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Episodio 13

Benvenuti al tredicesimo BlizzCast! In questa edizione siamo lieti di presentare il nostro speciale sulla beta di StarCraft II. Gli sviluppatori di StarCraft II parlano di quello che i giocatori si potranno aspettare ore che la beta è iniziata. La seconda parte consiste di una sessione di D&R con i manager delle comunità di World of Warcraft e Diablo, che condivideranno interessanti informazioni su questi due titoli. (In attesa di traduzione)

BlizzCast #13: StarCraft II Beta Special BlizzCast #13: World of Warcraft and Diablo Q&A
BlizzCast #13: StarCraft II Beta Special Rob Simpson (eSports), Dustin Browder (game director – StarCraft II), Chris Sigaty (production director -- StarCraft II)
[ Torna all’inizio ]
Rob Simpson: Welcome to BlizzCast! I'm Rob Simpson from the eSports Team -- part of the team that helps to produce the Battle Reports we've all come to love and enjoy. Today, we've got a great show in store for you! The wait is finally over, beta is upon us and we have marked today's episode to focus on all the fun things to expect for beta. Later in the episode, Zarhym and Bashiok will go over some of the hot issues brewing in the World of Warcraft and Diablo communities. But first, we have two of the main guys behind StarCraft II, Production Director Chris Sigaty and Game Director Dustin Browder. Glad to have you both here with us today.
Chris Sigaty: Thanks a lot Rob!

Dustin Browder: Hey dude, glad to be here.
[ 00:13 ]
Rob Simpson: So now that beta is here, how excited are you guys to be at this stage in development? Also, what have you learned from previous betas that you have applied to the StarCraft II beta launch?
Chris Sigaty: Well this is actually a huge milestone for us. We've been working on this game for many years at this point and it's actually a shift in the fundamental thought process of the development team itself. We've been putting together builds for shows like BlizzCon, the announcement, that sort of thing. But it's always been these very small portions of the game and now, here it is, kind of marking a major milestone. We are now within months of ship and it's a massive change. It's really exciting and mostly our whole dev team is excited to finally really share it with the community at large. Not just a show, not just something now they're playing, but they're seeing it for real. So that's huge.

Dustin Browder: Yeah, we're very excited to get this in front of the fans and see what they think and get their comments and see what's going on with the balance and see what they think of the whole experience. This is something we have been working on for years now, to get this in front of people. And it's really exciting to finally be able to put it out there live and see what the fans really think.

Chris Sigaty: As far as the previous betas go and what we've learned from the past, there are some things that we anticipate, and of course we don't know, each beta is slightly different, but for sure the main central focus of the beta is balance for us. There's also of course, the normal bugs and compatibility and that sort of thing. With balance being there, one of the things we do expect having seen it in the past to some extent is people will latch onto the easiest things first so we do expect for the first few weeks to largely have the data not be that meaningful to us.

Rob Simpson: Right, see a lot of cheese builds out there.
Chris Sigaty: As everybody zergling rushes, zealot rushes, exactly.

Dustin Browder: There's some of the strategies that you use to counter a lot of these early moves are a little bit more advanced. There are a few things that I think are going to be very powerful up front and I don't want to give away what I think are going to be.

Chris Sigaty: [laughs] Yeah.

Dustin Browder: But there are going to be some things that are going to be very powerful up front that there are actually counters in the game to deal with and we'll have to wait a little bit for it to shake out to see if people can learn the counters are or not and then we'll know for sure how broken these things really are.

Rob Simpson: Right, whether or not there needs one of those big changes.
Chris Sigaty: Yeah and I would actually even expect that some of the deeper, that we know there are some very powerful things way deeper in the tech trees and that people will slowly migrate their play style and experimentation to get there. Then, suddenly four weeks in, it may have been there day one, but some of this is going to come up.

Rob Simpson: Right, but they just figured it out.
Dustin Browder: This is the huge problem, right, right.

Chris Sigaty: Oh my god, that's the one, holy crap! You just do this particular build and it's tough. I think when we're about three to four weeks in is really where it's going to get interesting and now it's like “Wow! Ok, now I'll do a jigsaw move and do this.” [laughs]

Dustin Browder: “Now, now we're in trouble!” Right, yeah.

Rob Simpson: Yeah, that's got to be one of the best parts of running a beta is seeing how people use all of these things that you just gave them after working on them for so long.
[ 00:49 ]
Rob Simpson: Some of our listeners may be new to the beta process. What kind of update schedule will we have in store for the community now that the testing has begun in earnest, and how much does the tester feedback actually help you guys in the development team?
Chris Sigaty: It's huge. Any feedback we can get period is hugely helpful and largely, it's going to be looked at and put into some format that we can actually see it. Literally reading through 20,000 posts or whatever is probably not going to be realistic with Dustin making balance decisions, us making design changes to the layout if we need to in the game or whatever. So community, you guys, will be doing a lot of interfacing directly and sort of bubbling up the big points to us, but it's hugely helpful and impactful. Our hope is to react at least once a week with changes. In some cases, we'll react as much as daily or every couple of days if we need to. Most of those things will be numbers changes to help us get the balance that we're after for ship.

Dustin Browder: Right. Well obviously a beta is something we've put a lot of effort into and it takes a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of resources for us to create one of these betas, put it out in front of people and then all of the distraction associated with us taking this feedback and incorporating it. So, for us to want to do this we have to be really excited about it. It's a ton of energy to do, it's why not everybody does a beta when they release a game like this. It really gives us an opportunity to see what the fans think of the product and it gives us a chance to really fix things before they go to a much wider audience, right. There's no accident that blizzard games have reached the quality level that they have in the past and we've had betas. Those two things go together, they're part of the same process.

Chris Sigaty: Absolutely.

