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StarCraft II photo
StarCraft II

StarCraft 2 player gets a US visa for being an 'Athlete'


It looks like pro-gamers are athletes
Dec 12
// Joshua Derocher
Kim "viOLlet" Dong Hwan has become the first professional StarCraft 2 player to get a visa to come to the United States and compete as an athlete. Kim was cleared for a P-1A visa, which is the type of visa given to internatio...
MMO deals photo
MMO deals

Get Guild Wars 2 for $30 or World of Warcraft for $5


MMO sales for the holidays!
Nov 27
// Joshua Derocher
If you have been looking to get into World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2, here is your chance to get them for cheap. Battle.net just launched its black friday sales, with World of Warcraft for $4.99 and Mists of Pandaria for $9...

TotalBiscuit and Day[9] discuss StarCraft II and eSports

Nov 23 // Patrick Hancock
I believe that it's always important to begin interviews with a really tough question. One to get the interviewees on their toes and keep them there, to let them know that I'm not playing around here. So naturally, I asked them which competitor has the best nickname. TotalBiscuit acknowledged the toughness of the question before answering with Choi Ji Sung's nickname of "Bomber." "Honestly, I think it really encapsulates his play style…and also his unfortunate tendency to sometimes 'bomb' out of tournaments in the most dramatic fashion possible. It’s got to be him." Day[9] chimes in, mentioning that "the better you are, the cooler your nickname sounds," while also mentioning that "Snute," the nickname of the Swedish Zerg player Jens Aasgaard, will never be a fierce name. He's right, it's tough to imagine someone cowering in fear because someone named Snute is coming at them. "I’m a big fan of the one word, catchy names, like 'NaDa' is a dope name. That's so good." Lee Yoon Yeol, or NaDa, no longer plays the game, but when he did, he was an amazing Terran player from South Korea.  It's tough to explain to someone exactly why I like watching StarCraft II most of the time. I don't want to go into detail about any specifics, because it's going to lose whoever I'm talking to. I'm glad I asked TotalBiscuit to sum up the appeal of StarCraft though, because his answer was relatable and near-perfect.  StarCraft II is like "chess on 10 boards in real time." Exactly. The strategy of chess, the complexity of chess on 10 boards at once, all happening quickly in real time. Thanks, TB! I'm going to use this from now on for sure.  Then, we talked JaeDong. For those out there who don't know who Lee "JaeDong" Jae Dong is, he's a Zerg player from South Korea who seems to always crumble in finals and get second place. It's become his "thing." He is by no means a bad player, in fact, Day[9] calls his improvements "just terrifying," but when it comes down to the big stage, he always falls short.  "It's only a matter of time," says TotalBiscuit,  "...it's getting kind of ridiculous that he keeps hitting second place. He clearly has the talent." Day[9] agrees that he's bound to take first. "I think JaeDong will soon enough be the guy who is winning or be the final boss at every tournament." He also brings up INnoVation, a Terran player from South Korea, as he was the first and best to start using the Bio/Mine strategy as Terran in Heart of the Swarm. As players grew, they began to also use Bio/Mine, "and now INnoVation is just another Terran who does Bio/Mine." Day[9] recognizes that JaeDong's issue isn't with build orders though, and instead just an issue of strength. "He’s overpoweringly good, and I truly think soon enough he will be the final boss of StarCraft II." The final boss...I like that, and totally agree. If someone is going to try to win a tournament with JaeDong in it, they're going to have to finish off the final boss first, which will likely be JaeDong himself. [embed]266229:51550:0[/embed] Something I noticed while looking at the contestants for the Red Bull Battlegrounds was the amount of players in each race. Four Zerg, three Protoss, and only one Terran. I asked if the Zerg and Protoss players were just hot right now, or if there is some bigger, more overarching issue with the Terran race. Well, they were both quick to point out that the sample size is way too small to say there's any issue with any of the races. Thanks guys for making me looks STUPID. Gosh. Day[9] does mention that he has seen Terrans struggle a little bit statistically, but that this is just a sign of a healthy balance. Terrans were once on top, and now they're on the bottom. "There has to be fluctuation for it to be an interesting and healthy game." There's a bit of debate throughout various competitive games as to the frequency of patches. Some believe that if something gets patched in that seems unbalanced, it is up to the metagame to evolve around that issue. Others, however, think that a steady flow of frequent balance patches are more important, in order to always keep things fair and equal. I directed this issue towards the two casters to get their input and see which they prefer. TotalBiscuit mentioned that it largely depends on the game; Dota 2 and League of Legends get patches all the time to add in marketable goodies. StarCraft II, however, has less frequent patches simply due to the nature of the game. "I’m in favor of less patching," TotalBiscuit says, "allowing the metagame to stabilize and for players to try to find solutions. But I'm also in favor of more frequently rotating map pools in tournaments, because a lot of this balance stuff is effected by the maps in play right now, not whether a unit is too strong or a statistic needs to be fiddled with." Balance is an incredibly