《星際爭霸》真的擁有很長的發展史，即跨越了17年。而隨着《星際爭霸2：虛空之遺》的發行，暴雪總結了Jim Raynor和Sarah Kerrigan的故事以及2010年首次問世的這三部曲內容。
雖然《星際爭霸》系列是基於主角Jim Raynor和Sarah Kerrigan的關係展開，但在一開始並不存在這種動態化。Chris Metzen最初希望Raynor能夠作爲一個比起牛仔更傾向太空的太空牛仔。而Kerrigan的背景則較爲明朗。暴雪是以花樣滑冰運動員Nancy Kerrigan的名字爲該角色命名（遊戲邦注：Nancy Kerrigan曾遭遇競爭對手Tonya Harding男友的攻擊而受了重傷）。但是這一選擇卻剛好對上了競爭遊戲《命令與征服》及其角色Tanya。
“那時候Tonya Harding和Nancy Kerrigan的事件在花樣滑冰界引起了巨大的轟動。而我們選擇使用這個名字時只是覺得這很有趣。但其實這是很愚蠢的做法！”
就像Kerrigan進化成Queen of Blades等更大的理念也是在之後纔出現的。
Metzen說道：“在成長過程中我閱讀了許多有關托爾（遊戲邦注：北歐神話中司雷，戰爭及農業的神）的故事—-Stan Lee或Walt Simonson所處的時期也是我最喜歡的時期。就像我爲Zerg創造了莎士比亞與舊約的相遇這樣的氛圍。但是我還是需要人類角色，所以便延伸出了Terran活動，而我們也再一次地在這裏遇到了這些連接點。”
在接受Polygon的訪問時，他談論到了他們公司早前爲《星際爭霸》設定的方向：他表示這款遊戲最初只是一個一年項目。他說道，他們團隊打算爲1996年的E3展會準備些東西。但是結果“並不盡人意”。多虧了那時候還沒有社交媒體，暴雪並未因爲遊戲而遭受“猛烈抨擊”，但是該團隊還是對此感到鬱悶。他也將部分原因歸咎到競爭遊戲Ion Storm的《Dominion: Storm over Gift 3》身上。
在《自由之翼》的大部分基礎工作完成後，剩下便是Andy Chambers的工作了。故事和創意開發部門總監James Waugh作爲《虛空之遺》的首席作家只提供了一些情節節奏。
暴雪將新擴展包稱爲《星際爭霸2：Nova的祕密行動》。James Waugh擔任內容故事總監，而Valerie Watrous則負責內容的編寫。Waugh表示他們的目標是將Nova與Kerrigan區分開來，因爲粉絲們總是能從他們身上找到許多共同點。
STARCRAFT: THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
by Megan Farokhmanesh
Back in the ‘90s, Chris Metzen had an idea for a new game. For the still-blooming Blizzard Entertainment, these were formative years. There was Warcraft as of 1994, but there was no World of Warcraft. There was talk about doing more real-time strategy, as the company was arguably getting good at it, and a keen interest in heading into space.
Senior VP of Story and Franchise Development Metzen, along with present-day VP of Art and Cinematic Development, Nick Carpenter, was working on concepts for something new. It was a sci-fi, fantasy-driven epic — a story told in a far-out universe with a huge world and different factions. It was “badass,” says Metzen.
It was … space vampires.
“The rest of the team was like, ‘I dunno man, space vampires are pretty wack,’” Metzen says. “‘We want to do something a little broader’.”
Bloodlines, which Metzen wouldn’t talk about publicly until the 2013 release of coffee table book, The Art of Blizzard Entertainment, folded into the seams of Blizzard’s future titles — mostly World of Warcraft. Metzen, and ultimately Blizzard, decided to pursue a new RTS project. Much of the game’s concept focused on three distinct races; finding balance between these three would define its personality. What are their cultures? How do they relate to one another in battle? What are their fighting styles? How do they respawn their units?
These were the broad questions that Bloodlines had so desperately lacked. Blizzard christened the newborn project StarCraft — with some slight reservations about that name.
“StarCraft?” Metzen says of his reaction at the time. “Really? Warcraft, StarCraft?
“I was not into it at the time. I didn’t like Diablo either, in my own space. But ain’t it funny how, over time, words become powerful? They just take on their own identity. I can’t imagine it not being StarCraft now.”
