StarCraft II Wasn't Originally Planned As A Trilogy
In my recent interview with StarCraft II lead designer Dustin Browder, one topic that inevitably had to come up was the decision to split StarCraft II's single-player campaign into three separate releases. Though Wings of Liberty, the Terran-focused first campaign, had plenty of content, I asked Browder how far into development that decision was made. He revealed that it wasn't their plan from the start.
"It was the middle of development. It was not the opening move," Browder told me. He went on to describe some of the other forms StarCraft II could have taken:
"At one point we had 17 or 18 missions per campaign, so we were looking at making 50-some missions. Even then, they didn’t have a lot of choice and options in them. The critical path was still fairly linear, and we wanted more missions than that. The more we looked at it, both our need for a lot more missions per campaign and at the same time looking at how fast we can create this content, we realized we were setting ourselves up for a 10 or 12-year development cycle if we wanted to finish it. Then the hard talks began…and the screaming and throwing of things and the battles about what we could and couldn’t do."
Browder said that one major reason for the decision was to get the game into consumers' hands in a shorter amount of time. "Well, I don’t want to say a reasonable amount of time, because that’s not fair. It still took us forever," he admitted. "But we wanted to get a product into consumers’ hands sometime before the end of the decade. Even that we didn’t quite make, I guess, but it was still sooner!"
Browder also said the team at Blizzard didn't fool themselves about what this meant for consumers: They knew gamers were losing something on this deal. "When fans said we weren’t giving them value, we knew that wasn’t true, but we knew that we were costing fans something if they only came to the game for Zerg and now have to wait another two years," he stated.
The "two years" mentioned there seems to be a slip of the tongue, as later in the interview Browder said that it's still way too early in development to even speculate on when the next campaign, The Heart of the Swarm, may be finished. But seeing as Browder is the lead designer, that slip could provide some insight into the mindset at Blizzard for how long we'll be waiting.
Despite what they lost by sticking to a single-race campaign, Browder believes the choice was worth it in the end. To fit all three races into a single game released in a timely manner, he estimated, "We were looking at maybe a 12-mission campaign for each race" that "wasn't going to be as fun." He said they'll have to pay Zerg players back "with a larger campaign, with more details on Kerrigan, a more in-depth look at what it means to be a Zerg."
Check back tomorrow to read the complete Afterwords interview with Dustin Browder.