Pandygo crashes on Blizzplanet

Written by Andy Go on . Posted in BlizzPlanet Articles, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft News

Greetings everyone, my name is Andy “Pandy” Go, I am very happy and thrilled that I am now part of the Blizzplanet Team. I have always been a loyal fan to Blizzplanet ever since the website started back in 2003. I have always been a huge Blizzard fan from Starcraft to Diablo to Warcaft and now Hearthstone.

I hope to provide you all the in-depth information and latest news of all Blizzard Games, and mainly Hearthstone.

starcraft
What it means to be a true blizzard fan..

Review: Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4 - Homecoming

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Products News, Starcraft 2, StarCraft 2 News, Starcraft Manga Reviews

Tokyopop provided a copy of Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4 for review. I have been awaiting this volume for months with a lot of enthusiasm because Chris Metzen is the writer of one of the stories. It’s titled HOMECOMING. Basically it is a backstory tie-in with Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. We were invited to play the Single Player back on July 17, and fans could play the single player demo at Blizzcon 2009. Those who were able to may have experienced and interacted with Jim Raynor at the Joey Ray’s Bar in Mar Sara the first three missions.

The story in this manga starts with Jim Raynor crossing the streets of Mar Sara on his Vulture hovercraft unit and arrives to a ruined house. On the ground there’s a secret vault that opens up after he enters the password. It contained, within, a box that held his Marshall badge, a photo of the Heaven’s Devils with Tychus Findlay in it, the Heaven’s Devils insignia, and more importantly … his wedding ring. You can see all of this in our recent preview scans.

The story is very nicely told shifting from the present to the past, back and forth. We get to see flashes of Jim Raynor’s past with his pregnant wife, then back to the present as Raynor browses through his box of memories. The artwork is great, except for some inconsistencies between young Raynor and old Raynor. And a bit of a puzzle … why is Jim Raynor getting letters from the Confederates, instead of email or a video transmission? If Jim Raynor is a Marshall in the story, why is he not bald-shaved following military protocol like we met him in Starcraft. Oddities in continuity. Constructive criticism aside, let’s move on to the juicy highlights of this story.

SPOILER ALERT

There is a fast-forward scene with his child playing, and a conversation with his wife about their future together. The Confederates sent a letter to Jim Raynor to inform him that his child’s tests revealed some potential psi-abilities and want to train him off-world.

Jim Raynor opposed that decision, but his wife wanted the child to serve their people and sorta have a brighter future than his dad … did that stung his pride as a backwater Marshall. Shortly after the Confederates took the child off-world, Raynor was informed that his child tragically died in an accident. Year, right. Those dirty backstabbing treacherous lying @#$%. Overall, I enjoyed the short story … I see some interesting potential twists in the mind of a man of ideas: Chris Metzen. Did Jim Raynor’s child truly died? Did the Confederates secretly trained the child into a Ghost? If so, after the Arcturus built the Terran Dominion and took over the Ghost Program … what could have been of him?

I’m not sure if I am reading the signals correctly, but here is my take on this:

A. An unknown brand-new character

B. Agent Devon Starke (Ghost # 25876)

C. Is he among the Starcraft Ghost: Academy cadets?

C. Drools …. protoss/human hybrid: Gestalt Zero (former human)

I see some drama coming our way throughout the three episodes of StarCraft II. The manga story by Chris Metzen wraps up at the Joey Ray’s Bar where we see how the Mar Sara Marshal badge ends up strapped to the wall in-game, and a report by Kate Lockwell plays in the background. Here we see Raynor taking his first glass of alcohol, and we learn why he stubbornly persists on his fight against Arcturus and his Terran Dominion.

The story was too short, and could have explored other aspects of Jim Raynor’s past, such as a more in-depth view of the Heaven’s Devils team, and those outlaw stuff Raynor did in his young years prior to marrying. At least just a mention. I guess we will have to find out on April 6, 2010 when Pocket Books launches Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz.

A little backstory or mention of the Zerg invasion, the destruction of the infested Command Center that got him arrested by the Confederates, his liberation by Arcturus Mengsk and other stuff could have served to stretch the story a bit longer than what we got, but I am optimistic that Chris Metzen’s story had two specific goals: to see what the ghosts tormenting Jim Raynor are, and my personal interpretation of a possible plot hanging in the air … did the Confederates say the truth about Raynor’s son? Did he truly die? Will his son play an important role in the game, and later climax revealing out of nowhere X character is his son?

This manga doesn’t really answer any of those questions. As far as I read, Jim Raynor did never see a corpse. He simply read a letter saying so. He took it for granted to be true. And we know you should never trust a Confederate, as they manipulate the info for their own deceptive and secret agenda. Will this plot find out its way into any of the three episodes of Starcraft II? Or in a Starcraft II novel maybe? In a Starcraft: Ghost game? Hmm .. that’s worth a thought. More on the next Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4 stories as I read them. For now, get your hands on this final volume of the Starcraft: Frontline series, and if you can, collect the other four volumes. They have very nice plots that tie-in with the single player — as you can hear straight from Chris Metzen in our video interview.

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Books and Single Player Lore Synch

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Printed Media and Single Player Lore Integration

During my visit to the Blizzard Entertainment offices, I had the opportunity to be among the first few mortals beyond Blizzard developers to be able to play and experience the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player back on July 20, 2009.

In summary, it was simply awesome.  Not just as the player who enjoys RTS games in single-player mode and enjoys to go through the whole storyline, but also as the lore-nerd.  That sounds redundant, but I will explain how different both terms are.

The latter means much more than just the single player.  It is no secret to fans who have followed my news reports over the past seven years that I am a hardcore collector of all Blizzard games licensed products such as novels, mangas and most recently subscriber to the Starcraft comic book.

If you are among the fans who have never read a Starcraft novel or one of the Starcraft: Frontline manga you will play through the single player shrugging at many unknown characters, and wondering what certain objects or symbols’ meaning is.  You will probably overlook them, and discard them as you go through the missions.

However, if you are a lore-nerd such as me, who have read most of the Starcraft novels and manga, every step of yours through the missions will be filled with awe and drool.  You will be analyzing every bit of info and details in each mission and most importantly you will recognize them and understand how much work and passion the developers have put into making your printed media lore knowledge and the single player missions be seemlessly one and the same—integrated as one flowing continuity of the wholesome that comprehends the Starcraft universe.

No … I am not smoking anything, in fact I have never smoked or done any of the other stuff.  I’m sober, maybe drunk with excitement and euphoria, but nothing beyond that. Chris Metzen told me the single player stories and ideas came to be first. And from there, it branched out into the novels and manga.  This is a work of ten years of jammin’ ideas in the making integrating both media as time goes to make everyone’s experience much more rewarding.  I played through six missions of the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player at a room within Blizzard Entertainment campus in Irvine.  And my lore-nerd spider-sense tingled the whole ride.

That means, I stopped many times to look at something and after a quick glance I had a pay off.  I could recognize certain details from the stuff I have read in the novels and manga.

For example, in the very first encounter with Jim Raynor, you are in Mar Sara at the Joey Ray’s Bar.  On the bulletin board by the wall is a piece of newspaper pinned to it.  You can click the newspaper and the view zooms in to let you read the news report.  There you see a photo of Jim Raynor carrying an orphan girl through a fire.

The news says that the Terran Dominion forces are retreating from the fringe-worlds, recalled by Emperor Mengsk to protect the core-worlds.  All the fringe-worlds are abandoned without military support, risking to be overrun by the renewed zerg invasion.  Jim Raynor heard the call for help through a mayday transmission and decided to rescue all these people aboard the Hyperion.  Eight hundred civilians to be exact.  Where the heck did my lore-nerd spider sense tingled with that? Meteor Station. If you haven’t read the Starcraft mangas the location where this heroics took place will mean nothing to you—you will overlook it and move forward.

To us lore-nerds this will ring a bell.  Meteor Station [Kel-Morian Mining Post].  The only place to my knowledge that this place is ever mentioned is in the short story titled Last Call by manga-writer Grace Randolph.  This short story may be found in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 3.

In this story, a female singer who used to work in Tarsonis lived the horror of the Zerg invasion triggered by Mengsk when he ordered Sarah Kerrigan to bring the psi-emitter to Tarsonis to lure the zerg upon the throneworld of the Confederacy.

A zerg queen somehow implanted a parasite in her cheek, allowing her to live unharmed beyond the disfigured cheek.  Few years fast-forward, Starry now sings at Meteor Station in a remote fringe-world. She thinks she came here to forget her past, and the nightmares that torments her ever since.  However, she is unknowingly serving a purpose for Kerrigan the Queen of Blades. She is unaware of it.

The Kel-Morian Combine has unearthed a Xel’Naga artifact during an excavation drill.  The Terran Dominion has shown interest in purchasing this artifact from the Kel-Morian before they sell it to the black market.  For this matter, the Dominion sends an ambassador to meet a Kel-Morian ambassador at Meteor Station.

