BlizzCon 2016 DeepMind and StarCraft II Deep Learning Panel Transcript

This is a partial transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 StarCraft II DeepMind Panel. Unfortunately, for some reason, only 28 minutes were available in the Virtual Ticket VOD. The event was hosted by the following panelists:

  • Oriol Vinyals (research scientist, DeepMind)
  • Kevin Calderone (software engineer, StarCraft II)
  • Paul Keet (senior software engineer)
  • Tim Ewalds (DeepMind, software engineer)

StarCraft II and Deep Learning

Female Voice: Welcome to the DeepMind and StarCraft II Deep Learning panel.

Artosis: Hi, everyone. I’m Daniel Stemkoski, much better known as Artosis, and I am the world’s #1 StarCraft fan. I’ve been playing for 18 years now. I was a StarCraft I and StarCraft II pro gamer; and I haveve lived in Korea for over 8 years commentating it. I tell you this because… well this is the only way for me to explain how excited I am to be on this panel, to be asking these guys questions about DeepMind tackling StarCraft II.

I, like many of you, watched the Alpha Go match against Lee Sedol, and it was amazing to see a computer destroy the best player in the world and to see StarCraft chosen next, it just kind of validates my whole life. You know always knowing inside the reason why I’m just so bad at StarCraft is because it’s harder than chess and go. So I’m very excited about this, and without further ado I’d like to introduce the DeepMind research scientist Oriel Vinyals.

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BlizzCon 2016 StarCraft II: Foundation for the Future Panel Transcript

This is a full transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 StarCraft II: Foundation for the Future panel.

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Tim: Hey, everybody! Thanks for coming out. I hope you guys all just caught the opening ceremony where Google DeepMind announced that they’re going to be working on StarCraft II as their AI platform for research moving forward; but we’re not going to talk about that here today. We actually have a panel on that tomorrow morning on the main stage. We’re in talk about what’s going on in the game of StarCraft II. My name is Tim Tim I’m a production director for StarCraft II, and I’m here with some of the leads from Dev Team, and we’re going to talk about what’s coming up.

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So in 2016, we really changed the approach to how we developed StarCraft II. Apart from that, we had always saved up all of our work at least in these big box product launches, but in this last year we’ve been releasing our content as we complete it. We’ve had patches and new content, new features all throughout the year. So we’re going to keep that up in 2017. You guys are going to have a chance to hear a little bit about what we have in store. So I’m going to asking the Dev Team here some questions. We’re going to start off with Chris Reed, who we lovingly refer to as “crash” on the Dev Team. Chris is the lead UI designer.

So Chris in 2016, we had a whole bunch of big UI changes. Can you give us just some highlights?

Chris: Absolutely. Before I dive into that, I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone on the team who put all the effort into making these features come to life. It was a lot of work, very exciting; and I’m glad that everyone’s been enjoying what we’ve been working on. So in 2016, we touched on all the modes for campaign. We were able to do new user interfaces for all of the NOVA mission packs. For co-op missions, we supported not only custom mutators, masteries as well as mutators themselves, we also supported the launch of new commanders.

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For the ladder or multiplayer and we’re actually that the ladder revamp, as well as separate MMRs per race. That was another really cool feature we were excited to bring out. And then finally, just across the UI itself, we were able to touch upon emoticons or Emojis, as well as bring out the new feature for collections.

Tim: That is a lot of stuff. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s store for 2017.

Chris: Absolutely. I don’t want to spoil too much of a surprise, but not only are we getting focused on launching new features, we also want to start leveling up some of the existing features and make them better, clear, crisper, more polished. So we’ll be focused on things such as user generated content, as well as bringing in a new user experience, making that cleaner, nicer for new users coming in. We also want to work on bringing in new rewards, touching up rewards as well as making new things to fill up the collections. One of the last things that we want to touch on is the social atmosphere. I know some of you really are have some requests towards having the events brought back. So I’m talking to you guys. We’ll be touching on the social features and then finally we have a new feature that I’m really excited to talk about.

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War Chests

Tim: Alright. Well, so what is this new feature which you alluded?

Chris: It is the War Chest. So in Starcraft II, we’ll be launching the War Chest. What the War Chest is, it’s almost like a large bundle that you’ll be able to purchase into and when you buy this bundle, you’ll have content that’s given to you immediately such as rewards like skins, decals, the emoticons, things like that. Then as you progress through the season, you’ll be able to unlock new rewards that will go into your collection that you can use, such as skins. At the end of the season, another set of rewards will also be given to you just for participating.

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One of the coolest features about this War Chest, and what I’m most excited to talk about, is that the money that you used to spend on this, will go toward supporting global eSports initiatives. So if you’re really into eSports, and watching StarCraft on eSports, this is a way for you to participate in that.

Tim: That’s super exciting. And we are obviously all fans of StarCraft eSports. You mentioned the seasons. Are the seasons for the War Chest the same as multiplayer seasons or WCS seasons? What is a season for War Chest?

Chris: So a season for War Chest is not necessarily tied to the actual ladder itself, it’ll have its own seasons. We are going to correlate these two events from the WCS (another Global Initiative) so they will be tied to those type of events. However, it’s not tied to the ladder itself. I want to dive a little bit into actually how the War Chest functions.

It functions as a virtual treasure map. As you buy something (and disregard my wonderful wireframe so I know you love looking at my wireframes), but it’ll work as a virtual treasure map that you can then unlock more as you play. As you see the next few bars, you’ll be able to gain experience either playing multiplayer or co-op. And as you gain that experience, it will unlock a tier of rewards. As you continue to play, new tiers will unlock, you’ll get a new sets of rewards. There is going to be three rounds of rewards that you can unlock throughout a season. So it’s up to you to collect all those really cool rewards.

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Tim: Alright. So as a player, if I want to participate in a season of the War Chest, how do I do that?

Chris: So we’ll have announcements in the client and on the web, that will let you know when this is coming, or when this is live, and when you’ll be able to participate. You’ll simply be able to buy into it, just like you would any bundle, except this is going to be basically a special mega bundle, that you’ll be able to (then again) unlock all those different things.

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Again at the start, you’ll get a bunch of rewards just given to you for buying in, you’ll have time to unlock all those, and then at the very end you’ll get another bundle of rewards just for participating.

Tim: Very cool. You mentioned that this would benefit StarCraft II eSports. How does that work?

Chris: So this is one of the most exciting things for me, and I know exciting for the team as well. So a portion of the proceeds will go to Global eSports initiatives. We are still deciding how those funds will be separated and moved around, but we are really interested in making sure this goes on to support eSports throughout the future.

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Tim: So more details to come?

Chris: Definitely more details to come.

Tim: Alright. Valerie Watrous is the lead writer for StarCraft II. Valerie, is there anything we should know from a story perspective about the War Chest?

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Valerie: Yeah, the War Chest will feature a new digital comic series. The narrative is moving forward after the events of Nova Covert Ops. So we’ll get to see where the Terrans, the Zerg, and the Protoss are at. Right now, we’re going forward with a name: Shadow Wars for the comic series.

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Tim: Very cool. Let me jump to Alan. Alan led up the art team for the Legacy of the Void, and for all of the content that came after. What kind of content will players be able to unlock for War Chest?

Alan: Actually, there are more to the War Chest feature. First you have a lot of portraits (which everybody loves), lots of new decals (that show up around your base and your units). Actually, we are going to put in some 3D race consoles, actually game consoles. For instance, the Protoss might have like a purifier race for their console. An Alarak-theme going on, or more zergy different color schemes. My favorite though overall is the skins. So each race has unique skin based on factions. For example, the Tal’darim (the evil protoss faction), they are Amon followers, and evil and dark and bladed-armor, red crystals, very vile.

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For the Terrans, going back to Wings of Liberty, you actually have the mercenary factions and the more heavily advanced, more armored. Really cool stuff. The Zerg, going back to Heart of the Swarm, we have one of the strains that’s a lot more spikier from Zerus. We have some webbing, cool new carapace colors, and is overall more vicious. And we also recognize that readability is a huge part of the game whether you are a pro player or a casual player. We’re making sure we are not going kinda crazy and having some fun with the skins and not mess with the gameplay or the readability.

Tim: Alright. So what can you tell us about the when the War Chest will launch?

Alan: The first quarter of next year, so keep your eyes open.

Next: Nova Covert Ops

BlizzCon 2016 StarCraft II: Foundation of the Future Panel Transcript
War ChestNova Covert OpsNew Co-op CommanderArcadePanel Q&A

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BlizzCon In-Game Goodies: D.Va Announcer and Portrait!

