Intern Arena: Will SC2's expansions do more harm than good?
Once more, our interns enter the arena to debate to the death on gaming's latest happenings for your entertainment. But first, the thrilling finale to our previous Intern Arena:
Lucas stood victorious over Anthony's body. Anthony lay on the ground, a broken man, crimson blood dripping from his freshly-broken jaw. Lucas held his swordpoint to Anthony's throat, ready to deal the finishing slice that the fans were chanting for. But he hesitated, and instead hurled his sword into Josh Augustine’s chest, killing him instantly. "Are you not entertained?!" Lucas screamed, as Dan and Evan continued their work. "Is this not why you are here?!"
In the shadows, Anthony fought through the pain and crawled to safety, his shattered arms barely able to pull his lacerated body. With a grimace, he turned back to look at Lucas with a cold, hateful stare. "This...isn't...over," he whispered.
This arena's topic:
With StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm looming on the horizon and e-sports enjoying a pleasant resurgence, it seems that Blizzard's space mega-franchise is on a roll. But what are the negative repercussions to all this new content?
Will SC2's expansions do more harm than good?
Lucas: Now, don’t get me wrong. I love me some Blizzard games, including (but not limited to) the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Lost Vikings series. But if you ask me, the seemingly-omnipotent developer is about to make a serious misstep by giving Heart of the Swarm a separate ladder—the same mistake they made with Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard should add all of the new multiplayer-only units, free of charge. Then nobody gets left behind, and it won’t feel like you have to make 3 easy payments of $59.99 in order to get the most out of StarCraft II.
Anthony: Blizzard isn’t forcing anyone to purchase the expansions. They are optional, and as such, multiple communities are born through this process--and that's not a bad thing. If you were forced to buy the expansions, there would only be a single community. But let's look at SC: there is a SC community and a Brood War community. Same with Warcraft 3. While the hardcore tournament players will always get the expansion to stay on top, the casual players are often happy just sticking with the original game.
Lucas: But why should competitive people have to shell out in order to stay relevant? The way I see it, a professional-level Frozen Throne player is somebody, and a professional WC3-vanilla player is nobody; being skilled at the outdated model is like trying to impress someone with your first-generation iPod. What if I want to buy the Protoss expansion pack, Legacy of the Void, without HotS? Will I be trapped in some kind of multiplayer limbo? Blizzard is essentially locking you into an ultimatum: either you give them your money, or you fall by the wayside into obsolete multiplayer ghettos.
Anthony: I think you are comparing apples to oranges. Think of it in terms of the boardgame Risk: you can play regular ol’ Risk or you can play the massively expanded version that includes tons of different units. Both are full games, and both have full communities, and they're equal because they're both under the Risk banner. Blizzard will be smart with LotV: they'll create ladders for every combination of game they put out. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to compete with others—you’ll still able to play against people who have Wings of Liberty and LotV. If you never get an expansion, you will continue to be able to have a great experience just with the original game.
Lucas: But by definition, having seven individual ladders (Wings of Liberty, HotS, LotV, WoL+HotS, WoL+LotV, HotS+LotV, WoL+HotS+LotV) would drastically fragment the SCII community. Put it this way: I bought the new WoW expansion, Cataclysm, simply due to the compulsion I felt to stay current and not get left behind. It’s the same reason hardcore raiders and patch-notes theorycrafters do what they do. But I barely played Cataclysm, and thinking back, I can’t really justify the amount of money I paid for the game plus a month’s subscription. I just hope the same feeling doesn’t creep over me when I inevitably (and bitterly) buy the new StarCraft expansions.
Anthony: Ok, they most likely won’t have separate ladders—maybe Blizzard will take the WoW approach where if you want to play LotV you need HotS. Just like if you wanted Wrath of the Lich King, you needed Burning Crusade. But if you didn’t buy the expansions, would you really have been left behind? Like I said, Blizzard is smart. Just because you don’t have the expansions doesn’t mean that you can’t experience the rest of the world with everyone else. With World of Warcraft, you wouldn’t be in some bizzaro Azeroth where it's only you and a handful of people who didn’t pick up the expansions. You see everybody all the time. True, you can’t go to Outlands or Northrend, but you didn’t want to—otherwise you’d get the expansion. Smart programming on Blizzard's part keeps WoW from becoming fragmented, and should do the same with SC2. Blizzard loves their fans, so whatever they do with SC2, I know it’ll be worth whatever we pay and will work out in the end.
As always, the lives of these wretched interns rest in your devious hands. Tell us who you think won, and King Logan will be pleased with a new champion of the arena while the other is fed to the lions. PS—no Josh Augustines were harmed in the writing of this article.