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Blizzard has released eight new screenshots through an updated StarCraft 2 Fansite Kit, all featuring battles from the single player campaign. Accompanying these pictures are some tidbits of information from Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager.

Crispy Zerglings

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A Terran base is attacked by a medium-size Zerg force. The base isn’t heavily defended – but it’s enough that a few Hellion shots land well and scorch a fair share of Zerglings for the Zerg attack to fail.

Speaking of scorched units, Karune has mentioned that many of the new art updates to the game involve animations, particularly the death sequences we had recently discussed.

Many of the newest art updates have actually been made in the animations, weapon particles, and in special effects, which are much harder to show in screenshots. For instance, HellionsMarines to a crisp when they are destroyed by the flames. Dark Templars also end up eviscerating Marauders in a ruthless fashion. In our next batch we’ll see if we can emphasize on some of these new additions made.

Projectile vomiting

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This screenshot is another one in the “base comes under attack by endless Zerg forces” series, which has become a favorite for Blizzard recently. In this shot, we can see the new and improved Roach attack – an Acid Spit – thicker and more menacing than before. As well, the Creep seems to be colored differently than before, having a more greish hue. This is likely a result of either the single player setting, where this shot is taking place, or perhaps a change meant to implement different Creep for different team colors.

Protoss air attack

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The Protoss attempt an attack on a Terran base, defended both by Missile Turrets and a few Vikings. Failure is imminent, and we get to see the hurt being put on the remaining units along with a Phoenix returning its pilot’s soul to the Khala. Unfortunately for the Terrans, the Protoss have also beamed down a ground attack force, and it seems that their economy is about to enter a depression.

Enemy at the gates

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Another Terran base is being swarmed from all directions in this shot. Will the Zerg ever run out of units to throw at their enemies? Hopefully not.

Fighting in the fields

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In this shot, Protoss and Zerg forces are fighting over what looks like a Terran settlement – implying that we will see those in the single player campaign. The Colossus’ weapon, seen here in all its might, has received a buff to its effectiveness. Here’s what Karune had to say:

The Colossus in the latest round of balance has had it’s damage increased, with its attack speed decreased a bit, giving it some more burst. With a couple of these on the field, it is quite effective at decimating armies of light armor units.

Well-aimed shots from two or three Colossi will now be able to devastate many of StarCraft 2’s smaller units in the first laser shot, increasing its usefulness and making the added attack cooldown less important.

Colossi crossing the deep sea

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Colossi are seen here again, this time emerging from the sea, their legs streching all the way to the bottom while the head-turrets fire freely. Did the Colossus get another buff? Not just yet:

The Colossi, like other ground units, will be able to move through shallow waters only. In this screenshot, it shows experimentation of having Colossi move through slightly deeper waters, but there are no plans at the moment to make the Colossi traverse all water terrains.

Lastly, Karune mentions a new mechanism for the Nighthawk’s deployables, which, as we have suggested, will now be tied to resources instead of energy:

On the balance side, in the latest round of changes, the Nighthawk builds mini defenses such as the auto turret based on resources now, instead of energy. This effectively forces players to think more in how they plan to use the Nighthawk’s support functions based on their resources. Additionally, these ‘almost instant’ drops on the battlefield could easily change the tide of a battle or even wreck havoc on an unsuspecting enemy economy.

Auto Turrets: now on sale

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Q&A 48 delivers. Featuring a lengthy and interesting Chat with Devs section, coupled with seven, mostly gameplay-oriented questions, the batch could not have been more relevant for these “we can almost smell the beta” times. The batch even starts with a promise of a second StarCraft 2 Battle Report, to showcase the variety of newly introduced gameplay mechanics and animations.

Chat with Devs:

The new year is well on its way and with it, the devs have been making much progress in both the artistic polish of the game, as well as continued development of multiplayer game mechanics. The art team has been adding several new death animations for units including the Drone’s disintegration into ashes when torched by Hellions, or the explosion of the Overlord sacs by Marine Gauss Rifle fire, and even Marauders being sliced into various pieces by Dark Templars. All of it is quite a sight to see and it is the hope of the art team that these additional animations will really give players a grand experience of immersion into an epic StarCraft battle. On the multiplayer side, the designers are testing out various macro-management encouraging mechanics that will be implemented to each race, but still be played out differently per race. These macro elements will be aimed to allow players with greater macro-management skills to compete with the advantage of gathering more resources than a player who does not emphasize as much on resourcing. More details about the mechanics that are being implemented will be covered in the next Q&A batch and is also planned to be showcased in the next StarCraft II Battle Report.