delicate issue, which is something Day[9] is incredibly aware of. "I’m ok with patching happening semi-frequently, to address the extra styles and just make the game fresh and new and interesting. But I think that trying to patch aggressively to balance, is dumb." He knows it is important to stay open to a large variety of styles in a game like StarCraft II -- if Blizzard buffs a specific unit, players are going to start thinking of new and inventive ways to start integrating that unit into their strategies. Photo Credit: © Cameron Baird / Red Bull Content Pool Naturally, I wanted to know what they both thought of the new hotness, Blizzard's own HearthStone. More specifically, I wanted to know if they thought it could bring new life to the CCG world in the streaming universe. Day[9] thinks HearthStone is "pure fun," and way more suitable for streaming than, say, Magic the Gathering, which Day[9] claims is "probably the best card game of all time," but doesn't stream well due to the lack of visibility of everything at once. TotalBiscuit also compares HearthStone to MtG, saying that HearthStone is "easier to access" and "more of a visual experience." He's also quick to bring up that at this past BlizzCon, the stream brought in 100,000 concurrent viewers, and that's for a game that doesn't even have a proper observer mode! I also wanted to talk about the eSports scene in general. I brought up the amount of vitriol surrounded the scene, which is pretty evident in many of the posts I put up here on Destructoid. It's not uncommon to still see a "lol esports" post or tons of hatred when the worth "athlete" or "sport" is thrown around. "It’s just semantics. It’s stupid, it doesn’t matter," Day[9] says. "'Is it a sport? 'Because sports are big' -- it doesn’t matter. We’re huge, we’re trumping sports in many ways -- particularly player base. The number of people that play football -- it's nada. Or like 'should we be on TV.' Who watches TV? Objectively, it just doesn’t matter. The people who play deserve immense respect because what they do is hard." As for TotalBiscuit? "I think it’s mostly semantics... I don’t think we need to be called sports to be accepted; you can call it a sports and it doesn’t mean people are going to accept videogames as a competitive activity. A lot of people’s opinions of gaming are still rooted in the past or are very narrow." He also has a very interesting take on the term "athlete," one that I've never  thought of before but is incredibly important: "In terms of athletes, we unfortunately need it for legal reasons, for immigrations issues. Which I have experienced firsthand myself, and continue experience as the owner of a team. They should be called athletes if only to allow them to travel to compete -- and this should extend to all games, and even other things like competitive card gaming, or even Scrabble…which I think you can travel under a visa for as an Athlete. If Scrabble counts, then I’m pretty sure StarCraft II should." TotalBiscuit also has an idea of where eSports will be in ten years. Naturally, the scene will be bigger and better. "The games may change but production values will rise hopefully prize pools rise." One thing that won't change is the way we watch eSports. "If we were to look at television and think about putting eSports on, we would be looking backwards." The eSports scene has always had on-demand video, an idea that TB says is all people want right now with regular television, showing eSports ahead of the curve. Finally, I asked them what people should do if they've never watched competitive StarCraft before but want to tune in to Red Bull Battlegrounds: "Well, we thankfully have a really good casting team, that is more than capable of explaining the game on a very basic level," said TotalBiscuit. "Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m pretty good at play by play; so I think people will understand the excitement by watching it. "The way that StarCraft II flows, on the screen is very similar to a traditional field sport. So if the other guy is in the opponent’s end zone, you know something is going horribly wrong. And I think that you can pick up the terminology and the nomenclature easily. And I think it’s easy to be swept up by the excitement when you hear the crowd  and when the commentators are on their feet and the players are executing something that is so obviously technical and obviously rapid and strategic, you can’t help but be excited by it." As for Day[9], he said he "would tell them -- definitely keep the volume up, so you can hear the commentators. Because in a sport there’s a lot of physical understanding that you bring to the table; if you see me slam dunk a basketball, you know that it’s difficult, because you’ve jumped before and know how high the hoop is. In eSports -- you don’t get that physical understanding. That’s our job, to tell the story, give the information and give the story and clarify. "And definitely watch with a friend, or go to TeamLiquid or go to Day9.tv chat and ask questions. That’s the biggest advice I’d give -- watch it with a friend and reach out to the community, because they love talking about StarCraft." TeamLiquid is certainly an amazing place to start if you want to get into eSports. It's where I learned to stay on top of tournaments being played and slowly started to learn the players playing. Go in, create an account, and start asking questions!
TB and Day[9] interview photo
Shedding light on why we need the term 'athlete'
When someone gives you the opportunity to interview two people who you have looked up to as idols, there is no thinking to be done, only a garbled "HECKYES" to be shot out of your mouth hole. There are four amazing casters th...

