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Shooting For The Stars: Blizzard's Sigaty On Developing StarCraft II
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Shooting For The Stars: Blizzard's Sigaty On Developing StarCraft II

August 18, 2009 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

To call Blizzard's upcoming PC real-time strategy game StarCraft II "anticipated" would be a bit of understatement. The game's release, over a decade after its wildly successful predecessor, begins next year with the debut of a base game, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, focusing on the Terran faction, followed by two expansion sets featuring the Protoss and Zerg.

Blizzard has demonstrated its customary exactitude in carefully preparing the game and its infrastructure to go out the door. This most recently manifested itself in a delay, thanks to stated difficulties getting the next generation of the service up and running concurrently with the game's launch.

Of course, that tech shift alone isn't even taking into account Blizzard's atypical polish-focused and lengthy development process.

To find out more about the story behind StarCraft II, Gamasutra recently sat down with the game's lead producer Chris Sigaty, and with him delved into the practices and pressures that have led to the game that will ship its first chapter in 2010.

You're the lead producer. When the game has been in development for this long, and the team is, I assume, quite large, how do you manage all that?

Chris Sigaty: The best way to summarize it is "project manager." My overall responsibility is to make sure the project is driving forward. That can be communication with other teams -- we have a lot more than just our team working on this.

We have a team that's working with, wehave cinematics, we've got audio, we've got platform technologies; [we're] trying to tie up those pieces and be the communication between all that, setting the schedule. We have to identify roadblocks and problems that are coming up in the future, to ensure we have a clear picture of where we're heading.

Has the scope changed at all as the project has grown and spent longer and longer in development? It's been a while.

CS: Ages. Yeah. It's changed a lot. I would say one of the biggest [changes] was how we set about what we wanted to do. It was really up in the air in the beginning. We said, "Okay, we definitely want to do StarCraft II. We're going to do it. Well, what's it going to be?"

In the multiplayer game,we were pretty confident out of the gate. We talked a lot. We wanted it to hearken [back] to the original. We wanted people to feel a sense of nostalgia when they got in there and played it. But I think that was it.

The other two things that we identified [were] single-player -- we want to step out from where we've been with WarCraft III and StarCraft before it -- and then online and the online experience. We wanted to throw out a lot of [].

So that's what we said, but what we meant, we didn't know. A lot of what has taken so much time for us is figuring out what exactly that is. The other thing that all throughout that really did have an impact was that World of Warcraft came about. The team was working hard on it while we were working on WarCraft III and [expansion pack] The Frozen Throne.

After those shipped, there was so much to do. We wanted to launch the game. It affected our team. There was a pretty significant impact on our team. I was pulled off the project for multiple months. Our entire art staff was. But we've always been that way. Blizzard has thrown our forces around as necessary for projects.

I would say really what you're talking about is the length of time we've had really figuring out what it is. Even this last year, even though we knew a lot more about what story mode is, we're still figuring out little details. Even as you guys are looking at it now, we're still changing things and tweaking. The last year has been really fruitful in us figuring [it out]: mercenary mechanics, tech purchases, research, how many items are highlightable, that sort of stuff. It's really come together over the last year.

We were watching a demo downstairs, and [lead designer] Dustin [Browder] was saying that even at this point, you're still weighing how the persistent quest mechanic will work.

CS: It's crazy to be showing you guys, with that being the case.

How do you afford to still have those kind of decisions not fully made? [N.B. At the time this interview was conducted, StarCraft II had not yet been officially delayed into 2010.]

CS: How do we afford not to? The bottom line is we got feedback on it, and people were very confused by it. We recently did a pretty big development-wide feedback session, where we sent out builds to a bunch of the development teams to play and give us feedback. That was one of the areas where we got a lot of [feedback like], "Well, I'm not really clear what this research is. Is this just information? Am I supposed to click stuff?"

We're doing a bunch of reaction to that right now. We've done some of it already. Mercenaries are much more unified with the look and feel of tech purchases. Research has not had that pass; we're doing that right now, [with the player] feeling more of a sense of choice rather than just getting information. So, I don't know how we can afford to do it, but we need to do it because that's our own internal feedback.

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Glen M
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Looks great! Keep it in the oven till you get it right!

Maurício Gomes
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No LAN...


Lars Kroll Kristensen
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Didn't the interviewer forget to ask the obvious glaring question to Blizzard ? Well. here it is then:

Dear Blizzard:Why did you decide to remove a key feature for your paying customers, namely LAN play ? Aren't you worried that this will just force players to wait around for the hacked version of the game ?

Doesn't it irk you a bit that there is already a petition with over 100.000 signatures, asking for inclusion of LAN play?

Mark Cooke
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@Lars Kroll Kristensen: I'm going to assume you haven't paid for Starcraft 2 yet. If you are upset about the lack of LAN functionality, don't buy the game when it is released. That's the only way you can send a specific message to them - with your wallet.

