A class of Australian students have been learning the ways of level design — through the StarCraft 2 editor.
When Dustin Browder was down in Melbourne for the Heart of the Swarm launch a couple of years ago, he told a gathering of a couple of thousand avid StarCraft (and eSports) fans about how he got his first job in development.
It was an interview with Westwood Studios, the makers of the Command & Conquer and Command & Conquer: Red Alert series. Browder recalled being asked what he could do for the studio, and his reply: "Well, I can make a mod in Starcraft for you."
Mod-making is still an impressive way to get hired and it's something Browder told the audience he still believed in. "I’ve hired, I think, five or six guys now out of the modmaking community, guys who’ve done amazing work," Browder said.
"Chances are they’ve got a copy of StarCraft on their machine, somewhere in their office, and you can say, 'Look, I have made game. Check it out.' And if they’re serious about making games, they will look at that, they will play it and go, 'You have made game, this is cool.'"
It's a tenet Blizzard still upholds today, if the latest post on their Battle.net page is anything to go by. It's the second part in a trilogy about students developing maps for the StarCraft 2 Arcade as part of their coursework, with the latest guinea pigs being two teams from the Queensland University of Technology.
"The teams have a limited time to design and create their game levels and we’re really impressed by what they can achieve in just a few weeks," Blizzard writes.
The featured map is a bizarre story about a hideous alien trying to pursue and romance a human called Bill. "There was kind of a running joke in the class where every level should be 'set in the unknown future on a spaceship'," the students explained.
"While trying to think of an unlikely game genre that would occur in this setting, we had the idea of a dating simulator, but instead of playing a romantic underdog, the player would control a completely unlikeable and hideous alien."
You can check out Nathan's Pursuit for yourself, which was built from scratch with no prior experience with the StarCraft 2 editor in six weeks, on the North American servers. Note that the link needs Blizzard's Battle.net launcher to work.