Blizzard’s co-founder, Frank Pearce, has come out with a statement sure to excite StarCraft fans in an interview given to VideoGaming247.
When asked about the possibility of a 4th race in StarCraft 2, Frank deals the usual response:
We talked about the possibility of a fourth race early on, but we felt like we had a finite amount of great ideas and wanted to make sure we focused all the cool, best ideas on the existing three races rather than diluting those ideas across four races.
However, for the first time, Frank gives hope when it comes to the inevitable StarCraft 2 expansion:
We don’t have the resources or time to add a fourth race to the launch of StarCraft II, but I’m sure in the event that we decide to do an expansion set it’s a feature that’ll come up for discussion.
This is the first time a Blizzard representative has not completely denied the possibility of adding a new playable race to StarCraft 2. Blizzard have been very adamant in their choice of sticking with the three original StarCraft races, which they decided to further explore and differentiate between. It will be interesting to see how they tackle the challenge of introducing a completely new race to the delicate balance currently evolving amongst the three existing races in StarCraft 2.
Next up, we have a few bits of information about StarCraft 2’s most recent gameplay tactics, straight from the mouth of Blizzard – Karune, Blizzard’s community manager. First up, Karune discusses a sneaky tactic employed by the Terran.
Thought I’d share with you guys that in internal gameplay, we’ve had some poor souls find out the hard way that apparently if you are playing Terran and you immediately lift off your command center to a close by high yield mineral field, you will easily make up the difference of the time lost from collecting minerals during that period, and essentially be able to out produce any other race very quickly. Thus far, it seems like it is easy to defend this new fast expansion strategy. Nonetheless, I’m sure it will be balanced in the coming weeks, but thought it was funny so I thought I’d share.
The yellow, high yield minerals currently provide 50% more resources than the normal, blue variants. Since the Terran Command Center, like all Terran buildings, has a natural ability to lift off, maps with a closeby yellow mineral patch make this almost a crime not to abuse.
Karune has received a few suggestions to “fix” this issue on the forums and responded to them:
Making lift off a researched ability and hard coating the minerals both seem like interesting ideas – I’ll be sure to forward that along to the devs. Like I said before though, this has only worked on ‘certain’ maps. If anything, those maps could be modified slightly and it would probably fix it.
Knowing Blizzard, this strategy will likely still be viable on certain maps, but in a balanced way that allows the other races to respond to it without being at an obvious disadvantage.
Karune’s next post discusses the Mutalisks’ ability to bunch up tightly and function like a single unit, attacking targets for very high damage, as well as utilizing their attack cool-down time to move. This tactic requires some micromanaging skill to accomplish, and has become a favorite discussion point in Q&As. This is what the situation is like, currently:
There has not been extensive testing of this yet, but in terms of Mutalisks, players will be able to stack, but it will be much harder to keep them clumped up. As more info surfaces about this, I will keep you informed.
Also, Mutalisks at first in StarCraft II while slowed down a bit before they attacked, but the code has been fixed to allow it to attack on the move like the original StarCraft.
It seems like Mutalisks will still be able to attack and move if used by skilled, agile players, but creating a Korean Mutalisk super-unit will be significantly more difficult.
Three new videos, all in high definition, have emerged from the Leipzig Gaming Convention. Although players were given the chance to play for 15 minutes at a time, so far, these short videos contain the only worthy StarCraft 2 gameplay footage from the event.
The first video shows a Protoss base, as it is being built, up close. Nothing majorly interesting happens, but one can’t help but notice how pretty it all looks.
The next one is the most interesting of the bunch. It features a Terran attack on a minimally-defended Zerg base.
The two defensive buildings in place, the Spine Crawlers, are quickly taken out by Siege Tanks in siege mode, and the reinforcements being hatched come too little and too late. The Swarm units are making their first appearance – these can be seen when the Terran army destroys the Spawning Pool at 0:47.
The Swarm are the same units that emerge from the Swarm Guardian‘s new attack, and are basically StarCraft 2’s Broodling units. They are very fragile, deal little damage – 4 points at melee range, and die off by themselves after a few seconds. However, they serve to keep an attacking enemy busy for a short time, which can be precious under some circumstances. In this video, we can see another great benefit – they close the distance to the attacking Marines quickly, drawing Siege Tank fire to them, and this greatly damages the friendly Marines themselves.