Tom Kammerer
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Personally I feel with the current power of all mobile computers, no LAN will be a huge downfall to this game. They say they want to push the product and how we are all connected via internet but they also say they have not even touched the new This is contradictory isnt it?

LAN is just an additional technology for making this product a multiplayer game, something that is becoming a necessity for all games.

I feel they just had to make some cuts and LAN got cut.

Blizzard being such a great company and how they value there reputation I doubt we will "never see LAN" for SC2. it just wont be out for launch. It was a cut that we will see in future updates.

David Roberts
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No LAN = No purchase.

Ben Sullivan
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I would have liked to hear more about how Blizzard feels it fits into the industry right now, particularly in regards to the RTS genre considered dying by many.

Like Stephen Dinehart mentioned, there are still other players in the strategy field such as Zynga, Relic, Gas Powered Games, etc. Blizzard appears to have a very insular and extremely introspective perspective of their place in our industry. But they must have opinions on the evolution of the RTS itself and new economic models such as free-to-play (Relic's own Company of Heroes Online, for example). I'd like to hear Blizzard comment on them.

As it is, they only ever seem to talk about themselves and what they're doing without any context from the modern gaming industry. I wonder if they've been working on this so long that when they finally launch they'll realize gamer's expectations are very different than they were 10 years ago.

John Nitsolas
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How quickly do you think a mod/patch/hack/whatever will come up that will add a LAN functionality on StarCraft II?

Bets are ON!

Maurício Gomes
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The no-LAN to me is obvious: It is a anti-piracy attempt, everyone will have to use to play, thus can verify the serial numbers and whatnot...

This obviously will result not only now in cracked versions to play SP pirated, but also people will make a hacked cracked version to play MP, and people that usually buy a legal copy to play MP, will use a pirated version to play MP on lan, maybe without buying a legal copy at all.

To me this no-LAN will prove to be a firing in their own foot.

Dirk Broenink
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It's good that they want to release a game that is finished. But I think the way they market it at the moment is not very smart. I think they are pissing off people by constantly pussing the date forward.

Maurício Gomes
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They never pushed the date forward... They only released a single date so far...

Dirk Broenink
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They never said any official release date no.. but, first they said "sometime at the end of 2008", later it was pushed forward to mid-2009 and only just recently it changed again.

Chris Remo
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I did bring Relic up in the interview and while Sigaty mentioned generally that lots of SC2 team members play other RTS games, he didn't seem that inclined to get into a discussion about how they relate to Blizzard games. That bit is on page 3.

There might be other people at Blizzard who are more interested in that topic, perhaps Browder.

James Gonzalez
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Can't wait to see where they take the Starcraft Universe!

Marc Sanders
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@ Tom

"I feel they just had to make some cuts and LAN got cut."

Nope. No way. For a company with the standards (and resources) of Blizzard, this is not anywhere close to the realm of possibility. This is an intentional move by Blizz at limiting piracy and pushing As a gamer, I think this is an atrocity. From a business perspective, it is probably smart. Blizzard is the only company that could get away with this, but they will. People can sign petitions all they want- with few exceptions, they will be standing in line at midnight releases. Besides that, I expect that the free service for is some sort of LAN equivalent (with online product verification, ofc).

It is interesting (although not altogether unexpected) that some of the design decisions are emphasizing ease of adoption for new players. It has worked well for them in the past, and I am interested to see how they balance the game for competitive play given this occasionally conflicting goal.

It still blows my mind that they are able to release an unfinished game, retool it completely over the course of a couple of years, charge people for it the whole time, and have happy customers. This was a great read, but what we really need are some interviews with their PR people!

Lars Kroll Kristensen
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@Mark Cooke: I am certainly going to wait for the starcraft II buy, untill they *do* add LAN support. Which I'm sure they *will* add, after something like six months, when they've succesfully pushed to enough customers, and want to pick up the stragglers, like me. At that time, I'm sure we'll see a press release from Blizzard along the lines of "in answer to our communitys wishes for LAN support blah blah blah..."

Marc Sanders is right on the money: No effing way this is a budgetary concern. Being a network programmer myself, I'll hazard the guess that the development version of SC II in fact IS running with LAN support. Further, I'd hazard the guess that removing the LAN support will be a major hassle for the devs.

But yes. there IS more that can be done, than just not buying it. People can keep pushing the issue in Blizzards face, at every opportunity. Which was my actual gripe: If Gamasutra wants to be taken seriously, they should also ask *critical* questions. I can't imagine that Chris Remo (interviewer) didn't know about the LAN controversy....

Chris Remo
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I'm certainly aware of the LAN controversy, but there have been countless articles and interviews addressing it already, and I really just felt that in a game that has been in development this long and with such a strong legacy, there were a whole lot of other interesting topics to discuss instead.