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Like many of you, I was glued to my browser refresh button this past May to see if the new game Blizzard Entertainment was hinting at was the long awaited sequel to StarCraft. I've spent the days, weeks, and now months since then going over the movies and seeing some of the new Protoss and Terran units. Like you, I reacted to the initial product announcement with excitement and I have been reacting to the news that has slowly leaked out of Blizzard's headquarters. We all react to this type of news according to our character. As someone with an interest in observing online communities, I have found it interesting to see how individuals in this community have reacted.

A mentor of mine told me once that I should never ask a question to which I am not prepared to hear - and deal with - the answer. We in the StarCraft community have waited a long time and have asked the question "what about StarCraft II?" repeatedly to the executives at Blizzard. Yet how many of us really asked ourselves if we were ready to hear Blizzard's answer to our question? I will admit, I did not and I am sure most of us did not. Still, we asked, and Blizzard is preparing their answer. Do we trust them?

We could easily still have a year or more yet to wait for StarCraft II. In that time, many decisions will be made, reversed, changed, updated, reconsidered and simply dropped, sometimes with community input and sometimes without. This is a time of great change for the StarCraft universe, and we need to come to terms with some realities as we play the waiting game and watch the development of StarCraft II unfold from afar.

Blizzard is going to do something with StarCraft II that you won't like. Every major revision of software has introduced or changed features some of their users don't like. Nearly every story with a sequel goes in a direction that not every fan appreciates. I personally didn't care for the way Brood War ended. In the end, it is Blizzard's story to tell; while I don't like the way the second installment of the story ends, it is still a fantastic story that I have returned to time and again.

Game makers face a two-fold problem when creating a sequel, especially a sequel to a game so widely played 10 years after its original release. The first problem is that they have all the difficulties of a massive software project. All the development, design, testing, debugging, and patching issues for any software application exists within the confines of a game project. The second problem is that game developers have many of the same issues as creating a major motion picture. Plot advancement, character development, continuity, and the big ending all exist within the confines of a game project. A slip up in any one of these issues can cause disaster for the product as a whole. This brings us to another big issue about StarCraft II.

The StarCraft II development team cares more about StarCraft II than you do. As a technology professional, when you take on a project like this, you are staking your professional reputation on your ability to not only ship the game, but to ship a game that is a worthy addition to a lucrative franchise. Blizzard's executive management knows the gold mine they are sitting on with StarCraft. Blow the sequel and the franchise dies. Every member of the development team knows they have to hit an out of the park home run on the first pitch with this game. Their professional careers depend on it and they wouldn't have it any other way. They get up daily and walk that tight rope to satisfy both the newcomers who are expecting the latest and greatest the RTS genre has to offer, and the old guard who want as little changed as possible. To get up every single day and put 60+ hours a week into developing this game that will quite literally make or break your career is an investment few of us are prepared to make. We have nothing on the line that even comes close to what they have invested in this game.

The development team wants StarCraft II to succeed just like we do. Sure, there is the financial side of things. The developers have mortgages and car payments to make like every other adult. However, they love the game as much as we do. You can see it when they talk publicly about StarCraft II. As a professional application developer, I know that you don't bring yourself to work for 60+ hours a week for a product you don't care about. You develop a personal attachment to your work in a way that rarely exists in other fields. Yet, they value our opinion highly enough to give it some influence on the development of their product. However, the reaction by some to this has been the most disappointing aspect of managing my wait for StarCraft II and probably the most hurtful to those who are developing the game. Too many have attached an "us vs. them" attitude to Blizzard's desire for input. Some talk about "rights" as though Blizzard owes us. The "add this to your signature if you agree" folks seem to choose bumper-sticker sloganeering over thought provoking and intelligent feedback. Some take it even further and take a confrontational approach, gloating when their least favorite unit, spell, or game mechanic gets the axe. This leads me to a point I've tried to make several times.

