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StarCraft 2 Macro Mechanics Poll: Feedback and Analysis

Blizzard’s Macro Mechanics follow-up poll was the community managers’ way of guiding the discussion to focus on the significant changes introduced in the recent Q&A batch. This is the developers’ second major shot at introducing additional macro mechanics to the StarCraft 2 gameplay, after first trying out the not-so-well received Vespene Gas mechanics – a babysitting chore for players that had the patience, APM and will to keep regular Vespene Gas production going.

Macro Mechanics Poll Results

With each race receiving a distinct macro-related ability, the poll (over?)simplified the matter at hand. While the obvious intention was to introduce significant decision making processes  into resource and production management, the tools received by the Terran, Zerg and Protoss races differ greatly.

Protoss Dark Pylon:
• Proton Charge: an area-of-effect ability that gives all targeted Probes additional charge for their Proton-Cutters. Probes that have an additional charge gather additional minerals per trip when collecting resources. The Proton Charge lasts only a short time before dissipating.

The Dark Pylon’s limited range effectively forces the player to either place the structure in the mining line’s vicinity and use the Proton Charge repeatedly to get the maximum possible economy boost, or not use the Dark Pylon for that purpose at all. The Energy boost and cloaking  provided by the Argus Link and Null Shield abilities are unlikely to see much use in the hands of a player that has placed the Dark Pylon at the mining line in the first place. If Proton Charge could be set to Autocast, a significant portion of players would do just that, due to the minimal presence of a trade-off.

Charged Probes

The obvious alternative is to give the Dark Pylon abilities so powerful, that it would force players to make decisions regarding its energy use, and not default to the Proton Charge.

On the other hand, the Terran have received quite an intriguing macro buff that shares neither the simplicity nor the single-purposeness of the Proton Charge.

Terran Orbital Command:
• Calldown Mule: sends a single automated mining robot by drop-pod that assists SCVs in collecting resources by working around current SCV mining operations. Unfortunately the Mule is still in the prototype phase and has a limited battery supply (timed life).
• Calldown Extra Supplies: sends additional supplies to a targeted Supply Depot. Generally used by Terran commanders only in an emergency to allow them to support additional troops.

The Terran Orbital command upgrade itself forces the Terrans to make a major tactical decision and forfeit the defensive Planetary Fortress upgrade option – not a simple decision to make in a close 1v1 game. The structure’s abilities are not limited to just macro twists, and include the popular and often essential Scanner Sweep ability.

Scanner Sweep: using a satellite in high-orbit, the Terrans reveal a large area anywhere on the map and detect all cloaked units within the target area.

A Terran player which has made the decision of upgrading to an Orbital Command and does not need a Scanner Sweep at the moment is still left with a decision: Mules are not just innocent mining machines. The Calldown’s unlimited range allows the Mule to be used to repair Siege Tanks on a remote cliff  or to scout a large remote area. The Mule can be even used offensively against Banelings and splash-damage dealers.
Unlike the Dark Pylon’s Proton Charge, the Terran’s resource mining buff is not an “autocast decision” by any means, and the player is forced to make significant tactical decisions in order to use it efficiently.

Mules

The Zerg’s macro buff differs from the straightforward Dark Pylon mechanic and the long decision route that precedes the Terran Mule.  The Queen is virtually a default Zerg unit, and is likely to be produced and used by most players due to the unit’s broad arsenal of useful offensive and support abilities.

• Spawn Larva: by injecting Queen ichor into a Hatchery, Lair or Hive the Queen can cause the Zerg structure to undergo a startling metamorphosis. The Hatchery starts to throb and green sacks swell up on the structure. Eventually four additional larva burst out of the Hatchery and land next to whatever larva are already wriggling around nearby. While a Hatchery hosts more than 3 larva, the Hatchery will not spawn additional larva, until that number drops below 3.

Spawn Larva opens the door for endless tactical choices on the Zerg’s behalf. Karune has mentioned several of the key routes:

Karune:
Being able to spawn additional larva can potentially help Zerg production quite a bit actually. Prior, when a Zerg player hatched offensive units, they were always sacrificing the creation of more drones. This ability allows more bandwidth to create even more offensive units for a big push, build more balanced with more drones and additional units, or double up on the teching effort with all drones. There are a lot of options to play with that will surely inspire many new strategies.

The added “bandwidth” provided by the Queen will allow the Zerg to continue having an advantage over the other races when it comes to production flexibility. Since the Hatchery and the larvae it produces are the basis for all available Zerg units, the Queen’s new ability will complement the Zerg race nicely as an integral part of the production process.

The new macro-related features have gathered a quite a lot of feedback, and it seems that they were much better received than the previous Vespene Gas mechanism in the eyes of the community. Since Blizzard is determined to complicate the macro portion of the game somehow, it will not be surprising to see some, if not all, of these features making it into the final game.

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