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Real Time Strategy (Games) PC Games (Games) The Almighty Buck Games

StarCraft II Cost $100 Million To Develop 414

UgLyPuNk writes with news of a report that Blizzard has spent over $100 million developing StarCraft II. Initial development on the game began in 2003, and it's due to be released on July 27th. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick "described StarCraft as one of the company’s seven 'pillars of opportunity' (where each pillar has the potential to deliver operating profit between $500 million and $1 billion over its life span)." The finalized system requirements for the game have been released, and players planning to buy the digitally distributed version can download it now, though it won't be playable until the 27th.
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StarCraft II Cost $100 Million To Develop

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  • by kyrio ( 1091003 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:26PM (#32943200) Homepage

    If the crackers find a way to play before the start date.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:38PM (#32943272) Journal
    It would be a surprise. DRM is hard because it means giving the user the locked box, and the key, and then trying to order their computer to pretend that the key only exists on every second tuesday.

    Conventional cryptography is very much up to the task of just giving the user the locked box, presumably with a dinky little stub program that will grab the decryption key when it is released.

    There have been attacks, or inside jobs, before, so the decryption key(or a few vital binaries, if they went with that approach, or used it to augment this one), could theoretically get leaked; but the task of giving somebody something on day X and only releasing it on day X+Y is theoretically unproblematic. You have to actively fuck it up.
  • Re:Lies. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by click2005 ( 921437 ) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:50PM (#32943366)

    I also call bullshit on the $100m figure. I bet there is a lot of 'Hollywood Accounting' going on there.
    I also wonder how much it would be without all the cut-scene filler they seem to enjoy spending a fortune on
    these days.

  • Re:Lies. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <evaned@gmail. c o m> on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:17PM (#32943548)

    You're off by an order of magnitude, but 120 developers on a title like SC2 is not hard to fathom at all for anyone who has sat through a big-budget VG credits screen recently.

  • Re:Lies. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:53PM (#32943774) Homepage

    Why not? Music execs are notoriously bad at picking the music that will succeed. Publishers are bad at picking up the books that will succeed. Quite often Hollywood wastes money on a big flop.

    As to games, remember Age of Conan?

    Blizzard appears to have a pretty good hit/miss ratio so far, but it's hard to say if it's luck, talent for seeing what will work, or just hordes of loyal fans.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:58PM (#32943800) Journal

    Of course, they might not be smart...

    Well, they (the game industry generally) better find a way to change the relationship attitude it has with its customers from the current one of open hostility, if it ever hopes to keep hackers from figuring out a way to break their DRM.

    Sony was doing a decent job with the PS3 until it recently removed support for third-party operating systems. That hostile act is sure to be met with hostility from the other side. While there were always scattered attempts to hack the PS3, it was never as widespread as the attempts (ultimately successful) on the Xbox360. After removing a feature after the fact that the PS3 had when customers bought them, they've unleashed a many more efforts to hack the box. Eventually, it will be successful (as it has been with every other console or game system).

    There's a real short-sightedness among most purveyors of digital products. It doesn't really do to treat your entire customer base like criminals if you rely on them for your survival, because it causes a lot of hostility with the one group you want to love you. Since PS3 sales have only recently become profitable, you would think Sony would be more concerned about their customer relations. All it would take is a couple of really killer games for the PC to set the Playstation back on its heels, and all it would take is a successful hack of Sony's DRM to change the game entirely.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:11PM (#32943884) Homepage Journal

    So, how is someone supposed to magically know if the GPU in his computer is better or worse than the GPUs listed for Starcraft II?

    Seriously, Apple has used so few GPUs since they switched to intel, the least Blizzard could do is list all of the supported ones.

    Where does the 9400M and the 320M fall in that list? The 320M is more powerful than the 9400M, so we can't even go by numbers alone. Stupid marketing departments with their crazy GPU names.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:19PM (#32943920) Homepage

    1. Wrap the whole stuff in AES.
    2. Release the key on release date.

    This is not the DRM problem of giving the locked box and the key, you simply don't give the key.

  • Re:Why an issue? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LaRainette ( 1739938 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:28PM (#32943960)
    That's an issue because Blizzard loses control.

    What blizzard realized was that a significant part of the games played on starcraft and war3 were played between people who know each other.
    It's far from being the majority but it's a significant amount.

    If you let these people play on Lan, they do not connect to, so:

    A. they are more independant and your power over their lessens.
    B. You can't feed them with your advertising.

    Ultimately I don't understand how this wasn't more stressed as an issue. I mean the RealID was a mess, complete PR failure and terrible idea, but this is much more relevant to the gaming part of the matter.
    Anyway Blizzard keeps on going that slippery slope they stepped on with WoW : good game bad practices.

    I suppose it's OK for now, but when you measure how much free made for their image and the success of their games you really don't get how they could let such stupid limitation alter this image !
  • Re:Lies. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by offerk ( 764276 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:55PM (#32944152) Journal

    As to games, remember Age of Conan?

    What's your point? For one thing, AoC is still around and kicking, including an upcoming expansion. As far as any of us knows, it may be a financial success by now, even if the player base has shrunk. For Another, AoC is a Funcom game, no relation of Blizzard/Activision. Which of course brings us to your next point...

    Blizzard appears to have a pretty good hit/miss ratio so far

    I think @gravos' sentiment, while badly worded, is correct. Blizzard seem to be really good at what they do and presumably the "cut-scene filler" will actually be something that helps sell the game. As for "pretty good hit/miss ratio", it's pretty darn fucking spectacular, calling it "pretty good" is just about the understatement of the year.

    but it's hard to say if it's luck, talent for seeing what will work, or just hordes of loyal fans.

    Luck is getting 1 hit game. Smash hit after smash hit implies something more. As for the "hordes of loyal fans", I guess you're implying that no matter what Blizzard does, the "loyal fans" will buy and cheer? Just look at the recent RealID on forums fiasco and outcry on the WoW Forums, fans were certainly not shy about letting Blizzard know it messed up there!

    So I don't buy it. I think Blizzard really are good at taking a concept and making a best seller game of it. I fully expect SC2 to both sell well and get good reviews (relative to the dated graphics it uses). My only personal complaint is that the game is expected to sell for I think $50 and will open only the Terran race in the single-player story mode, which means $150 for all 3 chapters and who-knows-how-long-to-wait for the next 2 chapters. To be honest, that's too steep for me, I'm going to sit and wait till prices come down and hopefully parts 2 and 3 are released.

  • Re:and still (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Degro ( 989442 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#32944226)
    Not couldn't afford... Did not want to include because then there wouldn't be a strong dependency on their servers. They can't have you and your buddies throwing LAN parties with only one legitimate copy of the game like the old days.
  • Re:and still (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:12PM (#32945744)

    Sure, if you have 4-6 people playing then maybe going over the Internet to is an okay (if lame) solution. What about a group of 20? 50? 200? Blizzard has repeatedly said they want Starcraft II to be a serious e-sport contender, both in Asia and in the US/Europe. During the beta, people trying to organize big LAN-style game sessions have noted that their plans completely fell apart when they discovered that limited the number of players per IP address to 12. This might have changed, but the fact that they instituted any limit should be telling.

    While I hate the lack of LAN mode, this isn't going to stop esports in any way. CounterStrike had many tournaments after moving to steam. This is the most direct parralel, as from what I've heard unless you're playing on ladder, all BNet does is match make for you -- All the data goes only to the other players.

    Even if they somehow managed to middleman themselves into every game, thats still more like QuakeLive, where there is no LAN support or even local servers available. They manage to do okay.

    I guess the even more apt comparison is WoW. As much of a joke as arenas are in the rest of the PC esports scene, there are plenty of WoW arena lan tourneys and they all seem to run fine, they just need blizzards support to launch an arena tourney server.

    I'm guessing thats what Blizz wants to do with sc2 - Wedge themself into any major lan event and get their cut of the pie. This fits perfectly with all the drama going down over game rights with Kespa in korea

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:42PM (#32946296) Journal
    The main reason that I would suspect a distinct pre-release cryptographic mechanism is that such have been seen before(I believe some Steam titles have used them) and that they are so utterly trivial yet so functionally unbreakable.

    You would simply take the release installer, and encrypt a copy with a key known only to you(and probably stored on a securely-locked-away air-gapped medium, to prevent leaks.

    Add a little stub program that does nothing but check your website for the key, decrypt the installer binary, and start the installation.(Because a key doesn't need to be all that long in order to be functionally unbreakable, it is even practical for those without web access to type a suitably encoded version of the key in manually).

    Absolutely no "innovating" needed. Basically any encryption method that isn't declared "deprecated" will work, and implementations of most of them are available under pretty much any license you want. The total implementation time will be a few hours for a competent programmer(and it need not be a competent programmer who has any knowledge of the project, this is quite a generic thing), possibly a man-day or two if the decrypter needs QA on 15 different Windows localizations and some attractive splash-screen art. And yet, despite the ease of implementation, even three letter agencies won't be able to get to it until you release the decryption key.

    Aside from the fact that it is easy and robust, the main reason to use a separate system for the "release date control" vs. whatever DRM is used post-release, is that market research suggests that the financial damage of having your DRM cracked tapers off fairly rapidly post-release. Having would-be early adopters downloading pre-release cracked copies instead of buying $150 "platinum packs" with a couple of useless trinkets is financially painful. Having cheapskates a year from now picking up off the Pirate Bay rather than Ebay is virtually irrelevant. In between, the value falls over time, fast at first, and gradually tapering off.

    If the installer binary is encrypted, would-be DRM-hackers don't even get to look at the DRM until release day(whereas, if you depended on the release-DRM, they would have the extra 10 days of hacking done before the game is even supposed to be released). This means that the chance of a pre-release pirate version(barring a penetration of your systems by hackers or inside guys) will be impossible, and the time-to-working-crack will be 10 days longer than it otherwise would be...
  • by kyrio ( 1091003 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @08:55AM (#32949608) Homepage

    Aren't college students the least likely to ever purchase the game if given the choice? Isn't it the college students who have access to huge bandwidth net connections? You're either an old man stuck in the past or just completely clueless.

  • by ifrag ( 984323 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @09:22AM (#32949934)

    The nice thing about LAN gaming with friends is that you're all generally around the same skill level and have a chance of beating each other.

    Hmm, interesting, that has not been my experience at all. Perhaps the problem comes from dragging players who are far more biased toward FPS or RPG into playing an RTS. Not that has been doing any better in that regard lately, but I've found it to generally be impossible to balance teams completely on LAN play.

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