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StarCraft II is a sequel to the real-time strategy game StarCraft, announced on May 19, 2007, at the Blizzard World Wide Invitational in Seoul, South Korea. It was eventually set to be released as a trilogy.
StarCraft II is free to play; multiplayer and the Wings of Liberty campaign are free, and all Co-op Commanders free until level 5, except for Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan and Artanis, which can be played up to the maximum 15 level. Internet access is not required to play the game but is required for installation. StarCraft II is available through digital distribution.
Blizzard intends to continue support StarCraft II years after release, in a similar manner to the StarCraft patches, which have been updated more than ten years after the release of the original StarCraft.
As of 2011, there are no plans to port StarCraft II to any console platform.
As of October 2020, the game will only receive balance patches and season rolls. There will be no further for-purchase content.
The game is split into three separate self-contained installment products.
- StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the terran campaign
- StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the zerg campaign
- StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, the protoss campaign
Blizzard Entertainment chose this route due to the challenges they faced creating the campaigns. Through a trilogy, they can create more content per campaign, such as movies, sets, props, characters, missions (including Easter egg missions) and so forth. Each character has their own arcs, missions and dialog. The story has been designed so that no previous knowledge of StarCraft is required to enjoy it.
In-universe the campaigns occur in sequence, each campaign beginning immediately after its predecessor. Each campaign has 26-30 missions in total (including branching missions) and a set ending, rather than a cliff-hanger.
All three races were completely developed for the multiplayer skirmish mode.
Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void are considered to be expansion sets and are priced as such. Rob Pardo later described them as expansions from a multiplayer standpoint (much like Brood War) but sequels from a campaign standpoint. With the announcement of the release date of Heart of the Swarm, the cost of the first expansion was $40 USD for the standard edition, and $55 USD for the deluxe edition.
Each expansion features a new campaign, with new units, abilities, and structures added. There are also upgrades to the multiplayer, "that's the whole point of the expansion or the second part". Each race is enhanced in some way. New content can only be accessed if a player buys the expansion.
It was stated that StarCraft II would continue to receive downloadable campaign content post-Legacy of the Void in the form of "mission packs". The first of these, Nova Covert Ops, is a series of 9 missions released over a trio of installments. The first three missions were released on March 29, 2016, and the second three on August 2, 2016.
After the release of the final part of the mission pack, fan reaction will be gauged to determine whether more mission packs will be released, or whether Blizzard should work on a new RTS game.
At Gamescon 2016, Blizzard stated that they have no plans for additional mission packs moving into 2017. As of BlizzCon 2016, they are not working on any more mission packs. The reason for the shift was that there were observable spikes in Co-op Missions and Versus in terms of player engagement, hence the shift to cultivate these modes. Blizzard is not currently working on any new campaigns (as of BlizzCon 2017).
Story and Lore
The trilogy takes place four years after StarCraft: Brood War. The storyline was written by Chris Metzen and Andy Chambers, concurrently with The Dark Templar Saga which was written by Christie Golden.
Each of the three campaigns – terran (Wings of Liberty), zerg (Heart of the Swarm) and protoss (Legacy of the Void) – has been released as separate products. The trilogy has an overall arc of escalation, beginning small with Wings of Liberty (rebellion against the Dominion), escalating to Heart of the Swarm (where Kerrigan commands the fate of an entire race) and culminating in Legacy of the Void, in the final battle of the Protoss against Amon.
StarCraft II takes place both on new worlds and on worlds that appeared in the original game. Char is back as is Mar Sara. One of the new worlds is Bel'Shir, a jungle-covered protoss-colonized moon that was a religious retreat until it was attacked by the zerg; it now houses many ruined temples. Other new worlds include Redstone III and Monlyth.
- The "evil empire" of the Terran Dominion is the political, economic and military powerhouse of the known terran factions in StarCraft II. The Kel-Morian Combine and Umojan Protectorate are currently the only other sovereign governments capable of maintaining independence from the Dominion, which is trying to assimilate terran colonies and consolidate its power.
- The Swarm, under the command of the Queen of Blades, have pulled back to Char and been quiet for four years. No one knew what Kerrigan is planning as her forces kill all enemy scouting parties. Kerrigan herself says the zerg have evolved and thrived during this period, and are becoming "much, much more, for the final metamorphosis has only just begun."
- Raynor's Raiders are the main playable terran faction, and Jim Raynor is referenced as the central character of the terran campaign. Raynor's Raiders have been outlawed by the Terran Dominion. Arcturus Mengsk has continually hounded them, but refused to assassinate Raynor as that could make him a martyr.
