Polish Overwhelming: Heart Of Swarm 99 Percent Of Done

By Nathan Grayson on June 16th, 2012 at 7:30 pm.

See you soon. Maybe. Or, you know, whenever.

Under most circumstances, 99 percent is a milestone worthy of popped champagne corks and impromptu trips to Disney World. I mean, you’re basically done. Who cares if you cut a corner on the victory lap? As with every rule, however, this one has its exceptions. And in the whole of human history, Blizzard may well be the greatest. Observe.

“We are 99% done,” lead designer Dustin Browder told Kotaku, “but that last 1%’s a bitch. There’s something in for everything – it’s whether we like it or not that’s an open question. It’s the tuning and polish that really takes us a long time, and that’s where we get into the unknowns.”

“Like we could do a play-through next week that we’re like, ‘Wow this is really great.’ Or we could do a play-through and we still have 250 items we wanna fix. You know, historically speaking we’re doing pretty well. We’re getting there. But I don’t know for sure yet when we’ll be done.”

Most tellingly, an open (or even open-ish) beta’s not up and running yet, and Blizzard’s betas have a way of, well, being actual betas and not simply glorified demos. For instance, Diablo’s – while limited from a content standpoint – saw time extensions and overhauls/outright removals of series standbys. Meanwhile, some of Heart of the Swarm’s new units seem pretty ridiculous, so we’ll see what kind of fine tuning Blizzard deems necessary.

If I had to guess, I’d peg this one for late 2012 open beta and 2013 release – if only because Blizzard promised two launches this year, and Pandaria’s beta is already ongoing. But then, StarCraft’s proven me wrong in the past – for example, every single time I’ve ever thought I was even vaguely competent at it. So we shall see.

 

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108 Comments »

  1. Gap Gen says:

    Blizzard should probably stop monitoring its progress with a Windows install bar.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      You mean a Windows 98 modem download bar.

    • Bobka says:

      My thoughts also.

      If the last 1% is “a bitch”, it’s almost certainly more than just 1% of the work.

    • Koozer says:

      I concur. My first thought was “well, they need a better unit of measurement.”

    • Elevory says:

      I disagree. Blizzard is likely referring to the progress made in terms of the programming and the development of assets. While the fine-tuning might require months of observation, it’s a simple matter of changing some numbers in the game’s code- not hard.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Any sane approach to project management will allocate cost to those actions in the same way as it costs to create code and assets, since the point of project mangement is to measure progress in such a way that you can project it forward and estimate just how badly you’re going to miss your deadline and how much you have to cut out.

        Or if you’re Valve or 3D Realms or Blizzard which year’s E3 you might want to think of making a trailer for.

        • Nevard says:

          Any sane approach to business is also going to keep the management terms for the in-house teams and use more flowery dialogue for the public.
          Saying that they’re 99% done and just need to fiddle with things is a far better thing to say to your fans than that you are 60% done and the remaining 40% is all testing.

          This wasn’t said in a boardroom, this was said to the press.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, I was mainly being flippant. I know that bug hunting and tweaking can take longer than you think, and that project planning can be something of a black art.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well, they’ve copy and pasted Starcraft again, just doing cutscenes probably.

  2. mckertis says:

    It took me to read to the end of the post to realise it was about Starcraft, and not about some new Polish game. Do people still remember about the 3-parter ? More importantly, does anyone still care ?

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      Glad to know this particular failing of the English language, to bring to a shine and the nation state being spelt exactly the same, didn’t just trip me up.

    • Vorphalack says:

      CD Projekt Reds new steampunk title, ”The 99 Percent”, based loosely on a near future post economical collapse of western society?

      Tbh i’d be more interested in that than HotS.

  3. Discopanda says:

    When I saw “Polish Overwhelming” I was hoping we’d finally see the CD Projekt/Blizzard collaboration where Geralt has to fight off swarms of hungry zerglings and make difficult moral choices on whether to let the poor defenseless zerg drones live or die. But no :(

  4. Moraven says:

    Maybe they will release HotS after the first season of OSL playing SC2.

    Beta should be in the coming weeks, after they showed the latest unit changes last week at MLG.

  5. Bhazor says:

    Yeah the famous Blizzard polish.
    The kind that leaves mutliple glitches and balance issues that makes months of patching to fix or is it the kind that causes you to release a game that’s literally unplayable for a week with two major component’s missing.