Separately, Starry beds both of them, unknowingly extracting critical and classified info from both men.  Shortly after, the Zerg ambushes both ambassadors and steal the artifact.  The Dominion found Starry, and questioned her about the zerg, the whereabouts of the artifact and the deaths of both ambassadors.  The Dominion asked the doctors if she was infested.  The scanners did not detect anything. An inner-voice is heard within Starry, and we see a closeup of her infested brain.  “We evolve. The next stage of evolution has been successful.”

Pretty nice story—apologies for spoiling it.  So now that you know the relevance of Meteor Station, when you get to play the single player and read on the bulletin board’s newspaper the name of this location—you will go: “Ohhhh … aha!”  It’s a priceless feeling.

Now you have to wonder.  If Starry returned to sing at Meteor Station, and Jim Raynor just rescued 800 citizens from there—- didn’t Raynor just get a zerg-parasited-spy aboard the Hyperion? One that allows Kerrigan to listen to anything said near her? Hmmm …

From the few missions I played, I didn’t get to see Starry aboard the Hyperion, but ultimately it still makes you wonder what has been her fate after the short story, and how that could mean a world of trouble to Jim Raynor if Kerrigan’s next zerg evolution can effectively cloak zerg parasites from Terran scanners, and spy upon the Dominion and Raynor’s Raiders with terran hosts that aren’t even aware they are serving as an instrument of remote espionage.

You can find Jim Raynor’s Marshal badge from his old days at the Mar Sara backwater pinned to the cantina wall.  You will interact a lot with Tychus Findlay and Jim Raynor who talk about their old days before he was a Marshal; and find out a lot about Raynor’s past in Warcraft Legends Vol. 5 which has a story about Raynor by Chris Metzen and in the upcoming Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils by writer William C. Dietz, [due December 1, 2009].

Most of your entire missions are about earning credits through mercenary jobs and to retrieve Xel’Naga artifacts.  All of these artifacts are a plot you will recognize from Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy by Christie Golden.  According to Chris Metzen, there is much more to the artifacts you are gathering throughout the campaign, intimately tied to the Xel’Naga’s return plot.

The next two missions set in Mar Sara do not offer much of a backstory lore reference from the licensed printed products, but once Captain Matt Horner arrives to extract Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay aboard the Hyperion, you will notice a few interesting lore bits implemented in the game from the novels and manga.

For instance, take a look at this up-to-date screenshot of the Hyperion’s Bridge.  And compare it with the bridge screenshot shown at Blizzcon 2007 [a couple of years ago].  The bridge got a complete graphic overhaul.  It looks more detailed now, and you will notice these black wolf heads on the Star Map console and all around the ceiling.

A fan that has never read any of the novels, will just see some meh-don’t-care-wolf heads there, and ignore them.  A lore-nerd like myself will simply drool and say: “OMG, I know what that means!!!”. And one memory will trigger another, and you will connect the lore references laid hidden here and there.

You know … the Hyperion battlecruiser used to belong to Arcturus Mengsk in the classic Starcraft (1998).  Jim Raynor stole it after Mengsk abandoned Sara Kerrigan to die to the Zerg and defected the Sons of Korhal. That’s an important backstory info—the Hyperion was formerly Mengsk’s.

The next dot comes in the shape of these black wolf heads in the Bridge.  If you have read Starcraft: I, Mengsk by writer Graham McNeill—you already know that this book is divided into three parts which explore three generations of Mengsk: Angus, Arcturus and Valerian.

From this book, you will learn that the Mengsk family’s crest is a … wolf insignia.  See how small a detail the developers integrated into the game? Considering they went through all the trouble of overhauling the bridge’s graphics to add this lore reference, it’s amazing.  Wait till you hear about other major stuff.

When you play through the mission Tooth and Nail set in the protoss shrine-world Monlyth, you will see these protoss are tagged as Tal’drim. To fans who never read the novels, that’s meaningless.  A random name.  Inconsequential. Let’s just pew-pew them to kingdom-come. Right?

To lore-nerd fans this will be a major loregasm.  Though these Tal’drim don’t offer any sign to be the same as the ones in Aiur, they are the same tribe. So we will have to find out throughout the three episodes of Starcraft II who these guys are and how they got there.  Monlyth has been abandoned for centuries, and we don’t know exactly how long these Tal’drim have been in Monlyth.  Whether they are the same people, who somehow managed to leave Aiur to reach this place, or not.  That’s vague, I know.  But you know very well, I will spill the beans—so you better not mind spoilers.

After the invasion of Aiur, the very first Protoss mission in Starcraft: Brood War is about Zeratul finding other Aiur protoss and to rally them toward the Warpgate to escape Aiur.  Remember that mission?  Jim Raynor and Fenix show up and stay behind to protect the Warpgate while you move your units toward the Warpgate.  Its destination is Shakuras.

Many protoss were able to escape and reached Shakuras. As they teleported to the other side, the warpgate’s coordinates to Shakuras were locked out to prevent any zerg from reaching Shakuras.  However, there were still many Protoss left behind in Aiur who still lived and survived.  Artanis knew about them, and still left them behind thinking it was much more important to ensure no zerg would follow them through the warpgate.

The surviving protoss defended themselves from the Zerg for the past years in a ruined Aiur, and their faith in the Khala remained strong.  But they kept losing more protoss to the zerg’s attacks day by day.  Other survivors however grew tired of fighting the zerg and their faith in the Khala was severed.  These felt anger and despair.  Their fellow protoss had abandoned them in Aiur, left to die and rot to the zerg.

The Tal’drim tribe felt again the memory of the day the Xel’Naga abandoned them, when they felt unworthy and blamed each other for that back then. They felt the same now that their fellow protoss abandoned them by closing the way to Shakuras.  The leader of the Tal’drim decided they would no longer believe in the Khala.  He rallied other surviving protoss to follow him to the forbidden caverns of Aiur to seek shelter and technology to survive the zerg.  The Tal’drim are in a mental state similar to that of the Aeon of Strife, before Khas thought them the Khala.

Those who did not follow the Tal’drim, remained in the jungles and other ruins for shelter, and fought bravely the zerg day by day. Their faith in the Khala stronger than ever. These renamed themselves the Shel’na Kry’ha [“Those who endure”].  While the Tal’drim renamed themselves to “The Forged”.

The Khala heretics [The Forged / Tal’drim] entered the forbidden caverns beneath Aiur, where the Xel’Naga chambers hide many secrets.  There they found a patron that protected them from the zerg.  Their patron was Dark Archon Ulrezaj [from the Enslavers: Dark Vengeance campaign mission in Starcraft: Brood War—you might remember the Schezar’s Scavengers too]

These Tal’drim known as the Forge use a drug named Sundrop, provided by Ulrezaj.  It inhibits the Khala, and blocks them from the other protoss tribes. You will learn a lot about the Tal’drim in Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy, book two: Shadow Hunters by Christie Golden.  You can watch my video interview with Christie [Book Revue, Huntington, New York – June 13] for further details on this trilogy.

Now we find the Tal’drim in the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player in a remote shrine-world that is not Aiur.  How did they get here?  Are they the Forged, or were they already in Monlyth unaware of what happened to the Forged in Aiur?  I asked Chris Metzen during my visit to Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarter [on July 20, 2009] if these Tal’drim are also influenced by Dark Archon Ulrezaj.  His response was kinda cryptic, and all he could really say is that we will see the Tal’drim’s motives play out throughout the single player and it sounded like we will keep seeing the Tal’drim throughout the next two episodes [Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void]—you can watch the video interview with Chris Metzen here.

Another reference from the Tokyopop manga merchandise can be seen throughout all the single player.  Blizzard introduced a new character named Reporter Kate Lockwell.  She reports for the UNN news network. She is neutral on her coverage of the Terran Dominion and rebel affairs.

Fans who do not read any of this merchandise stuff prior to the game will just see a random reporter with no backstory to her.  Lore-nerds however will be excited to see Kate Lockwell in the flesh integrated into the game each time you visit the Cantina Room to learn the latest news from the interactive TV screen. After any mission ends, you can head to the Cantina Room and click to the TV screen.  It will play a different news report by Kate Lockwell each time you complete a mission.  Very nice.

Kate Lockwell has been in a few of the manga short stories such as Newsworthy by manga-writer Grace Randolph [Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 2] and War-Torn by the same manga-writer [Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 3].



Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 1

Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 2

Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 3

In Newsworthy, she comes aboard a battlecruiser to report the lifestyle of the Dominion marines, and why other youth should join the marines.  They are portrayed as heroes who protect the Dominion core-worlds from alien threat (zerg and protoss).  However, she soon finds out that Emperor Mengsk and the Dominion forces are hiding many info from the news media and the public eye.  These past four years the Terran Dominion hasn’t gone offworld to fight the zerg nor the protoss.  All this time they have been salvaging Confederate properties and resources, disowning legally acquired property, and killing Terrans who spread bad propaganda against Mengsk, or that may have ties with the rebels who support Jim Raynor and Michael Liberty.

Reporter Kate Lockwell found out there were prisoners aboard the battlecruiser after a mission she was not allowed to partake for her news coverage, and to her shock a storage room was full of corpses from the mysterious mission the Dominion forces were sent to. She took video footage of this storage room, and was threatened by the captain to give up the CD copies to him, and shoots her.  At this point, Michael Liberty and his rebels aboard the battlecruiser and Lockwell gives him the video footage to report it through the clandestine communication channels.