Red Bull Battlgrounds NYC photo
Red Bull Battlgrounds NYC

Red Bull Battlegrounds is under way


Huge StarCraft II tournament all weekend!
Nov 23
// Patrick Hancock
As if MLG Columbus wasn't already enough tournament for one weekend to hold, StarCraft II fans can rest easy knowing that the Red Bull Battlegrounds in NYC are taking place starting now! Eight competitors will be duking...
WCS 2014 photo
WCS 2014

StarCraft II World Championship Series plans out 2014


2013 WCS just ended, and already looking ahead
Nov 20
// Patrick Hancock
The World Championship Series, one of the biggest yearly StarCraft II tournaments around, just had its finals at Blizzcon earlier this month, and already Blizzard is looking ahead to 2014 with new plans. They've gone ahe...
BlizzCon photo
BlizzCon

BlizzCon's 2013 Cosplay is in as fine a form as ever


A year later, a year better
Nov 12
// Abel Girmay
With the end of another major convention, comes the obligatory cosplay showcase video. In true fan form, the costumes continue to amaze. Cosplay stars Jessica Nigiri, Monika Lee, and Vanessa Vancleef also make an appearance....
WCS finals photo
WCS finals

WCS finals at Blizzcon begin today


Winner moves to Red Bull Battlegrounds
Nov 08
// Patrick Hancock
There is currently one open spot in the red Bull Battlegrounds StarCraft II tournament taking place later this month. After this weekend, that spot will be filled. The World Championship Series (WCS) finals take place at Bli...
Red Bull Qualifiers photo
Red Bull Qualifiers

Three more qualify for Red Bull Battlegrounds in NYC


Scarlett, HyuN, and PartinG win out this weekend
Nov 04
// Patrick Hancock
Three more players have pulled out victories and managed to qualify for the Red Bull Battlegrounds event later this month in NYC. Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn (Zerg), Won "PartinG" Lee Sak (Protoss), and Ko "HyuN" Seok Hyun (Zerg)...
Red Bull SC2 tourney photo
Red Bull SC2 tourney

Tune into the Red Bull Battlegrounds Qualifiers right now


Winner advances to the main event on November 23
Nov 03
// Patrick Hancock
The Red Bull Battlegrounds will be taking place on November 23-24, but today we will get to see another player added to the roster of competitors. Four players will compete for a single spot into the main event, paid transpo...
Warcraft RTS photo
Warcraft RTS

Modder creates World of Warcraft RTS with StarCraft II


Yeah, really
Oct 30
// Joshua Derocher
Steven Luo didn't have access to World of Warcraft when it came out nearly nine years ago, so he decided to make his own game using Warcraft III's editor tools. This year he ported the mod idea fully into StarCraft...
Long StarCraft match photo
Long StarCraft match

Longest StarCraft II match lasts THREE HOURS


Becomes a study on commentator's patience
Oct 24
// Patrick Hancock
Once, I watched a StarCraft II match on Metalopalis between two Terran opponents, and it lasted for about an hour and a half. It felt like an eternity. After a while, it wasn't even suspenseful anymore. It was more...in...
Heroes of StarCraft photo
Heroes of StarCraft

Heroes of StarCraft mod adds hero units to Civilization V


Why wouldn't you want Jim Raynor leading your troops?
Sep 29
// Joshua Derocher
I love mods, probably way more than I should, and it is always amazing the things that creative people can come up with. The Heroes of StarCraft mod for Civilization V, along with a partner mod by the same modder, adds hero u...
Red Bull SCII tourney photo
Red Bull SCII tourney

Red Bull StarCraft II tournament kicks off today


Join the action at 2PM PST!
Jun 21
// Patrick Hancock
The Red Bull Training Grounds StarCraft II tournament begins today, and will continue on through this Sunday, June 23. Only eight of the best players have been invited to the event, including Grubby, DeMusliM, and SeleC...
StarCraft II Spawning photo
StarCraft II Spawning

Blizzard introduces 'Spawning' feature to StarCraft II


It allows you to temporarily upgrade your account in a party
Jun 05
// Chris Carter
Blizzard has now made it a lot easier to play StarCraft II with your friends, regardless of what version you have. All you need to do is party in-game with a friend who owns a "better" version of the game. So basically, say ...
StarCraft II video photo
StarCraft II video

Game of Thrones opening sequence recreated in StarCraft


When you play the game of StarCraft, you Zerg rush or you die
May 30
// Darren Nakamura
Using the StarCraft II Cutscene Editor, YouTube user Tolkfan created the video above, which takes us across the continents of Westeros and Essos in a recreation of the opening sequence for Season 1 of HBO's Game of Thrones. ...
Idra speaks on his firing photo
Idra speaks on his firing

Fired StarCraft player 'Idra' talks about his release


'I am not going to continue as a competitive player'
May 13
// Patrick Hancock
On "Real Talk" with JP McDaniel, a YouTube show that interviews gaming personalities, Greg "Idra" Fields talked about the events surrounding his recent firing from Evil Geniuses' StarCraft II team. He talks about a ton ...
Idra fired from EG photo
Idra fired from EG

StarCraft's biggest jerk fired for being a jerk


Greg 'Idra' Fields released from team Evil Geniuses
May 10
// Patrick Hancock
Greg Fields, more commonly known as Idra in the StarCraft community, was let go from the Evil Geniuses StarCraft II team yesterday after some comments that were essentially the straw that broke the camel's back...