    Theres a big difference between legendary and mythical.

    • Xzi says:

      *Applicable to WoW and everything afterward.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Yeah, I agree. There are too many companies spending a decade on making a competitive RTS capable of sustaining a large eSports scene.

      /s

      • Vorphalack says:

        Just because Blizzard have a monopoly here does not mean they are deserving of endless praise. They make mistakes just like any other group of humans.

        • Rawrian says:

          Point, but it’s not like they have a monopoly because other companies are forbidden from making RTS games.

          • Herbert_West says:

            e-sports, like everything gaming related is a popularity contest, not a competency contest.

            SC1 was a well polished, well-balanced game, there is little use in denying that. But after the initial 2-3 years of its e-sport fame, it carried on mostly by momentum, not because it was “the best”. Its the perhaps best twitch-rts, but its by no means at all the best RTS for matches longer than an hour. IMHO, TA still holds that, even today.

            SC1 is and was great, yes. But Blizzard do not deserve free passes because of that.

            This is something that gamers, as consumers, have to learn, along with a lot of other things. Having made one good game is no excuse for shoddy business practices, idiotic design decisions, and is no exemption stamp from criticism. Fanboyism is the WORST of consumer attitudes (I’m not accusing you, btw), even worse than non-stop unabashed and abrasive criticism.

          • Phantoon says:

            Right, but the monopoly isn’t there because of quality, either. I bought Starcraft 2 out of deluded nostalgia, hoping the custom maps would be as creative as its namesake predecessor.

            Instead, Blizzard told us “map tools would be out soon” and that they planned to monetize mods.

          • pkt-zer0 says:

            @Phantoon: I’m not sure it makes much sense to criticize Blizzard for the supposed lack of creativity in the community-made custom maps. They’ve been patching the editor constantly, and the upcoming Arcade is pretty spiffy (I just checked out Bomberbot, it’s very impressive). And again, it’s not like there are tons of companies out there outdoing them on this front.

            I never got the hatred against letting mapmakers put a price tag on their creations. For competitive maps, it doesn’t make much sense, sure, but I’d think it’d mostly be used to finance more ambitious custom maps with lots of custom content anyway. I doubt free content is going to go away even then.

          • Vorphalack says:

            It’s completely legitimate to criticise Blizzard for the lack of creativity in custom maps. It was Blizzard, after all who said ”everything you make in the SC2 map editor, we own”. On top of that, because Blizzard consider the editor content to be part of SC2, they are heavy handed with censoring (aka, deleting) any map content that could breach the PEGI rating. The EULA is actively driving away people with talent and creativity, all because Blizzard can’t stand the idea of not having full control over the next DotA.

      • John Connor says:

        eSports is the cancer destroying RTS.

    • Moraven says:

      The bane of being popular.

  6. Xzi says:

    Well given what their idea of “100%” done was with Diablo 3, I would expect that 99% done to ActiBlizzard means that they haven’t even started designing the models for the new units yet.

  7. caddyB says:

    Talking about today’s Euro2012 game then?

    • Limes says:

      I was in a state of shock for a few seconds thinking that RPS had commented on “Foot-to-ball” in an article.
      But no, it’s just the English language. Blehhh.

  8. elfbarf says:

    I could go for some kielbasa.

  9. Pliqu3011 says:

    How can you possibly call your game “99% done” if still needs months of polishing?
    Isn’t the polishing part of the process of making a game?

    Oh Blizzard, your mind works in strange ways…

    • Marinetastic says:

      They mean they could ship it if they wanted to, but they want to spend as much time as they can tweaking and balancing before letting players bitch and moan about that they nerfed their favourite unit

  10. dystopiansatire says:

    Listen. I don’t think any commenters complimented how well written that first paragraph was.

    But given that I can play online, and have nothing but indifference toward the “campaign,” I don’t really care when Swarm comes out. (Then again, I pretty much don’t care about anything till Torchlight 2 comes out.)

  11. Shooop says:

    Very soon they’ll be able to charge everyone for the second third of a game! How exciting.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      WoL had three times more content than most RTS games. I can’t wait to be charged for another third of Starcraft 2!