The history of StarCraft is a long one, spanning a 17-year saga of multiple games, expansions within the universe and at least one major canned project. With StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void, Blizzard wraps up the sprawling story of Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan, and a trilogy that saw its first release in 2010.
But Blizzard’s time within the StarCraft universe — and, more specifically, StarCraft 2 — is hardly finished. The heavy lifting of seeing a story through to the end is over. Now it’s time for Blizzard to play.
The Chris Metzen of 2015 is a little wiser, a lot older and much calmer than the kid who came up with Bloodlines. He’s an elder statesman of Blizzard, he jokes, and a far cry from the writer he was when he joined the company in 1994.
Metzen describes himself back then as pretty average, as far as writers go. “I still am,” he insists — the kind of writer who fought hard to get so many characters and details into final products. He was young and hungry, a 19-year-old kid “running hot and fast” to prove himself. He wanted to make his friends proud, and maybe get his dad off his back about his unconventional career path.
“When we developed the first StarCraft I was a writer in the video games industry,” Metzen recalls. “What the hell [was] a writer doing in the video games industry at the time? There was no precedent for that.
“I had everything to prove. The team felt like that too.”
Then, the team was small by Blizzard’s standards today, with maybe around 50 people. It was a close-knit community. On Thursdays, a shifting group of anywhere from 10 to 20 people would gather at Patsy’s, a local Irish pub, to sing karaoke. The singing itself might have been bad — and, according to those who were there, it sometimes was — but it was a chance for people to hang out. Talk. Relax.
Metzen recalls that it was in these early days when he met Chris Sigaty, who now serves as StarCraft’s executive producer. Sigaty was the lead tester on StarCraft and fresh out of the navy. At the time, he had the “high and tight” look about him, Metzen says. With Sigaty over in the QA department, the two didn’t get much time together. Eventually, they’d work together on WarCraft 3 and bond over music.
Metzen describes Sigaty as a “metal god,” and for a moment, the image fits, if only for the long, rocker hair that seems better fitted for a stage than a game developer. But the illusion can’t hold up to Sigaty in motion today, a man who speaks in soft, soothing tones and sits with his hands neatly folded. His tone is slow and measured, exactly like that of a patient dad — perhaps because he is one.
Sigaty, too, traveled a long road to get here. He stumbled into his first StarCraft job as a 20-something. One summer during his scholarship days at USC, he took a testing job to earn some extra cash. The self-described super nerd found himself enthralled with the gaming space. Despite having no formal training and an unrelated college major, he rerouted his goals to find a better career fit there.
QA wasn’t an easy gig. Some nights he’d wind up sleeping on the floor at the office trying to keep up with the fast pace of game development.
“I remember it being a whirlwind,” Sigaty says. “It was a very different time.”
Metzen echoes this sentiment, but in a slightly different way. Blizzard was an easy ship to steer, he says. Once they’d settled on a direction, off they went.
“Back then, ‘Hey, let’s make a space game!’ It was about that simple,” says Metzen. “It was such a purer time, such a simpler time.”
Metzen describes the early days as “Donkey Kong Country.” That is to say, it was an era in video games when stories didn’t play the sort of role they do today. Growing up as a kid, Metzen tore through D&D books and tales from the Marvel universe. He ached to dig into deep ideas, big ones that people would be drawn into. Once the team started cultivating the seeds of StarCraft, that feeling only intensified.
The core concept of StarCraft came together pretty quickly. Its focus on three races — “one’s psychic, one’s creepy and one’s high-tech,” Metzen says — formed the ancient Protoss, human Terrans and insectoid Zerg.
“What galvanized everybody around it was, I think everyone saw very quickly what kind of game we could make,” Metzen says. “‘That sounds rad. That sounds like the next step for us, for sure,’ in terms of what we were ready to build and would match our abilities at the time.”
Of course StarCraft wasn’t Blizzard’s first real-time strategy game, but it was a step into more complex territory. It bumped up the Warcraft standard of two races to three. Characters within those races were different from what players had seen before, with each race having its own sort of strategy and play style. It was something new and bold for the company.
Unfortunately, fans didn’t exactly see it that way at first.
StarCraft signaled Blizzard’s move away from Warcraft’s fantasy world. Following the launch of Warcraft 2, the studio had a choice to make. It could continue on to Warcraft 3, as many expected, or it could try something different within the realm of RTS games.
