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Another normal Q&A session this week. A few interesting topics, but no central theme.

Chat with Devs: Since the Terran Cobra took over the Protoss Stasis Orbs slowing attack, the Protoss Orb got a few new abilities including the Force Field ability. This will be very interesting for early team games, as you can use a force field on a choke point to keep an opponent’s teammate from arriving to help their allies. The Devs are testing out various abilities on different units as you can see, and even the Templar has received its classic Hallucination ability back.

Very interesting news for Protoss players. Hallucination wasn’t a widely used spell, but it sure was fun to use occasionally, and fans have repeatedly pleaded for its return. The Force Field ability, which used to belong to the Templar, has now been transferred to the Star Relic Statis Orb. However, since Blizzard told us that the Statis Orb was removed from the game just two weeks ago, we are left to wonder what role it has on the battlefield at this moment.

It is also important to note that Hallucination had already been a Star Relic ability at one point.

1. Will the Protoss be getting any mechanism for healing their units or repairing their buildings?

 

There are no plans to give the Protoss any healing abilities, especially since their shield regeneration rate when out of combat, is more than twice the rate of the original StarCraft.

It looks like StarCraft 2 is shaping up to become an even faster paced game than the original. With the Terran’s “smarter” medics, and the Protoss’s improved shield regeneration, we are looking forward to see where evolution has taken the Zerg.

2. With the new physics engine, can explosions affect surroundings? (like hurt or push units, destroy doodads, etc ) (sc2blog.com)

 

Explosions will not be able to push units, but they can destroy doodads. In fact, destroying certain doodads will be vital on certain maps, to get access to expansions or other strategic locations. Furthermore, explosions will not be able to push units because it would affect gameplay and balance negatively, in having units be knocked off cliffs, be stuck in unplanned locations, or ultimately have units disoriented where the player cannot control them.

Physical effects have been affecting the RTS gameplay for many years. The Havok engine is making appearances in many recent games, which have been using the advanced physics simulation to create very innovative gameplay mechanics. Blizzard’s games usually implement more precise mechanics, which leave little room for random occurances, and StarCraft 2 will not be an exception.

However, the revelation regarding the destroyable doodads is new and interesting. Along with island expansions which rely on air transporting, new kinds of expansions, which will require a specific technology level, may appear in maps. A Terran player might need access to Siege Tank weaponry before being able to shoot his way through to a yellow-mineral expansion.

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Thank you for answering our question again, Blizzard!

3. How long does a unit typically take to make from concept to playable unit?

 

With a finished concept piece, it could take from a few days to a few months, to create it for the game. Much of this time depends on the priority of the unit amongst other development goals, as well as the iterations necessary to perfect the unit. The Zerg Baneling is an example of a unit that took only a few days to complete after the concept, whereas the Protoss Stalker has gone through several iterations, and has taken 4-5 months.

 

4. Are the units on the official site finalized, or is everything still up for grabs at this point? (gamereplays.org)

 

We are still heavily in the development phase of StarCraft II, thus none of the units on the website are 100% final. We are also still testing out several new units, abilities, and mechanics, to create the most fluid StarCraft II experience.

It seems like Blizzard is trying to get this idea across unsuccessfully, as it appears in Q&As and other official statements very often. We’ll try to help: Nothing is final until the game is released.

5. What do the Protoss eat? (where do they get energy and mass?) (starcraftcz.com)

 

Protoss gain nutrition from sunlight, or at a pinch, moonlight (which is just reflected sunlight anyway) by absorbing through their skins. They can go for extended periods without absorbing sunlight. What little moisture they need is also absorbed through their skin.

Don’t they need any actual substance besides water? Organisms that rely on the sun as a source of energy usually use this energy to fixate carbon – absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and chemically transform it into sugar, making them Autotrophs. Are they plant-like in that regard, or are they magical, fairy-tale beings? Do we dare investigate this pulp-fiction matter any further?

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This topic has spawned a thread on the battle.net forums: Are the Protoss considered plants?

That’s it for this week’s Q&A batch. If any of our readers have questions they want answered by Blizzard, post them in the comments or in our forums and as always, we’ll try our best to get them answered.

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Five sketches of what initially appeared to be unidentified artifacts have been posted on the official StarCraft 2 website, along with a new illustration of the Queen Bitch of the Universe herself, Kerrigan.

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Blizzard has remained silent about these updates, but our highly talented investigative team has matched them to pieces of Zeratul’s new armor:

 

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Blizzard’s art and lore updates are being closely monitored for clues regarding the powerful artifacts that were mentioned in the BlizzCon single player video.

The lights blacking out in succession, a sharp musical note revealed Zeratul, a character from the original game. “I bring tidings of doom,” said the Protoss warrior. “The Xel’Naga have returned. The cycle nears its end. The artifacts are the key.”

 

“To what?” Raynor said, to which Zeratul replied, “The end of all things,” before falling to his knees, apparently wounded.

These artifacts, that the player will pursue during the single player campaign, might eventually form Zeratul’s armor. The significance of the armor is not yet known, however. Of course, it is more likely that the artifacts Zeratul mentions are different items entirely, and these pictures are just early design sketches.

Another concept art picture, depicting Kerrigan, clearly shows her “wearing” stylish, organic heels.

 

Hot or not?

 

This immediately brings to mind the following illustration, which Blizzard has included in their fan-site kit:

 

Can't wait to see this cinematic in action

Kerrigan‘s Zerg-enhanced heels versus Zeratul and his mysterious armor! This is the match-up we’re all looking forward to, and it looks like Blizzard is telling us that we will indeed witness it in StarCraft 2. Who will win in this battle of giants?

