Samwise Didier: The levels will have a lot more of a cohesive feel
Samwise Didier is Blizzard most known artist and worked already on the original StarCraft. Together with our colleagues from France, Spain and Poland we had the chance to speak with him about the artworks and unit designs for Heart of the Swarm and how happy the art team is to make Zerg stuff after years of working on the Terrans.
We are recording your voice, so if you would like sing, just do it.
I need more summer wine… (laughs)
Heart of the Swarm comes with a new story mode. Can you tell us a bit about the efforts you had to make for it?
Well, it was actually very refreshing to work on something as nasty and slimy as the Zerg, because we had been working on Terran artwork for so long which was very grey, very squared, very blocky. We got to stop working on that and work on things that were slimy with teeth and fangs and claws and armor plating and slime. It was a nice break, so the work was something more organic than the kind of standard space vehicle grey and the blinky lights of the Terrans. That was a great time, but after working on it for 400 years we’re working on StarCraft II it was nice to have a little switch.
Will the graphic updates of this expansion maybe require us to buy newer PCs?
No, we’re still aiming the same target specs as we had for Wings of Liberty. And the only graphic updates are that we are actually able to put in a little bit more art into the levels because Char is three missions now instead of one. And the planet Khaldir is three missions instead of one, so while before we had to make one artwork for Port Zion, one for Planet Xil, one for Char, now we have three that we can devote three levels worth of artwork to really kind of emerse you with the planets. I think visually the levels will have a lot more of a cohesive feel because you will be progressing from the Char acid pits to the lava pits, the fire region or whatever. We will be able to really push the level of detail that we had before. After we worked on Xil in Wings of Liberty we never went back there, we never worked on it again, so we’ll be able to have it a little bit more in-depth for you guys.
It you could go back in the past, would you change something in the art of Wings of Liberty?
I would change all the mistakes we made, which were mostly just trial and error like things that we didn’t know about. How big of space the we could use when we were making the Terran sets. What type of units that we tried making that just weren’t really fitting. It just wasted a lot of time doing that stuff although I think we needed to do that to find out the very best units that we had. But for me there was never a time that would go back to change because we totally screwed something up, I think we actually did awesome with Wings of Liberty making a singleplayer that our singleplayer lore fans like and a multiplayer game that everyone seems to really embrace and a thing that feels like StarCraft but has a lot of new stuff. So, there hasn’t really anything other than just simple like „Oh man, why did we do that?“ Like things that made us take an extra month on programming or a month on an extra piece of art we made that ended up not making it into multiplayer. But even then, we got to put that artwork in the sinlgeplayer and then everyone liked it because it made the singleplayer richer of stuff. So, not too many regrets, no…. We took out the fourth race. Oh, wasn’t I supposed to say that? (laughs)
There are still in there.
Yeah, it’s just hidden.
So, how much do you discuss the aspect of design differences for units that have appeared in the original game. Of course you can show more details than in the original StarCraft due to the better graphics, but especially if it comes down to heroes with their unique looks. Do you get in trouble with the story writers due to continuity if you change the appearance of… for example Artanis?
Not really. The old StarCraft and Brood War, those were really like rudimentary art. We didn’t have a lot of the capabilities. If you guys have seen the picture of Jim Raynor before, he was like a shaved head guy with a monobrow and he just looked goofy. So we definately updated him for Wings of Liberty. But, if you noticed, in the Mar Sara bar there is a picture of him with the shaved head. We kind of illumined to how he used to look and changed it. Artanis is a Protoss. When we create him, he’s not gonna have two heads and wings or anything like that. He might have some different head dress or stuff and maybent because I don’t remeber if the voice actor is still around or if we can get him, but a lot of those things I think people don’t really care about. If we were suddenly say we put wings on a Zergling, people would hate that… sorry, just kidding. No I think with game being so far apart, we have a little bit more room. We take the basic elements of everything, like the Protoss still have their golden, swrily pseudo-egyptian kind of structures, Terrans are basicly blocks, Zerg have claws and teeth ans things like that. As long as we have a lot of those basic points I think we have room to kind of flex into newer areas and people will still be happy.
Was it hard to create the hybrid and don’t you think he is very much zerg-orientated?
The hydrid guy? Oh, we actually have two in Wings of Liberty. We had one we tried to push a little bit more protossian – if that’s even a word – and then there was one which was way more Zerg. If we had to pick one it would have been diffucult, but biased being able to have a couple of different versions, we will be kind of safe that this one felt more Protoss, the one felt more Zerg. We only had one design originally, but we really like the idea of having two, so we put two in. You know we made sure and collaborated with the story guys that we didn’t change anything that they had or didn’t kill any existing lore that was in the old days twelve years ago when we did this game. It was pretty simple coming up as we took elements of both races and sort of interpolated them with a little bit of the other race.
How is it work on this Hybrid and Xel’Naga stuff that has been introduced or hinted at least twelve years ago and now we finally get to see it? Do you have old concepts for them or is it completely new?
Yes, it is all new. Back in the days we barely had concepts of the original units, you know. We did all the concept work afterwards when we were making the manual. You know we draw pictures for the manual. And in our days we come up with stuff and there will be 40 different pictures of what the Xel’Naga artifact looks like. And it looks like a Toblerone, if you ever know that shape of that, so… (laughs)