Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Interview: Starcraft 2 lead producer Chris Sigaty

Kevin Kelly

Chris Sigaty has been a faithful Blizzard employee for thirteen years and served as the lead tester on the original Starcraft. He's worked his way up the ladder on various titles, and is now hauling the reins of three different races as the lead producer on the followup Starcraft 2. Additionally, he's the rhythm guitarist in Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain and has a rockin' metal head of hair.

We sat down with him recently to talk about the much anticipated sequel, which became a trilogy somewhere along the yellow brick road of development. Blizzard is still hoping to release Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty later this year, featuring the Terran single-player version of the game along with all three races in the multiplayer that you've come to love like a dear friend ... a dear friend that sucks up all of your free time and enjoys kicking you in the ribs when you're down.

Read on for all the Starcraft 2 goodies we could squeeze out of him, and find out why this title is poised to glue more butts to seats very soon.

So tell me, what is your background? Did you work on the original game?

I did. I was the lead tester on the original game. I've been with the company over 13 years now. I was lead tester on Starcraft, I was the senior producer on Warcraft 3 and the expansion and now lead producer on this. My background is mostly RTS here and I've helped out in other areas as well, but it's been mostly all RTS titles.

So what do you get after 15 years at Blizzard? The sword? The shield?

Um, no. A ring

A ring. So the sword is like 5, or 10?

The sword is 5, the shield is 10, and then the ring is 15.

Wow. What's the longest achievement?

That's the ring. And coming up, if it's not this year, it's next year, will be the 20th year of Blizzard.

Oh boy ... what's that, the full suit of armor?

We don't know, but that's what I've been shooting for. I'm like, "You gotta do the full suit of armor!" I'm not too far off, right? So yeah, no, we don't know what that's going to be.

That's pretty cool.

But it's cool. Yeah, it's a pretty cool benefit here. Blizzard is a really great place to work.

It seems like it ... the tour was pretty comprehensive.

Have you been out before?

No, not here. Just to BlizzCon which we know is nearby.

Yeah, if you get a chance you have to come back in July for the single-player and stuff.

Oh, we'll definitely be back. You guys might have to call security to get us to leave today.

Oh, great. That's awesome.

So, speaking about the game, when did you guys really first break ground on this? When was it officially, "Alright we have a team, we're gonna start working on this."?

So, just after the Frozen Throne shipped, which was in 2003 and actually quite a while after the first game, we made a decision to do it. Basically that process was talking with the leadership of the team and the team in general saying, 'Okay guys, what are we going to do next? We've just shipped this expansion, we don't think we're going to do another one for Warcraft 3, what are we gonna do?' And there was a lot of excitement about working on Starcraft 2.

So the big decision at that time was, 'Okay, well what does that mean?' You know, it could be anything. We could totally reinvent the wheel and go somewhere crazy, or either hearken the legacy. And so we chose to go that route. We really wanted to bring Starcraft to the next millennium, to 3D -- it's a 2D game. To bring people who maybe didn't have a chance to experience the original game to let them experience it. To have people that played the original come along, look at it, have that initial recognition, and excitement and then go explore it and say, 'Whoa, this is just different than I remember,' and in a good way.

"after WoW shipped, we started in earnest on this. "

We knew we wanted to separate from what we'd done in Warcraft 3, which was very hero-centric, stack-centric play – you know, 12 units at a time or less – and go back to Starcraft where you can push on multiple fronts and lots of fogger units and so on. So once we made that decision we were able to go from there. That was made in 2003, right after the Frozen Throne shipped, and then of course we ran up against World of Warcraft which was in heavy development at that point and trying to get out the door. So we actually had a lot of the team help out with that, myself included. I got pulled off to do some things as well, so the project didn't get a lot of attention at the time, although we did have a skeleton crew continuing through developing a new engine and all that, and then after WoW shipped, we started in earnest on this.

As far as that development goes, it's so ... we want to do something big with single player, and we want to do something big with, which were two of the directives we had in mind at the time. And so then it was like, "Okay, what does that mean?" And it's been figuring that out and going on that journey of what it is.

Has the new iteration of affected the game development or vice versa?

There's little components there as far as what it's affected. Yeah, so it did certainly with micro-decisions. As one big example, one of the things we wanted to do, we've always had a really robust editor, and so what you saw this morning was our score screen, which sounds kind of trivial. It's just a score screen that shows you a summary. But the way it's working now, it's completely data driven: so the map tells the service "Here's the things I want to track, and now display it on screen back to me." And that's something we never had in our previous games. and that's where the service, the online service, is actually requiring something from us to do on the dev side to make sure that we have this functionality working in the editor, and that we describe our maps in a particular way.

Then the power that gives the end-user, is they can now make their map – their Defense of the Ancients, or their tower defense, or whatever kind of map thing they come up with and imagine in their mind – they can custom make a score screen that works specifically for their game. So there are examples like that throughout the game. What we're doing with the multiplayer game and the core mechanics and the core balance ... that's the game. That's what we're setting out to do and there's not any requirement on the side. And that's true with the single player story as well.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr