'We didn't set out to recruit a Hollywood cast': Marvel star Simu Liu's love of StarCraft led to a big role in upcoming RTS Stormgate

Stormgate is an upcoming real-time strategy game from a company with a great RTS development pedigree going back to StarCraft, but not one you'd necessarily expect to attract big Hollywood actors. Sometimes, though, big Hollywood actors happen to be huge StarCraft fans.

At The Game Awards tonight, Marvel star Simu Liu added a Hollywood twist to Stormgate when he appeared on stage to introduce a new trailer; Liu is voicing a major character in the RTS. The trailer also revealed that Stormgate, which went into closed beta this week, will hit early access this summer.  

Before The Game Awards, I spoke with Tim Morten and Tim Campbell, the heads of Stormgate developer Frost Giant, about Liu's role, and it turns out that their big get happened somewhat organically. "We didn't set out to go recruit a Hollywood cast for the game," said Morten.

The star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and bestselling author of We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story just happens to be a skilled StarCraft 2 player.

Origin story

A business that Liu and Frost Giant both worked with put the pair in touch, and Liu wanted to see what the Tims were up to, so he dropped by the Orange County studio with a buddy that he grew up playing StarCraft with.

"I've been a fan of RTS my whole life," Liu said in an interview with the studio. "StarCraft and Brood War [were] my favorites. The first game of StarCraft I played was when I was 13 years old. The last game of StarCraft I played was last week.

"When I heard Stormgate was happening and it was the same people who made so many of the games that I loved growing up and worshiped in a lot of ways, I got excited."

Morten has a long history of real-time strategy work as StarCraft production director at Blizzard Entertainment and Command & Conquer: Generals 2 at EA/Victory Games. Campbell was formerly game director of Wasteland 3 and lead campaign designer of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne at Blizzard.

"What's most exciting about Stormgate is that it was made by people who love RTS," Liu said in a statement. "This is a game that, in its DNA, is every bit the games that I loved growing up. I feel like it doesn't get more authentic than that."

"Simu goes way back with the RTS genre, and his interest is very, very deep," Campbell said. "He's a really good player, which I didn't know initially, and he's been a fan for many, many years."

Knowing that he was visiting with a friend who shared his interests, Frost Giant set Liu up for a little 1v1 in Stormgate, Morten said, and apparently unlike many of the pair's earlier matches, Liu won this one. "He was very happy about that. We could see that spirit of competition was still very much alive."

Simu Liu during a recording session for his vocal performance as Warz.

(Image credit: Frost Giant Studios)

In a play off Liu's gag on Saturday Night Live with Bowen Yang, in which the pair compares milestones about who was the first Asian man to do what, Frost Giant presented him with a joke trophy: First Asian Man to Beat Stormgate. (In the SNL skit, he is shown accepting a trophy declaring him the First Asian Man to Beat StarCraft 2—"Hey, there is no way this is true, but thank you SO much!" he tells the adoring crowd.)

"He's a very gracious person, and just genuinely passionate about real-time strategy and StarCraft in particular," Morten said. "So we had lots of shared memories of just growing up with StarCraft. That led to a deeper conversation about collaboration, and Simu was open to discuss playing a bigger role in the game."


One thing led to another, and Liu is now the voice of Warz, a major character in the Infernal Host faction, whom the Tims intend to put in many character arcs to come. "He's a badass. Warz is many things, but he's not human. He's a lot of fun," Liu said in the recorded interview.

"We knew we had to create a character that would have legs, that could actually be a long-running character that weaves in and out of the story for a long time to come," Campbell said. "So the character we created for him is one that I think has a really interesting journey. It's going to be a great vehicle to give Simu, [so he can] really breathe life into one of our main characters."

A defensive line of human units hold off a wave of alien attackers in Stormgate.

(Image credit: Frost Giant Studios)

The narrative for Stormgate, which includes Warz's arc, got an early push from Chris Metzen, the legendary storyteller from Blizzard's early days. Metzen "retired" from Blizzard in 2016 to focus on his family. He rejoined the company this year as its executive creative director for the Warcraft universe, but while on hiatus, he gave the Frost Giant folks a story boost for Stormgate.

The demon at the end of the Frost Giant GamesCom Opening Night Live video is a Metzen-voiced character, for example.

Stormgate is free to play and will launch in early access on Steam this summer with the first installment of the solo campaign, 1v1 competitive play and a three-player open-ended co-op mode.

The company expects to add the map editor and 3v3 competitive play later in the early access period. Future installments of the campaign, additional heroes in co-op and cosmetic content will all be available to purchase.

A Kickstarter campaign with swag and a Founder's Edition launched this week. You can stream a live DreamHack Atlanta competition in Stormgate on the ESL Twitch channel at 11 a.m. Eastern time on December 17.