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Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, has been churning out updates recently. Q&A batch #28 is here and it’s a fully featured one: An insightful Gameplay Blog and six very informative answers. Without further ado:

Chat with Devs: It has been a busy week, in which I had a chance to talk to multiple Devs this and I am happy to say that we have finished recording for our second episode of BlizzCast. We have also added a mini Q&A section to the show, to get direct answers straight from the developers!

Gameplay Blog: Following up on the last game I played in Batch 27, I had mentioned the Terran Marauder being a huge factor in my defeat. This new Terran unit visually looks similar to the Firebat, but instead packs the punch of dual Concussion Grenades (also able to be Stim Packed), which slows the movement rate of biological units, and also does additional bonus damage to armored units. These units are excellent at supporting any pack of Marines & Medics, with the ability to slow charging Zealots, as well as fast moving Zerg units. Playing as Terran, there is a sense of relief, when you watch an incoming army slowed down considerably, to be mowed down by your Stim Packed Marines. In addition, because the Marauders are able to be built at a Barracks with a Tech Lab, they are considered formidable early support units, able to pick off units of a weaker early game army.

Karune’s Gameplay Blog again provides great, up to date information about the hot issues of StarCraft 2. After neglecting to mention anything about the Marauder last time, he now explains exactly what this Firebat replacement does: it further increases the destructive potential of the dreaded M&M (Marines and Medics) combo.

Terran Marines, especially when under the Stim effect, excel at mowing down enemies from a distance, often before these get a chance to hurt the fragile Marines at all. However, Terran infantry don’t last long once they do come under attack.

mm.JPG

This is where the Brood War Medic comes in. The Medic is there to increase the Marine’ survivability, making them useful even when the enemy units are right on top of them.

The StarCraft 2 Marauder further improves the role of the Marines: by slowing down enemy biological units, they allow the Marines to hurt and kill even more of those before being exposed to any damage. Furthermore, the Marauders’ bonus damage to armored units will help the M&M&M squad stay relevant throughout the entire game.

1. I noticed the Stalker “Blink” ability looked as though it was on a cooldown (similar to many abilities in World of Warcraft). This seems appropriate for some abilities, but is this restricted to the Stalker or will other units have abilities on cooldowns rather than energy?

 

Currently, the Protoss Stalkers Blink ability is on a 15 second cooldown and is one of the only abilities that do not require energy. One of the reasons this was done for the Stalkers Blink, was to make sure that players wouldnt have the problem of having only part of their Stalker army blink up on a hill with some left behind. The Protoss Phoenix also carries an Overload ability, which is based on a cooldown timer rather than energy. Whether the Stalker or the Phoenix will use energy or not, will be mostly determined through much more balance testing.

2. The Thor now is anti-aircraft unit, but will it continue to have surface-to-surface attacks?

 

In the current build, the Thors role has been changed to exclusively hit ground units, putting the transforming Viking back in the primary role as an air to air fighter. The Terran Viking is also now built from the Factory rather than the Starport.

Last time we heard about the Thor, it took over the Cobra’s role as the “heavy and air unit counter”. It has now been been stripped of its ability to hit air units. We’re hoping the Thor has been given its Barrage ability back, at least.

3. In the original SC, powers like Irradiate and Psionic Storm affected cloaked units and killed them even if you couldn’t see them. Will the Phoenix’s Overload ability target cloaked units as well?

 

Yes, the Phoenixs Overload ability does affect cloaked units, such as Terran Banshees. The Devs are all for these types of soft counters.

These types of counters are part of what makes StarCraft the unique and challenging game that it is. We approve.

phoenixoverload.JPG

4. Does energy regenerate at about the same speed as in normal SC? Since the game goes faster, has that been speed up too?

 

Energy regenerates at the same speed as the original StarCraft. At the fastest game speed, both StarCraft II and the original should feel the same in terms of speed.

While things such as energy regeneration and unit speeds may not have changed, the overall pace of the game has clearly been increased. As we already know, and like we had suggested way back, StarCraft is now an even more intense game thanks to changes such as increased mobility, increased shield regeneration speed, improved user interface, and many other improvements and refinements that the 10 year old game lacks.

5. Now that the Force Field ability has been moved to the Nullifier, what other abilities does the Templar have? Does he still have Hallucination?

 

The Hallucination ability has been cut from the High Templar. Instead, it will have an Anti-Gravity ability in addition to its classic Psi Storm ability. This ability will allow a High Templar to lift up buildings and units in the air, disabling their movement and attack, while also making them an air target.

 

This ability can be cast on Supply Depots blocking choke points, as well as incoming Thors, or other threatening units. This has been the first ability the Devs have been comfortable with, in giving players a real choice to be made, to use Psi Storm or the Anti-Gravity ability. This ability is still being balanced, in terms of the duration units and buildings will stay in the air, energy cost, and if it will be a channeling spell (which means the High Templar will be unable to move or cast other abilities while casting the Anti-Gravity ability).

Protoss players usually ignored Hallucination, the other High Templar spell, in favor of the ultimate StarCraft 1 ability – Psi Storm. The purpose of Anti-Gravity is to provide a worthy alternative to Psi Storm, which competes for the same energy pool – a fight Hallucination lost in StarCraft 1.

Karune later addresses a concern about the abusability of this new spell:

The Anti Gravity ability will not be able to lift the any of the resource collecting buildings such as the Command Center and the Nexus

How awkward will Zerg buildings, detached from Creep and flown into the air, look like?

6. Will there be an icon on the left hand side of the screen to alert the player of idle workers?

 

Yes, we currently have the ability to select idle workers built into the UI.

We’re glad to see this now-standard RTS feature making it into StarCraft 2. In StarCraft 1, only the top players could boast about a 100% SCV employment rate. For others, SCVs (and other peons, to a lesser extent) tended to slack off, with players neglecting to issue the command to return them back to their duties, focusing on the more important aspects of warfare instead.

 

That’s it for today’s voluminous batch.

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