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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Dustin Browder Keynote

Hey everybody!

So here is our story mode space. This is where you come in between missions to interact with characters, buy different technologies and make some choices about which mission you might want to take next. One of the critical components of this space, and I am not going to explain everything because you will get the chance to play it upstairs, is that you can click on all of these characters and have conversations with these characters and learn a lot more about the StarCraft universe.

“Mengsk pulled the fleet back to protect the dominion core worlds leaving the fringe-worlds to fend for them selves. It’s a nightmare.”

So, in that conversation Matt Horner and Jim Raynor talk about what’s going on in the universe about a Zerg invasion that’s happening, what the response of the Dominion is and they have a morbid discussion about what their response to the Zerg invasion ought to be as a small group of rebels fighting on the periphery, trying to deal with Mengsk and his Dominion.

In this space you can really get a lot closer and a lot more detail about the StarCraft universe then you ever could in any of our previous titles. If you are interested in the story you can really get a lot more details.

Now one of the first places you are probably going to go to when you come back to story-mode from a mission is going to be the Armory. What you can do in the Armory is you can purchase different types of technologies to upgrade your units. You can also sometimes buy whole new units. So I can come by here and buy a Perdition Turret which is a kind of flame thrower turret that only exists in the single player campaign.

You can use all the upgrades here to add to your forces, to upgrade units you like. If you thought the Medic is really awesome you can buy things like Medics healing faster or you can buy things like Medics having a area of effect heal. All kinds of stuff that would never really be balanced in a multiplayer setting is something we can do here in the solo play and just make the missions a little bit harder and make the game really a lot more fun. So you can sort of customize your forces here.

You can see how many tabs we have. We have all these kinds of options. And as the game goes on, as you get access to new technologies, I think we will be using most of these slots. There might be a few we aren’t using yet. We just used this entire screen to allow you to customize your forces. You can really make some interesting choices about the kinds of upgrades and technologies you want to take into battle. So you have gone to the Armory maybe.

Another place the players will often go to is the Cantina. In the Cantina there is lots of stuff you can do. This is a kind of story centered kind of place. On of the most important things about this place is this TV screen which gives you news reports. These news reports will kind of give you some examples of how Dominion space is reacting to your actions. What’s happening of a result of what you have done. So you will see a bunch of these. After each mission there is a new one you can see. You can sort of see how the rest of the universe is reacting to your activity.

You can also come in here and buy mercenaries. Now one of the things we really loved about WarCraft 3 are hero units. We still have some hero units in StarCraft 2. Characters like Jim Raynor and Tychus. They are on maps, but they only really exist on maps where it is appropriate for them to be. If there is a commando raid and you break into a Dominion Lab or taking nuclear weapons deep under an infested world to blow up a hive. Then Raynor and Tychus will show up with their armor and weapons to really deal some rough justice to the enemy. But if you are on an additional battle field where there are 16 Ultralisks running around and a bunch of Battle Cruisers then heroes don’t tend to make an appearance because they tend to be overrun and killed very quickly. Or you will end up hiding them in the back of your base which doesn’t feel very heroic.

So we have heroes but they tend to exist on hero specific maps, but we wanted to have some elite units that could appear on any map and you wouldn’t care if they got killed. So we got this idea of mercenaries. Where you can come in here and see units that you have access to and purchase these guys. They are really elite units, they do a ton of damage, they have a lot of additional health and if they get killed its cool, you don’t care. Right. Its fine, you can get more mercenaries back in the next mission. It’s just that you have access to the cavalry, these mercenaries, now. Every mission you can hire four of these guys to come join you in their fight and if they die that’s cool. Next mission you can hire four new guys that can help you out.

These guys will unlock as you progress throughout the campaign and I will say this: In the build you are playing right now they are not that awesome. We just did a bunch of buffs on these guys on Friday to try and make them even cooler. We got a bunch for the art on these guys and everything you are going to see here today is still really work in progress.

I’m just going to say to you that it will probably crash today. I don’t know what happens if you are going to try and load a game. Bad things may happen. So you are going to see some bugs, you are going to see some shadowing bugs. You’ll see some animation bugs. There is definitely a lot of work in progress. The balance of the mercenaries in the build you are playing is an example of some of the stuff that’s still work in progress.

Another location on the Hyperion that you might be visiting pretty frequently is the Lab. You can come here and see how your research is progressing. Now again, this is all sort of placeholder stuff. It’s a lot of placeholder stuff we tried and didn’t like. So now the way research is working is kind of like a quest log. So you go out and you’ll look for alien organisms that you have to find and collect. To look for Protoss relics that you’ll pick-up and take back to the lab and study them. Once you find enough of them you’ll unlock an upgrade.

There is not a lot of decisions to make on this screen, so we are not very happy with this interface right now. It’s very easy to miss some of the bonus items so then you really can’t complete the quest. Also not really good. So this whole screen is going to change. We are going to throw out this whole UI, we are going to change the mechanics for this completely so it really feels more like research.

