In The Spotlight
|title||January 17, 2013 - HotS FAQ|
StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™ General
Q: What is StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™?
A: Heart of the Swarm™ is the first expansion set to Blizzard Entertainment's sci-fi real time strategy game StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™. Heart of the Swarm continues the epic story from Wings of Liberty with an all-new campaign that focuses on Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades. New multiplayer units and maps will also be included in the expansion, as well as new features and upgrades to the Battle.net® online platform.
Q: What features can we expect from the single-player campaign of Heart of the Swarm?
A: Heart of the Swarm's campaign will include 20 new missions. Players will be able to evolve their swarms with unique, campaign-only units and abilities, and this evolution will happen in an organic manner befitting of the expansion's zerg theme. As an example, zerglings can evolve into specialized sub-species of zerglings such as the swarmling, a variant that spawns three swarmlings per larva at an almost instantaneous rate instead of the standard two zerglings. The fearsome raptor is another evolutionary offshoot of the zergling that has more health and the ability to leap short distances to quickly close the gap on an enemy.
Another aspect of Heart of the Swarm that sets it apart from Wings of Liberty is that Kerrigan will play a major role in each of the battles as a powerful hero. Over the course of the campaign she gains in strength as well as new capabilities. Players will choose what abilities to enhance and powers to use from mission to mission.
Heart of the Swarm will also include a wider variety of locations, or sets, for players to explore between missions. These sets change dynamically as players complete missions, giving players a sense of an evolving world as Kerrigan makes her presence felt throughout the galaxy. Fully voiced cut scenes will round out the cinematic gaming experience in Heart of the Swarm's campaign, while a new online leveling system will unlock in-game rewards such as portraits and decals.
Q: Will there be any technical upgrades to the graphics engine?
A: We'll be making some improvements to the graphics, including upgrades to the look and behavior of zerg creep, as well as some changes that allow our artists to better showcase the new types of planets that Kerrigan will explore in Heart of the Swarm. An improved physics engine has also been added, which gives battles a more spectacular look and feel. We still plan to keep the minimum hardware requirements the same for this expansion set similar to what they were in Wings of Liberty.
Q: What approach is the development team taking toward multiplayer in Heart of the Swarm?
A: We're very pleased with the state of multiplayer in Wings of Liberty. Over the past year, the metagame has evolved as players are continuously developing new strategies and counters, while we've tried to make measured changes to game balance through patches. However, we recognize that there are still areas for improvement. Heart of the Swarm gives us an opportunity to address some of those needs through new units and abilities, which we're typically not willing to make outside of an expansion as they can have a serious effect on current tournaments.
With Heart of the Swarm, we've tried to locate the needs of each race and address them with new units and abilities. We're also trying to maintain -- and if possible, enhance -- the uniqueness of each race. The goal with everything we create for multiplayer Heart of the Swarm is to add new dimensions of strategy and gameplay to StarCraft, while maintaining balance and avoiding redundancy with existing units.
Q: What are some examples of new units, abilities, and game mechanics in multiplayer Heart of the Swarm?
A: With Heart of the Swarm still in beta, the following is a current snapshot of where multiplayer currently stands. These are just some examples of the new units and abilities coming in Heart of the Swarm.
For the zerg, the new Swarm Host will serve as a ground-based siege unit. When burrowed, the Swarm Host will spawn units that slowly move in a stream toward enemy units or structures. This will allow the zerg to apply pressure on entrenched enemy positions. The Viper is a flying support unit that has abilities that can manipulate the battlefield. As an example, Abduct allows the Viper to pull a unit toward it from a distance, which can be useful in making key enemy units more vulnerable, or pulling a friendly unit to safety.
The protoss will field an interesting new unit called the Oracle. This unit is a psionic warship, built from a Stargate, that uses unique abilities to raid and harass the enemy. The first is Pulsar Beam, which is energy-based and does devastating damage to light units on the ground. Another ability, Envision, grants temporary detection to the Oracle. The Tempest is a new capital ship that can fire at both ground and air targets from long range, doing additional damage to massive air units.
The terrans will have some new tricks as well. The Hellion will be given a new ability to transform into a walking battle mech, called the Hellbat. In this alternate form, Hellions will move slower, but gain health and deal higher damage in a wider arc of flame. The Widow Mine is a factory based unit that can burrow into the ground and periodically fire missiles that do splash damage. Medivacs will get a short cooldown-based speed-boost ability.