In the meantime, Lockwell was rescued by the Dominion and continues reporting what the Dominion wishes her to report.  She pretends to be a neutral reporter, but in reality she knows the truth and knows what Jim Raynor and other rebels are doing is rightful.

In the manga short story War-Torn we learn about the telepath boy Colin Phash—son of Dominion senator Corbin Phash—who is hunted down by the Dominion after finding that the senator had held info about his son’s psionic potential.  Both are hunted down throughout the fringe-worlds.  The Senator asked the Umojan Protectorate Minister Jorgensen to offer asylum to him and his boy.  However, the boy is captured by the Dominion.  We see Reporter Kate Lockwell announcing his capture and revealing to the public what the Dominion wants the public to know (lies).

It’s awesome to see this character [Kate Lockwell] in the single player informing players of the current status after our missions. It feels like players are part of a breathing-universe while playing through the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player that integrates the licensed products and the game lore as one and the same strongly rooted in a flowing continuity.

We will see Colin Phash branch out into the upcoming Tokyopop manga Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 1 [January 1, 2010]. Metzen said during our interview there are no plans any time soon to include Colin Phash to the single player—however, between you and me, I smell the Starcraft: Ghost game rebirth somewhere in the depths of some triple-neosteel-plated vault within the Blizzard campus.

Regardless, two characters from the Starcraft: Ghost series will appear in the Single Player: the Terran Dominion ghost November Annabella Terra also known as Nova from Starcraft: Ghost Nova by Keith R.A. DeCandido. Also known as the main character of the postponed FPS game. She will make a cameo in one of the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player missions—according to Chris Metzen.

The other character from this series is Gabriel Tosh who appears onscreen in the Mission Briefing computer at the Hyperion’s Bridge Room.  He offers you a mercenary mission titled “Mining Your Own Business” in planet Redstone III—known as the lava world.  He seems to know his share of info about the Terran Guild Wars and the Kel-Morian Combine and Umojan Protectorate history from what I could read in the single player hands-on.

The lore-nerd spider-sense in me tingled wildly when I read the name of this guy.  The reason?  He is one of the students in the academy where Nova studied and will appear in the Tokyopop manga titled Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 1 [January 1, 2010].  We will see a younger self in this new manga series.  However, we will also find Gabriel Tosh in the upcoming Pocket Books novel titled Starcraft: Ghost Spectres [March 30, 2010].

We will learn a lot of backstory lore about Gabriel Tosh and Nova in these merchandise.  Additionally, Nova will appear in the Starcraft comic book published by Wildstorm Comics from famous-writer [of The Transformers] Simon Furman—as revealed during the San Diego Comic Con 2009, a few days ago.

During my interview with Chris Metzen a few weeks ago at the Blizzard campus, I asked him if the War Pigs mercenaries would be among the mercenaries we hire from Mr. Graven Hill at the Cantina Room in the Hyperion.  The War Pigs are the main characters of the Starcraft comic book by Wildstorm Comics.  Metzen said there are no plans to add them to Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, but they will have them in mind for any of the other two episodes [Heart of the Swarm or Legacy of the Void].  We will eventually see the War Pigs in the next episodes of the single player.

So keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to the comic book to absorb all the new lore these guys have to offer by no less than Simon Furman.  In the first arc, they are sent by Arcturus Mengsk to kill Jim Raynor.  They have been hunting him down through the Kropulu.  What I am wondering is if the zerg has started invading the fringe-worlds once more after four years of hiatus—could this mean the War Pigs will be surrounded like General Duke and be saved by the man they are sent to kill?

That would be very interesting if they join the rebels, and eventually show up in the single player.  Before wrapping up, for those who have missed it, Chris Metzen wrote a short story based on Jim Raynor which will be published in the upcoming Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4 [Sept 29, 2009] which may offer some extra backstory to digest in preparation for the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player.  Enough of my musings and speculations—the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is full of fun to play, but it gives me that extra kick in the brain to see all this lore from the novels, manga and comic book integrated into the core of the single player.  I LOVE YOU, BLIZZARD !!!

I also wish to thank Chris Metzen for inviting me to this single player event, as well as Shon Damron, CW, Karune, and Bob Colayco. I also wish to add it is amazing to see Robert Clotworthy back in action as our beloved voice of Jim Raynor. Thus, thanks to the Starcraft community who signed our petition to Blizzard to reconsider the reprisal of the voice that’s dear to us. Rock on!

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Chris Metzen Interview

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Products News, BlizzCon, BlizzCon 2009, BlizzPlanet Articles, Interviews, Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles, StarCraft 2 News

Hi, I am Medievaldragon. I had the opportunity to visit the Blizzard Entertainment Headquarters to play the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player campaign. I barely played through six missions, but I can tell you it was an AWESOME experience from a lore nerd point of view.

After hours playing the game, I asked Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s senior vice-president of Creative Design many questions about the single player and its relevance with the printed media such as the novels, manga and comic book. Here is our interview coverage with Chris Metzen.

TRANSCRIPThttp://www.blizzplanet.com/blog/comments/

Blizzard Quote:
I was playing the single player, and I saw something very interesting.  The mission is titled Tooth and Nail.  It is set in the protoss shrine-world Monlyth.  I noticed these protoss are the Tal’drim tribe, which is interesting because this is the name of the tribe in Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy by Christie Golden—shown in book two: Shadow Hunters.

The Tal’drim in this book are however known as The Forged.  They were among the protoss who were abandoned and left behind during the Invasion of Aiur.  Most of the protoss evacuated through the warpgate to reach Shakuras, and to avoid zerg from reaching Shakuras, they sealed the gateway leaving behind many protoss to their own fate.

Jim Raynor and Fenix stayed behind to make sure the Zerg wouldn’t reach the gateway.  These protoss survivors were deeply affected emotionally reliving their abandonment by the Xel’Naga, left behind to despair. Their faith in the Khala was affected, and they eventually rejected the sanctity of the Khala.

The Tal’drim survived thanks to a mysterious patron who protected them from the Zerg, deep in the forbidden caverns of Aiur.  This patron granted the Tal’drim known as The Forged a special drug named Sundrop which inhibits chemically the Khala without cutting off their head appendages.  In short, the Tal’drim are effectively blocked from their psychic commonality with the other protoss survivors in Aiur known as Those who endure, and are unable to read their thoughts.  It’s as if the Tal’drim had devolved to be like those protoss from before the Aeon of Strife, before the Khala was taught by Khas.

My question to you is, Are these other Tal’drim protoss in Monlyth also under the influence of Dark Archon Ulrezaj?

Metzen: How do I answer that.  Are the Tal’darim influenced by Ulrezaj?.  That’s still playing out.  To some degree it’s the same group, but the group might be larger than what you saw in SHADOW HUNTERS specifically.

In the first two missions set in Mar Sara, players have access to the Joey Ray’s Bar and can interact with Jim Raynor who is drinking.  There is a piece of newspaper attached to the bulletin board on the wall and you can interact with it. It says the Zerg has returned to invade the fringe-worlds and Emperor Arcturus has recalled the Terran Dominion forces to return to the core-worlds, leaving the fringe-worlds to fend on their own.

Jim Raynor heard the call for help, and rescued 800 civilians, including an orphan girl,  from a place known as Meteor Station – a Kelmorian Mining Post.  The lore fan-spider-sense in me tingled wildly. This is quite interesting, because the only place the fans have ever heard of this place: Meteor Station, was in the short story by Grace Randolph titled Last Call.  This short story is from the Starcraft: Frontline Volume 3 by Tokyopop.  Are we going to meet some of these characters, locations and plots from the mangas in the Single Player?

Metzen I think in general with the novels we’ve been doing recently with Christie Golden and definitely a lot of the manga short stories we’re definitely trying to season the game and the ancillary fiction with as much ideas, either in cross-pollinated ideas as possible.  We always like taking little hooks from one thing or another and translating into those different medium stories.  It just feels a little more contiguous ultimately.  It’s kind of interesting that these names and these ideas are being leveraged across the board.

So I think with the Tal’drim specifically there is definitely a tie there to the events happening in the Dark Templar trilogy but it’ll probably play itself out on a much longer basis.

I am definitely loving all these lore references found throughout my single player hands-on experience,  While in the Hyperion, I visited the Cantina Room and met Mr. Graven Hill, the local black market pirate.  Jim Raynor can hire different Kel-Morian mercenaries from him to help you in some of the tough missions for a price.  This really excites me for a very good reason.  I am a subscriber of the Starcraft comic book by Wildstorm comics.

As it stands, in the comic book, the War Pigs are working for the Terran Dominion, and they have been ordered to hunt down and kill Jim Raynor. However, I am guessing that at some point if the Terran Dominion abandons the War Pigs to the Zerg like they did with General Duke, and Sarah Kerrigan, and like they are doing in the present with the fringe-worlds, the War Pigs might take a turn and join the rebels as mercenaries. Are we going to eventually hire the War Pigs in Starcraft II at the Cantina?