Dustin Browder: The beta is what builds a lot of our quality, right. We can only take it so far before we can take it to the community and then they can add a lot more to it as well. So, it's really critical for our success, it's very key about who we are as a studio and as a team that we do these kinds of betas so we're really geeked up to get this out in front of people and see what they think and to really give us the feedback we need to be successful.
Rob Simpson: So, everybody in the beta needs to do their job to tell you what they think about the game.
Dustin Browder: Absolutely, absolutely.
[ 03:28 ]
Rob Simpson: So, there's a public beta forum where testers can post feedback and suggestions so please take advantage of this opportunity to voice your opinions. Besides the public beta forum, you can also leave feedback in game using the Battle.net UI. Do you guys want to talk about the in game feedback function?
Chris Sigaty: Yeah, we're trying something new. It's actually not direct feedback, what we intend to do during the beta is put out survey information effectively that will get us directly some aggregate feedback. I talked a little bit about the numbers, we expect to see literally thousands and thousands of posts and the big stuff will bubble up through community, through our own reading, interfacing with the community, watching replays, that sort of thing. Our intention with the surveys is to be able to ask a simple question like which race are you having the most fun with? That's probably not a great example, but something specific about maybe the zerg. What are your favorite abilities on the zerg? We can look at what's being used by actually looking at stats, but that doesn't necessarily answer the question of what are you having the most fun with or which ones are you liking the most. The two may be directly correlated but may not. So we can get information a different way and this will hopefully allow us to get some aggregate information, more of a math answer than having to read through and say, “I think what I read was these...”

Rob Simpson: That they might like this ability.
Chris Sigaty: That they might like this ability or a few people were strong about it. We can get it from a larger number.

[ 05:30 ]
Rob Simpson: Now that we're here at beta, what are some of the biggest changes that beta testers can expect relative to the BlizzCon build and how have these changes been received so far internally?
Dustin Browder: That's a difficult question to answer, it's been so long for us since that BlizzCon build. We've seen so many versions of the game come through since we did the last BlizzCon. We've been doing a lot of work on the base building and macro mechanics for the protoss. Trying to make sure that the protoss have an interesting way to sort of focus on their economy and base building. Previously, protoss players could buff all of their probes to get a resource bonus every time their probes collected resources. We've changed that, removed it completely. Put in an ability called “Time Warp” which allows you to speed up production on any protoss building that has been targeted by this ability. This allows players to choose which things they want to go faster for the protoss. Do they want to make their upgrades go faster, do they want to build workers faster, do they want to build stalkers or immortals faster, maybe void rays faster? All kinds of choices. It is like the previous mechanic, something you do have to go back to your base and use repeatedly. The difference is, previously there was no choice about what to do with it, you just had to use it on your probes. Now you will choose which building to use it on. So there's actually a lot of strategy and a lot of choice for the player about how to manage your own economy. This is something we've been focused on for StarCraft, we want to make sure that StarCraft isn't just a tactical game, but also an economic game as well. You as a player have to choose, do you want to build up your economy, get a stronger base from which to attack, or do you need military forces right now, right?

Rob Simpson: Right, to help you defend or even make a push. Yeah.
Dustin Browder: To help you defend or attack or push against the enemy. This is sort of core to what StarCraft was and what we want StarCraft to continue to be moving forward in StarCraft II and in the StarCraft II expansion. So that is one of the major changes. We've also been working very hard on the zerg and the zerg tech tree. You're going to see roaches at tier two, you're going to see hydralisks at tier two. You're going to see a lot of changes to the special abilities used by the zerg to make them a lot more sneaky and a lot more destructive when they do manage to get up close to you. Lots of changes that will fundamentally alter the way players will play with the zerg and to some extent with the protoss as well. Lots of balance changes with the numbers as well that would fundamentally unhinge a lot of the strategies that were still functional in the BlizzCon build are now different strategies. Of course, the big difference for us is we go from players getting maybe a couple hours play time over an afternoon when they manage to come and stand in line again and again and again to play the same game. Now we're going to see players who are out there really really embracing this game and really getting into the guts of it and seeing what's really going on. So that will really be fundamentally what unhinges it and shows us what's really happening in the game. All of the time, the fans will finally get to pour into the title.

[ 06:52 ]
Rob Simpson: So we were talking a little bit about how frequent the balance changes can be, but how drastic can those changes be, how radical can these changes get?
Dustin Browder: As much as is necessary.

Rob Simpson: So it is possible that we may see a new unit or have a unit taken away?
Dustin Browder: Absolutely. That's something we have done in the past and it's not out of bounds for us. Obviously we're not hopeful that's going to happen. We want to make sure that what we've given you guys is something that is really solid now but if we discover something that is a fundamental mistake, absolutely we will add or cut as necessary to make this game as good as we possibly can by the time it ships.

Rob Simpson: Dustin Browder, willing to go the distance.

[laughter]
[ 09:27 ]
Rob Simpson: So, we've also been able to get some progamers to test the game for us. Can you speak on Blizzard's goal to make sure the game not only appeals to casual gamers but also satisfies the needs of the global eSports community?
Dustin Browder: This is something we've been focused on for quite a while obviously, is making sure that this game is strong and functional as an eSport. That it is not just fun for people to look over at Battle.net but it's a fun game to watch as well as a fun game to play at a very high level. Easy to learn and difficult to master has always been our mantra here at Blizzard. We've been obviously working on the easy to learn but at the same time we're working on the difficult to master. The pro player simply represent the pinnacle level of difficult to master. These guys need to be challenged, they need to be able to do things that other people would have trouble doing and they need to know that their skills can continue to grow even as they play. So we want to put this game in front of them and see if we've achieved at that goal.

