The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

In addition to releasing dozens of new screen shots for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard's second chapter in the real-time strategy trilogy, the developer also offered us a look at some early, Zerg-centric concept art.

Kotaku also spoke with Blizzard senior artist Sam Didier about his team's work on the upcoming Heart of the Swarm expansion. He explained the concepts behind two of the game's new characters, Abathur and Izsha, and touched on some of the other new elements seen in our hands-on preview of the game, including those lovable Space Yetis.

Click through the gallery above to see more and click to expand each image for a (very large) full-sized look.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Concept art for Izsha, Kerrigan's Zerg advisor. Didier calls her a "level-headed Zerg" who doesn't act on passion, the way the Queen of Blades does.

"We didn't want you to be playing with a Matt Horner equivalent or a Swann or Tosh," Didier says, referring to the cast of characters featured in Wings of LIberty. "We wanted you to be playing with monsters. As it is now, Kerrigan's still human-looking, but we wanted her among this theater of chaos."

"We really wanted to push the Zerg-iness of this game, that's why they're so off the wall. Izsha's a little more feminine and human in the face, but the rest [of her] goes into the rafters of the Leviathan," he says, resulting in a disgusting, monstrous creature.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Abathur serves as Kerrigan's mutation engineer, spending much of his time in the Leviathan's Evolution Chamber.

"Abathur's just a horror," Didier says, describing him an "evil scientist" character with little regard for the results of his actions. Part spider, part lamprey, part caterpillar, he's "the uninhibited version of Kerrigan," according to Didier.

"Kerrigan, she's still pretty hot for a Zerg, right?" Didier says. "But the other characters, I wanted to make sure there wasn't a whole lot of humanity about them."

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

The Yetis of Kaldir were designed to contrast the insectoid and reptilian qualities of the Zerg, but were quite simply a warm-blooded mammal that could benefit the Zerg.

"We just wanted to have a cold environment creature that you can kill to assimilate their DNA and that seemed like the simplest right off the bat—a space Yeti," Didier says. But the Yetis gameplay impact is also by design, as the generally neutral critters of StarCraft's worlds needed a bit more "personality."

"This is the first time we didn't want a critter to just be a victim," Didier says. The Yetis will attack you, they'll attack your enemies. "We wanted something that was very aggressive."

Didier would not confirm whether Space Yetis were a fourth playable race in a future StarCraft product. He's just laughed the notion off.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

A painting of a collection of Zerg egg sacs, used in a StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm loading screen. It may provide some insight into the interior of the Leviathan, the massive Zerg transport that carries Kerrigan, Abathur and Izsha from planet to planet.

We're not yet sure if we'll see any other rooms inside the Leviathan, but we will see the Evolution Chamber change over time, showing off your personalized Zerg swarm and evolutionary choices you make during its campaign. Didier said he didn't know how many units will be available for evolution upgrades, but did offer the following details.

"We're planning on filling it, but whether it's [with] 8 or 18 units, the final number we don't know," Didier says.

One thing Didier says we won't see on the Leviathan? "An infested jukebox."

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

A Zerg hive, encased in ice on the frozen planet Kaldir. This painting was used in a StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm loading screen as well.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Concept art of the planet Char, which the Terrans control in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Kerrigan visits to reclaim parts of her brood.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Kerrigan says hello to an Ultralisk.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Painting of planet Kaldir.

The Art of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Painting of planet Kaldir.