Blizzard say making StarCraft 2 was "like inventing Basketball 2"

Starcraft 2 protoss

Blizzard have been talking about the art and design sacrifices they had to make to ensure that StarCraft 2 would work as an e-sport. The initial designs for the Zerg's monstrous Ultralisks had them filling the screen and towering over enemy units, but this was binned, along with designs for many more units, in the name of making the game easier to watch, and more balanced in competition.

Kotaku have been speaking to Blizzard designer Dustin Browder says that while a few extra units snuck into the single player campaign, many were left on the drawing board, or made it into the game in a heavily altered state.The original design for the Ultralisk was shrunk to it's current size for the sake of visual clarity. The old Ultralisk could conceal 20 Zerglings beneath its belly, introducing too much confusion into the game. "This is why the artists hate me," says Browder, adding that StarCraft 2 units could only be "as big as we dare."

It's a stark contrast with RTS competitors like Supreme Commander 2, with its huge flying saucers, giant robots, and choice of hundreds of units. Browder says that StarCraft 2's pared down roster was necessary to keep the game visually simple and easy to follow from both a player and spectator perspective. "Too many units causes confusion," he says, adding that "in football, there's one unit: the human. Of course, there are wide receivers, quarterbacks and other roles, but when you see those game pieces moving around in a football game, you know what they're capable of."

While StarCraft 2's 3 races only have 15 units each, complexity is added through unit upgrades that can give a unit an upper hand over foes that it would normally be weak against. According to Browden, the element of uncertainty over which units are or aren't upgraded encourages more advanced play needed in an e-sport to set the top tier apart from other players.

Browder says that every aspect of the game, from UI to unit choices, to single player mission design, were all affected by the team's objective of making StarCraft 2 as successful as an e-sport as its predecessor. Speaking at a GDC panel last week, Browder said that making StarCraft 2 was "insanely hard ... like inventing Basketball 2."

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.