Hello, my name is Ian Bates, more commonly known as the Red Shirt Guy, and I am happy to say I am now Blizzplanet’s newest contributor! In the coming days, weeks, months etc I hope to provide a variety of, perhaps not news but “flavor” articles for the site. You can expect lots of speculative ideas on future content, as I love imagining expansions, zones, where the game could go. I’m also planning on doing an article about the current “faction bias” issue that has reemerged with patch 5.3.
I hope you will enjoy these future articles and that they will help make Blizzplanet a fun read for all fans of Blizzard’s products.
Heart of the Swarm™ is the first expansion set to Blizzard Entertainment’s sci-fi real time strategy game StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™. Heart of the Swarm continues the epic story from Wings of Liberty with an all-new campaign that focuses on Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades. New multiplayer units and maps will also be included in the expansion, as well as new features and upgrades to the Battle.net® online platform.
What features can we expect from the single-player campaign of Heart of the Swarm?
Heart of the Swarm’s campaign will include approximately 20 new missions. Players will be able to evolve their swarms with unique, campaign-only units and abilities, and this evolution will happen in an organic manner befitting of the expansion’s zerg theme. As an example, zerglings can be induced to evolve the ability to split into broodlings upon death. Further evolution can yield specialized sub-species of zerglings such as the swarmling, a variant that spawns three swarmlings per larva at an almost instantaneous rate instead of the standard two zerglings. The fearsome raptor is another evolutionary offshoot of the zergling that has more health and the ability to leap short distances to quickly close the gap on an enemy.
Another aspect of Heart of the Swarm that sets it apart from Wings of Liberty is that Kerrigan will play a major role in each of the battles as a powerful hero. Over the course of the campaign she gains in strength as well as new capabilities. Players will choose what abilities to enhance and powers to use from mission to mission.
Heart of the Swarm will also include a wider variety of locations, or sets, for players to explore between missions. These sets change dynamically as players complete missions, giving players a sense of an evolving world as Kerrigan makes her presence felt throughout the galaxy. Fully voiced cut scenes will round out the cinematic gaming experience in Heart of the Swarm’s campaign, while a new array of achievements will unlock in-game rewards such as portraits and decals.
Will there be any technical upgrades to the graphics engine?
We’ll be making some improvements to the graphics, including upgrades to the look and behavior of zerg creep, as well as some changes that allow our artists to better showcase the new types of planets that Kerrigan will explore in Heart of the Swarm. We still plan to keep the minimum hardware requirements the same for this expansion set as they were in Wings of Liberty.
What approach is the development team taking toward multiplayer in Heart of the Swarm?
We’re very pleased with the state of multiplayer in Wings of Liberty. Over the past year, the metagame has evolved as players are continuously developing new strategies and counters, while we’ve tried to make measured changes to game balance through patches. However, we recognize that there are still areas for improvement. Heart of the Swarm gives us an opportunity to address some of those needs through new units and abilities, which we’re typically not willing to make outside of an expansion as they can have a serious effect on current tournaments.
With Heart of the Swarm, we’ve tried to locate the needs of each race and address them with new units and abilities. We’re also trying to maintain — and if possible, enhance — the uniqueness of each race. The goal with everything we create for multiplayer Heart of the Swarm is to add new dimensions of strategy and gameplay to competitive StarCraft, while maintaining balance and avoiding redundancy with existing units.
What are some examples of new units, abilities, and game mechanics in multiplayer Heart of the Swarm?
First, it’s important to note that units and abilities are still very much subject to change. What we’re showing at BlizzCon only represents a snapshot of where multiplayer Heart of the Swarm currently stands, and these are just a few examples of the new units and abilities coming in Heart of the Swarm.
For the zerg, the new Swarm Host will serve as a ground-based siege unit. When burrowed, the Swarm Host will spawn melee units that slowly move in a stream toward enemy units or structures. This will allow the zerg to apply pressure on entrenched enemy positions. We’re also testing a new ability for the Ultralisk, called Burrow Assault, which will allow them to more easily get into the fight on a crowded battlefield. This activated ability will allow an Ultralisk to dive underground, quickly advance underneath units, and pop back up to attack enemies.