Chris Sigaty: Yeah, and I think we've established great communication lines, we have an eSports team now. It is a different world than it was back when we launched even Warcraft III or even the expansion. We have a lot better method of communicating with the eSport playerbase. So that will be a focus we're rolling them in right away and effectively they'll get a lot of focus during the beta so that we can hear that feedback.
Rob Simpson: So is there anything specifically that you expect progamers to take advantage of in the game?
Dustin Browder: Well there's a lot of abilities in the game that have some subtle uses that we haven't seen a lot of yet. We saw some of it at BlizzCon, we had some proplayers playing on stage using blink to move away from enemy attackers, perfectly managing your stalkers away from an enemy attack saving the stalker by just a little bit of health and continuing that to keep a force alive much longer than it could possibly survive. We have an ability in the game now called “Acid Spores” which the zerg can cast on enemy forces and it creates these fungal growths on a person's body and then it will spread throughout your force. But if you manage to kill the guy who's infected really quickly, it won't spread at all. But it's only a fraction of a second you have to make that decision and make that move. This is not something that most people inside the studio can do quickly and efficiently, but I expect the pros to be able to do these things. So I think we'll see some of these very small little timing differences suddenly become a very big deal at that level of game play. It will be very interesting to see what that does to our balance, how it changes what we're trying to accomplish with the game and how we're going to react to that. Because it really is a completely different skill level these guys are operating at and these little subtle details can suddenly make an ability unbelievably powerful or unbelievably useless depending on how fast they can be at reacting to it. So, we're going to be watching that very closely and see these timing differences and how much of a difference they really make.

Chris Sigaty: I think the other thing the eSports community will bring to it as well is all the little details that Dustin's talking about but also getting more quickly to the abusive stuff.
Rob Simpson: Those deeper things that we were talking about.
Chris Sigaty: Exactly, even at just the numbers level of unit vs. unit, they may find ways to abuse a particular unit type because they're building to it faster. They're just exploring much more quickly than the community at large does so it gets us to that point more quickly and hopefully it allows us to catch some of those things before four weeks in and we find out that, “Oh crap, the best build is blah.”
Rob Simpson: Yeah, that's obviously never going to be the goal of StarCraft II to have one build that is the best. You always want to have people able to do their own thing.
[ 10:00 ]
Rob Simpson: One of the newest additions we're unveiling for beta is the Battle.net platform. The StarCraft II beta will mark the first time that testers will be given the opportunity to experience and enjoy what it has to offer. What are some of your favorite features in Battle.net and what other features can the community expect to utilize in the future?
Dustin Browder: This is still an early version of what we're planning on for Battle.net for StarCraft II. This is really a beta focused on play balance and on testing server load. It's not something we're really focused on showing off Battle.net features. We really want players focused on the things that are important to us. But the things that you're going to see that I'm excited about are a new expanded friends list and the way you can interact with your friends list. It really allows you to find your friends, get together, get together in a group and form a party, which is the second system I'm really excited about. You can get together with your friends, stay in a party and play all night together, linked together. Go from game to game to game type and stay together in a group and it really allows you to find the people you want to play with and stick with them throughout a play session on Battle.net. It really just makes the community feel a lot more cohesive and brings everybody a lot closer together.

Chris Sigaty: Yeah and another couple things to add. During the beta, we will have the ladder working, we are actually rating people. That's something that previously with our other RTS's wasn't online early enough to do. We're going to see this actually working in action. People will be put into the different leagues that we've talked about in the past. And then, part of the party system is voice chat. Once you're in a party you can chat with each other the whole time and chat in game as you're playing as well if you're partied on the same side. But I think as Dustin said, this is early and largely there are a lot of things I am excited about personally that have to do with helping people into an experience that's not always focused on PvP that won't be there at launch. For example we have a co-op vs. AI feature that we're actually disabling because we want the focus on PvP at the time. And then, probably the biggest feature to me is the tie between our communities of World of Warcraft and Starcraft II. That feature won't be in during the beta but by launch will, so that's huge. If you can be playing in World of Warcraft and going and killing creatures in World of Warcraft and then see somebody that's in Star II saying “Hey, I'm looking for a game in Star II.” You want to play one of your buddies, you can jump over and play that game. And that inner product communication is really one of the biggest, most impressive features we'll have by the time the game launches.
Rob Simpson: Yeah, having a seamless community experience between multiple titles will be frankly ground breaking I think for Blizzard games.
[ 13:16 ]
Rob Simpson: So we've talked a little bit about strategies and units that have been a little underutilized in internal testing. Are there any examples which you expect the community to try out that we haven't seen as much here? For example, a bunker push using salvage.
Dustin Browder: Well a bunker push using salvage I still believe is probably pretty broken, right. You can salvage right now for a hundred percent return on every one of your bunkers and we're still not seeing a lot of bunker pushes. I think this is largely due to the power of the marauder and the medivac and even marine with shield combination that it really allows you to stay mobile and keep moving around the battlefield. We're seeing largely mobile terran armies these days cruising around destroying everything that gets in their path. But, it's really hard to say at this point what's going to be out there. I know that hallucinate on the protoss is unbelievably dangerous these days and I think there's probably a lot of hidden abuses yet to be used in that. I've definitely seen if you can find the right time to push a void ray attack can be unbelievably devastating especially against zerg. There's definitely areas where we'll be watching, areas where we're nervous, we're pretty convinced that we may have made a terrible mistake but we're going to keep watching and see what happens. So far, things that I am convinced must be broken have not yet proven to be so. This is largely I think because other units are overshadowing them and preventing them from being that powerful, right. As the community plays, we'll see what they find to be truly powerful and then we'll see what really shakes out of it. The landscape has changed, the original StarCraft was such a tightly balanced game. You change a handful of numbers in that game you change the entire game. We've dropped whole units, let alone changing the balance on a lot of the original units from the original game. We're looking at a whole new game here in terms of game balance and it's going to be an exciting time for us and I think for the fans as well.

Chris Sigaty: One thing to add that came up as a specific example is warp in. We've been watching some really impressive games lately and our company's adopted doing a lot of warp in up cliff levels.
Rob Simpson: Mmm, yes.
Dustin Browder: Yep, uh huh.

Chris Sigaty: And the game with Ali where he was doing warp in in the back of the base and hiding his pylon. There's been some of those games that have been really impressive, but I can't even imagine when we start getting into the hands of some of these pro gamers and even just players after having a month. We are developing games at the same time so everybody is only on their free time. I think there's going to be some people that have more of that free time that can experiment and develop some really crazy stuff that we can't even anticipate.

