StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void comes out on November 10. The single-player campaign will wrap up 17 years of story in a series that has become a huge part of video game pop culture. So, hopefully, developer Blizzard is going to make fans happy with this third and final installment for StarCraft II.
Legacy of the Void is a stand-alone title, where you don’t have to already own StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, which came out in 2010, or its sequel, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, which debuted in 2013. But, it sure helps to know the backstory, as it’s a complicated narrative. At a time when the consoles are cranking out big titles for the fall, Legacy of the Void is an important title for the tens of millions of fans of PC gaming, as it will keep them loyal to the platform that represents the leading edge of gaming and technology.
At the end of Heart of the Swarm, Sarah Kerrigan defeated Arcturus Mengsk and got her revenge. She also found out the plans of the fallen xel’naga, Amon. He’s trying to combine the Zerg and Protoss DNA to create a hybrid that will kill everything living in the universe. She’s going to take the Swarm and try to hunt down the hybrid and stop him. And Protoss leader Artanis reunites the Protoss, goes back to the homeworld of Aiur, and plans to take back the homeworld from the Zerg.
Legacy of the Void’s single-player campaign focuses on Protoss leader Artanis and his struggle to unite his race against an ancient enemy. But, the tale also wraps up the story of Jim Raynor and Kerrigan, who became the Queen of Blades. In all of this, players aren’t going to be playing as human characters. And that’s going to create a challenge for Blizzard, as we’ll see how well players can relate to heroes who aren’t human.
We caught up with Tim Morten, lead producer at Blizzard on Legacy of the Void, at the recent TwitchCon gameplay-livestreaming conference in San Francisco to talk about the latest addition to Starcraft II. Here’s an edited transcript of our event.
GamesBeat: Can you talk about what you revealed in the video today?
Tim Morten: We showed two new pieces of content. The first was a story recap done cartoon style, kind of a whimsical look back on the entire history of StarCraft. The second video piece was called “Reclamation.” That takes place just before the opening cinematic of Legacy of the Void. It’s a conversation between Artanis and one of the zealots who’ll be leading the attack on Aiur. Then, we announced three new commanders for our co-op missions mode that will be coming with Legacy of the Void.
GamesBeat: Is the opening cinematic already out?
Morten: It is. What we showed today sets up the conflict Artanis is going through just before reclaiming Aiur.
GamesBeat: Is all the action taking place on the Protoss homeworld, or are you bouncing around a lot?
Morten: Aiur does factor in, but we cover a lot of locations in the sector over the course of the game.
GamesBeat: What sort of reaction did you get today?
Morten: I’ve been taking a look at Reddit and whatnot to see what fans are thinking. I’m seeing a tremendous amount of positivity around seeing the history of that particular character, the scar-faced Zealot who lead the charge. People also enjoyed the cartoon style of the first video, so we’ve seen some good positivity.
GamesBeat: Do people still relate with these characters, even though they’re not human?
Morten: It’s been an interesting journey for StarCraft. It started Terran with Wings of Liberty, and Kerrigan became the personification of the Zerg in Heart of the Swarm. In this one, the human characters certainly play a part in the story, but we put a lot of work into making the Protoss expressive, even though they don’t have mouths. That goes for everything from how the faces are animated in the cutscenes, how the eyes flare, how the brows move…. There are universal elements in how they communicate that still convey emotion.
GamesBeat: And they’re helping each other out in familiar ways.
Morten: Yeah. The themes are universal.
GamesBeat: What’s the feeling you want people to have after they finish this game? What do you want to accomplish?
Morten: I hope they come away feeling satisfied with how the story resolves. We’re working hard to make that the moment everyone is looking forward to, tying up the story arc with Raynor, Kerrigan, and Artanis. But the other thing I want them to come away with is a sense of fulfillment around the game mechanics, the new modes we’ve introduced, the open-endedness of tournaments, Archon mode, co-op mode. These are things that should keep StarCraft exciting for players well past the end of the campaign.
GamesBeat: More ways to retain players, basically?
Morten: It’s more ways for players to continue to be engaged. Automated tournaments are something that … we’ve seen this with straight ladder [player versus player], the competitive drive that pushes people to keep going up the ladder toward masters and grandmasters. Now, with automated tournaments, there’s a whole new pathway for people to compete. It’s about winning the tournament, rather than climbing to be the best in a region.
GamesBeat: What kind of progress has StarCraft made as an esport over the years?
Morten: You look at how the production values have evolved. We just had the season-three finals. It was a spectacular exhibition of competition. We had the final match in Krakow, Poland, with Mana versus Lilbow. Mana being from Poland, the crowd was rooting for him. Lilbow was a contender to go to BlizzCon, and he’s the one contender not coming out of Korea. There was this tremendous back and forth trade. Is the local hero going to take it, or is the underdog going to BlizzCon? In the end Lilbow made it. This is the first BlizzCon that will see a European champion going up against the Koreans. There’s so much excitement around what the future can bring beyond that.
GamesBeat: What’s your sense of how big the community is now? You can still fill stadiums, it seems like.
Morten: Even now, between launches, we see tremendous engagement in terms of monthly active users. Total size of the community … we’ll get a better sense once Legacy of the Void launches. But there are millions and millions of people out there playing.
Even though we’re wrapping up the story with this release, as a team, we plan to continue working on StarCraft II. We’ll continue supporting the player base and the universe. Even though this is a resolution to the story, it’s not the end of StarCraft.