is basically all zombified and nasty. When he comes to your base, it's pretty much GG.

 

Blizzard DotA Hero Models

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Blizzard have for a long time wanted to develop their own DotA mod, and with the release of StarCraft II and it's brand new editor, a good opportunity arised. Traditional WarCraft heroes have been modified to fit the StarCraft universe as well as its engine.


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As an example, Blizzard added some Zerg and Protoss plating to the WarCraft III Orc Blademaster in order to mimic the Lenassa and the Zer'atai Dark Templar tribes from the StarCraft universe. Each hero has a good and an evil version of itself.


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The Dwarven Mountain King model is actually a modification of the Marauder model. The hero, named Muradin, currently has some range abilities, but will, according to Allen Dilling, be changed to a completely melee oriented hero.

 

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The nasty looking Undead Abomination, Stitches (A World of WarCraft low level quest mob), has been outfitted with marine armor, for the good side, and various Ultralisk parts for the evil side.

 

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Everyones favorite Marine Murloc, Grunty, has earned himself a spot in Blizzard DotA. A new visual take on the Murloc has been made, and he is now green and more evil-looking. Apparently he is also the fastest hero in the mod at the moment.

 

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Sylvanas Windrunner, before and after her forced turning to the Forsaken Undead, will also make an appearance. According to the developers a powerfull lategame hero.

 

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Samwise Didier's art piece of the Tauren Marine brought to life in Blizzard DotA.

Blizzard DotA Spell Effects

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From left to right, top to bottom: Level up effect. Death effect. Muradin spells Storm Bolt and Thunderclap, respectively.

Blizzard DotA Hero Animations

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Jay Hathaway (Senior Animator) has done all the animations for both in-game characters and portraits.


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The evil version of the Orc (Fel Orc actually) Blademaster, Za'Muro, with his Bladestorm ultimate spell.


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Sylvanas Windrunner, pre-undead.


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Muradin, the Dwarven Mountain King, good version.


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L80ETC(Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain), the Tauren Marine. We have only seen one version of this hero, so far.


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Stitches, the Undead Abomination, with neither Marine nor Ultralisk armor.

Blizzard DotA Portrait Animations

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Za'Muro, Fel Orc version.


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The Undead Abomination was the hero Jay Hathaway has had the most fun creating animations for lately. Though the Abomination is horrendous, the animation is also quite amusing when seen in motion.

 

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Sylvanas Windrunner, also known as the Queen of the Forsaken, post-undead. Described as stoic and stuck-up.

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Grunty, the Murloc Marine. Quite hyper, according to the developers.

Blizzard DotA Tower Models and Game Board

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The visual theme of the map has been described as influenced by chess and tabletop role-playing games. As one can see from the tiles and dice in screenshots of the map.

Aiur Chef Player Model

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Aiur Chef Props and Doodads - Presented by Brian Sousa

 

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The First Heart of the Swarm Concept Art Pieces

 

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A Tribute to FruitDealer (GSL Season 1 Winner)

 

Possible Campaign Unit in Heart of the Swarm - The Infested Bunker

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A

Q: This question is for Brian Sousa. It's a two-parter. The first part would be: Brian how did you get so sexy? And also the second parter would be I hear you have magic fingers. Will you be demoing this later?

Brian Sousua: Yes well first of all my parents are right over there so you can thank them for how sexy I am. That's not really up to me but you know this is who I am. Second part yes I did dabble in massage therapy for a while so. Aside from being an artist I'm a massage therapist but that's in my past now. Sorry.

 

Q: Hi I'm actually a digital arts student and I was wondering if you guys had any advice or words of wisdom for someone that wants to do what you guys do?

Samwise Didier: Sure. I'll start. So you're obviously into Blizzard games correct? Do you have a favorite one? Warcraft StarCraft Diablo?

Q: I'm a fan of StarCraft I play WoW really all of them.

Samwise Didier: Okay. So say - first of all you're going to school learning some of the different programs? If you're into doing concept art I would definitely suggest to be - do some fanart for us. Draw some fanart of the different universes because we want to know that the people we are hiring can kind of do what we do. You know? If an artist comes in and they're amazing and they have the most realistic bowl of fruit - it doesn't really fit the games right? I mean if they can't draw an orc or a zerg or Diablo it's kind of tough right? So know the style you're going for. And then also what I really like is to see what the person's personal art is. So if I go onto someone's website and - like I said maybe it's a bunch of drawings of realistic buildings or fruit or portraits that's great but I want to see if their personal art - what their passion is - is related to kind of our games as well. Like if I go to a website and someone has Thor fighting Captain America and there's like a Pegasus and a unicorn dueling in the background we'll look past the Pegasus part but that Thor and Captain America that's pretty awesome. So definitely if you're sending it to any company not just Blizzard know what the company works on and kind of stylize certain pieces to what the company is. And include new art as well. I've looked at portfolios where there's - 2006 was the last new piece that I saw and it's like "Well what have you been doing for four years?" You know? So. Yeah. That would be my suggestion. You guys have anything else you want to add?

Allen Dilling: I was going to say - another thing is - to get you in line with the production of video games and figure out the whole mindset and the pipeline is do mods. I mean it doesn't even have to be a StarCraft II mod I think we're going to release the art tools at some point in the future but even other engines out there like Unreal you know all sorts of different ones you can make a lot of your own art and kind of understand what it takes to put it into the game. And you know limitations on textures and polygons and animation and that kind of stuff just is kind of like hands-on material right there trying to teach you how we do things. So that's always a good start right there. If you can show us something actually running in the game that's one more extra bonus you have on your portfolio.

 

Q: Alright. I'm also a digital arts student but what sort of thing in the portfolio - like would you say having a specific portfolio or more of a wide range? Like I do a lot of modeling but also sketches and like programming. So like altogether? Do they like to see a wide range of talents or excelling at lighting?

Samwise Didier: I would focus on whatever your best effort is. Like if there's something that you look at that you've done and you say "That's okay." We may go "Well that's okay." So whatever you think your best strengths are show that and anything else is also good.

Brian Sousa: Yeah but it's definitely quality over quantity. If you do like two things very well send those two things in. Don't pad it with a lot of stuff that you're not really proud of because then we're going to see that also. And you know we might look past the two pieces that are really good if you have a lot more that is just okay or not your strengths. So if you're not a great animator don't throw in a couple you know just simple animations on something to make it look better. But I would focus on what you're good at and just tighten that up the best you can.

Jay Hathaway: So another thing though is you're a student and you're trying to fill out your portfolio. And generally there's kind of three different areas for games. There's fantasy World War II and - what's the third one - sci-fi. So if you have a quiver of different models that you've worked on polish them up make them look really good and then customize your demo to whatever studio that you're going to be applying to you know? So if they're working on fantasy games put all your fantasy stuff in it. If it's World War II stuff put all your World War II stuff in there. You know? So that you kind of have - you can mix and match it doesn't have to be the same demo for everybody. You can kind of customize it.

Allen Dilling: That's a good point. When I first applied here I took a picture that Chris Metzen had drawn like a long time ago for I think the Warcraft II manual. And it was like an orc and an elf fighting and I just modeled it down in 3D exactly how it was. And you know just kind of - one extra little thing is impressive. So you should always try to be unique and stand out. It's totally cool to multitask. A lot of us at work have multiple skills. Just make sure like these guys said that it's like your best stuff because you just want to show the cream of the crop.

 

Q: Hi guys. Just wondering when you guys are doing the design process have you ever had a clash with each other? For example you're designing a model and then the other guy just says "Your design is horrible!" And then how do you guys solve that kind of situation?

Samwise Didier: You usually just hit the guy kinda - BAM! No usually when we come up with the design for StarCraft and any of our games a lot of it - I know it sounds a bit hokey - it's a team effort. So design will come to us and they'll say "Alright we're looking for a specific type of unit that does this. Say I'm looking for something that is an air attacker that only attacks ground." We don't want it to look like the Banshee in StarCraft II because that's what that already does. So we have to come up with some other ideas. Well what could it be? A lot of times also the artist will just draw a cool picture and the designers will go "Oh yeah this is awesome we got to put this in." Now we got to figure out where to put it in. So there's a lot of ideas that get passed around the team and a lot of times we'll just make a really really rough model and we'll let them kind of work around with it. We don't do - we used to do a lot of final art and then they would say "Yeah this unit's just not working out we're going to get rid of it." Now we still kind of have some of that in StarCraft and all those end up being in our single player campaigns so certain things - like you know you'll see the Firebat you'll see the Goliath things that aren't in the multiplayer we had at one time made them for multiplayer and then decided "No let's see if we can make something cooler" or the designers will say "Let's make something different." And so a lot of times we sort of bounce ideas back and forth on each other and then put in something that's placeholder and if it works then we'll make the final model.

Brian Sousa: Yeah it's all about the iterations that we do. We start with one thing and you know over time that one unit that we started with three years ago will have completely changed by the time we actually get it in the game - for the final game anyway. So yeah we iterate on almost everything that you see and that's why we're not done until we're done. We can always do something better I think.

Allen Dilling: A good example of that is the Thor unit where we came up with this idea of you know back when they were brainstorming after Warcraft III and it's like "Cool giant robots!" You know some kind of awesome mech thing. We didn't know exactly what it was going to be Sammy had some cool concepts and - so we finally modeled it we put it in you know years ago and design was like "Hey that's awesome! We don't really need that right now" and we're like "But it was so awesome" they're like "We understand how much that adds to the game and the flavor." So they actually were super-cool about it and over the years we finally found a good role for it and we tweaked it a lot so much so that even during the beta we actually changed the model. So the shipping one and the beta one are actually two different Thor models. So that again shows us - even like at the last hour we're always working for perfection and trying to iterate again and again.

Q: Is that why it takes ten years to make just one game?

All: (laughs) Yeah.

Q: The other thing is are you guys going to put - I saw the Protoss Purifier in the art gallery are you guys going to put that model in-game anytime soon?

Samwise Didier: You know we had it at one time in the early versions of StarCraft II. It was called the Soul Reaver it was called the Purifier - we had all different kinds of names for it. We've learned to not name anything anymore and just call it New Zerg Unit One Two - I mean we just don't give a name because we end up calling it that years after. But you can probably bet that a lot of the old concept art that we still have will be resurrected at some point for something. If we like an image or we like an idea but it's not appropriate at the time to put it in a certain thing we'll just hold on to it instead of messing up the game and forcing something in - like we did with the Thor thank you. We'll kind of wait now that we've learned our lesson and hold it until it's ready to be added to the game.

 

Q: Hi. For the development of these mods and what you do on a day-to-day basis how closely do you have to work with the engineering team?

Allen Dilling: Well we work with the programmers quite a bit. I mean there's a couple of different layers like the main code guys that handle the fundamentals of the engine and what's happening and we also have some guys called the data specialists and they're kind of like the liaison. They actually implement all the stuff and we have a really cool system that very quickly within minutes we can put a new spell together. It's like "Hey we want something that shoots out Banelings and when it explodes it turns into a bunch of SCVs and then they gravitate towards somebody and explode in five different colors." And with our system we can put together stuff really quickly. And the cool thing with the mods is we have such a huge library built up from making Wings of Liberty that we can really quickly put something in there prototype it and if we dig it then we'll go in later on the next day and start putting like real art for it. So we work pretty closely. I work with the data guys every day basically. From e-mailing back and forth they go to the desk we hang out and talk about like the best way to do things because a lot of times you have an idea like "This is going to be badass and it's going to do this awesome thing" and then you realize "Okay the engine quite can't handle that" or "The frame rate could be an issue" or you know gameplay stuff. So then you talk with them and figure out what's actually viable what can actually do it and you kind of compromise and again it's just like everything we keep iterating and you know we just try to come up with that middle ground that works best for our end design.

Jay Hathaway: Another thing that's really cool about the mods is that you'll see them do stuff with it you know in the community that it was never really intended to do. Like when you see them mod it out and it's a first person shooter. You know? It's like "Oh my God I never intended the animation to look like that" but it still holds up and the textures and stuff. And I always find that amazing that that works.

 

Q: I was wondering; what kind of programs do you guys use to design your models and animations?

Samwise Didier: We don't know I guess.

Brian Sousa: No no. For modeling we mostly use 3D Studio Max. And everybody pretty much relies on Photoshop for any digital painting or texturing. For animating...

Jay Hathaway: I use 3D Max for animating. A lot of people like to use Maya. It doesn't really matter what package you use all the principles of animation still apply to both so there isn't one that's better than the other.

 

Q: Hello. This question is for everybody: what's the favorite thing that you've been working on recently?

Samwise Didier: The favorite thing I've been working on recently is Blizzard DotA because it's allowed me to always fulfill the dream that I've had of one day creating a Blizzard fighter where - we don't necessarily have a Street Fighter game where we can have our characters battling each other but this one sort of takes care of that for me. So I love to see the franchises duking it out in a non-lore-screwing-up environment. For all the lore people out there it's just for fun. It's just fun. So that would be my favorite. Mister Dilling?

Allen Dilling: I have to agree that the DotA map is probably our favorite ones because again like you said we get to do something outside the norm. We get to make a tileset that doesn't have to be like "Oh and planet so-and-so and you know fifty years ago Kerrigan did this and it has to be like that." We enjoy the franchise a lot and the lore and history that goes with it and we have a great time with it but sometimes it's fun just to do something totally random and off the beaten path a little bit.

Jay Hathaway: I really enjoyed working on the abomination. He's a lot of fun. I mean when you look at him you're just like "Aw that's so cool! I want to make this thing look so fat" and yet he's really super fast. And I went back to Phil Gonzales on him and I'm like "You know what that guys needs? He needs more fat back-boobs on him." So he went in and he remodeled it for me and stuff and I put in some bones and made it all jiggly and stuff and it worked out really good. So he was a lot of fun.

Brian Sousa: Well for me I'm actually trying to do a little more concept work especially for Heart of the Swarm. So trying to get back into doing some painting which I've been neglecting for the past couple years and tightening up those skills. So I'm actually enjoying learning again.

 

Q: Hi. For the Warcraft III art tools they used a very very old version of 3DS Max. For the new art tools for StarCraft II will you be using - will it be compatible with the most up-to-date version or will we have to go to like version six or seven or...?

Allen Dilling: I think we're going through like a 3D Studio release one possibly. No that's a really old old old in case somebody -

Samwise Didier: Geek jokes! Alright!

Jay Hathaway: You'll have to work on your Amiga for that one.

Allen Dilling: Actually we were not going to release a whole lot of information about that right now except for "We are going to release art tools sometime in the future." But the plan right now basically is to have it to be the most up-to-date version possible. At the time we release the tools. So I can't say what version that is but yeah we're trying to keep it a lot more current than the old War3 tools.

 

Q: My question is about the art direction for the next expansion. Like the current Wings of Liberty had a really big difference in art direction from the original StarCraft. I'm wondering if like there's some new artists that are influencing your art direction for Heart of the Swarm.

Samwise Didier: No we have the same team that worked on StarCraft. Basically like Brian Sousa back here was also on the original StarCraft myself a lot of the artists on the team are from the original StarCraft. So the way that we're going to be proceeding with Heart of the Swarm is sort of the same that we did with Wings of Liberty is take kind of what the basic direction of the original is and then try to update it to a new 2010 sort of look. You know we're dealing with a 3D game now so things are going to look a lot more sharp and crisp than the ten-pixel-high Zealot we used to have in you know 1998.

Brian Sousa: Well we've all learned so much from StarCraft 1 and the designs and everything we've pushed it to the next level I think. If you look back a lot of the art is similar to StarCraft 1 but when we have a 256 palette to work with versus now the 16 million palette we can get so much more colors and details into these that we couldn't have before.

Samwise Didier: But it'll basically look more with like Wings of Liberty than StarCraft: Broodwar.

 

Q: Hi. So when working on StarCraft II on the art side what was the most frustrating problematic thing that you had to deal with?

Samwise Didier: The art team mostly. It was so hard to get them to do anything that I wanted. No I'm just teasing. One of the things that was actually kind of a pain to deal with was we had all just come from working on Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne. We had come from working on some World of Warcraft so now we were in a sci-fi world. And a lot of times our stuff started looking a little bit too bright or a little bit too super-heroic in proportion a little bit too bouncy in the animation so we had to regear ourselves to kind of learn what StarCraft was again. And I like to make the joke we would have something on the screen - okay scale the head down by a little bit by fifteen percent. Scale the hands down fifteen percent. Drop the saturation that's like kind of the brightness of the color. Make that about fifteen percent less. And then it started looking more StarCraft. So whenever we make something that is looking a little too Warcraft or something we just say "Hey fifteen that" and they kind of know what to do and it turns out looking like StarCraft. Yeah for me that was one of the most difficult things we had to do is try to keep StarCraft StarCraft and make sure Warcraft stayed over where Warcraft was.

Brian Sousa: I just want to say something because - Dave Berggren isn't here right now he's lead environment artist but I think if you just mention cliffs to him he will know exactly what you're talking about. I think he was in cliff hell for about three years making and designing all of the cliffs for StarCraft.

Samwise Didier: How many pieces do the cliffs add up to?

Brian Sousa: There's over two hundred.

Samwise Didier: There's over two hundred different versions of cliffs in StarCraft that need to be able to fit together and not have big screw-ups in it.

Brian Sousa: And then for all the different ones too because there's Protoss cliffs and there's Terran cliffs and there's like natural cliffs. So all of those had to be modeled by hand by Dave one piece at a time.

Jay Hathaway: So Berggren means "cliff-builder" in German.

[laughs]

 

Q: So I had a question there. I've noticed some people have managed to import models from World of Warcraft into StarCraft II and I was just curious what you guys felt about that.