- The United Earth Directorate forces were destroyed by Kerrigan's zerg (though an enclave of surviving exiled companies are still around somewhere in the Sector).
There are many connections between the StarCraft: Ghost franchise and StarCraft II. For instance, Gabriel Tosh, a character from StarCraft: Ghost Academy, appears on the Hyperion in Wings of Liberty and serves as a connection between the two storylines. The StarCraft: Ghost storyline, especially parts revolving around the Terran Dominion, acted as a building block for StarCraft II.
StarCraft II only features the three original races in standard multiplayer: protoss, terran, and zerg. While a fourth race was not introduced, hybrid were considered and dropped as a fourth race for the game.
Some units have animations such as air banking, starting and stopping.
StarCraft II retains some units from the original game, although some of these units have been given new abilities. Due to story events from the previous game, some units have been phased out or replaced. For example, the conquest of the protoss homeworld of Aiur has prevented the creation of more dragoons – the transplanted forms of protoss warriors in exoskeletons – resulting in the remaining dragoons to be redesigned with different weaponry and a shield that absorbs heavy damage and renamed to "immortals".
The StarCraft II experience places emphasis on three playable races locked in a cinematic intra-galactic warfare through an epic story Campaign, best-in-class multiplayer Versus competition, and collaborative Co-op Missions.
During development, there were five levels of AI script difficulty for custom games: Beginner, Easy, Moderate, Hard, and Insane, with Insane gaining additional resources from mining and extra map awareness. This gradually expanded to ten levels: Very Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard, Harder, Very Hard, Elite, and three different Cheater options.
Custom games allow "handicaps" for different players. This is set before the match.
Custom games give players the ability to play against chosen players or AI on the maps of their choosing. These custom maps allow players to set map type, game speed, AI difficulty and expansion level. AI can be customized to favor different builds and strategies. Mods may be added to these custom maps to change the game experience while still giving the player the ability to play on different maps.
Collections allow players to customize their battle.net profile and race's army. From here, players can change their unit's skins, their consoles, announcers, portraits, decals and sprays. This menu also gives players the option to see what emoticons and /dance animations they have unlocked.
For 3v3 and 4v4 games, only four skins can be set per race. This can be set in the "Large Format Games" box.
Replays are available in StarCraft II as well, for both singleplayer and multiplayer games.
Multiplayer games include menus, leaderboards and overlays displaying statistics. StarCraft II features seven observer modes:
- None (no menus)
- Resources (gathered resources and supply count)
- Spending (on economy, tech and units)
- Unit (number of units)
- Production (units and buildings being created)
- Army (resources spent on the army)
These are available in "real time".
In Observer Mode, a viewer can watch in the "old style" or in a newer "first person view" in which they see the camera view, selections and commands issued from the player's viewpoint. An observer won't be able to see the actual mouse clicks, however.
At the end of the game, build orders, an army graph showing the size of the army over time and a resource graph showing income over time can be displayed.
Blizzard Entertainment released a new version of battle.net with StarCraft II.
Frank Pearce said they wouldn't be able to implement all plans by the time StarCraft II launches, but they can add more features to battle.net "as we go".
Internet access is not be required to play the game but is required for installation. Blizzard expects requiring internet access for some features to not be a problem, since computers come standard with internet connections now (unlike when StarCraft came out).
Players of StarCraft II and Diablo III share "gamer achievements", adding up to a Blizzard Level, in a similar manner to the system in World of Warcraft. While achievements can be accessed in the single-player game, this is only possible if the gamer is connected to battle.net. Players does not require internet access to play single-player games, but they are encouraged to do so.
The game did not launch with the ability to display replays to multiple users.
Teaching the Game
Blizzard intends to train new players for the multiplayer game, eventually transforming casual gamers into hardcore gamers.
The campaign does not act as a tutorial for teaching game mechanics. Instead, the game includes pre-recorded tutorials which players can watch, as well as "challenges", small missions which train players in specific tasks suited for multi-players games such as efficient resource gathering. A challenge would last 5-10 minutes and the player would get a score. Challenges cover topics important to multiplayer, such as resourcing, hotkeys and counters. In addition, players receives help on why they won or lost a game.
There are tutorials for protoss and zerg which players can view before playing them on battle.net.
Blizzard expected players who start on Battle.net to play cooperatively vs the AI, then move into team play before finally graduating to 1 vs 1. Blizzard considers team play less hectic, as the teammates can support each other. Achievements are used to direct players along this path. Blizzard expects players to play 30-60 hours of the game before they begin playing 1 vs 1.
