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Starcrafts - My Favourite Magazines

WORLDEXCLUSIVEThe first human outside Blizzard to play thisincredible game, Jim Rossignol travels into theair-conditioned depths of outer Los Angeles toreport on the world’s most long-awaited sequelBlizzard makes greatgames. The peoplewho work for Blizzardare under pressure,and they know it.When asked what thegreatest challenge ofdeveloping StarcraftII has been, Lead Designer Chris Sigatyreplied “living up to the legacy.”Its a legacy unlike many others. Thekobold-slaughtering Diablo series hasconsumed billions of man-hours andspawned dozens of imitators. Massivelymultiplayer World of Warcraft has eightmillion subscribers. Sci-fi strategyStarcraft was the best selling game of1998, became an international hit, andset itself up as the digital national sportof South Korea. This sequel, the mightilylong-awaited Starcraft II, is a game witha whole bunch of legacies to live up to.That the original Starcraft went solong without a sequel is a testament towhat a solid design this game actuallywas. Unlike its real-time strategypredecessor, Warcraft II, this was agame in which each of the three factionswas profoundly different. It boastedasymmetrical unit types that stillmatched up on a level and even playingfield for beginners and experts alike –its tough to articulate just what acomplex creative challenge that is.Starcraft is one of the great designs ofgaming history.30 September 2007PCF204.feature1 030 12/7/07 14:59:49


World exclusiveBlizzards office in OrangeCounty, California is ahive of activity. Imushered past giantmodels of StarcraftGhosts and threateningWarcraft orcs and into ahi-tech boardroom withLCD screens adorning each wall. Thelong central table is crammed with PCs,each one with its own set of ludicrousinternal LEDs and flickering RAMtemperature gauges. The first thing Imgoing to see is a demonstration of theTerran faction as re-imagined bydesigner Chris Signaty and producerDustin Browder. They cheerily narrate asequence of small battles intended toillustrated the ever-unfolding tacticalcomplexity of the new Starcraft game.The first thing they show off is theway that different parts of a Terran basecan be detached and flown to land onvarious other auxiliary bases. This allowsa commander to reconfigure productionon the fly. As anyone who has played thefast-paced original Starcraft will know,being able to change tactics within a fewseconds can be really tough. Being ableto alter the capabilities of your base,perhaps by simply shifting the focus ofproduction from vehicles to infantry injust a couple of seconds could dictatethe course of an ongoing battle.Starcraft has always been fast andfurious, but it has also always beenabout knowing how and when tocounter-attack enemy units. Having theability to react faster makes the Terransmore versatile than they were as afaction in the original game.Soon the action flares up. Its aTerran-on-Terran battle. The old-schoolbattlecruiser class units arrive, totingtheir new weapon upgrades. Beamlasersand plasma-missiles are flying,but theyre countered by a new unit: theViking. A swooping platoon of this newAbove TheBattlecruiser is back,Back, BACK! Most ofthe classic units willmake a return inStarcraft IIAbove Mothership attacks by Protoss mean big trouble for groundbasedunits. This thing packs an absurd amount of electric deathairbound unit destroys the battlecruiserformation and then, to everyonesTransformer-noise-making joy, they land,and becoming chain-gun toting walkerrobots,they engage ground units furtheracross the map. The walking Vikings aresoon under heavy fire, however, andsave themselves by taking to the aironce again.The Vikings will besupported by theBanshee, a cloaking airto-groundunit withmassive area-of-effectdamage weapons. This anew tankbuster for theTerrans, and its stealthcapabilities suggest some scary tacticsfor games in the future. Also new to thefield are the jet-leaping Reapers – heavyinfantry who can hurl out explosivecharges to deal massive damage tostructures and slow-moving units.But the best is yet to come:the hulking form of the Thor.This is a high-level unitthat some multiplayergames might notever reach: alumberingbehemoth that isconstructed in the field by the Terransupport units. This massive unit engagesThe Protoss units are relativelyexpensive compared to the other races,but they make up for it in stealth,power, and looking dead cool32 September 2007PCF204.feature1 032 12/7/07 15:03:01