Meet the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm sound team

May 03 // Jayson Napolitano
Glenn Stafford (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: Audio Lead / ComposerSelected Past Works: WarCraft II, StarCraft, World of Warcraft series, Diablo IIIOn being the “Terran” guy and leading the StarCraft II sound team“Yes, you’re probably right that I’m most known for the StarCraft terran music—but players seem to like it, so I suppose that’s a good thing! It may not be as well known that I do work regularly on other Blizzard series. For example, I composed well over an hour of music for Diablo III, and I contribute to World of Warcraft expansions and patches whenever possible. In fact, Jason Hayes and I collaborated on some tracks for patch 5.2, which came out recently.With that in mind, I’ve always considered the StarCraft team to be my home base here at Blizzard. While I enjoy all our games and franchises immensely, the RTS series of games is what I love and play the most. I previously supervised audio production and composed for Wings of Liberty, and following that narrowed my focus to music. For Heart of the Swarm, it seemed a natural progression for me to continue supervising the music production. It was very refreshing to explore new sonic territory, and I was also grateful to have Derek Duke onboard to help us evolve the zerg sound he first created for the original StarCraft. We worked closely together, discussing musical ideas that seemed unique to the zerg, and we also took advantage of a variety of Derek’s incredible eclectic and vintage gear to record strange new sounds and source material. We then both used these ideas and material as a basis from which to create more music.For the in-mission music in this expansion, our goals were to add as much new music as possible, and to evolve and expand on the zerg sound for use in different settings—primal jungles, ice planets, and so on. The zerg conform to different rules, and it might be tempting to be too musical where it isn’t called for. It’s also a big challenge to address how the music might sound in these various settings. Heart of the Swarm focuses mainly on the zerg, of course, but there are forces at play throughout the missions too. At times, you’ll notice various combinations of different racial influences in the music—maybe something not altogether zerg or terran, but exploring the spaces in between.In terms of what’s changed since Wings of Liberty, beyond the obvious changes in focus and style, we added more music than we’ve ever added to an RTS expansion. In the missions, there are more custom-scored and edited moments than ever before, with plenty of cut scenes and in-game cinematics, as well as some complex music-handling throughout missions. Having more music to work with overall, and by refining our tools and implementation methods, we can greatly extend the possibilities and refine the presentation—offering a more variable and interesting music experience when playing and re-playing missions and multiplayer maps. Even the loading-screen music has more variation now. We were fortunate enough to have Neal Acree on board once again, not only taking on the hard-hitting cinematic scores, but also adding to our in-game arsenal with new themes and variations on cinematic scores. Russell Brower reprised his role from Wings of Liberty, composing new protoss tracks as well as mission music, including some patriotic themes that come into play later in the game. Add to that some edgy tracks by veteran freelance composer Cris Velasco; and with the return of Blizzard composer Jason Hayes late in production, we even have an unexpected collaboration between he and Russell.The sound design team, supervised by industry veteran sound designer Evan Chen, brought some amazing new talent and sound design work to the StarCraft universe. I’m honored to work with such a talented group, and thankful for everyone’s unique skills and perspectives. The result is a diverse blend, and yet and it all stays true to the StarCraft universe.The music for this expansion is unique and moody. You won’t hear many big epic themes and soaring moments—but we believe it represents the essence of this expansion and the zerg well. We sincerely hope everyone enjoys it.”On his exclusive audio sample[embed]251947:48207:0[/embed]“This is a medley of a few different pieces. Up to about 50 seconds, this is a piece for a mission cut-scene involving Kerrigan and some terrans. There are two versions of this piece in the game—one without any drums and guitars, which completely removes the terran flavor. The next section up through 1:40 features legendary guitarist David Torn, who Derek and I were fortunate enough to have perform on several tracks. Following that, we hear a more strictly zerg-influenced track until about 2:40, where we revive one of the mission themes from Wings of Liberty, now recorded and remixed with a live orchestra. Then at 4:20, we wind down with a small sample of a piece designed for Kaldir, an icy moon where Kerrigan encounters the protoss.”Derek Duke (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: ComposerSelected Past Works: StarCraft series, WarCraft III, World of Warcraft, Diablo IIIOn being the “Zerg” guy and his contributions to Heart of the Swarm“Helping Glenn out with this one was a lot of fun. With so many other composers dipping into zerg territory, it really forced us to clarify a lot of what’s at the heart of zerg music. Glenn wanted to build off of the Queen’s theme, as heard in the zerg rollout trailer and in various incarnations in Liberty. Sharing certain scales and chord voicings that are particular to the zerg was also cool. It’s not always just strange sounds and textures that make zerg music.We spent time each week for a while specifically creating zerg music textures and source at my home studio, using all means of analog and digital music paraphernalia... analog modular synths, vintage synths and hardware effects, alternate controllers, and so on. We got some great 'music design' source material from those sessions. We were also able to expand upon the electric guitar vocabulary. We had the opportunity to involve guitarist and composer David Torn, who has a very unique and extraordinarily musical approach to the guitar. In contrast to the guitar and Dobro stylings used in Wings, David was in our 'infested' guitarist.”On his exclusive audio sample[embed]251947:48208:0[/embed]“This comes from a piece called “Corruptors,” written for the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and David Torn. You’ll hear the zerg Queen’s theme featured and various nods to the zerg music from the original StarCraft. I was unable to attend the session—always a challenge—so having conductor Eimear Noone there at the podium worked