In StarCraft’s first life, however, Blizzard used the same engine it used for the Warcraft games with different art. When the team packed up an early version of the game to take to E3 in 1996, fans weren’t impressed, recalls Blizzard CEO and Co-Founder Mike Morhaime.
“We showed this game, and everyone looked at it and said, ‘Oh, that’s like orcs in space.’ It sort of wasn’t the reaction we were hoping for.”
With bruised egos, Blizzard went back to planning. The game’s engine needed work, enhancements, and the team needed to rethink what a space epic RTS would look like. A Warcraft facelift wasn’t going to cut it.
The StarCraft series has since become defined by the relationship between leads Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan, but in the beginning, that dynamic just didn’t exist. Chris Metzen originally envisioned Raynor as a space cowboy that was “more space than cowboy.” Kerrigan’s backstory is famously on the lighter side. Blizzard named her for figure skater Nancy Kerrigan in a nod to her rival, Tonya Harding — the athlete notorious for hiring her husband to break Kerrigan’s leg. In this case, however, the joke was against competitor Command & Conquer and its character Tanya.
“It sounds ridiculous to say this out loud because it’s so uncool,” Metzen says of the explanation.
“At the time it was the big figure-skating to-do with Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. So we’ll just name ours Kerrigan, after the girl who gets her knee beat in. We thought, aw, that’s so funny! It’s so stupid.”
Kerrigan became the covert, psychic warrior to Raynor’s space cowboy. As Metzen played with the dynamic between the two, he began to dig out the early bones that would help structure the series.
“It’s funny all these years later, especially given the breadth of StarCraft 2, that their relationship, that dynamic between them, really defined a lot of it for me over time,” Metzen says. “The heart of StarCraft, really. But it wasn’t necessarily a first big idea. We found it along the highway. Which I would say is often really true about ideas that come to define these games and their narratives. You find it along the way. You don’t always start with the big idea. It shapes over time as the game shapes over time.”
The big ideas, like Kerrigan’s evolution into the Queen of Blades, came later.
“I grew up reading a lot of Thor — which has a Shakespearean component to the language — back from those Stan Lee days, or the Walt Simonson days, my favorite,” Metzen says. “I gave the Zerg campaign a Shakespeare meets Old Testament kind of vibe. But I needed that that human-like character down the line, and it was toward the end of the Terran campaign like, whoa, what if she becomes — again, we stumbled on those connector points.”
StarCraft finally launched in 1998, following much impatience from fans. A group within the StarCraft community began writing fan fiction about waiting for the game, coupled with wild ideas on the state of the game.
“They came up with these conspiracy theories about how the game was really done,” Morhaime says, “but me and some other people were holding on to the game just because we had these sinister plans or whatever. They called themselves [Operation] Can’t Wait Any Longer. They kinda staked out our building and started taking pictures of how many cars were in the parking lot at night, coming up with theories.”
Morhaime, in recalling these antics, seems surprisingly chill about fans creeping on the company lot. The story is told with affection, which perhaps explains Blizzard’s decision to make “operation cwal” a cheat code in the original StarCraft. But Blizzard, by then, had already earned a reputation for taking its time. If Warcraft put the company on the map, then it was Diablo that established Blizzard as one that emphasized polish — which remains part of the developer’s DNA even today.
When StarCraft launched, its contribution to the company manifested in a different way. It was the title that took Blizzard global, and it was Blizzard’s first esport. The game took off in Korea.
“At its peak, in Korea, where esports grew and led the world, there were three cable channels broadcasting StarCraft 24/7,” says Morhaime. “That was both awesome and something that we hadn’t necessarily predicted, forecast.
“Today StarCraft: Brood War, [essentially] the original version of StarCraft, is still one of the most popular, most played games in Korea. It was a huge wake-up call to us, just how much interest there was globally in playing Blizzard games. Every game after StarCraft we’ve localized into Korean.”
One of Blizzard’s core goals today is to think globally — to think about treating players around the world “like first-class Blizzard citizens,” Morhaime says.
Korean fans, who helped ignite that push, learned this lesson firsthand in 2007.
In 2012, former VP of R&D Patrick Wyatt — who would later leave the company to found ArenaNet, creator of Guild Wars — posted a series of blog posts detailing road bumps in developing StarCraft 1.
