StarCraft II is the award-winning real time strategy game created by Blizzard as a sequel to StarCraft. The first part of StarCraft II, called Wings of Liberty, was released on July 27, 2010, and sold over 1 million copies on its first day. After two days, it had sold 1.5 million copies, making it the fastest-selling strategy game of all time.
There will be two expansions to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. The first will be called Heart of the Swarm, and will focus on the Zerg campaign. Blizzard has said that it will release approximately 18 months after Wings of Liberty, which suggests early 2012. The second will be called Legacy of the Void, and will focus on the Protoss campaign. Of course, Wings of Liberty is the Terran-focused part of the game.
StarCraft II features the return of the three species from the original game: Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. Blizzard states these are the only playable races in the game.' StarCraft II is also designed to focus more heavily on the multiplayer aspect, when compared to the original StarCraft. The changes include overall improvement in Battle.net, a new competitive "ladder" system for ranked games and new matchmaking mechanics—designed to "match-up" players of equal skill levels. In addition, the replay function, which allows players to record and review past games, is being improved. Blizzard has also stated they have made some changes to the game that were suggested by fans.
StarCraft II continues its predecessor's use of pre-rendered cinematic cut scenes to advance the plot while also improving the quality of in-game cut scenes within the levels themselves, which are rendered on-the-fly using the same game engine as the graphics in the game proper. Blizzard states that with the new graphics engine that StarCraft II uses to render the gameplay, they "can actually create in-game cut-scenes of near-cinematic quality". Most Protoss and Terran units, and some Zerg units, have been shown on the StarCraft II official website, and in several video demonstrations held by Blizzard. Improvements include advanced scenery allocation and more detailed space terrain, such as floating space platforms with planets and asteroids in the background. Small cliffs, extensions, and even advertising signs were also shown to have been improved and refined.
The single-player aspect of StarCraft II has also been altered substantially from the original game. The Terran campaign shown at BlizzCon 2007 replaced the original StarCraft briefing room with an interactive version of the battlecruiser Hyperion, with Jim Raynor, now a bitter and hard-drinking mercenary captain, as the central character. In a departure from previous Blizzard games, the campaign is non-linear, with Raynor taking jobs for money and using that money to buy additional units and upgrades. Although each playthrough will vary, the end result will remain consistent keeping the storyline linear. Vice president Rob Pardo has stressed that each campaign will function very differently. The Terran campaign, Wings of Liberty, will place players in a mercenary style campaign, as Terran rebel Jim Raynor performs missions for cash. The second release, the Zerg campaign Heart of the Swarm, will have RPG elements. The player will level up the Queen of Blades, Kerrigan, throughout the missions. In the last expansion, the Protoss campaign Legacy of the Void, the dark templar Zeratul will have to employ diplomacy between Protoss tribes to acquire units and technologies for each mission. Each campaign is expected to span 26-30 missions. Wings of Liberty has 29 playable campaign missions. Of this 29, only 26 are playable through a campaign playthrough since three missions are choice-related alternates. There is one secret mission named "Piercing the Shroud," which can be unlocked on the "Media Blitz" mission.
Lead Designer Dustin Browder has discussed with Shacknews some of the unique missions that are included in the Wings of Liberty campaign. In one level, lava floods the battlefield every five minutes, forcing the player to move their units to high ground or watch them get destroyed. In another mission, enemy units will only attack the player at night. The last mission Browder discussed was one where the player tries to influence the tide of an AI controlled battle with only a single unit, a Ghost. The single player missions will be highly customizable and are featured in the StarCraft II Community Zone. Between missions, players can choose units, buildings and upgrades that are not available in the multiplayer missions.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty features approximately the same number of units as the original game. Some units from the original game have returned, some featuring new upgrades and abilities. For example, the Protoss Zealot, a melee unit from the original game, now has the researchable ability to dash forward and quickly reach nearby enemies as a refinement of their speed upgrade from the original. Other units have been replaced or removed entirely.
Units in StarCraft II have new abilities, compared to the original, that encourage more complex interaction with the game environment. Among these are the inclusion of units that can traverse varying levels of terrain, or have the ability to teleport short distances. Some Protoss units can be warped into pylon-powered areas using the Warp Gate, a slight modification of an existing building called the Gateway. StarCraft IIs campaign also has exclusive units which are only playable in the campaign and not in the regular multiplayer mode, though they are available for custom maps. These mostly consist of units which have been scrapped from development such as the Terran Diamondback as well as various returning units from the original StarCraft such as the Terran Wraith and Vulture.
StarCraft II Marketplace
A major new addition to the map-making community is going to be the StarCraft II Marketplace where high quality maps will be sold for a small fee as "premium maps" over Battle.net. The mode of payment has not yet been announced. Dustin Browder has mentioned that even maps like player-created DotA (Defense of the Ancients) in Warcraft III would not meet the quality requirements to be branded as a premium map.
Starcraft II Editor
The StarCraft II Editor is StarCraft IIs campaign, map and mod editor which is included with all versions of the client (previously called Campaign Editor). It is more sophisticated than StarCrafts StarEdit and WarCraft IIIs World Editor for creating custom maps or campaigns and is the first editor by Blizzard to feature inbuilt mods creation and usage support. Updated art and data from the original StarCraft that were not used in the actual skirmish play along with models and data that were scrapped during the development process (including those made as April Fools jokes) will be available in the editor. Unlike previous editors made by Blizzard, it is the first to have internet connectivity features such as map publishing, retrieval and online activation of the editor client.
Chris Sigaty, Lead Producer, has also stated that the editor will give players the ability to create RPG, Hero-type units and structures resembling those from WarCraft III. At Blizzcon 2009, Blizzard demonstrated a build of Starcraft II Editor showcasing its capabilities, such as the ability to customize the user interface to include features such as the Item system from Warcraft III. The final build has also included a third-person style perspective for missions.
Starcraft II Editor was available for the first time during the phase 1 beta testing of StarCraft II when it came with a patch. With the start of phase 2, the editor was updated.
Blizzard has also changed the way that custom maps are distributed. Rather than hosting games using local map files, users now create and join games using maps that have been published (uploaded) to Battle.net. Users publishing maps or mods to Battle.net are limited to a total of 20MB of storage divided between five files at most, with no file being larger than 10MB. Though the Starcraft II Editor offers much more than original StarCraft Editor in terms of gameplay customization, there are concerns that the publishing limitations of Battle.net will not allow for large-scale custom maps or extensive map availability unless there is an external map publishing tool.