Samwise Didier: Uh it - it looks cool. [laughs] You know I hope one day we can be able to support it where people can you know maybe make their own models and stuff like that but I don't know logistic-wise or anything like that how the company's stand on it is but when I first saw that I thought that it was pretty cool seeing that. Not that I condone it. Because I don't know if I'm allowed to or not. But it was kind of funny seeing that in our game - Warcraft stuff. That's why we made Blizz DotA. Heh. Just kidding.

 

Q: Hi. I was just wondering if you could tell me who the main artists were that designed the look of the character Tychus Findlay or was it just a whole bunch of people?

Samwise Didier: I believe the guy who did the concept of the marine armor Joe Peterson he's still working with us stuff like that. He designed all the intricate details and everything and the guy who actually modeled that I believe is Fausto de Martini. Both guys still at the company but they - that marine armor is so frigging intricate it's - if you look at the front of it it almost looks like a Volkswagen looking at you because it has the lights here and the round - every time I see that now I think of a Volkswagen. Yeah and it's so difficult to draw because of the perspective on it. I - not known for my perspective as you can tell by my character proportions - so yeah the guys who had worked on the marine armor: Joe Peterson and Fausto de Martini.

Q: The artwork where it shows all of Raynor's Raiders together - or I mean Heaven's Devils. That sepia-toned one. Who drew that? Because I couldn't find the signature.

Samwise Didier: It was someone on our cinematic team. They were responsible for a lot of the pictures that you'd see in the bar room in StarCraft or in the postcards or things like that. They handled a lot of that. I'm not sure if - in the art book it's in there. I don't know if you can see a signature on there but - yeah I'm not sure who did that one sorry.

 

Q: This is for the DotA game question thing. The question is I know you guys are going to make new - that you're going to continue to create characters for the game or are you going to actually create characters hundred percent new that aren't in either of the games for the game?

Samwise Didier: If we have a really fun idea for it I think we will. It's just it's tough when we're - we have these three properties StarCraft Warcraft and Diablo that have so many just iconic characters. I think we're going to hit a lot of those first and then if some sort of thing pops up like - you know when people were talking about Diablo and we did the little Diablo My Little Pony shirt with the rainbow? Like we just made up some new thing that was kind of funny? You can probably bet that we're going to be doing something like that one if some cultural iconic character springs up in one of the universes or just though fan stuff you know we'll definitely hit that. Like a Leroy Jenkins sort of thing. Who knows if he would ever end up in there? I think people would really like it and it would be fun to do. [laughter from background] Yeah exactly. Everyone let's hear a "Leroy Jenkins"! Let's hear it. [audience yells "Leroy Jenkins"] I thought this was a StarCraft panel what's going on here? [laughs] Alright so yeah I hope that answers your question. So we also - don't start leaving right now because we actually have a - after the questions are done we have a small surprise for you guys.

 

Q: Hi guys. I'm an aspiring modeler as well and I was curious how much you guys go from like procedural animation or just traditional art or if you guys have a nice mixture in-between. Because I know a lot of guys that are more on the technical aspect and less on the aesthetic aspect and then they make a nice mix. What do you guys think about that?

Jay Hathaway: Do you mean - by procedural you mean by motion capture? Is that -

Q: Um... I'm not sure what I mean by procedural. More along the lines of coding and scripting into your artwork.

Jay Hathaway: Well in the game you know we have a game engine that makes you know the characters move around. And we do traditional animation that works with the game code so it's kind of a cross between both I guess.

Brian Sousa: Well as a - whatever production artist most of our stuff is traditional like everything we do is hand-painted textures and hand models so there's no like - until it gets actually into the game is when the computer kind of takes over. But Jay draws - I mean animates everything by hand everything's you know all done by hand and the same thing with the textures and the modeling. Everything's done - and some of us - our team is really small so we take it almost all the way through like I'll take a - I'll do my own concept work I'll do my own like modeling and texturing and then if it does need to be animated then we'll take it to the professional here Jay so... But he does it all by hand also so. It's not like we have a computer that "Oh this is a walk cycle" and we just throw it on there.

Allen Dilling: That said we also have - we work together we have two technical artists and we work together with him to -

Samwise Didier: [hand on Allen Dilling's shoulder gives accepting nod] How's it going?

Allen Dilling: Good.

Samwise Didier: [laughs] Sorry go ahead.

Allen Dilling: God attention hog. Geez. It's because you have long hair and you have rock and roll. [chuckles] Um where was I? Talking about some boring sutff - oh technical artists that's right. So we work together with technical artists and the programmers to actually figure out some of the art limits. Like how many bones we can have in the character for instance. Like you know can we actually afford to put fingerbones in there? You know the joints how detailed we can get. So there is a lot of collaboration with that involved with the pure art side we don't just go off and make crazy stuff. It's got to work in the engine. We understand there's not just one unit on the game there's five hundred battling with nukes going off and so in that regard as far as limitations of it and how to best solve certain problems like you know trying to make a cool snakey Zerg tail and how that's going to run sufficiently in the engine. We definitely talk to the programmers and the tech artists about that stuff. So yeah we definitely work with them.

 

Q: I was wondering if you ever like browse fan websites and seen their fanart and fan concepts? Did you ever maybe borrow them or ask permission to use any of those concepts before? Like inspired by them?

Samwise Didier: No usually the only fanart - specific like Blizzard-related fanart I mean I look at a lot of the art sites like you know ConceptArt and deviantART things like that. You know people will fort around cool artists. But the fansites I particularly look at are the ones that - I moderate the fansite that - not the actual fansite but I look at the submissions that we get at Blizzard for the fanart. So the fanart that goes up on our site I kind of go through all the different art select the ones that I think look the coolest and put them in the appropriate folders and then they update them. But as far as taking ideas from the fansites it's kind of difficult because we have so many artists on our team that have a billion ideas that they'll send you e-mails constantly and you have to look through them and - but yeah I think maybe if we had a shortage of ideas but as it is now we're still trying to get in - the reason why we made StarCraft II is to get all the ideas from the original StarCraft into the game that we wanted it seems. So we have a ton of ideas for you guys so we're not running dry yet.

 

Transcript

Dustin Browder: So we're going to make a presentation for you guys that sort of describes some of the processes that we go through, and gives you a little bit of insight into the stuff that we're looking at right now, maybe some of the things we have planned for some of our future patches. Is there anybody out there that has any questions at all about StarCraft II multiplayer? Anybody? Just a few people, all right. So get your questions ready, because we're hoping we have a lot of time for you guys to ask us whatever you want about what we've done or what we're going to do down the road. All right, so I'm going to talk a bit about how we balance the game. So, we have a lot of different tools that we use to balance this game. We have community feedback, we have pro feedback, we have our own play experience, we have a lot of stats that we gather, but the important thing to know about these tools is that they all fundamentally fail us at some critical point. Every one of these tools, at some point, we thought was the promised land. We had finally found the tool that would save us, that would be the perfect answer to everything we need, and then we found out it kind of sucked. So the only trick that we've got is we have to use all of these tools together. We want multiple tools to agree about what the direction is, what we should do, and only if these tools sort of fight together as a team be of any real hope of finding the right answer about what we want to do in the balance of the game.

sc2howwebalance

 

Matt Cooper: So I'm going to talk to you guys today about our first tool, and this is kind of our first line of defense. And it's you guys, it's our community. And one of the best things about this is, hundreds of thousands of players play millions of games, and of course this is across all skill levels, all regions, and we get some great debates from you guys. It's really not that useful for us if we have an internal tool that tells us, "Building Battlecruisers makes your win percentage go up by 3 points." That doesn't really tell us anything. Maybe the players making the Battlecruisers have already won the game. But when we get these great debates and we can see in what situation a Battlecruiser might be overpowered, against what race, how players are using it. And of course, like any good debate, you get the opposite, people arguing, "It's not overpowered, here's how to beat it." Of course, like any of our tools, there's some problems. One of the biggest problems of player feedback is, "The loudest voice tends to win." It's not necessarily about who's right or who's wrong, and not everyone chooses to post on the forums. And of course, we get a snowball effect where one player comes along, makes a thread, and, you know, a bunch of people jump on that, and by the time someone who disagrees of this or has good debate to bring to the subject, you know, there's twenty posts in a row about how he's wrong, and he doesn't really want to get in an argument with twenty players. But you guys are great at - you're one of our best tools for finding bugs, and a lot of the stuff that's blatantly wrong that we can't necessarily find in our internal playtesting because we don't have enough time, you guys find almost immediately and it helps make this the best play experience we can for you guys.

sc2pvtratios

 

Dustin Browder: Yeah, I think a good example is, from the beta, we had many times where we - we played tens of thousands of games, right, and we had not seen a lot of the stuff that you guys literally found within like, three hours of the beta going live. Like, sitting there playing on Battle.net, I'm getting overrun by Gateway pushes, and I'm like, "Oh my God, how did we not see this?" Right? And then, you know, patches were incoming almost immediately.

David Kim: Okay so, the second tool that we have is pro feedback. Pros really know the game and really lead the strategies that everyone else on Battle.net follows. One example is in the IEM tournament finals, Morrow, a great Terran European player, played against Idra, and beat him pretty easily using this one specific strategy of going mass Barracks with mass Reapers early on. And, within a couple days, all over Battle.net we were seeing this exact same strategy. Even in Gold, even in Platinum, and especially among the Diamond-level players. And because pros really know the game, they give great critical feedback. For example, Maka, one of the best players currently in the world right now, he's actually here today at BlizzCon as well, he really took his time to refine the Zealot/Sentry/Void Ray strategy. And he not only sent us replays, but also a very detailed explanation on when to build every unit, as well as how to use these specific units in combat when you engage the enemy. And, using this feedback, we were able to make the changes to the Void Ray in the patch that we released last week. So the one downside to pro feedback is, pros generally only favor one race because they only play one race. So pros have a difficult time judging victories or defeats. "Did I win this game because I was more skillful than the other player, or was there a race imbalance?" That's always the hard question for pros to ask themselves. So second downside to pro feedback is, pro feedback doesn't necessarily represent all skill levels. Even though people try to follow pro strategies and execute it on their own, the level of execution is not the same, meaning we get different balance across different skill levels. And even though our focus in balancing our game is for the competitive level, we do want the game to be fair and balanced across all levels as well.

sc2proopinion

 

Dustin Browder: So one of our other great tools, of course, is tournaments. We're getting a ton of these here at BlizzCon. If you guys haven't checked out the RTS Stage you really should.

Matt Cooper: They're so awesome.

Dustin Browder: We've got our homage there to Fruit Dealer, the winner of the first season of the GSL. [crowd cheers] Absolutely, give it up for Fruit. So the advantage of tournaments games, of course, these are great, great games with great players playing them. And, this is the ultimate test of our balance. If there is a tiny crack in our game balance, these guys are going to drive a truck right through it. Right? Everything is on the line for these guys. They've got tens of thousands of dollars on the line, their career, their pride, everything, and they've been practicing eight to twelve hours a day for months on end. So if there's any problems, we're going to see it. We don't tend to look too much at tournament results. And that's because the skill between all these players is not necessarily even. There's no perfect matchmaking in tournaments, right? Sometimes, one player just practiced a little bit harder. So I know there was a lot of concern in the community when Fruit Dealer actually won those matches, because there was a feeling that Zerg needed a buff. And we actually kind of agreed with that at the time, and then Fruit Dealer went ahead and won, and we're seeing a lot of posts, like, "Oh my God, now they're not going to do anything because they have proof that Zerg is okay." That wasn't proof. Right? Fruit Dealer was on the top of his game. He had practiced, he knew everything he needed to know. I think Fruit Dealer would have done great with any race that he practiced on that day. He was top, top, top form for that matchup. So, you don't know what players also didn't show up for the match, you don't know what players were sick that day, you don't know players maybe got unlucky in an early round and got eliminated by a matchup they weren't quite as comfortable with, there's lots of variables in tournaments. So, we do look at the games, and that's a very powerful tool, but the exact results would only concern us if we saw something like, "Oh my God, it's just all Terran all the time, no one's even choosing the other races."

Matt Cooper: And of course, another tool we use is - we play our game. We play our game a lot. And, everyone who works on balance is a Diamond, random player, so we get to see all the matchups on all the maps, so if there's a six-pool flavor-of-the-week or something you guys are seeing in your games, we're probably seeing that same strategy in our games, and this is great for us. And of course we have tons of people across Blizzard giving us feedback at all different skill levels. Diamond players, Bronze players - and we do focus for the e-sports level, for the best play, but if we can fix something at a Bronze level that's not going to affect e-sports, we'll try and do this. We want everyone to have a good experience when playing our game. But, again, this is a very small sample size. Like we mentioned earlier, we had played tens of thousands of games going into the beta, but we still couldn't catch some of the Warpgate or Gateway rush strategies, and, you know, we need a bigger sample size to catch a lot of that stuff.

David Kim: So we've taken a look at all the opinion-based tools that we use to balance our game, so now we'll look at some concrete tools that we have. First is spreadsheets, and they're great for making simple calculations such as DPS. And in StarCraft II, not only the damage per second matters, but the damage per shot as well as how often a unit fires matters as well. And it's great to just lay out all these different numbers for every single unit in the game in order to balance our game. Another great thing about spreadsheets is that, they're great for analyzing buildtimes and costs. We don't try to equalize the costs of different tech choices, and we also don't try to make every production building needed for every one of the races symmetric, but we do try to make note of all these numbers so that the balance on these numbers can be perfect. The major downside to spreadsheets is that, it actually doesn't take into account a lot of the other variables that are going on in the game, such as pathing, terrain, or strategies, or even micro. And to take these into account, we'll actually look at our other tool.

Dustin Browder: So we have a tool, that's an in-game tool, called "Make Combat". And this is sort of a debug tool that we can use to create battles very quickly and run tests rapidly to see what's going on. And of course, what's great about this, it's in the software so it accounts for movement, it accounts for pathing, they can account for a lot of the variables that something like a spreadsheet wouldn't use. Like we often have seen, changing something as small as a unit size, as I'm sure you all know, has a significant impact on how well that unit performs. So you can, you know, make a small tweak to the size of the Zealot, quickly use Make Combat, and see what's actually going on. And it also can account for unit cost. Like, StarCraft is often balanced for cost. Right? We're not balancing unit-to-unit, we don't care if seven Zealots beat seven Marines, that doesn't make any sense. The Zealots cost a lot more. So we can actually set up battles in Make Combat that allows to test for unit cost to make sure that we're getting it right. So here's an example of Make Combat in action. You can see, we're going to type in a command there, we're going to do it for cost, and we're going to speed up the game, so we can watch really quickly what's going on. So those Zealots and Stalkers are going to fight those Roaches and Hydras and, as you'd expect, it's not going to go very well for our Protoss brothers there. They're going to be beaten down, get a little report there at the end, how the units are left, what percentage is left, what the leftover cost is. And we run it again just to make sure that, "Yeah this is what's happening, nothing's going on." Let's change it up. Let's put in ten Immortals, in [inaudible] those Stalkers and let's see how it goes. And so, as you'd imagine, this is going much better now for the Protoss, the Immortal being so strong against the Roach. But like everything in StarCraft, a lot of these relationships are very touch-and-go. And so we want to run it a couple of times to make sure. And we'll run it again just to see what happens, and because of small variations in pathing, and small variations in unit target acquisition, suddenly, what was an absolute Protoss victory, suddenly turns into a narrow Zerg victory. And these are the kinds of relationships we're looking for, because this means terrain and micro will be the deciding factor in this particular battle. So if we talk about - so, Make Combat, of course, we were in love with this tool. This was the greatest tool ever made. We had it, we could just test the game fifty times an hour, we could see whatever we wanted to see, and we could prove to ourselves that everything was great. We were so happy with this. The downside of this tool, of course, is, it's sometimes difficult to account for terrain. I mean, you saw that battlefield. When was the last time you were in a battlefield that was that open? Now, we do have some terrain on the debug map, but it's easy to forget to use it as a designer. And reality is, battles are rarely that perfect. It also fails to analyze the current strategies, what we call the metagame. It fails to analyze what was going - what can actually happen in a real battle. Really? Ten Immortals and ten Zealots? If four Mutalisks flew over that formation, those Protoss would be dogmeat. I can convince myself with that battle that, "Oh, hey, look, this is easy for the Protoss, they can counter this with Immortal-Zealot." And actually when you get into a live game it's a total disaster. This is what we found when we went into beta. We've been using this a tool a lot before we went into beta, and when we got to play a lot of games against people of our own skill level, suddenly we were having lots of arguments. We would say, "Make Combat says this," and I'm saying, "Hey, I get it. I can see what Make Combat does too, but I'm telling you, I played last night, and it doesn't work, and that's not going to happen." And so the danger of Make Combat we discovered was it creates a false sense of security. It makes you believe you know what's going on, and instead of using the other tools, you can start to rely on it to give you proof of what you want to believe. "Hey, I know, we got the answer, it's Immortal-Zealot. It's going to stop it every time." When you get into a game, it's not going to happen. And even look at that scenario I showed you. Ten Immortals. How many Robotics Facilities did this fictional Protoss player have to put out ten Immortals at that stage of the game? It's just not practical. And that's why our other tools are so important, and why this is just one small piece of the arsenal we use to try to understand what's going on.

sc2combattool

 

Matt Cooper: And of course, we have Battle.net stats, and the great thing about this is it's everyone playing the ladder. There's a lot of players who might not post on forums, a lot of great players, but we have all their games on Battle.net. And this takes the subjectivity out of what they're doing. A lot of players - if you ask someone, "How did your last thirty games go?" Most players probably couldn't answer that concisely. Even internally, we'll get someone coming up to us saying, "Man, I can't beat Protoss as Zerg." And, you know, we'll give them some advice and then we'll go look at their match history and we'll notice that they actually have a seventy win percentage in that situation. And it's not that they're trying to mislead us or anything like that, it's just, players tend to remember their losses a lot more, and it's really hard to think back what happened in a bunch of your last games. So, let's take a look at some Battle.net stats, and this is for North America across all leagues. So, Terran versus Zerg, we can see that Terrans are edging out Zerg very slightly, fifty-one to forty-nine in favor of the Terrans. Protoss versus Terran, fifty-three to forty-seven in favor of the Protoss, still a really good number for us. And Protoss versus Zerg, fifty-one to forty-nine in favor of the Protoss. So I mean, these numbers all look great to me, I think we're done.

