Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.
: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, and I have a man who I’m continually saying needs no introduction, but I’ve got Mr Dustin Browder out here, who came all the way out here for the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm launch, which we were a part of last night, in the crowd sense.
You, however, were on stage, and got to see all these fervent fans getting right into it. It was a pretty hot night as well, with lots of passers by. What was that like for you?
: It was just such an absolutely incredible event; we had so much fun. We love doing these; we get a chance to go all over the world. I’ve been dying to come to Australia for many, many years, and we finally got the chance to come down here -- I did, at least, and Luke (Mancini) -- to come down here and see what’s going on, and it was just a blast with all these fans.
We know we’ve got passionate fans in every corner of the planet, and it was so much fun to come and meet with these guys, and see the passion they have for Blizzard games, and see the passion they had for StarCraft. And to get to celebrate with them, the launch of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, was very cool.
: I was speaking to mOOnGLaDe just before, and he was talking about, in Australia especially, how eSports exposure really needs to ramp up. And last night was a really good experiment I think, because you’ve got this... Federation Square is like a really big kind of route for people to go to, and you’ve got this big screen, and you had passers-by coming, and each time they’d stop and go “What’s that? What’s going on?”, but then you’d hear the crowd roar, because someone had rushed, or something like that.
So for you guys, that must be cool to see something being nurtured like that, slowly and surely, and kind of creeping
up, if you will.
: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re seeing a huge amount of growth in eSports all over the world. But obviously, there’s lots going on here in Australia, and New Zealand, which is really exciting to see. It’s really cool to see that sort of coming together, as it really is coming together in many, many places.
So yeah, it was really fun to be at this event. Like you said, it was a hot night, it was a glorious night. Everyone was having such a great time. It was really fun.
: Now while we’re doing this, as we speak, it’s still launching globally around the world. What’s the feedback so far? Have you been in touch with the office at all?
: Well, right now, we’re really about things like: Is the stream running correctly? Are the servers running at the proper levels? We’re not at the stage yet where we’re really collecting a lot of sort of balance feedback, or campaign feedback -- that’s going to be in the next week, as players really get through the experience. Right now, we’re really just focused on the stability, and the functioning of both the launch of the actual software, and the simultaneous stability and functioning of our stream, and all of the other events.
We’ve got events going all over the place, and each one of those has got to be the best event that we can possibly do. There are always going to be things that we can do better, but we really are sort of fighting for every inch of ground, trying to make sure that every event is as cool as it can possibly be.
So that’s everybody’s focus right now. We’ve got multiple war-rooms going on right now at HQ, that are 24/7 at this point, and people are sleeping --i n quotes “sleeping” -- at the office, because they’re probably getting 20-minute catnaps between going to make sure, and watching the screens, and then sending notes saying “Hey guys, there’s a problem with the audio. Fix it, fix it, fix it right now!” and that kind of stuff.
Then obviously, our tech guys are watching this launch very, very carefully to make sure that there’s no technical problems for any of our fans. So that when they get to a midnight launch, they can go out and they can play it; that everything works, that it’s all available, and it’s all happening.
: When I spoke to you in January, we were saying that you’re on the home stretch. Now that you’re here, what’s next? Where are you guys running to? Obviously, it’s tracking this for the next week or so, and making sure that everything’s running smoothly. But is it big down-time time for you guys? Or...
: No, there’s never really a downtime for us at this point. We’re working on a game that’s live... we’ve got a live game, we’ve got Legacy of the Void that we’re working on at the same time. But there was one point, I remember working before Christmas of last year, where I’ve had guys come to me and say “Hey, I’ve got a balance problem with the Terrans”, and I’d say “Which game? Is that in the live game, or is that in the beta, or do you think that’s in the final version of Heart of the Swarm?”.
We had almost three games, sort of going at once, that we were talking about. Because we had multiple patches in the queue, and it was absolutely insane. Now we’re more like a television show; there’s always something going on, there’s always something to be produced. We’ve got something that’s out there in front of the community, and we’ve got next season’s episodes coming, right? So it’s just always going at this point, we’re sort of non-stop.
So what’s next for us, is we’ll do: obviously sort of the more technical stuff here in the next few days -- hopefully just the next 24/36 hours -- and we’ll see that everything sort of launched successfully. Then we’ll get a bunch of feedback from a suddenly huge amount of fans that are coming on board. Obviously we had a beta, but we’re going to get thousands and thousands, and thousands... hundreds of thousands of more eyeballs, immediately on this product. So that’ll give us a bunch more feedback about how our UI is actually functioning, what’s clear, what’s unclear, what’s good, what’s not good.
So we’ll look at that really hard and say “What do we have to fix? What can we fix? When do we fix these things? What will those patches look like?”, so we’ll do some short term, and slightly longer term patches for that. Then after that, we’ll start collecting feedback on the quality of the campaign, which will feed directly into what we do on Legacy of the Void.
At the same time, we’re also watching everything that’s going on in eSports. We’ll be looking for a series of games that proves to us that we have a problem, or sometimes there’s just a single seismic event, a single game that we can look at and go “That’s a problem. That Terran player had no options there. We don’t think he made a mistake. We saw the Protoss player mess up more than three times, and he still won” and that’s really significant for us.
So we’ll be watching every eSport event we can get our eyes on, to see if there’s a series of small things that we should want to change? Or is there a couple of big moments where we go “Oh, that’s a problem!”, and we’ll be looking to patch and deal with any issues like that that come up.
: You mentioned that the game has been out in beta, and you’ve been getting lots and lots of feedback from that. Just out of curiosity: in your experience, what’s the differential between the beta guys that are playing, and giving you that feedback, versus a game being out in the wild for three months, and you getting feedback from players that mightn’t be so hardcore as to jump into a beta. Or you might get guys that just didn’t have time to be in the beta, and then they’re finding stuff that no one else found. Is there a big differentiator there?
: There’s a big differentiator in the number of volume of players, and that develops a meta-game a little more quickly and efficiently when you have more players. But you have to be careful with terms like not hardcore or not. Because we’ve got guys who play thousands of games, that are just bronze players.
So there’s not necessarily an equivalence between skill, and how core you are. We have some very hardcore players that aren’t the best players in the world, and we have obviously, some players that are very hardcore and are the best players in the world [laughs]. So we get a wide variety of feedback in the beta, which is hugely useful -- from the bronze to grand master level players -- which is hugely valuable for us. But the metagame will settle down, I think a lot more in the next few weeks and months, so we’ll get a better idea of where that’s headed.
At the same time, we get a lot of eSports influx. I mean, Wings of Liberty was still going on throughout much of the beta, and a lot of the pros, they really didn’t have time to give us their full attention on the beta. These guys get paid to win games of StarCraft, and there wasn’t a lot going on in Heart of the Swarm, and they were still getting paid for Wings of Liberty, so they needed to play Wings of Liberty -- that was their job.
So now we’re getting to a point where now they have the opportunity to get paid to play Heart of the Swarm. So now we’re going to get a lot more influx of a lot of these pro guys coming in, and really hammering on it, and we’ll get to watch a lot of those games. So I think that’s going to be a huge benefit for us going forward.
: Going forward, when does production ramp up in full swing on Void?
: We’re going to do it in stages. We’ve already started work on story, and we’ve already started work on mission development. Those teams have been able to finish up with Heart of the Swarm, they get locked out earlier because of localisation - -because of all the language translations that have to happen -- at some point we have to say “Ok, you guys are done; you’re out of the pool”. So the minute they were out of the pool, they started immediately working on Legacy of the Void.
So some work has already begun, and as other teams transition off their responsibilities towards Heart of the Swarm, we can begin more aggressive work on Legacy of the Void. But in terms of multiplayer, we’re going to wait a little bit longer before we really start working on multi, because we really need to evaluate some more to really get a good idea. So that’s going to be four to six months before we really get into that in really serious earnest. But we’ll get some ideas before that, we just don’t know which ones we’re going to like until we see more information about Swarm.
: Did you jump on last night after everything had wrapped up?
: I did not. Last night, after I finished signing, I think it must have been about a thousand, or fifteen-hundred boxes for people -- we signed so many boxes for so many fans who came out to see the event -- I just staggered off home and crashed. But absolutely cool event.
: When will you be jumping online?
: Well I’m going to be here in Australia for quite a while. I had a chance to come down here, and I’ve got my family with me. So we’re going to check out the country, we’re going to check out New Zealand. So I’ve got a couple of weeks of that before I really get a chance to go back and play for real.
: Well I think it’s a well deserved holiday, obviously you guys have been working really hard on it.
Now can you leave us with something... the first game and now this expansion have had a bit of a theme going on in each. Is there a specific theme that you can just throw at me, that we can expect with Void?
: Oh absolutely. So Wings of Liberty is Jim Raynor, he’s the space cowboy; he’s the good guy versus the bad guy, and he can always kind of get it done; he can always do the right thing. And yeah he’s got problems, he’s got kind of a dark past, he’s a little bit haunted, but he is the gunslinger -- he’s a man of myth and legend who can always walk on off into the sunset with the girl, that’s who he is.
The second chapter is our dark chapter of the series. This is our middle, sort of dark moment, where you’re looking at Kerrigan, and she is not in a position where she gets to always make the happy choices. She often has to make the very difficult choices. Am I going to survive and do something terrible, or am I going to let them kill me? And those are the kind of choices that she has to make. So she has a much more difficult job than Jim. In many ways, Jim is very naive about the world that Kerrigan lives in.
Then for Legacy of the Void, the only thing I can say at this point, is think of it more as Seven Samurai. This is The Protoss on their last legs, in their final hours, fighting against the darkness that threatens to consume the Universe. And they are the only ones who can stand up to the forces that are arrayed against them.
They are the proud few warriors facing the void, facing oblivion on their own, and slowly being picked off one-by-one. And that’s what we’re going to try and get across in Legacy of the Void, that real sense of doom, and really give you the sense of what it is like to be this race with those long, and amazing, and glorious traditions, slowly being consumed and snuffed out.
: Alright. That sounds very ominous. That’s awesome. Thanks very much for your time Dustin, and thanks for coming out to Australia. I know our fans are really excited, and your fans are even more excited.
: Thank you.
: Awesome. Cheers.