Starcraft Producer Bill Roper of Blizzard
Interview by Al Giovetti
Price: Approximately $50
Genre: real-time strategy
Over the past year, The Computer Show has had an opportunity to speak with Blizzard designers and developers including Bill Roper, Senior Producer, and Allan Adham, President. They had several things to share with our television audience and our readers. Hopefully the following information gleaned from those discussions and demonstrations will shed some light on their upcoming products.
Alfred Giovetti: This is Bill Roper, the Producer of the upcoming game, Starcraft, that everyone is excited and talking about. Nice to meet with you Bill. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule and talking with us about this product.
Bill Roper: We at Blizzard are just happy to share with you and your audience the newest on the product.
Alfred Giovetti (AG) OK, first quesion: Is Starcraft best described as Warcraft in space?
Bill Roper (BR): Starcraft is much MUCH more than merely a Warcraft knock-ff, which I fear this last sentence implies. We are working towards making Starcraft the next step in real-time strategy games.
AG: Instead of two races, orcs and humans, this game variant will have three races from which you can command the game play. Like Warcraft one and two, building structures and units, combat and peasant-like, and balancing the resources will be required for success. What else will be true about the new game play you have designed.
BR: There is much more to gaining resources than the way peasants operated in the Warcraft series. Also, while building up and maintaining an economy and maintaining it will be vital to the success of many missions, it will also be as important to devise new strategies as there are three different types of play areas in Starcaft - these being Space, Planetary and Installations. Not all units will be available in these different areas and some will involve light role-playing and puzzle elements to successfully complete.
AG: From what I understand, there are three races: Terrans, Protoss, and Zurg. The Terrans are a humanoid race not unlike the humans in Warcraft, but far more advanced in technology.
Terrans are Humans - and there bear little to no resemblance to the humans in Warcraft. The Humans in Warcraft are noble and honorable. The Terrans are much like cockroaches - somehow surviving amidst the rapid and somewhat reckless expansion of their empire.
Each intergalactic species will have unique units, technologies, attributes, and abilities that will have their own advantages and disadvantages.
The Protoss have meChanized units that automatically create other units through allocation of resources. The Protoss are the most ancient and powerful race in the galaxy. They have a highly structured society based on the preservation of their thinking. Protos have psionic powers, but suffer from inflexible thinking in their relations with other races.
BR: "It is clear that the Zurg have little or no use for technology as we know it, but whether the living ships and weapons they deploy are biological constructs or indeed merely alternate forms of the Zurg themselves has yet to be determined. Few signs of intelligence have been observed other than a marked propensity for cruelty, but this evidence is far from conclusive. As yet, all attempts at non-military contact have been entirely futile." Except from an analysis by a human scientist and explorer.
AG: I initially heard that the game interface would be similar to Warcraft, with the top portion of the screen will be a top down map view of the close up scrolling battlefield map not unlike the characters and views displayed in Warcraft II. How have you changed that to work now?
BR: The game play area is an isometric view - not top down like Warcraft. Also, all of the units in Starcraft are fully rendered, unlike the units in Warcraft which were rendered and then greatly retouched by hand, thus giving them a much more animated look. Starcraft units ave a very high tech and sleek look - very different than WarII.
AG: The bottom portion of the screen shows an overhead map with fog-of-war limited view of the entire map area. To the right of that shows the characteristics and picture of the selected unit which is now available to command. Other functions are displayed to the right of that, such as a human, zurg, or protoss face and a unit display. Would that describe the interface?
BR: The faces shown in the unit communications window will be different for many of the nits as we intend to create many, many different representations of the pilots and commanders of the various units in Starcraft.
AG: An evolving storyline with 30 missions will unfold from three different species' perspective, with new Artificial intelligence (AI). What have you done to tweak the enemies and make them special, can you give examples?
BR: We are doing many things with the movement algorithms and AI to create better and more engaging game play. We are also doing new things with the way units are created, play and even interact with each other. A good example of this is found in the Protoss Arbiter. The Arbiter does not have attacks of its own, but does have the ability to directly effect other Protoss (or allied) units and even space itself. Among the many technological powers the Arbiter can wield are setting Jump Gates (allowing for a "folding" of space that transports other units immediately to the arbiter from the jump gate), enable the Arbiter to "cloak" other units, enhance their fighting or defensive abilities to name a few.
AG: Tell us something about the graphics. I have heard they are SVGA three dimensional (3D) rendered cinematic scenery and characters. Are the graphics 3D rendered, light sourced, gauraud shaded, texture mapped, and at what pixel resolutions, for example, 640x480, and how many colors?
BR: The units an backgrounds are fully rendered and exported from 3DStudio Max. We have spent a great deal of time in generating a palette scheme that gives us an immense amount of flexibility.
AG: Were characters rendered, if so into how many individual postures and facings?
BR: The units are all fully rendred with numerous poses and 16 facings.
AG: In the area of animation: Are there any cut scenes and animation sequences to reward the game player, mission briefings, mission resolutions, winning animation or screens, what are they like?
BR: Yes. All of the intros for each scenario will be rendered scenes to pull the player deeper into the evolving story line. We have made many advances and strides in our intro screens, briefings and information screens to bring them to life. There will be several flics over the course of the game to reward players for victories and help drive the story line.
AG: I have heard there are human voices in the game. Who are the voice actors and where is the human speech used in the game and how did the human speech accomplish its goal?
BR: We will be utilizing professional voice actors to do all of the voices for all of the units in Starcraft. The Terran units will give us the chance to honor and poke fun at some of our favorite sci-fi movies and characters.
AG: What about the digital sound effects? Are there any particularly striking or impressive digital effects, how are they, and please give examples?
We will be using many sound effects to enhance all aspects of gameplay, including battles, scenario screens, mission resolutions and so on.
AG: There is Red Book CD-quality 3D audio music that most of us are wondering about how it will sound. Who composed the music, in what style, how long, can it be turned off, down, up, on, or replaced by music CDs?
BR: Our resident composer, Glenn Stafford who did all of the music for Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness is providing the music for Starcraft. It will be different and varied for all of the species and the user will, of course, have the ability to set volumes, turn off the music, or even replace the CD with whatever music CD they wish.
AG: Please tell us something about the multi-player features. We have heard that up to eight will be able to compete or cooperate over a network or battle.net (2 players over modem or serial. From within the game you will have access to Blizzard's battle.net where you can challenge opponents in a muliplayer game at no cost other than the internet service provider's (ISP) standard connect fees. That is right there is no monthy fee or startup charge. Simply select the internet option from the game's main screen, and your phone modem dials the battle.net service and connects. Once logged on, users can compete with other players from around the world. Battlenet will be running and accessable 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Different skill levels will be handled in different channels. Both Diablo and Starcraft will be battle.net capable.
BR: Yes Al, that is pretty accurate.
AG: Well I think you have answered most of our questions. We would like to thank you for meeting with us and give you a chance to get going on the game that we all are anxiously awaiting for. Thanks again Bill.
BR: Thank you all for giving us this opportunity to meet with you television audience and readership.
Christine Grech Wendin, PC Games, volume 3, number 8, August, 1996, pg. 36.
Ron Dulin: http://www.gamespot.com/previews/starcraf/index.html
Blizzard site: http://www.blizzard.com/star/star.htm
Macworld press release: