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Monday, May 21, 2007

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StarCraft 2: Distinctive Art & Fast Gameplay
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 13 comments

Gamespot recently posted two articles examining panel discussions at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational 2007, both focusing on aspects of the recently announced StarCraft 2. The eagerly awaited continuation of the successful sci-fi RTS series will feature a distinctive art style designed to please the eye and make units readily identifiable, and quick gameplay with enough depth to satisfy power gamers.

On Art Design:

Senior art director Samwise Didier explains that within the core philosophies of Blizzard art design, "nothing is subtle--every character is over-the-top; every environment is either beautiful or battle-scarred." According to the art director, Blizzard's characters come to life by means of strong silhouettes, exaggerated proportions, distinctive animations, and "bold, saturated colors" so that they not only look memorable, but are easy to distinguish at a glance--an important quality for real-time strategy units that must often be viewed from a zoomed-out view. Didier adds that at Blizzard, art is something that "isn't finished until the game is shipped"--artists typically work on continued passes right until games are complete...

Starcraft II's units will have multiple "move cycle" animations so they don't all move in unison with the exact same frames of animation; the crowd of zerglings looks especially creepy because none of them seems to be running about in the same way or in the same direction, like a swarm of hyperactive fire ants. Dilling explains that because Starcraft II is being developed with professional competition in mind, the sequel's special effects will be "tight, fast, and quick" such that they don't obscure the action or slow down your computer. However, "landmark events" like the summoning of the top-level Protoss mothership unit will be accompanied by sufficient graphical fanfare to point out their importance.
On Gameplay:
Vice president of game design Rob Pardo begins the discussion by revisiting several of the studio's previous games, going back as far as Warcraft II, which the vice president cites as the first Blizzard game to garner a significant following as a competitive multiplayer game. Pardo explains that the original Starcraft arose from the team's desire to create a fast-paced real-time strategy game like Warcraft II, but in a different universe, then describes how Blizzard's subsequent RTS project, 2002's Warcraft III, took a very different approach by offering slower-paced gameplay with smaller armies, hero units, and many units with activatable abilities to appeal to "the average gamer." Pardo suggests that the units in both the original Starcraft, and in the sequel, will instead act as "movers and shooters"--mostly autonomous forces that generally lack special abilties, but will instead be used in large control groups to "do their own thing" in battle, rather than requiring the micromanagement of high-level Warcraft III play.

Pardo continues to contrast Warcraft III against Starcraft II, explaining that Warcraft III had less of an emphasis on economic buildup to allow more focus on battles. The 2002 game also, suggests the VP, was much less about early-game victories. While that game did introduce "creeps"--neutral creatures that could be fought to gain experience points for your hero units, early armies in Warcraft III were generally capable of only harrassing your enemies, not defeating them outright. Pardo suggests that "with Starcraft II, [Blizzard is] really going back to its roots to make a true sequel to Starcraft"--a sequel where resource management will be much more central to gameplay, with less micromanagement of different units with special abilities, and in which full-on early-game "rushing" (making an all-out assault at or near the beginning of a new game session) will be much more viable.
To read the rest of the articles head over to the sites listed below.

GameSpot: Starcraft 2 Art Design
GameSpot: Starcraft 2 Gameplay Details
StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty
Buy StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty

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