Dustin Browder: It's perfect.

Matt Cooper: So we can just go home, right?

Dustin Browder: What could possibly go wrong with these numbers?

Matt Cooper: Let's see.

David Kim: But with there's every other tool that we have, this has a huge downside to it as well. And the main reason for this is our matchmaker. Our matchmaker does an excellent job of matching two players, that are evenly skilled, that will go fifty-fifty against each other. However, the matchmaker doesn't know where the race imbalances are, so it doesn't take this into consideration. So, in order for us to use these win percentages as a balance tool, we actually have to know what the race win percentages are for each matchup when two equal level players play, and not with perfect matchmaking. So to explain how we get this actual number that we use, we have our math genius, Doctor Josh Menke.

Josh Menke: Thanks David. Yeah exactly. The matchmaker is trying to make sure every player has a fifty-fifty win percentage, but it's also making sure every race has as close to a fifty-fifty win percentage as well. And so because of that, we can't really trust those raw race win percentages, so we have come up with an adjusted win percentage that accounts for the skill of the players. And not only that, we can use this to track the metagame day by day, week by week, we can know what Protoss versus Zerg looks like at the top level, at the middle, and at the bottom. And this is a great tool for us to be able to know what the current metagame really is. Now, you're probably all wondering, "How is this possible?" So, to kind of boil this all down, we throw up the calculation here, and just let you guys see that and use that whenever you want to understand how we do this.

sc2thecalculation

 

Dustin Browder: You guys got that? Seems pretty basic, right?

David Kim: I got it, I got it.

Matt Cooper: Pretty basic math, I think.

Dustin Browder: Yeah, simple stuff.

Josh Menke: Seriously, this is how we do it. I didn't throw on the - how we handle the different levels of skill, but that'll give you guys a clear idea. Now, let's run through a simple example though of how we actually fit that equation there. So let's say we have two players: we've got a Zerg player, and a Protoss player. Before the match, we kind of think Bob's probably the better player; we've seen him play other players, we've seen Frank play other players, so we kind of have an idea about their skill. We've also have seen Zerg play against Protoss in the past, so we also have an idea that we think, in this case, that Zerg, at this point, is better than Protoss - slightly. So, then we have those two teams play, we observe the results, we saw the Protoss player won the match. So now, we need to change what we think about the skill of both the players and the balance of the matchup.

Dustin Browder: With that cheesy Void Ray rush too, that's terrible. That's terrible. I can't believe he did that.

Josh Menke: Yeah, we don't [inaudible] how he did that. So here we go, before we thought Bob was better by about five percent, but at the end of that we're going to slightly update that, change what we think, and now we're thinking, "Maybe Bob's only slightly better than Frank." And before we thought Zerg had a three percent advantage over Protoss, we're going to kind of back that off a little bit now because we just saw Zerg lose a match. And we do this over millions of matches, over hundreds of thousands of players. We don't really update win percentages, we're just showing this to make it easier. It's a much more complicated system than that. But this does give a flavor of how we're able to do this and get these adjusted win percentages that gives a more realistic view of what the race balance is.

Matt Cooper: So now that we know we have to factor in the skill when we're looking at our Battle.net stats, let's look at the adjusted win percentage for North America, again, across all leagues. So for Terran versus Zerg, Terrans are still doing pretty close against Zerg, fifty-one to forty-nine. This is a really good number for us. Protoss versus Zerg, fifty-three to forty-seven in favor of the Protoss. Now, a number about a fifty-five to forty-five means there's no statistical evidence of imbalance. If that number starts going closer to sixty, forty, then that starts getting in our danger zone and this is a number we definitely want to look out a little bit more. So, Protoss versus Terran, what do you know - sixty, forty. This is definitely a number we're concerned about. So, we're going to investigate this a little bit further, and we'll look at Diamond specifically in North America. So for Diamond, we have Terran versus Zerg, forty-nine to fifty-one, still a good number. Protoss versus Zerg, fifty-five to forty-five; it's borderline, but we still consider this a pretty solid number. And Protoss versus Terran, you can see it's a lot better: fifty-three to forty-seven in favor of the Protoss. Now, this does agree with what we're seeing across all leagues, but it's a much better number. So, we're still going to want to look at this a little bit further.

sc2currentwinlossratios

 

David Kim: So before you get into the race win percentages of Korea, I just want to talk about the Korean region in general. Korea, we've seen in the past, they always lead the world in terms of strategies. So, for example, the highest - we've seen in the past that highest level players in Korea always develop these strategies that, say, top American or European players tend to follow, and, for example, just internally for myself as well, a lot of people come to ask me if I have a plus ten APM advantage just because I'm a Korean person. And even though we haven't really scientifically proven this or anything, but, questions like these arise because there's the highest concentration of top players in Korea. So, one of the examples we saw in the beta was, in Korea, during the beta, at the highest levels, Zerg was dominating Protoss. However, in US or even in Europe, this was not the case, it was actually the opposite: Protoss was dominating Zerg. So, we took a look at the strategies that are being used, and in Korea, the top Zerg players were using this mass Spine Crawler plus mass Mutalisk strategy against Protoss that Protoss was just unable to beat. And within a matter of couple weeks we saw that, American and European Zerg players were using the exact same strategy, and a couple weeks after that, we saw the stats kind of align across all regions. So, let's take a look at the stats for Korea across all leagues. Terran versus Zerg, Terrans have a four percent advantage, which is pretty good. Protoss versus Zerg, Protoss has a one percent advantage, which is even better. And, if we take a look at Protoss versus Terran, Protoss has a six percent advantage. So, this number actually agrees with what we saw in North America, but let's take a greater look at Protoss versus Terran in specific. So we've just seen that Protoss, in Korea, Protoss has a six percent advantage. In North America, Protoss had a ten percent advantage. But, if we look specifically at Diamond Korea, which is the highest level right now, the relationship is actually flipped: Terrans have a four percent advantage over Protoss. And we think the reason for this is because top Terran Korean players are really amazing with their Stimpack kiting micro as well as multitasking Medivac drops all over the place, and perfectly microing all these things all together at once. But, as I said before, we can't just go by our past experiences, so let's take a look at our other tools to see if that's what they say also.

sc2inkorea

 

Dustin Browder: So, Battle.net has identified a problem for us very clearly. We can see that - we're seeing Protoss dominating Terrans almost across the board except in this one place that makes us nervous, this one place that we've seen in the past can be different and it may change our strategies. So if we look at our other tools, and now to go to the community. Now we've got about a dozen guys I think, all over the world, guys and gals, who are gathering feedback for us, from our own websites, in languages none of us speak, right? And gathering feedback from fans from other forums, other websites that are made by the fans, and they're bringing this to us as best they can, trying to give us a summary, of kind of what people are talking about, what the most popular threads are, and what people are actually saying. So the community says that Terran is too strong. The community says we should probably nerf Marauders. This is something we've been hearing since mid-beta, that Marauders might be too powerful. Nerfing stim, usually focused again on the Marauder, though sometimes on the Marine. Though none of this agrees with the stats, except in that one league in Korea.

sc2allkorearatio

 

Matt Cooper: So if we look at our Make Combat tool, Marauder Stim is not overpowered. Now, you do get a lot of speed movement out of it, but the actual bonus damage you get from using Marauder Stim, versus the health you pay to use it, it's very borderline. We've tried a couple small tweaks on this, and it actually, in some situations, it's actually bad to use Stim. Another situation is where, Marauders against Zerg. They're very borderline. A couple small tweaks to Marauders and Roaches start beating the Marauders. And this is not what we want; we want the Marauder to be a counter unit to the Zerg. And of course, if we go by our Make Combat tool, Marine Stim is one of the most broken things out there. If we went by this only, we would have to nerf marines, and - according to our play experience, and what the community is saying something, I don't think this is what we want to do.

David Kim: So let's take a look at what pros have to say about Protoss versus Terran. We actually asked five different pros - five of the best Protoss and Terran pros out there, to see what they have to say about this matchup, and the first player actually says, "Terran wins eighty percent of the time versus Protoss." The second player says, "Toss has no chance versus Terran." The third player disagrees by saying, "Templar with the energy upgrade is too much for - too much." And the fourth person says, "Terran has no chance versus the Phoenix plus Colossi combination." And finally, the last person says, "PvT feels very balanced." So, two people have said Terran is overpowered, the other two players have said Protoss is overpowered, and one person says the balance is perfect. But it's very rare for us to get these kinds of mixed opinions, so there must be something going on besides just one strategy being overpowered, or one race just dominating the other race, so let's take a look at another tool.

Dustin Browder: So this is where it gets really exciting. We think we might bit a situation where it's not down to just one or two units, it might be a large combination of factors, and depending on how you choose to play, giving you a great time in this matchup, crushing your opponent, or you're getting rolled, depending on what race you're playing. So, let's look at our sort of last line of defense here it's our personal experience. We do find Terrans to be very strong at the beginning of the game. I often get run over early on with stim timing pushes. It wrecks my day every time I have massive amounts of nerdrage every time it happens. We do see in many cases the Protoss being a little strong in the endgame. If the Terrans can hold out it seems like a combination of Colossus and maybe more importantly Psi Storm suddenly gives Protoss an advantage. And this leads us to believe that there might be a more fundamental design problem here. That while we could maybe be to a place here pretty soon where technically they're going fifty-fifty all that really matters is "Can the Terrans win in the first twelve minutes or not?" And if they don't win then the Protoss win. And while "I suppose we could say that's fifty-fifty good enough." That's not the game we want to make and I'm pretty sure that's not the game you want to play. So that means we do have to look at this issue we have to try to figure exactly what the combination is that's causing our problems.

sc2multiplayerfrankwins

 

Matt Cooper: So going forward we're definitely going to keep looking at the Protoss versus Terran matchup. We think we identified a problem between our Battle.net stats and all our other tools so we want to keep looking at this matchup closer. And one thing we're definitely going to look at regarding this matchup is Stim balance on Marines and Marauders. We do think it gives the Terran a little bit of - too much of an advantage early in the game and they're probably winning a lot of their games with this strategy. But of course we're going to look at Psi Storm balance and how it affects the late-game. I know personally once I have both High Templar upgrades I got Warpgates I can warp anywhere across the map I really don't have that much trouble against Terran. And we're going to look at a number of other things: Thor repair how the SCVs can be untargetable and as you guys keep bringing us new issues and as we notice new things in our games we'll continue to add to our list.

Dustin Browder: Yeah so I want to thank everybody again for all the feedback you've given us everybody out there who's posted everybody out there who's never posted but has played a game has helped us at some point" make some decisions on the balance. And that's it for our presentation; let's get the questions started.

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Q&A

 

Q: Hello. StarCraft is amazing" I love it. One of the things I thought was peculiar was the fact that there's no option to not play online. Do you see that coming in the future? To where you'll be able to work on achievements offline then link up to Battle.net and have the stats queue up?

Dustin Browder: It's possible. That's something we talked about quite a bit with if we want to do that or not. Ultimately it let us more exposed to people hacking the achievements if they can do them offline then log them in but I'm not actually sure how secure we are now anyway. But it's definitely something we can look at. You obviously can play offline now as you say but we don't give you achievement access. But I'll take it as feedback and we'll definitely talk about it. Thank you.

 

Q: So the Mutalisk seems a little bit... Well the Thor and the Marine both hard-counter the Mutalisk. And the whole reason they gave the Thor the splash damage was to counter the Mutalisk. Maybe like give the Mutalisk +3 to light? What do you guys think about that?

Dustin Browder: Well I think we feel - I mean you guys can back me up or say whatever you want about this - I think we feel like the Mutalisk's speed is his greatest asset. His ability to be pretty much wherever he wants to be and hunt whatever he wants to hunt makes him a very dangerous weapon. And we're also very nervous about any weapon that can attack air and ground. That's a very flexible weapon in any unit's arsenal. Something that moves faster than almost anything in the game and can attack air and ground is something we're definitely going to be very careful of giving too many buffs to. I think we feel pretty good about the Muta right now. You guys want to say anything on the Muta?

David Kim: Yeah um because the Muta speed is so fast and the other two units you mentioned the Marine and the Marauder are both very attack-move-friendly units. So there will be a difference in - at the start I think - in using these units. But as players learn to use - make use of the speed advantage of the Mutalisk we feel the balance might actually be better.

 

Q: Hi. I'd like to find out - if you can tell us - when will fully customizable key bindings be added to the game and why didn't it have them in the first place? Because I've tried the different key layouts all of them and I think I could do better if I could set the keys up my way.

Dustin Browder: Yeah no I totally agree with that. I think we've had that feedback from a lot of players. The reason it didn't make it for the game was I mean while we were six plus years in development we didn't want to hold it any longer. And we didn't feel like customizable key bindings was a reason to delay the game. So we held that back and we've been working on it I've actually seen the design in progress it is being worked on right now there is UI currently in our internal builds where we're testing it. As you can imagine the UI for custom key bindings is not simple. It's - actually I would say it's insane. It's absolutely nuts. And our biggest fear is there's this giant landmine that new players will step into. They'll accidently bind a key and then they'll have no idea how to do anything anymore. So we've been working really hard on the design of it and on the engineering. I don't have a date for you exactly but I can tell you it is under construction - it's actually pretty far along. I think we should have something at you guys pretty soon.

 

Q: It's just funny that you asked that because I just released a hotkey trainer like one week ago. So check out for that on North America if you want to train on that. But anyway - okay um my question is slightly off-topic it's about custom maps. I know you were talking a little bit at BlizzCon 2009 about the custom map marketplace that might eventually come out and maybe premium maps and stuff like that. And I put a team together with the hopes of you know making the absolute best maps out there eventually when that marketplace opens up and release some really awesome stuff and - I'm just wondering if you have any more details about when it might be coming out. I don't want to hold you to anything that you say just any hunches that you have -

Dustin Browder: No I can tell you it's not coming out in the immediate future. It's probably closer to a patch in Heart of the Swarm or Heart of the Swarm to be the soonest to be able to get that out to you. There's a lot of challenges we have to get that going. But I love that you're putting a team together and we know that the fires are burning we know that people want it. We'll try to get to you absolutely as soon as we can it's one of our top priorities coming forward.

Q: Awesome thank you very much. And also the ten megabyte map limit is there a chance for that to change in the future as well?

Dustin Browder: There're many arguments - there's throwing of chairs it's been really rough in the office over this issue. We are consuming a lot of our storage very quickly but we'll see. It's definitely something we're always talking about I think I have like a weekly conversation about that at this point. It's definitely a topic for us so we'll take a look at it.

 

Q: Yeah by the way love your game - your guys' game been playing since I was a kid for the original StarCraft. But what I'm kind of asking about is like the early gimmicks of the games specifically the proxy rush for the Protoss as well as like the early Thor rush with the single Thor with the repairing. How do you guys usually account for that - with catching those? And it felt like it took a while for those to get fixed. I mean do you see [indecipherable] those come out you try to get those fixed as possible or does it take a while for you guys to kind of understand what's going on?

Matt Cooper: Those are some of the easiest strategies for us to fix so when we're playtesting internally we're more focusing on the more complicated scenarios where you have multiple bases running what the 200 versus 200 pop armies are doing against each other and making sure that you know all races can stop rushes and stuff like that. But internally we don't try as many you know proxy rushes or six-pool rushes and stuff like that because they are very easy for us to fix once we see there is a problem.

Dustin Browder: Sometimes. There - I agree with that 95 percent of the time. I think there's the occasional - and we've had some that were really touch-and-go because a lot of the units used in the early game to rush are also used to block other rushes. Right? So it can get really challenging. But for the most part I think we've been able to crank those out pretty quick. I think there was a Terran SCV rush that was actually probably our scariest one with Marines behind the SCVs the SCVs the wall and that led - I think that was in the late beta - led to actually a nerf on the SCV health. But the same time the SCV was essential to stopping some of the rushes that can happen against them. Definitely one of the challenges we have is we want those rushes to be somewhat viable. We want them to be available we feel like that makes the game scary from the first minute you click on anything in the game and to the last. A lot of games are trying to get rid of those early rushes and they say "Rushing is bad we don't want it" right? I don't know that's my other developer voice I guess. But we don't like that we want the rush to be possible so it's always a tough call. And we definitely welcome your guys' feedback whether a particular rush is still too easy to do and still too hard to block. In many cases it's just a key of detecting it and using your workers to fight back but it's definitely always sort of a touchy one because a lot of new players get rolled by these and they're pretty unhappy when that happens.

David Kim: And because they're such a core part of the game we try our best to teach players how to block these rushes and our multiplayer challenges is actually a good tool for you to use to learn to counter these rushes.

 

Q: Hi. I think you guys did an awesome job balancing the game so thank you so much with all the races. My question's very simple. I always go into a bit of a nerdrage when I get mass Hydra rushed. I play Protoss so I'm wondering if you guys can just real quick give me some strategies and - don't say Templar because - I don't know I have better luck against Terran but when it comes to Zerg I just get destroyed when I get mass Hydra-ed.