out great for the music. She had also conducted for Wings, and really 'gets' a lot about my musical language.”Russell Brower (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: Composer / Audio Director of Blizzard EntertainmentSelected Past Works: World of Warcraft series, StarCraft II, Diablo IIIOn his contributions to Heart of the Swarm“Since Glenn Stafford founded the Blizzard sound department and, along with Jason Hayes and Derek Duke, defined the sound and musicscape of StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War, my own musical responsibility—as the “new guy,” relatively speaking—continues to focus on staying true to the series’ roots wherever I have influence, and to suggest ways to evolve things where it makes sense in context. As composers, we also strive to cast ourselves into roles that are the best fit for our individual strengths. In the end, every Blizzard game to date contains the art of multiple composers—I believe this is part of the 'secret sauce' that makes Blizzard’s music and games timeless.For instance, on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, I had the opportunity to write a couple of themes that covered new territory or expanded character development: specifically, melodies for Jim Raynor, Zeratul, and the 'space opera' main title piece, which was a special request from Chris Metzen. I also had a hand in suggesting that we add to the terran music vibe with virtuoso, legendary live players—Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, Jesse Gress, and others. The terran musical composition, production, and DNA, however, are 100% Glenn, and stay very true to StarCraft tradition. In fact, the majority of the Wings score was written by the original StarCraft composition team; I wrote what made sense for me to write, and wore my administration hat for the rest of that project.This brings us to StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm: With the focus squarely on the zerg, Glenn and Derek built on their established musical vocabulary, as they’ve described, and created a spine-tingling score... and that’s really the heart of this particular musical swarm."[embed]251947:48209:0[/embed]"My musical contributions to Swarm happened in two waves. During the earliest recording sessions, the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra was so good, we realized that we were going to run out of music to record before the sessions were over, and it was too late to cancel the unneeded time. Gasp... ka-ching! This afforded me an awesome opportunity and challenge: I wrote about six minutes of additional music to leverage the remaining session time, with the clock ticking, in the control room—all while Neal Acree’s cinematic scores were booming live over the speakers. With pencil, paper, and an iPad piano sound in headphones, I wrote fast and furious during the sessions. No pressure! I’m proud of those two pieces, affectionately and nonsensically titled 'Zergs in the Banana Patch' and 'The Protoss Take Kiev.' These cues found their way into some of the later missions, and, yes, they’re big and loud... I couldn’t waste a world-class 87-piece orchestra!As the later missions’ gameplay matured, we found some opportunities for additional music, to which I contributed. Jason had rejoined the team by then, and he and I finally got to collaborate in person, on purpose, after all these years. A personal highlight is a piece called “Overdrive,” which was composed and produced by Jason and arranged for orchestra by me from his piano demo—It was such a blast to truly create something together. That experience pretty neatly sums up why I find Blizzard to be such a unique place to work, collaborate, and create."Jason Hayes (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: ComposerSelected Past Works: StarCraft, WarCraft III, World of WarcraftOn his return to Blizzard Entertainment“Being back at Blizzard is like coming home for me—I couldn't be more thrilled! And yes, it was especially exciting to arrive during the final push on Heart of the Swarm. Working on StarCraft again is so cool.” On his exclusive audio sample[embed]251947:48210:0[/embed]“I came up with the idea for 'Overdrive' while thinking of the past between Arcturus Mengsk and Kerrigan—his unquenchable thirst for power, and hers for revenge. As I was coming up with ideas, a musical theme from StarCraft: Brood War occurred to me. This was in the intro cinematic, where Admiral DuGalle abandons a group of confederate colonists to be overrun by the zerg. There seemed to be a symmetry between this and Kerrigan's situation—after all, she was also abandoned to the zerg by Mengsk. I found that by taking this musical idea and punching it up with a militaristic insistence, it could help to frame some important events to come. Collaborating with Russell on the arrangement was a lot of fun—after years of indirect collaboration with him on a number of pieces, it was great to work with him in person.”Neal AcreeRole: ComposerSelected Past Works: World of Warcraft series, StarCraft II, Diablo IIIOn being the king of cinematics and contributing in-game tracks as well“First of all, it was an absolute thrill to be involved in helping tell the continuing story musically through the cinematics. So many talented people put their hearts and souls into making them what they are, and getting to write music to that is a dream come true. What made it even more fun is that the story runs the gamut of emotions and stylistically asked for some very different things from I had done before. I felt a huge responsibility in taking on the cinematics, but it was ultimately a lot of fun and I'm really proud of the final result. Getting to work with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and choir was a thrill as always. They are some of the best musicians in the world, and I never get tired of recording there. I wouldn't say we did anything too wild with the orchestra but we did hire an extended low brass section for an absolutely massive sound. See if you can spot those moments in the soundtrack.As for in-game music, I had done a bunch for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, so I was familiar with the process, which is quite different than writing for the cinematics. Though I very much enjoy the process of writing to picture, writing without it can be a very freeing experience. Writing for the cinematics takes a lot longer because the music tends to evolve as the cinematic evolves due to the collaborative process. This can result in some really cool stuff that none of us had necessarily envisioned when we started out. In the case of Heart of the Swarm, Glenn wanted me to write some in-game music that would incorporate some of the stylistic and thematic DNA of the cinematics, which was a lot of