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The Design of StarCraft II
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The Design of StarCraft II

October 26, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

For the multiplayer, I think you were the one who said you were being so stringent that whenever you add a new unit, you must remove an old one.

DB: Yup. Keeping it tight.

How frequent are the internal battles over whether a unit gets cut?

DB: Constantly. Constantly. And I have guys who tell me I should cut everything and start all over. And I have guys who say, "Don't you dare touch anything. It's perfect." It's definitely difficult. There are definitely the extremes on either end.

But there is a wide group of people in the middle who feel like, "Change some, but not too much." And then they'll argue about which ones are okay and which ones are not okay.

Ultimately, we have an advantage of having a very robust engine, a very strong data editing tool that allows us to try things out. It's very easy for the design team to put things into the game -- "Hey, I know the medic was your favorite unit. We're going to try the game without them. Play it, and see what you think."

Once you get over the sort of the initial "Oh my god!" emotion reaction and you start actually playing the experience, then it's very easy to prove or disprove to anyone whether your choices are good.

You come from a background of RTS design prior to your work at Blizzard. I tend to think of Blizzard as a fairly insular company. How much now do you look at what other developers are doing in this space?

DB: Oh, we look at them all the time. We're hardcore PC gamers. We play lots and lots of games made by lots and lots of developers. We try to look and analyze what is working for them in their game, or what is not working for them in their game. Is there anything about what they're doing that we can learn from, either what not to do or what to do? We're constantly looking at what other people are doing and trying to decide what's right for us and what makes sense for us.

At the end of the day, often, our games have their own style and personality, so we end up often speaking to our games and not just importing things willy-nilly from other games. But a lot of things that we've done have been inspired by things we've seen in other titles that we liked, but that we thought we could do better or that we thought we should do differently for our game in particular.

Are there any specific RTS games you've played recently that you've liked?

DB: I certainly found [Relic's Warhammer 40,000:] Dawn of War II to be interesting, and I learned a lot about RTSes by playing that game because they've done some interesting things.

Did you bring any of your experience at Westwood -- I guess it's EA LA -- to Blizzard?

DB: At the end of the day, no. Not a damn thing. [laughs]

At the end of the day, I learned nothing. I thought I was more prepared than I was when I came here, because I'd made RTS games at that point for five or six years. I thought, "Okay, I've got some chops here," but Blizzard is really its own beast.

Blizzard has its own style, and more importantly, Blizzard has a lot of institutional knowledge, which a lot of other studios don't have about making these games and making them great. At the end of the day, what I brought was a basic level of creativity, an understanding of how these games are built, and... Yeah, that's all I brought. [laughs] And hopefully, a positive team working attitude, right?

But I had to relearn kind of all the basics all over again, because the games that I'd made before were fundamentally not designed be an e-sport. They were not designed that way.

Command & Conquer, and so on?

DB: Yeah. It's not a focus of those games. Command & Conquer 3 tried to do that, and they're going in a different direction. While I was there, certainly we wanted to make good multiplayer games, but e-sports in Korea, to the level that it is at Blizzard, was not part of our focus. Certainly, the kind of context that we have in the Korean community at Blizzard goes way beyond anything we had at EA at that time.

There was just a lot of relearning to do, coming into Blizzard, to truly understand what StarCraft was all about.

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