Metzen: Interesting, will we meet the War Pigs in StarCraft 2?  I think, as it stands, they don’t make an appearance in Wings of Liberty specifically.  But we’ll keep it in mind, because we’ve been enjoying where the comic series has been going and there’s potentially a lot of rich characterization there so we’ll see down the road.

During my tour through Blizzard’s Starcraft II offices I saw on the wall a poster of various character animation portraits that will be used in the game’s interface. I saw Starcraft: Ghost’s Nova’s portrait.  I also saw Gabriel Tosh in the mission titled Mining Your Own Business set in the planet Redstone III.  I am psyched to see this character too because he is going to appear in the Pocket Books novel titled STARCRAFT: GHOST SPECTRES by Keith DeCandido on sale March 30, 2010 and he also appears in the Tokyopop manga titled STARCRAFT: GHOST ACADEMY on sale January 1, 2010.

I also saw Reporter Kate Lockwell in the single player, a character that also appears in the STARCRAFT: FRONTLINE manga.  Are we going to see Nova and Colin Phash (the telepath boy)? This boy was introduced in the short story War-Torn in the Starcraft: Frontline Volume 2 and 3, and has been confirmed to appear in Starcraft: Ghost Academy too.  Since we are seeing Gabriel Tosh from that manga in the game, are we going to see Colin Phash in the single player?

Metzen: I’m not as sure about Phash making an appearance in the game specifically but I think we’ve said before Nova’s certainly a character that is near and dear to us and we’ve got plans for her [in] the Ghost Academy manga and the upcoming novels Spectres as well.  So, yea, we’ve worked a little cameo of Nova in but I’d had to give away exactly how she plays into the story. It’s pretty cool [and] it’ll feel worthy for those fans of the character that never actually got to play her in her own title.

During my single player hands on experience I read in a piece of newspaper the name Michael Liberty.  That really intrigued me.  This is the same reporter who debuted in the Pocket Books novel Starcraft: Liberty by Jeff Grubb.  He has made a few cameos in Starcraft: Queen of Blades by Aaron Rosenberg and in the Tokyopop manga short story titled Newsworthy by Grace Randolph in the Starcraft: Frontline Volume 2.  Are we going to see Michael Liberty reporting news from the rebels’ side through clandestine broadcasts on the TV screen at the Cantina Room?

Metzen: I think Liberty actually does not show up in this campaign.  We had talked about it a lot earlier on but because he’s so extreme in his views where he’s so anti-government that we needed leverage, we kind of needed to create a new reporter that was a little more even in the kind of stories that she could report.  But I still hold out hope that we’re going to get Liberty in because he’s potentially a really cool character to use.

There is an interesting concept played out through the short story Do No Harm by Josh Elder.  A Terran Dominion scientist has been capturing Protoss and experimenting with their DNA to create a Human-Protoss hybrid prototype.  There have been other previous prototypes, but this one in particular is pretty strong and uses Ghost technology to stealth. The Terran Dominion plans to create an army of these hybrids to protect the core-worlds.  Are we going to see a follow-up of this play out into the Single Player? This guy is pretty much the Rexxar of Starcraft.

Metzen: I think that one, for now, is kind more of a one-off.  I don’t think there’s any plans to follow up on that theme anytime soon in terms of the game itself, in terms of the game story.  But I dig that story a lot that I think it’s more of just a really cool story by itself.

I remember you said in Blizzcon 2007, there were plans to add a planet encyclopedia into the Star Map where players could have the opportunity to learn some lore about each planet. Is that still the plan?  I didn’t get to see much of that in the single player build I just played.

Based on the build that you guys have been playing today we’ve pulled back a degree of that.  Most of that was a design decision, a UI decision, [where] we wanted the interface to be as clean as possible.  The current iteration is very much the one we’re running with barring some minor changes that could happen, but I think we’ve pulled a little bit more away from the grinding Encyclopedia Galactica idea that you were talking about.  It just didn’t take the shape that we were anticipating.

In this instance I think “less is more”.  We’ve still got a lot of lore based on a lot of the planets and their histories and their unique environments and things like that so a lot of that does inform the story and then per some of the blue screens or whatever there’s some data there that gives you a sense of the context of each planet but it probably won’t take as grand a shape as some of the things we were chasing earlier on.

In Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy, book three: Twilight we learn that Zeratul has been moving from place to place these past four years using the Xel’Naga gateways that are revealed to be spread all across the galaxy. Jake Ramsey and Zamara were stranded in a snowy planet for example, before entering the coordinates to reach a tropical planet where they find Zeratul’s ship.  Is it me, or are there breadcrumbs in the novel hinting that we will explore other star systems in the single player by using these Xel’Naga gateways?

Metzen: I think at some point it’s reasonable that we’ll use those Xel’Naga gates and explore the unexplored.  It’s hard to answer in terms of giving anything away for StarCraft II but we wouldn’t have built them [laughter] if we weren’t going to use them.

That’s interesting.  You know, I don’t know off the top of my head.  I don’t think I’m the guy to answer that one. [coughs, I’m not authorized to …]

The Snipers?

Metzen: Right.

[we all laugh—this is a joke between Metzen and I referenced back to our previous video interview during the New York Comic Con 2009 (February) when I asked him about Gilneas. They have big plans for Gilneas, but he couldn’t say anymore because there were snipers on the roof that you know … would shoot him. As he said this, he was looking at the roof—the snipers referring to Blizzard Public Relations Department.]

What has been your personal experience trying to cram up all this lore from the novels, the manga and the comic book into the single player as one solid integrated continuity of the Starcraft universe? We know that you had to split the Starcraft II single player game into three separate episodes: Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void to fit all the lore.

Metzen: Right.  How do I respond.  I think we haven’t gone out of our way to cram all the lore from comics and all that stuff into the game.  Really we’ve been building the game’s story for so long that things like the Dark Templar trilogy or all the things you see in the manga really have just kind of organically spun out of what we were building anyway.

The trick to StarCraft II now being in these three installments is that there was a lot to play with in the first place.  We had 10 years worth of expectations and stories we wanted to chase and arcs of these characters that we wanted to explore.  So we came packing with a lot of ideas, and the idea of separating each of these chapters into their own boxed product essentially allows us to really round out each race’s stories without having to throw a bunch of stuff out.

We actually get to say everything [that] we set out to say in terms of story and we’re very proud of how Wings of Liberty has come off and I love the ending.  I can’t talk about it, obviously, but I really love Raynor’s arc and I feel everything [that] we wanted to engineer into his great journey – in his way, his redemption for what he feels are past mistakes – I really feel that we got all that in there.

While it might start on a bit of a lower note, this is not necessarily a super human guy at the height of his game at the start of the game, he definitely finds his feet very quickly and becomes the man we need and expect him to be over the process of Wings of Liberty.  It’s just been very cool to see all that come together and have all the other Ancillary lore really inform the story as its taking shape as well.

Special thanks to Chris Metzen, Shon Damron, CW, Karune and Bob Colayco for inviting me to this single player press event.  And to Troglodyte from StarcraftWire.net for compiling the transcript.

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 20

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

This screenshot is from the mission “The Evacuation of Aria”.  In this map you need to escort 50 civilians all along the road toward the hangar site—seen in this screenshot—where you can see three Hercules-class dropships awaiting civilians for extraction.  The zerg is overrunning the colony and needs to be taken offworld asap.  You will see a cargo truck appear near your base approximately every 5 minutes or less.  Dr. Hanson will contact you to inform you their next truck is ready to be escorted to the hangar.  Each truck contains 10 civilians.  If the truck is destroyed, 10 civilians will spawn where the truck was destroyed.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 19

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Here you can see the dig site where the Terran Dominion forces are attempting to extract a Xel’Naga artifact offworld.  The sights are amazing.  It shows how much detail Blizzard is putting to make our single player experience be worth the wait. This image is from mission # 2: The Dig.  It’s located in Mar Sara.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 18

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

I assume the object the Raynor’s Raiders are reaching in this screenshot is one of the Protoss relics needed to complete 12/12 relics for the Xeno Research Project that grants you gain + 1 armor to all vehicles.  This bonus mission objective can be obtained aboard the Hyperion at the Lab Room.  This screenshot is from planet Monlyth for the mission: “Tooth and Nail”.  The enemy in this mission is the Protoss Tal’drim tribe.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 17

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

In the mission: “Tooth and Nail”, you arrive to the Protoss shrine-world Monlyth.  It was abandoned centuries ago, but the Tal’drim tribe is here for mysterious reasons.  Your mission is to retrieve a Xel’Naga artifact guarded by them.  For the lore-nerds out there, the Tal’drim tribe is the same shown in Starcraft: The Dark Templar, Shadow Hunters by Christie Golden.  Except those were left behind during the Invasion of Aiur and have survived by allying with a patron who turned out to be Dark Archon Ulrezaj.  He gave them a drug named Sundrop which inhibits the Khala artificially without cutting their head-appendages.  Those other Tal’drim named themselves The Forged.