David Kim: Well the main downside of mass Hydras especially on the offensive is that they're really slow so they can't kite anything off of creep. So uh did you say you were playing Protoss? Yeah so even just using mass Zealots with Stalkers shooting - over the shoulder shooting or even combined with Sentries with Guardian Shield that cuts down the Hydra DPS by quite a bit. Should be good enough for you. But eventually you're going to have to get out the splash options. If the scale becomes really big say if he brings in 50 Hydras obviously a clumped pack of 50 Hydras is a little too much for only tier 1 units to handle. So if you don't like using Psi Storm then maybe you can probably try using Colossi.

Dustin Browder: Yeah Colossi aren't too bad they work pretty well in attack-move it can be effective especially like you say if he doesn't have a bunch of Corruptors out that's also an option for you.

 

Q: Hello. I love this game it's great. You guys in all of your history of all of Blizzard games you are great at balancing everything. So one of my questions really is basically as it goes to the score screen are you ever going to expose at a more atomic level how you calculate what the scores are on that screen or allow users to look at that data in their own replays to sort of analyze that stuff more statistically sort of the way that you guys do with the matchmaking and stuff?

Dustin Browder: Are you talking about like your hidden rating or are you talking about just what happens on the score screen?

Q: Well both things. Like whether or not - like how many units of each type you built in the game how many units did how much damage to what in the game things like that so -

Dustin Browder: There is not enough room in here for me to talk about that score screen. We had a lot of plans for that score screen which just didn't make it. Again we made decisions. "Do we want to hold this game even longer or do we want to make a better score screen?" At least like you know - we're just going to put it out with the score screen we've got but there's a lot more we can do with the score screen I totally agree with that feedback. I mean lots of things we sort of haven't planned. We want to give you better analysis of your game we want to provide you with some more hints as to what you could do better try to provide you with some more intelligence that's built into the game and like you say give you access to some of the more fundamental numbers. Now most of those numbers you're seeing on the screen are just for cost. So if you see a unit value that's not a specific unit value it's just how many gas plus minerals you did. So that stuff is kind of expressed but I agree I think we can do better with that score screen. I think you'd look for that stuff in Heart of the Swarm that's something we're definitely going to be pushing forward. There has been some talk about some of that stuff making a patch but I'm not sure. It might be more of a Heart of the Swarm kind of revision to that screen to give you a lot more details to help make you a better player. So you finish a match you lose you want to know right? Right before you launch another game you don't want to watch the replay right away. I think that's a great bit of feedback and I totally agree with it.

Q: I guess as a second part follow on to that are you ever planning on an ability to sort see what the score screen is in a replay without having to watch through all the end to get to the score screen? So you could kind of see the - it's like more games all at once rather than just one at a time?

Dustin Browder: We might be able to figure something like that out. The challenge in a lot of cases with these sort of suggestions is the UI issues. How insanely crazy does our UI really look does it end up like kind of a WoW raid UI where it's totally nuts? And that's not what we're going for. But I think it's a great idea I'd love to enhance the replay feature to give you more insight into what's going on in the game. I think it's a cool suggestion.

 

Q: Thanks. I love this game anyway - hopefully it's a simple question but I play mainly in Diamond leagues - I mean not that I'm great I'm not pro or anything but - one thing I've noticed in 1v1 and 2v2 is that Terran and Toss - and I'm sure this has been brought up so sorry if it's been brought up before - but Terran and Toss seem to have not initially a great advantage but a huge advantage with choking off at the early game. And I play mainly Zerg that's kind of the only race I play and I was just wondering if kind of the design for Zerg was that Zerg must out-macro their Protoss and Terran counterparts? And also is the creep kind of a complementary feature for the Zerg that they can move faster on so that they can defend a little bit better and have a slightly better - so kind of a weird question but just wondering if that was a conscious decision for every Blizzard map to have a choke point that Zerg must out-macro and the Terran and Toss can kind of defend against the early fast rush from speedlings like that.

David Kim: Yeah so we tried to make every race as unique as possible and in this case as you said we want the Terran to be the choke-y race and that's why we added options such as lowering Supply Depots to make the walling-off easier. And on the case of the Zerg we actually made a conscious decision - for example Spine Crawlers can be uprooted and be moved but we made a conscious decision so that Zerg can't block off a choke point by making it so that the Spine Crawlers' radius is actually smaller than the footprint which means there's no way for Spine Crawlers to block off a choke point right? So that was our goal. And in terms of maps we try to balance - we try to make the maps so that they're all balanced and fair for all different types of races that we have. And I guess having those choke points was a result of this much more so than about what the maps wanted to be I guess.

Dustin Browder: But I think your question you've already answered it for us. You're totally right. I mean our goal was to say "Zerg are the swarm race." We want them to out-macro we want them to win we want them to seem like they cheated like they just came in with way too much garbage and just overran me. And you're also totally correct that creating those creep highways is a core part of how we are trying to set up Zerg. To be honest we had no idea if it would work when we went to beta and even beyond but we're pleased to see that the sort of systems we set up are working the way that we sort of thought that they would. At the end of the day you guys are - it's really all in your hands now how it actually plays but that was sort of a goal to say that Zerg at tier 2 couldn't easily push a choke point right that was well-defended. So at that point they would have to out-macro and then once they get to tier 3 hopefully they either have some of the tools that they need in their units or they just got way too much stuff and it really puts the onus on the other races to keep the pressure up.

 

Q: Hi my name is [redacted] and good afternoon. I just have a question about the balance and I just wanted to ask: is it going to become like World of Warcraft where every single Tuesday we get another patch that makes one race overpowered? I mean the Roach thing was great for some players but for others I can defend a choke point with ten carriers and the Roaches destroy one building and go straight in and kill the Nexus. You know just because they have so much HP now. And - you know I know you guys are working hard but I just want to know in the future -

Dustin Browder: I think that's a very fair question. So we've done I think a couple of balance patches this month which is a little more than I think we would like and we had a few bugs and we did a few more patches as a result of that. We are going to slow down and I think we've already slowed down a little bit relative to beta. Beta I think we were just machine-gunning patches out as fast as we wanted to because well because we could. Nobody had paid for the product yet everything was free right we didn't have a customer base that was playing the game in tournaments even though they were in some cases that wasn't the deal we had made with them it's like "This is for testing." But as we go forward we're hoping to slow that rate. Now if we find out we got balance problems we are not going to be chicken and I'm going to back-patch once a week if I have to to get the balance to be correct. But that's not our goal. Our goal is to try to stabilize to try to settle down. We're feeling pretty good as we showed in the presentation the Protoss versus Terran matchup is making us a little nervous and that's one we're going to be looking at but we're hoping to slow it down so that we're not hitting you so often. I don't know exactly but our goal is definitely not that - the other thing I'll say too is WoW has challenges that we don't even begin to have. Right? WoW is balancing for PvE they're balancing for PvP at the same time they have a ton of classes in play they've got tons of builds on those classes that are possible. We've intentionally kept our game a little smaller. We've kept our game to three races. We've kept the unit counts from 12 to 14 per race on purpose so we could do this. We could very easily provide more game: "Hey here's five races and seventeen units per race" and then we'd probably be doing more of what you're describing and that would in our perspective not be such a great gameplay experience for a game that's designed only - for principally beyond the solo campaign - to be a PvP experience. So hopefully not but we'll see.

David Kim: And just to comment on the current state of the balance we feel the balance is very tight and the example you brought up is actually really good because right before this last patch came out a lot of people felt Terrans can't - I mean Zerg can't beat Terrans Zerg can't beat Protoss. But we made this small tweak of making Roach range from 3 to 4 and that small change made it so that players are actually saying the opposite especially the pro players. So that actually shows our balance is really tight and because of that we're only going to make small changes at this point.

Dustin Browder: We'll be cautious going forward. Unless we find out something's horrible. But assuming that doesn't happen we're going to be a little cautious.

 

Q: Hi. I'm ExcaliburZ. I made the long ladder analysis thread on Battle.net forums I'm the "Multiplayer in eSports" MVP and it's a pleasure to finally meet you guys. My question is what besides the hidden matchmaking rating influences player ranking promotion and matchmaking.

Dustin Browder: Want to take this one Josh?

Josh Menke: Yeah. So - I think a lot of what you've already posted is pretty - I can't come out and say everything is accurate I guess to put a stamp of approval on it. But it's close enough to make pretty good guesses at what's going on there. As Greg said yesterday when you play a match - and similar to what you've seen in WoW arenas - we look at your ladder points and we compare that to that skill rating in the backend. In addition something you may not know or you may have guessed at is bonus points don't have any role at all in that update. Aside from that we do have to do some other bits of math to look at the fact that you are in different leagues and the fact that the skill of your division actually does come into play. But other than that you pretty much have a good - you have enough knowledge there to understand what's going on within your division which is where we want you to focus. In addition as we come out with the Masters league and the Grandmasters league something that you might think is really cool about the Masters league is you - so right now when you rank people across all of Diamond league those rankings are not exactly accurate. In the Masters league if you do that you can trust those a lot more.

 

Q: Hello. I was sitting behind you yesterday in the HuK / Loner game and I started thinking "When you guys are out here watching the games are you guys watching it as the developers and the balancers or are you guys trying to separate yourselves and just sit back and enjoy the game?"

Dustin Browder: I'll speak for myself I'm just trying to be a fan at that moment. If I see something horribly go wrong I would probably switch to developer mode immediately and freak out but other than that I'm just screaming and cheering and enjoying the game like everybody else. What about you guys?

Matt Cooper: As a balance perspective I think we're always kind of turned on in the sense like we're always looking for stuff that's breaking what we have going on in our heads you know like "Ugh how is he using Roaches like we didn't intend that at all." But I definitely watch as a fan and I mean I didn't see anything go horribly wrong so I'm pretty happy.

David Kim: For me personally I watch a lot of pro games. I not only watch all the major tournament games but pros actually send us replays for us to watch as well. So because of that when I'm watching these games I'm not really surprised by the tactics they use so I'm just watching to confirm the balance of our game.

 

Q: I think that guy's word is "snuggy" I'm not sure. I was going to say "terrible terrible powerpoints" but they're not those are awesome awesome powerpoints you guys have. That's really good. My question is and I'd listen to the Protoss versus Terran balance you guys are looking at do you guys think the Warp Gate technology and how fast the Toss player gets it is somewhere you want it to be? Because I get the feeling that in oftentimes the Protoss can force a macro game very early and very quickly and I don't want anybody to mess with the gate stuff because I think it's awesome it's a unique ability but at the same time I'm like "Man I got to fight all that stuff again. I just built six Barracks and I still can't keep up with four Warp Gates." So I'm curious what's your opinion on the Warp Gates? Are they where you want them to be?

Dustin Browder: Well we're always trying to make everybody feel as broken as we can. Right? Like every race should feel insanely overpowered and yet somehow it all works. So I'm hopeful that we're there - they've actually been nerfed quite a bit over the last year I would say. So I'm hopeful but - I think they're okay. What do you guys think?

Matt Cooper: I think every race has a broken mechanic. Like Zerg puts down a Spire a Hydra Den and a Roach Warren and then you're fighting 200 pop Roaches and then two minutes later you're fighting 200 pop Mutas. Like you just don't know what's coming. So I think it's actually in a pretty good spot right now.

David Kim: What we're noticing at the especially pro level is we're seeing less and less of all these Warp-In rushes that you're speaking about. And I think the reason for this is because Warp-In rush is a very different type of all-in rush that people aren't used to from StarCraft or even in War 3. And top players are actually figuring out ways to counter it pretty easily. And I think eventually the skill required to master this will trickle down to the lower levels as well and hopefully it will be balanced across all levels of play.

 

Q: Hi. Do you think the Hunter Seeker Missile and their use - well it was a very cool spell before but now I think it cannot deal any more terrible terrible damage.

David Kim: Hunter Seeker was actually a spell that was causing a lot of trouble in the late game. Terran players were actually able to just take maybe one or two expansions lock those two down with mass Planetary Fortresses as well as mass Siege Tanks and all you do is just make Ravens on the offensive to trade their mana for enemy resources. Just being able to kill everything right? So because of that we had actually to nerf it because that kind of degenerate gameplay is not what we're looking for. And at the same time not every single spell in the game has to be generally useful in every single situation. We feel that in specific situations for example if you're playing against Zerg and he makes a lot of Mutalisks having a few Ravens casting Hunter Seeker is very useful. So we feel that as long as different abilities are very powerful in specific situations that happen on a fairly regular basis that's a very good spot for that spell.

Dustin Browder: We're definitely not - to your point - we're definitely not saying "used a lot". I don't think we're going to buff it in the immediate future because of the problems David talked about. We're going to kind of wait and see on that one to see what the community does with it. We're often surprised by you guys when you suddenly start using something that nobody ever used before and you're doing just a ton of damage with it. So we're going to wait and see on that one but there's no plans to buff it immediately even though I tend to agree it only sees uses in a couple of scenarios.

 

Q: Alright my question has to deal with the life cycle of a patch and how much leeway you give in to professional gamers in order to develop new strategies. Say the Roach range from three to four right before GSL. How do you give them enough time to say "Okay I'm going to change this now in order to develop better strategies."

Dustin Browder: Well I think the way to answer that is we really need a server that's sort of separate for those guys to play on so they can choose if they want to play the old patch or the new patch and that's the technology we're looking into. I think it's our long-term solution. We have announced in the past what we're going to do in advance and then it took us like a month to get that patch out at the end of the day. This last one we kind of sprung on people but we did have David and Matt Cooper went out there and made sure that we were looking at only the earliest versions of some of these tournaments. Right? The GSL I think was in the earliest rounds when that one first went out?

David Kim: Yeah it was right after the preliminaries but we were aiming for right before the preliminaries.

Dustin Browder: Right so we missed a little bit on that one. But we're trying to get it - obviously until we get that tournament server where people can choose which patch they want to play on we're definitely right now trying to target times where we'll do the least amount of damage to any major tournaments. Of course there will come a day where there are no - I hope there will come a day - where there are no tournaments out there that - there's no time for us there's always a tournament. Right? And there's always something major going on. And by that time we better have that tournament server up and running.

 

Q: In the last few patches you've made a number of changes to both Roaches and Reapers that have almost completely killed off the early Reaper attacks against Zerg but do you think that might have been too hasty and not given the community enough chance to really figure out strategies to counter that? Because in the recent GSL FruitDealer kind of showed a lot of Zerg players that we may be playing the race wrong. And this patch - or these series of patches may have just been too hasty. Do you feel that way?

David Kim: For the Reapers change specifically as we talked about in this presentation our main focus is on the competitive level but we do care about other levels as well as other gametypes as well. And in this case specifically especially in team games we're seeing that at the very highest level Terran plus Zerg teams were almost fifty percent of the top teams in both US and Korea. And these teams are actually using this very specific fast mass Reaper with mass speed upgraded Zergling strategy and if the number gets that high if the number becomes -

Dustin Browder: And their win ratios were insane right? Like these guys could not be stopped. And actually it wasn't even just at the highest level of play it was a lot levels of play. 2v2 has just been trashed specifically by the Reaper.

David Kim: And it's almost to the point where you can't play 2v2s at a high level unless you pick this combination right? So that's why we decided to nerf the Reaper. And on the flip side for one-on-one we felt that there's too many opening options for the Terran before the opponents can actually scout them. For example all these different proxies such as Reaper proxy double Barracks Marine Bunker rush as well as like a fast Hellion push or even a drop Banshees Thor repair rush all these options. So we actually wanted to limit these options and because Reapers were a problems in twos we were actually able to hit that in 1v1 as well.

Dustin Browder: I'll also say as well if you've watched any of the matches that have been going on on the stage over there I've seen a shocking number of Reapers today against Zerg players so - I don't know we'll wait and see. I agree the damage was high but we did it a little bit on purpose knowing that we were hurting the Reaper maybe more than some of our Terran brothers and sisters would have liked but I'm not sure the Reaper's just out yet we're going to have to wait and see what happens.

 

Q: First of all big fan. Dustin I love it when you cast games. I think if the Blizzard thing doesn't work out for you you have a career in casting. My question is regarding the - what I perceive to be an imbalance between the Thor and Ultralisk. Both these units cost the same both are kind of like the end weapon for these races but the Thor can be repaired it can shoot air and as far as I know it can beat the Ultralisk one-on-one. Is this correct? I saw this on a YouTube video. It was like three Ultralisks on three Thors and the Thors won. Do you feel like there's any kind of imbalance there?

David Kim: The Thors are actually supposed to win because Ultralisks are a splash unit and we don't try to make those two units identical. Thors are actually good - are the best against heavy groups of clumped-up air units light air units such as Phoenix or Mutalisk whereas the main role for the Ultralisk is to kill large groups of small ground units. So that's why you're seeing the difference there. And for every single unit in the game our main focus is to try to give it a unique and specific role and we don't try to make two units in different races roughly equal.

Dustin Browder: Yeah and the other thing too is a lot of Zerg units are a little weaker ultimately than their counterparts and that's largely because of Zerg's ability to build such a powerful economy. Zerg in many cases do need to engage with a larger force maybe even a significantly larger force to be successful. And since the Zerg can also save up a huge amount of larva which was not the case in Brood War you can often hit the enemy with a 200 pop army and follow it immediately with a 120 to 150 pop army right before he can even think about replacing his losses. And so that's sort of the strength of the Zerg. The Ultralisk doesn't need to win head-to-head against anyone he's got seven buddies with him. And that's what he wants to do to sort of run over the opposition.

 

Q: Hey guys I loved the SlayerS_Boxer FruitDealer match last night it was awesome. When I was going home I kind of thought to myself "Hey if Boxer was maybe spawned in cross-map locations he might have done a little bit better." I was wondering do you take stats that are relevant to player spawn locations? And I mean I know kind of large numbers maybe it kind of works itself out but I couldn't help but think maybe that has some impact on the metagame.