The StarCraft Universe’s weaponry varies wildly; from the Colossus’ massive lasers and Thor’s Flak cannons to the Zerglings’ claws and Hellion’s flamers – it is only fitting to have at least several key weapon-type dependent deaths per unit. The unit’s death animation is unlikely to be tied to an attack by a specific unit, however. Instead, it will probably be the result of a certain type of attack, perhaps divided into categories such as projectiles, beams, fire and slashing or the like. This design would allow a unit to behave (ahem, die..) correctly when facing user-created enemies in custom maps – which, as Blizzard has mentioned before, are the maps that will include the fancy death animations.

Hellions and Zerglings getting along

As mentioned just a few days ago, Blizzard is clearly looking to complicate the macromanagement aspect of StarCraft 2. With its multiple automation mechanisms, StarCraft 2 differs greatly from StarCraft 1’s Spartan approach to base and economy management. With the demanding Gas Babysitting mechanism not being met with open arms even by seasoned professionals, it is only natural for Blizzard to try and introduce additional concepts that will allow the much needed professional macro-skill edge to be expressed in StarCraft 2.

On to the Q&A:

1. The recently released screenshot (http://www.sc2blog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/ss104-hires.jpg) shows a combat in rainy night appearance. Will night or different weather be limited to campaign mode? And will it be possible to select it on the map editor?
Night and rain effects will be possible in campaign mode but are not likely occur in multiplayer. Additionally, these effects will be available to map editors to use for custom maps.

It has yet to be seen whether this decision truly benefits the professional competition or just constitutes a missed opportunity for introducing an additional, relevant concept of StarCraft 2 gameplay. Of course, the decision to not use the existing Day/Night/Weather cycle mechanism in competitive multiplayer matches might be caused by graphics requirements or other gameplay/balance issues that have been discovered during internal testing.

2. Does blizzard plan any interface options for people with physical issues (such as color blindness, deafness)? – Kain175 (USEast)
This is a good suggestion and we would like to give all players opportunities to enjoy our games. While we may not be able to create accommodations for everyone, there have definitely been strides made to accommodate more players than the previous StarCraft. For example, you can find more alerts on the screen, such as attack, build complete, and more in StarCraft II and this system will be helpful for players who have difficulty hearing the game sound.

3. Will there be any multi monitor support? – SC2Pod

StarCraft II will support widescreen but not multi-monitor. Widescreen is definitely becoming more of an industry standard, but multi-monitor support for StarCraft II may be too great of a tactical advantage over other players without more than one monitor.

As awesome and practical multi-monitor support may be for the RTS and RTT genre, no game that is aimed at the mainstream and professional audience simultaneously can afford implementing this feature. It has appeared at the very bottom of our StarCraft 2 Wishlist 18 months ago, a fitting place for a great feature that has no place in the real world.

4. SC1 “caster” units did not have a regular attack; some of WC3 “caster” units did have a regular attack; will SC2 “caster” units remain attack-less? – TheWarCenter
Some of the caster units in StarCraft II like the High Templar and Infestor lack a default attack, but there still are some caster units which also have a normal attack ability such as the Mothership and the Ghost.

5. When two opposing forces come to a Xel’naga tower who gets control? Is it the person with the largest army or is it on a first-come/first-serve basis? – TheWarCenter

When two opposing forces are near a Xel’Naga Watch Tower, they both lose control of the Watch Tower, regardless of the size of the army or the order of who arrives first. For example, when you have a ground unit next to the Xel’Naga Watch Tower, you will get vision of the area surrounding the Xel’Naga Watch Tower. When the opponent’s unit approaches close enough to control the Watch Tower, the Xel’Naga Watch Tower will shut down and both you and your opponent will lose the increased visual range given by the tower.

The first (and only, as of today) StarCraft 2 Battle Report demonstrated the importance of Xel’Naga Watch Tower control as well as the fact that a significant portion of battles are waged in their proximity.

6. Is the charge ability only limited to the distance between the zealot and its target or is it also limited to the time that is needed to reach the target? Presumed you have a zealot on a cliff and you want him to charge an enemy unit below the cliff, will it charge all the way over the ramp or will it stop charging after some time? – StarCraft 2 Source DE
Zealot’s Charge ability is based on the ground range, regardless of the height. So a Zealot on the cliff will not start charging a unit below the cliff, even if they look like they are visually right next to each other. The Zealot must be within a set pathing distance from the target for it to activate it’s charge ability, meaning the path in which the Zealot takes to get to the target is a set amount. Additionally, Zealots will not be able to charge through cliffs. They must go around.