I asked Chris Metzen during our video interview on July 20, 2009—see the video on the main article page—if these Tal’drim are also under the influence of Dark Archon Ulrezaj—he didn’t confirm nor deny. He will let us find out as we play the single player.  However, here I present to you Exhibit A … this screenshot will show you what I saw while playing the single player myself at Blizzard’s headquarters.  These are supposed to be Aiur protoss—yet here you can see they are using a Stalker—which is Dark Templar technology.  Aiur protoss are supposed to use Dragoons.  So in a sense this basically answered my question partially.  The only way these Tal’drim could use Dark Templar technology is if Dark Archon Ulrezaj provided it. Rest my case.

For example, in the novel we are told that The Forged are stranded in Aiur, and have Ulrezaj as their patron—however, we find out later on that Zamara’s assassination attempt before Jake Ramsey found her in the Xel’Naga temple was from Ulrezaj’s lackeys—but if the Forged were supposedly stranded in Aiur, who were these protoss who chased her in the first place?  Probably these guys. (report by detective Medievaldragon—this is assumption of course)

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 16

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Here you can see the lava in all its awesome splendor all the way up to where the yellow minerals used to be.  All buildings and units get intense hot—we have never seen this special effects in any RTS game where even the hue of units and buildings gets an intense reddish aura about it.  Sheesh, I can even feel the sweat running down by looking at that.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 15

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

The single player mission “Mining Your Own Business” in planet Redstone III is one of the most fun maps due to the special effects and mechanics.  You must mine a certain amount of minerals while getting assaulted by the zerg and evading the lava.  This is a lava world.  Send your SCVs to mine from the yellow minerals down the ramp.  However, when the Adjutant warns everyone to leave the perimeter and to move up the ramp—you should do so immediately. You have a a few seconds to do so.

The lava can be seen far down below the canyon, however—the lava will rise in real-time all the way up to the ramp. Anything caught by the lava is instantly destroyed.  Wait until the lava subsides back down the canyon.  On another note, this mission is given by Gabriel Tosh—who we will find in the upcoming Starcraft: Ghost Spectres (Pocket Books, 2010) and Starcraft: Ghost Academy (Tokyopop, 2010).

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 14

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Here we have a close-up look at the Cantina Room’s Juke Box and TV screen.  In here Kate Lockwell is reporting on the Zerg invasion onto the Dominion fringe-worlds.  You can see the boots hanging on the cables to the left, and on the right—I can see Jim Raynor’s Marshal badge from his days before the Zerg invasion to Mar Sara a few years ago.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 13

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

This is the Cantina Room within the Hyperion battlecruiser.  There are many things here to sink your eye-teeth in.  First, the guy on the far left is Mr. Graven Hill (or Mr. Hill).  He is the guy you should visit often to hire Mercenaries. When click on his laptop, you get access to the Mercenary Interface which lists all the available mercenary types.  You can interact with the Juke Box strapped to the ceiling-computer to play Country music.  You can also click on the TV screen to watch the latest report from Kate Lockwell.  You should watch the TV often because after every mission she talks about the current status after your actions, or things the Terran Dominion responded to your actions or plans to do.  A lore source for lore fans—so it’s optional.

Something funny about the TV screen is the note taped onto it, which says: “Don’t shoot the screen.”—probably a reminder so that Raynor doesn’t shoot at the screen when Arcturus Mengsk is talking on the news.  There are two nice easter eggs in the Cantina Room: The holographic dancer on the top dances exactly like the World of Warcraft night elf female (which in turn is a dance from french singer Aliz

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 12

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

In this image, you can see the Lab Room inside the Hyperion.  You are greeted by the young scientist Steltman.  At first glance you wouldn’t notice, but the object floating in front of Jim Raynor seems to be one of the Xel’Naga artifacts.  The Lab is an alternate source for bonus upgrades only available through the Xeno Research Project.  You must click on the console in front of Jim Raynor to access this interface.  There you can see available projects which give you bonus mission objectives such as retrieving 12 protoss relics from any of the missions to obtain +1 armor to all your vehicles; or kill 4 Brutalisk (Zerg mutants) to gain bonus weapon damage; or 4 chrysalis to gain infantry +1 damage.  This is a place you would want to check out as soon as it becomes available through you somewhere after mission # 3: Zero Hour.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 10

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

After the third mission (Zero Hour) and its posterior cinematics end, your view is shift inside the Hyperior at the Bridge.  You can see Captain Matt Horder, Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay in this screenshot.  One thing to note in this screenshot is how much the bridge has evolved from what we saw at Blizzcon 2007.  This is a totally overhauled design, and those lore-nerds out there like myself will notice a lore reference in the new design of the Hyperion.  For example, the Hyperion was formerly owned by Arcturus Mengsk, right?  So it should still have decoration suited for its former owner, right?

In Starcraft: I, Mengsk, it is mentioned that the Mengsk family’s emblem is the Wolf.  You can see throughout the Hyperion’s bridge many wolf heads on the decoration across the walls near the ceiling.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 8

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

This is the third mission in the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player.  It’s titled Zero Hour.  You must hold out 20 minutes until extraction.  In the meantime, the Zerg has arrived lured somehow by the Xel’Naga artifact.  At the end of the 20 minutes, Captain Matt Horner arrives aboard the Hyperion battlecruiser to rescue Jim Raynor, Tychus Findlay and the Raynor’s Raiders.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 6

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

In this screenshot, the Dominion amasses near a holographic projector, Raynor appears onscreen through the commlink UI and says no problem boys, and sends reinforcements.  Three pods fall from the sky into the ground, and more Raynor’s Raiders marines pour out to annihilate the Dominion forces. Odd thing … there was no ghost to recall these pods.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 3

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

The Raynor’s Raiders were sent to the Protoss Shrineworld known as Monlyth. It had been abandoned for centuries, but the Tal’drim tribe seems to have a mysterious interest in the place.  You are there to retrieve a Xel’Naga artifact and some protoss relics.  In this screenshot you can see at the center the Xel’Naga artifact.  As soon as you get near it, protective walls surround the artifact, and you are ambushed by four enormous zealot statues that shoot two lasers from their eyes. The mission is titled Tooth and Nail.  Watch the Single Player video for this scene—the link is on the main gallery page.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 1

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

In this screenshot you can see the three Firebats given to you at the beginning of the mission: “The Evacuation of Agria” escorting a cargo truck.  The vehicle is carrying citizens of fringe-world Agria which you need to escort along the road toward the hangar, where Hercules-class dropships await for offworld extraction.

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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Dustin Browder Keynote

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles

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.

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: The Lab Room

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles

XENO RESEARCH PROJECT

Once you leave Mar Sara and come aboard the Hyperion, you will have access to the Lab Room.  Simply click on the exit door. A drop-down menu pops with the name of each room.  Choose the Lab Room to enter it.  A young scientist by the name Stetman will talk to Jim Raynor to inform him of the latest research discoveries.

Click on the Xeno Research Project console.  Three options will be available in the first missions of the single player, but it is likely more will be added as you progress through the missions.  Dustin Browder said what we saw at this hands-on event, will be overhauled.  They are still experimenting with the UI and the possible researches and side-quests involved with this new concept.  Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty will have approximately 30-35 Terran missions.

The Xeno Research Project allows you to gain bonus upgrades (in the single player only) in addition to those you already get through the Armory Room.  The Lab room offers optional upgrades that you can obtain if you decide to engage certain special bonus objectives in any of the missions you choose to play in.

Zerg Evolution Research

Studying zerg rapid evolution could lead to a new understanding of zerg weakness.

Find 4 zerg chrysalis – complete 0/4

White Napalm: All infantry gain +1 weapon damage

SHIELD PROTOSS RESEARCH

A study of Protoss energy fields could lead to improved Terran defenses.

Find 12 Protoss relics: Complete 0/12

Kinetic Fields: All vehicles gain + 1 armor.

ZERG MUTATION RESEARCH

The bizarre and rare zerg “super-mutants” warrant additional study.

Kill 2 Brutalisks: Complete 0/2

Viral munitions: All vehicles gain bonus weapon damage.

As you can see from the first three optional Xeno Research missions, these upgrades could be very useful in the middle and final maps of the Wings of Liberty campaign.  They become a serious challenge to hardcore players who decide to replay the single player in hard mode and insane mode.  Or to those who wish to earn one of the tough achievement system’s challenges.

The Brutalisks are very hard to kill. You may need to pump out a lot of marines, and medics in addition to any unit you may have unlocked.  Gameplay will vary depending on which units you have unlocked by choosing any of the missions.  You see, in contrast with the original Starcraft where the story was linear, in Wings of Liberty you decide which mission to play.  The beginning and end of the entire campaign are set in stone, but all the other maps in between are yours to decide which order they are played through.

Would you want Firebats to tackle the Brutalisk? You go for the Excavation of Aria to unlock Firebats to be trained in your barracks.  Do you want Marauders to safely range your attacks on the Brutalisk while your marines are used as meat-shield?  Do the Tooth and Nail mission to unlock them. And so on.

Dustin Browder wants the Xeno Research upgrade options to be more rewarding. More unique.  Not just give you + 1 damage. Sure, that’s cool, but there’s not much of a perceived reward for all the trouble you might be facing to obtain those.  We will probably see various incarnations of the Xeno Research feature as the Starcraft II team overhauls and polishes the interface, the rewards and the quests. What we played on July 20 is not set in stone. Keep an eye on any updates at Blizzcon, future Starcraft II Q&A, Blizzcasts and interviews.