It is a mistake to equate a desire for input as a place on the development team. We do our community a huge disservice by equating a desire for community input into a seat at the development table. We actually damage our cause when we take it a step further and make impotent demands of the development team. I have it on good authority from people I trust that the development team does entertain our feedback. However, this does not mean that Blizzard wants to develop StarCraft II by consensus. I've worked on projects like that. They are infuriating for developers to work on, and rarely deliver results that anyone is particularly happy with. You always seem to anger about half your users with every decision that is made. Even open source projects have project leads that make final decisions that guide the project. If Blizzard placed as much importance on our opinions as some here have demanded, I doubt very highly you'd see too many people willing to work on StarCraft II, let alone buy the finished product. Again, they have to walk that fine line between valuing our input and relying on it too heavily.

Enthusiasm from users is something a developer can draw strength from. I've worked on projects where in relating new functionality, my client's eyes light up and their enthusiasm for my work makes me attack my work with renewed vigor. I'm sure the development team at Blizzard draws a great deal of strength from our enthusiasm. It is why a company like Blizzard makes their development staff available at events like BlizzCon. Conversely, skepticism can sap your energy at an incredible rate. Ingratitude for your efforts works even faster to demoralize you. Developing software on this scale is not just a labor of love, but a test of attrition. Our responses to the changes must be well reasoned and constructive lest we eliminate the desire of the developers to seek our input. The orthodox among us must understand that Blizzard is not releasing a second expansion to the original StarCraft, they are releasing a sequel. The newbies here from other games must likewise realize that there is an established history with this game and some of it must carry forward. We don't want "Warcraft III in space".

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Changes to the StarCraft experience are inevitable. How you deal with them in public reveals a great deal about your character. Would you say the things you say to Blizzard at their headquarters in the same way you express them here? We all enjoy a certain anonymity sniping from the shadows of the internet. While that provides Blizzard with a certain amount of candor they might not otherwise get in a sit down meeting, the way many people choose to express their opinions here embarrasses themselves and those who have to represent our little community when Blizzard does come asking for our opinions.

It is rare that an entertainment company accepts input from their fans in the way Blizzard has chosen to with StarCraft II. They do so at great risk, knowing that genuine constructive criticism on the internet is a rather rare commodity. Our input is valuable to them to keep StarCraft II feeling like the original, but ultimately they want to flex their creative muscles and bring us new stuff as well as the familiar.

So how do we manage the wait until StarCraft II ships?

First of all, relax. The world isn't going to come to an end if StarCraft II flops. The gaming community will take note and move on. The gaming industry is pretty brutal like that. Blizzard Entertainment is not in the business of hiring game industry newbies either. They mostly hire veterans with some game industry experience. Even when they hire new talent, those people fill entry level positions, not positions with broad decision-making authority. These people know how brutal the industry can be and how the criticism, when at its best, can be harsh.

None of us are going to lose our jobs (in fact, many may keep them) or get kicked out of school if StarCraft II doesn't live up to our expectations. Even if Blizzard decides tomorrow to introduce Orcs as a playable fourth race in StarCraft II, take a deep breath, check the calendar to make sure it isn't April 1, and realize there is little you can do about it if Blizzard is set on that decision. The developers understand what is at stake here and they won't purposely set out to ruin this game. It would be ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

Second, be selective in what you choose to get upset over. Remember that your pent up rage will likely have little effect on the final release of StarCraft II. You waste your energy fuming about decisions that are by no means carved in stone yet. The community has some capital to spend in getting some changes made. Some of it has been spent and changes have been made due to community input. We need to be sure we're not wasting it on trivial matters when (at the time of writing) hardly any information has been released about one of the three races. Wasting your energy with excessive anger over this unit, that spell, or where the Firebat is produced means you'll be burned out by the time StarCraft II is released. You'll be too tired of StarCraft II to actually give the game a fair chance when it ships.Understand, I'm not recommending apathy. However, we must pace ourselves and attempt to reach the release date with an open mind and a lot of anticipation.

