StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm interview—Blizzard breaks down Zerg lore


[SPAWN MORE SPOILER-LORDS!] With the taste Blizzard's given us for the upcoming StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm expansion, we've been left with many more questions than answers. What happened to Kerrigan since the ending of Wings of Liberty? Why is she back to reclaim her matriarchal role at the head of the Zerg forces? How did Kerrigan get so smokin' hot? We threw these questions (and more) at StarCraft II's lead writer, Brian Kindregan. Come see what he had to say about the Queen of Blades, the Great War, and what exactly the Zerg are fighting for.

PC Gamer: The Zerg like to pit themselves against really harsh climates, like the ice planet and the fiery Char. Are we going to see more environments and biomes in the campaign that will push the Zerg to their limits?

Brian Kindregan: Absolutely. We really wanted to give the sense that this is a race that constantly evolves by putting themselves in tough situations. So yes, they're going to travel to several exotic locations. Plus, we really wanted to expand the experience of StarCraft and come up with a number of cool planets to visit.

PCG: The Zerg seek perfection through evolution, but Abathur said that true perfection is impossible to achieve. Why, then, do the Zerg continue to fight?

BK: It gets oddly philosophical, but I think Abathur's point was to keep chasing perfection. You can never catch it, because the definition of perfection keeps changing, but I think your options are either: chase perfection and continue to chase it, or give up and die. And that's not really in the Zerg mentality, to give up and die.

PCG: So what is perfection for the Zerg? How do they see it?

BK: I would say there's two things: I think what Abathur is saying is that, on the tactical level, perfection is being perfectly suited for the task at hand. If you need to be resistant ice and frost and all that stuff, then perfection is being resistant to cold. Whereas, if you're on a fire planet being resistant to frost and ice is not very useful. So Abathur's being very pragmatic. I would say the Zerg are seeking purity of essence; that's something deeply ingrained in them. It's almost the equivalent of a religious idea, that there's something they can become at some point that's so exactly suited to all situations and any circumstance. There's some evolutionary form that will never need to change again, but I don't think anyone knows that that looks like; no Zerg entity has ever discovered that.

PCG: So do the Zerg see any value of Kerrigan having Terran qualities to her, and can they exploit that?

BK: I think the Swarm is always welcoming of new genetics in general—they're interested in getting every sort of essence there's out there. That said, Abathur doesn't seem very impressed with the Terran essence and DNA.

PCG: Is Izsha [Kerrigan's advisor] more closely linked to Kerrigan or the Overmind?

BK: She's kind of the bridge to the Overmind—she can share opinions and ideas that are very Zerg-y, but she's also very rational. So there's a chance for her and the player to learn about the Swarm by talking to Izsha, but she's still plugged into the Zerg mentality.

PCG: All the bonus objectives seem to power up Kerrigan's health level. Is the idea for her to be a super unit at the end of the game, who doesn't need as many regular units backing her up?

BK: She's going to get incredibly powerful by the end of the game, but I think you are always going to need the Swarm around her, the entire Zerg expansion is all about the Swarm and honestly you are going to be upgrading the Swarm too so they're going to be very powerful by the end too so you will definitely want them on the map.

PCG: Are they trying to evolve in preparation for the Great War that Zeratul foresaw?

BK: Yes—the Queen of Blades was trying to prepare the Swarm for that event, even though she had a very fatalist view of the outcome. She had the mindset of, "This is going to be really bad, we're all going to lose, we're all going to die." But again, the Zerg have two options: option A is lie down and die, or option B is to get ready for this fight and do the best they can, and maybe they bloody the enemy's nose.

PCG: So it seems like adaption is one of the overarching themes of the campaign. Are there any other themes that resonate throughout the plot?

BK: Yeah, adaption is the biggest one. I would say the next biggest idea is identity, which is kind of tied to adaptation and growth. But yes, the Swarm has a unified identity, and it's continually changing; our protagonist is changing her identity; really, in some way, every story is about identity. It's about characters growing into something new, and so the two biggest characters in this story are Kerrigan and the Swarm itself. I think that really ties together for the both of them.

PCG: In the Char mission [playable at BlizzCon], there was an opposing broodmother that can make her own will and impose that on the Swarm. Will we see other units rise up and think for themselves?

BK: Absolutely; we won't have the same sort of narrative on every map—we'll try and keep it varied—but yes, the disappearance of the Queen of Blades is a giant shock to the Swarm. There's a lot of other brood mothers out there who all believe they're the proper ruler of the Swarm, so shortly after [the events of] Wings of Liberty, there was some infighting. Some brood mothers were waging war against each other, some broods were either wiped out, and some just left Char to go to other places and start their own thing.

PCG: Would it be possible for Kerrigan and the Queen of Blades to co-exist?

BK: I don't think the Queen of Blades is capable of co-existing with anyone—she's pretty much an all-or-nothing kind of character. If she were in some way still inside of Kerrigan she would end up taking over.