benefit you guys bring to the game, the passion and knowledge this
community brings has been a huge benefit working on the game. It's had
a huge influence and I think it has made the game a lot better.”
don't have specific examples, which I know you want and would love to
give them to you because you've certainly earned it. I don't have
specific examples of units you guys have come up with or a specific
post that I've read that I thought “Oh we need to put that in the
game!” and went ahead and did that. Really almost nothing in the work
we do here survives the development process – I don't ever come up with
an idea (well maybe rarely) – almost never, that goes right into the
game and that's it. I'll get an idea and I'll take it to a designer and
we'll talk about it and say “that's kind of cool, we'll see how we feel
about it tomorrow”. We go back the next day and say “you know what, I
like it but maybe we should change this from protoss to zerg and maybe
it should be plus armor instead of % damage lost”. It will slowly get
tuned and it goes through me talking with the designers, talking with
Rob Pardo, talking with the lore guys, the artists, the balance guys.
At that point it's changed so much that was it really my idea (laughs)?
I dunno... I guess, technically I said the words that started the whole
thing but it's not really my idea anymore – it has no relationship to
what I originally said at the beginning. At that point, it's evolved
into something that is really tight and good and hopefully we would
like in the game.
So there is definitely stuff you guys have
said that has spurred conversation – that have created things that have
gone into the game but there's no sort of one idea that we took right
off a post and put in the game. But the influences are real and are
really serious and have been extremely helpful. I've often said and
will continue to say that StarCraft II specifically has been extremely
fortunate to have you guys watching over it. The benefit you guys bring
to the game, the passion and knowledge this community brings has been a
huge benefit working on the game. It's had a huge influence and I think
it has made the game a lot better.
TL: I think you'll make a lot of nerds really happy with that.
DB: It's the way it is man!
To follow that up, what types of challenges do you face when trying to
balance the needs of the casual player versus the rage of hardcore
players like in the progaming community. You had mentioned the macro
mechanics being a big one.
DB: Sure that's definitely
a big one – it's a place where we feel we can definitely do better but
it then does break other systems. You know a great example I love
reading on Teamliquid and elsewhere were not so much that you guys were
missing clicks – some people said that and I didn't agree with that –
but that we were missing the difference between a macro player and a
micro player. That we were destroying the sense of style of the player.
I could be playing a micro game and you could be playing a macro game
with both the same race, and we are still playing a very different game
from one another. And when I saw that I was like “Ohh!” I was opening
my eyes like
“Thanks! THERE IT IS! That's great! That's genius! That's
exactly what we need to try to accomplish”.
yeah, it's always a challenge. It's very easy to make units and
abilities and missions and UI that appeals to the hardcore gamer. It's
also very easy to make those kind of decisions that appeal to the very
casual gamer. The real challenge is making it easy to learn and
difficult to master, which makes everybody happy. The casual gamer has
learned it easily, the hardcore guy is finding it very difficult to
master. And like I've said before, and you see this in World of
Warcraft all the time – there's not a hardcore gamer and a casual
gamer, there's a continuum. Casual gamers can and will become hardcore
gamers if you let them. If you create a game that's easy to learn, the
casual guy will come and sit down and play. And if you make it really
difficult to master, what you are allowing him to do is play week after
week, month after month and still learn something new. Then there's
always some reason for him to come back and so he'll become a hardcore
gamer over time. I can't tell you how many soccer moms I've raided with
– it's ridiculous. These people according to conventional gaming wisdom
would never be hardcore gamers, but they have better gear than I do!
And I'm the archetype of a hardcore gamer, buying 3 or 4 games a month
and staying up into the wee hours of the morning to play. Yet here are
the soccer moms out there with their purple gear and epic mounts.
what is that? I don't know but it's not the usual breakdown between
casual and hardcore. You've made a game where they are allowed to get
into it and enjoy it easily but they have a lot of trouble mastering it
and become us. So that is the goal, and that is always challenging.
That's when it's easy to come up with something for the casuals but
doesn't have any depth – so what's the point? It's very easy to come up
with something that has a lot of depth and nobody will understand. So
we definitely go back and forth, and that's one of the reasons it takes
us so damned long to make our games. Cause this stuff is hard – we're
smart guys but we're not geniuses, so we have to work at it and put a
lot of effort into it. So we just grind on it until we've got it to a
place we are happy with.