The protoss will field an interesting new unit called the Replicant. This unit has one ability — to turn itself into any non-massive unit within the protoss player’s line of sight on the map. This means protoss will have the ability to instantly clone units like terran Banshees and Siege Tanks, zerg Infestors, and more. The drawback is that Replicants are very expensive to create. On the abilities side, the protoss will get a new energy-based Arc Shield ability on the nexus that will temporarily add shield and building armor to any structure, as well as a weapon that functions in a similar way to a photon cannon, doing 20 light damage to enemies. This new ability will help protoss players fend off unexpected drops.
The terrans will have some new tricks as well. The Hellion will be given a new ability to transform into a walking battle mech. In this alternate form, Hellions will move slower, but gain health and deal higher damage in a shorter spray of flame. Battlecruisers will get a short speed-boost ability (Redline Reactor), which will be cooldown-based. This speed boost should help these terran capital ships with positioning and engaging in late-game battles.
We’re also testing a new gameplay mechanic for maps: destructible rock pillars that can create a blockade on a choke point. These will allow players to close off pathways, block themselves into expansion bases, or protect scouts holding position on an elevated Xel’Naga watch tower.
What changes will come to Battle.net with Heart of the Swarm?
Our primary focus will be on getting our new Battle.net initiative, Arcade, up and running at some point around the launch of Heart of the Swarm. The mapmaking and modding community around StarCraft II has published tens of thousands of custom maps using the StarCraft II editor. One of our goals with Arcade will be to upgrade the custom map UI to better showcase the wide variety of great new maps and mods to players who are looking for fun new gaming experiences. We want players to be able to more easily find, rate, and sort through all the great custom maps that have been created.
For map creators, we’re adding even more tools for them to create compelling custom games. These tools will include a cinematics editor for players to create their own cut scenes, and a 3D model importing tool which will allow artists to bring their own models into the game for use in custom maps. These are just a couple of the improvements and new features we’re developing to better support the map-making and machinima community in their quest to create fun and compelling content.
Arcade will serve as a foundation for the StarCraft Marketplace we’ve talked about before. Eventually, Battle.net will include a commerce element that will allow mapmakers to charge a fee for their work. While there will always be a wealth of free content, we believe that allowing content creators to profit from their work will foster an environment for more complex and higher-quality custom maps. Our ultimate hope is that the StarCraft Marketplace will function and thrive in a similar manner as mobile “app stores” — providing tons of free and premium content for players, and a limitless source of entertainment through StarCraft II and Battle.net.
We do have other Battle.net feature upgrades and improvements planned as well, and we’ll have more details on those at a later date.
Will Heart of the Swarm require players to own Wings of Liberty?
For the regions that have a standard box business model such as North America and Europe, yes, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty will be required in order to play the Heart of the Swarm expansion. For other regions that have alternative access models, we’ll provide details at a later date.
How much will Heart of the Swarm cost?
We typically don’t provide details about pricing until the game is closer to release. We do view Heart of the Swarm as an expansion set, so for the regions that have a standard box business model such as North America and Europe, we will price accordingly. For other regions that have alternative business models, we’ll provide details at a later date.
Will there be a console version of Heart of the Swarm?
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is being developed for Windows and Mac. We currently have no plans to bring StarCraft II to any console platform.
When is Heart of the Swarm coming out?
It’s too early to talk about a specific release date at this point in time. As with all Blizzard games, our ultimate goal is to provide the best possible experience for our players, and we will take as much time as is needed to ensure that Heart of the Swarm meets the expectations of our players, as well as our own high standards.
Will there be a beta test? When will it start? How can I apply for the beta?
Yes, we do intend to run a beta test for Heart of the Swarm multiplayer. However, we don’t yet have an estimated time frame for the beta test. As with all Blizzard games, if you wish to be considered for testing, you can opt in by going to www.battle.net and logging in to your Battle.net account. Go to Account Management, and click on Beta Profile Settings to begin the opt-in process.
