It’s no secret that the upcoming StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is looking pretty good, with an epic campaign trailer showing off character-intensive cutscenes and new combat mechanics galore. While StarCraft 2 may not push the graphical barriers that Battlefield 3 can, the graphics of the RTS involving hundreds of units at once are unquestionably good, and the fans can look forward to improvements in the next expansion.

An engine like that isn’t built in a day and during BlizzCon 2011 this weekend, the developers of the game took a few minutes to show the fans of the game how the long-awaited sequel looked during different stages of development. Over the course of 5 years, Blizzard went through 16,130 builds of the engine to arrive at the final product we saw at launch – and that’s simply a number you can’t scoff at.

Let’s take a look at Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 engine development, beginning in 2005:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvLsOF-c0_0

What’s simply astounding is what the developer says near the end: The graphics of the game were virtually completed early on, but it took over 3 years and an astounding 12,000 builds to work on optimization, bug fixes and balancing (read: polishing to perfection).

Blizzard knew that fans of series were used to the seemingly perfected balance in the original StarCraft, which was still the most popular game in Korea at the time. They took extra years of development time just to ensure that the game was as well-balanced as could possibly be. To this day, they still keep on pumping out balance updates at an impressive pace. It’s good to see such dedication, and it looks like the game has certainly fared well because of it on the e-sports scene.

While dragoons and firebats may no longer be multiplayer game material like they were in the old engines, it’s nice to see that at one point they were able to, uh, die in combat, before they were removed from newer versions. The removal of fan-favorite units was questioned at first, but new replacements arose to fill their shoes. Many of the current units and build times are expected to get some modifications to their stats in Heart of the Swarm to make adjustments for new StarCraft 2 units affecting build orders and combat mechanics.

The graphical aspect of the new expansion’s engine is also getting some improvements, with a big force-dependent physics upgrade. Units killed by a large force now literally fly back, and will fall down ramps and stairs when blown away if near that kind of environmental hazard – adding a dynamic of pandemonium in those hectic  Full Resource Army battles we all love. We probably don’t have to say it, but the difference between Build 1 of StarCraft 2 and the presumed Build 20,000 is only going to get more ridiculous.

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