StarCraft II launched last year with an editor designed to allow fans to create their own mods. No surprise there. But at BlizzCon, Blizzard announced plans to release StarCraft II mods of its own. Why? Well, just for fun.
Now, in 2011, we see the fruits of Blizzard's effort in the form of three mods now in beta: Aiur Chef, StarJeweled and Left 2 Die. And with the launch of Blizzard DOTA - a mod that's generating as much excitement as a fully-fledged Blizzard game - not far behind, it's a great time for user-generated PC gaming.
Here, Eurogamer sits down with StarCraft II design director Dustin Browder to find out what Blizzard's trying to do with the release of its mods. Is this a precursor to a marketplace, where gamers can buy and sell their own creations? And what happens next?
Eurogamer: Now these are in beta, what kind of feedback are you getting and how does it differ across the three games?
Dustin Browder: It's surprising how similar it is. Our fans are very loyal and very enthusiastic about our products. They've given us some great balance feedback. They've found a few bugs for us. They've made some great suggestions in terms of things we can do with the core mechanics and design of the games. Some of those things we'll be able to take back. We're working on fixing those up right now for the final release.
Eurogamer: Will you release these free?
Dustin Browder: These will be free. The final release should be within the next few weeks to months. We're fixing a lot of bugs. We're going to put in achievements and then we're going to put them out for everyone to play with and enjoy.
Eurogamer: DOTA is perhaps the highlight. I know it was always scheduled to launch later than the others. What's the latest?
Dustin Browder: As you can imagine DOTA is a little bit more work for us. We've got a slightly larger group of people working on DOTA. DOTA requires a level of polish and balance that... it's just not there yet.
One of the reasons we did DOTA in the first place was we wanted to work through some of the basic code and UI problems in building a DOTA in StarCraft II. A lot of the systems that existed in Warcraft III just don't exist in StarCraft II. An inventory system, a shop system, these are not natural parts of the game. So we wanted to make this DOTA to fix a lot of these issues, and frankly, we're still fixing.
Our inventory system is not great yet. Our shop system is kind of a disaster. We're really trying to clean those up in addition to fixing all those core elements. The balance problems in a DOTA are a lot more exciting than they would be in an Aiur Chef for example, or even in a StarJeweled. Last week we had to ban Zeratul from matches because he was wrecking everything.
We're going to keep working on the balance, but we're also going to keep working on these core systems to try to make those really polished, so we put it out there not only so our DOTA's good, but so that all the DOTAs our fans want to build are also good. They have access to all of those UI elements, those bits and pieces that will make their mods great.
Eurogamer: Do you have a target release window for DOTA?
Dustin Browder: It's going to have to be when it's done. I don't know. If I could tell you that I played the shop system today and it was awesome and Zeratul wasn't being a pain in the butt then I could give you more of a window. But we're still working out some basic stuff.