In an interview with Polygon, he talked about the company’s early direction with StarCraft: a game he says was initially envisioned as a year-long project. The team was instructed to prepare something for E3 in 1996, he says. The result “wasn’t that impressive.” Although Blizzard didn’t get “slammed” for their game, thanks to a lack of social media, he says, internally, the team was rattled. He pins some of this uneasiness on a competitor’s game: Ion Storm’s Dominion: Storm over Gift 3.
“[Dominion Storm] was doing so many more ambitious things than our game,” he says. “We’d made our reputation in doing games that were groundbreaking … in our space, we were making really ambitious games.
“And here was this StarCraft game we were doing, and it was incredibly pedestrian. It was done because our parent company felt we needed to keep cranking out products, not because we felt this incredible love for the game. It was done for business reasons rather than the reason that a lot of us had joined the industry, because we wanted to make incredible, awesome games.”
Mike Morhaime, in response to Wyatt’s comments for this story, echoes that StarCraft was originally planned for a year-long development cycle, and that it ultimately did take longer. He pushes back, however, against the idea Blizzard conceived StarCraft as a filler project.
“StarCraft has been one of our key pillars since the beginning,” he says. “All of us are huge sci-fi fans and always wanted to create a game built in that genre. … We had realized it was more important to make a great game rather than try to hit a specific release window, so we took our time with StarCraft and really built out the world, the three unique races, and the gameplay until it was at the quality and polish bar we had set for ourselves.”
Blizzard did, in fact, eventually correct its course, but changes to StarCraft wouldn’t come swiftly; first, Blizzard had to ship Diablo. When work resumed on StarCraft, Wyatt says the team was exhausted from a long, intense crunch to finish Diablo. Much of StarCraft had to be redone — Wyatt estimated they would toss 90 to 95 percent of it in favor of replacement systems. The crunch started all over again, and though Wyatt is proud of the work he did at Blizzard, he says in retrospect, “we were just working way too damn hard on this thing.”
“‘Sacrifices are necessary,’” he says of the thinking at the time. “We had all been roped into this idea that we just had to get it done. We were kind of powerless to be more reasonable about the whole process … We felt passionately about building this game. We wanted it to be awesome, but at the same time there was just an enormous amount of pressure that was coming down.”
Wyatt left the company in 2000, and even by then, he says Blizzard had begun to change. The frantic need to ship games was replaced with a desire to take as long as it needed to make it epic.
“It really wasn’t until getting our butts kicked for StarCraft that I think we really internalized that lesson across the whole company,” he says.
“I can’t remember how many years ago it was that we started StarCraft 2,” says Chris Metzen. “Ten years? Good god.”
By the time of StarCraft 2’s announcement in 2007, the landscape was vastly different than the first time around. StarCraft itself was a hit, as was its expansion pack, Brood War. Blizzard’s lineup had grown massively with the addition of Warcraft 2 and 3, Diablo 2 and its big head-turner, World of Warcraft. This time, when StarCraft reappeared for a sequel at the Blizzard Entertainment Worldwide Invitational in South Korea, the crowds weren’t asking about Warcraft.
The event in Seoul was nothing short of spectacular. When Morhaime took the stage to usher in the announcement, the crowd was already screaming with excitement. A trailer for the game unfolded in the dark, and the yells quieted as Raynor appeared. He spoke, and again the stadium exploded with cheers and whoops, escalating as the words “StarCraft 2″ faded in.
The then and now differences of StarCraft — and Blizzard as a company — extended beyond an excited crowd or a list of released games. Blizzard knew who it was, what it wanted to do and where it wanted to spend its time. It was confident in its ability to design, write, code and create a bigger game.
“Our aspirations were much higher in coming back to StarCraft,” Metzen says. “Instead of the screen with the portraits yelling at each other, I wanted it to be living. I wanted to be in the scene. Some would argue that we took it too far, photographs on the bulletin boards and the jukeboxes and all that stuff. But we were very different developers. … It pushed us to think bigger and be more farsighted about the product we wanted to build.
“StarCraft 2 was a much more robust narrative than anything we had tried before. And so when you ask what had changed — everything. Everything. We wanted to just build the biggest, craziest space opera we could. That’s what we tried to do.”
Fans would soon learn just how robust StarCraft 2 would be. At Blizzcon in 2008, Blizzard revealed that StarCraft 2 would be a trilogy in itself — three parts, each focused on a different race.