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: The Armory Room

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles

The armory room is a place you will be visiting often as you progress through the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player.  Here you can upgrade infantry, vehicles, starships, buildings and other things accessible only in the single player.

You should talk to Swann, the local chief-engineer at the Hyperion, but you actually get your upgrades from the computer console near Swann at the Armory Room.  To enter this room, just click the exit sign at the door of any other room you are at, and choose Armory from the drop-down menu.

The computer console displays the TECH PURCHASE interface … a table divided by rows and columns.  On the top are the following tabs:

Base—Infantry—Vehicles—Starships—Mid-Tech—Ghost/Spectre—Dominion

Under each tab are three columns.  The first row, under BASE tab, is the SCV model. To its right are two green-colored buttons: the SCV Micro-fusion Reactor and the SCV Fusion Welder upgrades.  If you click on any of them, the bottom of the page will change and display on the bottom-left a real-time animation and to the bottom-right you will see the cost, the description and the Purchase button. Below you can see all the upgrades available in the first six maps.  Of course, more are added as you complete each mission beyond those we had the opportunity to play in our Single Player gameplay hands-on invitation.

For example, under BASE TAB, you will see on the left column a few rows with the following:

SCV

  • SCV Micro-fusion Reactors: $60,000—Reduces SCV cost (-15 Minerals) SCV (Space Construction Vehicle) are an essential part of Terran base-building.  The more SCVs available the faster resources are collected and the more construction work can be conducted simultaneously.  Micro-fusion reactors cut the manufacturing costs of SCVs considerably.

  • SCV Fusion Welder: $ 35,000—Reduces repair costs by -25%.  In addition to their key roles in base building and resource collection, SCVs can also perform repairs on damaged structures and vehicles.  Repairing a damaged Siege Tank is more economic than building a new one. Upgrading SCVs to use hyper-efficient fusion welders makes repairs cheaper and reduces resource overheads by 25%.

COMMAND CENTER

  • Terran Building Moduler Construction: $45,000—Reduces structure costs. Building costs by -10%.  Establishing a solid base of operations can be costly, to say nothing of setbacks due to alien attack and environment hazards.  Modular construction makes building base structures cheaper and more efficient by using a stock pile of standarized, pre-stamped components.

  • Terran Building Fire Suppression Systems: $25,000—Puts out structure fires.  Damaged structures don’t catch fire.  Terran Structures are tough and well-armored, but when one starts to burn, it’s moments away from complete destruction.  Now it might be possible to get an SCV there to repair it in time, but why risk it?  A simple command center upgrade will safeguard all of your buildings against fire.

BUNKER

  • Bunker Neosteel Frame: Cost: $40,000—Bunker can hold more units.  Capacity: +2.  The so-called Jumbo-bunker design uses a high density neosteel frame to leave more room inside for additional infantry without increasing the overall bunker profile.  While ordinary bunkers can house a maximum of four infantry, Jumbo-bunkers can be occupied by up to six infantry in fortified comfort.

  • Bunker Shrike Turret: $30,000—Bunker gains an automated turret.  Damage 6, Range 5.  Using bunkers for battlefield control is a cornestone of terran strategy.  The problem is that a bunker must be constantly garrisoned to be effective.  The Servo Servants MK 8 Shrike automated impaler turret is the answer to this drain of manpower.
  • Missile Turret: $ 30,000—Missile turret gains area attack.  Damage 4×9, Range 7.  Hailstorm missile pods enhance the already formidable anti-air threat of missile turrets.  Each pod contains dozens of cluster munitions that saturate the target area when launched.  The missile turret can be toggled between standard and hailstorm missiles as required.
  • Missile Turret Devastator Missiles:  Damage 50, Range 8.  Developed in conjunction with the Hailstorm missile pod, Devastator Missiles lie at the opposite end of the munitions spectrum.  Devastator missiles with a heavy-weight warhead designed to inflict critical damage.  A missile turret can toggle between standard and devastator missiles as required.

PERDITION TURRET

  • Perdition Turret: $60,000—New Defensive structure.  Cost 100 minerals and 50 gas. Damage 10.  Experience from the first war with the zerg revealed the need for stronger base defenses of all kinds.  Perdition turrets were originally improvised using scavenged components from damaged firebats suits, but their proven effectiveness has secured them a permanent place in the terran arsenal.

  • Perdition Turret Distortion Sensors: $25,000—Perdition turret gains detection.  Detection reveals cloaked and burrowed units.  Fixed defenses are worthless if an enemy has stealth units that can walk straight past them.  Upgrading perdition turrets allows them to act as simple gravitic detectors.  Stealth tech conceals most tell-tale emissions, but the mass and gravitic footprint of a unit cannot be hidden and is a dead-giveaway to the right kind of sensor.

MARINE

  • Marine Steam Packs: $35,000—New combat ability.  Stim: Unit takes damage, moves, fights faster.  Stimpacks are a chemical delivery system built into marine armor.  A stimpack doses the marine with a mix of adrenaline, endorphins, and aggression enhancers to produce a temporary boost to speed and reflexes at a cost of short term exhaustion.  Long-term side effects can be severe.  Consult your medic for more info.

  • Marine Combat Shield: $45,000—Marine gains additional health.  Health +10.  The LarsCorps Technologies M98 Ballistic Alloy Combat Shield is a vital combat enhancement for any marine force facing serious opposition.  25mm of synchromeshed neosteel, ablative foam and tri-phase bonded carbide may not sound much, but studies have shown a full 33% increase in marine survivability while protected by combat shields!

MEDIC

  • Medic Nano-bot Injectors: Medics heal faster.  Heal rate: +50%.  These cell-sized robots acccelerate the bodies’ healing processes once they are in the patient’s blood stream, performing suturing and minor surgeries as required.  The efficiency of a battlefield medic carrying nano-robots is vastly improved.

  • Medic Stabilizer Med-packs: Improved medic heal radius.  Medics heal an area around their target.  Sabilizer med-packs are compression bandages that will automatically clear, bind and anesthetize wounds on application.  Freeing the medic from the time-intensive specifics of battlefield triage, these compact tools significantly extend the life and overall effectiveness of infantry units.

MARAUDER

  • Marauder Jackhammer Concussion Grenades: This improved ammo-type for the Marauder’s grenade launchers has proven extremely effective.  Jackhammer concussion grenades use gravitic lensing to magnify their energy release.  This makes them capable of stunning and slowing enemy units close to the primary target, enhancing the marauder with a very desirable area of effect to its attacks.

  • Marauder Juggernaut Plating: Marauder gains additional armor.  Armor: +2.  Juggernaut plating is the first attempt to improve the production of marauder units.  It adds coverage to teh marauder’s natural weak spots and thickens the helmet and chest pieces to improve user survivability.  The complete package raises marauder suits from their status as walking tanks to walking battleships.

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: The Cantina Room

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles

CANTINA ROOM

The Cantina Room is no longer at Joey Ray’s Bar this time around. That’s located in Mar Sara, and you are there for the first three missions.  After the mission titled ZERO HOUR, you are extracted by Captain Matt Horner aboard the Hyperion battlecruiser to escape the sudden arrival of the Zerg—who came after the Xel’naga artifact. After ZERO HOUR, Jim Raynor is now aboard the Hyperion, so The Cantina Room can be accessed by clicking on the exit sign.  You will see a drop-down menu where you can choose which room to visit.

You will see a huge computer device on the center of the ceiling. Raynor is standing next to the table below this computer contraption.  From this device is strapped Jim Raynor’s Juke Box and a TV monitor which has a taped-on sticky that reads: “Don’t shoot it”—kinda funny because in earlier missions when Mengsk gives one of his eloquent discussions about Raynor’s terrorist acts, Raynor aims the gun at the TV screen to shoot it. As for the juke box, strapped to the ceiling-computer-contraption, you can actually click it to play his favorite western country music.

On a table, to the far left of the screen, sits Mr. Graven Hill.  This is the man you must talk with to hire Mercenaries for your next missions. At least in those maps where you will need help to complete your mission objectives. When entering the Cantina for the first time, after you leave Mar Sara, the following text will appear onscreen:

“New Mercenaries are available for hire.  Left-click on Graven Hill’s laptop in the Cantina to learn more.”

These are some of the Mercenaries available to you in the initial single player missions in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.  There will be more mercenaries available to you as you advance through the single player Terran campaign.

KEL-MORIAN MERCENARIES

Force: 4 Elite Marines

Contract: Once every mission

Trained From: Mercenary Compound

Well known for their carousing and barroom brawls, Kel-Morian mercenaries have upgraded equipment and thousands of hours of combat experience that make them worth the trouble they cause when they are off duty.

Cost: $ 35,000

HAMMER SECURITIES

Force: 3 Elite Marauders

Contract: Once every Mission

Trained from: Mercenary Compound

A private security firm based in the Kel-Morian Combine.  H-Sec provides corporate security and often finds itself at odds with the Dominion.

