My fellow Terrans, sunny and glorious was the day that Eurogamer allowed me to write about the greatest race in strategy gaming history. Finally, I can tell it like it is. The release of Heart of the Swarm has put Starcraft 2 in a very happy place. In short, it's a hit with both players and pros, and also manages to be an even more exciting spectacle than Wings of Liberty. Blizzard's ever-evolving design for the game is fascinating to watch, and one of the key changes in HotS - from the perspective of the galaxy's greatest race, anyway - brought an end to the Reaper's long and lonely journey.
My hero, it transpires, is a man named Grubby.
For hundreds of thousands of people StarCraft 2 is an ultra hardcore competitive multiplayer game built for eSports and little else. For them playing and hopefully winning ranked matches is all that matters.
If there's one thing a beta never lacks, it's disclaimers. Everything's subject to change! This is not indicative of the finished product! Everyone plays along, rightly acknowledging that there is the scope for big changes, but we know that this is fundamentally it: in Heart of the Swarm's case, the next iteration of Starcraft 2 multiplayer nestling comfortably into your PC. Things will change, but more will stay the same.
Heart of the Swarm is the second Starcraft 2 game, themed around the Zerg race, and following on from the Terran love-in that was 2010's Wings of Liberty. Despite being largely the same game as Wings of Liberty, HotS comes with its own full single-player campaign (which we've already previewed), and the big selling point is the new multiplayer units, additions to one of the biggest competitive games on the planet. These have been trailed at Blizzcon and the like, but the beta's the first chance we've had to get hands on them.
The biggest impression is made by the Zerg's Swarm Host, a burrowing monster that can be built by the midgame. They're effectively a siege unit - get them into position, dig them in, and they'll constantly spew out vicious little Locusts in whichever direction you please. These locusts don't have much range, but move fast and do devastating damage, as well as taking much punishment and being constantly replenished. Fighting against Swarm Hosts, especially when they're sunk-in and protected by other Zerg units, is the organic equivalent of rushing into a line of Siege Tanks - you lose everything, they lose almost nothing.
This interview appears simultaneously on Eurogamer and on our sister trade site, GamesIndustry.biz.
Blizzard's head writer and lore guru - or senior vice president of story and franchise development to his friends - Chris Metzen has just announced his retirement. To mark the moment, here's a profile of the man we originally published on 20th October 2011.
Blizzard goes big at GamesCom, and this year was no exception. Gargantuan queues wrapped around its Diablo 3 booth on the show floor, and its 20th anniversary press conference was packed to the rafters. With Diablo 3, StarCraft 2 expansion Heart of the Swarm, an unnamed World of Warcraft expansion and Project Titan all in the works, these are exciting times for the company.
Were you ever a normal gamer?
Think of the StarCraft series, and you think of multiplayer. Its single-player campaigns are unavoidably overshadowed by the competitive scene, and news that Heart of the Swarm's reveal would be exclusively single-player leads to an irresistible question. Just how important is StarCraft's lore and single-player to StarCraft's fans?
Last night, outside GAME's flagship store on Oxford Street, London, hundreds of PC gamers queued to buy Blizzard's real-time strategy sequel StarCraft II. It wasn't exactly chaos - more like orderly enthusiasm - but it was fun nonetheless.
Sitting in an office in the memorabilia-filled halls of Blizzard's nerve-centre in southern California, Rob Pardo is unassuming, chirpy and sincere - a manner which belies the fact that this is unquestionably one of the most influential men in the games business.
It's probably not deliberate, but Blizzard seems determined to drive home just how inadequate I am as a gamer. Within minutes of arriving at the company's imposing Southern California base - the giant statue of an orc riding a wolf in the courtyard is under renovation by a team of builders, it transpires - I'm seated in a private cinema to watch some StarCraft II matches in progress.
Peculiar bedfellows, perhaps? There was always going to be a clash somewhere in this year's Coming Attractions as we sorted our way through 12 categories, but you could argue there's more that unites fighting and strategy than divides them. Both are about trying to take maximum of advantage of your opposition's weaknesses, both reward patience, concentration and consideration, and as of Red Alert 3 both have a thing for impractical women's clothing.
Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz' widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.
Mike Morhaime is the chief executive of Blizzard Entertainment, co-founded with his college buddies Allen Adham and Frank Pearce under the name Silicon & Synapse in 1991. Over the next 17 years it built a formidable name for itself in real-time strategy (Warcraft and StarCraft), action RPG (Diablo), and more recently massively multiplayer gaming, with World of Warcraft, the proverbial golden egg that has brought in 10 million subscribers. Blizzard is known for its perfectionism, its lengthy, iterative development process, its early embrace of online multiplayer gaming, and its staunch support of the PC and even Mac as gaming platforms.
With Battle.net, Diablo and WOW behind them, it's probably fair to suggest that PC gamers have spent more millions of hours on Blizzard's games than any other company's. Which is mental. With that in mind, we recently spent an hour chatting to three team leads on the original, now all working inside Blizzard on StarCraft II.
Art is important to Blizzard. The offices of the World of Warcraft developer, currently working on RTS sequel StarCraft II, are plastered with it. Vivid, colourful and extravagant concept art is hung everywhere. The offices even have a curator, part of whose job description is to ensure that huge floor-to-ceiling pieces are displayed around the campus. One such piece is in the canteen - a jolly painting of drinking dwarves by Samwise Didier.
StarCraft II is fast. Really, really fast. But lead designer Dustin Browder talks faster. The bald-headed, sharp-eyed veteran of Command & Conquer titles, hired in by Blizzard to take command of this sequel to its decade-old real-time strategy warhorse, jumps into questions halfway through and peppers you with rattling bursts of ideas and arguments. It's like he's involved in a constant game of StarCraft II in his head, where precision, pre-emption, and speed of execution are absolutely everything.