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A few interesting changes to StarCraft 2 have been revealed during the last couple of days, at the WorldWide invitational in Paris. However, the most noteworthy change is that to StarCraft 2′s economy and resource system – a core concept of the game which has so far remained (almost) untouched.

Gamers who attended WWI could immediately see one of the major changes: all starting bases and expansions now contain two Vespene Geysers. This alone is a huge change from StarCraft 1, where only user-created “money maps” (and a few specialized maps) featured more than one geyser per resource area.

Big Gay Hunters

The other changes to Vespene Gas are:

  • Vespene Geysers start with only 1000 gas units, down from 5000 in StarCraft 1.
  • Workers pick up 6 Vespene Gas units per trip, down from 8, and 2 gas units when the geyser is depleted.
  • When a geyser has been depleted (all 1000 gas units have been harvested), an option to “Restore Gas” will appear when it is selected. In the WWI build, this allows the player to sacrifice 100 minerals in order to pump 400 gas units back into the Vespene Geyser, bringing it back to full operational status for a short time.
  • Hitting “Restore Gas” will temporarily shut down the geyser completely, prohibiting workers from harvesting any gas. Currently, the downtime is 45 seconds.

Zerg Refinery

All these major changes have been implemented to StarCraft 2 for one purpose: complicate the “macro” portion of the game, which has been downsized severely with the introduction of new and improved user interface aspects, and mainly, Multiple Building Selection (MBS) – which allows players to select all their similar unit producing buildings together and deliver a single command to construct units out of all of them.

Here’s how Dustin “Cavez” Browder, lead game designer, explains the changes:

1) We think gas could be more interesting than it was in the original StarCraft.

 

2) We think StarCraft 2 can benefit from additional economy choices.

The need to complicate matters has led to the introduction of the second Vespene Geyser and to the “Restore Gas” feature. These two additions will require players to more carefully plan their resource spending.

First, the decision to build the second geyser, just like the first one, will determine the amount of each resource the player will have and the type of army he can construct. Tech progressions and specialized units and abilities require a greater amount of gas, something that a smart scouting player will also note and react to accordingly.

Second, the “Restore Gas” feature will require the player to “babysit” his base more often. 400 units of Gas are harvested quickly, meaning frequent trips to geysers will be needed for a good Vespene Gas income. Of course, players will not always wish to renew their gas supply for the cost of minerals – another decision that will have to be carefully considered and weighted.

Terran Refinery

These changes will steal some of the added focus to the micromanagement portion of StarCraft 2, which pro-gamers, who’ve had a chance to play the game extensively, have reported about, and divert it back to base and economy management. Other such changes, meant to give players more macromanagement decisions to play with without dumbing down the UI, are being considered by Blizzard. Likewise, the added gas income might explain the higher price on some units which were previously a lot less expensive.

Moving on, a few changes to Minerals have also been implemented. Cavez says:

Minerals are down to 5 per trip, but they harvest a little more quickly. We have been doing some timed comparisons of minerals in the original SC to SC2 and we have been really putting a lot of effort into getting the collection rate to be the same. The pathing is SO much better in SC2 that we were collecting minerals at a ferocious rate.

 

So now mineral collection is pretty close to SC1.

Mineral patches will still have 1500 resource units, just like in StarCraft 1 – the collection amount change has been brought by because of the different pathing behavior of units in StarCraft 2, which, apparently, is 60% more efficient!

Protoss Refinery

All of these numbers are subject to change, of course. Currently, repleneshing the Geyser’s Vespene Gas supply is a somewhat futile effort.

Realistically, the difference between a depleted geyser’s output and an operational geyser is only 4 gas units. When factoring the downtime of 45 seconds, the real exchange rate hovers closer to 200 gas units for 100 minerals – not a great deal, considering minerals run out eventually (and fairly quickly), while gas fumes last the entire game. More number tweaks, and perhaps other ideas, will have to fill the void to macromanagement left by UI advancements.

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While Diablo 3 is definitely the main highlight of the 2008 WWI, there’s still a lot to write home about when it comes to StarCraft 2. We’ve got new, action heavy screenshots, interviews with Blizzard’s developers, presentations that show off the qualities of StarCraft 2, and reports of new things that have appeared in the game.

First up, highlights from the developer panels:

  • A group of Overlords are used to cover the entirety of the viewable map with Creep (or “Mucus” in French), using their Excrete Creep ability
  • Nydus Worms are more expensive than other races’ transports, with the advantage being that the transported units aren’t risked in transit. Also, the Worms now need Creep at their exit point – which is not a major problem, considering the Creep-spewing Overlords.
  • Crawler Buildings – Spine Crawler and Spore Crawler. These are like the Sunken and Spore colonies in StarCraft 1, only the Crawlers can move around and plant on Creep at will, allowing the Zerg to easily redeploy their defenses.

