Blizzard Unveils First Details of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

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Blizzard Unveils First Details of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

It’s been a little less than a year since Blizzard released StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and, since then, they have been hard at work on the follow up expansion, Heart of the Swarm.  And while there hasn’t been any news about a potential release date, Blizzard has seen fit to unveil a first look at the upcoming Zerg campaign.

Teaming up with former Pg! writer Jamie Calimquim, I headed out to Irvine, CA last week to the Blizzard campus on behalf of StarCraft.org to check out what Blizzard had to say.  And, while the details of the multiplayer portion of Heart of the Swarm were sparse to say the least, we did get some good information regarding the campaign and the continuing plot of StarCraft II.

General

- As much as we begged and pried – no, we did not receive an official release date.

It’s too early to talk about a specific release date at this point in time. As with all Blizzard games, our ultimate goal is to provide the best possible experience for our players, and we will take as much time as is needed to ensure that Heart of the Swarm meets the expectations of our players, as well as our own high standards.

 

Multiplayer

While the unveil was mostly focused on the single player aspect of Heart of the Swarm, there were a few multiplayer details given:

- Let’s start off with the bad news that you’re really interested in: they have no intention for LAN support.

- New maps and units will be included in the expansion, though there was also talk of possibly removing units, such as the Zerg Overseer.

While we’re not quite ready to go into detail about the new multiplayer content in Heart of the Swarm, we can say that this expansion set will include new units and new maps. We’ll have more details about multiplayer Heart of the Swarm content at BlizzCon.

- They did consider Matchmaking Ratings in Custom Games as an option.  So in the meantime, get your Starjeweled on. (YEAH!)

- There will be a multiplayer beta at some point in the future that will run for about 3-5 months.

 

Campaign

- The single player Zerg campaign will be approximately 20 missions.

- You can evolve your units and upgrade skills – like instant zergling hatching or three zerglings (known as swarmlings) to one egg.  Oh, you fancy, huh?

- Blizzard’s intent with the different upgrade and evolution options is for players to have their own unique swarm that may differ from the swarm someone else may have.

- Kerrigan will be playable on all maps as a hero character.  While she can be killed, she respawns after a set amount of time.  The story significance of Kerrigan’s ability to be revived in battle has yet to be determined.

- Blizzard implemented an RPG-like feature in creating skills for Kerrigan.  This means you’ll get to choose which abilities to enhance and which powers you’d like to use.

- As not every StarCraft player is interested in Hardcore competitive play, Blizzard’s intent with the campaign is to ensure that it is accessible to the casual player more interested in the actual lore of the StarCraft universe.  That said, you can probably expect a Hard difficulty mode similar to what Wings of Liberty had.

- Typically they introduce multiplayer content first, but they really wanted to cater to the players who love Starcraft for its campaign mode.

- Just like in Wings of Liberty, they may consider bringing back Brood War units – “If we can find a spot for them it would make a lot of sense.”  Lurkers and defilers, anyone?

 

Plot Details

Just like the multiplayer, there weren’t many plot details given aside from what was shown in the teaser and the demo. Here’s what we do know:

- When we last saw Kerrigan, she was being carried off, weakened and deinfested, across the battlefield by Jim Raynor in Wings of Liberty.

- The demo showed Kerrigan once again embracing the Zerg, this time of her own volition, as she begins to regain her Zerg abilities.

- Despite rejoining the Zerg, Kerrigan is seen showing remorse for what she did during her time as the Queen of Blades.

- Storywise, Kerrigan is a much different character than Jim Raynor, as her focus in Heart of the Swarm will be to regather and strengthen the swarm, as well as take her revenge on Arcturus Mengsk.

- Despite being shown in the teaser, Raynor’s role in things is currently unknown.

 

Demo

- This short demo included two missions that were about 4-6 missions into the game.  Blizzard was kind enough to let us fumble around with these two missions for about three hours while larger publications received one-on-one interviews and guided tours.  I am convinced that they also received free cake.