    • piratmonkey says:

      Yeah, how dare they make a full game complete with lengthy campaign and impressive multiplayer and then have the audacity to charge us for the next one!

      • Vorphalack says:

        ”Yeah, how dare they make a full game complete with lengthy campaign and impressive multiplayer and then have the audacity to divide it into 3 parts to milk the fan base!”

        Fixed.

        • fish99 says:

          Oh come on, Wings of Liberty has a long single player campaign with a ton of story content in it.

          • Vorphalack says:

            I finished the main campaign on brutal, will all bonus achievements, in under 12 hours on the first attempt. The whole game consists of about 27 very short, easy missions. I think it’s worth emphasising that roughly 1/3rd of that time was spent watching the awful dialogues on the Hyperion. It’s objectively not a lot of content, unless you are comparing it to the absolute worst examples of gaming, such as Homefront and CoD.

          • piratmonkey says:

            Well done you. I on the other found the campaign to be quite good and received at least $60 of enjoyment from WoL. I suppose we’re at an impasse SIR.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Personally I think we can draw a conclusion. If you have a reasonable amount of gaming experience, and like strong single player campaigns, Blizzard are no longer making games for you.

        • pkt-zer0 says:

          Okay, so where is this “complete” RTS with a campaign 90 well-designed missions, that SC2 is only a third of a game in comparison?

          • Vorphalack says:

            I find it adorable that you chose to fixate on the number of missions as opposed to their length or quality. If you want to see a story driven RTS campaign done right, see Warcraft 3. It’s 10 years old this year, but I still play it regularly.

          • pkt-zer0 says:

            “I find it adorable that you chose to fixate on the number of missions as opposed to their length or quality”
            “90 well-designed missions”

            I guess I should’ve added “of a decent length” to the end of that, despite that this should’ve been obvious from the context. Anyway, I don’t see how Warcraft 3 would be thrice as long/good as SC2. Roughly similar, possibly slightly better, I guess. I’m not seeing this massive gulf between the two that you claim to. Got any better examples?

          • NathanH says:

            Warcraft 3 is longer, but the missions aren’t as varied or exciting.

          • Vorphalack says:

            You have already admitted in this very thread that the SC2 story was crap. That should be the most obvious difference right there. Then you consider that Warcraft 3 was designed with a story progression in mind from the start, as apposed to WoL that had about 16 levels tacked on as padding. These levels are short, easy and forgettable, and contribute nothing to the main story arc. Warcraft 3 had about three times as much game play right out the gate. It DID have a smaller mission theme variation, but something SC2 could have badly done with was a few base vs base missions. You know, something that actually lets you build an army to micro as opposed to massing the new unlockable unit, following the linear path through the level, and winning in 10 minutes. And finally, as i’ve said before you can steamroll the entire WoL campaign in under 8 hours on brutal, while some of the WC3 levels are still nicely challenging to this day. Final level of the undead campaign, battle for mount hyjal, good times.

          • Werthead says:

            Tiberian Sun had 50 missions. TA: Kingdoms had more. No idea how many more as somewhere past 50 missions in I gave up on it. But those are the most I’ve ever encountered in an RTS.

        • Werthead says:

          Some of your other arguments – such as the individual length and quality of missions* – have merit, but your statement here suggests that Blizzard actually completed the entire game and then subsequently cut it in thirds for profit.

          Obviously this is not the case. If it was, Blizzard would have given us Heart of the Swarm at least a year ago and we’d now be talking about Legacy of the Void. For all of their faults, Blizzard are at least pouring a ton of considerable work and polish into each of the titles.

          * Several missions in SC1 and BW I recall taking 60-90 minutes to finish. I don’t think a single SC2 mission comes even close to that.

          • Vorphalack says:

            As far as I know there isn’t any hard proof outside Blizzard studios that WoL was designed as is from the start, or weather it was changed half way through development. All I have to go on is educated speculation, specifically around the really short main story arc, the ”non linear” structure of the missions, and the optional levels having no relevance to the main story. They feel like padding in a game that was supposed to have a campaign for each race from the start. On top of that, we know the announcement of the split came in only about a year before release. Not enough time to re-write and extend the main Terran plot line, but more than enough time to add some padding levels.

