Though we still don’t have a firm release date for StarCraft 2‘s first expansion, Heart of the Swarm, developer Blizzard wanted to give a brief update in order to give players a sense of how things are going. While Blizzard tends to deal in a lot of secrecy involving when their games might release – typically their motto has been “when it’s done we’ll release it” – this update from Lead Designer Dustin Browder makes it seem like we are the cusp of a release date being given.
Essentially Heart of the Swarm is 99% complete – all the new units are finished, the new storyline has been mapped out, and the missions are playable – but it still needs a ton of fine tuning and polish. It might sound a bit strange that a game like this is so close yet so far, but that’s part of the Blizzard experience.
Rather than let the players work out the kinks, Blizzard tends to play test and play test until literally every part of the game, even those units that are completely insubstantial, is balanced. And then, when competitive players find those loopholes, they jump back in and institute a new patch.
As Browder puts it, working on Heart of the Swarm can be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience, where one day everything looks perfect and the next there are dozens of items to be corrected. Many gamers out there might rather Blizzard just release the expansion, but, at this point, we wouldn’t expect anything less than a fine-tuned product.
“There’s something in for everything—it’s whether we like it or not that’s an open question,” he said. “It’s the tuning and polish that really takes us a long time, and that’s where we get into the unknowns…Like we could do a play-through next week that we’re like, ‘Wow this is really great.’ Or we could do a play-through and we still have 250 items we wanna fix. You know, historically speaking we’re doing pretty well. We’re getting there. But I don’t know for sure yet when we’ll be done.”
Hopefully, along with raking in a handsome chunk of change, Blizzard learned from their mistakes with the launch of Diablo 3, and will roll those lessons learned into the launch of this expansion. Obviously StarCraft 2 isn’t meant to be a wholly single player experience, but at the very least hopefully Blizzard will be prepared this time around.
Would you rather Blizzard just release StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and fine-tune that 1% percent later? Or is it part of a Blizzard product’s appeal that it was painstakingly polished several times over?