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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