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Q&A 43: Zerg Match Ups, Art Changes for Nomad and Stalker

Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, has taken some time off from his preparations for Blizzard’s next event in Leipzig to satiate the fans’ hunger for knowledge with an interesting Q&A session.

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 Terran Nomad has received a lot of criticism for its look. Here’s what some of our readers had to say when its official unit page was launched:

But WHY is it so ugly?

Yes, ugliest unit yet.

The flying clamp.

The flying clamp

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.

Zergling gang bang

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.

Zerg versus Zerg

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.

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8 Comments to “Q&A 43: Zerg Match Ups, Art Changes for Nomad and Stalker”

  1. kpollo1 — August 19, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

    CHANGE INFESTOR LOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. Ged — August 20, 2008 @ 2:25 am

    Am I the only one feeling that in SC2 you don’t see what is happening as easily as in SC1. I already had this feeling in WC3 (compared to SC1) even though there are less units in Warcraft, it’s harder to understand what is happening, even when turning down the nice but distracting effects (I sure hope Blizzard includes some options to disable them in SC2 too). In SC2 it seems even worse as in WC3. For example, in the last screenshot of this post, I can’t even tell *approximately* how many units there are in the fight.

    Compare this with: http://www.battle.net/images/battle/scc/zerg/pix/general/adv04.jpg,

    Sure, the units look nicer individually. I agree the less saturated “player” colors are nicer and “more realistic”, but it makes the player colors (and thus the units) stand out *much less* than in SC1. I mean that it’s less obvious to see which player a unit belong to, or even in to make the difference between a unit and the terrain/background. Sure, this makes for nicer screenshots, but it also makes “reading” a battle *much* harder. And it’s even worse (read: more beautiful but less functional) in this regard since the terrans got their “less saturated” face lifting. Is everything about looks these days?

    On an unrelated note, the stalker in the concept art sure looks good, but it also look like a cross between a protoss and a zerg unit (these blades look like claws).

  3. Joe — August 20, 2008 @ 6:31 am

    Good that the single player campaign is getting some attention :) Am very keen to see that beast in action! Might also mean that the gameplay is feeling more finished too … 😀

  4. THE_BANANA_REPUBLIC — August 21, 2008 @ 12:28 am

    The stalker looked, and even SOUNDED, like the nerub in warcraft 3.

    Looking forward to seeing these ZvZ matches. I wonder what flexibility the zerg player will have to mix and match units outside of the tier 1 combinations.

    I once asked Metzen if he ever felt like the delivery of his story, in-game, was anti-climatic compared with his own vision.

    He said, no, not really.

    I only fear with this ‘choose your own destiny’ single player campaign is that the delivery of Metzen’s genius will become watered-down.

    Who knows. The fact that they’re spending so much time on it tells us that the campaign story is likely to be rich and complex.

  5. aaron — August 22, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

    The zerg look awesome in that last screenshot. You definitely had a “swarm” look in the original, but this takes it to the next level. It really looks like they’re overrunning the other zerg base. Compliments to the art team.

    Given that zerg is my favorite race, I’m looking forward to an expanded ZvZ. I’m curious about the capabilities of the queen in such a battle–maybe it provides a good way of countering zergling attacks? And it’s too bad that most games won’t get to the ultralisk stage. Being able to ambush opponents with a few burrowed ultralisks will probably be really entertaining.

  6. i luv guardians — September 25, 2008 @ 3:23 am

    i think the swarm guardian is pretty ugly. starcraft beta had one looking like that and gd thing they crapped it in starcraft. Why bring it back?

  7. i luv guardians — September 25, 2008 @ 3:26 am

    the segmented parts on their back looks too cartoonish…it looks fine like a crab like creature in sc1. plus, it looks horrendously long and really really ugly

  8. Tomhosnappy — December 15, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

    The game looks like Warcraft. Its too cartoony.

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