StarCraft 2 didn’t start that way. As Blizzard penned out the sprawling narrative, it realized that packing it into a single game had nightmare potential in dramatic delays and clutter. The solution was to split it, Metzen says, and give each race room to breathe.
Players weren’t thrilled about the news, to put it lightly. They grouched on sites like Kotaku and GameSpot with concerns about money, accusations of greed and disappointment at the extended wait.
Chris Sigaty says that StarCraft 2 has worked out the way the team wanted, but at the time, it “definitely” heard that feedback. He points to expectations set by the first game, in which players had every story for every race right away, as part of the cause.
“We did our best to include some of those things, but some people have certainly given us that feedback,” Sigaty says. “I wish it was there all at once. The thing is, we feel like at this point StarCraft 2 would have shipped about now. It could have had all that, but it would have played out differently.”
“In developing these fictions for games, you gotta remember, people just want to feel powerful and effective.”
Whether or not Blizzard would consider a drastic split again is undecided. Sigaty says it would have to be on a case-by-case basis and dependent on what the company hopes to achieve with that game.
“That was a big deal for us,” he says. “It would probably be a big deal to us again — not just rinse and repeat, but ‘what are we trying to achieve with this next product,’ whatever it is?”
Reflecting back on StarCraft 2’s first installment, Wings of Liberty, Metzen views it with a mix of pride and a healthy dose of writer’s self-loathing. To get ready for Legacy of the Void, he popped in Wings of Liberty just a few weeks ago to play the campaign again. The nostalgia trip came with a few bruises.
“I was like, oof, over and over again, oh my God, this sounded so good at the time,” Metzen says. “Oh my God, it’s terrible.”
Among those storylines that didn’t make the cut was a serious “down and out” drinking problem for Raynor. The missions Metzen wanted showed Raynor screwing up in some way, even after players successfully achieved their goal. People would end up hurt, but eventually, Raynor would overcome his personal demons and find redemption.
“At the time, the team was just like, ‘Why? It’s unnecessary,’” Metzen says. “‘I just wanna see things nuked! I want to feel badass right out of the gate.’ That’s perfectly valid. If I were writing a novel about it, it might have been great.
“But in developing these fictions for games, you gotta remember, people just want to feel powerful and effective. If the first X minutes of your gameplay, the first X missions in a narrative wave, if you just feel kinda cruddy and icky and low, you’re not gonna stick with it. You’re not gonna enjoy it or bring out this heroic thing that we were really chasing, for the most part, in the first place.”
Despite whatever clumsiness remains, he says, he’s still happy for the work he put in. Writing for games isn’t easy, and working on your craft requires putting your heart out there again and again.
“It’s just writers, right,” he says. “We’re always like, oh, God, why did that sound like such a good idea at the time? But at the same time, as crude as things can look in hindsight, I’m super proud of it too. … It all started somewhere. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. It doesn’t have to be perfect. What is perfect? We want to build these things as best we can.
“You aren’t afforded the ability to be all that precious. You gotta push passionately.”
Wings of Liberty is home to many themes and stories that Metzen felt passionately about when it was made. Sometimes that makes it harder to reflect on.
“Looking back at the writing stuff over time, there’s stuff that I’m super embarrassed by,” Metzen says. “Whether it was just bad writing, or there were ideas that were really important to me at the time — but I look back and I feel exposed, chasing themes or story moments that meant a lot to me at the time. But for every one of those, I’m equally proud of having taken the step, taken a stand, clumsy as it all may have been. It was real. It was pure art at the time.”
When Legacy of the Void launches on Nov. 10, it will complete the three-faction experience that Blizzard has always envisioned for the series. This is the Protoss chapter of StarCraft 2, focusing specifically on Brood War’s favorite, Artanis, as its lead. It’s a resolution to many of the series’ big questions as well as its long, arching story.
“For the Protoss, these themes that will play out in Legacy were always there from the beginning,” Chris Metzen says. “In many ways, it shaped the whole overarching story of StarCraft 2. There is a dark force in the universe that may have manipulated these events long ago, and it’s going to have to be dealt with. Our heroes are going to have to sacrifice a lot to deal with it. That was always the core, even when it was all just one storyline many years ago.”
Metzen was the leading force behind the original StarCraft, but his role in StarCraft 2 has heavily diminished since Wings of Liberty. A shift in his job at the company led to more responsibility, more departments to handle and less time to be the man behind the keyboard.
