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War on Terrans

Blizzard's Frank Pearce and Bob Colayco talk StarCraft II, achievements and Korea

Earlier this week Blizzard Entertainment was in London showing off the single-player campaign for its forthcoming RTS StarCraft II for the first time.

Frank Pearce (executive VP) and Bob Colayco (international PR manager) were on hand to chat, so we talked about the development so far, social networking features, achievements, micro-transactions and the age rating in Korea.

GamesIndustry.biz The development process has been lengthy for StarCraft II - what are the main areas you've been polishing in the last phase?
Frank Pearce

The biggest focus I think in terms of recent development was polishing up the single-player campaign experience - because that's not something we've done in such an immersive fashion before. The tools, the methodologies and the production of that is new to the development team - so that plays a big factor in the focus.

Then also the Battlenet experience itself - the landing page, and all the features we want to integrate in terms of the Real ID, that's something we've definitely wanted to take extra time on.

GamesIndustry.biz The multi-player beta has been running for a while now - has that thrown up any problems, or is it running as expected?
Frank Pearce

I wouldn't say anything we've done is "as expected" - but I don't think it's thrown up any big red flags either. The multi-player experience, and delivering a quality, balanced experience there I think is something we're experts at - assuming we take all the steps we traditionally take to get there - and the beta is definitely one of the steps along the way.

Player feedback and response has been very positive - no one's every going to be completely satisfied with balance, so we'll continue to iterate on that right up until launch... and probably indefinitely after that as well.

Bob Calayco

It's also impacted Battlenet as well, actually - the algorithm for match-making has been iterated on a number of times. That's something that's a little bit opaque to the players, because it happens behind the scenes, but there's been a lot of attention there.

Also some user interface elements - one example is when you end a match it used to be really hard to get information about the player you just played. You couldn't easily see their profile, or try to add them as a friend - but now that's been fixed.

GamesIndustry.biz There have been a number of key evolutions in the multi-player space since the company's last RTS game - World of Warcraft and Call of Duty to name just two - so are there specific learnings you've taken from games like that, albeit they're occupying different genre spaces?
Frank Pearce

You can look at user interfaces - we could talk, not just about games but also things like Facebook as an example. We're definitely leveraging components of those social networking experiences that make sense for Battlenet - Real Life ID, friends lists and things like that.

Bob Calayco

And using achievements as a means of directing gameplay - certainly we see that with Xbox Live games, but also World of Warcraft. When you see the list of achievements it kind of compels you to try things you maybe wouldn't normally have done before.

As an example, in StarCraft II there are hundreds of single- and multi-players achievements. There's one where you need to seek out a giant Zerg unit that you only see in the single-player, called the Brutilisk - it looks a little bit like a lobster, and it's on the volcano map.

So there's an achievement for luring the Brutilisk out and getting it cooked by the lava - it's called "Red Lobster" or something... There are a lot of ways to encourage players to try new types of gameplay using achievements systems - maybe that's an example of how we leverage things from other games.