Dustin Browder: Absolutely. We've got our Thursday night play sessions, right. You and I have been surprised a couple of times by some of the things we've seen and we've thought we've seen everything, right.

Chris Sigaty: Oh, yes! Really cool too.

Dustin Browder: Really fun stuff. I fully expect it to be that times a hundred when we go live and when we're out there and people are playing.

Chris Sigaty: You know, a total aside, but those games that you're talking about, those Thursday night games, have been awesome to watch because they were largely created outside of the dev team and had Blizzard folks from all over and we're a large studio at this point. Watching those games and seeing some of those strats there that are so different than the strats we see constantly on our own team is revealing at just how big this beta and how many varied things can come in through this beta.
[ 15:46 ]
Rob Simpson: We touched lightly on macro mechanics and that gameplay feature has been getting a lot of attention. What distinguishes each race's macro mechanic and what are the design goals for each of them?
Dustin Browder: What we're really trying to do is get players to have some additional strategy and choices when it comes to their base building and their economy, right. We really want to push that part of the game. We want players to be able to choose which type of player do they want to be. Do I want to be a player who can maximize my economy but maybe is not quite as good at commanding my forces on the battlefield or am I a player who is really good at commanding my troops out on the front line but maybe I don't focus as much on my economy or do I want to try to balance both together. We're trying to create a lot of tension for players. It's difficult to do everything perfectly, you're going to have to make some choices, right. One of the things we've tried to do is add these additional choices for players at their base.

So, for the protoss, you have an ability called “time warp” which allows you to speed up any one of your buildings for a short period of time so it's producing, it's building, it's researching more quickly. The choice here doesn't come whether you should use it or not, you should use it. The choice comes in what do you use it on and when do you use it and what do you save it for and what do you use it immediately for? There's lots of little choices the player can make as how to maximize his economy by using time warp.

For the zerg, the queen can be used to create a lot of additional larvae for the zerg on the hatchery. In this case, again it's an ability you probably want to use so there is a little bit of tension because the queen has some other abilities. The queen can be used to spread creep which gives you a movement bonus on the ground and sometimes you need to connect your bases or you want to spread the creep out on the map. The queen also has the ability to heal your buildings, your units, more importantly your base defenses, which again is some more tension for you. So yes, you want to use the queen probably almost every chance you get, but sometimes you want to hold back some of her energy so you can use these other abilities. Of course for the queen, once the larvae is made is the choice of how do you use those larvae. Am I using them for more drones, am I using them for more combat units? What kind of choices are you going to make.

For the terrans, they have the ability to create what's called a MULE which is a robotic SCV that you can summon from orbit to harvest some additional minerals. Again, you probably want to use this pretty frequently. The problem here, is that MULE is on the same energy pool as comsat which is an ability that the terrans have to reveal a large area of the map well away of their forces and to be able to spot cloaked enemy units, it's a very powerful ability. You want to use MULEs all the time except when you really need a comsat, so that's the really difficult choice for terran players. I can tell you that I've actually seen people lose games because they overused the MULE and they needed to use that comsat right when they needed it and it wasn't there for them.

Rob Simpson: Right and just didn't have that scan right when they needed it.
Dustin Browder: It's always a tense choice. Again, most of the time you use it but not always. There's lots of choices for players and there's lots of additional work that players can do back in their base if they want to be focused on being an economic type player.

[ 18:38 ]
Rob Simpson: The new Galaxy Map Editor won't be available initially in beta, but what can people expect when they finally get their hands on it and when would you guys like that to be?
Chris Sigaty: So the editor is something that we're talking a lot about. We would like to potentially release it in what we're calling our major content patch update that's planned for pretty late in the beta to be honest with you. The question really is, will it be far enough along and in a spot where we can allow people to look at it and publish and will we have enough time to react to that? So it's something we're looking at closely. We've discussed it, but I can't say that it will or will not happen at this point, I don't know. It's a goal, but on the periphery of whether it will happen or not, that's probably my best answer to that. What we hope to get from having the editor out there early is get some people started on some cool ideas for maps so that when the game launches they can have some cool stuff up very quickly on the service basically, so that other players can download it and have some other options out there. We feel like we're going to hit a lot of the cases that players would have not only with just their multiplayer maps but we will have some cool mod maps that we're going to do on our own, but they're largely just glimpses at things rather than entire answers. The earlier we can get the community started, the better, it's just the time window is shorter than we have talked about.

You haven't asked this question yet, but I'll answer it ahead of time. We were targeting three to five months for the beta, we're really at a three month period of time for the beta at this point. We are still targeting the first half of this year, so with that in mind, it really shortens the window of time with our major content patch coming out pretty close to the end whether it's even worth it putting out the map editor at that point.
[ 21:25 ]
Rob Simpson: The single player campaign, which isn't available to beta testers, has seen some changes like the research point system and some new UI features. Can you talk about how that has been shaping up and are there any other noteworthy updates for the Wings of Liberty campaign?
Dustin Browder: Well it's been going really well. We've put a lot of work into the research system as you mentioned specifically to really give the player some additional choices. Previously, the version we've shown players was Raynor's raiders could go out and acquire things like protoss artifacts or strange zerg organisms and bring them back to the Hyperion, dissect them or take them apart and try to get some additional technology out of these strange alien devices or creatures. It was really much more like a shop, you'd get points and you'd spend points on a type of technology you wanted. There was no connection, you could get zerg creatures but buy something that felt like a protoss technology and we weren't very happy with that. So we went back to the drawing board on that one and we came up with a system that feels a little bit more like research. You still go out and you get points for acquiring these things but there's a zerg tree and there's a protoss tree, right. If you get zerg creatures or protoss artifacts you get technologies that seem to relate to those races. Then when you get to certain levels in the tree you have to make a hard decision. Do I want technology A or technology B and once you choose, you're done, you're never going back to that other technology. So it really feels like a much harder choice, a more challenging choice and it doesn't feel like another type of tech purchase which is what we had elsewhere in the game. It's a lot better research system, it's still a simplified research system compared to what you might find in a big empire building game, but that's not what we are, right, we're still a real time strategy game. Where you want to get these things and take them down to the battlefield and burn up some zerglings and that's what you want. It's definitely a vast improvement over what we've shown previously.

