Ok, first of all, deep breaths. Lead producer Chris Sigaty wasn’t banging the gavel on the StarCraft II vanilla edition’s sentence to development hell. That’s still set to launch next year. Rather, he was talking about the full StarCraft II trilogy, which is a flavorful mix of Terran, Zerg, and Protoss. Still though, “several years.” That’s a lot of time. So, what’s up? Sigaty explained:
"We expect everything to be different when you play through the Zerg story and when you play through the Protoss, so you're not going to be mercenaries, and you're not going to be buying tech in that sense.”
"What we're doing with multiplayer, we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of, so all those things, we're just starting to move into discussions about now," he added. "I really don't expect us to get into any action on it until we actually ship the game."
Thus, Sigaty concluded, it’s not unrealistic to expect Blizzard’s no-stone-left-unturned tinkering process to last several years. “That's a fair statement,” he replied when presented with such a possibility.
At least, though, they’re not calling the whole multi-year package “episodic.” There's always that.
The petition may already be having fond, nostalgic memories of the time it was at 100,000 signatures, but Blizzard’s decision to keep StarCraft II LAN-free remains set in stone. So, one might wonder, is Blizzard an unfeeling, out-of-touch monster? Does it even care what its fans think? Blizzard’s Rob Pardo was taken to task with such a question, and he fired back with this little number:
“Of course we care, but it’s not like we’re surprised that there’s a petition about LAN in Star II. It’s not like we went, ‘D’oh. People care about that?’ Clearly, we knew, it was a very tough decision, and I’d say we’d been talking about it back and forth for well over a year before we finally decided that this is more the direction for the future for us, and actually for the industry.”
“If you look at LAN, that goes back to the War II days, with Cali and stuff like that. I think LAN will be a great footnote in our history, just like DOS was. It’s just something that, with broadband and with the connections and the things that we can do on Battle.net, and having to support LAN in addition to that… It’s the sort of decision we have to make that has to be the lowest common denominator for both. I don’t necessarily think [LAN’s] going to be the way of the future. And that’s going to be the best thing for Star II and our future games.”
So there you have it. Blizzard thinks history is all well and good, but the future’s where it’s at. And we imagine Blizzard knows a thing or two about the future. After all, the company did birth one of the greatest futuristic sci-fi gaming series of all time. And that concludes this week’s installment of Flawless Logic Theater.
BioShock 2, Max Payne 3, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Singularity, and now StarCraft II? We’d say all that’s left for 2009 are tumbleweeds, but they’ll probably just delay those too. So, who’s responsible for what will surely go down as one of the darkest days in Korean history? That’d be Blizzard’s own Battle.net service.
"Over the past couple of weeks, it has become clear that it will take longer than expected to prepare the new Battle.net for the launch of the game," said Blizzard in a statement.
"The upgraded Battle.net is an integral part of the StarCraft II experience and will be an essential part of all of our games moving forward. This extra development time will be critical to help us realize our vision for the service."
The game’s now scheduled to launch during the “first half” of 2010, which is basically where mom ‘n’ pop have decided to stash the rest of Christmas as well.
If there is a silver lining to all of this, though, it’s that Diablo III’s still chugging along on schedule. Even better, Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime noted that “it would be correct to conclude that you could expect two releases of Blizzard next year,” which we’re taking to mean StarCraft II and Diablo III. Guys, 2010 is going to be a fantastic year. Expensive, sure, but fantastic nonetheless.
Or at least, we’re fairly sure the beta’s nearly jacked up and good to go – if a Blizzard email sent out to a number of press outlets is any indication.
The email prompts members of the press to make sure they’ve signed up for Blizzard’s sparkly new version of Battle.Net and requested a spot in line for StarCraft II’s beta. All pertinent info must be in Blizzard’s hands by June 19.
Based on this information, we’re thinking beta keys will start gracing the mailboxes of outrageously lucky non-press people soon as well. You will hate these people, and you’ll call them names, give them swirlies, and pick them last for the dodgeball team out of jealousy. Do not be alarmed; this is the way things are meant to be.
So, did you enlist in the beta? If not, you’d better hop to it. Really, this could be your only shot at building up some confidence in your StarCraft II abilities. And trust us -- you’ll need it for the game’s retail release, when players from a certain StarCraft-obsessed nation flock to the game in droves and remind you that your happiness was only a brittle illusion.
It’s true. If you missed out on Blizzcon ’08 or hawked your beta code because you (wisely) anticipated that Blizzard might pull something like this, now’s your chance to register for StarCraft II’s upcoming beta test.
“The StarCraft II beta-test period is coming in the months ahead! If you’d like a chance to participate, now’s the time to let us know,” reads the World of Warcraft website.
Just sign-in over at Battle.net, wow Blizzard with your PC’s bleeding-edge specs (or even middle-of-the-road specs; really – this is Blizzard we’re talking about), and start F5-ing your inbox. Better still, even if Blizzard doesn’t deem you worthy of participating in this beta, the opt-in process still nabs you a spot in line for future Blizzard betas. Opportunity is knocking. Are you just gonna stand it up? Go on now. Go!
One semi-major stipulation, though: You must have at least one game registered under your Battle.net account in order to opt-in for StarCraft II’s beta. But hey, it could be worse. At least you didn’t have to fly out to California for a geek-tastic weekend of game-filled fun like those other suckers. Who in their right mind would want that?
