StarCraft 2 developer AMA reveals why some things had to be cut from HotS, the problem with pro player feedback
The developers of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm recently did an AMA on Reddit, which brought to light some very interesting answers on everything from expansion features that didn't make it to eSports to release timetables. Game Director Dustin Browder (whom I interviewed not long ago) took point, providing responses to some of the community's most pressing inquiries.
Perhaps among the most relevant revelations (try to say that nine times fast) was the fact that Browder himself wanted to release Wings of Liberty earlier. "[Blizzard CEO] Mike Morhaime was one of the smarter guys who stopped and said 'you need more time,'" Browder disclosed. "After working on a game for 5 years I guess you lose perspective." It presents an interesting switch-up of the familiar narrative of publishers pushing a game out the door before the devs are done.
Also interesting was Browder's criticism of the feedback top pros provided in their exclusive forum during the Heart of the Swarm beta. "The eSports forum was useful but not in the way we thought," he admitted. "Most pro players are extremely biased towards their own race (as they should be) and it was hard for us to get good feedback from them directly. But David [Kim, Balance Designer] did manage to find some pro players and casters who were more balanced in their views on the game and we have formed relationships with them directly to gather feedback."
The team also came clean on some features for HotS that were promised, but didn't end up in the shipped version. "We did a ton of changes to the rest of the UI and modifications to Aracade were relatively minor relative to the 1.5 patch," Browder said of the slated improvements to StarCraft 2's long-maligned custom map system. "I don't think we delivered on the promise."
Browder went on to affirm that he hopes the gap between HotS and Legacy of the Void is not as long as that between Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, but that "efficient and quick game development is not something we have traditionally been great at." In a closing response, he explained why StarCraft II isn't going to embrace free-to-play. "We have no plans to go free-to-play in the traditional sense. We do have a trial version that allows players to check out the game but it isn't like Team Fortress 2. Valve did make a lot of changes to Team Fortress 2 to make that game work for free-to-play. We have not yet found design choices for StarCraft II that we would be happy with to make it free-to-play, so we aren't going to do it."
You can read the compiled Q&A on Battle.net, including detailed responses from Browder, Kim, and Lead Software Engineer Alan Dabiri.