By 2012 Blizzard changed its training techniques. As of patch 2.0.4 StarCraft II comes with a training mode. The training mode shows four windows going left to right—Training, Versus A.I., Unranked, and Ranked.
Each race has three training missions. For each there are three stages. The player is given simple goals against an AI opponent. Stage 1 goes at normal speed and gives ground units. Stage 2 gives more advanced ground units and increases the game speed to fast. At stage 3, all units are available and the speed is set to faster.
The player can then play against the AI either singly or in groups. A matchmaking vs AI system has been introduced, where players matches against an AI level that matches their skills. This is called the AI Challenge Mode. This is determined by three placement matches.
Next is Unranked Play, which do not affect a player's ladder ranking. Matchmaking is still be used to pair off players. The game uses the ranked ladder rating if the player already has one, but it begins to diverge at this point.
Finally there is the traditional Ranked Play. This gives access to the ladder and leagues.
- Main article: Leagues
Leagues are part of the tool system making multiplayer StarCraft II available for all skill levels, along with the automated matchmaking system. Initially, there were Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Leagues, as well as a "safer" Practice League, which would involve players of lower skill levels playing on maps designed to prevent rushing at "normal" rather than a faster game speed.
Beta patch 13 of Wings of Liberty replaced the Copper League with Diamond, featured above Platinum. The Master League was added above Diamond in patch 1.2, and the Grandmaster League was added in patch 1.3, representing the top 200 players within a region.
Blizzard intended to take steps to prevent "smurfing", where higher-skilled players participate in battle.net games they shouldn't be and disrupt other players.
The trilogy's lore lore is supported by several novels authorized by Blizzard Entertainment. The Dark Templar Saga serves as a prologue to StarCraft II, I, Mengsk is a tie-in to StarCraft II and the StarCraft: Ghost novel Spectres also served as a tie-in.
StarCraft: Ghost in StarCraft II
Nova and Gabriel Tosh, the latter introduced in the Ghost Academy graphic novel series, feature in a subset of missions centered around spectres. Tosh hires Jim Raynor to collect jorium and terrazine to assist in the production of spectres, and the player may ultimately either side with Tosh and break Tosh's fellow spectres out of New Folsom Prison, or side with Nova to kill Tosh and destroy his spectre production facilities. The player receives the ability to use either spectres or ghosts depending on who they side with.
The following section contains information from a previous version of StarCraft II which is no longer valid.
A Nova-centered cinematic appears on a TV screen in StarCraft II.
StarCraft II supports the DirectX 9 (Pixel Shader 2.0) software. It is fully compatible with DirectX 10 as well, which provides access to enhanced graphical effects. The game is also compatible with DirectX 11, but it don't support features specific to it. The Mac client utilizes OpenGL, instead. The game also features the Havok physics engine, allowing realistic interaction with the environment, such as "debris roll(ing) down a ramp".
The game supports a variety of video cards; old cards like ATI Radeon 9800/NVIDIA GeForce FX to ATI Radeon HD 4800s and NVIDIA GeForce G200s are also supported.
StarCraft II supports screen resolutions from 5:4 to 16:9. Wider screens has a slightly larger viewable range. The game supports wide screens but not multiple monitors. The minimum resolution is 1024 x 768 x 32 bits. StarCraft II supports a windowed mode.
Game unit models feature about 2000 polygons.
Gore can be disabled, but doing so requires restarting the game.
StarCraft II is written in 32-bit code but supports 64-bit systems. It has multi-core capability.
The game supports lighting effects, including a light/dark cycle used in some missions.
Galaxy Map Editor
The game comes with a map editor. The StarCraft II Map Editor improves upon the World Editor from Warcraft III in every way. Publishing custom maps requires a Premium account.
Some discrepencies exist as to when development on StarCraft II began. Reportedly, development on the game began shortly after Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne in July 2003. The game reportedly entered full production c. 2004, codenamed "Medusa." However, The Cinematic Art of StarCraft states that the game only started to be discussed in 2005. According to Kaeo Milker, by February 2005, the game only had a small development team. At this stage, the team recreated StarCraft: Brood War in the engine of Warcraft III, and started prototyping ideas while working on the new engine.
The development was ramped up shortly after the production of World of Warcraft which was when Blizzard Entertainment hired Dustin Browder: March 14, 2005 to the position of senior designer. He later became the lead designer.