Chris Sigaty: I love the choice, I think that whole concept of “Oh god, I can't go back.” It's pretty hardcore, but I love that because, like you said, in tech purchase you can go back and buy something that you decided “I don't want that right now.” You can go back, here you can't and that really makes that choice that “Oh god, which one? What do I do?” That's really cool.

Dustin Browder: Right, right.
Rob Simpson: Yeah, I imagine that also helps a little bit with replayability too. Like if I just went down this protoss tree all the way and I want to see how these zerg abilities affect me, I can go back and play through the game again and see those.
Dustin Browder: Right, some of the other things we've been doing to the campaign as well is we've completely revamped the tech purchase UI to make it a lot cleaner, a lot easier to understand what your choices are instead of just being presented with a giant buffet of choices we've sort of segmented it out so you can see the choices that are in front of you. We've also redone all of the tech choices probably two or three times since we last showed it to people to get better balance, to get more use out of the units. We've got a bunch of strike teams working across the inside of the studio here, guys from World of Warcraft have given us some play feedback, guys from Diablo have given us some great feedback so we can really see what's being used and what's not being used and try to find the play balance issues so we've had a lot of time to really focus on these choices and try to make them really tight. You really are making an important choice when you choose whether you want to get diamondbacks or whether you want to improve your medics or whether you want to improve your wraith technology because these units really do have a core value on the battlefield in the Wings of Liberty campaign.
Rob Simpson: You mentioned wraiths, but I know that those aren't in the multiplayer build. There's going to be some units that are only playable in the single player campaign.
Dustin Browder: Quite a few units. We've got something like a twenty-eight mission, twenty-nine mission campaign that players can play through. We want to give them lots of new units and lots of choices and if we were to include all of this stuff in the multiplayer experience it would not be easy or even possible for us to balance. It would not be a fun game to watch, it's have all kinds of problems, be way too many choices. But for somebody playing by himself against a ferocious computer opponent, having all of these choices available is not nearly as overwhelming. This really gives us a chance to add a lot of stuff that we didn't include in the multiplayer experience, that wouldn't have been balanced or worked in the multiplayer experience into the solo play campaign. Things like wraiths, things like science vessels, medics, units you haven't even seen before in the StarCraft universe can all be added to this experience to really allow the player to explore and really get his hands into the guts of what it means to be a terran commander on the battlefield of the StarCraft universe and really struggle with all these problems. It really opens up the game and really adds a lot to the universe, right that the multiplayer game simply could not do and still be playable.

Chris Sigaty: Yeah, I would add one more thing that I think we've focused on since which is related to the campaign and even the game itself. We have been really focused on the ease of use in general and also really refining what that ease of use is at different levels. We have four different difficulty levels in the game and we had them and determined that we wanted to do that. There's an insane level that people can play on, that there's an advanced, there's a medium, there's an easy level of play, but defining them and actually making it match that as far as in what it really means to have an easy play through of the campaign versus medium versus hard takes a lot of time and balancing and Dustin talked about the strike teams. We've had strike teams on the go, even since BlizzCon, just going through trying to make sure that there's a level of polish and feel that “Wow that was pretty tough on medium for me and now I'm going to put it down to beginner to have an experience that's right for me as a player.” and I think the other side of it that we've really spent time on is tutorials and trying to get people that haven't experienced RTS before hopefully bridge the gap and get them into Wings of Liberty in a way that they actually can get in there and not really be completely lost in a way that we haven't done in RTS's previously.
Rob Simpson: Being able to choose your difficulty on an individual mission basis will help hugely, hugely on that point.
Dustin Browder: Yes, yes.
[ 23:02 ]
Rob Simpson: So moving forward from there, are there any new features behind the curtain which are still in the works for the game that you want to share? And are there any other final thoughts you would like to leave with the community as the StarCraft II machine keeps gathering steam?
Chris Sigaty: Yeah, there's a couple of major features that people won't see in the beta that we're actually working on right now or starting actually right now. One is the map publishing system for the editor, it works but we're putting the polish on it for the end user to see. Largely how maps get up on the service and how you store maps for yourself, that sort of thing, that's one of the major ones. Achievements is really the big one that I'm really super excited about as well. Achievements, we hope to have some level of them come online during the beta but they won't be there at the launch of the beta. That has huge ramifications once it does come online, it really does help direct play. To me it's that exciting thing like, “Wow! Maybe I can try and get twenty-five games as zerg and win those twenty-five games as zerg.” This time it's a lot deeper than the stuff we saw in Warcraft III or the expansion of just getting a couple of portraits for wins on the ladder. There's a lot of stuff that will be specific to...

Dustin Browder: Cooperative play has a bunch of achievements associated with it.

Chris Sigaty: Yeah.

Dustin Browder: Obviously the campaign at the different difficulty levels has a bunch of achievements associated with it. The usual things that we've done in the past, that you guys have done in the past with wins on the ladder has a bunch of achievements associated with it. We've also got stuff that happens in game, right. Very clever play or very challenging play can win you achievements as you're actually in live in a battle. All of these things together really open up a lot of possibilities for players to seek, explore, and try to take on the game in new ways, maybe in ways that hadn't occurred to them.

Chris Sigaty: Exactly, that's what makes me so excited about the achievement system is it really can direct play into areas where people would maybe not take themselves normally.

Dustin Browder: And hopefully have a good time once they get there.

