I managed to get a good 15 minutes of time with Blizzard’s Global Manager for Community Develoment, Kevin Yu (aka “Karune”), to ask about Blizzard’s plans for StarCraft II in Singapore. Accompanying him was Associate Public Relations Manager Ryan Arbogast, who also contributed some tidbits. It was Kevin that did most of the talking though.
While I wasn’t able to get more information about the S$109 pricing for StarCraft II (“we have nothing further to announce”), there was plenty of very interesting information for competitive gamers.
First, is that there will be a dedicated Southeast Asia Battle.net server. Great news for those who are unhappy with the latency to either the US or Korea server currently available in the SC2 beta. The Southeast Asia server community will include Australia and New Zealand, making it more of an Oceanic server though. Unfortunately, you will only be able to play on the Southeast Asia server, which brings us to the next point…
Second, there will be regional ladders on Battle.net leading to a global finals at BlizzCon. At the end of each ladder season, the top Southeast Asia ladder players will compete against the top players from the other regions, with the finalists to be flown, at Blizzard’s expense, to BlizzCon. Hopefully, with Blizzard’s backing – and promised community events from SC2 distributors IAHGames – the SC2 standard game community in Singapore will continue to grow and sustain itself well into the future.
You can read the full interview transcript after the jump. It contains a lot more detail on the workings of the Southeast Asian Battle.net server and the Battle.net ladder/tournament system. And also some really interesting answers to random questions from our sister publication No Game No Talk’s Facebook page.
Wish I’d taken a photo of Kevin and Ryan for this post though… Silly me forgot all about it. Sigh.
Wei-Meng: I understand that IAHGames has announced that there will be a Battle.net server located in Southeast Asia. Can you tell us more about this?
Kevin: Having that server out here is really to make sure that the players have the best experience here. We looked at StarCraft and we looked at Brood War and we also looked at WarCraft III to find the kind of the issues that Southeast Asian players faced. And one of the biggest issues was latency, you know, connecting with other servers. So we thought, hey, lets build some servers out here and lets actually get players to have a better experience online. And also to be able to create a localized customer service here to be able to support the region better. We’re having an office out here, these are all the first steps to bring up the support level for Southeast Asian players.
So the servers will be here in Singapore itself?
I don’t think we’ve actually announced where the servers will be. But they’ll be in Southeast Asia.
Will the Southeast Asian Battle.net server be exclusive for those who purchase the Southeast Asian retail pack?
Yeah. We have to have the Southeast Asian game to play on the Southeast Asian server.
So, someone that buys a US copy of StarCraft II, they can’t play on these servers?
Yeah. On day one, they won’t be able to play on these servers. But it’s all a step-by-step process. Most Southeast Asian players will be playing with other Southeast Asian players and we want to make sure that game experience is the best possible. It doesn’t mean that later on, down the line, it’s out of the question to keep adding features to that. Again, let’s look at how the game does and let’s make sure first that the game is the best experience possible for our players. And from there on, let’s look at what the player demands are and what else the players want. We’ll actually keep adding (features) as we see what the players should have next.
Does this mean that those with the Southeast Asia retail packs can’t play on other gateways as well?
From day one, it’s only going to be on Southeast Asia. Again, we feel that will be the best online experience for those players. They will be playing with their friends in Southeast Asia and they will be able to play on servers that have the best latency for them. When you’re playing DotA, when you’re off by one second, it could be life or death for your hero. We all know how frustrating that is. That’s a terrible situation. That’s why we believe in making sure that the experience is good for a start. So again, it’s all a step-by-step process.
Just to get this clear, you’re saying that if we buy the Southeast Asia retail pack, we can only play on the Southeast Asia Battle.net gateway, at least at the beginning.
Lots of Singaporeans go overseas for studies and they bring their games with them. What happens if you buy the Southeast Asian StarCraft II and you bring it over to say, Australia or America? Can you still play on the Southeast Asian server?
Kevin: Yes, you’ll still play on the Southeast Asian server. But where you are affects your gameplay experience, with latency and so on. That’s why buying at whatever region you are at will still give you the best gameplay experience for that region.
Ryan: That being said, the Australian and New Zealand communities will be connected to the same community as in Singapore. So if they go to school in Australia, they’re not really changing anything.
