An update for StarCraft 2, Blizzard’s real-time strategy game, released this week gives players the option to download “premium,” community-made maps. StarCraft 2 Arcade maps are more like self-contained game mods than straightforward battlegrounds.
But unlike other fan-developed maps for StarCraft 2’s Arcade mode, which are free, the game’s new Premium Arcade maps will cost money, a portion of which will go to each map’s creator.
Blizzard added the Arcade section to StarCraft 2 in 2012 as a repository for custom maps, but it wasn’t until this week that StarCraft 2 finally got paid, fan-made content in the form of two Premium Arcade maps.
The first is called ARK Star. It was developed by content creator Daniel “Pirate” Altman, who won Blizzard’s Rock the Cabinet mapmaking contest in 2015. ARK Star is a tactical, turn-based role-playing game featuring the Protoss.
The other debut Premium Arcade map is Direct Strike. Longtime community creator “Tya” made it as well as the map’s predecessor, Desert Strike HotS, one of StarCraft 2’s most popular Arcade maps. Direct Strike is a game of tactical tug of war, and the new version of the map is more of a paid upgrade with new features than something totally new.
Tim Morten, production director for StarCraft 2, told Polygon that the new Premium Arcade maps program “is a way for us to reward top content creators who are providing exceptional value to players.” The split in revenue on Premium Arcade maps favors content creators, he said.
Morten said that selling community-created content is currently in its “pilot program” stage. Blizzard is still evaluating how much work it will take internally to roll out paid community-made content to a wider pool of creators.
“We want to continue advancing our support for those content creators,” Morten said, calling the long-awaited arrival of Premium Arcade maps “a step” in that process.
It’s an idea that’s been around for close to a decade. Blizzard floated the concept of letting third-party content creators sell their StarCraft 2 maps and mods at BlizzCon 2009, before StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty was released.
Blizzard also has a long history of community-created content in its games, like Warcraft 3 and the original StarCraft, Morten noted. The StarCraft 2 team in particular has brought on community creators like Ryan Schutter, who developed the GameHeart spectator tool, and Kevin “Monk” Dong of Team Liquid, who is heading up development for new co-op commanders.
So far, reaction to paid Premium Arcade maps coming to StarCraft 2 seems to be mostly positive — certainly better than similar announcements that generated overwhelming negativity. Morten said that the StarCraft team will be sharing its experience with other teams at Blizzard, but downplayed the idea that Premium Arcade maps are indicative of the company’s plans for paid mods for other Blizzard titles.