The Swarm are only created when major buildings are destroyed – the more important the building is, the more of them will come out. This is very reminiscent of the Command & Conquer games, where basic, wounded infantry units have a chance of popping out of destroyed buildings.
The rest of the video shows the slow and painful death of the Zerg base by the remaining Terran Siege Tanks. Two Reapers make an appearance before the end, moving in on the mineral line, quickly mowing down Drones with their dual guns. It’s clear that these units were designed with devastating the enemy economy in mind, as evident by the amazing speed in which two of them completely obliterate all the workers.
The last video is another short one, with a few brief, interesting bits. A few seconds of the living, breathing Zerg base are seen, and the video quickly jumps to show Protoss units abusing an unhatched Zerg egg. Later, a group of Zealots and a Stalker are captured at the moment when they destroy a neutral barrier, moving on to attack another Zerg base.
Throughout the videos, and especially in the Zerg portions, it’s very easy to see how alive everything looks. The creep is constantly shifting underneathe its purple skin, buildings have protruding, constantly undulating tenctacles, and everything seems to breath. Everything in StarCraft 2 is always in motion, enhancing the sense of immersion, yet such high level of passive activity might impede the player’s ability to focus on meaningful animations. Either way, it’s highly apparent, with each new demonstration, that the graphical aspects of StarCraft 2 are being constantly honed and adjusted, just like the gameplay.Google+
ATI – AMD’s “Advances in Real‐Time Rendering in 3D Graphics and Games Course“, during the highly technical SIGGRAPH 2008 conference, included a whole chapter dedicated solely to the implementation of the shader framework and the rendering techniques used in StarCraft 2.
As the name implies, the paper, which won’t be an easy read even for seasoned programmers, is a part of a course with the following prerequisites:
This course assumes working knowledge of a modern real‐time graphics API like OpenGL or Direct3D, as well as a solid basis in commonly used graphics algorithms. The participants are also assumed to be familiar with the concepts of programmable shading and shading languages.
The StarCraft 2 engine definitely has a split personality, and for a good reason – there is a fully interactive, playable “Story Mode”, which requires a completely different form of real-time rendering. Rendering four high-resolution characters and a detailed static environment is quite unlike rendering two hundred units with hundreds of constantly changing lighting sources, but both of the above scenarios must be supported by the same engine.
Starcraft II is supported by an engine that in many ways has a split personality; during normal game play we typically render scenes from a relatively far away distance, with high batch counts, and a focus on action rather than details. At the same time, we really wanted to push our storytelling forward with Starcraft II, and this is where the game’s
“Story Mode” comes in. In this mode, the player generally sits back to take in the game’s rich story, lore and visuals, interacting with other characters through dialogues and watching actions unfold….
…story mode generally boasts lower batch counts, close‐up shots, and a somewhat more contemplative feel – all things more typical of a first person shooter.
All technical details aside, Chapter 5 includes one over-quoted statement which presumably reveales the GPU system requirements for StarCraft 2.
Yet we also wanted to utilize the full potential of any available hardware to ensure the game’s looks were competitive. This meant supporting a widerange of hardware, from ATI Radeon 9800/NVIDIA GeForce FX’s to the ATI Radeon HD 4800s and NVIDIA GeForce G200s, targeting maximum utilization on each different GPU platform.
The above statement effectively puts the minimum requirement bar at an ATI Radeon 9800 or at Nvidia’s GeForce 5 family – cards which have been introduced more than 5 years ago. Blizzard’s developers are staying loyal to their tradition of aiming for the mainstream and putting an emphasis on gameplay instead of intense system punishment.
Reports from the Game Convention in Leipzig are streaming in, but considering that the presented build is actually identical to the World Wide Invitational one, nothing major is expected to be either announced or discovered during the event.
IGN’s brief interview with Frank Pearce, Blizzard’s senior vice president of product development, hasn’t revealed much, but it did confirm that there is no super-secret StarCraft 2 closed beta testing group, and that the beta is months away at best.
Currently, the testing for StarCraft II doesn’t include that many people. “It’s like a limited internal alpha phase,” says Pearce. “The development team that’s working on it is playing it and we’ve released some alpha builds to some other development teams internally and then the quality assurance department is also playing it.”