Chris Sigaty: Exactly, exactly. And then to answer the second part of your question of what to leave as a parting word to the community at large I think is hopefully you guys are all as excited as we are about getting into the beta. This is a huge milestone for us, we're super excited. We were doing some work ups for the beta and had some internal play when we have a hundred maybe a hundred fifty people at most on the service, that's fun, but when we have thousands of people it's going to be a whole different playing field and we're really excited to get there. And I fully expect that it will attract a lot more than just the few of the dev teams. I think everybody's real excited across all of blizzard to get on there and mingle with the community at large because now we're playing against this group of people that has a huge appetite and is equally excited and we can get into those matches where it's not all of the best players of the company playing all the time. I think that's going to be a huge milestone and we're really excited to be online with you guys, the community.

Dustin Browder: So we'll be out there, we'll be playing. You'll never know when you're playing against a developer.

Chris Sigaty: [laughs]

Dustin Browder: We'll be anonymous out there so you'll never know when you run into us so hey when you're out there and you're playing people, show them some crazy stuff, it might be one of us, right. We can see what you're doing and we can use it to improve the game.
Rob Simpson: Well Dustin and Chris, thank you very much for your time.
Dustin Browder: Thank you!

Chris Sigaty: Thank you!

Rob Simpson: So up next we have our Community Q&A session with Bashiok and Zarhym. Stay tuned and thanks for listening.
[ 28:36 ]
BlizzCast #13: World of Warcraft and Diablo Q&A Zarhym (World of Warcraft Community Manager), Bashiok (Diablo Community Manager)
[ Torna all’inizio ]
Bashiok: Welcome everybody to the Q&A portion of BlizzCast. I'm Bashiok, your Diablo III Community Manager and with me here as well is Zarhym the World of Warcraft Community Manager, say hey.
Zarhym: Hi.
Bashiok: And we're doing something new with the community Q&A, it's just us two here. There's no developers answering questions and what we're doing is picking the most popular community questions and we're just going to sort of rap back and forth and ask each other the questions and see what we think of it.
Zarhym: We're going to flow.
Bashiok: Exactly. So, we're going to start with World of Warcraft and I guess I'll ask you a question Zar.
[ 32:10 ]
Bashiok: One of the debates currently going on is in Icecrown Citadel, the 25 player modes; there is some debate whether the difficulty is too hard or too easy. Some players say people are bad at playing the game and it's too easy and the other ones say they are exaggerating and its way too hard. So what is the difficulty of ICC25 supposed to be? And is releasing the content in small incremental bits over a few months -- does that change the difficulty?
Zarhym: Well I think to start, for a reference point, Icecrown Citadel is supposed to be incrementally more difficult than the previous Wrath of the Lich King dungeons. Players can expect to find more challenges there than in Ulduar or Trial of the Crusader. You should expect to have at least probably Tier 9 level gear before fighting most of the bosses, particularly some of the later on bosses.
Bashiok: So I can't just hit 80 and jump right into ICC because that's what I've been trying to do.
Zarhym: I wouldn't suggest it. I would say use the Dungeon Finder, maybe run some previous raids if you can find groups. Given that we are in the same guild maybe you could.
Bashiok: I'll think about that.
Zarhym: You could. The final boss in each section is supposed to be slightly more difficult than their counterparts. So Professor Putricide, Blood Queen Lana'thel, Sindragosa, and obviously the Lich King, they are all going to be a little more difficult than the other bosses.

As far as content being throttled, we decided to release it in sections over the course of a month or two to sort of not overwhelm players with content. We wanted to get people in there and trying out the bosses and kind of learning some of the techniques and then they can move on to the next section as that opens up and kind of keep up with it as it goes because we want to encourage as many people as possible to get in there and collect gear and find a coordinated group or guild and really have a chance because the Lich King is a major lore figure, obviously particularly for this expansion.