The now legendary Red Shirt Guy is a WoW player who told Chris Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi during the Blizzcon 2010 Warcraft Quests & Lore Panel he had finished reading World of Warcraft: The Shattering by Christie Golden, and noticed the novel talks about the Ironforge’s New Council of Three composed of Muradin Bronzebeard, Moira Bronzebeard and Falstad Wildhammer. This council formed after King Magni’s sad fate turning to crystal after messing with a Ulduar relic.
Falstad was a character from the novel Warcraft: Day of the Dragon (2001) who helped Rhonin and Veressa. He survived and appeared in-game in World of Warcraft as Thane of Aerie Peak. He’s been an NPC through vanilla to Wrath of the Lich King expansion, but mysteriously he disappeared from Aerie Peak in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm beta.
The Red Shirt Guy brought this up and added in Cataclysm beta the developers added Kurdran Wildhammer as part of the Council of Three instead of Falstad Wildhammer (as the novel The Shattering mentioned).
Chris Metzen pondered: “Isn’t Falstad dead? From Day of the Dragon.”
The Developers responded they will fix this. Barely two weeks after BlizzCon 2010, the developers replaced Kurdran with Falstad Wildhammer in beta patch 13245. In addition, as a nod to this loyal Warcraft lore fan, the developers added a new NPC to the left of Falstad Wildhammer at the Ironforge throne room. The NPC is tagged as Wildhammer Fact Checker and wears a red shirt. A reference to the now famous Red Shirt Guy. By the way, he is well known in the warcraft lore fans community — hailing from ScrollsofLore.com Forums. He’s known as InsaneGuyofDoom.
After some feedback from certain trolls of the community, InsaneGuyofDoom (The Red Shirt Guy) responded with his own YouTube video:
G4TV cornered Jay Wilson at BlizzCon 2010 to discuss Diablo III gameplay mechanics and the Talisman which serves as a repository of Charms in order to solve Diablo II’s clutter of charms in the inventory. In Diablo III, charms won’t take inventory space. They are deposited into the Talisman’s slots.
Game Trailers interviewed Christian Lichtner (Diablo III Art Director) and Jason Bender (Diablo III Systems Designer) about the Demon Hunter’s ranged skills. You can find Blizzplanet’s BlizzCon 2010 Coverage here.
Blizzplanet staff members Eldorian, Miaari and Omacron attended BlizzCon 2010 to bring our loyal visitors exclusive coverage of Diablo III, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty content revealed at the event, and one-on-one interviews with the developers. Beneath you may find links to our coverage.
Rob Pardo was busy teasing the press at BlizzCon 2010 concerning the upcoming Blizzard Next-Gen MMO. Does he do it masterfully.
While no one’s Jedi trick worked to make him spill the beans, according to VG247, his lips opened to say we shouldn’t expect a game reveal until at least 2012. Ok-ok. It sounds like so far away, but in reality if you check out your calendar we are already scratching the beginning of November, and just a couple months away from 2011.
It’s been now two years and a half since that special moment when Mike Morhaime announced Diablo III in Paris during the Blizzard Worldwide Invitationals. I was there (thanks, Blizzard). Now we know all the five classes, and look forward to Diablo III Beta (which is sooner than you may think).
Before you know it, Blizzard will announce the Next-Gen MMO — and we can count on Rob Pardo, Paul Sams and Mike Morhaime to remind us, hint us, tease us, and enamore us with this new game, through their building expectations and awareness around it. In prelude to its official announcement.
Spawning straight from Blizzcon 2010, Gametrailers also got a five minutes video interview with Mike Morhaime — Blizzard Entertainment president — where he said:
“We’re working on a second MMO. We’re thinking of it as sort of Next-Generation MMO. It’s not a sequel to World of Warcraft. We want to do something a bit different. We’re not trying to replace World of Warcraft.
We think World of Warcraft can continue to co-exist with the new MMO. Some people might prefer the new one, some people might still prefer to keep playing World of Warcraft.