Dustin Browder: That's a really great question. I don't know if we have those stats I'm not certainly seeing them in my daily reports about the balance but map balance is extremely real. Right? It's a big factor what's going on. And we are going to - we could make the game perfectly balanced I suppose; we picked one map and never moved it from that. But we do want this versatility and variability of gameplay so you do have to learn different matchups not only by race but also by spawn position. So we do create variable maps with different balance points on them but we are in constant watch-out for maps that sort of get a little too far off the line. Right? Where it's a little too easy for one race to have an advantage - we've actually recently caught a couple maps from ladder play. Even though we love these maps but specifically because there was just too many imbalances with specific matchups on those matches we swapped other maps in. So yeah map can have a significant impact and it's definitely one of the variables we watch when doing a lot of balance.

Josh Menke: Yeah. We do track - in those adjusted win percentages we track an adjusted win percentage per matchup per map. And if that goes crazy we would take a much closer look. When we were first looking at what type of stats to gather in order to make sure the maps were fair I worked closely with the map designers and I asked them "Do you want location-based win percentage type stuff also" and they said "You know that might be drilling down too far" but if we got into a situation where it was obviously favoring a race then we could drill down more.

 

 

Complete BlizzCon 2010 StarCraft II Lore Panel Transcription:

Chris Metzen: Hello.

Brian Kindregen: Hello BlizzCon.

Chris: What would you guys like to talk about?

 -- 00.20 -- Q. [Man #1]: Hey Chris, one of the last things Raynor said to Tychus was "Tychus if we can save her, I'm going to take her away from this place." Can you elaborate?

Brian: We can't say too much about HotS I don't think, but it looks like Chris was about to say something and I cut him off.

Chris: No, I was going to remark that "Oh, Wow! We're at the StarCraft Panel". Brain's catching up a little bit. Tychus...oh..


Brian: I can say, I mean, Jim has spent a lot of time thinking about you know, "what ifs" and all the possibilities for him that were out there for him and Sarah with the sort of bond that they had from back in the day. It's certainly true that he spent a lot of time thinking about, you know, "what if I could get her back somehow?", "What if I could save her?". So, he won't be entirely making things up as he goes along.

Chris: Can you rephrase the question?

[Man #1]: It's a tricky question because I want to handle it delicately. 

Chris: So do I.

[Man #1]: You surprised the hell out of us with how things ended in the first chapter. We all thought we knew how it was going to end. That things were not going to work out the way they did. But you surprised the hell out of us.

Chris: Did you like it?

[Man #1]: I loved it!

Chris: Yea!

[Man #1]: I was like...it was amazing. I was like, there's no way, we all know this isn't going to work, we all know it's going to end on a really dark note and Jim just going to be all crushed. But you guys were like "yeah? no, that's not how it's going to happen, and you surprised the hell out of us. So I think we all thought how this was going to go down a certain path, Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan being a bitch, evil, horrible person. Third chapter, Protoss, Zeratul coming in to saving the day. But you turned everything on its head with how things ended with the first chapter. So, I think, we're all kind of wondering how Kerrigan's really going to play this out now that she's no longer the Queen of Blades?

Chris: Right. Well that's kind of THE question, right, obviously, we can't get too into it or into very specific answers because that's exactly what we're building right now, and we don't want to spoil the whole story. But it's interesting, like the last number of - I'll riff a little bit - BlizzCons, right, we've been up here and we haven't been able to say anything, right, because the game wasn't out yet. So it's really weird, it's kind of hitting me because at this Blizzcon we can actually talk about StarCraft. Although we don't want to give a whole lot away relative to HotS at all. I think we can talk thematically about this girl about this guy for sure. So the whole crux of this thing, is what will this girl do now. She has only ever been manipulated by, whether it was the Dominion and then Mengsk and then, you know this Overmind, right. Has she really ever made her own decisions? Has she ever really known who she is and chosen who she wants to be? So essentially HotS is, aptly named, it is exactly about that. What will this girl do? Do these two lonely wonderful people have a chance in hell?

Brian: You are who you choose to be.

Chris: You are who you choose to be man. But that cuts right to it, so again there's not too much we can say to reveal what's going on in Heart of the Swarm. Aw hell, I forget what the question was.

Brian: Other than to say, I hope we keep surprising you that much. [laughs]

Chris: Hell yea

[Man #1]: That was pretty huge. If you can keep surprising us like that, you guys are just on the top of your game. Thank you guys!

Chris: Thanks man.

Brian: Thank you.

  -- 04:38 -- Q. [Woman #1]: Hi my name is Irine and I was just wondering if we can look forward to seeing more of Valerian Mengsk in the Heart of the Swarm?

Brian: [laughs] Hmm. I'm sensing a trend here. Everybody wants to talk about Heart of the Swarm. I think it's safe to say that Valerian is a very important part of the Koprulu Sector and everything that's going on there. So yeah...I don't think he is going to disappear.

Chris: Right, right. Valerian definitely has a role to play, in how things shake out.

[Woman #1]: Awesome

Chris: So yes.

[Woman #1]: Awesome! Thank you so much.

 -- 05:22 -- Q. [Man #2]: Hello my question is about the Dark Templar, specifically their unit. It is described in the game as using warp blade technology. How would you describe that and in what way does it compare to a Zealot's psionic blades?

Brian: That's a good one.

Chris: Off the top of my head, Psi Blades come from within and Warp Blades are pulled from without.

Brian: Basically...

Chris: Power of the cosmos baby!

Brian: Yeah, I mean, basically, any protoss that is a part of the Khala is going to have an enourmous psionic energy to draw on and can create, you know, obviously, wepons and blades with it. The dark templar, you know, in all of the lore, they, because they chose to go their own way and they don't have the power of the Khala behind them, but they have the power of enormously strong individual will. It's sort of, I'm giving a long-winded version of the answer, I think, that Chris just gave. One is pulling that power from within whereas the dark templar have to take what is around them, the void, and manifest it. It is a completely different philosophy, but both are really cool weapons.

[Man #2]: Thank you very much!

 -- 06:59 -- Q. [Man #3]: Alright, my name is Steven. First of I would like to say hello to Josh and Mandy, who are watching as well from home and this question is from them as well as myself. Simply put Wings of Liberty, great campaign, loved it, just loved it, especially the ending. There are a few missions such as the Colonists Mission, I believe the final Colonist Mission, and then also the one with New Folsom where you have to make a choice and what you choose to do, which direction you want to take. What I would like to know is though, are you guys ever going, kind of, let us know, which decision you think or is going to be the canon direction or is it strictly going to be left up to the players' interpretation based on what they chose. I only ask this just because, you know, the things we encountered on those missions obviously will have pretty big implications later on.

Brian: Sure, yea I can say that we do say that the A choice that you made, was the canon decision. So, in terms of the SC canon, Raynor sided with Tosh and Raynor helped the colonists against Selendis. That said, I really would like to not have any player feel like their choice has been invalidated. In general, except for when the implications become overpowering, I think I'm going to try to stay away from going back and examining that stuff except when we really need to, so that you can play the game and really feel like your choices are being carried forward, and we do have the technology to check your save-game by the way.

[Man #3]: Thanks alot, I appreciate it.

 -- 09:06 -- Q. [Man #4]: Hi, first I got a really really simple yes or no question. The official sort of Insurrection/Retribution campaigns from the original StarCraft, are those canon or not?  And then more importantly, what is going on with Samir Duran? Because we didn't see him at all in WoL, although we did see the fruits of his labors.

Chris: So to the first point, I don't know! My instinct tells me that they should not be canon, but I'd have to look at them again because there's probably good DNA there that might be useful. So relative to Duran...

Brian: He is not forgotten. We can certainly say that. Duran is part of a larger story that is still unfolding. You know, there's hints of it in WoL, there's more hints of it than you might think in the sense that, at a later date, when you have more knowledge, you might go back and play WoL again and see some stuff. So it's certainly not a character that fell by the wayside. He has a part to play in the greater story of the StarCraft universe.

Chris: Totally.

[Man #4]: Thank you

Brian: Thank you

  -- 10:49 -- Q. [Man #5]: Yes also at the HotS, I'm just wondering if you could give us a chronological ordering of if it takes after WoL, and if so, how long after?

Brian: I don't know that we should do that. You want to do that don't you?

Chris: I want to do it all!

[Brian laughs]

Chris: Alright if you don't want to do it, I'll side with you.


Crowd: [Do it Chris]

Chris: I think you can answer half of it....but not be specific about.


Crowd: [Don't care about the lawers]

Brian: Oh, it's not the lawers, they don't care. It's just that.

Chris: We're protecting your experience of the product.

Brian: Exactly, just picture yourself when Heart of the Swarm comes out. Sitting in front of your computer playing it, do you really want to feel like "Oh, I knew that was going to happen!", "I saw that on youtube".

Chris: OR, do you want to be "Oh my god!" You know, so, we want to protect that.


Brian: While it's installing you should be saying, "What is the timeline!?" So ok, Chris has prevailed upon me, against my better instincts, to say that Heart of the Swarm takes place after WoL. On an unspecified amount of time between the two.

Chris: Right, Less than 100 years.

Brian: But greater than one hour.

Chris: Right.

 
-- 12:23 -- Q. [Man #6]: First off gentlemen, thank you for creating one of the greatest gaming experiences of all time!

Chris: Right

[applause]

[Man #6]: And thank you for being in control of your creative liberty. The question I have is, the Xel'naga. Will we ever get to see them, either in a flashback or some way that we can see, why they had planned, or what went wrong, either regarding the Dark Voice, or with the corruption that he did. Will we see them physically, in the game?

Chris: It's a tough question to answer, because it's a complicated answer. Let's say this: all things will be revealed, for certain. But whether we...it's a weird question.

Brian: I think we can also say that the Xel'Naga are an integral part of the whole thing.

Chris: So now whether we see them in their most classical form, you know, what did they look like a million years ago, what did they look like 4 million years ago. That's harder to say because we are still digging a lot of that stuff out. What do you perceive, when we really start to throttle up on that thematic? It's still kind of inflexed, so I'm not sure how to answer it, but they certainly, at a thematic and practical level, they dominate what is the truest story of StarCraft.

Brian: And they're not going to look like gnomes.


[Men #6]: Thank you very much gentleman.

Brian: Thank you.

  -- 14:12 -- Q. [Men #7]: Hey Chris I have a question about the UED. Are we ever going to get the backstory of Earth and how the psionic purges turned out, and will we ever see a sign of the UED ever again in the next games?

Chris: Off the top of my head I think it is potentially very fertile soil relative to what StarCraft II is. I can probably spare you all the suspense. We won't be going to Earth in SC2 but I think there's any number of bitchin stories we could you know conjure relative to the era or relative to those eras. It's not quite on our radar right now but I think that's really interesting stuff.

[Men #7]: Thank you very much. Get those creative juices flowing!

 -- 15:07 -- Q. [Woman #2]: My question is actually a plot clarification that's nagged at myself and some forumgoers. In StarCraft II we see Tychus and Raynor take control of the Odin and basically do as they will with it right under Mengsk's nose. And then later there's the revelation concerning Tychus' connection with Mengsk so how did this all go down without Mengsk finding out about it and putting a stop to it?

Brian: That is a good one.

Chris: That is a very good question Brian?

Brian: Hey Chris. Yea I mean in my mind while druging Media Blitz the mission where tychus is does that. I don't know that Mengsk always had a direct feed open because really Tychus is wandering around the Hyperion and if his suit is constantly broadcasting every conversation that he has or even type beaming every conversation he has. There's a pretty good chance that Swan or someone else is going to pick up on it. So you know in this game we had to sort of give you bits and pieces of the story the most relevant ones. And everything else should make sence but sometimes we do need the player to kind of work with us on that. My thinking on Tychus' suit and how much information Mengsk gets from it Was that periodically info drops periodically there would be a very short compact encrypted tight beam transmission for an eighth of a second that would go out to a specific satellite or whatever. So It's not that Mengsk had a constant knowledge of everything that Raynor's Raiders was up to. What Mengsk had was a gun to Tychus' head. And so he would get regular reports but the idea was that when the key moment came when Tychus was able to do you know what he had to do. I don't know why I'm speaking in code like I'm going to spoil the end of a game that you probably all played. But you know when the moment came where Tychus would have to attack Sarah you know Mengsk fully expected Tychus to turn on the broadcast "like now we are going to have direct communication". And again what Mengsk was looking at is a very simple proposition that "I've got a guy who I can kill at a flip of a switch and he knows what he has to do and he's a pretty experienced combat guy. Like I can trust that he's going to do this or he's going to die and he knows that that I have no trouble killing him." Because Mengsk is a chess player. He's a guy who understands that you play the man not the hand. Right like he understands the motivations involved. So I think he felt it was a pretty safe bet that Tychus would do the right thing at the right time. And of course...

Chris: The wrong thing.

Brian: Well the right thing by Mengsk's standard.

[Woman #2]: Thank you.

Brian: Thank you.

  -- 18:39 -- Q. [Man #8]: First off I'd just like to say not only was the gameplay of StarCraft II phenomenal but the cinematic presentation just out of this world. Chris I'm a huge fan. I love how you've really been the mastermind behind many of these stories and I'd love to go deeper. So my question is what's coming down the pipe as far as StarCraft II-related novels?

Chris: Good question and thank you for the props. StarCraft II related Novels...

Brian: Did you like Heaven's Devils?

Crowd: [Yea! Great! Great Book.]

Chris: Well there's more to that.

Brian: That story will continue.

Chris: So we're doing a follow-up it's already written. We did a follow-up to Heaven's Devils it is called Devil's Due. It is written by a girl you may know named Christie Golden who actually wrote the hell out of this thing it's like a cowboy book. So where Heaven's Devils was kind of Jim and Tychus in the army this is the sequel where it's kind of like Butch and Sundance they're just two outlaws on the run. You know robbing trains kicking butt it's kind of you know their kind of rascaly years and Christie wrote the hell out of this thing. So I'm very excited for you guys to get to see a little more about Jim and Tychus' shenanigans over the years. And it definitely gives a little bit more insight into who Jim is and what his arc has been and what we see him trying to atone for in the present-day. The sins of his past.

[Man #8]: Thanks a lot guys.

  -- 20:37 -- Q. [Man #9]: Hi. I was just wondering what Mengsk's actual plan for Tychus was given Raynor had to go through just to get to Kerrigan.

Chris: I think it pays Mengsk had been fighting Raynor for years to a standstill. Different battles hit-and-run tactics and he could not make this rebel go away. So he used things like the media to try and paint Jim as a has-been and things like that. But essentially with the Kerrigna threat you know well technically... Hold on let me compute. I think you stumbled upon a giant plot hole... Let's talk this through the family; if Mengsk let Tychus out of prison before the Zerg invasion began...

Brian: Indead Why did he do that? Well I know my version of the events. [laughs]

Chris: Pull this off I'm very depressed.

Brian: Well to me again Mengsk is a chess player. He is a mastermind but not I want to make clear you know sometimes people say "Oh this guy's a mastermind so yea he saw all the moves coming he saw everything all of it." And we're not saying that. He can't see the future and he's not the source of all plots in the StarCraft universe just a lot of them. But as Chris mentioned Jim Raynor was the biggest thorn in his side. Like he you know per the press conference at the beginning of Wings of Liberty he thinks that Jim Raynor is the worst thing that could happen. But he's smart enough to know he can't just assassinate the man that would just turn him into a martyr. So he needs to "destroy" Jim. And it seems to me that as soon as he realized he had this guy in jail he had Tychus Findlay that's a perfect opportunity to put him in the suit which is the gun to his head and then unleash him on Jim and see what happens. You know what I mean? If the Zerg hadn't shown up again if Kerrigan hadn't rolled on out of Char you know there's a good chance that within six months Mengsk would have found an opportunity to use Tychus to destroy Jim in some other way. It was a fishing line. It was "I'm going to throw this hook out there." There's only one fish in the pond and then all of a sudden there's another fish in the pond and it's like "Wow this is great!" It was a very good thing for Mengsk.

  -- 23:33 -- Q. [Man #9]: Thank you and is Tychus actually dead?

Chris: Well I guess I'll say if I had my way and I know this would be unpopular I would say "Totally." However the artists on the dev teams they refuse to believe that Tychus is dead. They envision him with tentacles coming out of his face and things like that so we'll see who wins that war when we get back home but you never know. You never know with us.

Brian: Does anybody ever really die?

Chris: Right. I mean "Right".

  -- 24:10 -- Q. [Man #10]: Hi. My question is you know it's wonderful for Jim and Sarah that these ancient artifacts magically bring her back to humanity but is it all just fulfilling the prophecy? That somebody makes these ancient artifacts a million years ago so that in case a girl gets turned from Terran to Zerg and infested? And you know "Just in case that happens we'll leave these artifacts lying around and somebody can put them all together and assemble them and restore her!" That sounds a little deus ex machina.

Brian: That sounds remarkably convenient doesn't it? I wonder if it's occurred to you that the transformation might be a bi-product of something else a side-effect of something else the artifact is doing?

[Man #10]: Sure I look forward to finding out on what that is at the moment it just seems really convenient for Jim.

Chris: We look forward on showing you.

Brian: I promise you that there is actually a meaning to this.

Chris: A little more going on than is obvious.

Brian: And when future expansions are out come to BlizzCon and if I'm lying to you right now call me on it. Assuming I'm not dead.

