Chris Sigaty: Clean, cleared and right for the players

In the late afternoon, just before the Heart of the Swarm tour ended, the European fansites had the chance to speak with Chris Sigaty, Lead Producer for StarCraft II. If you have read our coverage from other events, you might notice that we already had several interviews with him during the development of Wings of Liberty. So in this interview we take the chance and do not just talk about Heart of the Swarm itself, but also what they learned during the process of making StarCraft II.

Hey Chris, is everything going fine? You seem a bit tired. Working hard?

Good. Yeah, we’ve been doing a lot of stuff to Wings of Liberty while we’ve simultaniously been working on this. And then we’ve also had a bunch of stuff. So we launched in the end of July, so basicly in August. And then we did this mad rush to BlizzCon, which was largely about making mods. So we made Blizzard DotA, the Starjeweled map and Aiur Chef and I think there was even another…

… Left 2 Die

Yeah, Left 2 Die, thank you. We need to get you on the staff now… Anyway, and then now it’s like „Oh, task switch“. We got to get to Heart of the Swarm, so things really come together in the last few months here. We worked in earnest on Heart of the Swarm. I’m really happy. There is a lot of things to do. Still, the stuff you guys are hearing, the lines, the dialogs, all that stuff is temp. I mean these aren’t the real actors, so we still have a lot going on with this but I’m really happy of what the team has put together. The stuff they pulled off, if you look at the Zergling, the Roach and such. They look fantastic. Just in my opinion, sorry. I’m not trying to write your story, you guys may have different opinions. But yeah, we’ve been hard at work.

You mentioned the Blizzard mods. What happened to Blizzard DotA?

That’s something we are hard at work on right now. We actually, basically got back, started to explore down that line, realized that there is some fundamental mechanics that we want to change. We wanted to put it up on the rack, start to dismantling it, and then putting it back together. So, we are working on it. We don’t have any specific details to go into rather than we would like to have something that lights up with or around Heart of the Swarm. And then, what is Heart of the Swarm’s date? I got you guys there!

What are you doing for Heart of the Swarm different than you did in Wings of Liberty? Are there things that you say that were necessary for Wings of Liberty but will be totally different in Heart of the Swarm?

I mean there is definately some lessons learned from Wings of Liberty. Getting that unique gameplay per mission was something we were after. Sometimes that unique gameplay… we saw people that trend/trying(?) out of the game on specific missions where we’ve got either too hard or too complex. So that is something we are looking at here. It’s not that we don’t want it to be challenging, but we have to walk this careful line. I would saying a perfect mission is a misson that has a good story hit, is based on the core gameplay of StarCraft II, so you do resource, you do build up an army, so you do some of those core things and then there is some other element that is put in there. It is not too complex, but it adds a new challenge to what you have to accomplish. Something like the „flash freeze“ is a good example. It’s not to say that is our best mission or anything, it’s just to say it is a good example. It’s pretty easy to understand but it changes the gameplay, because now I can push at specific times and that has a different impact. That sort of level of understanding or rediscover as you go is the sort of thing we wanna hit. And there are definitely missions in Wings of Liberty where we either got too complex or too difficult and we wanna make sure that people can get through there. So, cleanliness, making sure the difficulty is correct and making sure that those gimmicks aren’t to complex. I think that are lessons learned from Wings of Liberty that we would like to carry over to Heart of the Swarm.

We find nice information about the characters and planets on the Battle.Net website. Do you plan to add these informations into the game?

We are starting to look at this. There is actually some great stuff that we’ve done, lately like all the videos we have. I don’t know if you have seen it but there is a video called “What is StarCraft II?” and it’s got the Tychus [voice] actor actually reading „Welcome to StarCraft II. Here it is…“ and you have to go to website to see it. That should actually be in the game. So, we are definitely looking at that sort of thing. As far as the [character] bios, that is not first up. First up are the ways for people like „Hey, I’m brand new to this. I want to take a look.“ It’s definitely a challenge for us to walk the line of this eSport, you know, very competitive game and then say „Guys, it’s not that scary. You don’t have to be a professional player to be able to play.“ Because there are kind of mixed messages there. So if we are able to put more of that things into the game, that allow people to see that it’s not, this is our opportunity. I think we will start with things like these videos and then transition to stuff like bios of characters as much as we can put into the game. So that it is right into your fingertips.

Compared to the original StarCraft you dropped this briefing room concept in Wings of Liberty and replaced it with the story mode. Some feedback that we got in our forums was that people were saying „I like the idea, but in the end you were a lot closer to the story in the briefing rooms“ because you were adressed personally as a commander while in Wings of Liberty it is more that you just watch this stuff…

You’re definitely behind the fourth wall, yeah…

Something like that. Interestingly, in Heart of the Swarm we are now a bit closer to the old briefing room concept as we have just this one room with Kerrigan, her advisor and the evolution guy. So is it a kind of reaction to that critics?

I think the cleanliness side of it is there. We want to make sure that the player can clearly get to where he want to get to. And also, yeah, we deliver information to them in a way that makes sense. There are some other changes, too. You will notice that the briefing is actually happening in the mission. That is a conscious decision. So we are definitely doing it to deliver information at the best point. There are some things we learned from Wings of Liberty where you hear about what the mission is in a briefing sense before you get to the mission. And then you launch the mission and then you are there like „What was that stuff they were talking about?“ So we had to kind of redo it again: We are doing more of it in the mission and less in the pitching asside the mission and leave the overview of it outside of the mission. We still are really embracing the core „You are behind the fourth wall“ situation. We are actually not done with those stuff. There are some things there when you see Kerrigan is actually facing you a lot and we don’t necessesarily want that. We don’t want her to leaning over the table all the time like Raynor did on the Hyperion. At the same time we don’t want her to stare at you on the screen, because it does break that effect. So, there is still a lot of things that we are working on and that we intend to improve before launch. But yeah I think you feel that it is a little bit closer than it was in Wings of Liberty but there will definitely be those moments with going around and exploring to some degree and then some stuff happening in the story mode that will have some degree of impact on the rest of the game beyond just choices in the evolution chamber.

Last year at BlizzCon Dustin Browder talked about the multiplayer balance takes a lot of time. What about the singleplayer balance? I suppose it’s a different flow, so how big is it for this expansion, taking that we have normal, brutal, etc. difficulties?

We’re propably gonna cut down on the number of options that are available for the players. We did not find that there was a huge degree of use across all of them, so we propably gonna downplay that. We’re still talking about that but…

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