…We asked when the field of testers might expand to beyond Blizzard’s walls. “That’s months away,” said Pearce. “We still have to expand our internal alpha to include the rest of the organization, iterate on that feedback, and then we have to evaluate what kind of beta we need, whether we need one at all. There’s a pretty high level of certainty that we’re going to need a beta and then we have to decide if we want to do a host beta or a closed beta or both. So, months.”
Another interview was given to VideoGamer, with Frank’s line remaining consistent – things are going well, but the game is far from being being ready to be released.
VideoGamer.com: Which leads me nicely on to the next question which is when will they get the chance to play the game? Do you have even a rough ballpark for when the game’s gong to be released?
FP: Not really. We still have a lot of work to do. Anyone that’s had the opportunity to play it at any of the shows we’ve shown it at might think wow, this feels pretty good, this feels pretty complete, so why don’t they just release it? But we still have a lot of work to do on the Battle.net side and we still have a lot of work to do on the single-player campaign side. And until that stuff is done, the total package isn’t there.
The second part of the interview, however, is interesting, and sheds quite a lot of light on the development and decision making processes inside Blizzard. When the interview touches WoW and the possibility of a StarCraft MMO, Frank puts things in perspective by reminding that World of WarCraft has been in development since 1999, and says that bringing the StarCraft Universe to the same level won’t be easy.
VideoGamer.com You’ve made it difficult for yourself!
FP: Yeah, we’ve made it very difficult for ourselves and it’s an overwhelming thought! I’ve been there at Blizzard since we started on WoW and it’s been a very long and arduous journey. And to think about taking that journey again with the StarCraft franchise is a little scary! It makes an RTS like Starcraft 2 seem very achievable [laughs].
VideoGamer.com: Fans say a StarCraft MMO would be great, but they don’t see your side of things do they?
FP: The World of Warcraft team is 135 people. The StarCraft 2 team is 40 people.
During the interview, Frank also confirms that unlike StarCraft (which was ported to Nintendo 64), StarCraft 2 is not planned to be ported to any sort of console, mainly due to the game’s fast pace.
FP: It’s not something we’re specifically planning for right now. The development team is working on the game and the interface with the PC and the PC interface peripherals in mind.
BC: One barrier to entry there is just the speed of the game. If you look at how the RTS genre has evolved a lot of it has slowed things down, make things a little bit more, not a plodding place, but a little bit more of giving players more of a chance to evaluate. StarCraft is really action packed.
Unfortunately, Karune informs that the next few batches will feature “lighter” questions, to give the devs time to prepare for Blizzard’s upcoming events and to… well, work on StarCraft 2.
… the development team is working extremely hard on the single player campaign, which we will be talking in more detail about at a later time. In the meantime, questions will be ‘light’ over the next couple of batches, to give the Dev Team ample time to work on their latest design challenges. There are also many preparations being made for both the Games Convention coming up in Leipzig, as well as BlizzCon, to make sure the StarCraft II community definitely gets their feed of info.
In the mean time, here’s today’s Q&A, which is not light by any means.
1) What happens if a Nullifier targets a Colossus with the Anti-Gravity ability?
When Anti-Gravity is used upon a Colossus, the Colossus will still be immobilized and lifted up, which will still allow it to be hit by units that can attack air targets. Colossi will not be able to shoot while under the effect of Anti-Gravity.
2) How many critters will there be available and will they have attack animations?
There will be critters, but there have not been any detailed discussions yet about their attack animations. On that note, there is a possibility that BlizzCon panels may fill the community in a bit more on what type of critters there will be.
3) Can the Infestor infest any building, or only specific ones, such as Barracks or Gateways, if the Protoss can be infested?
This is actually a mechanic they are currently testing quite a bit. It is undecided if the Infestor will be able to infest Protoss or Zerg buildings, as there are gameplay and lore reasons which support many different options. Either way, at the end of the day, the development team will choose an option that will be balanced and fun in terms of gameplay for multiplayer.
The above question has been asked time and time again, and so far, the developers have replied positively regarding the Protoss and negatively about the Zerg each time. Does infesting Zerg structures make sense? Will a free supply of infested Zealots be balanced? These are indeed difficult questions to answer, and it’s not surprising that the issue is still under scrutiny.
4) What units are currently undergoing major art changes?
