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Editor’s Note: The following interview was conducted at BlizzCon 2007 with the following people:

LoA – SC:L Lead Admin
NC – Nick Carpenter - Creative Director for the StarCraft II Cinematics, Art Director for the in-game cinematics

starcraft 2 nick carpenter interview

LoA: For the cinematics in StarCraft II, it sounds like you’re not going to do as many as in StarCraft I.

It’s not so much that we’re not going to do as many - it’s of different beats. Like in StarCraft I, you had 30 seconds of a ship flying by and everyone thought “oh that was a lot” but what we’re doing is taking that 30 seconds and combining it with another three minutes of cinematics and doing (telling) the story. Instead of taking all the time that we’re allotted to do all this we’re actually cutting it all up or not cutting it up, but actually focusing on individual cinematics to create a much larger experience. But that’s not to say we’re not going to put those in – it’s just time constraints.

LoA: How long then have you been working on the cinematics for StarCraft II?

NC: Oh god, for StarCraft II – I’d say probably off and on for probably about 2 years (since BlizzCon 2007).

LoA: So are you working on an ending cinematic for each campaign?

NC: It’s hard for me to say right now. Like we’ve got a lot of really cool stuff planned, where it actually fits depends on the designers. I’m saying bookends wouldn’t really fit because some of these things are really starting and ending cinematics.

LoA: In the opening cinematic for StarCraft II it looks like there are interjections of other things – are those scenes from other cinematics?

From things to come - yes, absolutely.

LoA: It looks like you are trying to do the battle scene that you couldn’t get to in WCIII (the final battle between Arthas and Illidan was to be a cinematic but the team ran out of time so the battle was portrayed in-game cut scene instead.)

Oh, I’m always interested in that. I’ve been personally chasing that battle since, well I directed the first WarCraft III cinematic where the infernal comes down and you have the night elf and the orc fighting and that was the first time I was like I want to get the characters together and fight and then tell the story. And every time I get to that it always seems to be the first thing to hit the chopping block right? So yeah there’s a big surprise in StarCraft II that I think everyone has been waiting for a long time to see some of these characters actually clash.

LoA: So how much influence do you actually have in the story, how does that process work? Do they give you like a “this is how things need to end up”?

We have a lot of influence. Obviously we’re going off the original idea that the designers are giving us, you know Chris Metzen is a huge story guy, but we meet twice a week, sit down and he says, “hey guys this is what’s going to happen in the campaign” and you know, I sit and look at it from a directing standpoint, a film director and say ok well this won’t play, this won’t work, let’s try to make this meet, and they’ll be like, “eh – well I really want this”, and we’ll kinda play cards trying to figure out exactly the best way of telling this story is. We go off, with my team, cut together something, and then I present it to them make sure that they get - they’re a thumbs-up and then from there it’s just to the finish line.

LoA: Are there different teams in the cinematics?

Well, everybody works on everything, but at any one given time we have a group of people dedicated to a project. It might flow, but at that current time I might have half the department dedicated to my team, or the whole department if we’re in crunch mode, so it kind of goes up and down.

starcraft 2 - Nick Carpenter Interview

LoA: Do you feel this will continue in the future or do you really feel like you’ll move into a film?

NC: Well, that’s a tricky question because you get into a situation where we want to tell more of the story but we also need to keep content coming into the game, so currently our focus is game, telling the best gaming experience possible. The future might allow us to do other things, but currently, right now, we’re focused on making the best games we can.

LoA: If you could pick which franchise to make a film out of which one would you pick?

I think I like StarCraft a little bit more simply because I remember when I came off Frozen Throne, you know, we kinda took a break. We were talking about doing StarCraft and I’m like dude, I’m all over that simply because I love the used future aspect. I love WarCraft and fantasy, it’s amazing, but I’ve always been a little more partial to sci-fi.

LoA: What’s your favorite Blizzard game?

Oh my favorite Blizzard game – I’d have to say Lost Vikings II.

LoA: Would you be interested in doing more stuff for that franchise?

I think I hold that game in a special place, simply because it was the first game I worked on when I came here. You know – so it taught me a lot about the industry. But yeah, I’d love to revisit some of those old titles, absolutely; those characters are dear to all of us.

LoA: Is it possible for Blizzard to introduce another IP in the near future?

Oh… absolutely – we are always looking for something else.

LoA: It’s been ten years.

NC: We’ve got some interesting stuff cooking. But, yeah, it’s just one of those things, we try to utilize those licenses that we have, we don’t even think of them as licenses – they’re just what we’ve created and take good care of. But we’re always constantly thinking what if, how about this, how about this, what if this.

LoA: What about expanding – you talked about expanding your cinematics team. How big is too big?

NC: Well that’s a challenge, and that’s a good question. We’re focused on creating a great experience for our employees and great work, so we go through a very delicate hiring process to make sure that we’re getting the best people that we possibly can and that they mesh with our group – that’s key to us. Until we start feeling that we’re hitting the ceiling and it’s no longer a healthy environment, we’ll start pulling back the reigns. But currently, right now with the demand we’re seeing, we don’t really have plans on scaling back, we’ll keep hiring the best people we can and create the coolest stuff we possibly can. From a directing standpoint its awesome to finally be in a situation where we can tell the story I want to tell.

LoA: So are you excited for the new medium – the in-game vs. the pre-rendered?

NC: Oh I love it. It’s a huge departure from what I’m normally used to. But I’m all over it and I love it! It’s real-time so I get feedback immediately. Hey move the camera, oh that didn’t work. Move the lights – hey that didn’t work. I don’t get to find that stuff out till weeks after we do it in pre-rendered. Currently, right now, I’m the overall creative director for the department directing StarCraft, and I’m also the art director for the in-game cinematics, so I’m taxed.

LoA: Sounds like a very different experience.

Yeah it’s totally refreshing. The fans have a lot to look forward to – I think you’ll be impressed.

starcraft 2

This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) BlizzCon 2007 feature article.

starcraft legacy

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