StarCraft II: Evolution

Cate: Thank you very much, Greg. Now we come to the New York Times best selling author and Hugo-Award winner, Timothy Zahn. You might know him from his Star Wars novels. He also has his fans. He’s here today to talk to us about his new novel StarCraft: Evolution, which you can buy for the very first time here at BlizzCon. Hint, Hint.

Now Tim this is the first novel to come after the conclusion of the main StarCraft II storyline. So other than the story of Nova: Covert Ops, the world was wide open for you to play around with. How did you come up with the story for Evolution?


Timothy: I think it actually comes after Nova as well. Just Nova isn’t an all out yet. It was a joint effort of mid November last year. I was invited down here to talk to the Blizzard people. I spent an hour, or hour and a half, or something like that talking with the lore people trying to get a better feel for StarCraft than I had already; and then sat down with the various story people.


The first thought, the first idea they pitched was we’d like to do something with a planet that has suddenly revitalized from a burned out cinder to full of life, and full of plant life, and all of that again; and then we spent about two hours batting the idea around, working out the outline, working out the details, doing what I call/other people call consequence testing.

Okay, this is what we’re doing, what are the consequences? and are they as what we want in the book, or are those what we’re going to lead to dead ends, or contradictions, or something else?

So we spent about two hours doing that, and then for various reasons — that was a Monday, I couldn’t fly back home till Thursday. So I went back to the hotel Tuesday, I wrote out two or three thousand word outline, sent it back to Blizzard.

I think 4:30 on Tuesday, we had another meeting set for Wednesday just in case we needed to talk about other things. By that time, everybody had read the outline, we did a few little tweaks to it. Okay, we’d like this instead of that. Okay, no problem. That will change this. Okay, it will work.

Flew back home, had a new outline redone by I think Friday, and the middle of the following week we went off on a three week signing tour to Brazil. So fortunately, it took them a little while to approve the outline, but by the mid Brazil I was able to start writing it, and we had an end of February deadline wound up in about a week early just before we left for London.

Cate: Alright. Now Evolution features several iconic well-known characters from the game: Valerian Mengsk, Zagara, Abathur, Artanis, Matt Horner. These are characters that the fans know and love already, and you had to take them, and make them recognizable; but also give them your own signature. What was your process for that?


Timothy: Well, just to make it clear, Matt Horner is mentioned, but he’s apparently gone — is what I was told, so… but who knows. Like many places, people gone doesn’t mean they can’t come back someday. It was always tricky to write somebody else’s characters especially from a different medium. In StarCraft the game you get to see what Valerian says, and what he does; but you don’t get into his mind. You don’t have that internal monologue of this is what he’s thinking, this is how he’s working through the logic, or whatever.

So it was a matter of looking at their history: Valerian and the others, looking at the history, looking at the current situation. We are at peace, but we are still hurting. How are people going to be behaving, how are they going to react to each other, Valerian is now emperor, he has got a lot of responsibilities, how do you balance those with “Okay, we want peace. A war would be devastating; but we can’t afford to be blindsided either so how do we balance this, how do we figure out what’s going on?

The book is along with the combat sort of thing from StarCraft. It is also a puzzle story. Okay, this is a situation, How did it get here? Who is responsible? Is somebody playing us? Who is being honest? Who is being conniving? Etc.

Fortunately, because of the storyline, instead of having to focus all of my attention on the iconic characters, I got to create six new ones that would be a large amount of the focus of the story. A large amount of the action and such.

Actually, the most difficult part was looking through the StarCraft manuals, and seeing “Okay, there are like 30 different weapons that the Terrans have, 50 different type of Zerg, Protoss are all over the map. I can’t put all of these in here, or we are going to lose readers who aren’t familiar with the game; and that was one of the things we agreed on right at the beginning is we wanted StarCraft players to enjoy the book, but we also wanted it to be an entry point for people who didn’t have much knowledge, or experience with the game.

They can still pick it up. We have got enough background layered in to make it understandable. So I crunched everything down to a few types of each zerg, a few types of weaponry, etc.; and kind of the simplified version: this is what we are going to deal with.

So hopefully, people have been coming up to me saying: “Do you have to know everything about StarCraft?” — and you know, you shouldn’t have to.

Cate: And you did a really fantastic job.

Timothy: Thank you.

Next: Panel Q&A

Warcraft: Lord of the ClansStarCraft II: The KeepWorld of Warcraft: Chronicle
World of Warcraft: TravelerStarCraft II: EvolutionPanel Q&A

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts