It was presented already back in May, but it was never playable for the public until now: The oncoming expansion Heart of the Swarm. At GamesCom 2011 our staff member HorstSchlemmer hat the chance – together with other european fansites – to do an interview with Jonny Ebbert, Senior Designer for Heart of the Swarm, and Bob Colayco from Blizzard’s PR team. Talking about several different aspects of StarCraft II we get a first glimpse of what we might see in in the future.
Can you talk about some of the new features for the Galaxy Map Editor in the next expansion?
Jonny Ebbert: I’m not sure if I can. We are working on things for the mod community, but don’t have to announce anything. We are constantly working on the editor, not only for the fans, but also for us. So it’s constantly work in progress. We see the mods that are cool and so amazing and we do hear about the limitations and frustrations. We do listen to that and when it is possible we try to add this things to the editor.
What features, execept for the Market Place, can we expect for Battle.Net in the future?
Bob Colayco: Really, except the Market Place?
Yes, because we know about that.
BC: Yeah, that’s stuff that we..
JE: Propably, we’re goona talk more about this at BlizzCon. Yeah we do have some nice little… like Battle.Net is constantly in development.
Features like Waaagh!TV where you can just jump into a game and watch it?
BC: (smiling) That stuff is always on our internal wishlist, but it is always a matter of prioritizing: What can we do? How may ressources do we have for this instance? So it is a matter of prioritizing which things first. We can say that the Market Place related stuff is really improving the custom game search. Players [will] being able to weight their new custom games, making that whole process of finding a good mod better. That’s at or near the top of the list right now. Everything else is just kind of aligning after that.
JE: What’s really awesome on Battle.net is that we don’t have to wait for a product to come out to realease the improment. So if something doesn’t get in with Heart of the Swarm, we don’t have to wait until Legacy [of the Void] to ship it.
Did you think about adding a clantag feature, so that players don’t really have to change their names when they are just able to enter a certain tag?
Oh yeah, we thought of that. (laughs)
Any plans to implement it in the near future?
It’s on our list, I can’t tell you where it’s on priority, but I’ve definately seen that on our list.
Are you allowed to talk about the new multiplayer units and the balance?
That’s on BlizzCon.
What are your objectives in terms of eSports for Heart of the Swarm? Do you feel like you have missed opportunities like a really worldwide competition under Blizzard’s control that will determine who is the best player in the moment?
I can’t really comment on the mulitplayer until BlizzCon but what I can say is that we are really excited about where our eSports is. There are multiple leagues, they have tons of viewers, they have tons of amazing players. They even go wild when some really cool replay does drop in. So we are extremely thrilled of our eSport scene and we are constantly trying to improve the eSport experience. In terms of trying to unify the Battle.Net scene, I don’t think we want to get involved into that, we want to keep that in the hands of the players and the various leagues. But what we want to do is we want to provide them all support we can. And we will do anything to keep the game really exciting, really engaging and the fans can just always engage(?) themselves.
One last question about eSports: In WarCraft III there were ingame tournaments, why aren’t there any in StarCraft II? Do you have plans to add them?
A tournament system takes a long time to develope. There is reason it came our a year or two after WarCraft III was shifted. They are really hard and there are other things we are trying to build. We definately would love to have an automated tournament system but I can’t tell you when it is gonna come out or anything. It’s definately on the list of we want to do, but I can’t say when we will get to it.
BC: What you have to keep in mind is that for the most part Battle.Net at Blizzard is a shared resource. In the same way that the cinematics team is responsible for the cinematics of all games, the Battle.Net team is also responsible upkeeping maintainance of all the franchises that we have. So we try to ship Diablo III right now, so one thing that you have to keep in mind is that a lot of resources are going into getting Diablo III out of the door. I know that a lot of times the eSports community is very focussed on StarCraft II. It is still important for us to continue to upkeep improvements to StarCraft II, but we have to figure that out in context of the entire company and all the games.
JE: Networking is hardest to hire for, the hardest to implement because the stake is so high when you are doing that early in programming. That’s why we have to constantly prioritize what has to be the most important thing.
Can you give us some information about Blizzard DotA? Do you plan a release this year or with Heart of the Swarm?
I can’t tell you about this. What I can tell is that we’re working on Blizzard DotA. We will definately have a lot to tell you at BlizzCon.
So do you think that Blizzard DotA could compete with DotA 2?
That’s for you to decide. We will release it and then the fans will decide how awesome it is.
BC: One of the things that we can say is: If you guys were at BlizzCon last year and saw it and maybe played it, it’s a lot different now.
JE: I would say completely. We completely wracked it. We basicly redid it after last years BlizzCon, so yeah, expect a lot of changes.
When Wings of Liberty was about to be released, there were discussions in the community whether leagues should switch to StarCraft II or stay with Brood War. Do you expect a similar situation for Heart of the Swarm with some leagues that might stick to Wings of Liberty?
There is always people that kind of have their hearts in it and they might stay there. To me I think Heart of the Swarm is gonna be so fun that I think most players will switch, certainly not all.