Are three really better than one?

Well, I can safely say that no one saw this coming. At this year’s BlizzCon celebration, Blizzard revealed that the long-awaited StarCraft II is being broken up into three full-length games. The first, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, follows the Terrans, and will likely hit sometime early next year. Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void follow the Zerg and the Protoss, respectively, and will ship at roughly one-year intervals after WoL. Blizzard says owners of the first part will be able to play all factions in multiplayer, and the second and third parts are basically expansion packs, though it’s not yet certain whether they’ll be stand-alone or not. Each will feature new single-player content, including a unique meta-game, since the Terran model that has Jim Raynor cruising around the galaxy choosing missions wouldn’t suit the Zerg or the Protoss.

That part was a surprise. What’s not at all surprising is that StarCraft fans are up in arms. At first glance, it’s hard to blame them—this announcement is a huge change in the format from the original StarCraft, which contained separate campaigns for each of the three races that together told a full story. For a year we were led to believe the sequel would follow the same formula, but now Blizzard is saying that gamers will have to wait up to two years after the release of the first segment for the following segments, and then open their wallets two more times to reach the conclusion. (Blizzard hasn’t yet announced pricing on the second and third installments, but I think we’ll be lucky if it only charges $40 each.) It certainly seems like a money-grab scheme by a greedy developer.

But on closer inspection, it might not be a raw deal at all. The sheer volume of mission content Blizzard is promising is impressive. Each release will have 26-30 missions, which is a full helping of campaign for any game. By comparison, the original StarCraft featured 30 missions, and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 had 27. So, is there any question that Blizzard will be able to tell a full story in each release, with over-arching plot elements threaded throughout all three? Not in the least. In fact, it’s an opportunity to tell a more detailed story on a more epic scale than anything we’ve ever seen in an RTS. While it is the competitive nature of the multiplayer game that has given the original StarCraft such longevity, it was the story (combined with the excellent gameplay, of course) that made it such a huge hit among non-competitive (aka, the vast majority of) gamers. So from a content perspective, has Blizzard turned greedy and decided to give you less and charge more? No, I’d say not.

Wings of Liberty will allow Jim Raynor more missions at which to furrow his brow in angst

Actually, my concern is that we’ll be dealing with too much content from each race. One of the things I enjoyed the most about StarCraft was being able to play one side, and then a completely different one. Blizzard says that three to five of the 30-odd missions in Wings of Liberty will be an optional mini-campaign played as the Protoss leader Zeratul—hopefully, that will give us at least some of the variety that made StarCraft such a wild ride.

The best analogy for this situation is probably the Lord of the Rings movies. Fans weren’t pissed off at Peter Jackson for charging them three times the admission fee to see the entire saga—in fact, they would have been furious if he’d attempted to cram the whole thing into one film. Demanding that Blizzard whittle down its entire planned 80- to 90-mission story into 30, or even 40 missions could render an incredible story merely OK, and I for one would rather play the entire, unabridged version. As long as these missions live up to the vaunted Blizzard standard of quality, I’m looking forward to playing them as they come.

December 1, 2008

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  • RyanWilliams - December 6, 2008 4:43 p.m.

    Wait, what? Hasn't SC2 being split into three games been common knowledge for ages? I knew about this at least a couple of months ago. I can't recall when or where exactly I read it, but the info was definitely out there. :?
  • netlevi - December 3, 2008 4:07 p.m.

    I agree with sm7x, comparing this to LOTR is assinine. Who the hell plays Starcraft for the story? It's about them putting their PR department too far ahead of actual progress in development (and raping the masses for every penny they can extract). They don't have jack for Zerg and Protoss campaigns, so why not just release the Terran campaign in its own game? It'll be a $50 bone they can throw the idiot masses. They should have held off on their SC2 public relations campaign until the game development was at a reasonable point of completion.
  • Gavo - December 3, 2008 2:10 a.m.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Good-bye $150
  • Altered_Soul - December 2, 2008 10:31 p.m.

    Well, personally, I think it all ultimately comes down to how Blizzard cranks it out. If the content in the SP (Since MP has been guaranteed to be fully fleshed out), is significant enough for a purchase by itself, then I think it will be the equivalent of a great movie trilogy, as long as it concludes more alike A New Hope than The Empire Strikes Back. By that I mean it has a conclusive finale, but clearly not the end of the story arc. If the SP is lackluster and unengaging, then the community will lash out with the fervor of a thousand demons. Of course, that is true for any game, so I will keep being excited for a long-awaited sequel and of course judge the final product when it is indeed, final.
  • Howetzer - December 2, 2008 5:51 p.m.

    Ohmygosh! YES! First! - Sweet, I get to cross another off my "Bucket List" Yehaw. Ummm go Starcraft?
  • xigageshi - December 6, 2008 12:26 a.m.

    really? the LOTR movies are the second coming and don't you dare compare anything to it? *facepalm* fanboyisms aside, if you allow the assumption that blizzard produces games with great stories (a perfectly reasonable assumption, especially in the RTS genre) then its a matter of logic to deduce that the only thing better than ONE starcraft game by blizzard, would be THREE games. I for one am glad to find out that instead of making this one and that being it for another ten years, they're going to continue to make portions with greater frequency. this is blizzard, they love these games as much as we do, give them some credit, and stop being so negative.
  • Bigpapa360 - December 5, 2008 9:55 p.m.

    Seems like normal Blizzard. Blizzards most anticipated game + Sell it in 3 parts = 3xMoney Cheap bastards...
  • slapme7times - December 3, 2008 12:31 p.m.

    Starcraft 2 in 3 parts? ClusterF##%. If there is one serious flaw with every blizzard game I have ever played, it's that the units, spells, and abilities you earn while playing come in at a much slower pace than they should, forcing the player to play endless mission after mission with the same units. SC2 singleplayer is going to be exhausting and incredibly expensive, in the same way that grinding to level 70 in world of warcraft is exhausting. Sure, the gameplay will be great, but it's going to feel like 'thin... like butter spread over too much bread' - thanks for that, peter jackson. BTW, LOTRO trilogy was fucking awesome, Don't compare this bullshit from activision blizzard to LOTRO.
  • sniperscope - December 3, 2008 1:07 a.m.

    I actually agree with Mr. Stapleton, I would rather experience an amazing story over three games, than an okay story in one. I love Starcraft and will remain loyal no matter what.
  • netlevi - December 2, 2008 7:19 p.m.

    What a crock. This article was written like a Blizzard press release. I suppose Mr. Stapleton has to keep his contacts at Blizzard happy and spin this in a positive light. How many clowns are going to convince themselves that this is good news? Thanks for nothing Blizzard.
  • quiman12 - December 15, 2008 4:40 a.m.

    Has Blizzard ever let their fans down? No. Has Blizzard ever released anything that was less that extraordinary? No. So why are people upset? People are honestly complaining about the opportunity to play more Blizzard content? That is just silly. This is how immature gamers are. We refuse to put any faith into the most successful PC developer in history, the developer which has several times completely redefined what it means to game on the PC. Come on people. Get over yourselves.