I think after doing World of Warcraft for the first time, we are so much smarter now. We have a lot of expertise that we didn’t have before, and I think we also want to sort of, you know, every massive multiplayer doesn’t have to be similar to the ones that exist today. We think that we can go in different directions, and still have a great massively multiplayer experience. We want to experiment with what that might look like.”
IRVINE, CA, Oct 26, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX News Network) — BlizzCon(R) 2010, Blizzard Entertainment’s two-day gaming festival celebrating the Warcraft(R), StarCraft(R), and Diablo(R) game universes and their global player communities, kicked off Friday, October 22, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Attendees of the sold-out show played the latest versions of Blizzard Entertainment(R) games, spoke with developers in discussion panels, witnessed live top-tier tournament competition, and met with fellow gamers and friends.
Jay Mohr returned to act as master of ceremonies for the community contests on Friday, including the popular dance and costume competitions, and the show closed Saturday evening with an epic concert featuring the duo that has been hailed by its own members as the greatest band in the world, Tenacious D — otherwise known as Jack Black and Kyle Gass. The band performed an earth-shattering set that included the debut of new and soon-to-be-legendary songs.
“We are proud to have hosted a truly entertaining and informative convention experience to all this year’s attendees, as well as those who joined us remotely from around the world,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “BlizzCon offers a great opportunity for us to meet our players and share the latest news about Blizzard games with them, and with a little help from Tenacious D, we’re sure this year’s show was one the audience will never forget.”
BlizzCon would not have been possible without the enthusiasm of Blizzard Entertainment gamers around the world and the generous support of the event’s sponsors, who provided demo-station hardware, peripherals, and more. This year’s platinum-level sponsors were ASUS, DIRECTV, Intel, and NVIDIA; the gold-level sponsors were Antec, Razer, Western Digital, SteelSeries, and Vasco.
For many months, fans of the Diablo III community had wondered what the fifth playable class could be. Some were pretty close, some were off, and some hit the nail … well, partially. Not long ago, Flux and Eldorian kept telling me their guess was the fifth class would be a ranged class like the hunter.
A year and a half later, the Demon Hunter was revealed at BlizzCon 2010. We were pretty close with our guesses, but the Diablo III Team decided to make this ranged fifth class with a twist: so far we haven’t seen the Demon Hunter with a bow, and while the crossbows have gun handles, they aren’t exactly pew-pew guns. Some of her devices are pretty cool like the Bola Shot, Fan of Knives, Grenades, Spike Trap, Molten Arrow, Multi-Shot, and the Entangling Shot.
It’s definitely not your normal Hunter archetype. It was designed with several ideas in mind with Sci-Fi and Fantasy pop culture references.
During a Diablo III panel, Jay Wilson acknowledged the idea of the Demon Hunter class came from Van Helsing, Star Wars and MacGyver.
Where did the idea for the Demon Hunter come from?
Jay Wilson: It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that we chose a ranged-weapon class as the fifth class; however we didn’t want to do something completely predictable. We liked the idea of a bounty hunter or a monster-hunter—someone who was a little bit more sinister and an aggressor—and so we came up with a character whose sole focus was, “I hate demons.” She’s had horrible things happen to her. She’s lost family, lost loved ones, and has dedicated her live to eradicating as many demons as she can by any means possible. As a character, she’s walked a lot of dark roads to gain the knowledge she needs to overcome her enemy.
With the demon hunter we found inspiration in characters like Van Helsing, Boba Fett, and even MacGyver. The demon hunter is very focused on conventional, man-made weaponry and gadgets. She dual-wields crossbows, and where one class might shoot of a magical fireball, the demon hunter would buy a device in the lower markets of Caldeum that would allow her to trap the essence of a demon and then release that essence in an explosive blast, not unlike a hand grenade. She has no qualms about using her enemies against themselves, dabbling in dark magic, and generally doing whatever it takes to destroy demons wherever they live.
Here is Blizzplanet’s round up on Blizzcon 2010 Diablo III Demon Hunter.