If you havent managed to tame StarCraft yet, dont 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 wont 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 youve figured out all the strategies, then the game wasnt balanced very well.
At the convergence of StarCraft IIs 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] isnt 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, weve had a chance to revisit unanswered questions from the first game, Browder says. For example, Jim Raynor hasnt gotten payback yet [for what Mengsk did to him]. Hes the protagonist of the game, and everyone revolves around him.
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. Hes grappling with the loss of his friend, Sarah Kerrigan, and hes 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 dont know what well throw at you next.- Dustin Browder, game director
The games non-linear campaign follows Raynors 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 thats threatening its very existence. Each one is a unique mini-game, and you dont know what well throw at you next.
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The wide variety of StarCraft IIs missions comes from lessons learned while developing scenarios for Warcraft III and its Frozen Throne expansion pack, both of which many of Browders 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.
He points out that those lessons were key to figuring out not only what worked, but also what didnt: 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 didnt 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.
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. Im 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. Youll have to use all the knowledge at your disposal every time and figure out your strategies on the fly.
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- Rome: Total War Gold Edition
- The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom
- Star Wars: Empire at War