The conception for StarCraft II a re-imagining of the original game, having more units but staying true to its spirit. However, the developers didn't want each race's unit count to get too big. It was decided that if a unit was brought back from the original, another unit would have to be cut. Story was considered, but the main focus was to remake the multiplayer of the original game in 3D. The game's "design pillars" involved sticking as close to StarCraft: Brood War as possible. This was due to the game's e-sport popularity in South Korea.
Blizzard designed the races around "cool units," rather than having specific plans for the races. The developers knew they had to create new units and buildings, as well as provide new gameplay approaches for each race, but also stay true to the setting's core mechanics. The game was designed specifically around competitive, skill-based e-sports.
Blizzard discussed the possibility of a fourth race early on in the game's development. However, the development team felt that had a finite amount of ideas and wanted to make sure that they focused on the best ideas for the existing three playable races rather than diluting those ideas across four races. Over development, the idea of bringing in a fourth race made "less and less sense." It has been indicated that the United Earth Directorate was considered for "fourth power" status within the game's framework.
The xel'naga were considered to be a possible playable race in StarCraft II. The xel'naga keeper was an early look at a 'minion unit' for the faction. However, the idea was dropped, for as the lore was developed, it was decided that the xel'naga would be too powerful to be a playable faction. While some xel'naga units appear in Legacy of the Void, they are not a playable race in the traditional sense. The hybrid became a 'xel'naga proxy' within the campaign.
In August 2008, Frank Pearce stated that adding a fourth fully playable race would likely be discussed if Blizzard decided to make an expansion for the game, three months before the expansions were announced.
New technology was created to support the larger number of 3D units on-screen, allowing artists and other designers to update vehicles, buildings, and pieces of scenery, piece by piece.
One issue the development team had to deal with was the question of realism and scale—e.g., how could 8 marines defeat a carrier? During development, the team tried to make the proportions of units realistic. They started by making ultralisks, carriers, and battlecruisers massive, but "it turned out to be a better idea in theory than in practice." After that, they went the opposite direction, making units smaller. However, this made the game "unplayable." Ultimately, they went with a "gameplay first" approach, and kept the original proportions.
When development on the game began, artwork from the original StarCraft was looked at. However, very little source art from the original was preserved. The artists were given free reign to iterate on the original designs. The game's multiplayer was focused on, with multiplayer in playable form before work began on the campaign. Multiplayer was fully playable by the time of the game's announcement.
StarCraft II was featured at E3 2007, July 11, 2007. Only a demo was viewable, not a playable version. StarCraft II was featured at BlizzCon 2007, August 3 to 4, 2007. Terrans and Protoss were playable. The same two races were playable at GenCon Indy. The game was available at the 2007 Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, August 22 to 26, 2007.
The game was still in internal alpha/pre-alpha in August, 2008. Two weeks before BlizzCon 2008, the entire company played StarCraft II, an important milestone. The exposition match played at BlizzCon 2008 was referred to as an "alpha" version but also a "pre-alpha" version and in Battle Report II it was referred to as an alpha version.
In February 2009 Blizzard COO Chris Sams said the beta was "months away". That same month Dustin Browder addressed criticisms that the beta was taking too long to announce, saying they Blizzard still needed to do work on the campaign and on battle.net, and that the beta would be announced when they had an idea what the release date would be. He also believed the beta would be announced in 2009. In August 2009 Blizzard announced that StarCraft II would not be released in 2009, and would instead be released in the first half of 2010.
As of August 2011 the "Starter Edition" became available. This gives access to the first three missions of Wings of Liberty plus either The Evacuation or Smash and Grab (player's choice), the first two challenges: Tactical Command and Covert Ops, access to terrans in Single-Player vs AI and Custom Games in the following maps: Discord IV, High Orbit, The Shattered Temple, Xel'Naga Caverns and the custom map StarJeweled, subject to change over time. Achievements and campaign progress are saved in case the player upgrades to the full version of Wings of Liberty or any other chapter.
Free to Play Model
StarCraft II adopted a free to play model in November, 2017. It was anticipated that players new to the game would start with the campaign, then transition to Co-op Missions, then transition to Versus (under the premise that each transition would give the player a rise in difficulty). Analysis by Blizzard showed that this wasn't the case though, and there was no overall pattern of player preference as far as transitions went. However, the game's playerbase expanded significantly once the free to play model was adopted.
The generalities of the overall story were present before the decision was made to extend it over a trilogy. The trilogy's arc was designed by Chris Metzen, James Waugh, and Jason Huck. The larger points were agreed on and were given to the design team.