Then over time we will be adding a buff, that won't come in until at least a month after the Lich King has been released, which will slowly improve health, damage, and healing. It will kind of improve roughly once a month, like you'll see a slight increase in that buff and for some of the more experienced guilds that are working through it or they're going through heroic modes they can easily turn off that buff if they don't want it. And then obviously the number of attempts you get on each of the final bosses, that will slowly increase over time. So say if you are struggling on Blood Queen Lana'thel and by the time you get to the Lich King you only have a few attempts left, over time it will get to where you have more attempts so you'll have a better stab at actually besting the Lich King.
Bashiok: So our guild probably should just not even try ICC for a few months until we get the buff?
Zarhym: I'm thinking April.
Bashiok: Somewhere around April?
Zarhym: April we'll have Sindragosa down I'm thinking.
Bashiok: It's a plan.
[ 32:44 ]
Bashiok: Alright, next question is in regards to the actual Lich King fight. It's a popular question because no one was able to fight him on the PTRs.
Zarhym: That is correct.
Bashiok: So no one knew what that fight was all about, or maybe some people still don't know, how did we actually test that?
Zarhym: Well we had our QA guys working long hours making sure the fight was very cool. Our developers were obviously very invested in it. We're really excited to see our players taking on the Lich King right now. For those who have yet to get there and actually face the Lich King, I would say “prepare to die, like, a lot.”
Bashiok: Die a lot.
Zarhym: Die a lot. Repair bills. The whole sha-bang.
Bashiok: Sure, hope that you wear cloth I guess…
[ 35:57 ]
Bashiok: So, the final in-game cinematic which is sort of using in-game assets but pre-recorded, would you say that’s correct?
Zarhym: Yes.
Bashiok: Sure, so we had one of those also for the Wrathgate cinematic, correct?
Zarhym: Correct.
Bashiok: So it’s exactly the same thing. People are kind of jazzed about that, talking about that a bit. What brought about the creation of that? And I was thinking about it and Illidan did not get proper recognition in a cinematic and I’m wondering what’s up with that?
Zarhym: You really did think about that didn’t you?
Bashiok: I thought about that myself, it’s not written down on a piece of paper in front of me.
Zarhym: Right, I figured. Well it came to fruition in part just because we thought it would be awesome. We love having cut scenes but we also want to make sure they match the encounter and they feel very epic and we felt like the Lich King was the perfect time to do that. We even added our own music to kind of spice up the encounter, I know a lot of people have already heard it and we’ve gotten great feedback on the Invincible song.
Bashiok: The Invincible song is on the WoW anniversary site?
Zarhym: Yes it is. It’s on the BattleCry website, it’s one of the unlocked pieces of content. So if anyone hasn’t heard it yet and they haven’t fought the Lich King you can go stream it there.
Bashiok: How would I unlock additional content?
Zarhym: You would unlock additional content by continuing to submit pictures of yourself with the Horde or Alliance symbol and we could always use more of those because at the end, once we get 20,000, everyone will get a super special treat.
Bashiok: Super special? [laughs]
Zarhym: Super special.
Bashiok: I can’t wait.
Zarhym: Yeah, as far as Illidan goes, we did have I think -- when that patch was first released -- I believe we had a special in-game trailer to kind of set it up, but as you said the encounter itself was a little bit underwhelming. There wasn’t a trailer, you basically get there and all he says is, and I believe this is a direct quote, he says “You guys are jerks, come try to take my blades if you want.”
Bashiok: I remember that.
Zarhym: Clearly you do. So we felt like that was a little underwhelming and we wanted to beef up Arthas’ final moments. This really represents the end of his era, which began in Warcraft III so we wanted to make sure it was, as I said before and as you agreed, super special.
Bashiok: Super special.
[ 36:46 ]
Bashiok: So here’s another question I’m going to put in the first person. I’m an awesome player...
Zarhym: [chuckle] Ok.
Bashiok: Which I’m really not, I’ve cleared ICC (I have not done that), and so now I’m pretty much done with the game. Does that sum it up?
Zarhym: You’re still going to need to heal for me in the guild so you’re not done with the game.
Bashiok: Fair enough.
Zarhym: I still personally have a use for you. As far as other players go, we hope players continue to plunge through Icecrown Citadel. There’s still plenty of gear to get, there’s upgraded rewards and then once you actually kill the Lich King you can unlock hard modes and you can’t fight the Lich King on hard mode until you have killed all of the other final bosses on hard mode. So that’s going to take even the more experienced guilds probably quite a bit of time before they are able to kill the Lich King on hard mode. We really hope a lot of people will take a chance at actually going through the hard modes for Icecrown Citadel.

We do have another patch coming. It’ll mostly introduce some Battle.net infrastructure to kind of coincide with the StarCraft II beta. We’ll probably have a few minor class adjustments as needed, but the big thing is Icecrown Citadel for now and we think it will keep people occupied for quite some time.
[ 39:12 ]
Bashiok: So I guess that kind of leads into another question which is, are we going to see any major patches after Icecrown Citadel? Is there any content, new dungeons, new raids, or anything like that?
Zarhym: Well aside from the Battle.net improvements and some minor class changes that we will probably see, we are getting closer to Cataclysm and really kind of reevaluating classes and class talents so you will see some much bigger changes as we get really close to Cataclysm.

