Making of Starcraft 2: The genesis of the real-time strategy classic – current in games

In the mid-1990s, the real-time strategy genre boomed: The Dune 2 from 1992, developed by Westwood Studios, is considered a pioneer, but this type of game became really popular thanks to Command & Conquer: The Tiberium conflict (published in summer 1995; also by Westwood) and that of Blizzard Entertainment produced Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994). Its successor Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness, released on December 9, 1995, was a real bestseller. And as soon as the game was in the shops, Davidson & Associates, the then parent company of Blizzard, called for a successor.

It was clear relatively quickly that the creators would switch from a fantasy setting to a science fiction universe. In fact, there were even negotiations with LucasArts about a Star Wars adaptation developed by Blizzard. But the discussions went to waste – and ultimately it was probably George Lucas himself who wanted to grant fewer licenses for computer games at the time.


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So a separate scenario had to be created for the future Starcraft. The team around Chris Metzen, then Vice President of Creative Development, quickly found the first sources of inspiration from films, literature and other media. If you take a look at the Zerg, for example, there are parallels to the cult film series Alien. Blizzard and Davidson & Associates were actually planning a rapid development of the Warcraft successor. After all, they wanted to hurry to surf the real-time wave. But the planned Starcraft release in 1996 burst, and it followed shift after shift. The reasons for this included balancing problems, engine changes and a lot of program errors.

Until Starcraft finally came onto the market on March 31, 1998, the developers "crunched" for a good one and a half years and literally rubbed each other up for success. But at least it was worth it: Starcraft is one of the most successful games ever and, thanks to its esports focus, has become one of the most popular games worldwide. Why are we rolling out the story of the first Starcraft here so long and wide? Without a feel for the philosophy behind the entire brand and Blizzard's way of working, the Odyssey that ultimately led to the real-time strategy masterpiece Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty cannot be understood.





<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/960x/2020/07/starcraft206-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Upgrade functions provide additional depth. You can already see the different in the graphic Alignment of the fractions: The tech tree of the Zerg has the shape of a DNA strand, whereas the highly developed Protoss looks very technical.
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Upgrade functions provide additional depth. Already in the graphic you can see the different orientations of the fractions: The tech tree of the Zerg has the shape of a DNA strand, while the highly developed Protoss looks very technical.

Source: Blizzard





A turbulent start
Work on Starcraft 2 began a few years after the first part appeared, and especially after the release of the online role-playing game World Of Warcraft, which was launched in the United States in late 2004 and in Europe in February 2005. At the time, Blizzard was pulling together all its strength for this mammoth project, so that other brands had to be left behind. This included Starcraft 2, whose production was postponed by one year, according to Rob Pardo, then Vice President of Game Design and Executive Producer Chris Sigaty. The first work was done in 2003; however, the official announcement of the development was made on May 19, 2007 at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in South Korea.

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At the beginning, the production ran under the code name "Medusa". Funnily enough, Blizzard sausaged this title several times, because both a multiplayer map of the first part and a unit are exactly the same. The development really took off in mid-2005. The particular challenge in this case was to develop a new title with additional units, while at the same time maintaining the feel of the first part. Nor did one want to unnecessarily inflate the three existing factions of the Zerg, Protoss and Terrans.

David Bowder, who first joined the development team as a senior producer in March 2005 and later became the lead designer of Starcraft 2, explained in the Interview with Gamasutra: "It is a combination of conceptual elements and mechanisms. Where we thought it could be improved, we tried to do it really better. We removed things that we considered conceptually unimportant." So it was decided which units, gameplay elements and ideas were really essential for the game and the experience itself. According to Bowder, there were always discussions about decision-making processes and what was really necessary for Starcraft 2 over the entire development period.





<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/960x/2020/07/starcraft207-pc-games.jpg" alt = "At three key points in Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty you also get freedom of choice Your choice determines the further development and unlocks units and abilities.
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At three key points in Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty you also get freedom of choice. With your choice you determine the further development and unlock units and abilities.

Source: Blizzard




Where there is so much talk, there are of course ideas about a possible fourth faction flying through the room. And in fact there was the idea of ​​bringing the "United Earth Directorate" into play as an additional party. Another grouping with its own units, buildings and focal points meant a huge overturn in the game system. The further the development progressed, the more it became clear that an additional fraction would only cause gameplay problems.

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Multiplayer focus

For Starcraft 2, Blizzard first needed new graphics technology: more units, more complex 3D models and other adjustments were at the top of the list here. The design team focused heavily on the first part of the optical realignment, but basically had a free hand in the design. Blizzard management recognized early on that games add longevity through extensive online features. Accordingly, the focus in the second Starcraft was increasingly on the competitive online options and the e-sport features. Before the work on the campaign even started, the developers launched a playable multiplayer prototype. When Starcraft 2 was announced on May 19, 2007, it was already playable.

