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Q&A 34 is here. Plenty of new post-Zerg information is presented, but everything is far from being final. Here’s how Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, introduced this batch:

So now that all three races are out of the bag, you may have thought you’ve seen it all- nope! The Dev Team is still working very hard to add even more innovation and clever balance affecting design changes that will indeed polish out the gameplay of StarCraft II that much more.

The “Chat with the Devs” section reveals a new mechanic for the Carrier:

Chat with the Devs: As of recent, the Dev Team has added a new ability to the Protoss Carrier that will give it a little more Umph! versus Zerg Corruptor attacks or Viking raids. In the past, the Carrier simply had a large swarm of Interceptor fighters which you had to build from scratch. Carriers now come built with 4 Interceptors already loaded (which is also the max number of Interceptors currently). They also have the new ability to have Escorts built for a temporary power boost to focus fire. Strike Fighter Escorts cost resources to build and last only 45 seconds, but add a decent amount of firepower to a Carriers attack. A Carrier can have a maximum of 4 Escorts. Escorts are given attack orders to focus-fire on whatever the Carrier is attacking and they can be destroyed independently of the Carrier or each other. The cost for these Escorts will be significant enough to where players will not want to just have the max number all of the time, as that would bleed your economy needlessly. Thus, players will have to pick and choose their battles in where they want the full force of the Protoss fleet present.

The Carrier, which aside from a new look (burrowed from the Tempest) had been completely identical to its StarCraft 1 version, has now gotten some attention. The ability to warp in Strike Fighter Escorts gives it more than the Umph it needs to counter enemy units – it makes it much more interesting.

carriers.JPG

The StarCraft 1 Carrier started with no Interceptors at all, and could construct up to 4 of them (8 with the Carrier Capacity upgrade). The StarCraft 2 Carrier now comes with 4 ready Interceptors, making it immediately effective upon production. The Strike Fighter Escort ability allows the Carrier to become even more devastating for a short period – for a small cost – making their usage ideal for situations where the enemy either has nowhere to run or is committed to an attack.

It seems that the enemies of the Protoss will be able to spot the fighters warp in to battle, which will help them decide whether to stick around for the fight or make a calculated retreat.

The escorts for the Protoss Carrier in its current state, hits both ground and air. Furthermore, they take about 1 second to warp in to battle alongside your Carrier after you make the order to summon them.

What happens to Interceptors when they’re destroyed? A Mechanic burrowed from Dawn of War has been implemented:

Building Interceptors can be toggled to ‘auto-build’ or be set to manual build. Like the original StarCraft, the Interceptors will cost resources to build (when you lose any from the original 4).

interceptor.JPGA most important question remains: will Interceptors continue looking like flying binoculars?

 

 

On to the Q&A:

1. An important aspect of any RTS game is for all races to have a way to siege fortified island positions, do the Protoss and Terrans [[and Zerg]] have a unit that is capable of doing so?

 

All factions will have units capable of attacking from a longer range. Zerg have the Swarm Guardian, Terrans have the Battlecruisers Yamato Cannon, and the Protoss have the Carrier (which has gotten some additional abilities since we last talked about it). However we are not at all sure that these are enough to deal with fortified islands. More testing will tell us if this is sufficient or if we need more.

2. The Infestor is a very impressive unit that enchanted the community, because we all wanted to see a unit that is able to move while it is burrowed. Nevertheless there are still pending questions. Can the Infestor even infest Zerg buildings? Are infested marines produced as fast as it is shown on the gameplay trailer? Do you have to train them manually or will they pop out automatically? Do they cost minerals?

 

Like many Zerg units the Infestor is still under development. It cannot infest Zerg buildings though that is something we are still discussing. The speed at which Marines are generated changes frequently as we work on the ability. Sometimes its fast, sometimes not so fast. They will (probably) pop automatically. They do not have any cost associated with them.

The StarCraft 1 Infested Terran was rarely seen on the battlefield. Strategies relying or even just involving them were completely unrealistic due to the scarcity of burning Command Centers, Queens, and the cost of producing the Infested Terrans.

Now that Infested Marines are free, and infesting is as easy as sneaking a burrowed Infestor into an enemy base and spewing some Zerg goo on it, we will surely see an increase in infested units on the battlefield.

