The StarCraft II Custom Maps and Editor panel, new this year to BlizzCon, proved to be a treasure trove of information for aspiring mapmakers and anyone interested in the StarCraft II custom map scene. Lead Level Designer Matt Morris, Senior Level Designer Richard Khoo, Level Designer Jason Huck, Level Designer Matt Gotcher, and Data Specialist Justin Klinchuch discussed a variety of topics with the audience, including their design philosophy, mapmaking tips and suggestions, official custom map previews, and a critical look at the StarCraft II Editor.
Custom Map Philosophy
The panel kicked off with a breakdown of the design team’s approach to mapmaking into three clear steps:
1) Find the “fun factor.” No matter how intricate or perfectly coded your map is, if it isn’t fun, no one will want to play it. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get your map working as quickly as possible, holding off on final polish and fine-tuning until you know the map is truly fun to play. This can help you avoid a situation where you’ve invested countless hours into a single map, only to publish it and discover that your original vision was never truly realized.
2) Make sure the map is easy to learn. Ideally, players should be able to join your custom map for the first time and feel like they can compete right away. This doesn’t mean your map can’t be elegant or complex, but it should be accessible and intuitive, with gameplay elements that are clear and easy to pick up.
3) Actively seek and encourage feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or act on constructive criticism you receive.
The designers emphasized that, above all, the team’s goal in creating official custom maps is not to upstage player contributions, but to continually provide better, more robust tools for the mapmaking community. By using the StarCraft II Editor to produce official maps, the designers can identify ways to improve the process, making it easier for aspiring and veteran mapmakers to get their work published on Battle.net and maybe even create the next big thing.
All-New Blizzard Custom Maps: Left 2 Die, Aiur Chef, and Blizzard All Stars
The team then went on to discuss how their design approach is applied in practice, using three upcoming Blizzard-made custom maps as examples. They also gave audience members some insight into each map’s inspiration and the overall gameplay.
Left 2 Die
Left 2 Die offers a cooperative take on the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty campaign mission Outbreak (i.e. the mission where it was only safe to go out during the day), which received a lot of positive feedback from the community. Feeling that Outbreak created a dynamic, fun environment that encouraged coordination and promoted the importance of both offense and defense, the design team adapted this mission into a team-based mini-game that allows players to share tech trees, earn research points by destroying infested buildings during the day, and create elaborate ground defenses, all in the hopes of surviving through the night against hordes of slavering zerg zombies.
Players will get to wear the hat of zealot warrior chefs skilled in the arts of cooking and killing in this round-based mini-game. Every round of Aiur Chef will feature a theme ingredient, and players will need to fight (sometimes to the death) to collect components scattered around the map to make a variety of succulent meals. Each dish created using the theme ingredient will award points, and the player with most points at the end of all three rounds will be named Executor Chef, culinary guru of the entire Koprulu Sector.
The designers also shared the origin story for "Aiur Chef," noting that the inspiration for this particular custom map came while browsing through the unit list in the StarCraft II Editor. Upon discovering that there were a number of food objects available, the idea for a cooking-based mini-game where zealots skewered delicious treats on their psi-blades was born.
Blizzard All Stars
After seeing so many great player-made maps based on Aeon of Strife and Defense of the Ancients, the designers felt inspired to create their own adaptation of these legendary StarCraft and Warcraft III custom mods using updated graphics, customized character models, and epic new environments.
Blizzard All Stars will be a 5-vs.-5 mini-game with a chess-board theme, featuring three lanes, two bases, creep-based farming, and an emphasis on protecting key structures. Players will get to choose among 12 iconic heroes from the Blizzard universe, including superstars like Kerrigan, Sylvanas, Jim Raynor, and Muradin Bronzebeard, each with his or her own unique abilities and tactics.
It's important to note that all of these custom maps are still in their formative stages and do not yet have a release date. While BlizzCon attendees have a unique opportunity to check out early demos, these maps will continue to be tuned, polished, and possibly even augmented as the development process continues to ensure that they’re epic, balanced, and—most importantly—fun to play.
StarCraft II Editor
Next, the developers showcased several short videos demonstrating the variety of cool visual effects that are possible to create using Trigger and Data Editors to manipulate existing art assets, encouraging avid mapmakers to seek out similar ways to really make their maps shine.
Embodying the design team's appreciation of community feedback, the panelists then highlighted an upcoming addition to the StarCraft II Editor that was directly inspired by player discussion on the Custom Maps forum. In patch 1.2.0, the next major feature and balance patch for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, players will be able continually track the mouse position in triggers. A video demonstration of the new functionality in action and a final reminder to the audience that "Feedback Becomes Features" served as a transition into an open Q&A session.
But Wait, There's More...
For those attending BlizzCon this year or watching from home via the BlizzCon 2010 Virtual Ticket, we encourage you to check out tomorrow’s StarCraft II Art panel at 12:00 p.m. PT (pacific time) on the Development Stage to learn more about how our artists are taking custom game graphics to the next level.
Thanks for tuning in!