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Starcraft II Single Player Hands On: Screenshots # 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Return to the Single Player Hands On: main gallery page or close this page.

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