 

Infested MArines

3. The Medivac is a very interesting Unit, but there are not many information given to us so far. Can you tell us any more details about it? At which tier can it be found? How does the healing work? Can it even heal multiple units at once and how fast does it heal compared to the medic?

 

The Medivac is currently available from the Starport (no add-ons required). The healing works just like the medic. We will (if we keep the mechanic) be adding a graphic of the Medivac deploying medical drones to heal friendly biological units. It will only be able to heal a single unit at one time. The speed at which it heals changes frequently as we try different balance options.

4. There are many ambiguities concerning the Roach due to the much different information that has been given to us. Many users are quite unsure about its kind of attack. Is it a melee unit or is it ranged? Or is it kind of a crazy mix of both? And most important: can it hit air as well?

 

The Roach is ranged. He has been melee in the recent past (hence the art with the big claws) but he is currently ranged. This gives him added utility at chokes where he really shines. We have tried it as ground only and we have tried it as being able to hit ground or air. Currently it is ground only.

5. Can a Zerg Corruptor infest lifted-off Terran buildings, Colossuses, and other Zerg units such as Mutalisks or other Corruptors? Can Corruptor infest Thors, Siege Tanks or Marines if they are lifted-off by Anti-Gravity?

 


Yes, Corruptors can infest anything that flies or is forced into the air by abilities such as Anti-Gravity. In the situation of a unit being lifted by Anti-Gravity, the unit will return to the ground when the anti-gravity effect ends and sit on the ground. The corrupted unit is only allowed to attack air units and will do so if an enemy air unit flies by.

Corruptors can Zergify any airborne target, which will remain corrupted even after returning to the ground. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, but gameplay considerations always come first. Will Corruptors be able to attack Colossi, which, while staying on the ground, can be attacked by both anti-ground and anti-air attacks? No answer to this question has been given.

6. What is the reasoning behind changing Colossus’ ‘sliding’ thermal lances (from 1st gameplay movie) to an array of beams (zerg trailer)? Balance? Visuals? Will it be possible to choose such sliding or array (or is it just ‘horizontal’ line?) fire mode from the Map Editor (available also for any other unit)?

 

The array of beams give a more interesting AOE template for players to attempt to micro. The sliding beam looks cool, but ultimately doesnt produce any new gameplay. The current visuals on the beam are temp to see if we like the mechanic.

colossus.jpgnewcolossusattack.JPG

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This year’s Blizzard’s April Fools’ stunt introduces a new unit that’s going to leave a heavy hoofprint on the StarCraft universe: The Tauren Marine. This fictional-fictional unit was born in a crossover between the WarCraft and StarCraft universes, and the end result is a superunit of epic proportions.

Tauren Marine

Tauren Marine

Trains From: Mulgore
Armament: 88mm Impala Gauss Rifle
Role: Shock Troops

 

The Tauren Marine is not much more than a Marine with extra damage, health, and a shield. Make sure to watch the video in the Tauren Marine page to see a small group of them going through a Terran base, obliterating it in a few seconds.

 

taurenmarine-thumb2.jpg

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The obscure planet of Azeroth was found to harbor a dizzying selection of humans, mutants, and aliens in a state of perpetual superstition and conflict. The most physically imposing of these warrior races were the so-called ‘tauren,’ an anthropomorphic bovine genotype with super-human stamina, overpowered racial combat abilities, and bizarrely well-developed horticultural skills.

 

taurenmarine-thumb3.jpg

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While most tauren were satisfied with their agrarian culture and primitive existence, the Confederacy was able to lure away large numbers of young bulls for a life of adventure and violence along the galactic rim. Other tauren referred to these adventurers as ‘mad cows,’ and they were ostracized from the rest of their kine. The newly created tauren marines didn’t care–they got neat-looking armor and big guns to own everyone else with. These beefy new soldiers are now an integral part of the Confederate military, and have managed to horn in on the roles traditionally filled by firebats and other infantry units.

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We are very likely to encounter the Tauren Marine again in StarCraft 2 – even if not in the full game, Blizzard is undoubtedly going to include this abomination in the map editor.

 

***

 

IGN has conducted an extensive interview with some of Blizzard’s main developers: Chris Sigaty, lead tester; Sam Didier, art director; and Frank Pearce, a Blizzard cofounder and now executive vice president of product development. They discuss the development process of the original StarCraft, how they perceived it back then, and how they felt when it started becoming popular. All in all, a very interesting read which provides an insight into the minds of the Blizzard developers. Here are a few highlights:

IGN: How did the idea for StarCraft first come about?

