Starcraft 2 is perhaps the most anticipated PC release of the year.
The title's open beta is well underway - and proving hugely popular, pulling in both old and new fans of the franchise.
With a release finally confirmed for July, we caught up with the game's lead designer at Blizzard, Chris Sigarty, to ask him all about the game's development - and its imminent launch...
How has the Starcraft 2 beta gone for you so far?
It's gone fantastically so far. We've had a lot of great feedback from fans. We've also had a lot of specific feedback mixed in about what to do with particular races, how this one or that one has a particular weakness.
One of the things we try to ensure is that we know where that feedback is coming from: Is this a newer player who isn't as a good or a very skilled player. And then we also compare that with data we see on our side - who's really won and lost, what their skill level is etc.
Between the two things we can tip the balance in the way we want it. We're actually pretty happy with where we are. We've been pretty surprised about how balanced it is at this point, but there's still a lot to do. We'll be doing patches almost very week to get us to the point we want to be before launch.
How's has Battlenet 2.0 held up through the beta process?
Battlenet is actually running really well. The system has been really stable. It's much more of a content system for us than what we had previously. Rolling out patches and all that is all-new on this system - and we've worked through the complexities of sorting out bugs our end in the pipeline. My feeling on Battlenet right now is that it's very difficult to communicate to the end user how cool it will be at launch because it's centred on P2P right now and just matchmaking.
My biggest concern is that people are using the beta as a demo - and it's really not representative of what will be the final Starcraft 2. It's representative of the P2P aspect of the game. We changed the matchmaker a few weeks ago and now it's much more accurate.
Any chance you may bring LAN support coming to Starcraft 2?
No. We've made the choice at this point that we're not including LAN. The biggest part of this is when you look back, we changed the feel of Starcraft 2 around getting away from Battlenet being this place you go up to do the hardcore gaming and that you're always connected to.
The experience is shared as much as you want with friends - but those things are tracked as you do it and we felt like staying connected is a part of that, so that's been our main driving force. You don't have to worry about going and clicking the scary Battlenet button to go do that and login. As a part of that, we feel like LAN is not necessary feature.
It's been 12 years since Brood War. What's been the main reason for such a big gap since we've seen a standalone Starcraft release?
The biggest factor in that is Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft. This team has a lot of the original veterans that actually worked on the original Starcraft, but when we shipped Starcraft and then Brood War, it's not like we at that point said, "We're doing a Starcraft 2". We had in the back of our mind, "Some day we should probably do that," but this gap period went on to Warcraft 3.
Then of course World of Warcraft came up in the middle, that was a massive undertaking and it affected the company in many ways as well. So after Warcraft 3 we made the decision that we were going to do Starcraft 2.