Another day, another PR crisis for Blizzard as a very rough early version of the final cinematic of Starcraft 2.5 has been leaked online. The source of the leak seems to be The Third Floor, a video production company Blizzard contracts out some portions of their cinematic work to. This leak, coming so soon after the (alleged) leak of their upcoming game release schedule, must have heads spinning (or rolling) in Irvine.

    As for the leaked video itself, I’m not going to embed it since we get enough complaints from Blizzard PR as it is. If you want to watch it check out the video at IncGamers; other sources are getting C&D’ed as fast as Blizzard legal can send out the emails, it’s all over the blogosphere now so a quick search should satisfy.

    Click through some more discussion of the plots of Starcraft and Starcraft II, as well as Diablo III storytelling and general fan dissatisfaction. Spoilers (about SC2) follow…

    Starcraft Game Plots

    You can read concise plot summaries for Starcraft, Brood War, and Starcraft II (part one) on their respective wikipedia pages.

    SPOILER TIME—This new cinematic is presumably the final movie for SC2 part 2, Heart of the Swarm. Here’s a quick summary:

    The leaked cinematic shows a zerg’ed up Kerrigan attacking Emperor Arcturus Mengsk and destroying a bunch of his Terran protectors. Naturally she stops to look and chat before attacking him, and he counters her by clicking a button to deliver a shock to her neck (as a flashback reveals, this is made possible by an implant placed her neck years before).  Kerrigan collapses in agony, but naturally Mengsk takes the time to monologue and taunt her, which leaves enough time for Jim Raynor to silently sneak up (in a giant metal mech suit) and grab him from behind. The recovered Kerrigan then hops up and kills Mengsk, and gives a little speech about how now the Zerg are truly free.

    I haven’t played SC2 and have no plans to do so, so I have no opinion on the plot of the game or of this leaked cinematic. From what I’ve seen in some of the angrier player comments, most fans consider this a cheesy, Hollywood-style happy ending that betrays everything that came before it in the Starcraft story to the point that true fans are virtually considering SC2 de-canonoized. (And if you can’t trust the furious opinions of anonymous gaming website commenters, who can you trust?) This comes after months of similarly negative comments about the story in the first chapter of SC2, again helpfully provided by anonymous gaming website readers.

    So how about it, SC players? Is the story of SC2 any good? Can anyone defend it without being a Blizzard fanboy who has no ability to critically evaluate the company’s work? Can anyone critique it without being a Blizzard hater who sees only faults and flaws? And does the quality (or lack thereof) of SC2’s story reflect at all on Diablo III?

    Diablo III Plot Indications

    Blizzard has revealed very little of D3’s story; we know only the basic state of the world when the game begins, the general setting of each act, and a bit about the backgrounds of the various classes. It’s therefore impossible to sensibly critique Diablo III’s story or plot, but we’ll give it a try anyway. Can the “story” presented in the three class introductory cinematics be considered? Perhaps not; the DiabloWikiCinematic:Wizard, DiabloWikiCinematic:Monk, and DiabloWikiCinematic: Demon Hunter don’t show any game plot; they just introduce the characters in very broad terms. The DiabloWikiWizard is shown as overconfident and brash to the point that an NPC doesn’t like her. The DiabloWikiMonk is strong and silent and devoted to killing demons, and the DiabloWikiDemon Hunter is fearless with her crossbows and always looking to recruit new DH’s from demonic massacre survivors, even if they’re whiny.

    The events in those cinematics are just condensed, visual versions of the character info presented on their class pages; they say nothing more about the game plot. There has been some dismay over the brain-dead cheesiness of the dialogue in the Demon Hunter cinematic, and disparaging references to dialogue/acting of similar quality in the numerous SC2 cut scenes. But since D3’s story is going to be relayed as D2’s was; through in-game lore, quests, and pre-rendered cinematics shown after each act, that’s not a worry. Or is it?

    Does Blizzard’s apparent trend towards overly-broad characters, melodrama, and corny, comic book style bad guys and theatrical endings concern you? Or do you love the archetypal pure heroes, hissable, dastardly villains, noble sacrifices for the greater good, and all the simplistic, un-nuanced, Hollywood style storytelling, and think it’s just fine that Blizzard seems to be embracing it more with each game? After all, their games are about the gameplay and replayability; the whole point with Diablo III’s plot, as DiabloWikiLeonard Boyarsky has often stressed, is to present it in a way that players can “opt in” or not. It’s there but we don’t need to pay any attention to it, and it has to be portrayed in a way that it doesn’t detract or distract from the gameplay experience.

    Here’s the recent Demon Hunter Cinematic, which features “acting” and dialogue many fans find delicious on sliced baguette with a nice glass of Gewurztraminer.


    Edit: Fixed the SC movie summary per reader comments. Thanks, guys.

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