            Now I really think that HotS will be better than WoL because of the above. They have had a lot of time to properly plan the story and structure of the levels for this installment, so hopefully it wont feel like a big disjointed mess. I’m still predicting two negatives through, bad writing and no proper hard difficulty. They, more than anything, seem to be hallmarks of the new Blizzard.

          • Werthead says:

            SC2′s split was announced at the 2008 Blizzcon, only a year or so after the game was originally announced:

            http://uk.pc.ign.com/articles/918/918895p1.html

            And that’s almost two years before the game came out. So for the majority of the time we knew about the game’s existence, we also knew that it was going to be split in this manner. It wasn’t something sprung on us at the last minute.

            A question remains on pricing. Blizzard previously said that it was going to be expansion pack-priced (which by today’s terms probably means £25) but given it’s taken as long to develop as many full games, I wonder if they will be tempted to go full price on it.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      This comes up a lot, but I’ve found SC2 to be pretty great in the value-for-money department, it being a competitive multiplayer game that you can sink literally hundreds of hours into, with none of it being “padding”. Even if you only look at the SP side of things, there’s still a lengthy and replayable campaign (challenge achievements), and a powerful map editor (with the discovery part of that equation being considerably beefed up with the Arcade).

  12. Melf_Himself says:

    This is a non-story.

  13. Visualante says:

    They say in CG, the last few percent takes longer than the entire process. So under that assumption we could be waiting at least a year or two. Brad Shoemaker quoted someone from Blizzard at MLG Anaheim “we have a really good shot of hitting this year [2012]” so yeah.

  14. PodX140 says:

    I’m sorry, but just plain and simple, no. It’s not 1% remaining if you still have 6 months left to go. Also, polish wise, it’s flat out wrong. Blizzard patches stuff well, but on release? It’s the same as everyone else.

    Honestly, in my books, valve’s quality is far superior to blizzard quality. When a game is released, it’s released, and good luck finding bugs. Hell, I made it through portal 2 entirely without a single issue, and although I may just be lucky, I’ve heard similar from a lot of friends.

    Listen people. Starcraft was great, and so was diablo 1 and 2. I happily say that. But those days are gone, and people need to stop giving credit to those who don’t deserve it. Do we all say EA is fantastic for making/publishing the original command and conquers? No, because we all realize that that was westwood studios, and not EA. Similar with blizzard. It’s not the company, it was the people working there. And those people are gone, sadly.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      SC2 was good, and that’s recent enough. Better balance on release than SC1, also. And a campaign that’s not rubbish (…with a story that is rubbish, though, but whatever).

    • zaprowsdower says:

      Yes, all this reverence for Blizzard needs to stop. They’ve now shown that their primary concern is profit over game design. And before someone chimes in with “they’re a company so of course they are motivated by profit,” I’ll say that’s not the mark of a great game developer.

  15. jrodman says:

    To those thrashing on “1% of the work shouldn’t take longer than 1% of the time”, it’s common to speak of completeness with different metrics than time. For example, you might make a list of functionality a program has to provide, and be done with 9 of the 10 items. 90% done. But it’s often the case that finalizing everything into a shippable form takes a lot more than 10% of the TIME. This type of common counterintuitive situation is codifed in common wisdom as the 80/20 rule, which states that the last 20% of the project takes 80% of the time.

    So it’s not some kind of crazy paradox, or a windows progress bar (though I liked this one). It’s just a use of common project management lingo.

  16. Quizboy says:

    If it’s even half as polished as Diablo 3, it’ll be about an eighteenth as polished as a game actually ready for release!

  17. Hatsworth says:

    Just include cross region play from day 1 HotS, for Zerathul’s sake.

  18. Aatch says:

    I feel the need to stick my oar in as a developer and say that generally polishing software is the single hardest part.

    The (very) general process of software development is Plan -> Design -> Build -> Polish. Unfortunately, not be precognisant, developers may miss things during the plan+design phases that pop up during the build phase. Generally you don’t have the time to go and redesign the entire architecture, so you make a workaround or hack to deal with it. Often these workarounds can build up and manifest bugs. Generally you try to fix the bugs using other workarounds and hacks. The polish phase is where you go and implement further workarounds and hacks to get rid of the bugs that are pushed into the tight corners by the other workarounds. Just finding the damn things is nigh-impossible most of the time, and it can take weeks of testing to find these edge cases.

