StarCraft 2 Interview: Lead Producer Chris Sigaty

By Brian Leahy, Apr 23, 2010 12:01am PDT In addition to playing new missions from StarCraft II's campaign, I was able to sit down and interview lead producer Chris Sigaty. We spoke about the progress of the game, the game's systems, and some of the features coming after the game's release.

Shack: What new missions are you showing off today?

Chris Sigaty: Largely, this is our last push to let people know while we're all focused on the [multiplayer] beta, there is this massive campaign that is coming out. We've spent a lot of time and effort to change up the play with StarCraft II than we have in the past.

All the missions are very different with new objectives. We're not trying to teach you multiplayer [in the campaign]. As a result of that, we were able to make the missions different enough that each time you play one, the challenge is fun and interesting.

Shack: Each mission has its own unique mechanic or hook. Are all of them of equal quality or do some naturally shine more than others?

Chris Sigaty: Some embrace the basics of building up an army and managing a base more than others, but all of them have some sort of mechanic that is interesting and fun in its own right. I wouldn't say any of them are better than others. It's more of a measure of how far away do they get from the basics of building up an army, which is ultimately the core of StarCraft.

We actually have fewer missions that focus on these basics, but at the root, the core gameplay is still there. I think that's okay in this case. It's a lot of to complete those missions and then you can expose yourself to the basics in other ways like our challenge mode, versus the AI, and then ultimately playing competitively, either with friends or solo.

Shack: Is there any worry that more casual fans will have trouble moving to the multiplayer game because singleplayer has upgrades and units that do not carry over?

Chris Sigaty: No, I don't think so. I think ultimately, the experiences are so varied as you play through the campaign that the player will be on their toes in each level anyway. Finally, you'll come to the multiplayer mode and realize, "I have access to these things" and be okay.

We'll have to see. With achievements, we'll breadcrumb people the right way and I hope a lot of people will experience the challenges we've included [that help teach multiplayer mechanics]. We have challenges that teach the player unit counters. There are some that say, "Try and defend against these Banshees" and then you have a group of units to utilize. Even just asking that question to somebody, how do you counter the Banshees, will lead to those big "Oh!" moments where players will get a greater understanding.

Players start thinking things like, "Marauders should go here" and "Siege Tanks should go here and be in siege mode." Stuff that they may have peeked at, but didn't really click [in the campaign].

Shack: So there are extra units and abilities in the singleplayer game, but units that do appear in both the campaign and multiplayer are roughly the same?

Chris Sigaty: Definitely. There are some upgrades you can add to those units that will make them different, but ultimately, yes. When you see those units in campaign, you will gain understanding about them. The stats are, in many cases, roughly the same. We have split the data sets, but we try very hard to keep them as close as we can.

Stats are one thing, but in general, we keep the role of a unit the same [if it appears in both modes].

Shack: As far as creating content (art, missions, sound, etc.), are you done with that process for the campaign?

Chris Sigaty: There's a little bit left. There are things we're definitely still working out. Polish, definitely. Going through and clarifying things. There's still a lot of work to do. There are still crashes and missing artwork to finish, but we're getting close. We're within a few months here for sure.

Shack: So you're still on target for a mid-year release?

Chris Sigaty: Yes. We're still targeting a mid-year release. We're doing everything we can. I was here all weekend along with a bunch of other people. We're trying to get done as soon as possible.

Shack: The research, upgrade, and mercenary systems have changed since the last time we saw the game. Are these the new systems final?

Chris Sigaty: Oh yeah. This is it. We're still tweaking small numbers, but they are doing what we want them to do now. The mercs are powerful-almost too powerful in some ways-I always go with mercs. The tech is open-ended to the point where if you pass something up, you can come back to it if you want. The research, which is probably my favorite aspect, is that really tough choice. Back to WoW, "if I put my talent point in this" type decision. In StarCraft II, each choice is either-or. I love that about it. It also let's you try it again on [the hardest difficultly] Brutal, but I'll go back and do my tech a different way.

Shack: In-game video recording, is that still just a debug feature or will we see it in the final product?

Chris Sigaty: For right now, it's [a debug-only feature]. There are a lot of little things we want to do with it and I think ultimately we will end up releasing the capability in-game to video record. But it's not going to be at launch. There's a lot of things we have to do with it. We have to limit when the player can use it-if you could turn it on at any time, you can actually screw up your game with another player by lagging everybody.

What resolutions do we allow? Do we want to put it into a format, by default, that will allow you to copy it to YouTube or do we want the end-user to have to do that. There are issues that we don't have to time to get to right now, but ultimately I think video recording will be a feature that we release whether it's in a patch or with an upcoming project. I definitely think it's within the lifetime of StarCraft 2 that will come out.

Shack: A lot of players are upset by the lack of chat in Battle.net 2.0. Are there plans to include chat or something like it?

Chris Sigaty: Ultimately, there is a system that will go into the game at some point that centers around groups. Everybody looks to chat in WarCraft 3 and StarCraft and to be honest, the chat there was not good chat. For me, I avoided it. Ultimately, what you really want is to get players together.

We have a group system that is designed, but isn't going to make it for release. It's largely about putting people around topics that they want to gather around. Get them in to chat and talk about [those topics].

Shack: Will it allow hardcore players to talk to a pool of people that are also hardcore to find matches or practice partners?

Chris Sigaty: Yes, for example, if there's a group of people doing [Galaxy] Editor development, there would be a group for that. Ultimately, the end user will be able to create groups and players could gather in those groups. There's definitely a lot more work to do on groups before they are ready, but it's something we will see in the lifetime of this game. It'll be sooner rather than later.

Our first major focus after we ship [the game] is going to be tournaments and eSports. We will have a big patch probably around four months after we launch the game that will add a lot of things like Pro and Semi-Pro leagues and allow people to see who really is the best of the best.

That's not the focus of what our leagues system does now, but that stuff is coming a bit down the line.

Shack: Given that there will be features added to the game, balance work, and big patches like the tournament patch, when does the team shift over to work on the first expansion?

Chris Sigaty: We'll have people transitioning in the next few weeks to beginning that process. There are other things that we want to work on; mod-related things that we want to do ourselves, but we'll definitely have people transitioning to the basics now, but there are still a ton of details to be worked out.

It's going to be this constant process as people fall off from squashing bugs and finalizing tasks for the shipping product and start moving on to things related to expansion #1.

Shack: What is the timeline on releasing expansion #1?

Chris Sigaty: It's 10 years per (laughs). No, we're estimating about 18 months from release of Wings of Liberty to when the next one comes out. That's purely speculative, honestly. Historically, it's taken us about a year-WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne is a good example-but you'll see the sum-total package [in Wings of Liberty] has raised the bar and there's a lot more to do with StarCraft II's expansions. I think 18 months is probably fairly accurate.

Shack: Any response to the preliminary "Adults-Only" rating in South Korea?

Chris Sigaty: Yes, we're working with [the ratings board], but we're still trying to figure out what is going on and what our next step is.

Shack: Will it delay the game in other territories?

Chris Sigaty: It shouldn't have any effect on that.

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