StarCraft article by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
Over the past year, The Computer Show has had an opportunity to speak with Blizzard designers and developers including Bill Roper, Senior Producer, and Allan Adham, President. They had several things to share with our television audience and our readers. Hopefully the following information gleaned from those discussions and demonstrations will shed some light on their upcoming products.
Warcraft II sold five hundred thousand copies in three months from its introduction last year. Starcraft is building on the previous simple game engine with all new high-resolution three dimensional effects. Before releasing their own products, Blizzard produced Blackthorne, Rock and Roll Racing and the Lost Vikings for Interplay and Sega's Return of Superman. Blizzard was originally called Silicon & Synapse and has been in business since 1990.
Game play: Best described as Warcraft in space, Starcraft is the latest on the Blizzard plate. Instead of two races, orcs and humans, this game variant will have three races from which you can command the game play. Like Warcraft one and two, building structures and units, combat and peasant-like, and balancing the resources will be required for success. According to Bill Roper, "Starcraft is much MUCH more than merely a Warcraft knock-off, not Warcraft in Space, which I fear you are implying here. We are working towards making Starcraft the next step in real-time strategy games.
Bill went on to explain his vision for the game, "Instead of two races, orcs and humans, this game variant will have three races from which you can command the game play. Like Warcraft one and two, building structures and units, combat and peasant-like, and balancing the resources will be required for success."
"There is much more to gaining resources than the way peasants operated in the Warcraft series. Also, while building up and maintaining an economy and maintaining it will be vital to the success of many missions, it will also be as important to devise new strategies as there are three different types of play areas in Starcaft - these being Space, Planetary and Installations. Not all units will be available in these different areas and some will involve light role-playing and puzzle elements to successfully complete."
Races: There are three races: Terrans, Protoss, and Zurg. Each intergalactic species will have unique units, technologies, attributes, and abilities that will have their own advantages and disadvantages which will require you to use different goals and tactics with each race you play in order to win. Races bear a resemblance to the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 Eldar and Tyranid armies.
The Terrans are a insolent, opportunistic, and greedy humanoid race not unlike the humans in Warcraft, but far more advanced in technology. Their government is disjointed with a weak link more like a confederation of petty, jealous, self-serving, ingrates. The terrans are described by Bill Roper, producer and senior designer, as scum.
The Protoss have mechanized units that automatically create other units through allocation of resources. The Protoss are the most ancient, noble, haughty, and powerful race in the galaxy. They have a highly structured society based on the preservation of their thinking. Protos have psionic powers, but suffer from inflexible thinking in their relations with other races.
"It is clear that the Zurg have little or no use for technology as we know it, but whether the living ships and weapons they deploy are biological constructs or indeed merely alternate forms of the Zurg themselves has yet to be determined. Few signs of intelligence have been observed other than a marked propensity for cruelty, but this evidence is far from conclusive. As yet, all attempts at non-military contact have been entirely futile." Except from an analysis by a human scientist and explorer.
Interface: The top portion of the screen will be a 3D isometric perspective view of the close up scrolling battlefield map not unlike the characters and top down overhead views displayed in Warcraft II. Actually the isometric perspective has been engineered by Blizzard to distance the title from Warcraft and dispell the notion that the game is just Warcraft in space. The new game resembles Missionforce: Cyberstorm, Dominion and 7th Legion now and is less like the original graphics of Warcraft. Hold onto those original two dimensional overhead perspective screen shots, they are bound to be collectors gifs.
The bottom portion of the screen shows an overhead map with fog-of-war limited view of the entire map area. To the right of that shows the characteristics and picture of the selected unit which is now available to command. Other functions are displayed to the right of that, such as a human, zurg, or protoss face and a unit display. In Starcraft, Planets and space stations will replace islands and dungeons of Warcraft.
Bill also shared his view on the interface with us, "The faces shown in the unit communications window will be different for many of the nits as we intend to create many, many different representations of the pilots and commanders of the various units in Starcraft."
"The game play area is an isometric view - not top down like Warcraft. Also, all of the units in Starcraft are fully rendered, unlike the units in Warcraft which were rendered and then greatly retouched by hand, thus giving them a much more animated look. Starcraft units ave a very high tech and sleek look - very different than WarII."
Missions and Campaigns: An evolving storyline with 30 missions will unfold from three different species' perspective. There will be three campaigns of ten missions each.
Artificial intelligence (AI): Race specific artificial intelligence will have each race act within their own personality and character.
When asked to comment on the AI, Bill had this to say, "We are doing many things with the movement algorithms and AI to create better and more engaging game play. We are also doing nw things with the way units are created, play and even interact with each other. A good example of this is found in the Protoss Arbitor. The Arbitor does not have attacks of its own, but does have the ability to directly effect other Protoss (or allied) units and even space itself. Among the many technological powers the Arbitor can wield are setting Jump Gates (allowing for a "folding" of space that transports other units immediately to the arbitor from the jump gate), enable the Arbitor to "cloak" other units, enhance their fighting or defensinve abilities to name a few."
Graphics: SVGA three dimensional (3D) rendered cinematic scenery and characters. Bill describes the graphics as follows, "Graphics: SVGA three dimensional (3D) rendered cinematic scenery and characters. Are the graphics 3D rendered, light sourced, gauraud shaded, texture mapped, and at what pixel resolutions (ie 640x480), and how many colors? The units an backgrounds are fully rendered and exported from 3DStudio Max. We have spent a great deal of time in generating a pallette scheme that gives us an immense amount of flexibility."
Animation: When queried about the efforts in animation, Bill shared with us the following, "The units are all fully rendred with numerous poses and 16 facings. All of the intros for each scenario will be rendered scenes to pull the player deeper into the evolving storyline. We have made many advances and strides in our intro screens, briefings and information screens to bring them to life. There will be several flics over the course of the game to reward players for victories and help drive the storyline.
Voice actors: Human voices will be used and they are commented on by Bill, "We will be utilizing professional voice actors to do all of the voices for all of the units in Starcraft. The Terran units will give us the chance to honor and poke fun at some of our favorite sci-fi movies and characters.
Music score: Red Book CD-quality 3D audio music will be used in the game making the music good enough to play over your stereo. Bill elaborated on music, "Our resident composer, Glenn Stafford who did all of the music for Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness is providing the music for Starcraft. It will be different and varied for all of the species and the user will, of course, have the ability to set volumes, turn off the music, or even replace the CD with whatever music CD they wish.
Sound effects: Digital sound effects will predominate making this game sound as good as it looks. Bill says, "We will be using many sound effects to enhance all aspects of gameplay, including battles, scenario screens, mission resolutions and so on.
Multiplayer: Up to eight will be able to compete or cooperate over a network or serial (null) and phone modem. From within the game you will have access to Blizzard's battle.net where you can challenge opponents in a muliplayer game at no cost other than the internet service provider's (ISP) standard connect fees. That is right there is no monthy fee or startup charge. Simply select the internet option from the game's main screen, and your phone modem dials the battle.net service and connects. Once logged on users can compete with other players from around the world. Battlenet will be running and accessable 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Different skill levels will be handled in different channels. Both Diablo and Starcraft will be battle.net capable.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
ReferencesChristine Grech Wendin, PC Games, volume 3, number 8, August, 1996, pg. 36.
Ron Dulin: GameSpot Preview
Blizzard StarCraft Web Site:
Macworld press release:
Jeff James, Computer Player, volume 3, number 4, September, 1996, pg. 33-35.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 12.
Elliott Chin, Computer Gaming World, issue 154, May, 1997, pg. 56 - 58.
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