With the release of World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King on the horizon, and the internet-melting announcement of Diablo 3 still ringing in our ears, Blizzard's other mega-franchise StarCraft, and the currently in development RTS StarCraft 2, has fallen somewhat off the gaming radar. But fear not, dear readers, it's still firmly in our sights. And, just to prove it, we hunted down Blizzard executive vice president of product development and co-founder Frank Pearce at Games Convention in Leipzig to get the low down on the game every RTS fan can't wait to see.
VideoGamer.com: Some people say that StarCraft 2 is too similar to the first game. What do you say to those people?
Frank Pearce: Well the first thing I would wonder is whether any of them actually had a chance to play the build. We definitely were deliberate about honouring the legacy of StarCraft. It's a concious decision on our part to make sure the experience reminds the player of the original experience, so I guess in some ways that's good, that that's what they're saying, because that's partially what we've tried to achieve.
But we definitely wanted to distinguish the sequel from the original in some ways, and so there's a lot of new units we're implementing, that have new abilities that will provide the players opportunities for new and different strategies. We definitely wanted to deliver an evolved experience in terms of the single-player campaign and the story that we tell them and how we tell that story. We also definitely want to enhance the online experience through Battle.net over and above what was originally done with StarCraft. So when all is said and done it'll be the total package that distinguishes it. I don't think that you'll be able to point to any one feature and say this is what distinguishes it.
VideoGamer.com: Is the real time strategy genre one of the most difficult to innovate in because it has a way of working and if you get too far away from that it stops it from being an RTS.
FP: Yeah it's definitely a challenge to take the RTS to the next level in terms of what players expect. Because a mission is a mission right? You play head to head and that's sort of what's expected, but then if you deviate from it then you don't really have what players expect in an RTS.
Bob Colayco: On some level the proof's in the pudding. Maybe you look at it, on the surface it seems similar, but even a lot of journalists who had that same question in the back of their mind, once they sat down and played it, it became more obvious to them, like "OK, I get it now". So hopefully those guys who have those concerns will try the game and maybe at that point it will become much more clear to them what's going on.
VideoGamer.com: Which leads me nicely on to the next question which is when will they get the chance to play the game? Do you have even a rough ballpark for when the game's gong to be released?
FP: Not really. We still have a lot of work to do. Anyone that's had the opportunity to play it at any of the shows we've shown it at might think wow, this feels pretty good, this feels pretty complete, so why don't they just release it? But we still have a lot of work to do on the Battle.net side and we still have a lot of work to do on the single-player campaign side. And until that stuff is done, the total package isn't there.
VideoGamer.com: So at the moment you guys are focusing on the single-player campaign.
FP: Yeah and the Battle.net functionality. Stuff that's still, like I said, we have more work to do on those feature sets and we're so early in the process of defining that, that we're not even ready to talk about it publicly.