Lead Designer Dustin Browder On Story And Map Design In StarCraft II - StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty - PC - www.GameInformer.com
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Lead Designer Dustin Browder On Story And Map Design In StarCraft II

Earlier this week, we posted an interview with Diablo III’s game director as an online extra for our preview of Diablo III from issue #199 of the magazine. “But wait,” you cry, “that issue also had a preview of Blizzard’s other upcoming hotly-anticipated sequel, StarCraft II! That deserves an interview too!” Had you in fact cried as such, then I must admit that you are correct.

With that in mind, I gave StarCraft II lead designer Dustin Browder a call. We talked about where the races and characters of the StarCraft universe stand at the beginning of this new game, how long it takes Blizzard to create a single campaign mission (and how often they throw them out), and how they’ll be trying to pull crappy players like myself into StarCraft II’s multiplayer. Check out the full interview below!

Game Informer: In our magazine preview, we focused on the competitive multiplayer and Battle.net features, but I’m really into the single-player narrative stuff personally. How much of your audience would you estimate is more interested in the single-player content? How much of a focus is that for you guys?

Dustin Browder: It’s hard to know. We know that a decent percentage of players never log on to Battle.net. I have heard -- and I don’t know if this is true -- that as many as half of our players don’t log on to Battle.net. We know that those numbers, I guess they could be playing Skirmish, but they’re probably playing the single-player campaign. Those numbers are substantial. But ultimately the exact numbers don’t matter to us that much. If the solo play experience is going to be in the box, it needs to be the best possible solo play experience that we know how to do. We’ve been focusing the design on the solo play experience pretty tightly for the last six months. That’s been our major focus. We haven’t been doing that much work on multiplayer during that time.

GI: I’m really curious to see how this works in practice, but I was nervous when word broke that the Terran campaign will be non-linear, allowing you to choose mission at will. How does this affect the tight linear storytelling that you had in the first StarCraft?

DB: It’s still something we obviously want to continue pursuing because we want the game to begin in one place, and since we’ve got games to come after this one (not to mention books, graphic novels, and all the rest), we want the game to end in a consistent place as well. There’s definitely a beginning, a middle, and an end that you will experience that is linear. I don’t want to say that the plot is non-linear. The way you go through it is up to you, but you will experience the same beginning, middle, and end as everybody else. It’s the stuff that happens in and around the middle that’s up to you.

GI: Is it possible to miss certain characters or story events depending on how you tackle missions?

DB: It is possible, but you would have to do it on purpose. There’s a couple points in the game where we ask the player to make a left or right choice, and there’s no going back. But those are very rare, and when we do them, we offer them up in a very obvious way. “Okay, now this is left or right, choose.” Even then, we offer easy ways to see what would happen if you had gone the other way. We know you’ll just save and reload to see what it was anyway, so we offer some easy menu stuff that you can go through to see what would have happened if I’d decided to help that character instead of killing that character, for example. So nothing is forcing you to miss any content.

There will be times when characters come up on screen and say, “Oh my god, our planet’s under attack by the Zerg! You have to help us now!” but it’s like a World of Warcraft quest. It’s not right now. If you come back in a week, they’ll still be there with the same problem, and you’ll still be able to help them. There are a couple places where we demand that you make a choice, and we force you to pick a side, but for the most part it’s up to you when you want to get to this stuff. It’s very easy to see almost the entire game in one playthrough, and if you didn’t want to play through again to see the other stuff, there’s some easy ways for you to see what the content was that you chose to miss.

GI: Are those choices going to affect the overall story of the game? Or are they more along the lines of choices that might affect a character who’s with you in the campaign?

DB: It’s more like that, affecting characters who are with you throughout the game. Like I said, the ending is the ending. It’s such a character-based game, driven by these characters we’ve become invested in over the last 10 years. We want to see what’s going to happen to Raynor. We want to know what’s going to happen to Mengsk. What’s the fate of Kerrigan? All these things are all very interesting to us, and we hope our fans think so too. We’re going to tell a single story. When you get done, there will be questions on what happened to these secondary characters. What you chose will affect what happens to those characters. We probably won’t revisit those characters again down the road simply because it was up to you what happened to them. It wasn’t up to us. But the major characters are still up to us, so they’ll have a very clear story.

GI: Are the other campaigns going to be similarly non-linear, or will the Zerg and Protoss campaigns be more structured?

DB: I can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly our intent to make them in a similar structure. We’ll see what the reactions from the fans are as well. If the fans come back and say they liked it or they didn’t like it, then obviously we’ll course correct.

  • Man - lengthy, informing interview. Some of the stuff addressed I had no idea about, and am really glad to hear from the source! Those map screens are also making me drool a bit - StarCraft was my favorite PC game, and I'm definitely looking forward to StarCraft 2 more than ever now.

  • This game makes me wish I was good at multitasking, or micro, whatever it is people call it.

    But then again, it might motivate me to work on that.

  • Great interview Phil! Very informative. I've never anticipated a PC game as much as I'm anticipating SC2. I wasn't crazy about the transition from Warcraft 2 to 3, but I feel like SC2 is going to be much more true to its predecessor. "Rock and roll!" :)

  • Thanx for the story. Im looking forward to both of blizzards new masterpieces. It will be the first time I played games on the PC platform in 7 years.

  • I didn't get into StarCraft until years after the fact, having brushed it (and WarCraft III) off as "just another dull RTS", but now I love both of those games. The more I see and hear about StarCraft II, the more impatient I get towards it's release. I actually made a bet with myself last year that if I didn't have a capable computer for the release of StarCraft II, I was going to eat part of my monitor on YouTube. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

    While I'm glad to hear about their plans for tutorials and rankings in regards to the multiplayer component, I'm very happy that there seems to be a healthy emphasis on building the single player game to be the best that it can be. I just hope that the StarCraft universe starts getting the attention to expanding it's lore that WarCraft did... more books, comics, television holiday specials... that sort of thing.

  • @Vid I...sort of want to see that YouTube video.

  • This makes me even more anticipating of this game! I just can't wait for this game to come out. I love StarCraft a lot, but over the years I started to play it less. When I heard SC2 was finally going to come out, I just couldn't believe it. I would preorder this game right now, but the only problem is that a release date hasn't really been announced.

    P.S.: @vid: I'd also like to see that video…

  • Wow.  I'm going to need to get a new computer as soon as this comes out.  Only Blizzard can get me this excited for a game coming out for PC.  Hopefully I'll put down the console controllers long enough to enjoy Starcraft II for a good while.

  • Is sstarcraft 2 ever going to come out? Been waiting for 5 years!!

  • SC2 and D3 on the way it's going to be nuts!

    My cpu is going to explode. =I

  • wow really informative interview, very in-depth.

  • im one of those people at the beginning. i dont really play online at all, i am just really into the story, world and fantastic characters.  all the same i cant wait for this game. im pumped that  blizzard is getting back to starcraft and diablo

  • I am very excited about this game.  I've always been a PC gamer, just can't get in to console, and I've always loved the first game.  It's been a while since I've found an RTS that I get hooked on, I bet this will be it.  It has such potential and could be a really cool movie if they took it seriously and didn't make it for kids.

  • Well, I'm still playing the first one, over a decade later, so I guess I can wait a few more months for this.  

    In Blizzard I Trust.

  • I can't wait for this to come out.  This is the game I anticipated the most since, well, Brood War came out.  A decade later I will finally see it!