Starcraft IIthe enemy with heavy guns. Itsillustrative of the way Starcraft IIs unitsmust integrate and support each otherif they want to survive. While the initialattack goes well, the marines andsmaller ground vehicles with the Thorare rapidly killed, and fast, sleek Cobratanks are able to circle the Thor andoutpace its slow-tracking guns. Withouthelp from supporting troops the giant issoon slain.Once this demonstrationis over Im treated to asession playing withthe Protoss race, whoare Starcrafts superhigh-tech alien. Theirunits are based aroundshield systems andenergy attacks, so you can expect loadsof beam weapons, electrical blasts andstealthy antics. I start out mymultiplayer match rather at a loss: thereAbove Pure Starcraft: massive packed battleswith hordes of dying robots and dozens ofunits on screen at any one timeare more options for the first fewminutes of the game that there were inthe original, simply by virtue of therebeing more to deploy on the field. Thismeans that fights in the openingsections of any Starcraft match aregoing to be a little more varied than theymight have been in the classic Starcraft.This time around you definitely havemore options – something that was a bitdaunting for me, the first person outside“PRO PLAYERS RECOGNISE MOVES INTHE SAME WAY THAT GRAND MASTERSOF CHESS SPOT FAMOUS TACTICS”TACTICAL GEMSWhen the refreshedProtoss race forStarcraft II wasunveiled to ahardcore Koreanaudience therewere gaspswhen eventhe smallestchange – suchas the zealot’sability to charge into close combat – wereunveiled. This is partly because theKoreans are so insanely enamored withthe game, but also because Starcraft hasbecome so finely honed, and so heavilyexamined, that is has reached a kind oftactical clarity where players canrecognise moves and tactics in the sameway that Grand Masters of chess can spotfamous openings or sequences of movesthat will lead to victory.Starcraft II intends to deliver exactly thiskind of complex experience, but expandingand changing it to augment what theoriginal game had achieved in terms ofbalance and accessibility. The Protoss nowhave lots of powerful unit combinations –being able to cloak your army with one unitand distract enemies with heavy air unitswith another can make for some reallycompelling multiplayer experiences. Ofcourse the multiplayer is where most of thefocus for Starcraft II is going at the moment,and Blizzard has yet to announce anythingabout the singleplayer campaign. It hassuggested that there’s something interestingto come, however, and we might get to seesomething other than a standard RTScampaign when the game finally arrives.Whatever the nature of the singleplayercampaign, it’s going to teach gamers to usesome of the new tactics that are enabled bythe Protoss units. The teleporting Stalkerunit, for example, can ‘blink’ short distances,allowing gamers to undertake hit-and-runattacks on enemy bases. Again, Starcraft II isbased around accessing resources, bothminerals and vespene gas, and attackingenemy production lines or defendingreserves against enemy base-building canbecome crucial to the long-term game.If you survive the opening minutes andmanage to get a well-defended base intoplace then you tactics will be as mucheconomic as martial. You can’t afford not tospend – saving up your resources means youdon’t have those reserves deployed on thefield, and although you might feel pleasedwith a big surplus of resources, you can besure that your opponent will be using thesame stuff to upgrade his units.September 2007 33PCF204.feature1 033 12/7/07 15:03:05