- Two new characters where introduced in the demo: Abathur, who is in charge of upgrading and evolving the swarm, and Izsha, Kerrigan’s advisor and the memory of her as the Queen of Blades.

- There were two character classes available for Kerrigan in the demo: Spec Ops, which focuses on her psionic abilities, and Corruption, which focuses on her Zerg abilities.  There were two placeholder slots for other classes, meaning a possibility of four classes will be available for Kerrigan.

- Upon entering the demo, we were prompted to travel to one of two worlds: Kaldir (which appears to be a frozen ice world) or the Zerg homeworld of Char.

- In Kaldir, we basically used our roaches and zerglings to kill off three Protoss bases.  Every minute or so, an ice storm would force the Protoss units and buildings to activate shields. During these storms, you’d be able to mercilessly kill off the poor, defenseless, petrified Protoss units/buildings.  Indeed, they could not hold.

- In Char, you must collect 100 Baneling eggs before an enemy Broodmother who is looking to take the swarm for herself.  The high point of this mission was the satisfaction of creating legions upon legions of banelings – but that’s not all.  In a last hurrah, all 100 Baneling eggs hatch and are combined with yours, which naturally resulted in SO MANY BANELINGS.

- Mission difficulty was stuck on Normal. While it was definitely challenging enough for a casual StarCraft player such as myself, hardcore players like Jamie did find it to be a little too easy.  Because of this, a handful of us had our own impromptu versions of Funday Monday, such as using only Banelings or Roaches.

- Since some of the real fanboys were present and the missions were a bit too easy, there were a few attempts to spice things up a bit.  For a fine example, Aceanuu (a mod from reddit’s Starcraft community) created only Banelings with 200 food.  Yes, this means he killed off all of his drones at the end.  Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be enough resources to support this endeavor.  Regardless, hundreds of suicidal green balls of glory rolling around the entire screen was a tremendous spectacle.

 

Miscellaneous

- A few familiar faces were present at the event, including moderators from TeamLiquid.com, Reddit and shoutcasters JP McDaniel and Sean “Day[9]” Plott.  Jamie ended up going into total fangirl mode over meeting Day[9].

- JP and Day[9] were kind enough after the event to cast a Best of Five match between FXOmOoNan and FXOSheth. The games were viewed by almost a hundred Blizzard employees and less than a dozen of us fans.  Unfortunately, mOoNan’s mother needed help after game 2, and was then replaced by NOVAstalife. Spoiler alert: Sheth won.

- As this is an expansion pack, you’ll need Wings of Liberty in order to play Heart of the Swarm (at least if you’re in NA or Europe)

For the regions that have a standard box business model such as North America and  Europe, yes, Wings of Liberty will be required in order to play Heart of the Swarm. For other regions that have alternative access models, we’ll provide details at a later date.

 

- Blizzard plans on updating Battle.net with the “StarCraft Marketplace”

Our goal with the new Marketplace design will be in upgrading the custom map UI to better showcase the wide variety of great new maps and mods to players who are looking for fun new gaming experiences. We want players to be able to more easily find, rate, and sort through all the great custom maps that have been created.

The Marketplace will also eventually include a commerce element that will allow mapmakers to charge a fee for their work. While there will always be a wealth of free content, we believe that allowing content creators to profit from their work will foster an environment for more complex and higher-quality custom maps. Our ultimate hope is that the StarCraft Marketplace will function and thrive in a similar manner as mobile “app-stores” — tons of free and premium content for players, and a limitless source of entertainment through StarCraft II and Battle.net.

 

Overall, Heart of the Swarm is looking to be quite interesting, both in terms of the Campaign and Multiplayer modes.  Again, there is no set release date, so it will be done when it’s done.  But if you’re like me who loves Kerrigan as a character, then believe me.  Heart of the Swarm cannot get here soon enough.