StarCraft 2 dev discusses HotS campaign units: "I get to make everything overpowered"

Rich is in Paris seeing Heart of the Swarm, and has become conveniently stranded by a sudden snowstorm. How convenient , Mr. "I can't control the weather, honest" McCormick. Still, it's given him the chance to grab up with Heart of the Swarm designer David Sung and Starcraft 2 game producer Tony Hsu for a chat about their core design ideas the new campaign.

Sung enthusiastically explains that "my advantage over David Kim (multiplayer balance designer), is I get to make everything overpowered. Some of the core design values I've brought are to make everything overpowered" he said. "Pray don't tell." Sorry, David. But what level of unrestrained murder are we talking about here? Banelings that FLY? Ha, that would be - wait, you DO have those?

"In the campaign we have upgrades that allow Banelings to roll towards the enemy, leap and drop right in the middle of a cluster of marines. In multiplayer that would be totally broken and people would be crying foul but in campaign the AI doesn't get an opinion." (Single tear rolls down AI marine's cheek).

What other mutations will players get to mess with? "By the end you can choose when your roaches kill something they pop out smaller roaches, or you can choose a different evolution that your roaches spew bile on these creatures and slow them down. They're both very very powerful options but it feels very different."

Zerg units change over the course of "evolution" missions that let you assimilate alien DNA and try out variations before settling on a customisation. This is a response to criticism players directed towards Wings of Liberty's unit upgrade trees.

"Wings of Liberty had a punishing system where people would feel like they needed to go on the internet and find out which upgrades to buy, or they felt really pressured to make these permanent choices very early without too much information.

"So part of that fit really well with the new Swarm feeling where they're undergoing mutations and evolutions and being very dynamic. We wanted to concentrate on making powerful choices but not make the player feel unsure about their choices."

But why are the filthy Zerg more fun to play than the glorious Terran forces?

Here's Tony Hsu: "Terran, it's a person, it's a mech, you've seen it before." (sound of a solitary Thor sobbing), "For Zerg the sky's the limit. What can you do with coming up with new creatures that are unique and exciting and being able to use that really inspires design.

"You create this gigantic monster with these awesome arms and you're like "What can we do with that? What are the type of things we could do to fit that art in?" It makes it exciting when you see something and you're like "I want that." I want to be that thing. That alone gets you to want to play and makes the unit all the cooler."

Sounds interesting, but I'm not sure anything will supplant my love for the Terran Firebats. They're big, red, and come with twin flamethrowers - just like a bat. What more could a commander want?

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.