 

Sam Didier: Back in the day, after we did Warcraft, we were kind of thinking, “Well cool, should we do another one?” Everyone was kind of geeked-up about doing a science fiction one. We had entertained ideas–we were still kind of small back then–but we entertained ideas like, “Oh, maybe we could do something with the Star Wars guys?” And at the end of the day we kind of just thought, “You know what? We’d probably have more fun just doing something on our own.” We wouldn’t have to worry about the licensing guys saying, “No, you can have those guys shoot like that because they don’t shoot like that in the movies.” So we just kind of decided to screw that. Let’s do our own thing, then we could be or our own creative control.

IGN: That’s kind of the story about StarCraft: It’s like the national game of Korea. Do you have theories about how that came about?

 

Chris Sigaty: There is a lot of theories about it, and the one that I hear that seems to make sense is: right place, right time. Korea being in a recession, the game being available for the public to play–being a great game and well balanced–and these game rooms popping up all across Seoul. And it sort of building up along with the economy at the time, and StarCraft just being that really well-balanced competitive game, the nature of the Korean community being competitive, all those actors combining into this weird, cool crazy phenomenon.

Excellent responses to the next questions reveal the different qualities of StarCraft. It’s interesting to see what each developer has to say, answering from his perspective:

IGN: StarCraft has sold over 9.5 million copies worldwide. Everyone agrees it’s a great game. But there has to be a reason it caught on as it did, worldwide. Because many great games don’t sell anywhere as close to what StarCraft has done. Do you attribute to Battle.net? What do you think is the catalyst?

 

Frank Pearce: Definitely Battle.net is a factor. The personality that we inject into the experience through the sounds; the personality that we inject through the portraits. Because the units are only so high. Looking at it from the top-down perspective, the units have a distinct look, but they don’t have a lot of visual personality beyond their distinct look. But when you throw the portrait of the unit on the screen and you give it that voice, all of a sudden you’ve injected personality into this.

 

Chris Sigaty: The thing that we’ve always done–not me personally, but the company–has ended up hitting on are these sort of common themes. Grabbing the right portions of these common themes so that it’s more accessible, so it’s the coolest aspects of those things. So the coolest parts of the Star Wars thing, and the coolest parts of the characters and the story, and they all end up adding to why those games, and why particularly Blizzard does well, or why StarCraft does well in a situation where another great game didn’t necessarily, maybe that accessibility? Not always necessarily due to the actual user interface or that sort of thing, but really the big themes that are there.

 

Sam Didier: I kind of attribute the longevity of it, it all boils down for me to the gameplay. Because I look at the art now, and it’s horrible. [laughter]. It’s not the art that’s keeping the game going. But the gameplay is super fun, everyone loves to play it. It’s simple to play, but if you want to be a bad ass, it also has that component of the game. It’s sort of like chess. The art is nothing really great to look at; it works, but it’s still a fun game to play. You can play it against your friend; it doesn’t take four hours to play a game, you can play a couple of games at lunch, and you’re done. It has a good, timeless feel to it.

What really happened to StarCraft: Ghost?

IGN: Let’s talk about StarCraft Ghost. What was the thought about spinning StarCraft into an action game, and what happened to that project?

 

Frank Pearce: One of the challenges that we face here is that we never have a shortage of great ideas. The challenge we always face is that we only have so many resources available to us to actually implement those ideas. And so we have to be able to pick and choose which great ideas we’re able to execute on. And at the time, we just didn’t have the bandwidth for everything we were doing. When we were working on Ghost, we were working on StarCraft II, it just wasn’t publicly known that we were working on StarCraft II. And we also had World of Warcraft that we were supporting, and we had no idea when we launched World of Warcraft that we end up supporting a subscriber base of 10 million people, right? We anticipated in North America when we first launched WoW, that we were going to be supporting a subscriber base of 400,000 people, and we had 400,000 subscribers in the first month.

 

So, for us, it was just a matter of focus and resources and what made the most sense for us to focus on, and with World of Warcraft growing as quickly as it did, that had to be our primary focus. That’s not to say that Ghost wasn’t fun, and wasn’t shaping up with a lot of potential, but we had to choose.

Check out the rest of the interview over at IGN.

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