Blizzard has kept pretty mum about Legacy of the Void, the final installment in the StarCraft 2 saga. But plenty of new details have come out of BlizzCon 2014 on the new campaign.
Update: We had the opportunity to sit down with David Sum, Senior Game Designer on Legacy of the Void and run through a few of the new features and additions in more detail. The most notable feature that isn't covered in the original post is Archon Mode. This is a 2v2 multiplayer mode, where you and your partner are cooperatively controlling the same base, units, and resources.
Archon Mode allows you to really play to your talents, so base builders can focus on shoring up the defenses back at your base, while the more combat-oriented player can bring your forces to bear in battle. We even got to take it out for a spin in a couple of matches, and will admit that it feels like a wholly different experience. Coordination is key, as it is entirely too easy to divert a unit that your partner has issued orders to, or spend resources they were trying to utilize elsewhere. When you do cooperate well, though, it gets serious fast. Sum joked that they designed this mode so we can feel like pro players, who seem to effortlessly manage both base management and warfare simultaneously.
Outside of Archon Mode, Sum mentioned some of the changes to multiplayer that we can expect. The team decided that matches took a little too long to really get started, and it was too easy and effective to simply turtle up in your first or second base. To combat this, you'll eventually be starting with a full 12 worker units at the beginning of a MP match, instead of the current six. Additionally, the resources at each base location will be significantly reduced, so the nodes are exhausted more quickly, preventing too much turtling, and forcing faster and more aggressive expansion. The number of nodes will remain the same, but the resources per node will be cut drastically.
You can expect a multiplayer beta for Legacy of the Void sometime in 2015. In true Blizzard fashion, you can expect to get your hands on it when it's ready, and not a moment sooner.
Original story: Whether you like their stories or not, Blizzard has always put a lot of effort into the narrative for its games. The thought process for Legacy of the Void is no different, as the team tries to bring a compelling Protoss story to the final installment of StarCraft 2.
"There are a lot of story lines to wrap up," said James Waugh, lead writer for Legacy of the Void. "The Protoss need to reclaim their lost home world and we wanted to create an epic 'end times' scenario for players to stand against."
Waugh said several factors went into creating the story campaign for the Protoss. The race's key traits are that they are an ancient, noble psionic race, that are relatively small in number. But they have incredibly advanced technology and The Khala to sustain them. "We look at them as space samurai or space paladins," he said. "They have a deep sense of honor and a strict code of justice, right and wrong and a desire to enforce them."
The Khala, a sacred and mystical energy field that unifies the Protoss' every thought and emotion, has allowed Blizzard to play with themes like collectivism vs. individuality and trying to find a balance between the two. Those themes will certainly surface again in the game. The Protoss population has also been thinned considerably through eons of war. Unlike the Zerg, each Protoss is designed to be an army of one. So the idea was to give the player a small band of Protoss warriors to go out with their superior advanced technology against seemingly endless numbers in a bout of survival. "That's what we felt playing the Protoss was all about," Waugh said.
The campaign relies heavily on the behind-the-scenes story from Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm. The Protoss home world of Aiur has been destroyed by the Zerg, and the Templars became refugess among their Dark Templar brothers. Both factions have come together as the Daelaam on the Dark Templar world of Shakuras, but old tensions surface and unity became difficult. Artanis, the Protoss hero from Brood War, becomes the leader of the Daelaam, and is the focal point and player-driven hero in Legacy of the Void. Artanis plans to unite the factions by rallying them to rebuild Aiur.
Zeratul is back again, still raving about ancient prophecies and the return of an old evil known as Amon. He has been right all along and Artanis is forced to listen to him when Amon, the fallen xel'naga, returns to destroy the galaxy and remake it his way. Legacy of the Void tells the story of what happens when Amon's plan collides with Artanis' return to Aiur.
Waugh said the game starts with "an epic D-day invasion with the full might of the Golden Armada bearing down on the Zerg." But Amon corrupts the Protoss through the one thing that defines their culture the most, The Khala. From there, he launches his galactic assault with legions of hybrids. "Artanis and his small band of Protoss followers have to do the unthinkable and sever their nerve cords, cutting themselves off from The Khala's light," Waugh said. "They flee aboard an ancient ark vessel known as the Spear of Adun. The game will force the Protoss to abandon everything they know in order to preserve their civilization."
Jason Huck, lead level designer, went into a few of the missions that players will see. After the first few on Aiur, Artanis will move on to Korhal, where the Terrans are under attack by a new group called the Shadow Corps, under Amon's control. First mission is called Sky Shield, and it is aboard a space platform taken over by Shadow Corps and plummeting toward the surface of Korhal. It is a timed mission for the player to secure the platform to stabilize it for Raynor and the Terrans.
