Given the advances in the speech, the characters now look like they're actually talking. Is there a lot more recorded dialogue for this game than for the last?
Yeah, the running total is something like 4,000 lines of recorded dialogue. I don't know how that stacks up against Starcraft 1, but were talking about orders of magnitude more. Because there are so many lines in there to cover just basic conversation between characters, then the little cutscenes on top, then you go to the extra conversations to cover, "Oh, well what if I did this mission before that mission," then we actually get this conversation instead -- that sort of thing. So yeah, there's a lot of it. There's a lot of recorded dialogue. The guys down in recorded sound have been run ragged overall.
Dustin (Browder) was saying this morning in the theater that eventually there are moments where you're faced with a choice and you have to do A or B. And once you decide that, that affects your game and B will no longer be available to you once you choose A. And I imagine that changes the story, although he did say there's a beginning and an end, but the middle part has a lot of multiple paths.
"It has one origin point, it has one termination point, but that bit in the middle and how you get there is kind of up to you as the player."
You were just explaining beginning/end/multiple paths.
Yes. Yeah, one of the big details was that we wanted game play to come first so that there weren't right and wrong choices, there aren't light and dark, good and evil...
Right, it's not a karma-based system.
No, no. A lot of people try to overlay that onto it and say, "Ah, this is the evil Jim Raynor choice isn't it?" Its like, "No, that's just the choice you make if you believe this to be true." Because I've tried - we have tried - to write it so that it's far more like a moral grayness, kind of - what do you think is the case - that's what you should base your decision making on, not what you think the designers want you to do based on whether they want you to be good or evil.
Did you guys build any jaw-dropping surprise moments into the story where the player will be completely shocked that something happened?
I think there's probably at least three or four of those. Yeah, a lot of them sort of predicated around the choices and so on. Sort of like, "Well I didn't expect THAT to happen!" That kind of thing.
So what happens if you abort a mission? Can you then go back and make the opposite decision?
Well, we kind of work on the assumption a lot that people will just have a game save before they make the choice. In fact we'll probably put in an autosave before they make the choice so if you wanna go back and do the other one that's cool - that's fine by us.
So you wont have to replay the whole thing.
People would go a little crazy.
We just want a situation where in your playthrough you have to make a choice at some point. We don't want to like completely burn that other choice if you don't take it, or come around and delete it off your hard drive and so forth ... stop you from ever talking to each other about it. It's fine. If you see both, it's fine. But in terms of like, your story -- your path through the game -- there come some junctures where you have to make some Raynor-esque choices, and guess what, they're morally hard decisions that you have to make. Ha, ha, ha! (evil laugh)
There's a lot of attention to detail now that we never had in the first game. Like, in the bar, the bits on the bulletin board, when he's in the cantina, on the ship, the Hyperion -- lots of detailed stuff that we'd never seen before in the Starcraft universe. What was that like? Getting all that stuff together and fleshing out those characters?
It was actually quite a lot of fun. A lot of those things are in there again for players who are coming into the universe fairly cold, so that they've got little artifacts they can pick up on and find a little bit more about. So some of it just came down to what would make interesting little objects, both in terms of what they were in themselves and what the characters might say or feel about them in particular. So, yeah that was quite a lot of fun.
"There's been a few casualties along the way. It started out being a lot less character focused than it is now."
So tell us what your background is, what else have you worked on here and how long have you been with the company?
I've been with Blizzard for ... I officially started working for them in 2006, so a little over three years at this point. Prior to that I worked in the UK. I worked for Games Workshop, doing tabletop games and printed media in one description or another for fourteen years. Which was a lot of words. When I actually sat down to put my resume together I was like, "Oh, there's this and this and this ... and that monthly article in the magazine, for like fourteen years," and that's a large body of work.
So very strongly rooted in that background enough to the point that people over here like Chris Metzen had heard of me. So when I sent my resume around they were like, "Oh yeah! Lets get him in! Get him in for an interview," and so forth. To my abiding surprise. Because I was literally, like, cold calling at that point. Um, so that grounding in developing a universe over a long period of time is I think one of the things that was appealing and is one of the sensibilities I've been able to bring to Starcraft.
And in turn, I've been learning that PC games are at the same time very similar to tabletop on some level, and also completely different on others - the whole having to think about and tell a story purely through dialogue is blowing my brain overall. That's been an entirely new set of skills that I've had to learn, because I've gone from, "I can fill pages with text and you'll probably find it fairly interesting enough to keep reading it," to, "No, actually I have to have characters who tell this story, not by telling you either, but by talking to each other." Wow. That's a bit of an interesting challenge.
It's almost like learning a whole new craft. Like screenwriting versus novel writing. Show it, don't say it.
Exactly. And I think I was intellectually aware of how different that would be when I first came over here, but then the real practical ramifications have really come home to roost. But I've had a great mentor in Chris, he's done this before, an awful lot, and a great team who've been working on it as well, because the other thing I've found is that PC games are such a collaborative effort in comparison to table top games. I mean that's collaborative too, don't get me wrong, but its about three things; artwork, miniatures and writing. And PC games are like that, but its like, twelve things. And they all have to be strong, they all have to be able to talk to each other and work together. But yeah, that's what I was looking for.