Interview: Dustin Browder talks StarCraft 2 development and delays

Kevin Kelly
K. Kelly|08.17.09

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Interview: Dustin Browder talks StarCraft 2 development and delays
Dustin Browder is the man in the hot seat as Blizzard's lead designer for StarCraft 2. Ultimately, he's the one you can heap the blame (or the praise) upon when the final product finally ships. At the time of this interview, we didn't officially know SC2 would be delayed, but given the sheer amount of things they'd shown us during our visit, it became clear that there was no way StarCraft 2 would make 2009.

Still, Browder talks about the reasons for the delay, and ultimately gamers are going to be happy that they chose to make the game better, rather than rush it out for the holiday shopping frenzy. Read on for the full interview with him where we talk delays, easter eggs, the new matchmaking system, the single player experience, and hidden items in the game, including a fully playable Lost Viking arcade game with a data editor that will let you make your own scrolling shooters.%Gallery-69481%

We keep hearing rumors about a supposed delay. And based on what you guys were saying this morning in the theater – figuring out the Lab, figuring out some of the other stuff – it seems this year might be getting harder to reach.

It is getting close, isn't it?

What is the thinking on Blizzard's side? I know the quote is "we don't ship until it is done."

Yeah. That is the rule and that will be the case. If we slip, we slip. But our goal is ... we are still trying real hard and we will see what happens.

Was the delay just due to changes? Did you guys make some last minute additions? For instance, the Lab feels like it is still being figured out.

We have a lot of ambitious plans that we suddenly realized we were not willing to cut back on.

Yeah, that needs some work. Those were definitely added. We have a lot more work to do on performance. We've got a lot more work on performance. We have some more work to do on Battle.Net. We have a lot of ambitious plans that we suddenly realized we were not willing to cut back on. We want these to be great, and, "That will make it a little bit better!" "Yeah, it would. Okay." So, we have definitely got to do some more work in that area as well.

When this event was originally scheduled we were going to be seeing this stuff back in June, and then seeing the revamped Battle.Net as well. Have the changes you guys are wanting to make to Battle.Net pushed StarCraft 2 a little bit as well?

Well I don't know. We will see. It is all part of the same package for us at this point.

Then they will roll out together?

Yeah. They will come out together. We've got to have a Battle.Net for StarCraft 2, and it has got to be cool, right? So we will see what happens. We will see what we can get done and what we can't get done. At this point we are so close to it, I just want us to win and go now. But if we don't make it, that is what happens.

Have you guys been thinking about having a separate Battle.Net client or is it still going to be in-game?

Well for StarCraft 2 it is definitely going to be in-game. We definitely talked about that.

We noticed achievements in the game. Will there be achievements that are tracked on Battle.Net or somewhere else online where you can access them? "Dude, check out what I did in StarCraft," and send that to somebody else who doesn't have Battle.Net?

Yes. And that is why it is there. Absolutely.

And the big thing that everyone has reacted to is no LAN. Did you guys expect that much of a wave of backlash?

Yeah, pretty much.

And we got an official response. Is that still pretty much the case?

You are not going to start up Starcraft and then log into Battle.Net. You are going to log in to play Starcraft, and Battle.Net will be on.

Yeah. We feel it makes a better experience overall. We want you to be connected. We want you to have your achievements. We don't want to have to figure out and explain to you that you are not going to get your achievements because you are playing on LAN. We want you to be part of the integrated experience.

We are not even talking about doing Battle.Net quite the same way we were doing it in the past. You are not going to start up StarCraft and then log into Battle.Net. You are going to log in to play StarCraft, and Battle.Net will be on. And then you are going to decide, "Do I want to play StarCraft solo? Do I want to play multi? Oh, hey! My friends are on. Maybe I should go play multi. Ah, my friends aren't on. I will just play solo."

So the whole idea is to create a total package that uses the Internet in a way that is more fun than is typical. When the original game came out the Internet was scary and weird. And not everybody knew how to use it. Not everybody had a good connection. People were on modems and I don't know what else. It was not a part of the PC, and that is not really the case anymore. It is part of the PC. Like when you get a PC, you get it with the Internet.

So we want to have an experience that takes advantage of all of that hardware and all the fun that comes with that.

We see achievements in SC2. They came to Warcraft. I am assuming we are probably going to see them in Diablo probably as well? That seems to be the way things are going.

Yes. Definitely. This is a nerfed version you've been playing too. We actually had to remove the achievement tracking button, because it was where we couldn't do it. But yeah. You can track them in games. You can compare them with your friends, see how you are doing. The whole thing.

I noticed in the Cantina there is an arcade game in the back. Is that going to be something playable?

Oh yeah.

Is it The Lost Viking?

It is a game called Lost Viking. It is a top scrolling shooter. It is made in the StarCraft 1 engine with SC1 art with stuff scrolling by. It is all done with our data editor. There is nothing in there that a user couldn't do. So we are going to ship the data editor with the game obviously. And we are also going to ship this as an example for people so people can make their own shooters and play them.

I wanted to ask about the music. I am hearing this guy sing about "Night Train Wine." Is this an original song for the game or is it a real song?

Actually, I don't know. I am not plugged into that. You can check with the sound guys. I know they have been talking with local artists. Some of these are recorded by Blizzard bands, guys in the studio who have some talent. I think they are talking to people who are local artists to record some music as well. I don't actually know.

It is great stuff. The jukebox is clickable. Are you going to be able to make custom soundtracks eventually or is it just for fun?

I think it is just for fun in the Cantina.

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