World exclusiveMEET THE TERRANSAbove Blizzards studios have an extremely tight art direction. You can recognise any of theirgames from the slightly caricatured design and the smooth angles that their characters exhibitBlizzard to actually play the gameagainst other people. As in any Starcraftgame, I began by hitting the resourceshard and making some zealots – thebasic Protoss soldier – to scout the fieldof battle. Having produced a few moreunits I began to come under attack. Firstby an enemy Dark Templar, whosecloaking ability could not be counteredby anything I had built, and then by theCollossi. These giant “four-leggedtripods” can scale small cliffs and rakeanything they encounter with viciousenergy beams. It wasnt long before myalarmingly measly defence buckledunder their considerable onslaught.Defeat. Silently, inwardly, I cried hottears of shame.Above Two Thor units on the field mean bigtrouble for enemies. These bad boys are thesuper-heavy armour of the Terran factionThe second bout was to bedifferent. My opponent (askinny Swedishgentleman who seemeddetermined to beat me)did not emerge from themaps fog of war for manylong minutes. I rapidlybuilt up a primary and secondary base,gaining precious resources as quickly aspossible. I left one side of my baserelatively exposed, hoping that he wouldmake his first attack with some of theolder, more familiar ground-basedProtoss units. Choke-points are a greatway of holding off enemies, and miningand setting turrets up along their sidescan really deliver some killing blows. Ofcourse, he chose flying units.I encountered the Tempests first –flying cruisers that deployed swarms ofdisc-like attacking drones. I despatchedthese only to run into something rathermore serious: a mothership. The giantrotating UFO was in the advancedstages of upgrade, and scorched theground with lasers, devastating myattack force. I smiled to myself, knowingthat my own slow-moving mothershipwas closing in, unknown to him. Andthen: disaster. I had miscalculatedexactly where my own ship was, which➜MARINEThis guy is the foot soldier of the Terran army. Hemight look beefy but he’s weak to all kinds ofattacks. His strengths are in massed attacks, wherethe marine machine guns can deliver massivecollective firepower. He can also use bunkers tohelp fortify areas of the map which you don’t wantenemy forces to have easy access to. Cheap, fast,and readily available, this is a unit that will developthroughout the game.Above The beam lasers are being fired by the Colossus. This is one of the most impressive newunits, able to delivering huge amounts of firepower and to cross major obstacles that are toomuch for smaller folk like the basic infantry. Ideal for terrorising enemy resources gathering units34 September 2007PCF204.feature1 034 12/7/07 15:03:07

Starcraft II➜THOREach of the factions has its own dedicated mega-unit.The Thor is so large it actually has to be constructedin the field, rather than in any kind of factorystructure. Once up and running, it needs plenty ofsupport from other small units because it is so slowand cumbersome. Fast units will easily be able toescape its massive weapons, but structures and largeslow-moving enemies will not be so fortunate.➜VIKINGThe Viking is one of the newmulti-use units for Starcraft II. Ithas two modes, either as a heavyair-to-air unit, or as a smallground walker. This allows it toattack both air and groundtargets, while also having ameasure of defence againsttargets that can only attack air orground units. This is a fast attackvehicle that Terran players will nodoubt find lots of varied andinteresting hit-and-run tacticsfor. That doesn’t mean they don’tdie very easily, of course…➜REAPERThe reaper is a kind ofheavy assault trooper.They’re equipped withlarge jump packs whichallow them to traverse thetougher terrain ofStarcraft II with ease. Theycan jump up cliffs and gainready access to otherwisefortified enemies bases.They can also deploybombs which do massivedamage to structures.Defenders will have achance to shoot thesetimed devices if they wantto save their bases fromcomplete destruction.➜GHOSTAnother massively popular unit – onethat even had its own game onPlaystation 2 – is the Ghost. This is acloaking assault unit that does plenty ofdamage against more exposed infantryunits. Its invisibility makes it a superbscout, or a spotter for the Terran bigguns. It can also call in ‘drop pods’ fromorbit, allow a Terran commander todeliver squads of marines to anywhereon the battlefield in a few seconds.September 2007 35PCF204.feature1 035 12/7/07 15:03:20

World exclusiveallowed my opponent to drop a blackhole on my mothership, sucking it into adeadly dark vortex. My base was leftwide open.The wily Swede began to burn hisway through my weak flank. I clicked atthe options in frantic dismay. All I coulddo was to retreat to a third base and tryto rebuild. Luck suddenly shone down onmy ailing armies. My opponent spenttoo long wiping out the last remnants ofmy primary and secondary bases,meaning the tertiary base had time topump out a counter force and return fireon his positions.I first hit his convoy of back uptroops, and then defeated the damagedmothership – Protoss shields mayrepair, but they have have no method offixing the weak hulls of their craft oncedamaged. My horde surged through hisnearby base defences and delivered thekilling blow.Starcrafts ability to beso engaging, and sofast, makes momentslike this, where certaindeath can be turnedinto ultimate victory,into gaming legend.Starcraft II perfectlyrecaptures the tooth-and-nail pace ofthe original game, but seems to provideeven more flexibility.It should also bring us someinteresting new angles exclusive to thisgame. Signaty revealed that Blizzardhas “some really interesting plans forBattlenet, and plans for singleplayerand Battlenet.” He went on to explainthat the community would be wellcatered for with the release of arevitalised map-making kit. “Another bigthing is that the map editor is a nextgeneration tool, our programmer BrettWood has been working on this sinceWarcraft III and has just run with the“BLIZZARD HAS SOME REALLYINTERESTING PLANS FORSINGLEPLAYER AND BATTLENET”Pretty crystals and green gasstill comprise the majority of theresources in the game36 September 2007PCF204.feature1 036 12/7/07 15:03:38

