Following yesterday's announcement at BlizzCon that "StarCraft II" will be split into a trilogy -- three different products released separately -- I spoke with lead producer Chris Sigaty about the decision and what we can expect.
Here are the basics:
- Each product is a full-scale title that contains between 26-30 single-player missions per game.
- The timing of the releases could be a year between each game -- or longer.
- Though each game will make references to the others, it's not necessary to own all three to enjoy the single-player experience.
- However, if you want particular units for the multiplayer portion, you'll need to buy the product that has those units.
- Sigaty maintained the decision wasn't made to make more money or due to pressure from the Activision merger; the decision was made at the end of last year.
Read on for the full explanation and more details from Sigaty.
MTV Multiplayer: Why split the game up into three products?
Sigaty: We were running up against basically having a huge story with big scope. And we do this with all our games, where we start out probably too big and then carve back; we do it with the design, how many races we want, all these things. This is from the story front, so we were quickly heading down this path of cut, cut, cut, cut. And it didn't feel like the other options were really viable to do what we wanted to do, which was tell a story from a new perspective. So a player can explore as much or as little as they want, but have the ability to talk a little bit about the motivations of the characters and why they're doing what they're doing and what universe that they're in -- just let the player really get up close and personal with it.
So as we started heading down that path, we were realizing that it would be much better to be able to give the player that. And we realize that there are players out there that love a particular race and really want that story first, but knowing that you're going to get them all, be able to experiment in each and have your own story -- we thought it was worth doing it with the scope that we originally intended. And because it wouldn't affect multiplayer at all, and that each product would have upgrades to multiplayer -- expanding and improving upon multiplayer -- we thought it was a positive move.
MTV Multiplayer: What's the story line for each game -- "Terrans: Wings of Liberty," "Zerg: Heart of the Swarm" and "Protoss: Legacy of the Void"?
Sigaty: I can't really go into what's happening with ["Zerg" and "Protoss"]. The first one ["Terrans"] is focused on Jim Raynor and the Terran struggle, basically. It picks up about four years after where we left off in "Brood War" [expansion]. There, you're going to be focused on purchasing Terran technology to help Jim Raynor and you have a star map where you pick what planets you go to. The second one ["Zerg"], we want to focus a lot more on Kerrigan herself and making her more powerful. We're still talking about what that means exactly.
And then the third one is Protoss-focused, and the intention there is currently we're talking about diplomacy. And this may be the most hardcore of [the trilogy], in that we can cut off what happens to the player by either not helping a particular faction or helping a particular faction, and not having another side not be happy about it -- that sort of thing. We're still ironing out the specifics, but that's the basics. And then storywise, I mean as you saw from the video, there is a greater threat out there that the final video eluded to. But you can see with the movies themselves that we were really focusing on Jim Raynor and his side of things.
MTV Multiplayer: What's the timing for the releases? How long do we have to wait for each one?
Sigaty: We don't know for sure, because with story mode, the whole thing that we're doing right now is new to us. It's definitely a new medium for us. The in-game cinematics take a considerable amount of time. It's not as long as pre-rendered, but it does take some time to get that done so we're exploring that right now. With "Warcraft III," we hit a year for the expansion. We'd love to hit that [for "Starcraft II"], but honestly, with how story mode goes and with the pre-rendered and in-game cinematics, I don't know how long it's going to take, so it's hard to answer that question. We want to hit the shortest amount of time possible.
The fact that we already know where we're headed with them, and we kind of know the over-arching story and how it's going to be, that's a great first start. Our intention is -- as we're finishing up the first product "Wings of Liberty" -- to actually begin working on the next one, but we'll see how well we're able to execute with regards to those plans.
MTV Multiplayer: So you're saying it could be a year or more between each one?
Sigaty: Yes, it could be. But let's spin that in a positive light! [laughs]
MTV Multiplayer: You could say it will be worth the wait...
Sigaty: [laughs] Well, "Frozen Throne" ["Warcraft III" expansion] is an example of a year between expansions, and each one of our "World of Warcraft" expansions, they're big in scope and they add a lot. So we're definitely not going to skimp on that.
MTV Multiplayer: And to be clear, the order that the games were presented, is the order that they'll be released?
Sigaty: Yeah, well right now that's it. With us, [the games] always working titles and working intentions, but right now that feels pretty solid.
MTV Multiplayer: Will these be full-priced products?
Sigaty: You know, we haven't even talked about that yet. I don't know. They're definitely full-sized games. I mean, the scope will be big; it's going to be 26 to 30 missions in the first one, and we intend to have at least that much in the next after that. By the end, I'd say up to 90 missions. Definitely full-scale. And again, multiplayer will be upgraded the same way we have with other expansion-like products.
MTV Multiplayer: Have you discussed how the games will connect with each other? Let's say for some reason I want the Protoss game but I don't want the Zerg...
Sigaty: Well, more than likely -- and this is not in stone yet -- for the multiplayer portion of the game, if you want the things that get introduced in the second one, the Zerg portion, you're not going to be able to have... Let's say we introduce a couple of new units per side in the second one. You would need to buy the expansion ot have those units, that's the whole point of the expansion or the second part. But as for single-player, we expect a person that's only interested in the Kerrigan focus could pick up and start plaing from her perspective. We would probably reference things that happened in the first campaign, but you wouldn't be required to play through that to go on and play this.
MTV Multiplayer: Has it been challenging to balance the games?
Sigaty: It definitely is. It's definitely coming up with things that are fun that are new mechanics. I mean we try the first product and make sure we have the complete answer right there. So then we think we have it, and we come up with the expansion and we go "Okay, now what things are missing here?" And making sure we're not going to overwhelm the players who have become used to and love this, but enhanced it to make it even more enjoyable. So it's definitely a huge challenge, that's from the multiplayer aspect. From the story aspect, our single-player aspect, it's definitely challenging as well, but I feel a little better because I know where we're headed with it. We haven't actually figured out definitively what we're going to do from a multiplayer angle on the second or the third product, but we have with the story for the most part.
MTV Multiplayer: What do you say to critics who think this decision was made because of Activision, or that it's just a way to make more money?
Sigaty: Already? Well, I can assure you from being on the inside, this decision actually happened before we even knew the Activision thing was there. This was something that took us a lot of time. We were seeing the danger signs at the end of last year. We were like, "You know what, the scope is so big and if we continue done this path and don't make a decision, we're going to end up cutting it back so much that it's not going to be a good thing." We were not even going to be able to do this more up-close-and-personal examination of Jim Raynor or Kerrigan and all the chracters involved.
So from our perspective, this is not a money decision anyway. We definitely intended to do expansions for this project, one or two. Now we've just said we're definitely doing it, basically. And then what happens within the story mode, we're not cutting the scope with the story mode, we're just changing the perspective. Which I mean, if people would be angry it would be the people that love Zerg so much that they want to play the Zerg story element now. Well, you can't and we're really sorry about that. But we feel like we're giving huge scope there, and we're not changing anything with regards to multiplayer.
Even the number of missions and that sort of thing within the story mode. In fact, for the Zerg player, they're now going to have that 30 missions all kind of together. And we're still trying to add some -- it just didn't make a lot of sense for us to have the story from Jim Raynor's perspective and have you play as Zerg. But we have thrown some Protoss missions into there. So the straight answer to your question is: this was not a monetary decision. This was a lot more about what we could continue to provide from this new angle of storytelling, which is the story mode.