7. Are you going to add some of the best custom maps to the regular ladder pool? – StarCraft 2 Source DE

In the future, there will be opportunities for map makers to get their maps added to ladder pools. These maps will of course, be selected based on quality, in terms of competitiveness for multiplayer games.

It is not entirely clear if Karune’s answer covers the case of “custom gameplay experience” that can be found in popular custom maps like DoTA or just user-created maps of exceptional quality, built for normal StarCraft 2 gameplay.

All in all, both the art and game design teams seem to have their hands full. The upcoming Battle Reports, Q&A sessions and community feedback requests are likely to focus on the few key issues which have not been resolved internally so far, but have no place in a public beta.

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…the future. But not just any arbitrary future. There is an actual date, as well as plans for releasing additional StarCraft 2 Beta Keys to accommodate Blizzard’s hunger for crowdsourced QA.

Stefanie GwinnerFew, if any, had doubts about the upcoming beta, and considering the fact that many of us already got our hands on a StarCraft 2 Beta Key, its eventual arrival  is almost inevitable. However, this is the first time that a reliable source has received a confirmation about an existing timetable directly from Xordiah –  Blizzard’s European RTS Community Manager.

The original source is the massive German 4Players.de website, and the report’s key points were accurately translated by IncGamer’s SCWire.

  • Blizzard has a fixed date for the beta. However, it’s still a secret.
  • The multiplayer part of the game is basically done except for a few details.
  • There will be several more opportunities to participate in the beta to come (including competitions, perhaps a kind of story competition or similar).
  • In the current build (internally at Blizzard), there is a Dark Pylon with a cool ability, which enables Probes to harvest faster within the reach of the Pylon.
  • The Command Center now has a new, cool ability that creates a “bigger” SCV, which is better at harvesting.
  • Supply Depots can be upgraded to give +2 Supply.
  • Xordiah, who is a “Protoss Fetishist”, is very happy.
  • This build’s Immortals are extremely strong.

The above list is full of good news. Blizzard has already handed out thousands of beta keys, and as it seems, will hand out many more via various competitions which will be run on official fansites and on Battle.net. The SC2Blog will likely have a chance to hand out more beta keys via competitions, similar to the one we held in September, which sent 4 of our readers to BlizzCon.

We're gonna need a bigger SCV, sir.

It’s interesting to see that Blizzard’s recent balance tinkering touched upon resource gathering, with both Protoss and Terran receiving perks – the Protoss Dark Pylon and the super-SCV are mentioned strictly as economy buffs. This is clearly an attempt to elaborate the “Macro” portion of the game, which, as many of those who’ve had a chance to play say, is lacking. Blizzard’s previous attempt, involving the new gas mechanics, has accumulated an impressive amount of negative feedback. Will these changes bring about the extra complexity demanded by the StarCraft pros?

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Recently, the official StarCraft 2 website has been updated with four beautiful new screenshots. The images tell stories of epic battles, serving as great reminders that StarCraft 2 is not just a micromanagement fest, but also a game of great wars and battles involving huge armies.

Without further ado:

A giant "LASER"

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This screenshot features a bona fide Terran siege, stationed on a cliff overlooking a lightly defended Protoss base. The few Phase Cannons and two Colossi are no match for the devastating fire power the Terran have brought in for this assault.

Swarm

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The next screenshot is all about the Zerg. Although this Protoss base is better positioned to handle an attack and has more weapons in place to defend it, the swarm engulfs it from all sides, leaving little room for the Protoss to maneuver.

Defensive Matrix

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This one shows the Terran Defensive Matrix ability for the first time. The Matrix, previously a Science Vessel spell, is now an ability that Battlecrusiers possess – however, it can only be used on themselves. Two other Battlecruisers, which have elected to go with the Yamato Cannon ability instead, are also seen, and the difference between the design of the different Battlecruiser types is visible as well.

bunkers2

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Lastly, this beautiful screenshot shows StarCraft 2’s newly discovered quality – the night time scene. In this one, the Terran army is holding a heavily defended choke point against the Zerg attack. Since the attack is not coordinated and the Terran forces are well-positioned, this one isn’t likely to break through.

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