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The 47th Q&A batch has been published, featuring seven answers and largely focusing on StarCraft 2 gameplay. A few interesting issues raised in this one, as well as a surprising development for Zerg transportation. No other special feature has been added to this Q&A session; without further ado:

1. In the original StarCraft, most air units can move and fire, vultures have fast rotating times and can shoot backwards and run forward instantaneously with enough micro. In StarCraft II, there have been some concerns from players who have played the game, that the unit movement animations are getting in the way of micro. Will such animation cancelling techniques still be possible in StarCraft II?

n

Both macro and micro-control are very important in StarCraft II as well, and when it comes to micro-control like Vulture’s moving and shooting in the original StarCraft, it is still possible to focus on micro control with the units.

n

For example, Mutalisks can fire while moving, with micro. And certain ground units, like the Marauders with the slow attack or Roaches with fast regeneration, benefit greatly from moving and shooting, but they still need to stop to shoot. The Hellion is also interesting, because the Hellion is a unit that has high burst, long delay between attacks, splash damage type, as well as a fast movement speed, so it can be used for kiting purposes as well as closing in the distance after every shot to do max possible damage. Eg, shoot once, close the gap, shoot again, close the gap even more, so that you don’t waste a single shot, but with each movement, you are doing a lot more damage.
StarCraft II also has a firing on the move unit — the Void Ray. The Void Ray can move closer to an enemy unit while continuing to fire at it, and because the damage type builds up over time, it would be more ideal to finish off that one unit that’s trying to run away or back up before engaging a brand new target.

Karune sidestepped the issue in this question, which put the emphasis on delays caused by unit turning animation. StarCraft 1 units, though based on 3D models, were merely 2D sprites on the battlefield. When changing direction, the unit sprite was immediately replaced with the one facing the direction of its ordered movement. In StarCraft 2, units and their full movement are rendered in 3D, and changing direction requires the time it takes the animation to finish. For most units, this change is hardly noticed, and changing direction is an instant operation. For others, like the Mutalisk, this delay is non-trivial, and prevents players from taking advantage of their hit and run potential.

Mutalisk raid

However, a fine example of micromanagement using Terran Marauders, which are minimally affected by this change, can be found in the first Battle Report video.

2. Do you plan to introduce consume (cannibalism) as one of the zerg features? For example, in Starcraft I, defilers ate zerglings to gain 50 energy (it is possible to introduce consume for ultralisks which will gain 50 life after eating a zergling or another unit)

n

We don’t have the consume ability in the game now, but if consume is considered as necessary to the game, you will see this ability in StarCraft II. Currently Zerg has caster units like the Infestor, Queen, Overlord, and Overseer. Infestors can move while burrowed, which means it can regenerate energy again away from the battle. The Queen has already powerful skills and combat ability. Overlords can fly and mutate the creep without any energy. Overseers also can fly so that they can earn some time to regenerate their energy as well. If the current Zerg casters having the consume ability, it could make them too powerful and strong.

3. Will there be custom water units? For custom maps and Scumedit will players be able to make units that swim/float. Also will there be special units designed for water, but only available on the Scumedit, like a shark-like zerg or protoss water vessel. Obv. I know these won’t be in multiplayer ladder, I only mean for custom maps.

n

We haven’t finalized the decision about the exact extent of support for custom maps and Scumedit yet.

4. Maps have always been important to keep SC balanced, fun and competitive. We have already seen you have some interesting new tools to help multiplayer map designers balance their maps such as tall grass that blocks vision of ground units. What other new terrain elements are we gonna see in SC2 to make interesting competitive maps?

n
Currently there are Xel’Naga Watch Tower, Grass, and Destructible Rocks in the map. We will be pleased to add more if we can design other features which will make the game more exciting and balanced as well.

New terrain elements or not, map modders will find ways to implement other effects to make battlefields more complex and interesting, just like in StarCraft 1. In the pro scene, permanent spell effects such as Dark Swarm and Disruption Web can be found across the field, and Dustin Browder has already confirmed that this will be possible in StarCraft 2:

[Dustin Browder] Our data editor allows the creation of this type of terrain. You could easily put this type of terrain on melee maps. We have not finalized our feature set for terrain yet so I dont know what will make the final cut for the default Blizzard maps.


5. The Thor was built by an SCV at first, but since quite time now it is built like a normal unit in the factory. Was this changed due to design or balance reasons?

n

We changed this due to the balance reason. Before the change, you could build as many Thors as you want at the same time with your SCVs, as long as you have resources, with one Barrack and an Armory. We decided that this can be too much benefit to Terran, and we changed that Thor could be built from a Factory.

It’s sad to see this new feature go, especially when it’s replaced by constructing Thors from a building which isn’t much bigger than they are.

