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StarCraft II: Building On The Beta
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StarCraft II: Building On The Beta

June 4, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

You were saying before the interview that you recently split the single- and multiplayer trunks, in terms of unit design and balance.

DB: Sure.

When did you do that, and how significant a change has it been?

DB: It was a couple [months] ago. We had made a change to multi, and it broke four missions, and I said, "We're splitting!" [laughs] It was like, "It's over! Oh my God! I can't believe we just did that!"

We tried to make it to the last possible moment. We probably actually went a couple moments past the last possible moment. We probably should have done it a couple days earlier.

We were pushing it, trying to get them as close as we could together, and we'll still roll [multiplayer] changes back into the campaign if we find that they're safe for the campaign.

Most of the fixes in that respect should hopefully be minor. But if we come up with some major changes to balance from multi, we're going to have some decisions to make, and it's going to be tough.

The danger there is that single-player is supposed to train you for multiplayer. But in practical terms, that never occurs.

DB: It never has.

Are you then trying to avoid creating a false impression for players that single-player will prepare them?

DB: Right. And yeah, we've had that feedback from people as well, especially Terran players who go online and are looking for their medics [which exist in StarCraft II's campaign but not its multiplayer mode]. For such a long time, they were a crutch in the solo campaign.

We had some balance problems. People were building nothing but marines and medics all the time. We've since addressed that issue. The medic has been a little bit nerfed for campaign, so you get more diversity in the campaign, which is almost as important to us as unit diversity in the multiplayer experience.

We want you trying different units, playing with different toys. People who would play nothing but campaign, and go to play online, would be like, "Where's my stuff?" We've been trying to work out language in the load screens and so on, to say, "Hey, you know, this is a little different."

It's definitely a challenge for us. We have ways to guide the players through the experience right from the launch screen. "Hey, you've just finished the campaign. Now you should play some challenges." You'll know that you need to learn some new things before you jump into the multiplayer experience. Then, "Hey, you've played some challenges? You should play versus AI. We've got some achievements. Come get the achievements. Come on, buddy. Come over here."

One of the problems that we have over a game like World of Warcraft is that WoW limits you by level cap. You're not going to blunder into Molten Core or Karazhan or whatever at level 15. You're just not. Those mechanics are way more complicated than you're ready for at level 15, so they control it through content. But we don't want to lock players out of multi just because they haven't finished the campaign. That would make a lot of people just very angry with us.

That means we have to try and control it through UI. We're going to use our achievement system as a carrot to pull players through the systems and hopefully get them to do them in an order that will make sense for them -- or something like an order that will make sense for them. It doesn't have to be exact. I just don't want them to play mission one, then jump into a one-on-one match, and then be angry, which could very easily happen.

I found it fascinating earlier when you mentioned unusual cases like the Zerg, for example, being very strong in Korea, but less strong in North America. How widespread is that kind of thing?

DB: That's the biggest example of that kind of thing. The other match-ups are more even across all the nationalities that we're tracking. So, how to deal with that? Right now, we're just not going to. It's too strange to make a fix based on that information.

What we need to do is go out there and use other tools now to discover what the differences are out there, and which one is real. Or are none of them real? And do we change nothing? That one is simply too strange to make a move on it. It's just terrifying, frankly. It's like, "Oh my God! What do we do? Better do nothing." Because any move you make could be horribly, horribly wrong.

So we're just going to watch and wait, let the communities exchange information, let the meta-game settle down in some places, and see what happens.

If we see things that are making the game more boring through less diversity, if we see rush problems, and if we see things we know are balance problems -- because we have played them and we cannot for the life of us figure out how to beat them, and we see other people not figuring out how to beat them -- then we'll deal with them. But that particular issue, we're going to have to let that one ride and see how it goes.

The challenge modes try explicitly to create situations that will mimic things people would need to know online. How did you approach designing those?

DB: Both as a tutorial, and as a game. We will say, "Look. You need to learn how to use our hotkeys. Here's out hotkey challenge. We've disabled the [on-screen] UI for this challenge. You need to learn some hotkeys if you're gonna beat this." Then you can beat it at higher and higher levels of difficulty. You can say, " I've learned enough. I'm moving on," or you can say, "I want to get the highest level because there's an achievement for that. I'm going to learn a lot of hotkeys in order to do this."

It's actually pretty fun mission. You just go nuts, kill as much stuff as you can, hitting hotkeys. It's just you destroying a whole map full of stuff with hotkeys as fast as you can, but it's challenging to keep up. There's a lot of adrenaline.

Some of the other ones, the "counter-challenges," are less of a game and more of a tutorial. We'll say, "You need to figure out which units need to go where, to counter these enemy forces."

Once you've figured it out, there's some micro involved in limiting casualties, but it's not as difficult or as rewarding to simply power through it, as it would be with a hotkey challenge. It's a mixture of the two. It's largely to learn the game, but it's got a component that allows you to push yourself and have fun while doing it, so it's not just learning.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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