Corey "The proper spelling is: 'Konieczka'" Konicisa talks about Brood War

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bwcover.jpgLast year’s game of the year was pretty much universally elected to be Starcraft by everyone who mattered (sorry Hanno!), so it wasn’t surprising that the Brood War expansion was quickly announced after release. Though Rumors say it came close to being cancelled after the controversial Larry Levy posthumously removed the design award he granted it 6 months ago, Brood War still chugged along with it’s release date of “End of 2008”.   Since it’s the end of 2008, there seems to be no better time to put on the seductive fishnets, bribe entry into the FFG grounds and try and hook up an interview with our mysterious Best Friend, Corey Koniexca Konnieczaka Konieczka to find out more about Brood War Expansion.

 Who are you and what are you currently doing? This may be the only chance I give you to pimp yourself so make the most of it!     

I am a Senior Game Designer for Fantasy Flight Games, currently working on Middle Earth Quests! The initial design for this behemoth was done by Christian, and I am now in the process of redesigning, developing, and tweaking it to perfection. I can’t say much besides the fact that it will epic!! 

Much like different authors, each game designer seems to have a different signature style in the games they create. Your games seem to be a lot more paired down and refined then Kevin Wilson’s for example. How would you describe your style?  

I usually attempt to make lots of small tight systems instead of grand sweeping ones. I find that this makes for fast and intuitive gameplay, especially after the first ‘learning’ game. I usually start designing my games from the mechanical level, and then branch out into story and theme.   

It seems that lately you are the guy who is designing games with big, and what I’d imagine are rather constraining, licenses. How do you find working in other peoples sandboxes? Do you yearn for the free reign of designing within your own setting or do you find working within the confines of a big license helps fuel your creativity and maintain discipline?  

This entirely depends upon the project. In some ways, licenses are inspirational (Starcraft and Battlestar come to mind.) The tough part of working on a license is that occasionally you are restricted by the lore. I think working on a unlicensed game would be more challenging creatively, but could prove to be more rewarding. At the same time, it is extremely rewarding to have my name associated with such great licensees.      

The bowl cut – do you still have it and do you think it will ever return to the world of fashion?

Ever since the chemo-therapy, this has been the only thing that will grow (joking). Honestly I’ll just blame the haircut on poor genes and Moe Howard.  

Your big release of last year (and the main reason for this interview) StarCraft has been out a little while now. Upon reflection how do you feel about it now? Are there any elements you wish you could go back and redo, or conversely any areas which turned out better than you expected?

With almost any game, I could tweak it and change it forever. Looking back at a game 6-12 months later, it is even easier to see different ways that systems could have been implemented. These ideas usually end up being added to a different game, and the cycle continues.  Certain elements in every game will receive mixed reactions (for example the Special Victory conditions). It is just a part of the job to accept that people have different tastes in games. The Order system is an example that was received better than I expected. Once people play a turn, they seem to catch on and enjoy it.   

Originally StarCraft was meant to be designed by Kevin Wilson but then suddenly there was a switcheroo and you became the designer with Kevin not being credited at all. Any chance of telling us what happened there, or do we have to wait for someone to publish it in their tell-all memoirs? What about the ‘clear plastic’ cards that were originally going to be used for combat, any hints as to what the idea behind those were or is that still on a “then I have to kill you” basis?

The short version was that Kevin designed a version of StarCraft that unfortunately did not make it through the gauntlet. Months later when I picked up the product, I was starting back from square one. The clear plastic cards where a good idea in principle, but in practice could not simulate what we needed them to. Our philosophy at FFG is to not release a game until it is the best that it possibly can be. Unfortunately this sometimes leads to delays and redesigns.     

Despite being just around the corner next to nothing seems to be known about the upcoming Brood War expansion. So spill the beans and tell us what’s in it? New plastic? New cards? New Cardboard? New Rules?  

Yes plastic, yes cards, yes cardboard and yes rules! 

I am currently undertaking the difficult task of condensing the game into some designer articles for our website. I honestly don’t even know how I am going to fit everything in there! I can’t wait until you hear the full details of my favorite addition: “Leadership Cards”.  /end tease filter

So can we have an early preview of any of the new units? How about the 'missing' units from the originals - Infested Terrains? Can you tell us how they work and what strategies they add to the game?
  To spoil a couple of units, the Zerg Lurkers and Protoss Dark Templars are powerful ground units that are permanently cloaked. Many of the other units (such as medics and dark templars) have the same technologies that they had in the video game. The infested terrans share a card with the Scourges (whose ability has been redesigned).  


