Interview with StarCraft II lead writer Brian Kindregan
VR-Zone: Some gamers have commented that the game’s graphics look a bit dated for something that was kept under wraps for 12 years. What are your views on this?
Brian: Well, I’m probably not qualified to comment on that, the only thing I would say is that I don’t think the graphics that were shown at the launch event on the LCD screens…
VR-Zone: I’m referring to the gameplay graphics.
Brian: Oh, I thought you asking about what they saw at the event.
Kevin: I think one of the biggest things as seen in the original StarCraft game is that people are still playing it. They are still enjoying it. And honestly, we talked about the epic entertainment experience. Not just entertainment, but like Brian says, it has to last longer than two or three weeks. It is really about building something that has longevity and the legs to keep going. So I think, graphics, you know, the way it looks, is a part of that formula, for having that entertainment experience. It is not like the primary thing though. The most important thing that keeps people still playing Starcraft today is the story, and a lot of the other parts that make it this kind of epic entertainment experience.
Brian: Yeah, and the only other thing I’d say is that in Wings of Liberty, there are a lot of graphics level settings. Because they definitely wanted the game to be available to everybody. If you play on the lowest settings, certainly the graphics won’t look state-of-the-art. They will still look good, you know, and you can play it on older computers. But when you play it at a very high setting, I think it looks really good.
VR-Zone: Most RTS games have relatively simple stories. Let’s look at Red Alert and Command & Conquer as examples, where Allies beat Soviets and GDI defeats NOD. And yet you sought to create an immersive storyline for Starcraft II. Does this move come from your experience in BioWare?
Brian: Not really. You know, Blizzard had made the decision to move into deeper narrative before I got there. I guess you can say that part of me coming there is because of that decision already being made. I think that Blizzard is just very committed to storytelling as part of the game experience. The company knows that the narrative is a really important part in games, and that if people are going to have this epic entertainment experience, part of that is going to involve having characters that you’re interested in and care about, or even characters that you love to hate. So in that light, it’s really a kind of natural progression to better stories with each possible product. Anything that we release is as best as it can possibly be, but we want the next one to be even better.
VR-Zone: Have there ever been times where higher authority has asked for changes to be made to your original script. In such cases, would you just make the changes as asked for will you defend your script?
Brian: Oh, the storytelling process is very collaborative. I’m talking to higher authority and lateral authority everyday about stuff and no one has ever come in and said ‘change that thing!’. Instead, people come in and say ‘I’m very concerned about this thing, because of this other thing or something else’. And so in that case, it doesn’t become a yes-or-no situation: it just becomes a discussion where we talk about what they’re concerned about and what’s important to me. And then we find something that we both are really excited about.
VR-Zone: At the event yesterday, you likened your role as a safe-cracker, and you also mentioned that there were instances where ideas which sounded good on paper had to be discarded upon implementation because they just would not work. How many times did such instances happen, and in such cases, do you usually try to salvage anything from the old material or do you start over with a new angle?
Brian: It depends: the answer is both. To the first point, it happens quite a lot. I mean, storytelling is messy. It’s beautiful and messy. And when you’re doing it right, it’s very creative and there’s a lot of ups and downs. But yeah, a lot of times I’ll see something that doesn’t work, and I’ll just say ‘oh, this other thing may work’, and then I’ll put it in and discuss it later. And sometimes I’ll just go back to the other folks involved and just say ‘I have no idea, let’s talk this out’. You know, if you get enough talented, smart people in a room, having ideas isn’t a problem. Choosing one out of 20 great ideas is more often the problem.
VR-Zone: Let’s talk about the game: who do you think is the ‘evil’ faction in StarCraft, considering that the Protoss are often portrayed as elegant and dignified, while the Zergs behave like insects and the Terrans are notorious of ‘draining a planet’s resources at an alarming rate’?
Brian: Well, the Zerg are the bad guys. One of the things we talked about is what is the fantasy of playing a certain race. You know, what is the fantasy of playing the Protoss, or the Zergs. The fantasy in playing the Zerg, I think, is to be this unknowable alien swarm that is gonna run over your base and ruin your whole day. No one wants to play the Zerg because they wanna weave baskets and make friends, right? But that said, as a storyteller, whoever you’re writing have to be the hero of their own story. Nobody wants to think that they are the ‘bad guys’ in the story. Everybody thinks they are the ‘good guys’ of their own story, so as a writer, you have to be able to switch gears. Let’s say, ‘Oh, I’m writing the Zerg today!’ and the Zerg thinks everything they are doing makes total sense. I think, to a Zerg, you have to overrun your enemies because if not, they will do it to you. It’s not that you are ‘evil’, it’s survival. If you happen to be those enemies, then the Zerg, will be evil.
Continued on page 3…