Cost: $ 40,000

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: The Hyperion Bridge

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles

SINGLE PLAYER INTRODUCTION

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

For four years, freedom fighter Jim Raynor has pursued his vendetta against the tyrannical Emperor Arcturus Mengsk and his repressive Terran Dominion.  But when the dreaded Zerg reappear and invade the Dominion, Raynor must make a fateful choice between defeating his hated enemy, or safeguarding the future of humanity.

As soon as this introduction screen disappears, a new page fades in allowing you to choose one of four gameplay options: Easy, Normal, Hard or Insane.

I bet the Insane option drives you with curiosity.  This is the Insane option’s description to sate your inquiring mind:

“This is a cruel, fast-paced no-holds-barred version of the game.  This setting is good for veterans of Real-Time Strategy games.”

Once you choose a gameplay difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, Insane—the game starts by placing you at the Cantina room where Jim Raynor sits by the bar drinking a glass of alcohol.  You are welcomed with the following introduction:

“Tired and embittered by years of struggle against the all-powerful Terran Dominion, freedom fighter Jim Raynor has returned to his homeworld of Mar Sara.  But even on his ravaged backwater world the forces of the tyrannical Emperor Mengsk are moving to take control.”

   

THE CANTINA
When the campaign starts, you are at a cantina in the planet Mar Sara. You can see objects around the room which allow you to interact with.  On the left, above the bar is a big metallic baggage-like device. It is Raynor’s laptop.  It is from here that you start your next single player mission. There is a big Hydralisk skull hanging on the wall surrounded by a neon-lightning fixture sign which reads: Joey Ray’s Bar.

On the right, by the wall, you can see a bulletin board which contains a Most Wanted reward-flyer offering $500,000 credits for Jim Raynor: Dead or Alive; a piece of a newspaper (by reporter Richard Astley) is pinned to the bulletin board.  It reads how the Dominion ignored a help-call by a fringe-world colony.  Jim Raynor came to the rescue and saved 800 civilians, including an orphan girl, by evacuating them aboard the Hyperion. The colony was overrun by the Zerg. The Dominion forces were recalled back to the core-worlds, leaving the fringe-worlds unprotected and to fend on their own.

As you may have read in the various books such as the Tokyopop manga Starcraft: Frontline, and the Pocket Book by Christie Golden titled Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy, Emperor Mengsk has secured the core-worlds of his Terran Dominion.  Now he is expanding toward the fringe-worlds to recover abandoned Confederacy assets lost when their government was overthrown by Mengsk. That includes Mar Sara, any legally owned mining facilities across the Kropulu Sector, and much more.  You can find some interesting stories in the Starcraft: Frontline volumes that reflect these despotical disowning of properties where Terran Dominion forces arrive and take assets from their legal owners by force. They do this behind the eye of the UNN news network and civilians, covering appearances and lying.

What really caught my attention, is that this newspaper scrap mentions the place Jim Raynor evacuated is named Meteor Station.  The lore-nerd in me was thrilled to read this.  Meteor Station is a Kel-Morian Mining Post where the events of the story titled Last Call by Grace Randolph take place.  This story may be found in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 3 (Tokyopop).

This Last Call story was about the finding of a Xel’Naga artifact during a drilling performed by the Kel-Morian miners.  The Terran Dominion wanted the Kel-Morian to sell it to them.  Two ambassadors from each faction met at the Meteor Station to reach a deal, but fell in love of a Tarsonis girl named Starry.

Unexplicably, she becomes lover of both men, and sets them up unwillingly to meet at a distant location.  The Zerg came upon them and stole the Xel’Naga artifact.  It turns out her disfigured face had latent Zerg Queen stuff—a new biological evolution of the Swarm that may not be detected by Terran scanners. In short, Kerrigan can now spy upon Terrans.  The hosts are not aware they carry Zerg infestation, and the scientists can’t detect it.  Obviously, with the mention of Meteor Station as a factual and canon location we see here a deep integration of the lore from the books into the Starcraft II single player.

With the Zerg engaging once more after four years, the fringe-worlds are falling to the Zerg with no military support from Mengsk; so it is up to Jim Raynor and his men to rescue all these unprotected and stranded people left behind. You can learn more about this lore integration in my video interview with Chris Metzen which deals mostly about the canon lore integration between the licensed products (novels, manga and comic book) and the Starcraft II Single player.

Back to some of the stuff in the Cantina, you can actually click all these objects pinned to the bulletin board, and it zooms in allowing you to read and view what’s in there.  Sometimes Jim Raynor or Tychus Findlay will start talking when you click one of these paper clips or photographs.

The neat thing?  Each time you complete a mission, you return to the Cantina and anything that used to be there before the mission, is updated with new stuff. So it is worth to spend an extra time exploring each time you complete a mission, because it has a lot of new content awaiting you.

You can click on Jim Raynor twice, and each time you do so he will say a random voice-over quote, accompanied by sub-titles onscreen.  By the way, this is the original Jim Raynor voice actor … our beloved Robert Clotworthy:

  • “Damn, the glass is always half-full.”

  • “Or is that half empty?”
  • “Thirsty work”
  • “Bottom’s up”
  • “Hate just sittin’ around waitin’ for something, but this place is surely cozy.”
  • “Like drinking engine coolant.”
  • “What’s this swill?”
  • “Feels like I’m always been watched.”
  • “Well, I’m not gonna toast myself.”
  • “Wonder if this thing is flammable.”
  • “Ol’ Mengsk is gonna get what’s coming to him all in good time.”
  • “I should probably lay off this stuff, or up the intake.”

The next time you come to the Cantina after completing your next mission, Jim Raynor will have a different set of quotes for you when you click him multiple times. Ain’t that cool?

Besides the interactive bulletin board and Jim Raynor’s laptop, there is also a TV screen hanging off the wall near the ceiling.  You can click it, and it will run a UNN Report by Kate Lockwell.  Sometimes the TV will show a Larry King-like TV show by another reporter.

The good thing about this interactive TV is that each time you finish a mission map, you can return to the Cantina and you can see a different News report, which updates you on what the current situation on Mengsk’s end is after you completed the mission. Sometimes you will get updates on what’s going on in the fringe-worlds, sometimes there will be reports on controversial heroics by Jim Raynor who saved a colony, etc.  To the UNN, Jim Raynor is portrayed as an enemy of the Terran Dominion, a rebel and a terrorist. The UNN reporters keep a neutral position, however one would wonder if they are truly neutral.  If you have read the story titled Newsworthy you will know what I mean.

LORE FLASHBACK

The lore-nerd in me was excited when I clicked the TV console in the Joe Ray’s Bar. Reporter Kate Lockwell appears in the story titled Newsworthy by known-manga-writer Grace Randolf in Tokyopop’s Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 2.  In the manga, the Terran Dominion has been controlling the public opinion with lies to keep the public blind on what’s truly happening. The public thinks the Dominion is offworld fighting aliens to protect their homeworlds.  The truth is that Mengsk’s forces are stealing legally owned properties in the fringe worlds by force.  Mengsk has ordered the Terran Dominion forces to hunt and kill any colonies that hint to be against Mengsk or who are thought to support rebels. The Dominion has focused the past four years to kill other terrans and to salvage any fringe-world properties, equipments, vehicles and mines formerly owned by the Confederacy.

In the Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 2 story titled Last Call, Lockwell is authorized to aboard a Dominion battlecruiser to report how the marines are trained and how honorable it is to serve the Dominion.  How normal citizens join willingly the Marine corps to protect their core-worlds from the Zerg and the Protoss—but is this really the truth?  The Zerg hasn’t attacked in the past four years, and the protoss are recovering back in Shakuras.  Yet the Dominion Forces are supposedly fighting them, or is it?

Suddenly, their report is interrupted with a special mission assigned to the Terran Dominion unit. She is not allowed to come, and is kept in a room aboard the battlecruiser. When all is done, she sneaks out of her room and finds terran prisoners locked up behind bars. They tell her the Dominion is lying. If she wants the truth and a real newsworthy material, go open that door.  What she sees is shocking.  A storage room full of terran corpses piled up all around.  She manages to give the video to ex-reporter-now-rebel-leader Michael Liberty (the same guy from Jeff Grubb’s Starcraft: Liberty’s Crusade novel).  She stayed behind to cover appearances, and continues reporting what the Dominion wishes her to report, but is her loyalty to the Dominion or to the rebels?  We will probably find out more in the single player.

I also have to point out, that UNN reporter Kate Lockwell, who transmits from the Gohbus moon, appears in the Tokyopop’s Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 3 story titled War-Torn (see preview scans) by manga-writers Paul Benjamin and Dave Shramek.  Kate Lockwell interviewed Greggor Altman, a representative of the Dominion in this manga.  They were discussing the aftermath of the zerg invasion in Maltair IV, where the only survivor was Terran Dominion Senator Corbin Phash and his child son Colin Phash.  The senator had hidden from the Dominon that his son was a telepath. Senator Phash escaped and requested asylum to Umojan Protectorate Minister Jorgensen to protect his son.