  -- 25:23 -- Q. [Man #11] Hey guys two questions related to the Dominion leadership. Obviously in the sort bonus mission during the campaign we find out that the Dominion has been experimenting; experiments that have resulted in the creation of a Hybrid which is a prevalent theme during the Protoss side missions. One is what can you tell us about did the Dominion know what they were doing with the splicing of the DNA or whatever and did they know that their experiments would result in the creation of the Hybrids? And also we see after Media Blitz that there's rioting going on in Korhal there's all kinds of revolts going on in the core worlds. What is the state of the Dominion leadership? What's kind of going on over there?

Chris: you want each to take one?

Brian: Sure!

Chris: Which one?

Brian: I'll take the second one.

Chris: Damn the easy one.

Brian: Oh alright I'll take the first.

Chris: No I'm taking the first one. Your calling. Hell what was the first one Hybrids yes.

Brian: You know what? I can actually answer the first one very simply. You asked "Did they know what they were doing? What they were getting into? Or was this like a happy accident?" I will say that "somebody" knew what they were doing. Someone involved with the Dominion knew exactly what they were doing. It was not a happy accident in a lab somewhere. Whether all of the Dominion folk involved in the program necessarily know that would be a bigger question.

Chris: Right. The second part was the state of the Dominion government. So Mengsk is still in charge but things have gone pretty south on him. Likely the riots and civil unrest will continue and whole worlds may attempt to cede from the Dominion. While he's still in charge things have definitely changed. I think he's going to be in a far more desperate state to hold things together because now he's just totally been found out. And people are not altogether pleased at what kind of man that he is.

[Man #11]: Guys we've waited over 35000 days for StarCraft 2 and I just wanted to tell you the experience I'm willing to wait another 35000 days for the next game so take your time and do your thing.

Chris: Thank you

Brian: Thank you

  -- 28:05 -- Q. [Man #12]: Hey. That news guy what's his name? Donny Vermillion in the campaign?

Chris: Stay Classy BlizzCon.

[Man #12]: I was wondering you know in Heart of the Swarm can I have the guy shot?

Brian: Yeah that's... Wow you really didn't like Donny huh?

[Man #12]: Most annoying man ever.

Brian: [laughs] We'll see what we can do. We'll definitely try to get him shot if we can.

[Man #12]: Thank you very much.

Brian: What about Kate Lockwell [crowd cheers] how did you guys feel about her? [crowd cheers]

Chris: Wow some Kate love. You guys want to know something really funny? This is like the weird trivia stuff that we don't even know is trivia yet. But no joke based on that question the art guys had designed Donny as a cyborg. And we totally had a scene during all this Korhal stuff where he gets shot and he's a robot. He's revealed to be a robot. So you know production time we just decided to kind of cut it. But in fact if you open the toolset and you poke around and find Donny's model you will find a robot injured shot Donny.

  -- 29:26 -- Q. [Man #13]: Near the end of Brood War Raynor vowed to kill Kerrigan after she was involved in the death of one of his best friends Fenix. How do you reconcile that with the fact that in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Raynor seems fixated on instead of saving Kerrigan even at a great risk to all of his friends and crewmembers and seems to have forgotten who Fenix is.

Chris: Oh I don't think that he's forgotten who Fenix is at all. And I guess the pithy response would be it ain't over yet. I don't mean anything by that but I think the context of her changed radically. The events of Brood War and components of the first game he's under the conclusion that there's nothing in the universe that will save this girl she is simply the Queen of Blades it's done. And she just proves to be more and more evil over time. And the significant thing that occurs in Wings of Liberty you know Valerian tells him "hey there might be a chance to change her back" It's a game changer for him. He never allowed himself hope he never considered it could be a possibility. It changed his whole sense of thinking. Now there's still things that'll play out. I am not suggesting he's going to kill Kerrigan. I guess I am not suggesting he won't either. [Brian laughs] I mean even if they get together relationships are rough right? Any normal Wednesday night at home she burns the steak...

Brian: There is no excuse for domestic abuse.


Chris: [pause] I know

Brian:
And I would add to that I think the key thing about that moment where Raynor turns left instead of right is that you know there was a big question that I think that a lot of people in the Koprulu Sector would have had which is "so the Queen of Blades is she like a completely different person? Or is that just a really pissed off Sarah Kerrigan with a lot of power and tentacles" you know? And I think that Jim had such a connection with Sarah that he just could not believe he could certainly hate and want to kill the Queen of Blades. But when he was confronted with the question of whether or not that was really Sarah Kerrigan or if the real Sarah was in there somewhere and could be brought back. There was no way he couldn't take that chance. And try to bring her back.

[Man #13]: Thank you

 -- 32:12 -- Q.[Man #14]: Hi you guys got a great game here. I was particularly impressed with the character development and surprised by Tassadar's semi-resurrection as a ghost. My question is is he going to be a one time deal or is he going to be a ghost dad and stick around a little bit more?

Brian: That's a really good question.

Chris: Let's handle this delicately. [laughs] Well we can't remotely begin to speak about things about the Protoss campaign down the line. Let me just say that there's probably some kind of metaphysical tie between the ancient Protoss hero Adun and then through Tassadar that will kind of continue to play out is one of our like really flavorful potential plotlines. But we haven't really made any total calls on it yet in terms of what will actually go into the Protoss campaign. But theres a lot of rich potential with Tassadar and the nature of him and the nature of the Khala and what he really represents to the Protoss people. But it would be premature to get into it all at this phase.

[Man #14]: I like your response.

[laughs]

Chris: Right on

  -- 33:39 -- Q. [SC:L LordofAscension] My question is: at the end of Brood War we see Kerrigan basically obliterate the UED the Dominion and most likely the Protoss. So how do we kind of reconcile that with just Raynor in the Hyperion kind of steamrolling her at every meeting. Especially with her on the battlefield.

Brian: Well I think that the instances where you see her in Wings of Liberty one of the things that we are trying to imply in that story is that she has forces out looking for all of the parts of the artifact too. And she doesn't necessarily have all of the same knowledge that Raynor has through the Moebius Foundation. So you know the idea is that her swarm is certainly overpoweringly strong but it's also spread when they come boiling off Char they go you know 360 degrees. They go everywhere. They're sort of carpet bomb searching if you will just looking everywhere. Whereas Raynor is targeted and focused. So even when Kerrigan is on the map Raynor is never facing the entire swarm. Because yes if he did that battle would be over in about 5 seconds. So he's really fighting like smaller task forces that she's made. And so even you know when she does appear on the map though she's scary as all heck. First time I played that mission you know and I saw her on a map I was actually terrified. So I mean I hope that we didn't treat her too lightly. I don't think that we did.

  -- 35:35 -- Q. [Man # 16] Hi so the Starcraft manga have introduced a lot of esoteric creatures into the lore and I am wondering how they factor into the future of the series. Specifically the Phoenix Energy Beast and Gestalt Zero.

Chris: We are kind of still discussing how all of those ideas play out. It would be premature to comment we are still kind of working on those.

Brian: Yea I think that it's safe to say that the Protoss the Terran and the Zerg are the marquee races of the StarCraft universe. They feature prominently and importantly in all of the mainline stories that we are telling. But that doesn't mean they are the only life forms. They're you know space is a very crowded place. And these StarCraft spaces so there's certainly other things going on out there.


  -- 36:44 -- Q. [Woman #3]: Hi! I am a fan of the old StarCraft as well as the new one. But I was so impressed that you put the extra story into it. I mean considering it's an RTS game that just blew my socks off. And what I really enjoyed the best was the character development I actually played through it twice to fully understand the characters and it was just awesome! So my question is when's that next book coming out that you were talking about? [laughs]

Chris: It's funny you know we probably weren't supposed to have rolled that out. But we gotta give you guys something... come on. But I don't exactly know when the publishing date is supposed to be but I am going to find out.

[Woman #3]: And my other question is who if there is any major group of people who designed Tychus Findlay's character?

Chris: I can handle that. Particularly Tychus came about if I am remembering right our cinematic director Nick Carpenter and our writer Andy Chambers were sitting and jamming on ideas for just kind of cinematic hooks. So we love the idea of having just Jim just kind of in the war years right? Just having little kind of short film type animatics. And it seemed necessary to have someone to have him to kind of rip with. Some old war buddy and so Nick had kinda come up with the look for this big tough old buddy of Jims and I think it was Andy who coined the Tychus Findlay name and then very quickly all these little effects followed. You know his big hard hittin irish brother spent time in the can all these little details started to fall out. But really I gotta tell you the Tychus character was interesting and structurally necessary but it wasn't until we got into that studio and Neil Kaplan kinda hit the voice out of nowhere right? And he just starts going and we went "holy cow how is that sound coming out of that man?" and immediately Tychus just took over. I mean he was a totally secondary you know afterthought character. But once Neil started saying his lines he was like by far the funniest character to write. He just like took over us as we were writing the game. Because it was just so you could just hear it in every line

Brian: So fun to write I lost 9 years in prison on account of you.

Chris: Jimmy.

[Woman #3]: Well thank you very much for putting so much into the story and Tychus is not dead or have tentacles! [laughs] Raynor just winged him a little.

Chris: Yea... well. We will see what we can do.

Brian: Flesh Wound


  -- 39:48 -- Q. [Man #17:] Hi I want to start off saying I love StarCraft II I love the StarCraft and the WarCraft universes they are my two favorite universes that I've played since I was a kid. And with that my question involves both games. StarCraft one was a really gritty dark game where bad stuff happened and it happened. That was just how it went. And then WarCraft comes along and it's more fantasy there's more of like the paragon of good and evil. And then I was just wondering if you guys are gonna do you guys notice the really close draw between StarCraft 2 and World of Warcraft where Kerrigan kinda became Thrall. She was this evil thing evil person and then she just suddenly became possibly a very good character even if she didn't know it. And then you have the zerg kinda just got the orc complex where they were bloodthirsty. Then well maybe they were just corrupted you don't know.  [Brian laughs] You know I am just wondering like are you going to bring StarCraft back to that universe where its like really gritty and there's actually punishment for being evil instead of just suddenly being good and theres consequences to the really good people without them suddenly becoming really evil.

Chris: No we're just gonna do exactly what WarCraft did. That's a complicated question to answer it in truth would give too much away. Keep in mind Heart of the Swarm is about what this girl is about. And by extension what are the zerg about. Because it runs a lot deeper than what you've seen so far. That being said and as a direct answer to your question it's highly unlikely that we are gonna make a decision to suddenly transform the Zerg into this lawful good heroic. The Zerg are the Zerg no matter what. They are terrifying they are violent they are animals. That will not change. That being said all sorts of things can change. But again we are currently working on all that stuff and still feeling out the storyline and what we want to do with the Zerg. But the scary component can not be compromised. Relative to the WarCraft thing I guess sometimes racial concepts there are thresholds right? Did we break Orcs in pop culture you know kinda making them a little more noble? Not sure what the threshold is but the threshold for the Zerg concept is definitely a lot clearer. When are Zerg not Zerg? Well when they aren't scary when they aren't animals.

Brian: Yea I think and I agree I think it's safe to say on that topic on the StarCraft part of your question. I have actually been really surprised that people have been jumping to this conclusion that we were saying that the Zerg were you know just misunderstood; and would turn out to be these great noble beings. I can understand that there's some fear in the community that that might be the case. And pretty soon you'll see Zerg you know weaving baskets and carrying flowers around. That's not gonna happen. And the Zerg as I have said are absolutely the worst thing that can happen to your day so. Yea there is a lot of stuff in their back story it's complicated it will all be revealed but have no fear that they will turn out to be misunderstood. And as to the Kerrigan part I also really think that I see the parallel that you're kind of talking about but I don't really think it applies because Thrall was a character who underwent a sort of enlightenment and sort of understood his place in the world better. Kerrigan well the Queen of Blades was an evil terrifying creature Sarah Kerrigan was not. Sarah Kerrigan is scary she's an assassin right? But but I don't see it as one character that's just kind of you know becoming nicer.

Chris:
And even on that point you had some really good parts to your question specifically to the "is justice possible" right? Justice or what we would presume justice is for her and a potential redemption right? Are you neutering a gritty universe right? In trying to overtly chase a redemption story. It's a really good point and a really good question. How the hell do I answer it without giving away where we are going?

[Man #17]: Trust us [Chris laughs]

Chris: It is a gritty universe and on a long enough timeline theres so much more going on behind the curtain. It's like Wings of Liberty barely scratches the truth you know of kind of what's occuring. So you talk about justice for her. I don't know it's exactly what we are chasing in terms of the Heart of the Swarm storyline. So be patient with us hopefully we will answer all of this directly through the gameplay or through the storyline.

Brian: I think that bad things happen to bad people in StarCraft but bad things happen to good people too so...

Chris: Seemingly more often.

Brian: [laughs] Yea.


[Man #17]: That's exactly what I was looking for" things to be just more real and gritty where bad things just corrupt bad people or good people even too. Thanks.

 -- 45:59 -- Q. [Man #18]: Hey guys" pleasure to be here. StarWars Chris you were talking about what makes a geek run for StarWars. Many people say that StarWars is essentially a western in a sci fi universe very much the same way in StarCraft. Consider Tychus Findlay I can't help but it every time I see Tychus Findlay at a cutscene or at a dialogue I think of Vin Diesel in Pitch Black just a greedy anti-hero same with Jim Raynor. You mentioned earlier about Butch Casity in the Sundance Skid. I understand the creative process you talked about earlier on how Tychus character was made. I'm curious more about the outside influences that were brought that came in.

Chris: Clearly we just sat down with the Firefly box set and you know just took copious notes. The whole western slash southern thematic that went through StarCraft was totally there in the first one that came long before Firefly. Unfortunately it kind of bent a little more towards the comical like "I love you sarge" you know all that stuff. But definitely in the conceptual art we were doing at the time it was something I really wanted to have in the foreground. You know at the time we were a little split on how far it chased that western slash southern theme. All this time around there was no dissention; we just wanted to embrace it fully. If I could put a cowboy hat on Raynor in every scene I would have done so right. That's who that guy is. But you know it's funny it first started this might be eight years ago seven years ago can't tell time anymore when we first started talking about StarCraft II like "Guys we should start seriously thinking about developing this product after all these years" the first image in my head was this guy sitting at a bar with a bottle of whiskey and a cowboy hat on his head fretting over a girl you know what I mean just a neatly western. Now it's just in its DNA I guess. I don't know if that answers your question or not.

[Man #18]: No that was perfect. Because I was thinking of firefly as well so hopefully we can get a movie about StarCraft sometime.

Chris: Right. You know I was kidding about watching the firefly box set right? As a matter of a fact I stayed away from that damn thing because I knew it was going to get us in...

[Man #18]: Let's just wait for another season I guess.

Chris: Huu? They are still on a second season?

[Man #18]: I said let's hope for one.

Chris: Yea that would be epic.

[Man #18]: Thanks.

 -- 48:43 -- Q. [Man #19]: Hey guys again great game fantastic. I wanted to ask about you mentioned the next book is going to continue to explore the Tychus and the Raynor relationship but one of my favourite secondary character is Matt Horner. He's sort of noble he's the kind of the heart and soul of you know the idealist crusader. And I'm wondering first of all because I love the secondary character of Mira Han are we ever going to hear about that story? [Brian laughs] And second of all are we ever going to get some stories about Raynor and Horner adventures that we really didn't see because Tychus was kind of taking over?

Chris: Right

Brian: I would so love to explore the Mira Han and Matt Horner situation.

Chris: How ironic.

Brian: Absolutely Mathew. You know right now our focus is all on the expansion you know I should say mine because I know you are pretty much involved with everything.

Chris: Wow

Brian: But I believe that's a pretty rich vein that we would definitely like to explore.

Chris: Totally

-- 50:04 -- Q. [SC:L Zero] Hello In Wings of Liberty you had Raynor go around the Hyperion and he was able to talk to all the other characters. He was able to flesh out his whole universe. I'm assuming you are using the same play style so in Legacy of the Void you will have Zeratul. He will be talking to all of these Protoss characters now hence that. But with Kerrigan in Heart of the Swarm who does she talk to? Is there going to be infested terrans are the queens sentient. What's going to be there to make her story more interesting?

Brian: That's an excellent question which I can't answer sorry. Do you have any Wings of Liberty questions?

 -- 50:50 -- Q. [SC:L Zero] A small one. In choosing to save the Colonists Raynor is forced to fight against Selendis. How do you explain Raynor's small van fighting against the fleet of the executor and wiping her?

Chris: Suspension of disbelief.

Brian: He is that good.

[SC:L Zero]: I'll believe it. Thank you.

 -- 51:22 -- Q. [Man #20]: At the end of Wings of Liberty Kerrigan undergoes yet another transformation. I was wondering as she goes back to "mostly" human is she going to get her hair back or is she going to keep those wicked dreads.

Chris: That is an unanswerable question at this time. We are going to keep you on the hook but don't you think they are hot looking? Kinda? Is that wrong to she looks cute with those alien dreads?

Brian: I say "Hell yea"

[Man #20]: Is that it?

Chris: She should probably keep that haircut for at least a little bit.

[Man #20]: Thank you very much.

 --  52:04 -- Q. [Man #21]: Hi so in Wings of Liberty you introduced the new character of doctor Narud and a lot of people online have noticed that his name is Duran spelled backwards. I just wanted to know is that intentional?

Chris: Who would do that!?

Brian: That's crazy.

Chris: That's crazy talk and its NArUD!

[Man #21]: Is that you are going to give me?

Chris: Oh yea that's it.

[Brian laughs]

[Man #21]: Thanks!

 -- 52:42 -- Q. [Man #22]: My question is did the Xel'Naga let the Zerg absorb them originally because in the original plot it says they underestimated them and they bridged their world ship then absorbed them but in light of the world of StarCraft II hence where we get a little bit of in feel into the Xel'Naga lifestyle that might be not the case.

Chris: Time for Pool!

