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Interview: Andy Chambers on writing StarCraft 2

Kevin Kelly

Andy Chambers has a lot of industry work under his belt, having worked at Games Workshop for more than 14 years before joining Blizzard in 2006. He's currently the creative director on Starcraft 2, which makes him the perfect guy to quiz about the single-player aspect of the game. It's an enormously ambitious project, which still hasn't been entirely figured out yet -- and that's the main reason for the delay Blizzard announced recently.

Gallery: Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty - Single Player | 18 Photos

So now you guys finally get to talk about the other half of the game ...

Which other half are you referring to? (laughs)

The single player.

Oh, right. You mean ALL of the game. I'm letting my bias show...

Yes, is it the better part of the game? (laughter) So, as we're going into this, I'm noticing some things from the Brood War expansion, etc. How long is it supposed to be after the events ...?

Four years.

Four years. Okay. I think Raynor actually mentions that in the game at one point. Is it only Brood War that you're building off of story-wise?

"We're not including the ... Nintendo 64 version I think it was?"

Well, Brood War followed on from Starcraft anyway, but yeah, we're not including the ... Nintendo 64 version I think it was? (laughter). Although I've kind of looked at it and I kind of consider that semi-canonical. So I'm not afraid of bringing in bits from it, but it's a very minor aside in the cosmic theme of things.

There have been Starcraft novels. Is that stuff included?

Yeah. Yep. Certainly the ones we've been commissioning for the last 3 or 4 years. We've taken what opportunities we can to hook them into the ongoing story that we know is coming down the pike for Starcraft 2.

Did you guys already have this sort of story in mind going in, when you started officially working on it, or was it something that built up over a long time, or was it brand new once development started?

There was already this sort of like, huge cosmic arc that had been imagined for Starcraft 1: Brood War, that was still lurking around unresolved. So the main chunk of the arc had already been -- not figured out -- but certainly it had a direction like, "We want to do this." And then beyond that it was, "How do you turn that into a story, with characters and missions and blowing stuff up involved." Basically from there. So that's what a lot of the initial development was, was getting that cool concept and saying, well alright, so what does that actually mean in a very practical sense and how can we leverage this into creating the story we want to tell and how does it touch on all the different races.

Right. Yeah, because Brood War is sort of like The Empire Strikes Back, it's so dark ...

It's a very Zergy, dark campaign, yeah.

It's very dark, with Kerrigan, and everything that happens. Raynor's not in a super happy place at the end of the day when that's over. So you pick up with this. Wings of Liberty and the two other campaigns that are to come, are these going to be concurrent? Will they run one after the other?

One after the other.

Okay, so the events will reflect in the next installment ... they'll carry over?

Yes, the actions and events that happen in the first will be reflected in the second, will be reflected in the third, and so on.

We've only just played the game a bit, you know today's our first exposure to the single player and already we've heard about some new characters. I think Warfield is a new character that's created for this. Did you guys create a lot of new people or are you drawing mainly on some of the older ones?

Yeah, it's a fairly even split, actually. Warfield is probably ... well, that's not true. I was going to say he's the most important new character that we've introduced, but that's not true. He is one of the more important characters but at the same time he doesn't have a huge role to play in the Raynor campaign -- he's more of a presence. But we have introduced a number of other characters because one of the things we wanted to do is to have a lot of the plot lines be character driven. So it's not just a "Raynor can save the miscellaneous colonies, Raynor can save this colony" thing because this character is asking you to come "help me, help me" because she runs the colony. You know, that kind of thing.

So they're almost tiered into what I would imagine as being the real primary characters -- the Kerrigans of this world -- we haven't added any of those. Then you've got secondaries -- which would be the Warfields of this world: yeah, we've added a few of them. Then you've got sort of a big host of minor characters down at the bottom.

So the way the missions are structured in this, did that give you guys a lot more opportunities to play with things? Because in the old game, the characters were like, "Okay, here's your next mission, you're going to go here." Now you have an actual character saying, "We need your help," or, "Come help us pirate resources."

"Not having a definitive chart for ... what's going to occur means that writing the dialogue is quite challenging at times."

Well the thing that's presented to us is this huge challenge of like when it's a linear campaign it's easy, "Alright player, first you're going to do this. Next ... Ah ha! Check it out! Here's the story we're giving to you." etc. When you've got a selection of choices to make, how do you tell the story then? Because it's all actually driven by the player themseves, deciding on where they want to go. So that's been kind of exciting at times, it's actually a lot harder.

Not having a definitive chart for where the character's are going to be at different times and what's going to occur at different times means that writing the dialogue is quite challenging at times, as you might imagine. But we've tried to make it fairly responsive and learned a few tricks along the way about how to handle that. But yeah, it's been exciting times.

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