Much of the groundwork on Wings of Liberty was done, but it was Andy Chambers who finished the title. Director of Story and Creative Development James Waugh served as the lead writer on Legacy of the Void, and Metzen’s influence was more general, only providing the plot beats.
Waugh, who came on as a senior story developer in 2008, never aspired to be a video game writer. He came from the film industry, where he worked for about a decade as a development executive and screenwriter. His relationship to StarCraft, however, can be traced back to his senior year of college, when he picked up a copy of the first game. Waugh went home to play his new game — and then spent the next hour engrossed in the game’s manual, which featured pages upon pages of lore penned by Metzen.
Waugh, during his film days, always harbored a love of games. He was interested in translating properties like StarCraft onto the big screen. Eventually, he landed a job at Blizzard working with several different properties; his first venture into StarCraft development coincided with his job as a writer on Wings of Liberty.
“Did I initially aspire to be a video game writer?” he says. “I didn’t even know it was a plausible career path when I first left graduate school. I think the industry changed in a lot of ways, and video games became a great storytelling vehicle. I ended up going in that direction.”
Waugh, too, is stunned at his path from poring over a video game manual to closing out the epic’s final chapter. Today, he describes himself as a torchbearer of the narrative, a person who leads the charge in crafting the series’ world and characters.
In writing Legacy of the Void, Waugh and Blizzard faced an interesting challenge. In both Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, Raynor and Kerrigan provided a human lens to observe the narrative through. Legacy of the Void is purposefully absent of that human angle, says Waugh, because Blizzard didn’t want to rob players of their Protoss experience.
“It was really finding a fine line of making these characters absolutely relatable to us as humans playing this game,” Waugh says, “and finding the kind of commonalities and metaphors and story arcs that relate to our experience — while not making them feel human. We still had to find ways to speak to the fact that this is an ancient race that is very different than us, but at the end of the day they’re also a metaphor for an aspect of humanity.”
Legacy of the Void’s story is largely about the divide between “rugged individualism” and “overcollectivism,” Waugh says, and a struggle to find the balance between the two. For Artanis, who acts as the game’s lead, Legacy of the Void will be about the burden of leadership.
“It sounds great to be a leader, and it sounds great to be all powerful and unite these various Protoss factions,” Waugh says, “but the reality of dealing with the potential loss and this burden of that is pretty heavy. I think that is completely relatable for humans.”
Artanis has his work cut out for him between guiding his people and dealing with the game’s villain, the terrible and powerful Amon. Amon, who’s been at least hinted at as far back as Brood War, has been part of the plan before StarCraft 2 began, says Waugh.
“It’s very much a Lucifer story on some level,” Waugh says of Amon. “It’s a character that had the opportunity to become a great being, and then realized he didn’t like that; at the end of the day, he was part of this ancient, infinite cycle. He realizes that that’s not what he wants, he wants to shatter that cycle. He wants to break everything. He feels lied to. In his mind, he’s the hero of his own story.”
Amon was a tough villain to craft; after all, all-powerful beings tend to be boring when the most interesting thing about them is their power. In early readings he felt a little like a one-note character, Waugh says. Internally, the team knew what his motivations were. In the game, they weren’t as easily readable.
“I really think that your protagonist is only as good as your antagonist,” Waugh says. “In many ways, Amon is kind of the thematic inverse of Artanis. Where Artanis kind of takes on the burden and realizes that there is a lot of flaws in what is the world, that there’s a way to work with them and improve them, Amon decides to shatter it all.
“I think the real answer there is finding, at the end of the day, the humanity of this dark god. Why he does what he does.”
How successful Blizzard will be at playing out Amon’s role, or even Artanis’, remains to be seen. Blizzard, however, is hardly slowing down. As Legacy of the Void comes to a close, the developer is turning its attention to new opportunities.
Blizzard has echoed its statements many times that Legacy of the Void will bring a resolution to the ongoing story of StarCraft. What it hasn’t said until now, however, is that the game marks new blood for the series, too: story-driven DLC. The first, a set of three-act, three-mission packs, will star Nova, the psychic Terran who was set to star in the canceled StarCraft: Ghost and later appeared in Wings of Liberty.
Blizzard calls it StarCraft 2: Nova Covert Ops. James Waugh is acting as the content’s story director, while Valerie Watrous is on point for writing. Waugh says the goal is to separate Nova from Kerrigan, as fans have always drawn similarities between the two.
“We see [Nova] as a very distinct character and incredibly different,” he says. “With Nova, we always find ourselves in stories about what it means to be a good soldier. … She’s an assassin for the military, and sometimes that gets messy.
“This game is really about choice, which really speaks to the theme of who Nova is, and I think by the time we get through this game, we’re going to put Nova in a more empowered position than where we’ve seen her in the past.”
Despite never getting her own game, Nova has a soft spot in the hearts of fans. In 2013, at BlizzCon, the developer showed off a cinematic for the franchise mashup title Heroes of the Storm that threw heroes like Jim Raynor and Nova against the likes of Kerrigan and Diablo.
“It seemed like a slam dunk to have Nova be in Heroes of the Storm,” Chris Metzen says. “I remember being in the room when that video played and she shows up, and she’s goofing on Kerrigan. The room just went up.”
Metzen has a fondness of his own for Nova, describing adventures she might have one day as “definitely stuff we daydream about.” His sentiments are echoed by Chris Sigaty, who calls Nova a compelling, complex character. Still, the developer warns that players shouldn’t expect Nova’s new story to fill the hole left by StarCraft: Ghost. Blizzard says it pulled nothing from that original story, which would have followed Nova’s adventures.
“We’re focusing on a story that’s a little more intimate, a little darker in tone,” Sigaty says of Nova Covert Ops. “We’ve been so focused on the galactic conflict [in StarCraft] and the galactic story. We’d like to explore something a little bit closer to home.”
But the most important takeaway from Nova Covert Ops isn’t about Nova herself. It’s a message from Blizzard that StarCraft 2 is not done, and the company plans to still explore the franchise in ways it hasn’t before. There’s room to dig into more tales from Nova, or to move to other characters within the StarCraft universe. Internally, Blizzard will continue to keep the StarCraft 2 team at work.
The shift to more frequent content is a big change for Blizzard — “Alien,” says Sigaty. It started with Heroes of the Storm, a game that gets new content every few weeks.
“It’s completely, fundamentally changed how we work,” Sigaty says. “An awareness of how long it takes to get a specific Heroes artwork done, the amount of iteration we tend to do to get a hero in a great place — it’s exactly the same story now hitting StarCraft 2.”
While the team finished up Legacy of the Void, it’s also been working on StarCraft 2’s new content. Part of this new shift involves drawing inspiration from unexpected sources — Hollywood, Sigaty says, and the television world. He name-drops Game of Thrones as one of many shows that deliver great content often.
“It’s sort of luxury, the old way,” Sigaty says of making games. “Now that luxury is gone, I think it makes us better at doing this, ultimately. But it’s a change for us.
“We’re going to be releasing the same amount of content that we would build in a year over a year. We’ll see how that goes, see what that’s like. It puts a different urge on our developers.”
Notably, Blizzard’s previously announced StarCraft novels being penned by sci-fi and fantasy author Timothy Zahn will likely take place after Nova Covert Ops, according to Waugh. The direction of that story isn’t 100 percent planned out, he says, but could offer a look at where the franchise might go.
StarCraft’s future is broader than it’s ever been. With Legacy of the Void launching Nov. 10, Blizzard has the chance to explore the game’s universe in ways outside of the strategy realm — any avenue, any game genre, Sigaty says. It’s the company’s Star Wars, he adds; its sci-fi universe.
By the time Legacy of the Void wraps up, the mythology that’s been at play for years will come full circle. The big, resounding conflict that’s defined the series will find resolution. And as it does, it will create new space for Blizzard to play in once again. Metzen says that, while he’s not close to the project at the moment, there’s a lot of excitement within Blizzard about where StarCraft is heading.
“It’s almost a sense of open highway ahead,” Metzen says. “Honestly, since StarCraft 1, it’s almost like pulling these big idea boxcars behind you, having built such a big idea so long ago. It was going to take a lot of content to tell the full story. And now that it’s done, it’s kind of like, whew. All right. What now?”
For Metzen, StarCraft is a place he eventually hopes to return to. He still thinks about its universe a lot. He thinks about it even more in times like these, when the series prepares to pivot once again.
“It could have a lot of life ahead,” Metzen says, adding that he wants to play around with ideas for the series for years.
“It feels like StarCraft has infinite possibility now.” (source:polygon)