Blizzard is the proud owner of two very successful RTS franchises. The first, of course, is StarCraft. The second is the shockingly named WarCraft. Where do they come up with these things?
The original Warcraft game was followed by two sequels, then an MMO, and the formula that Blizz seemed to be following was “less is more”. By WarCraft III, they had introduced hero units, and battles would have between 20 and 60 units at most, many of which had special abilities and required fairly intense management on the part of the player. WarCraft also featured “hero” units which had even more awesome powers, but again required a great deal of concentration to manage properly. Blizzard then took its formula to the ultimate end by developing WoW, in which players acted as the heroes themselves. While there could be large-scale battles between players, the maximum number of units a player could control would never exceed two.
StarCraft followed the exact opposite philosophy. Blizzard gave players units, and lots of them. Jim Raynor? Who cares where he is? Give us twelve hundred marines or a billion Zerglings and we’ll get things done. It was a complete 180 from WarCraft, and fans loved it. When StarCraft II was announced in 2007, amid much speculation that Blizzard was in fact planning a StarCraft MMO, there were concerns about how the mechanics of the game would change. Would it still allow for the same level of unit production and command, or would players be limited to only few, extremely powerful, avatars?
According to Blizzard’s VP of design, Mike Pardo, they’re not going to fix something that wasn’t broken – instead, they’re going to jazz it up with some racing stripes and an afterburner. Pardo told news-hungry fans that battles in StarCraft II could feature up to 300 units on-screen at any one time, and a new feature would be added – the ability to select an infinite number of units at once. All Blizzard RTS games until now have had a “cap” of limits that could be moused-over and controlled by the player at once. StarCraft II will feature no such limits. If units are on your screen, you can control them. Sweeeet.
As well, Blizzard has promised that elements such as higher-ground units being given a combat bonus and the use of “hard counters”, or specific units designed to counter an opponent’s units, will return in the second game. The game will also feature variable play speeds, which will allow it to match the frantic gameplay seen in professional game competitions.
What all of this means, in short, is that Blizz isn’t going to screw around with a good thing. StarCraft had a lot of great things about it that worked, and all of those are going to be kept. New units are going to be added, graphics are going to be touched up, and a few more dollops of awesome are going to be spooned onto this space-RTS cake. In StarCarft, as in life, it seems the general with the biggest army wins.
Oh, and also looks waaay cooler.