So it’s more of an Oceania kind of thing than a Southeast Asian kind of thing?
Ryan: Yeah, we’re getting everybody on these same servers.
Which Asian countries are not included as part of the Southeast Asia server then?
Kevin: There’s going to be a separate Battle.net server for China. There’s going to be one for Korea. And I guess Taiwan.
Going back a bit, you mentioned DotA. Right now, for Singapore at least, competitive DotA is no longer played within Southeast Asia or even Asia. We have teams playing regularly with Europeans and North Americans. With the new region-based system in StarCraft II, you won’t be able to play with an international community from the beginning. Isn’t this bad for competitive gaming?
For StarCraft II, on the esports side, we’ll be able to take the top players from each regional ladder, and they’ll be able to play each other through Battle.net. Then we’ll take the top players of that and we’ll fly them out to BlizzCon for the finals. So there’s going to be opportunities for the top players to compete on a global level with other regions and this is something that we have plans to extend later on when we integrate the map marketplace. Again, its a step-by-step process. We want to get the game out in 12 years (after StarCraft: Brood War) and not 14! (laughs) That’s what we planned for StarCraft II proper and for esports. But when we add marketplace, we’re also going to add more functionality to be able to help competitive games for user-created maps as well.
So again, this is all the stuff down the line. You buy the product the first day, but it’s an evolving product. It continues to change. It continues to adapt and we’ll continue adding patches and addons. We always say we’ll continue to support the game as long as you’re playing the game. That’s something we want to keep continuing – especially in the Southeast Asian region, where we see lots of players are playing.
You talked about organizing ladders for each region. Will Blizzard be handling these events and the community support for these events?
Yes, we will have local people here in the Blizzard office that will be managing these local events, but a lot of it, the competitive games, will actually be automated within Battle.net itself. You can play these games, but of course there will be local events and community events in addition to those.
So basically, you join the ladder and it just goes runs on its own. At the end of a season, you get to play with the top ladder players from the other regions?
Exactly. There will be opportunities to mix with other regions for sure. So later on, the top players will always be able to find more top players. You don’t have to worry about, say, if you’re the top player in Southeast Asia, you don’t have nobody else left to play. Trust me, we’re going to throw them into the Korea region and then they can get some pretty good competition! We’ll find opportunities for them to be able to play outside of Southeast Asia.
I think it’s really exciting that you’re going to fly the top players from each region to participate in BlizzCon, because previously, well, nobody in Southeast Asia really got to go to BlizzCon as a tournament participant.
Yeah, it’s really exciting. I think it’s wonderful. We expect StarCraft II to change the landscape of competitive play from what StarCraft originally was. It offers a lot of opportunities for players to start at day one again. You know, instead of jumping in and there already being established top players – like right now, Korea has a stronghold of those top players. We’re starting from day one and everybody starts together. We’ll be able to see what every single region has, you know? But overall, I think the Koreans are going to be very strong. But it’s going to be a better start right?
I’ve seen what the Koreans are doing with the StarCraft II beta, so I’m quite scared myself, to be honest!
Ryan: But you don’t have to play with them, you’ll be ok, you’ll be safe!
Before we wrap up, I have a couple of interesting questions from my readers. One of them wants to know if the cheat codes for StarCraft II are going to be the same as the original StarCraft.
We’re going to have a lot of easter eggs with the game that includes cheat codes. And it’ll be fun for all of them to figure that out. Haha. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’ll be a lot of fun.
Talking about easter eggs, will you be continuing the tradition you’ve built up with World of Warcraft, by including a lot of pop culture references into StarCraft II?
Yes, definitely. One of the great things about our development team is that they actually share a lot of the same interests as the gamers that actually play the games. There are not a lot of people who make these games and then just go home and do something totally different. They’re all gamers at heart and they’re all Blizzard gamers. So, you can definitely expect a lot of pop culture references.
I’ve got another one from my readers. What cup size is Kerrigan?
Kevin: You’ll have to get an email answer for that, I’ll go home and ask her myself!
Ryan: Wow. I don’t know if anybody’s actually ever measured her before.
I think there’s a statue of her in the blizzard office right?
Ryan: Yah, yah. Next time you come by you can check her out.
Kevin: We’ll get you one of those tape measures!