There are several artistic revisions every week, though the two newest units to get some artistic updates are the Nomad and the Stalker. The Terran Nomad is getting a complete artistic redesign from any versions the community has seen thus far. Furthermore, the Protoss Stalker is also being updated to look more similar to the concept art piece as seen here: http://starcraft2.com/art.xml?s=6
The original Science Vessel, its prototypic predecessor, was one of the coolest looking, non-combat support unit in StarCraft. The old Nomad design is a complete departure from the Sci-Vessel’s look; it will be interesting to see whether Blizzard sticks with the basic Nomad design or goes for something completely different for this unique unit.
Likewise, we feel that the look for the in-game stalker could use a shift in the direction of its concept art, which is devastatingly superior.
5) How do Zerg vs Zerg games play out in SC2? Is it still mostly a battle of mutalisks and zerglings or have the new units changed things around?
ZvZ (Zerg vesus Zerg)matchup usually opens up in 2 different ways, Zerglings or Roaches. Aggressive players can use Zerglings mobility to take control of the early game, whereas going Roaches is more of a defensive strategy. Zergling vs. Roach relationship is such that for cost, Zerglings wins out in the open, Roaches win at chokes, but in mid/late games when numbers are greater, Roaches can stand up to or even beat Zerglings for cost out in the open. Hydralisks dont have much use in ZvZ early game, as they are more of an anti air unit in StarCraft II.
The tier 2 battle continues with Banelings that can dominate Zerglings, but with micro, Zerglings can actually come out ahead in Zergling vs. Baneling battles. Similarly, Lurkers counter Roaches for cost, but Roaches have the mobility advantage. Mutaliks counter Zerglings/Roaches since these units cant hit air. Whats different in StarCraft II is that Hydralisks counter Mutalisks extremely well, meaning something like Roach/Hydralisk combo can stand up to the classic Zergling/Mutalisk combo. Also, another great way to fight vs. mass Mutalisks is to tech to infestation pit (same tech level as the Spire), and make Corruptors or Infestors. Infestors have the disease ability that is great for fighting vs. units that clump really well such as the Mutalisk, and Corruptors are Zergs anti air air unit.
Due to the fast pace of the ZvZ game, most games dont end up in tier 3, but ultralisks, with their cleave attack, or swarm guardians that use swarms to soak up a lot of ground vs. ground damage are great options if the game does happen to go into tier 3.
Overall, StarCraft II has a variety of options even in a mirror match such as Zerg vs. Zerg. Players can use different unit compositions to counter the classic Zergling/Mutalisk strategy that is a still powerful but not the only option.
Blizzard seem to be fulfilling their promise to create more options in every match up in StarCraft 2. Lets go over some of the new Zerg match ups:
Zerglings win against roaches in the open because of their new “ability” to efficiently surround their targets, quickly taking down unit after unit, while roaches win in choke points because they can limit this capability while still being able to focus their ranged attack. In the late game, with more units, and perhaps the Roach’s increased regeneration upgrade, Roaches can take down more Zerglings before they close in and take more of their damage before dying.
Banelings, which come out at Tier 2 to counter masses of small units, like the Zerlings, will pose much less of a threat to skilled micromanagers – these will spread out their forces, preventing the Banelings from killing enough enemies to be worth the economic sacrifice. As well, smart usage of small Zergling groups will allow these to pick off the Banelings before they reach the heavier unit concentrations.
The StarCraft 2 Hydralisk, unlike its predecessor, is much more effective against Mutalisks. Previously, its “explosive” attack only inflicted 50% of the damage to Mutalisks, which were “small” units. With this system gone, the Hydralisk can now take down Mutalisks much more quickly with its more punishing damage.
This change allows Zerg versus Zerg battles to escape the standard Mutalisk/Zergling combo of the early-middle (and even late) game, since the Roach/Hydralisk combo can stand up on its own.
Of course, with Corruptors and Infestors thrown into the mix, even these match ups will constantly be varied. With the Infestor playing a larger role in StarCraft 2 than its old counterpart, the Defiler, we are bound to see Diseases, StarCraft 2’s version of the Plague, cast around much more often. However, there might be less incentive to build those in StarCraft 2, depending on whether or not Infestors can Infest other Zerg buildings.
Before even mentioning the third tier, it’s clear that the Zerg versus Zerg game has been expanded considerably. Hopefully, these additions, which look great in Theorycraft, also function in a balanced and fun way in the game itself.Google+
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