by Andy Patrizio
Almost three years after it launched “StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty,” Blizzard Entertainment introduced its first expansion, “Heart of the Swarm.” Where the first game was centered around Jim Raynor, the human hero of the first game, and required players to play the Terran race, this expansion is focused entirely on playing Zerg and through the eyes of Sarah Kerrigan, a.k.a. the Queen of Blades.
Kerrigan was a human with special psychic powers that was captured by the insect-like Zerg and made into their queen. The end of WoL saw Raynor, who was close to Kerrigan, defeat the Zerg and return her to her human form.
In more ways than one, Kerrigan’s transformation and return mirrors that of 7 of 9 on “Star Trek: Voyager,” right down to the skin tight body suit. They even got a sci-fi babe to voice her: Tricia Helfer, who played Cylon Number Six in “Battlestar Galactica.”
Blizzard’s launch was worldwide, moving through timezones. However, the game itself was not playable until 12 pm midnight on March 12. The final launch party was in the Irvine Spectrum Mall, a mall not far from Blizzard’s headquarters. The Game Stop in the mall stayed open until midnight for those who wanted to grab the game and go, or you could get in a mile-long line to get your box autographed by the team who created the game.
With a giant ferris wheel as a backdrop, Blizzard built a stage for a few one-on-one games between professional players (all of them Korean, big surprise). The night’s events were hosted by Mike “Husky” Lamond and Sean “Day 9” Plott, two commentators/hosts who have a full time job just hosting live StarCraft events.
Yes, this game has an entire industry around it on par with the NFL. Husky has more than 700,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel where he talks StarCraft all the time.
Throughout the night, the two hosts called out lottery ticket winners, but an amazing number weren’t there. Every person who entered the stage area was given a ticket and a chance to win, but Husky and Day 9 were calling out one winner after another who would never get their free video card or Asus laptop.
In between games, Blizzard played trailers from the game at ear-splitting volume. There were a few personal appearances ? CEO Mike Morhaime chief among them, and voice actors Robert Clotworthy (Raynor) and James Harper (Emperor Arcturus Mengsk). Sadly, no Tricia Helfer.
There was some cosplaying but not a lot. Given how cold it was, I’m not surprised. But fantasy games tend to attract more cosplayers than sci-fi games, even one as popular as StarCraft 2.