The Thor is, in fact, as big as a Barracks

6. Zerg has cliff-scaling units?

n

We want to keep three races different and they do not necessarily have the same ability units. Currently Zerg do not have a cliff-scaling unit, like the Reaper in Terran or Colossus in Protoss. However, Zerg still can expand very quickly and have other movement advantages like 30% additional speed on creep. They also have the combination of Overlord’s creep generating ability and Nydus Network as a very powerful tool to attack opponent’s main base or expansion. Also, Overlords are currently able to transport Zerg units like the original StarCraft.

Hidden within the usual spiel about race diversity is an incredible announcement about the Zerg’s transportation capabilities. After struggling with making the Nydus Worm function as the sole unit transport for the Zerg, it seems that Blizzard has given up and decided to supplement it with the previous transportation method – the Overlord’s Ventral Sacs.

7. I noticed that in the Protoss demo the Protoss buildings when warped in, had there surfaces visibly warped in, like in the original StarCraft. However, in recent builds and footage, Protoss buildings just appear after the building animation. Is this just a temporary thing, or is it really gone?

n

Warp-in of Protoss buildings should be one effect for all with the final frames unique showing the specific buildings structure phasing in.

Along with this Q&A, three new, amazing screenshots have been published on StarCraft2.com, showing the latest and greatest in StarCraft 2 graphics development. Especially of note is the night-time picture, showing a well-lit fight between Protoss and Terran forces.

ss104-hiresss105-hiresss103-hires

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Finally. Blizzard has released a high-resolution, well narrated, well played and action packed StarCraft 2 video. The Battle Report features two of Blizzard’s “game balance designers” (dream job ?), Matt as Protoss and David as Terran – fighting for dominance on StarCraft 2 Alpha map “Kulas Ravine”. It is narrated by none other than Dustin Browder – StarCraft 2’s lead designer, who is accompanied by Robert Simpson of  the eSports devision.

StarCraft 2 Battle Report Intro

Kulas Ravine was obviously not a randomly chosen map – it incorporates virtually all of StarCraft 2’s new battlefield elements:

And the game itself could not have served as a better showroom for all of StarCraft 2’s novelties.

Observer Battle Information Box:

All throughout the game, the observers enjoyed a multi-mode, translucent information box, providing data summaries for:

  • Resources: Current Mineral, Gas and Food counts
  • Production: Unit, Research and Construction
  • Unit: Total unit count summary

StarCraft 2 Information Box

Observers were also able to see units’ Health Bars and player’s commands – however it remains unclear whether the Observers enjoyed the additional info during the live game or via a replay viewer.

Destroyable Barriers:

Played a major role from the very beginning, culminating in an epic Barrier destruction race to save/destroy an expansion. The Terran’s ability to lift n’ load ® allowed David to take advantage of an isolated natural expansion for quite a while, only to find himself unable to assist the mining SCVs when a Colossus barged in later on.

Xel’ Naga Watch Towers:

Multiple Watch Towers placed in the middle of the map provide the controlling player with invaluable ground movement information. The Watch Towers have been captured right at the beginning of the match and have changed hands multiple times as the players struggled for mid-map dominance.

Kulas Ravie Map

Proxy Pylons:

Protoss remote warp stations. Absolutely vital for the Protoss’ ability to keep the pressure on from the very start. The Pylon is a great point of retreat and regroup and serves as attack launching spot. The enemy will have great trouble in attacking other targets as long as a well placed Proxy Pylon remains in place.

Marauder Kiting and Trapping:

Charging Zealots are not really avoidable for most ground units. Upgraded Zealots close the distance extremely fast, and swarm enemy units in a fashion that would make Zerglings blush. However, even these units have been kited (to some success) by Maraueders.
The Marauders themselves have played a cetral and vital role throughout the game – used to lure and trap (by stunning shots) units early on, deliver deadly assaults in numbers, and to successfully kite (hit and run) when outnumbered has positioned the Marauder as a key weapon in the Terran’s arsenal – a status that the Firebat has never attained.

This is the very first of many millions of StarCraft 2 replays to come – a must for every StarCraft 2 fan.

Watch

Download

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The StarCraft 2 news world has slowed down lately, with Blizzard focusing intensely on development and not revealing much to the hungry public. The only new information comes from Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, and his trusty sidekick, Cydra, who, in their infinite benevolence, bestow StarCraft 2 tidbits upon the Battle.net forums from time to time. We’ve rounded up the interesting, notable communications from the past week:

First, Cydra reveals that the Protoss Mothership’s status has been changed again:

Only one Mothership can be warped in per a player.


You can have multiple Queens with your Hatchery and Spawning pool, and Queen is very useful unit for both offensive and defensive strategies. Currently Queen has Creep Tumor building ability and Mutant Larva spawning ability. And one more skill can be researched at the Lair, which is very powerful for the defense and offense as well.

The Mothership first appeared in the StarCraft 2 video introduction last year in Korea and was heralded as a unique unit that represents the epitome of Protoss technological and psychic progress. Since then, it has been transformed into a normal unit with a very undefined role, taking on and shedding off various attributes and abilities. It seems that even a month of discussion did no good, though, hopefully, our poll on the subject will help Blizzard decide what to do with this unit, which, while having a very interesting concept, has a hard time when it comes to gameplay.

