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The panel began with a description of Blizzard’s art style, outlining Blizzard’s style as having epic ideas, bold shapes, crisp and colorful textures, and dynamic animations. The epic ideas are what makes units cool, making each unit interesting in its appearance and backstory. Bold shapes along with crisp textures are important to make each unit distinct and clear on-screen, and it’s important not to go overboard with details or else the RTS view of StarCraft makes everything look cluttered and busy. The animations are stylized and over-the-top, and the main point for the animators is to have fun with it.

With the art style direction in mind, the presentation moves to the new multiplayer units that are being planned for Heart of the Swarm. Things to note about the new units are that some are ideas that are being revisited, and some were initially concept art that the designers made concept work on the gameplay side.

The Zerg are getting two new units called the Viper and the Swarm Host. The Viper was born out of a desire for a cool snake-like animation for the Zerg, and the concept was put on hold before Wings of Liberty so that the appropriate technology could be developed. The unit is fleshed out now, and ready to be shipped out in HotS. The Swarm Host is a siege unit that has a unique silhouette that stands out from other units.

The Terran are getting three new units, one being a transformation of the Hellion. The Hellion itself is getting updated textures to go with its transformation, which turns it into a more durable, bipedal battle mech. A completely new unit that’s coming with HotS is the Warhound, which follows the principle of having a distinct silhouette that makes it pop out. It’s another bipedal battle mech, one about the size of a Thor. The last unit the Terran are adding to their arsenal is the Shredder, which looks like the old Spider Mine, but has a mobile mode and a burrowed mode. While in burrowed mode, they emit a damaging field whenever enemies are nearby.

The Protoss also have three new units, the Tempest, the Star Relic, and the Replicant. The Tempest is replacing the Carrier and the Mothership as the Protoss’ capital ship of choice, and has a splash damage attack. During its design it was changed from the Dark Templar green-silver theme to the traditional gold-blue theme. The Star Relic, a unit that was removed during the development of WoL, returns in a remodeled, retextured form as a flying harassment unit. The Replicant, the third new unit, can become a permanent copy of any unit it targets, the video example showing a group of Replicants turning into Siege Tanks. One thing the artists love about robotic units, such as the Shredder and the Replicant, is that they don’t need cockpits or technical details.

Environments in HotS were shown, including the Installation, Lava, Manmade Flying, and Ice tilesets. The Installation tileset was made to look cleaner than the other tilesets, and have a lot of reflective surfaces that make the environment feel like the inside of a high-tech facility. The Lava tileset was worked on to make oilrig-like structures emerging from the lava, with Terran structure models made to look durable and rooted to the ground. Small doodad models have been added to make the map more Terran-occupied along with the custom walls that have been implemented. The walls are customizable by mapmakers and modders, and are even pathable by some units. The Manmade Flying tileset is a new tileset, featuring floating bases filled with construction machines. Massive cannons in the background make the map look like a well-defended Terran base. The Ice tileset is coming after going through several iterations on ice. The artists eventually decided on a bluish tint for the environment, making white less predominant. Also, each doodad is handmade for each tileset, customized so that they are customized towards the unique details for each tileset.

Technology was also improved alongside the environments, such as development for shaders. The shaders in HotS are more versatile, allowing the look of new materials or substances in the game. The cliff models were made to be less modular so that they looked like one solid artwork, moving away from terrain, cliff, and environment assets looking like different elements. Something the Zerg players will love is the addition of creep crawling up buildings as it spreads, leaving pulsing purple veins on the structures of your Terran or Protoss foes. A new physics engine is coming, allowing a unit’s corpse to fly through the air upon death. In the realm of graphics settings, HotS will be further optimized so that the lowest graphics settings will look much better without giving up performance.

The last section of the panel is about Blizzard DotA. The artists wanted to shift the general StarCraft focus of “massive armies fighting massive armies” to a group of really polished hero characters fighting on a cyber “gaming world”. The backstory is that heroes are abducted from various locales to provide entertainment on this gaming planet. Throughout the design of minions, the artists decided to simply their models to really portray their mass-produced status. An addition they are planning for neutral minion camps is the Ogre King, a large enemy that can be killed for a large sum of gold for the entire team. The basic item shop is now run by goblins, and is called the Goblin Shop. “Lord Order” replaces the King Towers shown in previous versions, taking the place of the final objective that must be destroyed to win the game.

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