  What were your overall design objectives with Brood War? What new elements did you want to bring to the table, and how did you achieve that?  

First off, we knew that we wanted to add all of the units from the Brood War expansion (and infested Terrans!) Second, there we plenty of automatic additions (unique planets, module types, a new order type and technologies.) Third, I wanted plenty of new content, some of which is modular (Leadership Cards, Heroes, Scenarios, ect). Lastly I listened to what the fans were looking for, such as unit tweaks and an interesting twist on special victories.    

Expansions come in several flavors - some you add in permanently (like Shadows of War) others tend to be mixed in and out of the base game, such as the Game of Thrones expansions. How do you see Brood War - is this an expansion that will become a permanent fixture or will people who own it revert back to the 'base' game every now and again. I'm especially interested in the context of the changes to existing units - are the scourges of old discarded forever once I get this expansion? 

This expansion is a mix of expansion types. Most of the expansion is used as a whole, as the parts are integrated into each other. However, there are a number of modular options (such as leadership cards and scenario play) that can be optionally used like the Game of Thrones expansions. Players could theoretically go back to playing the base game of StarCraft, but I think most players will stick with Brood War. Most unit tweaks (such as the scourges) come in the form of replacement cards for the combat card decks, or new technologies for them to utilize.  

How does the integration between the old and the new parts work? For example do we get extensions to the player mats with the new buildings and units on them or do we get total replacements?  

There are new faction sheets containing new information that replace the old sheets. Replacement building tiles have also been included to utilize the new units.    

The pre-release description is boasting scenario play – what exactly is that, and how many scenarios do we get in the box?

The scenarios are a new optional way to play. Each of the four scenario is based off a story line in the video game. They list the galaxy setup, victory conditions, and a handful of special rules that affect the scenario. They are exciting and fun, but a relatively small addition compared to what we added to the regular game.

  Are there any elements from the upcoming StarCraft 2 video game included in this expansion? 
  Unfortunately no. Even I do not know when SCII will be released!  sc2.jpg 

Have any tweaks been done to the existing units in the game, for example Firebats and Siege tanks have bit of a reputation for being weak, does Brood War beef them up? Were any unit’s de-powered?

Due to the addition of new units and technologies, it was necessary to tweak a number of old units. The firebat received a slight boost, the Siege tanks received a brand new ability (collateral damage), the scourge has been redesigned, and the Archon is slightly more expensive. There are also a handful of other units that got new technologies or modifications.

One of the minor problems with StarCraft was that the order tokens tended to get scratched and marked (people round my house seem to be obsessed with fiddling with them between turns.) Does Brood War come with a fresh batch of order tokens?

We briefly considered this, but ultimately had too many new and exciting elements that we wanted to add in the expansion instead.    

Obviously sales dictate what happens to this line in the future, but currently is this planned as the only expansion ala Shattered Empires for TI3 or is their room to expand the game later on?

When we made the base game of StarCraft, we knew that we could eventually add the Brood War units depending upon the game’s success. There are currently no more plans to expand the game (we definitely did not leave anything out to include later).    

At Blizzcon an 'expansion' tile was released called Typhon, which seems to have become quite an expensive collectors item. Any chance of this seeing the light of day again in the future, or will it remain a rarity like World Of Warcraft's Epic Armor pack did? 

It is entirely up to Blizzard where and if this tile shows up again. I personally would not be surprised if it turned up at other Blizzard events (such as Blizzcon and Blizzard world wide invitational.)   

sheep.jpgThe other week fellow FFG designer John Goodenough sent me one of those cartoon super-pokes on facebook of two cartoon sheep cuddling on a sofa while watching TV. Was this simply a subtle hint as to an upcoming FFG title or was he trying to tell me something else?  

He must be promoting our new “Black Sheep” game!


(they don't look black to me! - Mr S.)

 Warrior Knights seems to be the only remake you have done. Are there any old classic games that you would love to get your hands on and have a crack at?  

Although I would love to work on some classic games (Dune comes to mind), my schedule is overflowing with projects that need original designs.   

Give me the meaning of life in one sentence  

Apparently my meaning is to create awesome games! What about you Frank?  

Why, to spread joy and cheer throughout the cosmos of course!   Big thanks to Corey and the Minister for Happiness for their time. Thanks to the people around the internet whose pictures I have stolen. And a big thank you to you for reading.

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