As far as in the near future, we do plan on adding a new encounter in the Chamber of the Aspects. It’s not going to be a full raid dungeon. It’s not going to be a new tier of gear or weapons. It’s going to be roughly Lich King level gear and you are probably going to find some pieces that you might not find too frequently in Icecrown Citadel. You might see some armor and then maybe some trinkets, things of that nature that you wouldn’t find in Icecrown Citadel as much but the new encounter is not intended to be more tough than the Lich King. The Lich King is still going to be the ultimate bad guy of this expansion but yes, we do plan on having a new encounter in the Chamber of the Aspects which will be very exciting.
Bashiok: Gotcha. Very exciting.
Zarhym: But enough about me.
Bashiok: [chuckle] Yeah.
Zarhym: Why don’t we talk about you?
Bashiok: Ah, I can’t wait.
[ 40:37 ]
Zarhym: So, we have some questions from the Diablo III community. Because everyone’s been playing and loving that game...
Bashiok: It’s real fun.
Zarhym: Oh, wait.
Bashiok: I’ve been enjoying it.
Zarhym: You’ve been enjoying it.
Bashiok: I don’t know about everybody else.
Zarhym: Right, well I haven’t played it, but I would love to.
[ 41:59 ]
Zarhym: So World of Warcraft has a kooky little system referred to as phasing, is Diablo III going to use anything similar?
Bashiok: Nope, next.
Zarhym: Alright then. Is the respec system...
Bashiok: I’m just kidding. World of Warcraft for those that don’t know, I don’t know who wouldn’t know, but phasing is a way for the game to separate how different players see the world at the same time. They’re all interacting in an MMO persistent world and phasing is used to split up those players to allow them to see the world change and their actions take root in the lore of the world. We’re not a persistent MMO, Diablo III is not a persistent MMO. It’s much more like Diablo II where you load up a game and there’s an instance of that game and then you leave that game and if you start a new game, everything is more or less reset to where you were. It’s very Diablo II-esque so we really don’t need phasing to advance world states because it’s not necessary in the same way to treat different players differently while in the same world. There’s an answer hidden in there somewhere. But anyway...
Zarhym: I think I heard it.
Bashiok: Next question!
Zarhym: It sounded like a different language to me.
Bashiok: [laughs] Right.
Zarhym: I think that I at least heard something.
[ 42:13 ]
Zarhym: Ok so is the respec system in Diablo III going to be similar to the one in the Diablo II 1.13 patch?
Bashiok: Not really. We’re still working on the respec system for Diablo III. For those who haven't seen the Diablo II 1.13 patch the respec system in there, which is still on the PTRs by the way (or maybe not), is you can get three different respecs by completing the Den of Evil quests and then any additional ones beyond that by picking up item drops from bosses and using the horadric cube to combine them. For Diablo III we don't have it really nailed down yet but some of the main points we do want to hit are that it's more than just a gold cost for changing your mind. Although that will be a major component of it. That it's targeted for specific skills so you're not resetting your entire skill tree, but you're able to target specific skills to reset those ones specifically. To also scale the cost of respecing so early on in the game it's cheaper and easier to respec and as you go farther into the game it will be harder and more expensive. And all of those things together make it a very challenging system to implement, hitting all of those notes. And those are all pie in the sky, I guess, hopefuls for the respec system we may not get all of them in. We don't have any specifics on what the actual respec system will have but those are sort of what we're shooting for and of course it's all up in the air still.
Zarhym: Right but the same basic goal is you want to make sure that players aren't locked down from the very beginning and there's no going back unless they choose to recreate the character. But give them some outlet to change it up.
Bashiok: Right, exactly.
[ 43:32 ]
Zarhym: So it has been said, Bashiok, that in the end of all things all classes are going to use different resource systems. Why? What's wrong with mana? And third, why are you ruining the game?
Bashiok: Well, to answer the last question first...
Zarhym: That wasn't hyperbole by the way.
Bashiok: Thank you for interjecting some real community questions in there... uh, so we're not ruining the game. Different resources for every class. Pretty much the basic fundamental there is that having class diversity, having each class be as diverse as possible makes for as interesting a game as possible. Playing a wizard as opposed to a monk is going to be two very different play styles and by the same token having their resource systems be different further distances them from each other. So the wizard's resource system ... which we haven't... I'll pick the barbarian! The barbarian's resource system which is fury and, let's go with the witch doctor who uses mana, the only character to use mana. Obviously they're going to have two very different play styles even beyond the skills that they're using.
Zarhym: Ok, so they don't just look different with all the same abilities. It's not just aesthetic.
Bashiok: Right.
Zarhym: (sincerely) That's fascinating.
Bashiok: For World of Warcraft listeners it would be like a rogue versus a warrior. Those are two different resource systems.
[ 45:26 ]
Zarhym: So how are those different resource systems working out so far?
Bashiok: They're all going pretty well, none of them are finished. We're still working hard on everything. The witch doctor is probably the most solid which probably makes sense because he’s using mana. But we don't have mana potions so we need to work on his recovery of mana. So he has, some people might have seen soul harvest as one of those at BlizzCon and that might be part of a larger group of recovery systems. The monk is probably actually the next most solid which might seem weird since he was the most recently announced. But his resource system just kind of worked right when it came out of the gate. But nobody has seen it yet, and we haven't talked about it yet... aside from this right now. [laughs] So we're still not announcing what it is, we still have some work to do but it's pretty solid, it's looking pretty good. The barbarian is close. We have a new revision going in soon and we're hopeful for that. And the wizard is probably the hardest right now. It's been a struggle trying to get that nailed down but it gets closer with every revision. And the fifth class of course would be... nah I'm just kidding.
Zarhym: No announcements for us today?
Bashiok: No announcements today. [sad sound]
[ 46:54 ]
Zarhym: So what would you say is the largest problem you've had while coding or designing the game thus far, and how did you overcome it? ... You particularly not the designers or developers...
Bashiok: Obviously I had to send this one off to Jay Wilson because I don't code or design on the game. So his answer was randomness, which is a big part of the game. There's a lot of randomness throughout the game. Dynamic co-op play. Cooperative play. Server load, which is running a lot of games on a server or multiple servers. And creating a more dynamic or alive world. And all of those things sort of hate each other and it's hard to get them to fit together like nice puzzle pieces. So that's a continuing struggle and something we'll probably continue to struggle with and work on and improve and hopefully perfect by the time the game is released.
Zarhym: That’s understandable.
[ 48:20 ]
Zarhym: So next question. If Blizzard is looking to make gold the primary currency in Diablo III, why isn’t there durability on items when it seems like it’s the most obvious way to remove gold from the economy and help keep inflation down.
Bashiok: Yeah, that kind of has a silly answer. Just because it’s not in there now doesn’t mean we won’t have it. It’s not in there now because it’s sort of a silly mechanic to put in early while we’re doing a lot of heavy testing even for the playable demos. In the playable demos we’ve had, there’s no NPCs around to repair items; it’s pretty much an action kill fest in the demos we’ve had so far. To put durability on items right now would be sort of silly. It’s one of those farther down the line economy stabilizing...
Zarhym: Right, would be kind of jumping ahead of where you are right now as far as game design goes.
Bashiok: Right and we could have it in there realistically, but it’s just not necessary yet. That goes along with a lot of other different economy stabilizing -- I’m trying to avoid the word gold sink -- economy stabilizing features.
Zarhym: [laughs] Right, that was a good avoidance even though you mentioned that you’re trying to avoid it.
Bashiok: Uh huh, that’s how I spin things.
Zarhym: Right.
Bashiok: I just come out and say it and then... [laughing]
Zarhym: You are the spin doctor.
[ 49:19 ]
Zarhym: Will all bind on equip or bind on pickup items be bound to account? So you can hand them down to your other characters as you find better gear.
Bashiok: Maybe. It sounds kind of cool. So I asked Jay and some of the other designers about this actually because I wasn't sure, but Jay's response was “That sounds awesome!” And he likes things that are awesome. Which is a very Jay Wilson quote. But there could be economic reasons that we don't do that, there could be gameplay reasons we don't do that. It's probably too early to say, but that sounds cool so we’ll have to see.
[ 50:38 ]
Zarhym: Alright, anything else you'd like to add?
Bashiok: Uhm, no. I'm looking forward to all the forum posts asking why we didn't ask some specific question.
Zarhym: As am I. And I would like to say that I love all of our listeners, and I love you too Bashiok.
Bashiok: Aww, I love you.
Zarhym: Alright well that about wraps it up for our community Q&A segment. We hope you enjoyed BlizzCast 13 and would like to remind you that you can find all of your favorite BlizzCast episodes on iTunes by searching the word BlizzCast in the iTunes store. As always we appreciate your support.
Bashiok: Bye!
Zarhym: Bye.
[ 51:20 ]