We're also testing a new gameplay mechanic for maps: destructible rock pillars that can create a blockade at a choke point. This mechanic will allow players to close off pathways, block themselves into expansion bases, or protect scouts holding position on an elevated Xel'Naga watch tower.
Q: What changes will come to Battle.net with Heart of the Swarm?
A: We've already released Arcade, which upgrades our custom map functionality on Battle.net. The mapmaking and modding community around StarCraft II has published tens of thousands of custom maps using the StarCraft II editor. The Arcade allows us to better showcase this 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.
We have a huge list of features coming to StarCraft II around the time of launch, including a groups and clans system that includes private chat channels and news; multilanguage support; Global Play, to allow players to play on different regional servers; unranked matchmaking, so players can try playing different races or test new strategies without impacting their ladder ranking. Multi-viewer replay functionality and the ability to resume a multiplayer game from a replay will also be included.
The user interface has also been streamlined and improved, giving players faster and more convenient access to the facets of the online experience they use most. Advanced stat tracking and improved score screens will give players more information and tools to analyze their online play. Another optional feature, called "Players Near Me" will be added, allowing players to easily find and connect with other StarCraft II players on the same network. This feature will be particularly helpful to those who play from dorms or internet game rooms.
Heart of the Swarm will also include a number of features that help train and prepare players for competitive play. Training Mode is an objective-driven series of scenarios that teach players some of the basics for online play. The Versus AI functionality has also been revamped, allowing players to play against computer opponents that are tailored in difficulty to their skill level. It will even be possible to give simple commands to AI-controlled teammates in these types of games.
Finally, a new leveling system will be added that rewards players for participating in online matches, whether they win or lose. As players gain levels in the system, they unlock cosmetic upgrades like new decals and unit skins.
Q: Will Heart of the Swarm require players to own Wings of Liberty?
A: For the regions that have a standard box business model such as North America and Europe, yes, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty will be required in order to play the Heart of the Swarm expansion. For other regions that have alternative access models, we’ll provide details at a later date.
Q: How much will Heart of the Swarm cost?
A: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm will be available on DVD-ROM for Windows® XP/Windows Vista®/Windows® 7/Windows® 8 and Macintosh® at a suggested retail price of $39.99 USD. The expansion will also be available digitally directly from Blizzard’s StarCraft II website (www.StarCraft2.com) at an expected price of $39.99 USD.
Blizzard is offering a Collector's Edition of Heart of the Swarm loaded with digital and physical bonus items, available exclusively at select retail stores for a suggested retail price of $79.99 USD. Players will also have the option of purchasing a Digital Deluxe version of the expansion, which will include all of the digital items from the Collector's Edition. The Digital Deluxe version will be available directly from Blizzard via www.StarCraft2.com at an expected price of $59.99 USD. Players who purchase the standard edition digitally or at retail will have the option to upgrade to the Digital Deluxe version at any time (for as long as the standalone Digital Deluxe version remains available) for an additional $20 USD.
Q: Will there be a console version of Heart of the Swarm?
A: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is being developed for Windows and Mac. We currently have no plans to bring StarCraft II to any console platform.
Q: When is Heart of the Swarm coming out?
A: StarCraft II Heart of the Swarm launches globally on March 12, 2013.
This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) event article.
|title||Vivendi And Activision To Create Activision Blizzard|
Update: IGN has just published an interview with Mike Morhaime concerning the merger.
IGN: It sounds like there are plenty of advantages to the deal. Is there anything about being part of an even larger company that you feel you'll need to watch out for in the future?
Mike Morhaime's Merger Interview with IGN
Today, the French telecommunications conglomerate, Vivendi Universal ( parent company of Blizzard Entertainment) announced that its gaming holdings would be merging with Activision (Guitar Hero III, Spiderman 3). Vivendi is to contribute Vivendi Games valued at $8.1 billion (this includes Blizzard Entertainment, plus $1.7 billion in cash in exchange for approximately 52% stake in Activision Blizzard (the new company) at closing; Total Transaction Valued at $18.9 Billion.
From the Activision Blizzard FAQ:
How will this impact Blizzard's games?
This has shocked the gaming community and responses have been very mixed. Luckily, it seems like Blizzard will still retain its relative independence and no game plans have changed. We'll be closely watching to see what, if any, effect this has on the development or publishing of any Blizzard title, including StarCraft II.
Activision Blizzard - Official Details
Official Blizzard Press Release
Blizzard's Merger FAQ
Business Wire Article