[Brian laughs]

Chris: I can't answer that one right now.

Brian: This is dangerous dangerous territory. I feel terrible. I feel like a broken record but I will say "All will be revealed". There is a coherent story there. There really is I swear. But you are seeing the beginnings of it.

[Man #22]: Keep playing [Brian laughs] That answers my question perfectly.

Chris: Right

BlizzCon Adjutant: We have time for a few more questions.

 -- 53:46 -- Q. [Man #23]: Hello I'll first like to thank you for making a fabulous game. My question is is to the StarCraft novels. How much lead way did you give the authors to expand the StarCraft Universe?

Chris: Particularly I would say ninety something percent of our novels we outline almost every story we do these days it has a team and then we kind of... Well sometimes if we have the hook beforehand like "Hey lets do a story about Mira Han" you know. We either discuss it we outline it as a group we have a series of fiction developers on our creative development team that we work with to kind of develop auxiliary fiction. Usually we have a writer in mind for a project in front we will kind of fly them out to the office and have them sit with us for a day and kind of walk them through the concept so that they can own you know the construction of the thing as well. In terms of authors it's just kind like going for it and developing vast tracks of the universe. We are usually not real comfortable with that unless it is really ambient you know and just like kind of a vive thing "That's gravy you have a hook run with it" But when it gets to really specific or important locations or races or like the mythology of all this stuff we are very very particular. And usually kind of plan everything as a group at our shop upfront.

 -- 55:25 -- Q. [Man #23]: Have you ever had someone from the office come up with something or a slamming idea that you say "run with it"?

Chris: All the time.

[Man #23]: Thank you

Chris: Thank you.

 -- 55:37 -- Q. [Man #24]: A few years ago when you started writing Wings of Liberty did you guys had an alternate ending to the one that you really ended up with using?

Chris: Many. Well let me think of... Well it might be a spoiler... Let me think for a minute. I was thinking about something else. Did you guys know that the final flick in StarCraft II it was going to end with Tychus getting shot like in a Godfather way and just be really hard. You know so we kind of sat around and figured out that it would be good to do the old cowboy carries princess up into the sunset kind of thing but that's not what you're asking about. In terms of would the Raynor/Kerrigan thing had gone a very different way? I really don't think so. I think it was the idea that... You know to some digree "he saves this girl" was always one of the critical themes that defined the story.

 -- 56:48 -- Q. [Man #25]: A person asked earlier on what made Raynor switch from wanting to kill to save Kerrigan. Was that also in the Zeratul missions it's discovered that she has to live to save everyone?

Brian: You are asking on what is his...

[Man #25]: No no.

Brian: Are you saying his decision... If he had another motivation?

[Man #25]: Yes

Brian: Yes absolutely. Now he is aware that she is very important to the future of all life but I mean you know as strange as it seems Jimmy is driven more towards a very deep personal conection with Sarah.

Chris: Oh love

Brian: But life in the universe stopping to exist is also quite good.

BlizzCon Adjutant: Thank you for attending the StarCraft II. Coming up at 6:00 pm main stage we are going to have our costumes and dance contest.

Chris: Thanks guys

-- 57: 52 -- END OF TRANSMISSION

 Click here for Blizzard's own recap of the events.

Panelists:
Matt Morris - Lead Level Designer
Richard Khoo - Senior Level Designer
Jason Huck - Level Designer
Matt Gocher - Level Designer


When we were improving the editor, we started talking about game types. DoTA, RPG, TD, etc. The purpose was to know how difficult it was to create this stuff that people go through when making such  maps, such as heroes and inventory. Another thing we wanted to do was working on dialog buttons. It's not entirely new, but it was really hard to use in our old editor, so we focused on improving this in StarCraft II. This is the reason we're creating custom maps.

" " " " "


The first thing to focus on is the fun factor. Maps also need to be easy to learn. You guys don't create a map to teach a player how to play a map. You have 2 minutes to try to figure out how to teach the player. The chances of players to replay maps with a high learning curve is low. Feedback is also important. This is the point where you think the map is done, and you ask "what do I do now". Battle.net allows you to publish maps where you can get direct feedback. You can also get feedback from other map makers who share their knowledge.

Starjeweled

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Starjeweled is a 2v2 game that combines match puzzle gameplay with tug-of-war style combat

 

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Players earn energy from the match puzzle game which can be used to purchase units and spells


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Marines constantly spawn from each side to attack the enemy

"

Final Victory

Impressions by SaharaDrac:
 


Anyone familiar with the hit game Bejewled or any one of its dozens of impostors will immediately feel right at home in Starjeweled. The basic gameplay involves a grid of jewels, and players must swap one jewel at a time to make a match of three or more in a row, which will cause the matched gems to disappear. Where Starjewled differs from the standard puzzle game genre is that instead of simply earning points, you earn resources. With this simple deviation it adds Tower Defense elements to an already established game type. Resources are used to purchase units that automatically move towards your opponents base, a feature similar to the classic Warcraft 3 Tower Defense map, Wintermaul Wars. The more gems you clear and the more chain reactions you cause, the more resources you earn, and the more resources you have, the more powerful units you can send. However, you must act fast, as your enemy will be sending units to your base simultaneously.

A working knowledge of the Starcraft II units will come in very handy as well, as the units sent have the same strength and weakness as they do in vanilla Starcraft II. For example, if you see a force of enemy Siege Tanks approaching, Immortals would be the perfect counter - but only if you have enough accumulated resources to afford them. In addition, your resources can also be spent on a variety of spells that you can cast on the battlefield, including shields and healing for your units, and the ever-popular Psionic Storm.

Starjeweled's fast pace and addictive nature will serve as a nice change of pace from the hectic pace of ranked Starcraft II games, and will also appeal to players who are not normally in to Real Time Strategy games. It is the kind of game that is easy to pick up, but hard to put down, and has a very broad appeal. After a few games, we found ourselves hooked, and we waited in line several times to play it, even with bigger name games like Diablo 3 dominating the floor of BlizzCon.

 

Left 2 Die

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This is a cooperative version of the "Outbreak" mission - where the player fought zombies at night. Magazines and forums really loved this mission - they love killing zombies. So focusing on the fun factor first, I created different types of Zombie. This is different than the design of Left4Dead, since you can see around all the units and your unit shoots at anything that moves.

"
Left2Die is a cooperative map where players hold out against hordes of zombies.

 

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Choose technology wisely against the enemy.

"

Keep defenses stout against the onslaught.

"
Players can earn currency to purchase tech upgrades.

"

Special infected are larger more powerful enemies with special abilities.

"

The base can be easily overwhelmed if players don't work together.

"

Two special infected threaten the base entrance.

 

" " " "


The first thing introduced is biomass. It can be pulled together to purchase technologies for all the players so that they don't feel like they're competing against each other. I wanted to make a game for everyone - I wanted to be able to play a game even with my wife. The map starts with a cinematic explaining to the player why he's there. There is also a difficulty level that players can choose. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to go out of your way to make the gameplay easy to learn. There are too many players who will disregard your map otherwise.

Impressions by LordofAscension:

Left 2 Die, one of the four professionally developed StarCraft II custom mods announced and previewed at BlizzCon 2010 is Blizzard's tongue-in-cheek homage to Valve Software's popular zombie apocalypse survival FPS franchise, Left 4 Dead. By combining the frantic survival zombie-vibe of Left 4 Dead with StarCraft II's RTS engine and gameplay, Blizzard has crafted a simple but engaging co-op mod to bridge the genres and broaden the game's selection and appeal.

Left 2 Die is an expanded version of Wings of Liberty campaign mission "Outbreak", in which you must survive the nights on Meinhoff against hordes of the undead, while destroying the infested structures in the daylight hours. This mod offers a story driven opening in-game cut-scene, similar to Outbreak's, that introduces the players to their plight and their objectives.

The starting base is almost identical to Outbreak's. Each player must continually mine and produce armies to defend the shared base from the numberless undead. In addition to the normal undead, special infected units occasionally spawn as well. Modelled after their Left 4 Dead counterparts, they each have a unique attack or ability and are more difficult to kill. For example, one of the special infected is a "Hunterling", inspired by Left 4 Dead's "Hunter", that leaps on your units and a "Choker", that is similar to the Smoker, that grabs and consumes a few units at a time.

While killing the normal infected grants you some "biomass", destroying a special infected grants you larger quantities of this precious resource. Biomass can be used to unlock new units (such as the Medic, Reaper, or Hellion) or new technology (such as reinforced and expanded Bunkers or Tech Reactors). Each player accumulates their own biomass but any units or technologies unlocked are then available for both players.

The mission is a fun twist on vanilla campaign play and it demonstrates how a co-op campaign Blizzard-style could play out. In the build available at BlizzCon, my co-op partner and I didn't find brutal difficulty to be overly challenging for anyone who has experience playing the single-player campaign on brutal. In the mapping panel, the map's creator expressed a desire to create a mod that his wife could play with him. He explained that one of the most important elements in creating a mod is accessibility, making the controls and objectives easy to understand and pick-up. Part of that goal was realized by having four difficulties to choose from, which mirror those of the campaign.This mod is not incredibly hardcore, but it serves its purpose. It's a fun mod to play with friends and it will likely be popular for its creative novelty and engaging gameplay.

Blizzard Entertainment and Valve Software are two of the most successful, respected, and beloved PC developers of all time. While their games are created in different genres and are generally stylistically unique, Blizzard has tried to bridge the genre divide. In doing so, they have created a compelling, fun, experience that elevates StarCraft II's mods potential - not only technically but also in their broad appeal.

Aiur Chef

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This is about a game where you are a Zealot skilled in the arts of cooking and killing, traveling along Aiur gathering ingredients. The inspiration for this came from the fruit models found in the editor. One of the first things I changed was that players wanted to fight with another more instead of just gathering ingredients. For the gameplay itself, it is played over three rounds. The player with the most points at the end wins. So all of the fruist models will be coming to the map/mod community.

"

Aiur chef is a free-for-all competition to cook recipes.

 

"
Collect ingredients and return them to kitchen stadium to cook.



"
Compete against opponents for points over three rounds.

 

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Each competitor is armed with psi frying pans and other fun weaponry.

 

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En taro cuisine!

 

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Explore the map for ingredients.

 

" " "


Impressions by Zero:

Aiur Chef was one of the four professionally developed mods featured and playable to attendees of BlizzCon 2010, and soon to be available publicly via Battle.net 2.0. In this excellent parody of the popular television shows Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, up to eight players can play and like most party-style games, the more participants there are, the far greater the gameplay variety and potential.

The map for Aiur Chef is relatively small in comparison to standard multiplayer-style StarCraft matches, but is organized beautifully. The center of the map consists of the Aiur equivalent of Kitchen Stadium, a raised section decorated with elaborate Protoss structures with four ramps allowing access from the northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. Two multiple-resource rich areas exist, mirrored across the map from each other. Such resource-gathering areas include farms, Vespene refineries, water and waterfront beaches, creep-infested Zerg Hives, and Protoss encampments. Each of the many ingredients in Aiur Chef can be found in one of these sections, however, not all ingredients are as plentiful and easy to locate as others.

The in-game models are done wonderfully and are noticeable from the very beginning of the match. Each Protoss chef has a chef's hat on their head and holds in each hand one of a variety of different psionic cooking tools, such as a frying pan, a whisk or a spatula. Many of the different ingredients are not typical StarCraft models, and were added for the mod. These include various vegetables, animals, as well as some of the ingredients that appear after butchering a creep or StarCraft II unit, such as a High Templar. While some of the custom animals don't have the same graphic style as the StarCraft II units we're familiar with, they are still clearly identifiable and there was no visual confusion their addition into the mod.

The user interface has been customized as well. A list of the available recipes and their ingredients can be found on the upper-left of the player's screen. Above the standard user interface options is a set of six boxes arranged horizontally, which represents the player's current collection of ingredients and special abilities, limited to holding a combined six at any given time.

At the start of each game, the player is automatically given their aspiring Protoss chef. Each chef is identifiable by their individual color, and the player's view automatically centers on their chef at the beginning of each round. Before the game begins, Tassadar, the host of Aiur Chef, provides a brief introduction and explains the rules. There are three timed rounds in each game of Aiur Chef. To start each round, Tassadar swiftly announces the secret ingredient, and sends the chefs off with a booming "EN TARO CUISINE"!

Each player can control their Protoss chef through the standard Move and Attack commands. The recipe list in the upper-left of the player's screen contains three recipes, each with a different point value and each utilizes the secret ingredient in combination with other more plentiful ingredients. By hovering the cursor over the ingredients on the recipe list, a small description will pop up, giving brief advice to the player in regards to the location of the ingredient or the creature that must be killed to obtain it. Each recipe will require anywhere from four to six ingredients, of at least three different types of ingredients. To grab an ingredient on the ground, simply have your chef walk over it. If you're already carrying six ingredients, an attempt to carry more will be ignored. To remove an ingredient from your collection, you must right-click the particular item box, and your cursor will have a small icon next to it designating the item you chose. Then left-click a spot close to your chef, and it will be dropped. Selecting a location too far from your chef will cancel the drop, and may cause you to lose precious time if it happens too often.

In order to obtain certain ingredients, a type of creature may have to be killed for the ingredients to appear. A simple attack is all that is required for most quarry. Some creatures are docile and won't become aggressive, even after being attacked. However, others are not as passive, such as some of the Zerg units, and will pursue you as soon as they see you. Caution must be taken when facing some of ingredient-holding creatures; some are very powerful, and even the weaker targets may re-spawn quickly and overwhelm your chef.

Once all of the ingredients necessary to complete a recipe have been acquired, the player must send their chef back to the center stadium to cook their dish. Upon reaching the center beacon, a circular button appears next to the recipe list. Clicking on the button will allow you to cook, removing the ingredients from your collection, awarding you the points for that particular dish, and giving your chef a potential power-up or special ability. After cooking your dish, you send your chef out again, to cook as much as possible before the end of the round.

Once a player realizes the locations to find certain ingredients, it may be tempting to repeat the same dish several times. However, the player would do well to notice that repeatedly preparing the same recipe multiple times will reduce the amount of points awarded each time, and may not yield any power-ups or special abilities.

The default awards for cooking recipes vary in value. Through observation, it would appear as if the special abilities and power-ups are awarded for cooking dishes that don't provide the highest amount of points. Each ability or power-up will take up a space on the player's six space collection. One ability allows for a temporary boost in your chef's movement, while another forces your opponents to stop and uncontrollably dance in place for a few seconds. The Protoss chefs do have the ability to attack each other, but using anything other than the special abilities may prove to be more of a detriment to the offensive player, since pursuing your opponents for a fight wastes valuable time. If a player's chef were to be killed, regardless of the cause, the player will be re-spawned back at the center stadium.

At the end of the three rounds, Tassadar, the host of Aiur Chef, announces the winner based on the highest cumulative score obtained, declaring them to be the next Aiur Chef.

The survival of Aiur Chef over the course of time is questionable. Over the course of several matches, the game may lose appeal as players begin to master it, determining the best strategies and learning the locations to every ingredient. However, it is unlikely the newer chefs will give up. There is a short learning curve to the game, so even after a few losses, new players will still be rewarded with better strategic understanding. Eventually, as most players become accustomed to the game, the even playing field will inspire harsher competition and may introduce new tactics to the game that even the designers hadn't predicted.

In conclusion, Aiur Chef is an excellent example of the modding capabilities of the StarCraft II Galaxy Editor. Where it will stand after the test of time is uncertain. However, it is an excellent party game, is wonderfully made, and will likely see plenty of activity when it becomes open for play on Battle.net 2.0. The mod does a great job of capturing the spirit and quirkiness of its inspirations while adding a uniquely StarCraftian twist. This writer strongly suggests playing at least a few games of Aiur Chef when it is available, if only for the humor and charm its parody of the famous television shows provides.


Blizzard DoTA

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The inspiration for this map goes back all the way to the original StarCraft: The Aeon of Strife. It spawned a whole genre of mods including the immensely popular DoTA map in War3. We created our own hero selection screen using our own trigger dialog system. This is true for everything we created. There were a whole bunch of people who helped out. There were artists, programmers, etc. There was an enormous amount of feedback - some times it was harsh. It's a great opportunity to improve your map whenever you get any type of feedback because it shows people actually care about your map. If you can keep iterating improvements onto your map you'll have a really cool and polished map to show for your efforts.


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Breaking into the enemy base can be tough.

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Currency earned from battle can be used to purchase upgrades at shops.

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Fight alongside allied creeps for maximum efficiency.

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More combat.

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Muradin and Sylvannas destroy an enemy tower.

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The final objective - destroy the enemy base's center.

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Towers can pack a punch.




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Blizz DoTA Heroes:

 




Impressions by SaharaDrac:

In the mid 2000's I became bored of laddering in Warcraft 3. A great game in it's own right I had played thousands of 1v1 and team matches for more than a few years. In my search for something else to keep me interested I was introduced to the original DotA mod at the time recently being developed by the now Valve Software employed mod-maker "IceFrog". Within the first couple games it became apparent that Warcraft 3's shelf-life was about to be extended by another four to five years. What made the then innocent simple custom map so appealing was that it took the most fun and engaging elements of WarCraft III (battling with heroes) and removed all the other elements of the game that non-RTS purist gamers find less than appealing about the RTS genre: namely base management making buildings dealing with an economy and micromanaging many varied units. The Defense of the Ancients map had birthed a new type of RTS; the "Action RTS" or "Arcade style-RTS". The player selects a hero from a large and varied list then follows up one of three lanes on the map supported by uncontrollable "creep" units and vies for control of his lane. The eventual goal is for your team to push all the way up your lanes and finally destroy the opposing team's base. This style of game became popular very quickly and a new phenomenon of PC gaming breathed new life into the slowing Warcraft III Battle.net scene.