He also said the team is working on some new mechanics for a few missions, including the concept of moving your whole base to new resources instead of bringing the resources back to you. In a mission called Unleashed, players will be able to drive their base across the map using sliding platforms controllable through an interface at the top of the map. The mission takes place late in the game when the Protoss have unlocked their mightiest technologies, and are trying to find the Shadow Corps home world.
Allen Dilling, lead 3D artist on the game, also took time to discuss the aesthetics of how the maps were designed, showing several worlds that the player will visit throughout the campaign. In the first few missions on Aiur, the art team tried to give some of the majesty of the ancient culture. "It is the first time seeing players get to see a Protoss city and we wanted to make it majestic, while also showing the destruction brought by the Zerg," Dilling said.
Another mission is in the city of Augustgrad, which is slowly being rebuilt after the Zerg tore through it in Heart of the Swarm to get to Arcturus Mengsk. "It's been through hell," Dilling said, but added that the city has more character now, including a starport -- that will eventually be blown apart. "Anything they can do to make players relate more to the map is a win for us," he said.
He also showed the worlds of several of the Protoss factions. Shakuras, home of the Dark Templar, has sharper edges and a darker color palette than on Aiur. One map in particular shows a Shakuras temple with a much larger xel'naga temple at the center. It is designed as "holdout" map where the player must hold the center against a swarming enemy.
Slayn is the home world of the Tal'darim, the faction that worships Amon. Dilling showed one map complete with sacrificial pit, where the mission calls for the player to confront the leader of the Tal'darim and drive him back into the pit before he does the same to you. The colors are much darker and malevolent than Shakuras, with harsh and jagged aspects.
Finally, he showed off Cybros, the home space station for the Purifiers, an ancient robotic race created by the Protoss eons ago. The Purifiers had been forgotten, but Artanis will come to reactivate them so they will fight for the Protoss. The station has a cold, robotic look, with a more metallic color palette fitting the faction aboard it.
Justin Thavirat, lead 3D artist in charge of many of the Legacy of the Void cutscenes and character models, showed off some of the old and new characters. In the Spear of Adun introduction cutscene where the arkship is fleeing from Aiur, players see Artanis talking with Karax, a phasesmith in charge of many of the systems aboard the Spear of Adun. Thaviat also showed off Vorazun, matriarch of the Dark Templars who joins Artanis' cause, and Rohana, a female Protoss Preserver, who is so in tune with The Khala, she floats off the ground.
Finally, lead campaign designer Matt Morris talked about the philosophy behind the unit customization for the Protoss. "When creating customization, we ask ourselves 'What is the Fantasy?'" he said. In Wings of Liberty, the Terran fantasy was building a bigger, stronger army by choosing mission to earn credits. So that was Terran army customization. The Zerg fantasy was all about adapting to hostile environments, while picking mutations and evolutions to become a more efficient killing race. That became the Zerg army customization.
"For the Protoss fantasy, we asked ourselves 'How do you make the most technologically advanced race in the universe more powerful?' How do we customize these guys?" Morris said.
The answer was through Artanis' effort to find and unite these various Protoss factions, so for customization the player will be able to create units in one of three ways, based on the faction the unit came from. None will be more powerful than the other, but more a matter of how they engage the enemy on the battlefield. "So there will be three different types of Zealots, three different types of Stalkers and so on," he said. "You are choosing the best an most powerful attributes of the various factions to augment your new army."
Remember that when the Terrans first met the Protoss, the Protoss glassed the Chau Sara from orbit, killing everyone. It showed how strong and powerful the Protoss were. "We wanted to give the player that power in the campaign, and this is where the Spear of Adun arkship comes in," Morris said. "It is not just a ship where you just launch missions. It is a weapon you will be able to customize."
Inside the ship is the Solar Core, the heart and soul of the ship, which contains a synthetic star that has been dormant for some time. As the campaign progresses, many new systems will be brought online through the power of this synthetic star. Secondary mission objectives will award energy resources that will help power the star quicker. However, doing all secondary objectives and getting max energy still will not be enough to activate all of the Spear of Adun's weapons systems, so as Artanis, you will need to be selective on what you choose and how you use your energy in support of your troops.
To highlight that, Morris showed off the ship's Time Stop ability, which allowed a small group of Protoss zealots to wipe out a huge group of Terran Shadow Corps without taking a hit.
As the panel concluded, Morris teased a new game mode called Allied Commanders, which is an objective based co-op experience where players can pick a commander from their favorite race and unlock units and abilities in an "open-ended" progression system vs. the AI. He didn't offer any more details, but said more info would be coming in the near future.