We will learn the telepath boy’s fate in the upcoming Tokyopop’s Starcraft: Ghost Academy by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Near the window at the Joey Ray’s Bar, you can see Jim Raynor’s Marshall badge pinned there for display.  It won’t be interactive in the first mission, but later when Tychus Findlay sneaks in into the Cantina, and opens his visor; Jim recognizes him.  They start talking to each other about how Tychus escaped prison, to which he gives a very vague answer, and shortly after, Tychus asks about the Marshall badge.  From that point forward, you can click the Marshall badge and this trigger a quote from Jim Raynor about his old days as a Marshal.

LORE FLASHBACK

Chris Metzen wrote a story that serves as prequel to the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Single Player.  It appears in the Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4 (Oct 1, 2009).  The story is titled: Homecoming.  In our recent Homecoming preview scans, you can see Jim Raynor arriving to Mar Sara to open a secret vault on the ground. From it he extracts objects that are meaningful to him.  His past.  He holds the Heaven’s Devils insignia, his Marshal badge … and his wedding ring.

The huge Hydralisk skull adorning the lightning fixture forming the words Joey Ray’s Bar will become interactive later on after you complete one of the missions.  And how can I forget to mention Jim Raynor’s personal Juke Box.  You can click it to start his favorite western country music.

Later when Jim Raynor leaves Mar Sara, he debates with Tychus Findlay—wherever Jim Raynor goes—his Juke Box comes with him.  And lo and behold, you can later see the Juke Box strapped to the ceiling in the Cantina room, and you can interact with it.

THE HYPERION

The Hyperion is Arcturus Mengsk’s former flaghip battlecruiser.  Jim Raynor and his Raynor’s Raiders team stole it shortly after Mengsk viciously decimated Tarsonis driving the Zerg upon them by sending in Sarah Kerrigan to plant a Psi-emitter.  Arcturus abandoned Sarah Kerrigan to the Zerg to die. This enraged Raynor who escaped on the Hyperion and ever since has made it his mission to be a searing-thorn on Emperor Mengsk’s neck.

The Hyperion has been a home to Jim Raynor these past years.  In Starcraft II, the Hyperion is flown by his close friend Captain Matt Horner, who you will find at the Bridge room. Something very peculiar—lore-wise—about the revamped graphics of the Bridge is the decoration across the ceiling and on the corners of the Star Map table.  There are many black wolf heads decorating them. This is a lore reference to Starcraft: I, Mengsk by writer Graham McNeill (of Warhammer fame).  In this novel, it is revealed that the Mengsk family’s crest is a wolf.  The Hyperion was owned formerly by Mengsk, so the bridge’s decorations subtly remark this.


Blizzcon 2007 Bridge

Bridge (July 20, 2009)

In the original Starcraft and Brood War single player, you would enter the Campaign Mission Briefing Room and see the Mission Objectives displayed.  Some scrolling sub-titles on the center as the NPC portrait explained your entire mission and current status.

In Starcraft II, as soon as a single player mission ends, your view shifts to the Joey Ray’s Bar in Mar Sara and you choose your next mission from within Raynor’s laptop. However, this only happens during the first three missions of the Wings of Liberty single player.  After the mission Zero Hour, you come aboard the Hyperion. And from that moment forward you visit the Bridge within the Hyperion to choose your next missions straight from the Star Map console.

The good part of this is that you have more options in this new dynamic between missions in comparison with the static Mission Briefing Room in the original Starcraft.  It is about choices and interaction … You can go straight to the next map mission and skip the Hyperion content, or you can explore your surroundings, and you learn more lore about the current situation in the storyline.  You can explore other rooms of the Hyperion by clicking on the Exit sign by the door.  It will open a popup menu where you choose which room to move to.  You can decide to buy mercenaries or to upgrade your weapons, buildings or vehicles.  You can learn how to upgrade some of these through different means: The Armory room and The Research Lab.  More detailed info ahead, so keep reading.

You can find the Star Map at the Bridge where Jim Raynor can interact with it, as well as with Captain Matt Horner and Tychus Findlay. The Star Map basically shows you an horizontal list of planets that you browse through.  When you click on a planet, you get an intro a brief background lore (a bit limited to simplify the interface).  When you select a planet, on the top-left is a video transmission of a character who is giving you a mission in exchange of a credits reward.  As Jim Raynor, you accept mercenary dirty jobs to earn credits (currency) so that you can purchase new upgrades, new units and vehicles. The transmission gives you the rounds up on what the mission is about. The Star Map will let you know how much credits you will earn in each mission.  You get an update on which unit you will get access to if you engage that mission. For example, in Evacuation of Aria, you unlock the Firebat.

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Menu Tab and Help Tab

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft 2 Articles

The Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty game has some interesting features accessible by pressing the following keyboard buttons:

Menu (F10) – Message Logs (F11)—Help (F12)

You can also see them as buttons on the top-left of your screen during gameplay, similar to the upper bar in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.

MENU TAB

From the Menu tab (F10), you get the usual controls such as video, sound, keyboard binding, etc.  However, there were two options that made me smile, and if they stay in the game in the shipped version gone gold many of you will love it.  Of course, it is pending Blizzard’s quality control.  If these proof to cause problems, will be removed.

Voice Chat: This tab has the following options, checkboxes, and slide bars … Enable voice chat.  Enable Microphone, input device, mic volume, mic boost, mic test button, voice chat mode (voice activated or push-to-talk), output device (dropdown menu to select the device), voice chat output volume (slidebar). Game audio fade (this option can auto lower the volume of game sounds while listening or talking in voice chat—it has an off to normal slidebar), music and sound slidebars,

You can use voice chat to talk to your Battle.net 2.0 friends while playing Single Player.

Replay: You can save Single Player replays.

Video: This section allows you to set video resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 (4:3).  I was surprised not to see 1920×1080 (16:9) ratio support, but that might simply be in development and not available in the build we played. We will have to wait and see what happens in the shipped version of the game.

These are the resolutions supported thus far (There might be typos on my end):

  • 480×360 (4:3)

  • 640×360 (16:9)
  • 640×480 (4:3)
  • 640×512 (5:4)
  • 800×600 (4:3)
  • 960×768 (5:4)
  • 1024×768 (4:3)
  • 1280×720 (16:9)
  • 1280×960 (4:3)
  • 1280×1024 (5:4)
  • 1600×900 (16:9)
  • 1600×1200 (4:3)

A very welcomed feature that might be removed from the game if things get too out of hand is the built-in video recording.  You can start recording by pressing CTRL + F11 while playing a game, while running a replay, or while watching a game as an observer.

Videos are stored in your user directory’s Starcraft II videos folder in Theora OGV format.  Recording high-quality video may considerably slow down your game experience.

There are two checkboxes that offer extra options: slow game while recording, and record from triggers.

HELP TAB

The Help tab (F12) pops a window onscreen with a content table that may be navigated by clicking the tabs on each column.  Each tabs shifts your table view showing all the contents of these tabs: Tips—Tutorials—Tech Tree—- Units.

Tips: Here you have an array of options that teach you how to play Starcraft II.  Each option under Tips will open an animation to let you see what each action does.  It is basically a video tutorial.

Among the tutorials are the following examples:

Overview: This tutorial explains the basic interface elements of Starcraft II.
Camera Control: Move your cursor to the edge of the screen to move the camera in that direction.
Unit Movement: While units are selected right click mouse button to issue movement orders.
Attack: While units are selected, right click mouse button on an enemy to issue an attack order.

Clicking on any of those options will open a window with a animation loop and instructions on how to use the available controls.

Under the Tech Tree tab you can view all the buildings and technologies tech tree.  Most of it will be disabled with a question mark which means it is not available to you yet.  You will get access to new buildings and new addons as you progress through the single player.

The Units tab shows you all the units available after each mission, and some relevant info about their functions and stats. For example:

Marine (light-biological)

Life: 45 Life
Armor: 0
Move speed: normal
Gausse Rifle: Damage 6, Range 5, weapon speed (fast)
Targets: Air and Ground

General purpose infantry.  Can attack ground and air units.

At the bottom-right you can see unit models beneath the “strong against” and “weak against” buttons.  For example, for the Marine unit page you see teh following:

Strong against: Marauder, Immortal and Hydralisk (You see model images instead of text)

Weak against: Colossus, Lurker

Viking (armored – mechanical)
Terran Ship Plating

Life: 125
Armor: 1
Move speed: normal
Lanzer torpedoes: Damage 10, bonus +10 vs massive
Attacks: 2
Range: 7
Weapon speed: normal
Targets: Air

Strong against: Battlecruiser, Carrier

Medivac (armored-mechanical)

Life: 150
Energy: 200
Armor: 1
Terran Ship Plate Armor: 1
Move speed: normal

Air transport.  Heals nearby biological units.

Hellion

Fast skirmisher.  Has a flame attack that damages all enemy units in its line of fire. Can attack ground units.

Strong against: Zealot, Zergling

Weak against: Thor, Stalker, Roach

Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 4

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Starcraft 2, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

In this screenshot, Raynor’s Raiders are about to land near the Dominion Shipment Center in the first mission of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty titled Liberation Day. Raynor has grown tired of Mengsk and plans to rally the civilians against the Dominion forces that have come to Mar Sara to salvage any leftovers of the Confederacy and any mining and gas resources.

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