Third, remember who you are in the grand scheme of things. We all like to consider ourselves more important than we really are. In our world, we can all stand to spend some time to set the ego aside and reflect on who we really are as it relates to the development of StarCraft II. I have very strong opinions on how I'd like to see StarCraft II evolve and ultimately be shipped. I carefully relate my opinions and I even more carefully examine the thoughtful and logical responses to my opinions here in this community. I face those responses with an open mind and I've had my opinions changed on more than one occasion. The moment we consider ourselves the authority on all things StarCraft, and that becomes a reason why we shouldn't listen to others, is the moment we've let our ego get too big. If a decision doesn't go in the direction we'd like it to, we must remember that those decisions are not ours to make. Would I have a lot to talk about should the developers want to discuss StarCraft II directly with me? Yes. However, I keep in mind the same level of respect I'd use in a face to face meeting with the developers as I do communicating with the community here.

Trust is a difficult thing to have in strangers. Yet, Blizzard Entertainment at one point created the game we have come to love. StarCraft was 10 years old this year and Brood War will be 10 years old next year. This game is not only still played, but is played professionally around the world. StarCraft still ranks highly on game ranking charts. After all that, hasn't Blizzard earned the benefit of the doubt?

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Finally, remember that this is supposed to be an exciting time to be a StarCraft fan. We're a few months (hopefully) from finding out what Raynor, Zeratul, Artanis, and Kerrigan have been up to since we last heard from them. We're about to get a whole new StarCraft experience. Right now the potential of this new experience is fraught with fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Yet if we keep in mind that the people who want to bring us this game care about it as much - and more - than we do, we won't be as susceptible to succumbing to cynicism and anger over the choices they make. I'm not saying we should meet every announcement with sheer bliss. If you have a concern, express it. Let's talk about these concerns in a way that engages everyone. Let's talk about our thoughts regarding StarCraft II in a way that is open minded and allows our words and not our egos to do the talking. The developers are listening. We must make sure what we have to say is worth listening to.

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About the Author

Age: 33
Occupation: Web application developer and Adjunct Professor
Education: Bachelors Degree in Computer Science (Michigan Tech. University),Masters Degree in Information Technology (Capella University)
Family status: Married, two children (4 year old daughter, 4 month old son)
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Non-StarCraft related Hobbies: Firearms, self-defense, swimming, hockey, computers
Currently reading: Starship Troopers (again)
Currently playing: StarCraft single-player on my computer, and Guitar Hero III on my Wii

Playing StarCraft since: 1998
In the community since: 1998 - 2000 and 2007 to present
Favorite game (FPS): Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Favorite game (RTS): StarCraft
Favorite StarCraft Race: Protoss
Favorite StarCraft Unit: Archon
Favorite StarCraft Character: Artanis (I identify with him more than the others)

Favorite Comfort Food: a Krautdog from Yesterdog
Favorite Meal: Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings

I'm a typical family man. Working to earn a living for my wife and children. Playing when I get a chance. I've played a lot games over the years. It is these times when I feel the age difference acutely. I realize fully that I probably have ten years on the average poster. I've seen the progress of computer gaming from a quirky set of programmers at little companies to the corporate behemoths of today. I played Dune II in college and did my first tank push while I was supposed to be doing my Calculus homework (which explains why I'm a programmer and not an engineer). I played Command and Conquer with the other guys in my dorm by running coaxial cable through the hole in the wall the steam heat came through. I was introduced to StarCraft by a student of mine and it only took five minutes with the demo to get me in the car to buy the full version. Since then, StarCraft is the only game I've replaced in my game collection (twice, once to fix a scratched disk once to switch from PC to Mac). I find myself consistently replaying single-player campaigns, and playing online with a handful of close friends. I returned to the discussion boards around the time of the announcement of StarCraft II after a long hiatus to get married and start a family.

Editorial by Johnathan "wyseguy" Wyse
This is a StarCraft: Legacy guest article.

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