This week, TeamLiquid got a chance to visit the Blizzard Headquarters on Monday for a press meeting regarding StarCraft: Remastered. During this visit, we were able to retrieve some crucial details regarding the game's release which includes game promises, the release date, and retail value among others. We were also able to play the newest build of the game and will share with you our experiences, including any changes that have been made to the client.
Finally, we sat down with the main players from the small classic team that are responsible for bringing us SC: Remastered. We ask them questions regarding the new graphics, observer mode, and the recent issues with the 1.18 patch.
SC:R Launch Day Info and Other Details
There will be an observer mode, but it won’t go the all-out style that StarCraft II did.
Up Close and Personal with SC:R
You often forget that you're playing a remastered version because of how close the current build is to the original. Features we discovered while playing the game:
Interview with the Developers
Teamliquid: Can you introduce yourselves and your role on SC:R?
Pete: Pete Stilwell, Senior Producer at Classic Games.
Matt: Matt Morris, Lead Designer at Classic Games
TL: What would you say is the split in your roles between Senior Producer and Lead Designer?
Peter: I’m probably usually more aware of what’s want and Matt figures out how to make it happen. Or I’m the funnel? The conduit, there we go. I’m the conduit for information and for requirements and making sure that it actually comes to fruition through all of the developors, through the art team, through the engineers. And Matt takes the vision of “Oh, this is what people are asking for, let me figure out how to articulate that so the rest of the devs can make it a reality”
Matt: Looking at SC:R, the game design is already complete, right? It’s a well balanced game. There’s no community asking for a change in the Zealot or Dragoon or things like that. All the stuff in my day-to-day on the team is really working with the UI artists and the online engineers to put in the new game screens and stuff like that. Talking about matchmaking, ladder profiles, observer modes, how we’re going to get all these six campaigns from two different games on one screen. While I have a lot of design experience, most of my design at this point is about the user experience. That’s my contribution to team so far.
TL: Matt, you were on the SCII Co-op team prior to SC:R. However, it has been said that SC:R has been in the works way prior to your official move to SC:R. Were you internally working on SC:R way before that or did you move onto the team in the middle of development?
Matt: Even towards the end, I’d say. The things that Pete was pioneering with his team and the goal of classic games really appealed to me... I like the small team. I like the passion that these guys have put into the game. And that was the selling point for me.
Pete: If you backtrack twelve months, it was four engineers and me. And it was tech debt. Fix the old stuff, get it on the modern stack. It wasn’t design challenges or even art challenges really yet. It was just make the game compile again….It was just so much tech debt. That’s one of those kind of lessons learned. That we as a company need to do better to mothball things and make them easier to rediscover as a development team.
As soon as we got to that point, we talked about matchmaking, all these new things that roll around in a designer’s brain. That’s when we fired up that signal flare that we needed that type of person. And that’s when Matt came over.
TL: Have there been any new challenges the team has encountered since SC:R was announced a few months ago?
Peter: The biggest challenge, honestly, was the stuff with 1.18 with the inputs. We didn’t touch the gameplay engine, but we did have to touch the graphics engine. You need x number of refreshes in order to get the inputs in. This is why you see pros vigorously shaking their mouse to get their frame rate up, because the game used to refresh based on mouse cursor. When they’re shaking it vigorously, it’s so that when they’re at 300+ apm, they’re actually getting that framerate out of the game. We were trying not to mow peoples’ computers so we put that cap in. But that also meant that it was capping their inputs. It was one of those little things that drove us nuts. ‘We didn’t change anything about the gameplay.
Why are the inputs different?’ 1.18 was awesome in that it did smoke that out long before the Remastered was going to go out and tarnish that moment. 1.18 has been bittersweet in that respect. Some of the things we said with surety ‘We got this, no problem’ came out as like ‘Uh are you sure guys? Cause I see some inputs that are missing’. But again, great dialogue with the community. I’d be in tears if we couldn’t resolve it. But ultimately it was a tough situation that I think has turned to our advantage because it showed that we weren’t lying when we said we’ll do whatever we can to make it right.
TL: How has this particular issue been addressed? Has the frame rate been raised? Or is it gone altogether?
Peter: It’s a different answer for some of the different issues that have been resolved. We still do have the cap and the ability for the player not to melt their computer. The inputs are less tied to the actual framerates now. It still does require us to monitor the number of inputs though.
TL: In a recent press release, there were new official gifs and screenshots of SC:R. Some posters on Teamliquid noticed that some of the art assets were a bit different, specifically the models for Mutalisks and Archons and the death animations for Marines and Zerglings. Has there been a new direction with the art or is it just assets updating.
Pete: Oh a new iteration on art from what we first showed? Yea, just that; we’re refining. Every unit you mentioned was one of the ones we did earlier on. So it’s probably more that we’re giving them a pass to bring them more up to whatever standards we established for the other units that were done later on, because you always kind of find your way along the way. So it’s probably more likely that it’s just little tweaks that we’re making, which is still ongoing. That’s the fun thing. With the sprites and everything, it’s actually pretty easy to make a small change, export it, drop it in the game, and see if we like it or not, see if it’s juxtaposing properly against the tileset and things like that.
At first we basically had Jungle, one of the more popular tilesets that we used anyway. But then we introduced Ashworld and Twilight that are darker. Especially Ashworld that’s a bit busier with all the lava flecks everywhere. You start to realize, ah that’s not reading as well. Ultimately, above all else, you need it to play properly, read that this unit is still coming off of the terrain behind it. I would assume it’s just natural iteration.
TL: There has been negative feedback regarding some of the new models, especially the Archon.
Pete: There was a huge amount of chatter about his portrait and we agreed with it. There was also the fact that we gave to the forums a still of his portrait and the High Templar’s portrait as they were coming out of the shadows and gives you a quick glance as he’s coming into the light and back. We picked that moment just so we’d have something. Most of the time he’s in shadow, so the community was like “What the hell are you doing? This guy’s supposed to be in the shadow.” And then one of our devs who made a forum post (with the full portrait animation). As as soon as they saw he does spend most of his time in shadow and he just kind of pops out occasionally. They were like “Oh ok, you are maintaining it.”
We love the art critique we’re getting. And it helps us refine it. As you know with any project you love, you do get a little close to it sometimes and you need a fresh perspective on it. So it’s great that we are sharing things ahead of time so we can make course corrections. We have a very talented dedicated art team who wants to get it right. And sometimes if we introduce a little bit too much of our own flair, the community starts to say, “You’re a little too far away from what we expect the remastered to be,” that’s healthy.
Matt: I would say going back to one of your core values on the team, which is “listening to the community”. This is part of the process for us. We’re going to put out what we think is pretty good. And our job at this point is to listen to the community so if they have some criticism on the art, we can go back and we can make some changes. Even the stuff you’re playing right now, right now, Brian, the art lead on the team is walking around talking to some of the guys. He’s point out, yea we still need to fix this, we still need to fix that. It’s a work in progress so to speak. It gives of a chance to get it right.
TL: One of the new moderizations for SC:R is observer mode. We know some of the feedback you got from commentators is that one of the appeals of StarCraft is you don’t know exactly what’s fully going on. In the presentation, you mentioned you were careful which modern observer features to implement. Can you talk a little bit about that, how you chose which features would go in the final product. What’s an example of a feature you implement and what’s an example of a feature that you consciously left out for this reason?
Pete: Matt did most of the designing of how they work, but I’ll start with the setup, again, the conduit part of this. When we talked to commentators and fans that watch, there’s this sense that BW is a bit more visceral, a little bit more reactionary. If a team in football told you their play before they went up there and did it every play, it would be less exciting, because you’d be expecting what would happen. The discovery of that moment is what makes us react and guess what the next play will be and so on and so forth. If you inundate with too much information, you pull people out of that sense of discovery. They’re now doing too much analysis, too much forethought and too much ‘Oh the game is probably over now because according to this statistic, he now loses 97% of the time if this happens’. That’s terrible.
So we want to take more of the approach of: there’s some low hanging fruit, if you will. Here are some definite features and everyone across the board is like ‘I wish I could hit a button and all the UI would be gone and I could just enjoy a moment, a big battle.’ Things like that 100% should be in there. SCII has it and people have seen that and go ‘yea, that one’s right’. There are other things where people say ‘Don’t want that, don’t need that, keep it out of my game.’ And I think our approach is much more: let’s introduce some of the things that are across the board getting an endorsement on...and we’ll add in others over time. Rather than throw in too much stuff and either have it not used or change the way people watch it in a negative way, let’s be slow in our approach.
Matt: It’s built in a way so that we can scale. The feedback that we get about classics like this ‘Don’t change too much. Don’t change the gameplay. We’re familiar with the screens, we’re familiar with the way we get into the game.’ Getting onto the modern platform, there were some changes such as matchmaking environment.
But with observer mode, we had examples of two cases. We had SCI where you just have little minerals. And then you have SCII. So it was kind of a ‘start here and start talking to the community: What do you want to see?” And it just kept on coming down. So we’re more than what we were before but obviously not somewhere where SCII is. For us, that’s a good decision. If there’s an audience that wants to see more, we can add to it based on what everyone else wants. Versus we gave too much, they don’t want it, they hate it, and start scaling back.