TL: Up until Blizzcon we had heard a
lot about the Queen and in previous interviews, yourself and other
members of the development team had said they found Zerg to be the be
pretty weak. Now when we got to Blizzcon we played and released an
article where we had said we found the Queen's macro mechanic to be
extremely powerful (perhaps too powerful). So a big discussion spurred
from that about why was the development team finding Zerg to be so weak
vs. our play test. Now obviously we only had a limited amount of time
with the build, but do you have any thoughts on that?
Well yeah, there's a couple of possibilities. One is that you guys may
not have had as much time to play with it as we did. Certainly the
Queen stuff is very obvious how powerful it can be – we've certainly
found specifically at tier 2, the Zerg lack legitimate ways to really
push an advantage. The Mutalisk has been running into a little bit more
trouble with stalkers than say it would against dragoons. Where using
Blink and Warp In are fundamentally game changing kinds of moments that
suddenly change the relationship between these old units. Certainly
having watched some of the games played at Blizzcon, there's a lot of
stuff which you guys aren't using yet which is only to be expected. You
haven't really had a chance to get your hands on it for that long – you
would be gods among men if you could sit down at this game and master
it in 3 days. I really hope you don't! (laughs) That would really suck
and we wouldn't have done our job if that was the case. Obviously you
guys are very skilled though so I do expect you to go through the cycle
stuff of understanding very very quickly. I would guess that maybe you
aren't seeing what we're seeing cause you haven't had enough time with
The other possibility of course is that we're wrong, and you
guys are correct. And because we haven't gone to beta yet, maybe we are
seeing the wrong thing. Now while you guys don't have enough time with
it, we have a lot of time but we have a very limited player pool. We've
expanded to the studio at large, but the studio at large is not all
playing with one another. The Diablo team is playing like crazy but
they are also playing mostly with each other. Cinematics is playing a
lot but they are mostly playing with Cinematics. We do get some cross
team play but not enough that would be necessary to really shake things
up and show us what's going on.
So it's very possible that you
are correct even with your limited play time. But simply, we have too
limited a player pool and we are not pushing it as much as maybe we
should. So who knows? We'll find out when we get to beta what the
reality of that stuff is. It doesn't really...well it matters to me
right now and we are going to keep working on it, but we've got plenty
of time for those kinds of adjustments.
When Starcraft 2 releases and the Battle.net ladder goes live will the
dev team be actively seeking to make tweaks to official maps to promote
racial balance? Or will they be trying to release standard maps and
then tailoring the races like that. For example if you look at some of
the classic maps that are still played where there is relative balance
from the game balance versus some modern progaming maps that are
designed with dramatic features to alter how they are played upon.
We're gonna choose a selection of map types – to start with we'll
probably start with some very limited set of maps that we feel are
pretty similar at a basic level and we'll test our balance on those.
We'll start releasing a wider set of map types probably – that may
change of course - during the beta to see what kind of maps are the
most fun. We will initially be tailoring the races a little bit more to
the maps rather than doing a lot of map stuff to affect the races. But
it will depend what is easiest and best for us, so we may change our
mind on that.
“I can't tell you how many
soccer moms I've raided with– it's ridiculous. These people according
to conventional gaming wisdom would never be hardcore gamers, but they
have better gear than I do!”
Like “wow this game would be
perfectly balanced if only we did this to the maps” (laughs). So yeah
we are definitely looking at making a standard set of maps that we riff
on in a lot of creative ways and then tailoring the balance like that.
really do feel like using map balance as a method of racial balance is
something that the community has quite correctly evolved because we
aren't doing a lot of patches. And so you guys have taken over the
balance for us in many ways by doing the map balance which I think is
glorious and I think you do a great job. But initially we won't be
doing that because we know we can patch and will be patching
frequently. So initially we'll be doing the balancing with the races
themselves. As time goes on we may evolve, I don't know right now. We
may evolve into a similar type of formula where we are doing more with
map balance but we may not. Certainly for the next few years with the
expansions we are going to be doing a lot of stuff with the races.