fun. I got to blend a lot of orchestra with synthesizer and get really experimental, which is the most fun part for me—there’s definitely a lot of zerg-specific stuff in there.”On his exclusive audio sample[embed]251947:48211:0[/embed]“This is a standalone version of a theme written for Kerrigan and Raynor that underscores some of the cinematics in Heart of the Swarm. It's a slow-building piece that is somber and tragic with an epically heroic yearning... I hope that's not reading too much into it. It's not your typical love theme, but this isn't your typical love story. My inspiration for it was the story and the characters who have a lot going on beneath the surface. It was really cool to be able to write something like this for a game. It also features vocals by Laurie Ann Haus, who was a big part of the Kerrigan sound on both Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm.”Cris VelascoRole: ComposerSelected Past Works: God of War series, Darksiders, Borderlands series, Soul Calibur VOn being brought on to contribute to Heart of the Swarm and his love for StarCraft“StarCraft is one of my all-time favorite games. I cannot even begin to count the number of hours I put into the original one. A couple of friends and I used to pull all-nighters, just building our units up, and then having a massive 3-way battle that would ultimately crash the computers. So even though I didn't have a huge role this time around, I still consider it one of my favorite projects to work on simply because I couldn't believe how amazing it was to be writing music for this franchise."[embed]251947:48212:0[/embed]"Writing for the zerg let me be really experimental with my music. There was a definite dark slant to it, although not necessarily horror. I did some fun things like taking the sound of an insect, slowing it way down, pitching it down a few octaves, and then using it as a percussion bed. Another fun one was taking the sound of a heartbeat, reversing the sound, then lowering the pitch again and adding a touch of distortion. I used this sparingly as a percussive hit. These kinds of things felt in line with how creepy, weird, and insectoid the zerg are.”Evan T. Chen (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: Sound Design LeadSelected Past Works: Diablo III, Starhawk, Killzone 3, Dawn of the Dead, FuturamaOn the scale of StarCraft II’s sound design and the unsung heroes who undertake it“I'm just one of many sound designers on this project. The other members of the StarCraft audio team did all of the heavy-lifting with the support of the audio department at Blizzard and a myriad of other amazing talent. Here's a sound design montage that offers a glimpse of our collective work, which includes contributions from sound designers Jonas Laster, Ed Cerrato, Pedro Seminario, JP Walton, Paul Menichini, and Alex Ephraim.[embed]251947:48213:0[/embed]I'm relatively new to Blizzard and started on the project fairly late in the game, so a big challenge was acclimating to this new environment in a way that respected the legacy of Blizzard, the StarCraft series, the aesthetic precedence of Wings of Liberty, and what had already been created for Heart of the Swarm... while simultaneously trying to chisel a unique and appropriate sonic thumbprint. Collaborating with the StarCraft development team in creating the soundscape was fantastic because they embraced our ideas and helped us achieve them—there are so many development team members not directly on the audio team that play crucial roles in what the player hears, including producers, programmers, data specialists, technical gurus, and—naturally—all of the artists and animators.One memorable moment involved a request to have a visual for the Medivac's new ability, Ignite Afterburners, added to complement the sound of them turning on. I made the case that the audio by itself was too disconnected and might easily be misunderstood during gameplay without some sort of associated visual. This was extremely late in the development, so every possible addition needed to carefully considered, but I heard back later that my argument helped pushed the case for this late addition through. It just goes to show how everyone's instincts as a player are valued here, and that there are many ways to contribute outside of your immediate responsibilities.We also made lots of under-the-hood improvements in audio. There's better headroom and dynamic range now, meaning things can get louder when needed without distortion. We completely revamped the dialog-processing workflow. We also improved the automatic mixing parameters and did more scripted mixing in-mission, which all translates into being able to hear important things more clearly and distinctly. It used to be when certain objectives were completed in a mission, everything would often happen simultaneously: lots of things would explode, the Objective Complete stinger sound would play, other sounds would be ducked to make room for this stinger, new dialog would announce your next objective, music would change, you'd get an achievement alert. In extreme situations, this can be pretty incoherent. We did a lot more sequencing so things don't happen all at once but rather more serially for the sake of sound, to let the audio breathe and be more informative and emotionally satisfying.There were plenty of other sound-related challenges, too. We had several big boss fights, and we did some epic, bombastic sounds for those. We introduced a new physics system into the game, so designing a tasteful, uncluttered sound system for that was a challenge. There were nearly 100 non-prerendered, in-engine cinematics to edit and mix, and we strived to make them sound as good as the prerendered ones. We also made more use of the audio engine's DSP effects, so you'll hear a wider variety of reverb and real-time filtering in this game. We took more advantage of surround-sound speakers systems too, and those with the equipment will hear some specific spectacular moments in the LFE channel and the surrounds.As far as subtlety goes, some of the world ambient sounds are more detailed, layered, and peppered with perspective and depth, and in general, our philosophy was to make the sounds feel more 'in the world.' Finally, listen carefully to Swarm hordes—I won't give too much away, but suffice it to say, this is just the tip of the iceberg for this tech. There are also some great audio easter eggs to find, but you won't hear them—pun intended—from me!”
StarCraft II Music photo
Over 20 minutes of exclusive audio mixes included
Maybe you played StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Maybe you enjoyed the soundtrack disc that came packed in with the collector's edition, or perhaps you simply enjoyed it in-game. With this expansion focusing on the Zerg, I ...

