With StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void out the door, what's next for Blizzard's seminal RTS franchise? What else is coming this year? LET'S FIND OUT. On this week's episode of the Kotaku Splitscreen podcast, I'm joined by StarCraft II lead producer Tim Morten, who tells us about his history in the games industry and how he's leading the transformation of StarCraft to "game as service" — in other words, a game that's constantly updated with new content rather than one that gets sequels every few years.
This year, Blizzard will be releasing an expansion called Nova Covert Ops that's doled out in three packs of three missions each. The first one will hit March 29. (Blizzard had originally planned to launch the game on March 28, but they now say it will actually hit on the 29th.) Also coming this year: a major ladder revamp and some big changes to the surprisingly brilliant Allied Commanders co-op mode.
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Here's an excerpt from our conversation:
Tim: The first thing I would say is that we're trying to approach the story in a more personal, gritty perspective — StarCraft has had these big save-the-universe story arcs with superhero-like main characters. Nova is definitely a super-character, but at the same time, the story we're telling is a lot more personal for her as a character, and intended to get back to a little bit of the grittiness from StarCraft 1.
Jason: Will each mission be the size of a standard SC2 mission?
Tim: The first mission pack will have a mixture of what we call installation missions — where you play Nova as a character through an environment focused a bit on stealth and technology — so it will have some mission gameplay like that, but it will also have some traditional real-time strategy gameplay. You know, base building, army building.
Over the course of the series, I think it will very much feel like traditional StarCraft in terms of what players enjoy playing, but it will also introduce some new gameplay mechanics, and certainly some new technologies for Nova to take advantage of through the missions.
Jason: How much of this is based on StarCraft Ghost?
Tim: Ha. The Ghost time period is different from what we're focused on, so we're picking up the story effectively after Legacy of the Void, and I think Nova as a character has been influenced by the storyline that was associated with StarCraft: Ghost, but this game is a totally different game from what that was.
Jason: Gotcha. So that game is officially dead now, now that we're getting a stand-alone mission pack with Nova, there's really no reason to do StarCraft Ghost.
Tim: I guess you never know what could happen in the future, but I can say this team is 100% focused just on Nova: Covert Ops.
Jason: I like, by the way, that nobody at Blizzard ever officially cancelled StarCraft Ghost — it's just "no longer in development".
Tim: I think it's maybe self-awareness that any time you close a door, you're not sure what could happen in the future.