Browder: 'StarCraft II is a more mobile game'

Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev at 14 April 2010 13:30
After tons of interviews with pro-gamers it was time to get back to the very designer roots of StarCraft 2. Gameinformer sat down with Dustin Browder, Wings of Liberty's lead designer, to talk in large about Blizzard's upcoming RTS. Dustin discusses in great details the current state of the beta, their plans for the full version and also shares some interesting quirks his team has had during SC2's development.

Gameinformer open up with a question about the overall differences between StarCraft 2 and its predecessor and to answer that, Dustin refers to game's physics itself.

- “Obviously, StarCraft II is a more mobile game in many ways than the original StarCraft was. This is in some ways a function of the types of units we have. There's a lot of mobility in this game in terms of moving and dancing, attacking and retreating. We're seeing lots and lots of dancing between players as they vie for position, as they try to get in good flank attacks, and as they try to get in behind their enemies and prevent them from escaping.”

Browder mentions some certain tactics, like warp in rushes for example, that weren't really possible in Brood War and that have obviously changed the way the game is played and also put a lot of balance questions in front of the designer team. Interestingly, though, all that mobility and the nature of the match-ups were not initially intended.

- “Our creative process on StarCraft II was very different than the creative process I've used on other RTS games I've worked on or even on WarCraft III. We didn't set out with any goals in mind, and I'm sure that this will upset the fans terribly. What we did instead was that we said, "We want to make a bunch of cool units, and we're going to make each unit as cool as we can possibly make it, and then we'll see how it all works together, and we'll tune as necessary from there." So it was never our intention specifically to do anything exactly with the races. Our goal was to make the units as interesting as possible and as different from one another as we possibly could. From there we could see how the races changed and evolved.“

Dustin further explains that precisely this approach has led to some unit imbalance and other gameplay issues like the lack of diversity in the zerg army composition in many match-ups. However, the lead designer is positive that the meta design of the game itself will lend colour to the final product.

- “StarCraft is a little different from other RTS games in the sense that we do have some triangles in the game, but we also try to make sure that a lot of the relationships -- between a lot of the early units, especially -- can be changed fundamentally with micro.”

- “We see ourselves as doing a lot of everything. Some games favor a macro gameplay, and some games favor a micro gameplay. Our goals are to have both be possible. As a Zerg player, you can choose to be more of a macro Zerg player or more of a micro Zerg player, or anything in between. The reason this is so interesting for us is if we have that kind of choice for players, it means that even in a Zerg versus Zerg game, I could fundamentally be playing a very different race than you're playing because I'm playing a much more economy-based game, and you're playing a much more tactical-based game.”

As the interview progresses, more and more interesting topics are being discussed and one of them is the introduction of new players to hardcore high-level gaming. As it seems, Dustin and his team have created a step-by-step procedure, starting from as far as the solo campaign, which, with its 20+ hours of gameplay, will teach the player some basics about unit counters and resource gathering and will make them comfortable with the whole interface and the game overall. The campaign, however, is just a really small part of the tutorial process.

- “Then we've got our challenges. Our challenges are about ten maps that teach you the fundamentals of online competitive play. They teach you how to defend against rushes. They teach you how to build up your economy. They teach you some of the basic counters for the three races. They teach you how to block your choke. They teach you all kinds of stuff that you will need to understand on some basic level to play in the competitive environment.“


- ”Then we have five different difficulties of AI that you can play against to learn your race” continues Dustin, revealing his much larger plan. “ Obviously the race in solo play for Terrans is a little bit different from the race in multiplayer. If you want to learn Zerg or Protoss, you can go to those AIs and battle it out against them.”

Among the above widely discussed topics, Dustin Browder grabs the chance to get back in the early days of the StarCraft 2 development and he reveals some quite curious facts, that would currently seem baffling and really, really fun.

- “We had a Corruptor at the time that every time it got a kill, it would turn that kill into a flying corrupted thing that would shoot at enemy forces. So you'd see a Viking that was all covered in slime and it'd be shooting at other Vikings and all these spores would be coming off of it. And it was really crazy cool! It felt so Zerg-y, it was so awesome! I definitely miss that vibe from that unit, but I gotta tell you, it was just chaos.”

- ”You'd play as the Zerg with something called a Spore Beast and we'd say, "Oh my god, this is just a Banshee, isn't it?" We'd try to tune as like a really fast Banshee, and it was like, "Okay, dude, but that's still a Banshee." It hadn't fundamentally changed its role. We had some stuff that was a lot wackier, that felt more new but wasn't necessarily more fun.”

- “We had these big cannons on the back of the Thor that did massive, long-range AOE [area of effect] attacks because that looked cool and it sure was fun to play with. It stepped on the Siege Tank in the worst way. You really didn't need a Siege Tank if you had a Thor, or if you had a Siege Tank you didn't need a Thor; one or the other.”

In addition, it becomes obvious that those changes are intertwined with more serious matters concerning the goals that lie ahead of the team prior to StarCraft 2's shipping. They also greatly contribute to the team's current impressions from the beta so far and their future plans about the final product. Dustin also gives specific examples about some broken rush build orders and the recently commented by Light problem about how hard it is to distinguish your units when two mirror armies clash.

- “All of the time, we were just getting it tighter and tighter and tighter, and now we've managed to get it in front of the community, which is really exciting. Now we're starting to see where we can continue to improve it.“

With all the being said, it is clearer and clearer that Blizzard would really like to give us as much polished product as possible which is distinctive from BroodWar and similar to it at the same time .

- ”When you see that load screen end, you know it's on.”

Gameinformer - Complete interview