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AusGamers StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void Developer Interview with Blizzard's Allen Dilling
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:56pm 25/11/14 | Comments
AusGamers sat down with Blizzard's Allen Dilling whose work with the company began all the way back in Warcraft II times, to speak about StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void and closing out this mammoth trilogy, among other things. Read on for what he had to say...

AusGamers: Let’s just start at the point that this is the final chapter, and while you can’t say that this is “the end” of StarCraft II given its position in eSports, as far as the story you guys set out to tell, and that this game is bringing all of that to a close, can you talk about what that feels like amongst the team? And also, what people can expect from the franchise moving forward…

Allen Dilling: You know we’re very proud to work on it and like you say, we’ve worked on it for a very long time, we’re very dedicated and passionate about the StarCraft universe. We have a blast working on it.

And ultimately, Legacy of the Void is the ‘stunning, huge, awesome conclusion’ to the StarCraft II trilogy and all your favourite characters: Raynor and Kerrigan and Zeratul and Artanis -- you get to find out how their storylines wrap-up and it’s a very satisfying conclusion for the fans. Again, we love StarCraft, I think there’s a lot of stories out there left to tell, but right now we’ve been so focused on trying to ship Legacy of the Void we just haven’t had time to think about that yet.

AusGamers: You guys are also, I would argue at this stage, the last RTS bastion in the greater gaming landscape, is it troublesome that the genre itself doesn’t seem to… I mean MOBAs just seem to have taken over from the RTS genre now and I’m not casting any negativity at Heroes or anything like that, but [RTS] is just such a great genre and there’s just not a lot going on in it…

Allen: Yeah, I’m not sure why that is across the whole gaming industry, but ourselves internally, we love it; we see our fans loving it [because] there’s such fun dynamics there -- first of all just having a platform to tell these great stories with these great characters across these amazing locations in the universe, it’s just epic, epic scale (it geeks me out -- I love sci-fi). And then of course the fans who love the eSports, there’s not a lot out there that technical and that hardcore and that interesting and dynamic, I mean you can see today on the show floor: people screaming their heads off over these matches, they’re so energetic and enthusiastic… there’s always room for a product like that.

AusGamers: Yeah, and I hope that something comes or… *you guys* continue in some capacity… maybe we could go back to the fantasy (laughing). Actually on that, here’s a question -- have you worked across the entire SCII development, from the get-go?

Allen: Yes.

AusGamers: Was there ever a moment internally where you sat down, at the beginning, and said “right, we’re either gonna go Warcraft 4 or we go StarCraft II”?

Allen: Yeah, coming off of Warcraft III, because I also worked on that, I think we had to return to StarCraft, and that’s ultimately why I came to the company: “I wanna work on StarCraft II, because you guys are gonna make it at some point, right?”, and they were, like, “we’re making Warcraft III” and hey, that’s cool it’s just as awesome. But I think when you go into making another sequel right after Warcraft III, we wanted StarCraft [because] it’s such a great world with great characters and there were so many new stories we wanted to tell, it was just time for that and it’s the same team that makes both [Warcraft and StarCraft], so it’s not like we make them simultaneously.

AusGamers: I want to focus on this idea that with Legacy of the Void, you don’t need to own either of the other two games in order to play, which is great I might add, and there’s this idea that “it’s never been a better time to get into StarCraft II”, but Legacy is the tail end of a trilogy… how do you manage that from an exposition perspective? How do you tell people to start at the end?

Allen: That’s a good question. Ultimately we want to get [Legacy of the Void] to as many people as possible, and having a standalone product is a great way to do that. If you’ve played the previous two games you’re going to have a lot more insight into the context of the characters and a lot more depth involved. The Protoss campaign is a lot more rounded… it’s very standalone unto itself. You can come in fresh into StarCraft II here, you’ll know what’s going on [because] it’s very cohesive and it really builds up to this epic conclusion and these other characters, if you played the other two games you’ll know more about them, but it definitely doesn’t leave any huge holes in what’s going on.

AusGamers: How deep did you go with the Protoss from the series’ lore? Did you tap into that, or did you take liberties and just decide to take them to new heights and make them even more crazy and unique?

Allen: You know what, that’s a good question. We definitely want to respect the old legacy of what the Protoss were in StarCraft I and Brood War and everything we’ve done so far in StarCraft II -- we want to be true to those roots, but being able to focus for the first time ever on the Protoss was awesome, like, really being able to show what they can do, showing their home of Aiur for the first time in a long time, you know, what a huge city looks like [and] what does that mean, like, how can we really expand our universe. We’ve done that with other [characters] like the Terran, we’ve seen Augustgrad and other places before, we kind of see the homeworlds, you know, behind the scenes -- how people live -- and it was a great opportunity on the art side to try and just develop that area because it‘s dynamic and [to make it] as realistic as possible so players have this more immersive and epic environment to play in.