It wasn't until knock off games such as "Heroes of Newerth" and "League of Legends" with full ladder support and matchmaking came along years later that gamers began migrating away from the original DotA.

Now Blizzard has stepped in letting companies like S2 Riot and even the mighty Valve know that they have plans to make the best offering possible in the freshly minted genre of "Action RTS". Their mod "Blizzard DOTA" was playable at BlizzCon 2010 and I had the opportunity play several matches with the new game. The following are my thoughts on the early pre-release version of the game.

Having recently played a fair bit of League of Legends the first thing that one notices about Blizzard DotA is the graphical presentation. The game is gorgeous and makes the less than appetizing visuals of LoL seem even more unappealing. The map is rendered beautifully the hero models are highly detailed and the spell effects are colorful and impressive. The second thing I enjoyed about the game's visuals was the sci-fi setting. Thus far with the exception of the fan-made SCII DotA mod "Storm of the Imperial Sanctum" all games of this genre have been in the fantasy setting. Heavy sniper rifles nuclear missiles lasers and Templar blades all make appearances here and it's a refreshing break from the swords sorcery and plate mail of the past.

From the second the game begins unless you are new to the game type and just trying to figure out how to play the game obviously reeks of Blizzard quality. It's hard to put an exact finger on but the game feels clean crisp and polished in it's early state more than fully released and often patched competitors feel even now.

That being said the game is not without it's flaws. There was a control issue where a strange delay would occur when issuing commands to your hero. This delay obviously does not exist in StarCraft II so the problem is apparently an issue within the mod itself and therefore likely easily remedied. Other places the game seemed lacking were also trivial matters that one must assume are already in the process of being addressed: the limited number of items and heroes. The heroes that were available however were very impressive. Choosing to include units and heroes from all their franchises players can battle with heroes from StarCraft such as Raynor and Zeratul but also futuristically enhanced characters such as the Blademaster and Abomination from Warcraft III both popular heroes from the original DotA and we can expect to see Diablo inspired heroes in the near future. Deckard Cain with a laser-firing Horadric staff anyone?

Heroes also have six spells now rather than four which is very cool. This includes many "passive" abilities like the ones found in League of Legends. There is also a normal level six ult (or ultimate spell) and then another ult than can be taken at level ten. These "Ultimate Ults" are very powerful spells and should add a lot of depth to the heroes and builds.

A very neat feature of the heroes is that they change appearances and names depending on which team they are fighting for. For example when selecting Raynor if you are on "The Guardium"(formerly known as The Sentinel in DotA) he will remain Jim Raynor but if one chooses the team which was known as The Scourge he becomes "Emperor Raynor" complete with more evil looking armor and weaponry. This adds flavor to the game where often times mirrored heroes are selected while still making them easily identifiable as the same hero despite somewhat different costuming.

HEROES
GRUNTY
Grunty is a Murloc Marine. He is an AGI (agility) carry type hero with high damage and very low hit points. Think of him as the Stealth Assassin with a ranged attack replacing cloak.

KERRIGAN
Kerrigan is an AOE spellcaster INT (Intelligence) hero. She can be compared to heroes like Krobelus Darchow or Lion from the original DotA.

LEVEL 80 ELITE TAUREN CHIEFTAIN
L80ETC is a short-ranged tank STR (Strength) hero. He is less comparable to DotA heroes but he has a stun similar to Storm Bolt a scatter shot like the Dwarven Sniper and a AOE buff like the Lycanthrope. He also has very high HP.

LEON
Leon is a new character an AGI based Dominion Sniper. He has cloak long ranged snipe attacks and can call down Nukes.
MURADIN
Muradin is a carbon copy of the Mountain King from DotA with an armor passive and a defense buffing AOE Warcry added on.

RAYNOR
Raynor is a support INT hero featuring many buffs and reinforcement abilities befitting his role as a battlefield leader.

STITCHES
Stitches is another carry over from DotA - Pudge from the original DotA. In addition to Pudge's classic abilities. He also has a powerful new AOE ult and and armor building passive.

SYLVANAS
Sylvanas is the Dark Ranger from DotA with added abilities such as a spread shot to make her even more deadly.

ULTIMATON
Ultimaton the Ultralisk is an interesting tank hero that blends the functionality of the Ultralisk in StarCraft II with abilities such as trample and cleave and Leoric the Skeleton King from DotA including Reincarnation.

VAEVICTUS
Vaevictus the Hydralisk combines abilities like Shadowstrike and Poison like his counterpart the Venomancer with things like Burrowed Movement and even the activatable Rapid Regeneration similar to Dr. Mundo's in League of Legends.

ZA'MURO
Za'Muro is a more enhanced version of DotA's Blademaster. He gains damage from the number of enemies in his area while maintaining his classic abilities like counter attack and Bladestorm.

ZERATUL
Zeratul is an AGI hero similar to the Phantom Lancer. Only better because he's Zeratul - period.

These twelve starting heroes were a great introduction to the potential of Blizzard DotA in the future. If things continue in the trend of quality and fun that this map presents so far and I'm certain they will this will be my Action RTS of choice. Along with the coming of new heroes and items things such as official ladder support and long-term Blizzard care have been promised. Clean beautiful graphics crisp gameplay and the potential to have The Lost VIkings fighting alongside Jim Raynor made this mod the crown jewel of Blizzard's StarCraft II showings at BlizzCon 2010.


Editor

Actors were used to modify the basic look of a unit to get its concept across for testing purposes. One of the easiest ways to customize art is to change tint color. Another awesome tool is the mover system. You can even use to create effects that don't even look like missiles. We really love playing your guys' maps. One of the things we saw was a feature to track mouse movement of players; this feature will be available when patch 1.2 goes up.



Q&A:

  • The marketplace is still on the list of things to do. It is coming we don't know when. We've also been looking at upgrading the map size limit for battle.net.
  • Blizzard DoTA is something that will continually be supported by Blizzard.
  • Blizzard is looking into the lag and delay that comes with mousetracking.
  • For DoTA Blizzard is creating new heroes from old games. There is no mechanism for transferring data from War3 to SC2.
  • Blizzard has not looked into adding a mechanism for adding custom maps to all servers simultaneously.
  • Blizzard custom maps will not be locked and all its assets will be free for use.
  • Blizzard hopes to provide some tools for new users to get into the editor.
  • Map locking will eventually be more secure and will do more than just lock triggers.
  • The Blizzard maps will eventually be released on battle.net but there is no official date.
  • When the UI is removed certain hotkeys have to be reserved.
  • Blizzard maps will have a score screen that show off all kinds of stats from the custom game itself and there will be ways to see what hero/race is winning the most.
  • The inventory system is a work in progress. The DoTA map was a wakeup call and we will definitely imrpove the system now.
  • Blizzard hasn't explored adding blinking multiplayer maps on battle.net but will look into it.
  • The bank system can be used to store names of players who won.
  • Blizzard plans on exposing their art tools between now and Legacy of the Void.
  • How premium maps will be decided is still up in the air.
  • Creation of custom single-player campaigns will be implemented in the future.

 

Summary of Panel:

Blizzard intends to share information from the developers, pro-gamers and high profile community members to help enhance the gameplay of players between the Bronze and Platinum level skill. They do so by use of explaining the system which you compete in, information specifically about the ladder's future, sharing tidbits of thought from pro-players, examining the facets of certain maps, showing examples of combat unit control and providing some initial strats for mid-level success.


Explaining the Ladder System:

Greg Canessa, title, was able to share some good thoughts regarding how battle.net considers your skill and why you are being placed against the opponents that you are being placed again.


As anyone knows from playing in the Automatic Matchmaking System, you play 5 placement matches to place you in a league of skill. While it may be difficult to understand much about a player's skill from five games, it's a good start, trying to place you accurately in a league to play against likewise players. But with this came a lot of questions among the community. Some would be as simple as wanting to understand how matchmaking works generically while others seek to know the intricate details of how it runs internally as a system. Today Greg Canessa wanted to help alleviate some confusion while providing insight never before spoken about by Blizzard representatives.

Going further into the understanding, it's important to know that Battle.net matchmaking for StarCraft II is an adaptive learning system. This means that as you play more games, the more accurate it gets in placing you against opponents of your own skill. The system tracks wins and losses specifically and does not perform a deep analysis of how you won, but just that you won. It then takes this information and considers the difficulty of your opponent.

A core tenet of the system is if you play someone of higher skill, you will be placed in future matches with opponents of increasingly better skill. If you keep losing you will play easier opponents until you find a competitive level for you. As you fight people that are significantly more difficult or obviously weaker than you, will will speed you to the skill level you are destined for faster. This means that the system identifies those wins and losses and compares the difficulty for each opponent based on a comparison of their individual skills. This is how it determines how to increase or decrease your perceived skill level. This begged the question in many people's mind on how the system quantifies a person's skill for comparison.

The level of skill that a person is judged by when being matched is not based specifically on leagues or ladder points. While you may be aware of your ladder points, you may not be aware of a set of numbers that are hidden from your view regarding your account. These numbers, or hidden skill ratings, judge your skill overall between an average of them and is the true way that Battle.net selects your opponents. As you win games, these numbers increase, adversely, as you lose games those numbers will decrease. It's not a linear relation though as the skill between two opponents determine the shift of skill based on the results of a match. The greater the distance between the two skills will net a greater gain or loss of rating based on the results of the match. If you play someone significantly better than you, your rating will increase much more than besting a person beneath your skill. This also works in terms of losing against opponents of greater or less skill than yourself.

As they progress with Battle.net they plan to introduce seasons which will wipe the ladder points of each individual, providing a clean slate for new competition. Greg Canessa made it a very important point to say that your internal numbers will not be reset between seasons, ensuring that your skill level will stay the same. This will allow you to jump into competitive, satisfying matches against like-skilled peers right from the start of each season.

These internal ratings are different for every matchmaking team you are a part of. From being alone on 1v1, 2v2 Randoms or every arranged 4v4 team you have created, each one has it's own specific rating, ensuring that there is no reason to shy away from playing against anyone because of their lack of skill, they don't bleed into other ladder arrangements you have a competitive passion for. When placing in a new team, they do use previous ratings as a judgement to help with the initial placement of the team, but is quickly overwritten based on how well you do.

The bonus pool is turned off at a certain point in the season. Tweaks have already been made to prevent exploiting and to keep things fair and a great experience for everybody.

Improvements based on feedback:
Improving league icons to denote league rank (higher rank results in better/different graphic)
League detail page improved to give prestige to high ranks
They will announce Season 2 ahead of time, resetting ladder + placement. Can still view Season 1 stats, preserving matchmaking record. 1 placement match
Master league - top 1-2% will be put in master league (top 5% of diamond)
Grand master league - top 200 players
Featured replays inside SC2

Advice from Pros:
david kim is dayvie
they do play 12 hours a day, practice helps
play custom games with people around your skill level to try things out (sparring partner)
focus on one race


SeleCT - no pain no gain
matchmaking is designed to be 50/50, you WILL lose. Focus on the psychological aspects.
huk - be a fan of the game and enjoy it. and watch day9.
qxc - if youre not attacking, youre probably losing.
keep watching and focus on your mistakes.

what can you do specifically to improve your game:
always build workers
poverty - saving is not good! keep money low
keep in mind what you can do as well as what your opponents can do
steppes of war - small map, so rushes are popular. even if you arent a rushing player, keep in mind that your opponent may be

scrap station - long ground distance, but short air distance
choke points: various points on the map, not just at ramps. Utilize them to your advantage If you have marines and he has lings, stay close to the chokes

expansions - keep chokes in mind and plan where you will expand to
using terrain can let you be a much larger army



marine vs zealot battle, marines not using terrain they lose
same battle, marines use the ramp as a choke and win the fight
flank to take out key units or to swarm faster

marine vs ling army without flanking, marines won
maring vs ling with a 3 way flank from lings, lings won
army size changes counters, small groups of marines are different than large groups of marines

unit control
8 stalker vs 8 stalker army with no micro, 50/50 fight
8 stalker vs 8 stalker fight with 1 person microing, red loses no units

soft counters and hard counters
2 banshee vs 10 marines no micro, marines win
2 banshee vs 10 marines with micro, banshee wins to overcome a hard counter


responses to cannon rush/proxy rush:
use your workers. if the rush fails then the rusher is behind

remember to use the choke points to defend rushes
if protoss, use force field
the more time you buy, the better your chances as your economy is stronger so you produce more units

to do 2 pronged attack: just drop the units then ignore them and focus on the main push


Q&A:

  • no plan to reveal hidden rating, as it is actually several numbers
  • going to look at rating for each individual race in the future
  • chat channels before end of the year, are done and in QA department
  • try to focus balance in esports, but they do look at other formats, in reapers case reaper/speedling 2v2 is the reason for the change
  • 1v1 t had too many options early game
  • web team still improving web battle.net page, nothing to announce yet though
  • queen was put in to make the game more difficult, simply adding another hatchery will help with larvae
  • learning when to make drones and when to make units is one of the difficulties in playing zerg, making a lot of spine crawlers early on enables you to make up to 40 drones early on
  • replay sharing is planned and will be out some time next year

Is StarCraft 2 in-game cinematics considered machinima? Blizzard claims no because it doesn't use in-game assets, even though it can. Assets from top-down view look good, but in cinematics view they might not cut it at all due to lack of detail. There are lots of things you don't need in the top-down RTS engine for SC2 that is used for in-game cinematics such as fog, advanced lighting, depth of field (which forces the character to look where the artists want and is used for hiding flaws). So the engine team added features that wouldn't otherwise be used.

Blizzard story-mode team consists of five modelers. They developed some pipelines and workflows to get what they wanted done. They took Tychus and converted pre-rendered models to in-game. Made sure to make sure he read well from up close as well as far away. Not all assets could be taken from pre-rendered, lots had to be made from scratch, such as Matt Horner. They first developed a concept for Matt Horner and then created a model. The 2007 version of him looked meaner, but the cinematics team overhauled him. The old Matt Horner model was used for the body-bag scene during the Zerg invasion. Lots of the model were upgraded from shader 1.0 to 2.0.

The storyboarding is still done with a writer and artist getting together and churning something out. The next step is previsualization (previs), which is staging the characters, setting the cameras, and give the characters actions. Previs is not actually animation. The pacing and such is continually ramped up. Next people get in front of the camera to rehearse and experiment before doing animations. The lore is also considered and performances are made out of his characteristics (such as Warfield showing off his experience and struggle - if he died the mission  might fail - he had to think fast when the zerlging was coming and use his bayonet). Weight, anticipation, and strong posing are core values in first pass of animation. In second pass, body mechanics are refined and characteristics of the characters are refined.

Then the scene is translated to in-game. Many textures and animations are missing and lots of problems need to be debugged. When things are exported to game-engine, they sometimes disappear, and even if they work for a while they will suddenly stop working. These are common problems. For the Escape from Mar Sara cinematic, the mutalisks went from outside of the hyperion to the inside of the bridge for some reason. The game engine wants to do many things to the model, such as blending. So it takes lots of work to tell the models not just what to do, but what not to do.

For lighting, they ask what the environment is first. They lay down a default lighting first. Where does the specular shine? Where doesn't it? Where could it be? Then they add ambient occlusion (contact shadows). In SC2 most chars have 3 lights. In Fire and Fury there was one onto warfield's face, second one is on bayonet, and the last one was on him.

Localization is a huge challenge for Blizzard. The game was shipped simulataneously in 11 challenges. Every single sign, poster, line of dialog (around 50000 words), was localized. Blizzard used software face effects. You interpolate text, the character, and sound, and it creates animation. Some of the close-up scenes require extra animation to remove pops and smoothen out the dialog. Casting was really important.

StarCraft II comes with all the cinematic assets and tools to make machinima.

Q&A:


Q: Have you guys ever considered putting pre-rendered material in the in-game pipeline such as the zeratul vs. kerrigan fight?
Yes.

Q: Do you feel that given current hardware you can push the level of detail for these graphics such that the cinematics can get even closer to pre-rendered? Do you plan to do this in Heart of the Swarm?

A: Yes, we do plan to add other graphical features, but we also want our games to be available to the largest people of feature. So any features we add can't be critical to storytelling.

Q: How do you bounce ideas off of each other?

A: I try to keep the meeting to a minimum, but the teams sit together. So even the most dedicated work session turns into a brainstorm session.

Q: How hard are certain features to program for fans such as rain?

Rain particles falling through sky can be done. But rain coming down the textures cannot.

Q: What about lyp syncing?

A: I don't think so. We use face effects, which is not included. If you got it on your own you could do it?

Q: Is there any plans to make longer cinematics for the game? Like 30 minutes plus?

A: Yes, we've talked about downloadable content, episodic TV shows. If we can get to the point where we can support the teams we'd be interested, but we're not there yet.

Q: Have you ever thought about pre-rendering the in-game cinematics?

A: We've been debating that pretty heavily. We're proud of the fact that the in-game cinematics can run in real-time. But that said it does bother me that people that aren't running high-end systems aren't seeing all the detail we've put into it. The trade-off though is that the interactive portion is still low-quality.

Q: Are you changing the lighting per shot?

A: Yes, every shot is basically rendered from scratch.

Q: I assume you storyboard the entire story before you decide to do a cinematic. Do you have criteria for what becomes in-game cinematic or pre-rendered cinematic?

A: We make the decision during the storyboard stage. We try to figure out the overall layout of where they will fit in. We want to open with a prerendered and end with one and try to fit some in between.

Q: You had mentioned you tripled the amount of polys that you used for a cinematic. How many polys are you looking for for a good character?

A: About 4000. Highest character is 20000. For sets are 10000 to 50000.

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