Ένας μήνας μας χωρίζει από το Starcraft II
H Blizzard προετοιμάζεται για ένα μεγάλο pre-launch event στην Seoul, την “πατρίδα” του Starcraft. Η τρέλα των Κορεάτων δεν έχει προηγούμενο αν κρίνουμε και από τις φωτογραφίες. Χαρακτηριστικά το IGN αναφέρει..It’s a pleasantly, and uncharacteristically, cool morning on the tip of the Korean summer, and we stand outside an aircraft hanger near Gimpo airport, quietly sipping an iced coffee and happy to be alive. It has become our theory, after a 40 minute cab ride, that Crazy Taxi was born after someone at Sega took a holiday in Seoul.
As a start to the day, this would prove to be appropriate. A taxi-ride with velocity comparable to a roller coaster at Everland (Korea’s foremost theme park) was foretelling in its threats to leave the ground. It’s something that we really should have seen coming – after all, the event is to be held in an aircraft hangar. We doubt it was chosen for its posh decor.
Hunches would be proven valid. Not moments after the doors were opened, and the Korean press poured through with scarcely restrained enthusiasm, did we notice a plane poorly hidden behind curtains backing the main presentation stage. Those who took the stage did their best to ignore it, but the surprise was well and truly anticipated by the time the cloth came down.
Let this not detract from the impression that was made. Before us stood a meaty 747 wrapped with in schmick StarCraft II skin. Apparently the largest aircraft wrapping project that Korean Air have ever undertaken, the plane would make its maiden flight to New York later that evening.
Other destinations are to follow. While there also exists a smaller aircraft for domestic flights, the beast in the hanger is expected to travel all around the world and may, after checking with a couple of representatives, even make a stop or two Down Under. There is no expected special usage – the plane will be on standard rotation in the Korean Air fleet for the coming six months.
StarCraft II’s Production Director, Chris Sigaty, would later joke that they should model the plane and insert it into the game as a replacement Terran Viking, but for the moment the focus was on partnership speeches. Speeches that quickly turned their focus to announcements of how the release of the game will be handled.
Although we still cling somewhat nostalgically to the notion of buying and owning a completed product, our senses of curiosity were nonetheless enticed by Blizzard’s plan for release in Korea.
While the full, unlimited game can be purchased for 69,000 won (about AU $69 / US $57 – we trust you can manage the math from here), a price that is a full 10,000 won over the average paid for a new console game in South Korea, piecemeal purchasing options will also be available. First up is the 9,900 won monthly pass, but there’s also a 24-hour deal, priced at a bite-sized 2,000 won. Although conceptually the worst value for the truly hardcore gamer, this represents a handy rental fee for those with limited time, or those who probably should get some work done instead of playing StarCraft II all day every day. The game exists on your hard drive, and is simply unlocked for a full day’s play when you allow it.
Of course, the beta is presently resting, although we can expect it back soon for a brief second phase. This next phase of the beta will take place in early July, and just in case we didn’t have reason enough to fear them already, Blizzard will be offering a guaranteed invite to all Korean players who register Battle.net accounts in appropriate time. This is on top of all the Korean PC Bangs that have been allowed to run the beta already and will no doubt also be running phase two.
It was, however, a devilishly clever World of Warcraft crossover that best got our attention. Although we confirmed after the event that this offer was specifically for the Korean audience – “a way of giving something back to such a supportive and skilled community of players,” as Chris Sigaty later put it – it is nonetheless conceptually interesting and may yet have impact on how other game releases are experimented with in the future.
The magical method itself? It’s actually quite simple – any Korean player who has an active World of Warcraft subscription will be able to play StarCraft II, free of charge, for the full length that their World of Warcraft account is active. Prior to this, we were unsure how Blizzard could possibly get any more subscribers to its MMO, but it seems the company may just have found a way.
As the event drew to a close, the press were treated to a dinner that might have been appropriately serenaded by a couple of violins, but was instead backed by some silverware-rattling audio coming from a professional StarCraft match that was being played on the presentation stage. Not surprisingly, the Korean guy won both games. We also had a chance to check out the game in 3D (kind of neat, but we don’t really feel that the effect is worth the cost of colour vibrancy in this particular case) and have a relaxed one-on-one interview with Chris Sigaty.