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StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

If you haven’t managed to tame StarCraft yet, don’t worry: now you can get started on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, which promises a deeper experience with an epic storyline, three carefully balanced factions, and a wide variety of maps and missions that test your strategic thinking. Hopefully it won’t take two lifetimes to master.

“The definition of balance is how long a game is fun,” Browder explains. “If it stops being fun after a week because you’ve figured out all the strategies, then the game wasn’t balanced very well.”

Aliens swarming an outpost.

The Swarm Cometh. Terrans try to hold off a Zerg invasion.

Unanswered Questions

At the convergence of StarCraft II’s balancing act lurk the Zerg, Protoss, and Terrans. (See the sidebar “A Tale of Three Races” on page two to learn more.) The three factions look more impressive than ever before thanks to the latest technology, which Browder says has “caught up to where we can do StarCraft in 3D. Only in the last six to seven years did it become possible to do the game the way we wanted to, with the massive scale of combat we had envisioned since we did the original game.”

“[StarCraft] isn’t a game you can hope to master in a weekend. It takes a lifetime to get good at it.”

- Dustin Browder, game director

Wings of Liberty focuses its single-player campaign on hard-nosed Terran commander-turned-rebel Jim Raynor, who is still battling his former boss, Arcturus Mengsk, the leader of the autocratic Terran Dominion. “With the storyline, we’ve had a chance to revisit unanswered questions from the first game,” Browder says. “For example, Jim Raynor hasn’t gotten payback yet [for what Mengsk did to him]. He’s the protagonist of the game, and everyone revolves around him.”

Spacships eliminating an enemy unit.

Incoming. Terran battlecruisers play offense.

Unfortunately, Browder adds, Raynor also finds himself in a dark place: “After seeing way too much carnage, Jim has lost a lot of his fire for combat. He’s grappling with the loss of his friend, Sarah Kerrigan, and he’s dealing with alcohol problems. How does he handle his new situation? Will basic survival be enough, or will he be destroyed?”

“Each [mission] is a unique mini-game, and you don’t know what we’ll throw at you next.”

- Dustin Browder, game director

The game’s non-linear campaign follows Raynor’s Raiders as they take on mercenary missions to earn the cash they need for their struggle against the Dominion. Browder elaborates: “We have a lot of crazy scenarios in StarCraft II: one mission might have you fighting zombies, and another might deal with something at the heart of the universe that’s threatening its very existence. Each one is a unique mini-game, and you don’t know what we’ll throw at you next.”

Alien units using beam weaponry.

One if By Land, Two if By Sea. A group of Protoss Colossus units come ashore.

Back to Game Development School

The wide variety of StarCraft II’s missions comes from lessons learned while developing scenarios for Warcraft III and its Frozen Throne expansion pack, both of which many of Browder’s team members worked on. Looking back at the original StarCraft proved useful too.

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“Only in the last six to seven years did it become possible to do the game the way we wanted to, with the massive scale of combat we had envisioned since we did the original game.”

- Dustin Browder, game director

“StarCraft is considered a polished game,” Browder says, “but we learned a lot from it that we applied to the sequel. For example, the starting experience is now much different: we do in-game cinematics that immerse you in the story, and we let you walk around the bridge of a starship, where you can talk to other characters. It takes the game to a new level.”

Flyig units assualting land forces.

The Fiery Depths. There’s wide variety in StarCraft II’s maps.

He points out that those lessons were key to figuring out not only what worked, but also what didn’t: “We tried a lot of different things during development. For example, we tried cover systems, which have been used in first-person shooters and other strategy games, but StarCraft II is so fast-paced that they didn’t work. They made the game become stagnant.”

The team also drew on the thoughts of the many StarCraft players who fervently play the game today. “Those fans were able to educate us on what is happening now in the StarCraft world, and what they wanted to see from the sequel,” Browder says. “They helped a lot during the Beta. They were involved from the earliest stages, and they really helped us fine-tune the game based on the way the original StarCraft is currently played.”

Humans looking at a holomap.

Choose Your Path. Between missions, use that hard-earned cash to improve Raynor’s Raiders before deciding where to go next.

Fresh Strategies

Browder notes that the original StarCraft has “evolved over time as players learn more about it, even though we did very little in the way of game balancing through patches. I’m sure players will develop build orders for StarCraft II, as they did for the first game, but those will mostly fall apart when they make contact with the enemy and must adapt to a unique situation — that will make it feel fresh each time.”

He concludes: “Every time you sit down to play a game, your experience will be unique, between the differences between the races, which map you choose, and where you start. You’ll have to use all the knowledge at your disposal every time and figure out your strategies on the fly.”

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Banshee aircraft.
Dig Deep, My Friends

Hop in a Hercules dropship and head over to page two, where we delve into the revamping of StarCraft’s units and artificial intelligence, explain how you can use the included Galaxy Editor to let your imagination run wild, and serve up the history of a universe that has more sub-plots than “The Days of Our Lives.”

 
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