David Bowder explained the concept of multi-player and single-player in an interview: "We tried in previous games (to prepare players for multiplayer). But that never really worked. A solo campaign didn't prepare anyone for online gameplay. It works simply not." This finding led to a different approach: Blizzard treated both types of game separately. So while the campaign ran wild with many units and functions, the multiplayer was limited. "Multiplayer must be understandable. It is not a question of keeping everything in my head that I can do. Ideally, I should also know what my counterpart can do. This is the only way that I can be one step ahead of you with my options "he explained the design behind the online functions.





<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/960x/2020/07/starcraft209-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Blizzard developed Starcraft 2 from the beginning with a strong multiplayer focus. Even before you So starting with the production of the campaign, the designers first created a multiplayer prototype for initial tests.
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Blizzard developed Starcraft 2 from the start with a strong multiplayer focus. So before you even started producing the campaign, the designers first made a multiplayer prototype for initial tests.

Source: Blizzard




Bowder compares Starcraft 2 with chess: a clear set of rules, absolutely understandable and with a lot of scope for the tactics of the participants. The team nevertheless dared to experiment. Bowder, for example, talks about "what if …" scenarios in which certain units or functions – such as a medic – were switched on and off again. If there was no improvement in the audition or no enthusiasm among the subjects, the change was rejected.

Perfection just takes …
During the course of development, Starcraft 2 received an update almost every week on average. On the Blizzcon 2011 Blizzard finally revealed that the graphical framework was almost fixed in October 2007. Everything that went into the game in the following three years until the release on July 27, 2010 revolved around balancing, fine-tuning and the optimal gaming experience. Between 2007 and 2010, a total of over 12,000 Starcraft 2 builds were created. In the entire five-year development period, Blizzard had 16,130 builds (!).

Striking: Over the years, Blizzard showed a lot of the game and was in constant communication with the community. The first playable version of the solo campaign was presented at Blizzcon 2007 – just a few months after the official announcement. Fans and journalists could test the Terrans and the Protoss here. Around a year later, Rob Pardo confirmed that about a third of the campaign was completed and that in addition to Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, the two expansions Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void were planned. At this point, Starcraft 2 was still in the pre-alpha phase, which it was growing out of shortly before Blizzcon 2008.





<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/960x/2020/07/starcraft210-pc-games.jpg" alt = "With Starcraft 2, Blizzard also expanded its online service Battle.net the Californians introduced a new ranking system and matchmaking that really brings players with similar skills together.
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With Starcraft 2, Blizzard has also expanded its online service Battle.net. For example, the Californians introduced a new ranking system and matchmaking that really brings players with similar skills together.

Source: Blizzard




Blizzard's perfectionism was not only evident in the game, but also in the online service Battle.net. Changes were also made to this service during production – and these also affected the publication of the real-time strategy cracker. Blizzard was unable to meet the release date initially forecast by Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime at the end of 2009. The beta also shifted, which raised initial doubts about the qualities of Starcraft 2. However, the team behind it did not allow themselves to be put off and used the additional time for further fine-tuning.

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty finally came out on July 27, 2010. The PC game even topped the success of its predecessor: With a Metacritic rating of 93 and a user score of excellent 8.3, it still belongs to the top of the strategy to this day and sold around 4.5 million copies by December 2010 alone. However, the strategy hammer also broke a sad record: by the end of the year, the title had been downloaded illegally 2.3 million times via torrent. The two expansions kept Starcraft 2 under discussion for a long time: Heart of the Swarm was released in March 2013 and focused on the Zerg, Legacy of the Void was released in November 2015 and delivers the campaign for the Protoss.





<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/960x/2020/07/starcraft211-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty was released in 2017 as a Free2Play version, which contained the Complete campaign and all multiplayer content, as a bonus, owners of the title received the Heart of the Swarm expansion for free.
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Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty was released in 2017 as a Free2Play version. This contained the entire campaign and all multiplayer content. As a bonus, owners of the title received the Heart of the Swarm expansion for free.

Source: Blizzard




Like its predecessor, Starcraft 2 prevailed in e-sports and is one of the most popular and most played online games. The traditional franchise, however, experienced an exciting development on November 14, 2017: The Wings of Liberty campaign and the multiplayer modes Free2Play have been free since then. Blizzard hoped that this step would increase the number of players and keep the brand on the market for a long time.

If the development of Starcraft 2 shows one thing above all, it is that additional development time pays off. Seldom has a title been finished so early and spent so many months on fine-tuning. And in the end, that also paid off in terms of quality.

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