Video Games Interview: Blizzard’s Kristopher Howl talks StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

In the days prior to BlizzCon 2015, we got to the chance to chat briefly with Kristopher Howl, senior level designer on Blizzard’s StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void about the game’s campaign, new units and the new modes that will make it easier than ever for new players to jump into the game’s notoriously competitive multiplayer.

The Iris: There’s a lot of Protoss players who are pumped to finally get their campaign pack. How did the team feel about finally getting dig into the Protoss race again?

Kris Howl: Pretty excited, I think! For myself, I’m a Protoss guy too so to get to tell their story and to really explore what makes up the Protoss campaign, is such a fun endeavour.

The Iris: Legacy will bring a story campaign 17 years in the telling to a close. Without spoiling anything, what can fans look forward to from the final chapter and how does that make you feel to know you’ve finally reached the end?

Kris: The thing they can expect is a really strong delivery on what the Protoss strategy is, what it’s like to be playing as the Heirarch of one of the Protoss factions, and it in the end they’ll be able to play through the epilogue, which really ties up the loose ends of the three races. For us, it’s an exciting time. As you say, this is a seventeen-year story in the making, which is pretty epic, and now we get to … going on from Legacy of the Void, we now get to explore some other avenues. At BlizzCon, we’ll be announcing exploration, for our mission packs starting with Nova. She’ll have her own little missions, a mission pack of around nine missions, telling a small story around Nova.

Starcraft 2 Legacy of the Void pre-purchase

The Iris: I was never very good at combat tactics in StarCraft, I usually focus on base building and then get wiped out. Can you tell us a bit about the new Archon Mode? In your experience, how does having two players controlling the same base and units affect the way the game is played?

Kris: I think, in my experience, it’s been pretty much what you hit on there. One player holding the base down while the other controls the micro and the army. And it is an excellent avenue to come into that multiplayer avenue. It’s great to find that mate who might be a little bit intimidated about jumping into 1v1, and just get them in there. It creates a really fun environment, and on top of that we also have our co-op game mode which is you and a mate against the AI in a campaign-like mission. So you have your mission objectives to come across and that’s again another great avenue for these new players to come in and experience StarCraft.

The Iris: Like any good expansion, Legacy of the Void has a bunch of new units. What can these do and how will they change player tactics?

Kris: Oh yeah, so we’ll be hitting multiplayer with two new units for each race. The Terrans will have the Liberator and the Cyclone, the Zerg will have Ravager and an old fan-favourite, the Lurker, and the Protoss have the Disrupter and the Adept. One of those, the Adept, is kind of a harassing unit, you get them to the middle line, you start attacking one point and you use its ability to teleport away. But when it teleports, it casts an image of itself and then that image, which is moving to a location, after a certain amount of time, the Adept will teleport to where its ghost has gone off to. But the player can cancel this as well, so it’s like, if you see that ghost is moving, you have to make the decision whether to chase that down or do I wait to see if it’s hanging around? It’s going to introduce some new thought processes for players to decipher on the fly and it’s really what StarCraft boils down to.

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The Iris: Each previous StarCraft 2 expansion has reset the metagame to a certain extent and takes a little while to rebalance itself after launch. How do you anticipate that rebalancing phase going with Legacy?

Kris: So that side of things I’m a little detached from, I’m more focused on the single player campaign. It’s an excellent question for the multiplayer guys and hopefully at BlizzCon there will be a panel that discusses some of the big changes coming to Void, and what they learned from the beta so if you tune into that, you’ll certainly pull some data from there.

The Iris: With two prior expansions under your belt, does it become a challenge to come up with new units and modes to include? Does the team ever have days where they wonder “what the hell else can we do now?”

Kris: I kind of wish there were those days, because the reality is we have so many ideas that we spend so much time asking “which ideas do we execute on?” “How can we do them to the Blizzard standard?” And its really that, its finding an idea and figuring out how we can best deliver that to the public. So yeah, a shortage of ideas isn’t something we deal with that often!

The Iris: The StarCraft Global Finals will kick off at Blizzcon tomorrow and we’re pretty pumped to see how it goes down. What does a competition like that mean to the team?

Kris: Yeah, it’s been amazing to be able to sit in the arena and watch these players push your game to new heights, push themselves to new heights. It’s just awe-inspiring. I walk away with goosebumps all over my body. It’s an incredible thing to experience, and just to see the fans’ reaction as well is probably the … it’s the cream on top of the cake, it’s the most amazing experience.

Our sincere thanks to Kris for taking the time to chat with us! StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is available now on PC, Mac and digitally via Battle.net. Keep an eye out for our full review this afternoon!

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David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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