Posts Tagged starcraft

Jeremy Tollefson

When I first arrived at Caltech, I felt a little out of my element. I had met a few people when I came down to visit for the “prefrosh” weekend (determining which school to attend as a high school senior), but I didn’t know anyone at the first get-together for freshmen on campus after I found my room. I got some food at the BBQ, and looked for a place to sit. Jeremy, who had been standing in line with me, asked me if I wanted to sit down with him and a couple people he had met / known previously. Thus began our friendship, because it takes a great person to be open and inviting enough to ask a stranger to sit and share a meal (especially on a high-anxiety first day of college!)

Jeremy and I ended up rooming together our freshmen and (most of) sophomore years. We had some wacky adventures (getting kidnapped to go to Las Vegas for a weekend, prank wars with our friends in a different dorm, Starcraft battles and academic craziness), and we formed a strong strong bond. Like, ionic or something. He watched the movie Can’t Hardly Wait like 20 times in our dorm room while we did homework; I would play Ocarina of Time to an audience of him and sometimes Tim and Molly. Life was good. Tragically, Jeremy left and we didn’t see each other for a while, but since we have *true friendship powers* I still see him at PAX and on random occasions like a trip to Bend, OR!

I think the lesson I learned best from Jeremy was that I could be outgoing in a less than “all out” way and really develop socially. I used to be very introverted, and only with huge effort was I able to get over it for individual social situations. He’s awesome, and I’m more awesome for knowing him!

Tags: , , , ,

Issues with Choice

I just finished the single-player campaign of Starcraft 2 and it was totally sweet.  I think it was absurdly well-designed, and I certainly got a ton of enjoyment out of it.  The curious thing about it, however, was how differently I reacted to one of its interesting design decisions – choice in path – in the two cases where that design was encountered.  I wanted to talk about my experience, and then about what I think it means about game design.

SC2 is a real-time strategy game.  You build up a base and then use the units you built from that base to achieve objectives.  The most common objective – the one that nearly all multiplayer games use – is “kill every enemy.”  The single player campaign has more refined objectives, like “hold this location for N minutes” or “find all of the relics.”  There were about 20-30 missions in the single player campaign, but sometimes, when I started a mission, it would ask me to choose: did I want to do the mission in a way that helped this character, or in a way that helped that character?  They were kind of like moral choices, and kind of like cost/benefit choices.  They were definitely choices – I did not have the option to go back and do the other (maybe in my next playthrough!)

I did not like these choices.  To contrast, I *did* like the tech upgrade choices you make, in which every new level of technology offers two discrete things and you choose only one.  I think the major difference was that the primary content of the game is the content of the missions, and I was in a sense “losing” content when I chose not to do it.  Also, in the case of tech upgrades, I felt like I could decide which one I would like more and go with that – since the upgrade would affect my play experience, and I could imagine what my play experience would be like.  But in the case of the missions, I did not feel like I knew what the other mission would be like – not in any detailed way – so my choice was uninformed and I felt worse about it.

I think the takeaway lesson is that, although choices are good for gameplay (since they reduce mindspace, give player ownership and make decisions meaningful), it is important to be very careful about choices about your key game content.  In the case of SC2’s single player, the missions are clearly the “killing selling point” of the game.  Yes, it does increase replayability (more on that tomorrow) but it also frustrates when you show a person possible content and then lock it away.

Tags: , , , ,

Starcraft 2

Today, when I got home, there was a copy of Starcraft 2 waiting for me, delivered by the Amazon folk for release day.  Although I rushed off after work to go draft (gotta do research for the job, even in the off-hours, folks!), I was pretty excited to install it when I got home again.  I was in the Beta for a bit and enjoyed playing multiplayer, but for me, a major draw of Starcraft (and indeed all of Blizzard’s games) has always been the single-player campaign.

It’s interesting – more than any other game except Magic, Starcraft has captured my attention and kept me awake long nights for game sessions.  Blizzard produces a very high quality product, it’s true, but I feel like there’s something in the combination of the strategy of a real-time strategy/warfare game and the roleplaying elements involved in telling a story through campaign mode that really hooked me.  Plus, unlike Warcraft and the fantasy setting evoked there (and in competition with other fantasy – like board games and Magic), the science fiction setting is a big selling point for me.

I purchased the “battle chest” equivalent – the Collector’s Edition – and there’s some cool swag in here.  (I am all for giving Blizzard more of my money when able, given the amount of happiness they have given unto me over the years).  Once this bad boy is finished installing (and patching), I’ll probably see if I can restrict myself to an hour (or few?) of gameplay tonight!

Tags: , , ,