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StarCraft II beta interview (2009-05-06)

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by Chris Sigaty, StarCraft II lead producer

Q. StarCraft II opt-ins are now available through Battle.net. Does the opt-in process mean that the start of the StarCraft II beta is imminent?

A. We’re getting closer and closer to the start of our closed beta with each week that passes. Several months ago, we expanded our internal testing of the game to the entire company, and we’ve made significant progress since then. We’re looking forward to inviting external testers into the process soon, which is why we’re starting sign-ups now.

Q. What aspects of the game will be available for testing in this beta?

A. As with previous betas for our real-time strategy games, the StarCraft II beta test will be multiplayer only, and players will have access to all three races -- terrans, protoss, and zerg -- and all of their units. We’ll include a selection of multiplayer maps, but they won’t necessarily include all of the maps that will be in the final version of the game. We’re making some great progress on the single-player campaign, but we don’t plan to do a public beta since we want to keep the story under wraps until the game’s out.

Q. Will we be able to try the new Battle.net during this beta?

A. You’ll be connecting to and playing on the new Battle.net in the StarCraft II beta, and you’ll definitely have a chance to play around with a few of the new features -- but what you’ll see in the beta is really only a taste of what’s to come.

Q. What updates and changes have you made to the game recently?

A. We’re constantly tweaking the gameplay and balance, and we will be all throughout the beta process, but perhaps the most visible changes have been made to the zerg. Our art team has done a polishing and iteration pass on many of the zerg unit models and structures, so players can look forward to seeing a lot more detail there. Compared to the versions you’ve seen before, the zerg units and bases now look a lot slimier and more sinister.

We’re also really looking forward to seeing testers try out the new gameplay mechanics we’ve introduced to each race, like the proton charge for the protoss and the MULE for the terrans that allow them to harvest minerals faster. The zerg also have a spawn larvae ability that gives them a new way to expand their production. We’re hoping these abilities increase the strategic tension for players and force some tough tactical decisions when managing economies and micromanaging battles.

Q. Which regions can join the StarCraft II beta test?

A. Our plan is to include multiple regions and countries in the StarCraft II beta-testing process. We’ll be starting with a North American beta, where testers from the United States and Canada, as well as Australia and New Zealand will be able to join. We’ll then phase in testers in other regions such as Korea, Taiwan, and Europe as soon as we’re able to set up in those areas.

Q. Why aren’t you running StarCraft II beta simultaneously in all regions?

A. It’s more efficient from a development standpoint to phase in each region one at a time. A big part of the beta test involves setting up new hardware and networking infrastructure, which is not a trivial process. If we set up one region at a time, we can more quickly address any issues we run into at the start, and take the lessons we learn from that experience to establish a smoother setup experience for the next region.

We can also implement all sorts of gameplay and balance changes, view the results, and react to what we’ve observed much more quickly in a single test environment, as opposed to getting bogged down trying to push those changes out across several test environments. Once the major issues are ironed out, we can expand the testing to additional regions. Going region by region will also put us in a better position to test localized versions of the beta.

Q. Will testers be allowed to write about the beta? Take screenshots and videos?

A. Yes! Beta testers will be free to write about their experiences playing the beta as well as take screenshots or videos. We’re really looking forward to getting the game into players’ hands so we can hear their feedback, since that will help propel us into the final stages of development and balancing. We’ve been working hard on StarCraft II, and we can’t wait to finally be able to hear what everyone has to say about it.

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