And I think also with the lore aspect we really needed to keep true to the “hey this is an ancient race, there are fewer numbers but they’re more powerful”, and that really comes into play with the ‘Spear of Adun’ one of their Ark Ships, and it’s huge, it’s this massive ship -- it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever made in the game, scale-wise, and it’s your home during the whole campaign. It’s just super-powerful and it’s hovering overhead basically for every mission and you have certain call-downs you can do, you can blast guys, you can freeze time… and that just lends to the whole lore of how powerful these guys are, even with fewer numbers.

AusGamers: And that’s a really good segue into my next question which is what have you done in terms of gameplay variety? You know, each expansion has had unique gameplay components based on the race with different map mechanics that just wouldn’t make it into the eSports side of it at all, can you kind of elaborate on any of the different types of gameplay the game’s campaign will offer?

Allen: One great example is you’re on a space platform above Korhal and it’s plummeting down to the surface. And so instead of a typical “build up my army and go and attack somebody else”, you know you have a base but you’re basically taking your Protoss and you’re trying to reactivate these generators so this thing stops falling and the whole place is tearing itself apart. So that’s very dynamic, it’s very new and different.

Later on in the campaign you’ll go to Slayn which is the homeworld of the Tal’darim -- that’s a faction of the Protoss that worship Amon, and there’s a huge sacrificial pit there and you basically have a massive boss-fight there with their leader, and you try and push him back into this pit and take him out and then the Tal’darim follow you at that point. Another good example is there’s a huge space platform for the Terrans and we have little controls inside with arrows and big chunks of the actual platform with your base on it will slide and move around the map, so we really try and change it up a bit. Like you said, multiplayer is really straight up -- build your army, go attack the other guy -- [in the campaign] we try and make every map have something new and unique that really pushes it, which is challenging to do because we’ve had so many maps before -- in Warcraft III and StarCraft II -- throughout the campaigns [but] we still want to make it fresh as much as we can. I think the designers have done a great job this time.

AusGamers: Each of the games had a bit of a theme as well -- Wings of Liberty had a Western vibe, which was really fun and engaging and the second game was this dark rebirth theme, is there are a tone you set out to achieve with Legacy as well?

Allen: I think there’s several tones we have, and partly it’s the Protoss lore which is, again, we have this huge ship and you get to explore and walk around into different rooms and talk to different characters, and it [all] really relates to how powerful their ancient technology is -- the high-tech nature of it. And the other aspect of it is we want to make it as challenging as possible for the players to tell a story I guess, you know, what’s the best way to tell a Protoss story? And for them it’s power and strength and them being these ancient protectors and the nobility of it, but meanwhile there’s a dire cloud across the whole thing because it’s dark times -- it’s like the End of Day, you know. Amon is pushing the galaxy to the brink, so it needs to feel very drastic and dramatic all the time.

AusGamers: Was there ever a question of introducing an entirely new race/class? The war between these three factions has been going on for so long, surely it’s been an enticing option to throw in a fourth race?

Allen: That always comes up. We’ve talked about it internally in the past (there’s no crazy, awesome ideas internally), but to tell the story we want for StarCraft II and to finish off that trilogy, there wasn’t room for something else. The story is so predicated on those three elements.

AusGamers: Sure. And I mean it’s like a Holy Trinity-type thing anyway, right?

Allen: Yeah.

AusGamers: Speaking of messing with: you probably can’t even answer this, but now that the series is wrapping up, and Blizzard tends to have this mantra about “if it’s good for business, if it’s good for the fans; if it makes sense, we’ll do it”, I feel at this time StarCraft Ghost would actually work…

Allen: I helped out a lot on that project. It was a labour of love. I think a lot of people had a lot of passion for it, you know, there were just a lot of challenges we had [that] we couldn’t overcome and ultimately we had to turn our focus elsewhere. But I know the fans still love it and it comes up a lot and the good thing about that is, one of the redeeming qualities of it, is Nova is still a central character, she became the life in StarCraft II trilogy, and also she’s in Heroes of the Storm which is great. Personally [and] as a fan and having worked on that game too, I love seeing her at least come through and Ghost lives on through that.

AusGamers: Yeah, that’s a clever way to answer that without having actually answered it.

Allen: (Laughs) you put me in the corner here.

AusGamers: Is there a firm release ‘period’ yet?

Allen: No, no we’re just trying to get it done as best we can and in the quickest time, obviously, but we haven’t announced anything about that yet.

Read more about StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Steve Farrelly
Posted 04:58pm 25/11/14
I know these poor guys cop questions about Ghost all the time, but with the Overwatch reveal behind them and a clear focus on trying new things in the company, it felt right to poke about it. Shooters and third-person action games are more popular now than ever, and the tech would thoroughly support the right vision for a game around Nova now.

I would play the s*** out of it.
Tanaka Khan
Posted 05:10pm 25/11/14
I think we need a longer thread title!
Posted 02:55pm 26/11/14
Stop wasting his time with interviews Steve.....now we have to wait even longer for Legacy of the Void. Looking forward to this one, will be nice to finish it up.
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