  • A Queen is seen supplementing a Zerg base’s defenses with her various abilities
  • Corruptors engage a small Terran air group composed of Battlecruisers and Vikings. It appears that corrupted units, which serve as stationary “turrets” for the Zerg, slowly lose health over time and are eventually destroyed by the corruption.
  • Banelings are used as active mines: burrowed in the ground, they wait until a group of Marines moves over their position. The player unburrows them at the right time to inflict maximum damage, right in the middle of the group.
  • Smart usage of the Nullifer’s Force Field ability is shown. This is a spectacle to be seen, so make sure you watch at 5:40 into this video. First, a choke point is created, which prevents the incoming Zerging swarm from engulfing the Protoss units, allowing the Zealots to dispatch them at their (relative) leisure. Then, the second wave of Zerg attackers meets a complete Force Field wall. The remaining Protoss Stalkers quickly Blink behind it and engage the Zerglings at range, killing most of them before the are able to cross the barrier.
  • In the next bit, a Mothership is used to summon a force back into a Protoss base that comes under attack. The Mothership then comes under attack from a group of Vikings, and quickly immerses itself in a Time Bomb, negating the missile attack.
  • The Terran’s theme is “guns, guns, and bigger guns“.

  • The Thor currently has two abilities: Anti-Air Flak Cannons, making it a great support unit for a Siege Push (as seen in the video), and Self Repair, whose existence we speculated on in this older video.
  • At 5:40, a major battle between Zerg and Protoss forces takes place. We recommend waiting for a higher quality video to be posted before watching this one.

Next, Rob Pardo answers questions from the audience. Here’s a summary of his answers:

  • Heroes in single player will not impact gameplay in a serious way, serving to push the plot and dialog further instead.

  • Rob says that the campaign will only have one ending and not alternate, race specific or choice-dependent ones, as is customary in Blizzard games, though there will be several different diverging sub-plots.
  • The Mothership’s old Black Hole ability is no longer found on it, but Rob is hoping to see it return in some form, perhaps on another unit.
  • The Thor is a difficult unit to find a role for – one that is separate from the Siege Tank or Battlecruiser.

***

Next, we have an amazing collection of screenshots (courtesy of StarCraft Source) straight from the most up-to-date build, featuring all the latest art enhancements and newest units and their designs:

WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 1WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 2WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 3

WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 4WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 5WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 6

WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 7WorldWide Invitation Screenshot 8

Screenshot highlights:

A Lurker’s spiny attack is seen for the first time, while another Lurker is burrowed next to it.

Lurker Attack

A mobile Spine Crawler.

Spine Crawler

The Viking has received a slight touch up, and now looks more “mechanical” and square instead of round and fat.

Updated Viking

The Nullifier’s attack has been beefed up, and it’s now sporting a more impressive beam weapon, similar to that of the Colossus. The Nullifer shown here is clearly attacking an air unit.

Nullifier

The Warp Rays have also received an updated look, which reflects their different role. No more are they the Protoss’ heaviest air unit, a title which they lost to the Carriers. They are now shorter, with the beam apparatus taking up the bulk of their mass. Their beam’s effect has also been enhanced.

Warp Rays

The Swarm Guardians make their first high quality appearance. Their explosive plasma balls can also be seen.

Swarm Guardians

 

Although many units have undergone significant changes, the most drastic adjustments were made to StarCraft 2′s economy and resource system. These changes will be covered tomorrow, once the dust settles. 

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As is customary in Blizzard events, goody bags are handed out to WWI visitors entering the premises. The small mini-bag with Blizzard’s WWI logo contains a bunch of loot:

WWI Swag

The Swag:

  • Beta key
  • WoW in-game pet
  • A figure from the Upper Deck miniature game
  • A notebook and a mousepad featuring characters from Diablo and StarCraft 2

Today’s schedule includes StarCraft and WarCraft activities, as well as multiple Developer Panels. The schedule doesn’t include StarCraft 2 events, but the Diablo 3 Announcement wasn’t exactly “scheduled” either.

Blizzard\'s WWi Schedule

Stay tuned for more updates from WWI!

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This year’s Blizzard’s Worldwide Invitational is special – Blizzard has merged with Activision, StarCraft 2 is playable and approaching Beta status, Diablo 3 is going to be revealed and Wrath of the Lich King has been in the barrel for a year.

Three Universes are undergoing major changes, and 2008′s WWI is a great place and time for announcements. A lot of hype surrounds the event, partly due to the fact that Blizzard has been playing with the gamers’ minds over the last 5 days via a changing splash screen which can easily be a teaser for any of the three games.

The image can turn out to look Protoss, Lich King or even Diablo, so not only has Blizzard not revealed anything, but the Internet has been flooded with fan-made images of the eventual result.

UPDATE: Regardless of the purpose of the splash screen, Diablo 3 has been officially announced – head over to Blizzard’s site for the hot intro.

Diablo3

But SC2Blog is first of all a SC2 Blog, and WWI has to deliver only one thing to make the effort, money and time spent worth it – the much anticipated StarCraft 2 Beta key.

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