Letting Slip the Zergs of War!
- Bill Roper discusses Brood Wars
Bill showed up to the PGL finals in a flowered shirt and even hopped in to commentate on some of the StarCraft action. I grabbed him just as one of the rounds was beginning, and as the two opponents built their bases, he and I chatted about the upcoming Brood Wars expansion for Star Craft and a little about the PGL finals...
PlanetQuake, a cool website you probably read: Hey Bill!
Bill Roper, the guy who did the voice for "Golliath Online!" and helped design StarCraft and WarCraft and stuff: Hey!
PQ: I was hoping we could talk a little about Brood Wars, of course. Now, this is an expansion for StarCraft, not a whole separate game, correct?
Bill: Yeah, it's an expansion, but it's a pretty darn complete expansion. We've got two new units per side -- although it's kinda weird, the Protoss have two and a half ... in the original game, you could play with Dark Templars, but you could never build them. You can actually build them now in the expansion. So to make up for the Protoss having two and a half new units, We upgraded the Golliaths on the Terran side, and beefed up the Ultralisk on the Zerg side. So that kinda balanced out. But the units ... I think one of the strong things about StarCraft is that the units are so unique, that by adding two new units to each side we add a lot of new gameplay. Each unit on a side has some special abilities. As in the case with the Protoss, the Dark Archons ... they have abilities like mind-control that are pretty powerful. So we wanted to add a lot of depth to the gameplay, and at the same time use that to better balance the game. And actually that'll be reflected in the base product, when release Brood Wars, there will be a patch to StarCraft through Battle.net that will put in some of those changes to the core units.
PQ: What other goodies will we find in Brood Wars?
Bill: Three new map types, about 25 or 26 new single-player campaign levels --
PQ: You'll play all three races in the single-player game again?
Bill: Yeah, you'll play all three. We introduce a lot more story elements, and we tie up some old stuff. Oh yeah, and a hundred new multiplayer maps, so it's an expansion set with --
PQ: Hold on, you just said 100 new maps? 100?
Bill: Yeah! And we did a lot of work on the editor, putting a lot more triggers in to give people a lot more abilities to customize their maps. Things like that. So it's not a whole new product, but we've got an awful lot going on.
PQ: Now, I was fortunate enough to be in the original StarCraft Beta test, and I remember it went on for quite a while. Balancing the three races was very difficult. You're having another beta-test as we speak, right?
Bill: Yeah, we've been in beta for ... I think about three weeks now. And we'll probably go up until the product ships. So another one to four weeks or so.
PQ: How many Beta CD's are out?
Bill: About a thousand... Actually more like 950, we had some left over. We tried to work hard to get a lot of people who were involved -- we invited the top 300 people who were in the StarCraft ladder, as well as a lot of people who were really hot during the original beta test, who gave us a lot of good feedback and were good players. One of the things we knew would be vital was, we wouldn't be testing so much for bugs and compatibility and things like that, as we would be testing a lot more for balance. That's a really big deal.... Our goal with continuing to add new units and refine the old ones has been to make the balance even better than the original. Pretty lofty goals, but we're workin' hard at it.
PQ: One thing that really surprised me is, even at this level of competition, we're still seeing all three races being played equally. Does that surprise you?
Bill: I think it's a testament to how good the game is. Also, because the species are so different, people tend to find one that they really like. And depending on the map you play on, some have better strategies than others. So -- I'm actually a little surprised, I think some people are playing outside of their norms, maybe because a map that they got on with a random draw favors a different strategy. But it's really cool. I like it when you see all the different species being represented. You see a lot of different tactics evolve over the course of the game.
PQ: So you've been following the action here at the finals this week. So let's make some predictions here -- who do you think is good, who's really surprised you, what do you think...?
Bill: Well geez, everybody's good here.
PQ: They could kick my ass.
Bill: They'd beat the heck outta me, too. I'll tell ya. I think the biggest surprise is that day one, all of the "favorites" all had a loss already -- the people expected to win were all in the loser's bracket. And Tillerman getting knocked out in the first day was a big surprise. So, I dunno, I think that Insane~Frog is looking pretty strong... and I was kinda surprised the ~Jolly~ got knocked out, he's a great player. Just watching him play over the course of the season. SO I guess there's a really different dynamic when they're here and they have a lot of people watchin' -- that whole extra added pressure.
PQ: Tillerman mentioned how the pressure was hard to deal with.
Bill: Yeah, you've really gotta have nerves of steel here. And it just depends, too. Even the best players can have a day where, you know, they just get surprised. Like yesterday, we were all pretty surprised when Thresh got beat yesterday -- pretty handily! -- we were like, "wow!" So even the best of the best can have that one game where ...
PQ: ...They're just a little bit off?
Bill: Yeah. And at this level of competition that's all that it takes.
PQ: These players are good -- they'll capitalize on that.
Bill: Right! It doesn't take much. You miss a build order, you dont't quite attack at the right angle, that could be a turning of the tide.
PQ: So Brood Wars, you're saying another couple of weeks in beta?
Bill: Right, it'll certainly be out before the end of the year, before Christmas, right now we're just trying to get the last balance tweaks in there. And we don't want to miss any really heinous bugs! One thing that we really hate doing is shipping a game that might have a really bad bug in it, so we're really working at it... everybody's working 16-18 hour days, sleeping on the floor -- we're really close, though.
PQ: Well, I see looking at the match in progress here [Insane~Frog was playing TanthaliS at the time] that they've finished building up and it looks like they're going to go after each other here.
Bill: Yeah, I think I'm gonna jump back over there and do some commentary.
PQ: But it was great talking to you, we look forward to the expansion!
Bill: Hey no problem!
Bill actually comes to work every day in a Golliath. No, I'm serious. Although there was some state law about missile launchers in California, I think, the two legs really help him avoid traffic on the freeways. Or something. "Golliath Online!" [Blooping sounds....]