So you can either make decisions before you go into a mission or you’re making some decisions maybe after. We want some decisions that are really more interesting to the player. We want a lot more fun upgrades. Like +1 weapon damage for infantry: boring! [Moans]. You know? It’s okay, it’s a powerful upgrade but it’s not that interesting. We want to have some more fun things in here like I don’t know: PSI disruptors. Maybe some of the more crazy technology you have seen in our previous games. Or hey! Crazy technology no-one has seen before put into this space making it a lot more interesting. You get the basic idea. When you play through the game there are things on the battlefield you can collect. If you collect them throughout multiple missions you have access to some kind of bonus or upgrades.

So once you’re done with the lab, the last place you’re probably going to go to is the bridge. In the bridge we’ve got access to our mission selection. From here you can choose which kind of mission you want to do next. Between the Armory and this, this is the heart and soul of our story mode environment. This is where you make a lot of the really core choices that make this real time strategy game a lot more interesting than our other real time strategy games that we’ve done. Because you can choose which types of missions you want to take.

Now we’ve got about 30 missions in the game and we’re not locking out a lot of missions for you. So you don’t get to this place where you make once choice and that closes off a big section of the game. For the most part, you can come back and absolutely choose to do any mission you’ve skipped over in the past. It may not be worth as much to you now; as you play through the game the rewards for the missions get bigger and bigger. So at a certain point you are kind of going back and doing a “green” or a “grey” quest, but you know there always are units that will unlock like Firebats. So even if you left one of these early missions until late in the game it still has value to you.

In addition, there are a few places where we do ask you to make a choice. A couple of characters will come up and they’ll say, “Hey, help me!”, “No, the heck with him, help me!” And you’ve got to make a choice about which one to help. We don’t do that very often. We only do it 2 or 3 or 4 times in the game. For the most part you can come back and do any of these missions at any point down the road.

There’s about, again this will vary as we go forward, 30 missions in the game but that may grow or shrink as we get closer to shipping. It’s about 19 or 20 mission critical path but that will also grow or shrink as we get closer to shipping and make more decisions. So you come to this space [the bridge] and you can sort of decide which you want to do. So here we’ve got Dr. Ariel Hanson and you can sort of listen to a pitch from her. Like, “I dunno, I dunno if I want your mission. Tell me more about your mission.”

“To any ship receiving this transmission: the Zerg are invading Agria. Dominion abandoned us here. We’re just a small farming colony. We’ve got to evacuate before we’re overrun. If you can hear this message, please help us.”

All right, so we got some colonists on the periphery. They’ve been abandoned by the Dominion and they want our help. That’s gonna pay us 60.000 credits and we got access to Firebats. As you can see the mission type is “Evacuate the colony.” So it’s probably going to be some defense going on here, maybe some escort. Okay, so I kind of understand what that mission is. Now I can click on this mission, it looks like Tychus has got a mission for us as well.

“The Moebius boys think there’s another artifact on a world called Monlyth. Supposedly there’s Protoss guarding it. Fanatics that stayed on after the rest of them bugged out. Now don’t get all sentimental, thinking these Protoss are buddies of yours, ‘cause they ain’t.”

All right, so we’ve got another mission here. This one’s from Tychus. On this one we’re gonna go find the alien artifact, right. The other one was defend the colonists against the Zerg, so that one’s a battle against Zerg and this is going to be a battle against Protoss, apparently. So depending on which race I want to fight next I might choose that. This one offers a little more cash than the other; another $20.000 to do this mission. But it’s a little bit dirtier, right? Like, it’s not quite as altruistic. I’m not going to save colonists, I’m coming here to steal what is probably an important relic to these Protoss and make off with it. And the technology is different as well. So I take this mission, my armorer, Swann, isn’t gonna prepare Firebats for me, he’s gonna prepare Mauraders for me. That’s a different kind of technology for me as well.

So you can come here and make the choice and as you go on in the campaign more choices will appear up here. It sort of blows out. As you go throughout the experience you get access to more and more choices. In some cases, more difficult choices in terms of what the rewards are and the kinds of technologies that you wanna get.

So that’s the basic look at story mode. You’ve got the characters. You’ve got the tech choices. You’ve got mercenaries. You’ve got research. You’ve got the Star Map, which gives you access to the kinds of missions you wanna choose. And all of this, we hope, is going to add up to an experience that really gives the player still what is fundamentally a real-time strategy game. You’re still coming in here and you’re going into the missions you’re playing these really fancy missions with lots of different mission mechanics.

We look at the kinds of missions that you get to choose today. We’ve got missions on lava worlds where you’re fighting against rising lava all the time [Mission 5a: Mining your own business]. We’ve got missions where you’re stealing relics from Protoss [Mission 4b: Name: Tooth and Nail]. We’ve got hold outs against the Zerg [Mission 3: Zero Hour]. Each one of these missions should hopefully feel like its own unique mini-game experience, not just another base battle. So it shouldn’t just be a choice of, “Hey, I wanna kill a Zerg base,” or, “Hey, I wanna kill a Protoss base.” Each mission should feel like its own custom experience, very different from skirmish, very different than the multiplayer experience, that really gives you a chance to try out some new mechanics and play a crazy little mini-game each time you sit down to play a mission.

So, that’s pretty much what we got.

Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003 posting news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Next-Gen MMO, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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