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Tue, Oct 25 2011 2:00:16 UTC

The making of Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

This weekend, Blizzard hosted an hour long panel talking about the creation of their next Starcraft 2 game, Heart of the Swarm. On the panel was several designers and artists working at Blizzard, and they went over some of the technology and art used in the game, and how everything came together.

First, they were quick to say that this is still a work in progress, with the release date being only next year. The concept behind units is very fluid, with designers coming up with ideas for new units all the time, and the art team has to make concept art of the various possibilities. Then, the models are made and tested in the engine. This is an example of a Zerg unit, from concept to 3D model:

Sometimes, they create much more involved concept art, depending on how precise their initial ideas are. Here's a Terran unit:

Even though these units are fairly small in the game, they spend a lot of time making sure all the details fit well with the other units, and they look cool from close up.

The environment in Heart of the Swarm also received an overhaul. Since this expansion has more technological, metallic grounds, work was done to add reflective tiles so that the ground looks better. Almost all assets are brand new for this release. The worlds also have very distinctive color palettes, with different background elements.

Every element, every piece of rock was sculpted before being brought down to a low poly model. The advantage is that the highlight and shadows can be baked into each model without losing any detail.

The panel also spent time showing some of the early builds of the game, where they started with some Starcraft 1 units, and a very basic UI, in order to create the engine, and then slowly built the game over the course of several years.

The engine for Heart of the Swarm also has new features over Wings of Liberty, such as a better renderer and a brand new physics system. Now units are more dynamic, and they heavily use the physics engine to create realistic effects. Modders will also be able to use this physics engine as part of their mods.

The rest of the panel talked about Blizzard DOTA, where the idea was to transition from armies and units, to individual heroes. They took concepts from all previous Blizzard games to create DOTA, and made brand new models and mechanics based on them.

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