Dreamhack Pikachu photo
Dreamhack Pikachu

Why you need to be watching the Dreamhack Open right now


Has Joe Buck ever dressed as a pink Pikachu?
Apr 26
// Patrick Hancock
The Dreamhack Open Stockholm is only two days and has already begun! As you can tell, the insanity is already in full swing, as commentators Apollo and Artosis are looking super professional. Ninety-six StarCraft II: Hea...
IPL photo
IPL

IGN Pro League tech and assets sold to Blizzard


So long, IPL
Apr 08
// Jordan Devore
Following the cancellation of the IGN Pro League 6 due to an inability "to commit the resources required to run another major independent event," a statement was released that read "You should also know th...
StarCraft II photo
StarCraft II

StarCraft II Kerrigan cosplay is out of this world


For the swarm!
Apr 04
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Pro cosplayer Tasha is at it again with another mind-blowing cosplay depicting the Queen of Blades from StarCraft II. I can't imagine how much work it took to make the whole costume, let alone the process even involved in trying to put it on. Tasha has a few more pictures of the outfit over on her Facebook. Check out our cosplay page for more amazing cosplay photos.
StarCraft April Fools photo
StarCraft April Fools

[April Fool's] The Warhound is back in StarCraft II!


All your workers are now Warhounds
Apr 01
// Patrick Hancock
Remember the Warhound unit from the beta of Heart of the Swarm? Originally planned as a replacement for the Thor, the Warhound was removed because they became a very strong focus of the competitive scene and were simply...
StarCraft turns 15 photo
StarCraft turns 15

StarCraft celebrates its 15th birthday today


Happy Quincea˝era!
Mar 31
// Patrick Hancock
Fifteen years ago today, on March 31, 1998, the original StarCraft launched on PC, setting in place a series of events that would lead up to the powerhouse it is now: gigantic competitive tournaments, gorgeous singleplay...
Heart of the Swarm photo
Heart of the Swarm

Heart of the Swarm sells more than 1.1M in two days


Another successful Blizzard expansion
Mar 21
// Brett Makedonski
Heart of the Swarm, the newest StarCraft II expansion, is capitalizing on the buzz surrounding its release. Blizzard announced that it sold more than 1.1 million copies in its first two days at retail. "We want to thank ...