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Another long pause between updates to StarCraft2.com is behind us. Today, the site has been updated with a page for the Terran’s Sensor Tower.

<a href="http://starcraft2.com/flash/global/unitsplayer_terran_sensortower.swf" target="_blank">http://starcraft2.com/flash/global/unitsplayer_terran_sensortower.swf</a>

Top terran military analysts all agree that “Knowing is half the battle” and that early warning is one of the keys to victory. The sensor tower is a vital tool for long-range surveillance of enemy movement and the detection of stealthed aggressors. Sensor towers are a lynchpin of terran base defenses, and as such, they need to be heavily guarded. A smart attacker will try to destroy sensor towers as the first priority.

The Sensor Tower is a new building for the Terran “race” in StarCraft 2. Currently, it serves as both a detector and a fog of war scanner, revealing enemy units that would otherwise not be visible to the Terran commander. Units in the Sensor’s scanning radius are presented as exclamation points. We first saw this ability in action in the BlizzCon Terran video – watch the video and read our analysis of it here.

Fog of war detection used to be a feature of the Radar Tower, which was the upgraded form of the Sensor Tower. With its role now taken by the Sensor Tower, the Radar Tower may no longer be a part of the game.

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The Sensor Tower fills a very important strategic role which fits the unique style of the Terran race perfectly. The Terrans, masters of unit deployment and positioning, greatly benefit from the ability to acquire real-time intelligence information from the battlefield. A smart Terran player will know how to quickly analyze the gathered information and utilize his units to counter any threat much more effectively.

The Tower’s sensing ability, coupled with its stealth detection capabilities, makes this building a good investment for every Terran player in almost every StarCraft 2 match. We are sure to see them proliferate quickly, starting minutes into every battle.

 

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The Sensor Tower will make the lives of Terran commanders easy early in the game, when tactics that can easily and efficiently cripple a player are usually attempted. The dreaded Reaver Drop may no longer be present in the game (at least, until Blizzard caves in to fan pressure), but other types of sneak attacks – be they from the ground (Reapers), air (Mutalisks) or cloaked (Dark Templars) – will be negated by diverting enough resources to construct Sensor Towers in strategic positions.

The downside to all this multi-spectrum output is that foes can easily detect the presence of a sensor tower and use it to identify the whereabouts of a terran base. Other strategies revolve around “spoofing” the tower with decoy units or simply staying outside its range. Terran commanders have been known to counter by erecting sensor towers in fake base locations just to keep enemies guessing.

Radar capabilities were already present in earlier RTS games, such as Total Annihilation, as we have discussed in our “StarCraft 2 Influences” article. It seems that StarCraft’s implementation is unique, however – the Sensor Tower’s radar seems very limited in range, and only the Terrans have access to it. We are not surprised to see another pre-existing RTS idea perfectly implemented into a Blizzard game, of course.

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After a streak of highly interesting Q&As, today’s batch deals with an entirely new subject – StarCraft 2’s new and improved Map Editor, and can be summed up in a few words: It’s better in every way.

Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, opens with a brief introduction to the map maker series:

For this batch, I’m pleased to announce the introduction of the Map Maker Series of Q&As, which will be mixed in periodically with our traditional batches of Q&As, to give map makers the ‘heads up’ on our powerful Map Editor for StarCraft II. I know many of you have great plans for mods and maps for StarCraft II, so I can’t wait to tell you more about the program you’ll be using.

 

Answering questions, we have Brett Wood, our StarCraft II Senior Software Engineer, but better known as our ‘Superfly Father of ScumEdit Programmer by Day Ninja by Night.’

And on to the answers:

1) Will doodad placement values increase? (ie, more than 256)

 

[Brett Wood] We expect the doodad placement value will be on the same order as Warcraft III, which I believe was something like 10,000, so definitely way more than 256.

Doodads in StarCraft 2 are bigger, very animated, and act as physical objects on the map. Do our readers remember the Harvester doodad?

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2) Will the number of available locations/triggers increase? The current limit on locations really cramps some ideas.

 

[Brett Wood] Any limits on both regions and triggers will be at least in the thousands.

 

3) Will the new map editor include ALL the triggers in the program unlike Staredit?

 

[Brett Wood] Yes, even moreso than Warcraft IIIs WorldEdit. Weve been making a point of ensuring that ALL script functionality is also exposed in the Trigger Editor UI.

 

4) Will max unit limits increase? The current unit limit on maps is quite a crimper, and nobody likes CCMU (cannot create more units).

 

[Brett Wood] I dont recall the exact unit limit in the original StarCraft, but the StarCraft II limit will likely be a healthy boost over the limit in Warcraft III. The exact value hasnt been nailed down yet and will depend on optimizations near the end of the project (i.e. shortly before release).

 

5) Will the new map editor include unused units such as the crashed scouts, turrets, eggs, nukes, scarabs, crash command center, etc? Third party programs were needed to use these.

 

[Brett Wood] All units defined in the data files will be usable in the editor. I believe this was true in Warcraft III as well.

There you have it. The new “ScumEdit” map editor will be much more functional and free of artificial limitations. As well, it will be more user friendly for low level users who do not need access to the more complex features. StarCraft 2’s editor features a powerful proprietary C-type scripting language, along with a simplified editing mode which features a more intuitive graphic interface.

User created maps were very popular for both StarCraft and WarCraft 3 and are responsible for a large portion of Blizzard’s player base, with popular custom maps such as DotA forming full blown pro-gamer leagues. It is no surprise that Blizzard aims to provide the community with the best tools possible.

For more information on map making in StarCraft 2, check out this battle.net thread.

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