MotherShip

Next, Cydra answers a few specific questions about upgrades and the buildings they require:

1) Is the observatory back in the game?
2) Which buildings are the warp prism, observer and phoenix speed and sight upgrades at?
3) Is the nullifier’s black beam its regular attack, or a special ability like molecular disruption?
4) What hellion statistic can be upgraded at the tech lab?


1) There is no observatory back in the game. You can warp in Observers at your Robotics Facility.
2) Observer’s movement speed and Warp Prism’s movement speed can be reserached at Null Circuit. Phoenix has no upgrades for the movement speed and range at the current development stage.
3) Nullfier’s Force Beam is its regular attack.
4) Hellion’s upgrade can be researched at Armory.

nullfier force beam

Finally, a good question about combining the power of multiple building selection (MBS) and focus firing using base defenses elicits this response:

You can do focused-fire on a specific enemy unit with your Photon Cannons, Bunkers, Missile Turrets and Spine Crawlers, etc. This would give you more strategical options when you defense your base from the enemy units.

An interesting “side effect” of MBS. In StarCraft 1, such a feat would require intense clicking and would likely not be worth the time investment in most situations. With this advancement in user interface, making efficient use of base defenses by focusing their fire would be much more prevalent.

Over the course of the week, Karune also revealed that the primary focus of development is currently the single player campaign.

Most of the development on the game is currently on single player, so getting new information for you guys in regards to multiplayer gameplay related changes has been more scarce.

That is a good indication that the mechanics, look and feel of the game are almost ready for the beta, which Karune has mentioned just a few days ago

StarCraft II is planned to have a beta 😉

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DreamHack is the world’s largest and most spectacular LAN party. Blizzard has been represented well on the main floor, with WarCraft 3 (+DoTA) ,World of WarCraft: Wrath the Lich King and StarCraft 2 all available and playable, with WarCraft 3 and DoTA being part of the eSports events.

DreamHackLogo

Out of the thousands of gaming rigs, only 16 had StarCraft 2 installed, but these were enough for GosuGamers to compile quite an extensive hands-on gameplay report, spanning multiple pages and covering

  • Graphics
  • Mechanics
  • Macro Management

Graphics:

StarCraft 2’s initial graphics and unit design were criticized by many fans for lacking the rough, dirty, mechanical feel that StarCraft 1 graphics have so masterfully projected. Initially, graphics were shiny, lively and colorful, and Blizzard did what Blizzard does best – it asked the community for feedback. And then the community answered, and they have listened.

cute fluffy older graphics

Over the next few weeks we will be trying out a few things on the upcoming screenshots, including a reduced saturation which will increase the realism of the units and environment.

The reports from DreamHack address that exact concern, and news from the front seem to be good:

has been concerns that the graphic is too bright, or that the units look too much like toys. Playing the game, however, it all felt just right. It felt down worn and dirty, especially on the darker tilesets of maps

Mechanics:

Path algorithms are hard to program. Path algorithms that respond perfectly and consistently to a constantly changing environment with multiple human inputs at any given time are even harder.
Now that you know that, you should also know that apparently Zerglings have some AI and path selection issues which will hopefully be solved before the game hits beta.
The Zerg are also experiencing some unit acceleration and response issues, with Mutalisks receiving noticeable acceleration/deceleration and momentum adjustment mechanisms.

The Mutalisks were clumsy. ….

….First, it takes for ever for them to accelerate. Meaning of you do a turn or an attack or anything than flying in a straight line they are slow as hell.
Second, sometimes I would order them to make a turn to go somewhere else, and they would instead end up on a slightly different spot from where I ordered them to go to!

Calculating the paths of clumped mutalisks ?

One of StarCraft’s deadliest weapons have been well controlled clumped Mutalisks. The ability to move fast, hit hard and change targets repeatedly according to their vulnerability has provided the Zerg with one of the best hit n’run tools in any RTS. Apparently, StarCraft 2 Zerg players will have to adjust their tactics, especially considering the fact that everything owns Mutalisks.

Macro – MBS, Gas and Automining:

StarCraft 2’s automation mechanisms have been debated from the very start – the game contains significantly less “chores” and streamlines production and worker management. Trivial tasks are made truly trivial, leaving more time for battles… and babysitting gas.

the gas mechanic. It’s annoying. It doesn’t ruin anything really, but it’s just annoying hearing a BEEP BEEP everytime it goes offline and online. Sure, it creates an interesting aspect but it’s too annoying. Blizzard said they try to put in cool stuff and units. Well this is not cool in any way. if it’s done to make macro harder, just remove automining instead.

Blizzard should probably notice and address the concerns raised by many gamers regarding the Vespene Gas mechanic. It feels forced, and as one of our readers put it,

putting speed bumps like this in the way of pro players is just gonna frustrate casual players

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