    Software is one of the most complex forms of engineering known, and games are some of the most complex pieces of software we produce day-to-day, this is why games are tested for so long, and the testing seems so mundane. “Run into this wall 150 times, report anything unusual”. “Do this thing that nobody will ever do, because somebody will do it”. And so on. People act as if bugs in games are some horrible sign of a lack of professionalism, but software is entirely unlike any other engineering. Imagine if somebody asked you to build a car that worked well on the open road, dirt tracks and off-road, that any given road might have lanes that are between 3-10 metres wide and the car should make efficient use of them in all those cases. That sometimes a road might not have certain features that you need and you need to deal with that too. There is a combinatorial explosion of possible parameters that can affect software.

    CPU – Including when it was made, any hardware-level fixes it might have, and any software fixes it might have
    GPU – Including the above and drivers
    Memory/RAM – How much, what speed, what make, any hardware level bugs that it might have
    Hard Drive – How large, how fast, How old, again any bugs in its software
    Motherboard – And any BIOS updates it has
    OS – Including what updates it has, and what language it is in.
    Other software installed – And how nicely they play with other programs

    With just two options for each of those categories, that is 128 possible hardware and software configurations that could possibly effect the execution of my software. Games also are much more sensitive to low-level anomalies due to the fact that they normally need to wring every last bit of performance from a machine.

    So in closing, no, 99% completed game is a horrible mess that you don’t want to play, 99.9% is beta, 99.95% is release.

  19. Stinkfinger75 says:

    I love that he turned 1% into a contraction.

  20. Neurotic says:

    Am I the only one who is thoroughly sick of the ‘Done when it’s done’ approach? That last Duke Nukem was okay, but by no means worth the wait. Diablo III – is it better for having taken 4 years since it was revealed in PCG, let alone the half-dozen years they were actually building it beforehand? Half Life 3? So very ‘done when it’s done’, it’ll likely never be done! No, I’ve had it. Someone needs to crack a big fucking whip on some of these self-indulgent devs. Sheesh.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      To be fair, Duke Nukem Forever suffered from delays that then meant the technology was dated leading to switching engines leading to even more delays and a vicious circle.

      The problem I had with DNF, was that they clearly were going about it the wrong way, assimilating the worst of the new “trends” in FPS and actually failing where retro FPS games were so strong! DN3D was an amazing game because of its open real-world setting and many many weapons + comedy. The comedy was still there but the weapons had severe limits and the game was far too linear. It wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be but still …

  21. The Sombrero Kid says:

    If I’m honest I don’t think Blizzard are very good at making games.

  22. RegisteredUser says:

    They’re probably busying putting a tiny little bit of 1% of always-on DRM on top.

    Since all the gaming-crack-over-DRM-principles people rushed to make D3 DRM a bestseller no reason not to.

    • Shooop says:

      Are you joking?

      That’s the first thing they worked on and finished! The actual game itself it applies to is what they’re trying to finish right now. Priorities man!

  23. Milky1985 says:

    I’m just a little worried that this 1% of work they are doing is making the single player always online :/

    Because its best for us consumers you understand, they would never do anything that wasn’t in our benefit!

  24. Metalhead9806 says:

    I’m one of those Rare people that enjoy playing SC & SC2 for the campaign and challenges.
    So I’m extremely excited for this expansion. Can’t wait to see how the story progresses.

  25. Demiath says:

    Sounds more like they are redefining what “99%” means. Unless they’re referencing the “90% done and then 90% left to do” iteration cliche (popularized by the artist formerly known as Cliffy B), and in that case they actually got 91% left to make…

  26. D-e-f- says:

    I hope the “polish overwhelming” leads to a quick victory for them so they can cash in their “glittering prizes” ;)
    Let’s just make up headlines from old Blizzard cheat codes :D

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I’m not sure if its hen or egg, but I knew power overwhelming from a protoss unit soundbyte/acknowledgement when clicking on it long enough(Archon?).
      You can find a wave sample of it if you google.

  27. Optimaximal says:

    Wasn’t it a Polish journo that spawned “…NOTHING COMPARED TO STARCRAFT 2″ meme?

  28. Suits says:

    Because Diablo 3 didn’t have any content cut from it upon release or anything.

  29. the_r says:

    http://xkcd.com/612/ :D. Gotta love xkcd.

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