Like a down-and-out, washed-up action movie star, Blizzard’s Battle.net service – once a pimp-my-wagon pioneer of online gaming service form and function – is beginning to look a little silly in a world where relative youngsters like Steam and Xbox Live give the Internet the buddy cop treatment. However, instead of stinking up a beloved franchise or wrestling California into submission, Battle.net’s hopping back into the ring with an all-new image.
Most notably, Battle.net’s new groove (or possibly, the proactive reclamation of its old groove) brings with it a single online identity, which will consolidate all of your Blizzard game accounts into one mega-handle. Currently, merging accounts is optional, but you’ll eventually be forced to Brady Bunch your accounts together and experience convenient organization and other such terrifying prospects.
"As we continue to build additional functionality into the new Battle.net, we will eventually require all active World of Warcraft accounts to migrate over to Battle.net Accounts in order to continue playing," read the official Battle.net site.
The new Battle.net also allows you to manage purchases in Blizzard’s online store, which leads us to wonder if the service might eventually try to compete with Steam. After all, World of Warcraft means Battle.net comes equipped with 11 million users right out of the box. The potential’s certainly there.
We hate jumping the gun on things, but we’re feeling pretty confident in our expert assessment that StarCraft II might just drop in 2009. Hell, it’s about time. Today’s announcement that the sci-fi head of Blizzard’s quality-focused hydra is “in the final stretch,” then, already has us jumping the gun on StarCraft II’s release date. And you know how much we hate that.
“We don't want to lie about the Beta, and we don't even want to lie about the next Battle Report. When we know a date (for anything) for certain, we'll let you know,” said StarCraft II lead designer Dustin Browder.
“Hang in there. We're in the final stretch,” he added.
So yeah, that’s basically the article. Thanks for coming out tonight, everyone! It’s been great.
Generally, the term “conference call” stirs up images of stuffy businessmen swapping stories about things like revenues, stocks, and how to be completely out of touch with today’s youth (“Call your online database ‘kgb’! Then fill your commercial with facetious douchebags!”). However, there ain’t no conference call like an Activision Blizzard conference call, and today’s game of telephone didn’t disappoint.
First up, Acti-Blizz finally took war back to the future with the announcement that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will launch during Q4 (real, not fiscal) of 2009. Is it us, or is the recession looking a little pale?
Continuing its elongated pop-the-question date with our PCs, Activision Blizzard also plans to launch StarCraft 2’s beta sometime in the “months ahead.” In addition, the much-anticipated beta will include an early version of Battle.net’s next iteration, which will probably just open a portal to heaven or something.
Did we mention that Activision won’t be laying-off anyone? Presumably at all? Draw your own conclusions.
We love our moms. They're really super great. Hell, we love moms in general (especially yours). But moms loving StarCraft II? Two hobbies will become one, if producer Chris Sigaty has his way.
“We’ve trying to make sure that it’s perfectly balanced for e-sport, but look — I’m going to try to get my mom to play this game," he told MTV Multiplayer. "I mean, I know she can’t [micromanage] at the level that these pro gamers can, so we’re actually experimenting back in the opposite direction… so that even the layman can come in and get a grasp of these cool things in the game.”
So how will Blizzard snap some of the sharper edges off StarCraft's fire-trail fast gameplay? Sigaty wouldn't elaborate beyond wanting to "make it much easier for [non-gamers] to explore whether it would interest them.”
While this new disproportionately large quadrant of Blizzard's target audience certainly has the potential to wreck things for everyone else, we choose to remember WoW. If anyone can take a tiny, hole-the-wall niche and stretch it into a Grand Canyon -- while still keeping gameplay deep and challenging -- it's Blizzard.
No one can deny that StarCraft II's recently announced reverse-Voltron has officially renewed Blizzard's license to print money, but they can deny Blizzard's good intentions. Vehemently. Don't worry, though; the StarCraft crafters went out of their way to provide a few argument-dominating quotes on the off-chance you're still feeling a tad miffed about their decision.
"One of the things that [StarCraft II lead producer] Chris Sigaty was saying in interviews this weekend is that we had always planned to do two expansion packs for StarCraft II. This structure just reshuffles how we were going to do things," StarCraft rep Bob Colayco told Edge in response to the titular moo-juice allusion.
"Just to give you some context, typically with Blizzard RTSes, we release a single-player campaign that gives players just a taste of each race. The original StarCraft had 10 missions each or so for Terrans and Protoss. When we released the Brood Wars expansion pack, there was another eight or so missions for each of the missions."
Each race-focused StarCraft II release, then, includes the same number of missions -- and therefore, roughly the same amount of content -- as their unified predecessor. However, instead of a pithy 10 missions per race, the Terrans stand front and center for 30 missions, as do the Zerg and Protoss.
"Well, if you want to say 'one game' is 90 missions long, then yeah, I guess you’re only getting a third of a game each time," Colayco added. "Show me a game where there are 90 missions. We’re giving players a full-fledged single-player campaign experience included in each of the games."
See? That's no cash-grabbing scheme. That's Blizzard's sacrifice. We'd type more, but we're too busy saluting and choking back a single, glistening tear.