Episode three of BlizzCast has been posted on Blizzard’s site. This one features the most interesting interview to date – a long chat with Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2’s lead game designer, and a community Q&A.
Here are the highlights of the talk, of which there are many:
* Dustin reiterates many times that the Zerg is the least mature race, lacking many gameplay elements and a good “feel”. He thinks the Protoss are complete for the most part, with the Terran not far behind. “They feel the crispest, the sharpest, and feel the meanest in a lot of ways, and have the best counters, and the most interesting new strategies.“
* Dustin describes the feel of the StarCraft 1 Zerg, which they are now trying to recapture in StarCraft 2: “The Zerg were very fast, very aggressive, very mean, very flexible, and strategically able to rapidly change their technologies on the fly.”
* StarCraft 2 will also bring to the foreground a few of the neglected Zerg elements from StarCraft 1 – namely, infestation and a more convincing Queen unit.
* Dustin describes the Queen as a “mobile buff“. Previously, it had an even bigger role, laying eggs and creating specialist units, but the development team decided to reduce the dependence on her, which was too hard to balance and ended up not being fun.
* The Ultralisk hasn’t gotten a lot of play-testing time, being at the end of the tech tree. Currently, it has trouble actually engaging enemy forces (being a huge melee unit), but Dustin says it’s fun to use – especially since it can now burrow like all other Zerg units.
* The development team is trying to balance the interface so that it includes many of the new RTS features modern players have been accustomed to with the more “old school” control scheme that requires a lot of attention and speed. One of the attempts to increase the level of macromanagement needed for competitive play was Warp-In, which, when used proficiently, provides a boost to unit production time.
* Dustin assures us that the UI, micro- and macro-management requirements have not been finalized in any way, and that the team is still trying to come up with ideas. Even rolling back to the antiquated StarCraft 1 control scheme is an option, Dustin says. Of course, the team would prefer to implement as many new interface improvements as possible – as long as they’re satisfied with their impact on the game.
* The Zerg can now expand even more easily. Not only that, their creep-spreading capabilities coupled with the new mobility granted to their defenses make the Zerg play more aggressively. “It feels like sometimes their base is invading your base, which is very Zerg and feels very, very cool.“
* Dustin mentions the increased mobility as a means to handle these new expansionist strategies. “Between Reapers, Vikings, Stalkers, and Nydus Worms – these races are more mobile than they have ever been.”
* “The whole board has now become a very threatening place as everyone has additional mobility and you really never know where you will encounter an enemy and you can’t rely on the map alone to wall off and protect you.”
* “I would say if you pick the single unit that has been the biggest pain to deal with would have to be the Queen. We have worked on the Queen for probably two years straight, trying variations from one to the other. I don’t want to say we’re even done yet, because I don’t think we necessarily are but she has probably been the single most challenging unit, much is something like the Mothership was probably and remains one of the most challenging units to work on for the Protoss.”
Next up is the community Q&A section:
The first question is: Can the Zerg unit, the Queen, build on enemy Zerg player’s creep? And what strategies would this allow?
Well creep is creep, we’re trying not to have player owned creep in the game we really want to have just regular creep and anywhere creep is that’s just where creep is. So yeah, anything that you can do on creep you can do on enemy creep because there isn’t really such a thing, it’s all just the same stuff. So the Queen can potentially get to an enemy base and create some base defenses there. In all practicality we have slowed the Queen down a lot when she’s not on creep, certainly since the play tests that went out a few weeks ago and the people were playing, it’s really changed a lot already. So the unit is much much slower when she’s not moving around on creep and she’s, as a result, a lot more vulnerable. So we’re really not seeing a lot of Queen rushing, in our opening game in Zerg versus Zerg, in fact currently we’re not seeing any right now. That’s not to say that players won’t ultimately do that and we won’t need to ultimately address that potential issue but we think we have the tools to limit it, making it a rare possibility, something kind of exciting that players can do if they catch the enemy off guard but most of the time it’s not really practical.
Offensive Queen usage, which, according to Karune, ruled Zerg 1v1 matches, is no longer a prevalent strategy now that Queens are less mobile when not traveling on creep.
With the ability to do Multiple Building Selection, it will be easy for a Zerg player to build a huge group of reinforcements over a small period of time once you have the Hatcheries setup. Are you increasing macro for the Zerg player to balance this out?
Well we’re trying to figure out how to do that, so we haven’t decided exactly what we are going to do or even exactly what our approach is going to be. It is a very real issue and it is something we have been working on for quite some time and we will keep working on until we get it pounded out but I do not have an answer for you today as to what specifically we are going to do but it is definitely real and we are totally aware of it.
That’s it from Dustin Browder, who provided some great insight into the stage of development StarCraft 2 is in right now. Dustin mentions the beta a few times, hinting that many things in StarCraft 2 will not change until feedback from the beta arrives. Of course, he also makes it clear that there are many things to change and improve – especially when it comes to the Zerg.
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