Blizzard Entertainment will give a unique D.va clan logo portrait and 12 D.va announcer audio files to BlizzCon attendees and Virtual Ticket viewers.

The audio files will be available for purchase at the BlizzCon Shop soon, but the clan logo portrait will be available in Patch 3.7.

D.Va Announcer

D.Va is coming to StarCraft II!

We’re excited to reveal that the cache of StarCraft II’s in-game goodies, available for BlizzCon attendees and Virtual Ticket holders, will consist of a new D.Va announcer and portrait!

In the coming weeks, D.Va will join the cast of six other announcers we released with Patch 3.7—and she’s the first announcer whose origins lie outside the realm of StarCraft II lore! Although D.Va is known most recently for her activities within the Overwatch organization, her journey began in the StarCraft esports scene, where she became the #1 ranked player in the world at the age of 16. Her StarCraft experience makes her uniquely qualified to support you in-game!

As of Patch 3.7, portraits can now be shown in-game in place of a clan logo at your town hall, so there will be no shortage of ways to take advantage of these StarCraft II rewards. Everyone who attends BlizzCon 2016 or purchases a Virtual Ticket will unlock the D.Va announcer and her portrait! Check out our preview of some of her announcer lines below.

The D.Va announcer will be available for purchase at a later date, but her portrait is exclusively available to BlizzCon attendees and those watching from home via the Virtual Ticket. We’ll have more BlizzCon info coming soon, so stay tuned here and on our social channels on Facebook and Twitter!

 

NYCC 2016 – Timothy Zahn Signing Copies of StarCraft: Evolution

timothy-zahnComing to the New York Comic Con (NYCC2016)? On Friday, October 7th, 2016 (3:30PM) — Timothy Zahn will be at the Del Rey Booth 2108 signing copies of the upcoming STARCRAFT: EVOLUTION (slated to ship on November 8th).

I explored the NYCC today and saw the book. However, the flyer they provided me says they will have an excerpt book (sample). I’ll update when I get there whether they are giving the full book or the excerpt. Check us back Friday evening. I’ll post video and photos of the signing. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

 

Our NYCC 2016 Coverage

Glenn Rane
Timothy Zahn (StarCraft: Evolution)
World of Warcraft: The Official Cookbook
World of Warcraft: Traveler (Excerpt)
Christie Golden Signings: Warcraft: The Official Movie Novelization

 

Brian T. Kindregan joined Epic Games Studios

Brian T. Kindregan left Blizzard Entertainment some time ago early June. Today he announced he joined Epic Games Studio as a Narrative Director, last week. Brian worked at Blizzard Entertainment for 7 years. He was co-lead writer for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, and lead writer for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.

The only contribution he did for Diablo III (vanilla) was the writing of the followers: Enchantress, Scoundrel, and Templar.

We wish Brian the best, and thank him for his great contributions to our favorite video games.

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Starcraft II Coop: The Vermillion Problem

The UNN news anchor Donny Vermillion returns, and with him comes a new map for Starcraft Coop.

Based on the Wings of Liberty mission “The Devil’s Playground”, this mission sends you on the planet Viridium Prime to harvest so called “xenon crystals” before the planet explodes.

Lava Rising on Viridium Prime

Just like on Redstone III, lava will rise on a regular basis, forcing you to bring your ground forces to safety before the lava incinerates your units, and in turn disrubting your harvest of xenon crystals.

Lava Monser terrorizes terran citizens

Like with other coop missions, there is a bonus objective: In “The Vermillion Problem” you have to defeat a lava monster, which only appears when the lava level is high.

The Vermillion Problem | Viridium Prime


Visit the original article here to read in detail what Adam Levy, gamedesigner at Blizzard, can tell about the creation of this new coop map.

Legacy of the Void Patch 3.3: New Co-op Content and Features

Blizzard revealed today the coming features of the next Patch for Starcraft Legacy of the Void.

3.3 will introduce two things: Mutators and Mastery Levels.

Spice up your games with the weekly mutator challenges, including but not limited to sleeping workers, invisible armies, tornados, fast enemies and infested zombies assaulting your base.

To make these challanges worth playing, playing commanders beyond level 15 will contribute to the mastery levels, which will give you points to spend to strengthen your units and abilities across commanders.

Finally, there is one small unmentioned reveal: the next commander to join the battle is Abathur, the evolution master mind behind the swarm.