Review: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Mar 19 // Aerox
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC)Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease: March 12, 2013MSRP: $39.99 Heart of the Swarm picks up right where Wings of Liberty left off -- Kerrigan has been saved and returned to a mostly-human form (shame about the hair), the Zerg threat has been diminished, and she and Raynor are free to run about curbstomping the Dominion. Or, that's the initial plan. Since Heart of the Swarm is, of course, about the Zerg, within an hour of starting the game Raynor promptly finds himself in trouble and Kerrigan once again takes control of the Swarm. This time around, the story focuses much more on Kerrigan herself -- while Raynor was the hero of Wings of Liberty, that game's story tended to focus more on the Terran army as a whole and the various mercenaries you dealt with. Heart of the Swarm shines the spotlight directly on Kerrigan. While Kerrigan can still control the Zerg, Raynor's artifact essentially restored her soul. The antagonism between Kerrigan and Arcturus Mengsk may seem like the central plot line, but in my opinion Heart of the Swarm is really about how Kerrigan comes to terms with what she did as the Queen of Blades, and the internal struggle she faces to cling to her newfound humanity as she slips deeper and deeper into the power of the Zerg. I found the story this time around to be far more engaging than the fairly standard war story of Wings of Liberty, and a huge part of that is because Heart of the Swarm feels more personal and intimate than the previous installment. When it comes to gameplay, the new missions in Heart of the Swarm don't deviate too much from the style seen in Wings of Liberty, but are unique enough that they don't come across as a simple rehash of Wings, just with the Zerg. The only real notable difference is the introduction of Kerrigan as a persistent hero unit, reminiscent of Warcraft III. In most missions Kerrigan is present on the battlefield and directly controllable, and she gets stronger and develops more powers as you level her up by completing mission objectives. Base building is still the focus of the game, but Kerrigan usually plays a major role in fights as her abilities tend to be profoundly useful. Much like Wings of Liberty, a majority of the missions generally focus on one or two types of units, and the mission is designed to teach you how to use that unit and its abilities. Sprinkled throughout the game, however, are missions that tend to focus on Kerrigan and her abilities, much like the first Zeratul mission back in Wings. I actually found these to be the most interesting, simply because of the variety they provided. My favorite mission involves Kerrigan essentially fighting three "boss monsters" as she moves through the map, with the fights feeling like a combination between playing a MOBA and battling a World of Warcraft raid boss. I like base building as much as the next StarCraft fan, but it's always nice to mix things up. As you progress through the single-player campaign, you have the opportunity to select minor and major evolutions for your units. Minor evolutions unlock as soon as you acquire the unit, and tend to be small stat boosts or a passive ability. Major evolutions see you decide between one of two new forms, and require you to complete a short "Evolution Mission" that shows you the abilities of each new form before making your selection. These missions naturally unlock as you progress through the story -- you no longer have to find out-of-the-way collectables scattered around the maps like you did in Wings. Instead,  optional mission objectives provide additional levels to Kerrigan. Multiplayer has remained essentially unchanged outside of balance tweaks and the introduction of a few new units, and it's still great if you're into competitive real time strategy games. Players who haven't hopped online since Wings of Liberty may be surprised to see how much the general skill level has risen, and can expect quite a few frustrating games if they jump into ranked, especially since this season just began and the matchmaking system is still sorting people where they belong. Don't be surprised if you run into highly skilled players in the lower tiers of play during these first few weeks. The multiplayer replay system has a couple new fun additions. You can now watch replays with your friends and, even better, pause a replay at any time and have you and your friends take control of the game at the point you paused. It's a solid tool for practicing matchups if you have friends willing to work with you, but I think the most interesting aspect will be the ability to download and mess around with pro-level tournament games, assuming they put replays up. Heart of the Swarm is a fantastic addition to the StarCraft series, and quite frankly feels on par with a $60 game. It brings almost nothing new to the table, but there's nothing wrong with sticking to a formula you know works well. If you enjoyed Wings of Liberty, or just like RTS games in general, there's no reason not to pick this one up.
StarCraft II: HOTS review photo
A solid middle entry for the series
It appears Blizzard's learned quite a bit from Diablo III's launch, as Heart of the Swarm was instantly playable on release with virtually no server problems -- a bit of a rarity, it seems, with recent PC releases. It's a goo...

StarCraft II launch times photo
StarCraft II launch times

Here are the international launch times for StarCraft II


Heart of the Swarm is nearly here
Mar 11
// Chris Carter
Blizzard is ready to launch the newest addition to the StarCraft II family, Heart of the Swarm, and of course millions of people will be itching to get on at the earliest possible moment. Look no further than Blizzard's offic...
New releases photo
New releases

New releases: God of War: Ascension keeps the faith


Plus Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Darkstalkers Resurrection, and more
Mar 11
// Fraser Brown
Another Monday rolls up, acting like it's the boss of the week, so that can only mean one thing: a week of new releases. I'll be saving my cash this week, not really seeing anything to interest me, but I may grab God of War:...
Starcraft II for $17.99 photo
Starcraft II for $17.99

Get Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty for $17.99 on Newegg


One last chance before Heart of the Swarm launches
Mar 11
// Chris Carter
Was Blizzard's recent sale not enough? Well, now Newegg has joined the fun, as they've started offering Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty for $17.99. All you have to do is go to the product page and enter the following code: STW311. Pretty soon, you'll be able to buy the new kinda sorta expansion Heart of the Swarm to augment your shiny new copy of Wings of Liberty. Starcraft II [Gamer Deals]
MLG Winter Championship photo
MLG Winter Championship

First MLG competition of the year begins next week


StarCraft II, League of Legends, and....Black Ops II?
Mar 06
// Patrick Hancock
MLG's Winter Championship will begin on March 15 and run until the 17, with $170,000 worth of prize money up for grabs. The featured games are StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, League of Legends, and Black Ops II. MLG sure is...
Starcraft II 50% off sale photo
Starcraft II 50% off sale

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is 50% off until March 12


Grab it now before Heart of the Swarm
Mar 04
// Chris Carter
While Blizzard gears up to launch StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm in about a week, you can gear up for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty now for 50% off on Blizzard's Store. Originally the game was dropped down to $39.99, and now, you can grab it for $19.99. As of this moment, this is only at the Blizzard Store. Save 50% [Battle.net]

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