One of the aspirations was the game was to do something different from StarCraft I, namely the briefing screen format. Metzen pushed for the game to be a "living" one. That the storyline was split over three games was a result of the sprawling narrative that was envisioned.
The United Earth Directorate was originally going to play a significant role in the game, where the conflict between the terrans, zerg, and protoss, would spiral back to Earth, where the zerg would invade. But as the campaign developed, a number of things shifted, and this plan got scaled back. Furthermore, it was found that the conflict between the Terran Dominion and Raynor's Raiders was sufficient to define Wings of Liberty, without the need to bring in the UED.
The team devoted to StarCraft II consisted of only about 40 developers in 2008, including twelve people who worked on the original StarCraft. As of 2008, the team consisted of four or five managers, 12-14 programmers, 8-10 artists and the rest consist of designers. It has its own internal leadership structure. A "couple" of ex-progamers are part of the team, working on balance issues such as mutalisk micromanagement and creating strategies against each other. By June 2009 the team had expanded to about 50 members and by August it had expanded to 60 members.
As of September 2009 StarCraft II has 58 unique voice actors. Some play more than one role.
As of July 18, 2011, six regions were merged into three: North and Latin America, Taiwan and Korea, and Russia and Europe.
StarCraft II has both download and subscription models in Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Players can either download the entire version of the game, or pay a reduced price (about half), which offers gameplay for 60 days. Players could then pay another fee for more gameplay.
South Korean gamers are be able to play three versions of the game. The full game can be purchased for 69,000 won, but a monthly and daily pass version of the game are available (the game would be unlocked with purchased passes). South Korean players who own a World of Warcraft account can play StarCraft II for free without purchasing passes. Players can play at PC baangs for a low price.
Trailers, Demonstrations & Other Videos
The official videos featured Blizzard Entertainment employees making official announcements. Most are stored on the official website for StarCraft II, established and maintained by Blizzard Entertainment.
WWI 2007 Videos
- First artwork trailer, showing a large number of scanned concept art drawings/paintings for StarCraft II and another protoss/terran battle on a different map than the first official gameplay demo video.
- First cinematic trailer, introducing Tychus Findlay and showing in detail the involved, robotic process of installing Tychus Findlay's marine armor.
- First official gameplay demo, giving a tour by means of a video recorded from an apparently mission-like game from the protoss view point that demonstrates and describes the protoss warp gate ability, updated zealot, the new immortal, the new terran reaper, the (now renamed) phase prism, the stalker, the new zerg nydus worm and classic zerglings, the ability to combine phase prisms and warp gate ability to create a significant force anywhere on the map, massive new colossus units, the ability for classic zerglings to mutate into new banelings, the classic mutalisks, new Phoenix, classic terran battlecruiser, new (now renamed) warp ray, and the "ultimate" unit of StarCraft II: the mothership. It finished with a terran/protoss brawl which ended with three ghosts each launching a nuke that wiped out the entirety of the protoss and terran forces involved in the brawl (with the exception of the ghosts) and then zerglings killed the ghosts and forming up the letters 'GG' as they mutated into banelings.
BlizzCon 2007 Videos
- Terran Gameplay Trailer: Shown at BlizzCon 2007, this video demonstrated terran units such as the Banshee, ghost and Thor.
- Terran Campaign Trailer: Also shown at BlizzCon, this video demonstrated some of the mechanics behind the new terran campaign, as well as discussions between Jim Raynor and other characters.
- Art Video: A discussion featuring the artwork of StarCraft II.
- Lore Video: Chris Metzen and Andy Chambers discussed the lore of the StarCraft universe.
March 2008 Videos
Blizzard Entertainment held a press event in March 2008 to showcase the zerg.
- Zerg Reveal Trailer: At the event, Blizzard Entertainment showed a video featuring the zerg including a voice over.
Ghosts of the Past
According to a poll conducted by Blizzard, StarCraft II players' primary interest in the game can be broken down as follows (as of January 2017):
The list of authors can be seen in the page history of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.
Wikipedia content was licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License prior to June 15, 2009 is. Wikipedia content from June 15, 2009, and StarCraft Wiki content, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported).
- Official StarCraft II website
- Original StarCraft II website
- StarCraft II at Wikipedia
- Blizzard Artwork Trailer (YouTube)
- Gameplay screenshots of StarCraft II courtesy IGN
- Order Starcraft II @ Amazon
- StarCraft II GPU and CPU Performance Report
- Title at Moby Games
- Title at Gamefaqs