Starcraft IIDont get in the way ofmassive artillerybombardments…MEN OF ZERGDustin Browder and ChrisSigaty have a intensitythat seems to pervadeBlizzard. They’re focusedon improving Starcraft,and are keen to emphasisethat this is a game that istrue to the original, andhas not tried to innovatefor the sake of it.right way to do tools and editing. Wellbe excited to get this into thecommunitys hands and get them usingit. Weve also set up a new team to allowus to work with the community.”Ultimately, however, what Browderand Signaty want to stress is that this isStarcraft re-envisioned, and it is a pureBlizzard project. They havent letthemselves be influenced by trends inthe RTS market. “Ive been playing a lotand enjoying a lot,” says Browder, “butthis project is all about Starcraft.”Signaty feels the same way: “I totallyagree with that. There have been loadsof cool new attempts on the RTS genre,and weve certainly played them, butStarcraft is the principal influence here.If we were going with a totally new thingit might be significantly different, wemight look at new games in a differentway, but with this particular game withhave to walk a particular line. Starcraftis the main influence.”If Starcraft II is going to face aproblem, it might simply be that thestrategy world has learned so muchfrom that first game. I have no doubtthat, with Blizzards legacy, this gamewill be a success, but I cant help thinkingthat games like Universe At War orC&C3 are all trying to invade the samespace. Starcraft II might well be thesequel weve all be waiting for, but itsalso a sequel that many other have beentrying to make for the past nine years.Whatever the final result for thissignificant game, were going to have towait. All Signaty and Browder will sayfor now is that itll be done when itsdone. And Ive no doubt that when itsdone itll create a legacy all of its own. ¤Jim: Would you say that diversity andasymmetry in design is the core philosophy ofthe Starcraft games?DB: Yes – our main goal is to make these racesplay as differently as they possible can. Each unithas a role that has no parallel in other factions.We want it to feel different from race to race.CS: The other important thing is re-envisioningthe Starcraft franchise, lots of units, big armies,those two things add up to the core philosophy ofthe game.DB: Where Warcraft III focused on heroes andthe gameplay revolved around them, Starcraft isabout vast armies smashing against each other,making clever use of terrain and so on.Jim: Has the high-level pro-gamer focus (asseen in South Korea and elsewhere in theworld) on Starcraft changed how you’vedeveloped this sequel?CS: From my perspective it has given us an ideaof the skill level that’s out there. When theoriginal Starcraft was developed we had no ideathat individuals would take it to the level theydid. Korea just happens to have the best players,but there are some other great players elsewheretoo. But for our part it has just made us moreaware, and we have to think about how it isaccessible to entry level and mid-level, but alsoabout what pro-gamers will do with this stuff. Idon’t think we’re making decisions to beexclusive to pro-gaming or anything like that.DB: : It does make it harder for us to balancewhen people are this good.Jim: Is the RTS genre undergoing a resurgencein popularity right now?CS: You tend to see it ebb and flow. There havebeen times when there are just so many strategygames and right now there just happens to be aload of great stuff out there.DB: I think it’s always been strong. I know thereare people who have claimed over the years “ohit’s not as good as it used to be” but from myperspective there’s always been something goodto play and RTS seems to get better and betterevery year. It’s great to see this competition,especially when you have people saying “well, PCgames are dying”. I just say “oh really,” becauseI’m still making them and I’m still playing themand we’re still having a good time.September 2007 37PCF204.feature1 037 12/7/07 15:03:40

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