A subset of StarCraft fans were unnerved to see the entirety of Tychus Findlay’s face appear in Blizzard’s newly-released Heroes of the Storm – unobscured by the fat cigar he’d previously worn as proudly as his contempt for authority. The cause is the one we suspected: a preemptive move on Blizzard’s part to ensure the Terran marine didn’t fall foul of tobacco laws in some of the MOBA’s many launch regions.
“No-one’s immune to that,” senior artist Phill Gonzales told PCGamesN. “It happened with Gazlowe, who also had a cigar, and we already knew that was coming with Tychus. It’s a reality of trying to make this as accessible as possible to as many players as we want.”
Tychus has battled rating restrictions once before, in StarCraft II. Then, Blizzard’s cinematic staff had to return to their cutscenes – yes, those cutscenes, with all the exquisitely complicated prerendering – to produce versions sans cigar.
The Heroes of the Storm team would rather not tread the same path. Making two versions of a character to appease local law creates an extraordinary amount of work – as they’ve already discovered developing Stitches, the Darkshire terror who lets his intestines hang low.
“His character is obviously the abomination,” said senior artist Luke Mancini. “So we wanted to make sure he can be that character, and there are regions where for ratings purposes we need to tone that down.”
For those regions, Stitches lost the gore, the belly, and even the stitches. But the process was time-consuming, and made the team wary of doing it again.
“If we’re going to do a Stitches skin we need to spend maybe 15 months making that work instead of nine,” said Gonzales. “And with those six months that we’re tacking on it’s like, man, we could have been half-done with the next hero. That’s the biggest bummer.”
Tracking each appearance of a small detail like Tychus’ cigar promised to become a nightmarish data management issue – necessitating whole extra weeks of splitting assets and following up bug reports.
All of which led to the question: “Maybe he’s just not smoking today?”
“When we put it out on paper like that, of course the cigar’s gonna go,” said Gonzales. “It just becomes a productivity and development advantage to say the cigar can be sacrificed. There’s still so much more to Tychus that makes him a great character.”