Are there any gameplay paradigms that you as a developer see in
Starcraft: Broodwar that, whether that be progaming, personal etc that
you are actively trying to prevent in Starcraft 2? For example sitting
back and turtling in TvP. Is there anything like that that you think
“that is not something we want to see”?
little broader than that, but yeah all types of play that are extremely
predictable where it's a given what you must do is what we are trying
to disrupt. Now we know that you guys are smart, and we know that you
guys in the community are looking for ways to win the easiest, fastest
and safest way possible. So we know those things are going to happen
anyways. We know that at some point there's going to be the ultimate
Zerg build versus the ultimate Protoss build and that's just what you
should do. But we're going to do everything you can to make it as
flexible as possible to do everything creatively on your feet at the
time. So you can't just become complacent and memorize a build and just
run with it.
It's going to be kind of a constant arms race.
We're going to be looking for ways to make it a flexible game where
there's always new decisions to be made and always creative problems
being presented to you. At the same time, the community is going to be
looking to break that – you guys are going to be looking for ways to
make just one build that always wins. Because that's what I always want
to do - always win.
So that's going to be the challenge for us,
and again it's not that we are trying to destroy anything specific to
the original Starcraft, but we are trying to limit anything that comes
up where its like “that's the obvious move.”
TL: OK, Blizzard
has recently been making moves into the world of E-Sports - you have a
dedicated E-Sports team now. With Starcraft 2, will you actually be
organizing and sponsoring SC2 events or will you be leaving that to 3rd
parties, either professional or in the community?
I think Bob [Editor's Note: Bob Colayco, Blizzard PR Manager for SC2
] is going to answer this one.
You know, we have an E-Sports team for a reason and I think you're
going to see some 3rd party stuff as well, but we definitely like to
get hands on with our own things. If you look at what we've done with
WoW Arena, we do have the tournament realms and we do regional finals
that we run and we sponsor. And then there's the grand finals which we
have at Blizzcon, so I think you're going to see a mix of things. I
can't say anything specific
I think the important
message for the community with this one would be, that we love the 3rd
party tournaments as well. We love watching those, going to them and
seeing them live etc. So we want to do stuff as well, and we want to
promote E-Sports overall.
“We are trying to
make this game as complete – like if nobody buys any other product,
this game needs to be awesome. Like if Blizzard gets hit by a meteor
tomorrow and we all die, at least Starcraft 2 was awesome – that's what
it needs to be.”
We want E-Sports to grow and grow and grow –
ideally with our game of course, but even in the wider world of
everybody's games. We think E-Sports is an important component of what
video games could become, and we want to take this opportunity with
Starcraft 2 to push E-Sports forward. But, we really hope that lots of
people out there see how fun it is and jump on board to make their own
tournaments for our games or whoever's games. As long as we have a lot
of E-Sports out there, we'll have more E-Sports players, more sites and
bigger sites. It's just good for the business overall and because we
put so much energy into it, it's good for us.
So we are really
hoping that E-Sports, in the States specifically and in Europe as well
takes off like it has in Korea where it's huge. We see that opportunity
like “wow this is so fun, there's no reason this couldn't be a
world-wide phenomenon” instead of one limited to a few places in the
What is your design philosophy with regards to expansions, and have you
hit a point where you have to say “OK we'll have to put this in the
expansion”. And then, how do you decide “this is something we can patch
in” versus “this deserves its own separate product”?
We haven't gotten to that point yet where we are designing stuff
exclusively for expansions, but we haven't been throwing anything out.
If we have something that doesn't fit right now but we think it's cool,
we'll ear mark that as “possible expansion”. Like at this point we're
going to be done with the original Starcraft 2 here, Wings of Liberty
when they rip it out of our cold dead hands. We are going to put every
ounce of energy into this release and then we'll worry about the
So if we have an awesome idea that will just not
squeeze in, sure, we'll earmark that for expansion. But we are always
watching to say “hey does that suddenly fit?” and if it fits, we'll put
it in the ship.
TL: You already touched on this next one but
with StarCraft II and the expansions are you designing it with a Global
scope for the multiplayer the way we consider StarCraft+Broodwar now?
Are there units that you think “that could work in the future, but we
can leave it for expansion”.
No we aren't leaving any intentional holes, is that what you are asking?
