Starcraft II: ready to roll out!

Wings of Liberty, the sequel to Blizzard’s epic space strategy video game Starcraft, hit the stores on July 27. RT took a sneak peak at its single player campaign, which shows more promise than the first part ever did.

A bunch of old friends, some new characters, and new twists to the plot await fans in the sequel to the glorious space saga known as Starcraft.

The game’s first edition, released more than a decade ago, is one of the biggest hits in the history of video games.

Revolutionizing the genre of Real-Time Strategies, Starcraft became the inaugural game platform for global Electronic Sports (or simply eSports) competitions.

Quickly earning the status of “modern day chess” for its immensely competitive gameplay and precise balance, it is still played around the world a dozen years after its first release in March 1998.

In South Korea, Starcraft tournaments draw thousands of spectators and are broadcast live on several eSports channels.

It is a scale of popularity that the creators did not foresee, according to one of the game’s artists, Samwise Didier.

“We were just trying to make a fun game. It’s kinda what we do with all of our games. If it wasn't fun to play, people wouldn't be buying it. That's what has kept it going. So when the game is being played to this day it makes me feel proud. I actually look at the artwork nowadays and go – eew, they still play looking at that! ‘Cause, you know, the marine is 8 pixels tall now,” Didier told RT.

Watch exclusive footage of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player campaign

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Didier, who subsequently became the art director at Blizzard, sees obsession with details and teamwork as the keys to success:

“We just have a lot of iteration on art, on design, on the story itself. A lot of the ideas really come from the team. You know, we have someone come with an idea – ‘Hey, what do you guys think about this?’ And we’re ‘Oh yeah, that sounds great’ and we put them in. Sometimes the ideas don’t fit, sometimes they’re perfect. I think having a lot of people involved on the project being able to give all these different ideas is a real strength that we have”.

Some of those ideas have a Russian origin, much like one of the game’s principal characters –Admiral Aleksey Stukov – who is portrayed with a striking resemblance to some of the iconic Russian leaders.

According to Didier that is not a coincidence.

“Artistically, a lot of Russian statues and buildings are all very strong and powerful and the Terrans' structures are very similar: very bold and strong-looking, not too delicate. A lot of naming – like in Starcraft we have Augustgrad – that's a distinctly Russian-sounding name,” Didier noted.


Starcraft II was awaited eagerly in Moscow

Though Starcraft is famous for its story, the balance between its different races is no less important for a competitive strategy. Starcraft’s only-ever expansion pack – Brood War – came out in December 1998, but Blizzard never actually stopped working on the balance through numerous updates.

“Blizzard is renowned for change. We are constantly tweaking things, making things better. We may tweak something and it’s not as good, so we’ll go back to what it was. Years after the original Starcraft, we would fix things that were broken, we'd fix the balance here and there, so the game just kept getting better and better,” Didier explained.


A fully dressed (and armed) Terran marine also turned up at the event, demanding his copy

With so many years of work invested in the first game, no one expects the sequel to take its place overnight. But eventually the new additions are bound to make it more attractive.

Wings of Liberty is the first part of Starcraft II trilogy. It deals with trials and tribulations of the Terran (human) race. Campaigns for the two alien races – Protoss and Zerg – will be released separately.

The sale kicked off in the early hours of Tuesday simultaneously in Berlin, Stockholm, London, Moscow and Paris.

The game's producer, Tony Hsu, visited the opening of the sales in Moscow, along with a fully dressed Terran marine.

Creators promise some 15-20 hours of gameplay should a player skip all the side-missions, while the full-fledged experience in Wings of Liberty alone will take no less than 30-40 hours. Of these, up to 45 minutes are Blizzard’s trademark cinematics.

They will help the players to get acquainted with the several novel units.


Starcraft's producer, Tony Hsu, signing autographs in Moscow

“Every race, half of the units are completely new. So with the Terrans we got rid of a lot of classic units, like the Goliath, Science Vessel, things like that. They are in single player, but not in the multiplayer at all. We have alternate units in their place for them. The Viking – I didn’t do the concept, but it was also one I really wanted to push because it was an area of common science fiction that we hadn’t done yet: transforming robots on the Terran army. We had the Siege Tank, it transformed, but it wasn’t a mech. It wasn’t a robot running around, it was more of a vehicle. On the Zerg I really love the Banelings just because – I’ve made the comparison before – they are like explosive bowling balls, rolling up and just bang-bang-bang. Now there is an entrance to somebody’s town where there wasn’t a moment ago. On the Protoss I really love the Stalker, because we took a classic Starcraft unit – the Dragoon – and updated it for Starcraft II. We made it a Dark Templar instead of regular Protoss unit and it’s little bit more sneaky, stealthy, as opposed to the big strong powerful Dragoon,” Didier said.

Many fans appeared in various Starcraft-related costumes

The original units that made it to the sequel will get an extra dimension. Literally, as the graphics are now on a 3D engine.

Despite the massive strengthening of the graphics, Starcraft II will not be too challenging in terms of system requirements, as is the case with most Blizzard’s products.

“We want to make a game that as many people in the world can play. If we cater to a group that has the highest-end cards, not many people will be able to play. Same if we do it the opposite way, if we cater to the super-super low-end, everyone can play, but it will be visually not as pleasing. So we just try to make it in the middle, where it looks good and everyone can – for the most part – play it with no problems,” Didier stressed.

And play it they will. Analysts expect no less than seven million copies to be sold in the next seven months. The figure looks quite realistic if you take into account the massive fan base, not-too-high system requirements and the twelve-year wait for the sequel that is about to end.

Ruben Zarbabyan, RT