No we aren't doing anything where we think “there's a hole here but we
can fill it with the expansion”. We are trying to make this game
complete – like if nobody buys any other product, this game needs to be
awesome. Like if Blizzard gets hit by a meteor tomorrow and we all die,
at least StarCraft II was awesome – that's what it needs to be.
with the expansions there's just going to be more, and we are going to
tune and tweak the gameplay and give you some more strategic options,
but we are definitely looking at this like we are going to
intentionally leave blanks that can be filled later on. That would
probably be pretty lame (laughs). No, we are definitely thinking of
them as separate products, like “here is a great game. Here is ANOTHER
great game. It's like the other game, but great in its own right.”
Typically balance feedback has been given to developers by word of
mouth – typically through forums. Is the development team going to have
any sort of method by which high end/high ranking players can directly
give their feedback?
TL: Can you give us any more?
I don't know what we are exactly going to do, but we've already been in
discussion with some of the high ranking players around the world. We
talked to people at Blizzcon and I think we sent a professional build
overseas so some of the high ranking players could take a look at it
and I've gotten the feedback from them on that.
But we are
definitely going to be opening up...I don't know how we are exactly
going to do it, whether it be a special secret forum or if we'll do
email or what. We'll definitely be talking to the high ranking folks,
the guys who have traditionally been really great at our games and see
what they think.
TL: You've been asked before about HLTV type
functionally in StarCraft II and had noted that it was on a wishlist
but weren't sure that it would be there at launch. Given that Beta has
been pushed to 2010, is this something we can expect with the final
DB: I don't know at this point which
features for Battle.net are going to make the release. There's a
minimum set which I know is going to make it. Then obviously there's
going to be features we patch in, and ones we do with the expansions.
Some of that is still swirling around, like which ones make which cut
at which time. Those guys are working really hard to bring the best
possible feature set with the game launch, but there's definitely stuff
that's going to be put off to the expansions and patches.
One thing I wanted to say before we get off that topic - I really want
to emphasize that people are used to seeing Battle.net only get
overhauled with each product release, but there's going to be a
concerted effort to do more in between releases with patches.
“There's going to be some juicy stuff in between the actual product releases as we go forward.” -Bob Colayco
Again... I hate to bring the World of Warcraft analogy again but it is
pretty analogous to the World of Warcraft content patches. There's
going to be some juicy stuff in between the actual product releases as
we go forward.
We've seen what WoW has done for our
games and our community, and we have a pretty good history of patching
– not always what the community would want, but we try to do well. I
think WoW has shown us what we can accomplish and the value it has for
us, so we are trying to make the RTS team behave a little bit more like
that in terms of how we get content patches over time. We'll see how we
That's for Battle.net features.
TL: One last question here. I went to the community summit at Blizzcon and had a chance to ask Tony Hsu [EN: SC2 Producer]
this question – I wanted to hear your thoughts. A lot of people's jobs
and careers even outside of Blizzard rely on the success of Starcraft
2, does that immense pressure ever get to you? Do you ever have one of
those “....whoa...” moments?
Oh yeah it's
terrifying, no question. We are very aware of the importance of the
product to a lot of different people but also to gamers at large. We
know how much they are expecting of this product, how good they want it
to be etc. At a certain point though, you have to put the horse
blinders on and say “look here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to
make the best game that I can possibly make, for as many people as I
possibly can. But it's got to be about the game and about the product.
I'm not going to worry a ton today about a specific IGR (Internet Game
Room) or whatever”. But you do take it into consideration, and it is
absolutely terrifying to consider how many people need and want this
product to be great and how much pressure there is to make something
that is going to fulfill everyone's expectations.
TL: I have
to ask quickly about the beta – there had been hints that it would be
coming in the first few months of 2010. What types of numbers would we
be looking at for the first wave? And is there any sort of format for
how new players will be added later on (bulk waves, trickle in etc)?
I don't think I have the answer to that question, it would be a better
question for Chris Sigaty as he usually keeps that stuff. I also know
that those numbers will change over time and we will decide as the beta
goes forward how many people to invite based on how well we are doing
with our server load, player activity etc. It will be a little bit
organic – there isn't sort of a secret document somewhere that I can
read to you and say “Oh there's the whole plan!”. We're going to play
it a little bit by ear as we go.
TL: Thanks very much – I really appreciate you guys giving us all this time since I know you are all very busy.
We'll hey thanks a lot man, it's always a pleasure to talking to you
guys. You always have really great questions – it's just really fun
talking to Teamliquid specifically. Thanks for talking to us today.
TL: Thanks very much guys, I'll let you get back to work!