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New Hi-Res Screenshots, Korean Impressions, Fansite Q&A 4

This weekend, GameMeca and PlayXP, two Korean gaming websites, have published extensive hands-on impression articles and have released numerous new StarCraft 2 screenshots which were taken during a event in South Korea. Blizzard has also released a new Fansite Q & A session via SCLegacy, spanning 9 questions, though revealing little new information.

South Korean Press Event

GameMeca’s article has been translated by SCLegacy’s editors (download the article in PDF version here). The lengthy article hasn’t revealed any drastic changes in the latest StarCraft 2 build; however, some observations are worth noting.

The amazing truth is that there was no loading time. Like eating rice after putting it in water (a common way for Koreans to cool down rice instantly while not altering the flavor SC:L) the loading time was over almost instantly

It appears that Blizzard’s developers have opted for pre-caching the game’s map data, graphics and engine during the players’ stay in the game waiting room, prior to the actual match. This is a welcome improvement over current models, and it won’t be surprising to see more developers following in Blizzard’s footsteps in newer games.

….the game being host to a fast sense of speed. From the speed of Probes mining minerals to the movement and attack speeds of the Zealots and Zerglings, and also the rate at which units killed and died in the middle of a battle. The speed was approximately 1.5 times faster than the current ‘Star’.

The above statement is in line with Blizzard’s own statements regarding average game length expectations and what’s been observed in the Battle Reports. Games are furiously fast, and army collisions often result in immediate and heavy damages due to the abundance of splash and AoE dishing units and the overall increase in game pace.

The graphics quality probably will not surpass those of the recently released RTS, ‘Warhammer 40K, Dawn of War2’, but its refined, polished look and the light, warm colors give the whole game a graceful, pristine feel

StarCraft 2 is not  graphically inferior to contemporary RTS titles, especially after the recently implemented model and texture upgrades. Having participated in DoW2′s beta, we’ve enjoyed the killing blow animations and explosive effects of Dawn of War 2, but there’s little, if any, need for improvement to StarCraft 2’s graphics.

Protoss and Swarm Clash - StarCraft 2' graphics

…when multiple workers were selected and one mineral was clicked, instead of rushing all to that one mineral they all spread out, going in different directions like the good friends they are.

And so passes the ancient art of first-second worker control.

Next is the ability to hotkey multiple selections and squads. The original selection cap of only 12 multiple selections has increased to 24, and when selecting with hotkeys it was possible to go above the 24 limit. If 25 Zealots were set to hotkey number 1, the space that showed unit details said 24 units were set to hotkey 1 and the leftover one unit was set to hotkey 2.

There is no limit on the number of selected units. However, hot-keyed control groups are limited to 24 units each, with the game automatically assigning the “overflow” units to the next control group number.

… when multiple buildings were selected it was necessary to press the unit production button as many times as the number of buildings.

It was because if you pressed the button once, the first of the selected buildings started producing, and if you pressed another time the second building produced and so on. It was the same for unit upgrades, like in the case of 10 hydras. If all ten were selected, you needed to press the Lurker button 10 times to make all ten into Lurkers.

The above mechanism is an example of the sort of brilliant decisions that make Blizzard games what they are. Players are provided with a comfortable, “automated” way of selecting multiple units and buildings, yet are given full control over the number and types of units produced/upgraded. Pressing one button does not create a horde of identical units, but players are not denied the option of producing from groups of buildings via hotkeys either.

PlayXP has published six super hi-res shots:

Thors and Ultralisk Collide in Epic BattleTerran Air ArmadaRaiders Raid a Zerg Worker LineZerg Going Old School MutalingProtoss Colossi Fight TerransBrood Lords Swarm Terrans

SC:L’s Fansite Q&A clarifies several moot points, mainly on aspects either inherited from StarCraft 1 or left unclear after previously being discussed in a vague manner during StarCraft 2’s development.

1. Are any other units aside from the Dark Templar going to have multiple models (ie. male and female Ghosts)?

Currently, we’re not considering any other units for multiple models.

2. In the original StarCraft and Brood War, Carriers have been very rarely used for competitive matches due to their ineffectiveness in small numbers because of their critical mass effect. Up until now, what changes or ideas have played with to increase their effectiveness in small numbers with or without other ships for support, and what is the current status on the Carrier? Also, what about the Battlecruiser?

In general, it’s still better if you have as many carriers or battlecruisers as possible in the battle. However, small numbers of carriers or battlecruisers will be still very useful for supporting both ground and air units.

3. We were told recently that workers can’t patrol. This makes SCV auto-repair a lot less useful. (In Warcraft III, you could set a worker to patrol, and it would auto-repair any damaged buildings or mechanical units nearby. Great for keeping towers (and bunkers!) alive.)

SCVs can patrol, so if you activate auto-casting of the SCV’s repair ability, that SCV will repair damaged buildings or units it encounters while on patrol. The SCV will repair nearby units and buildings and continue its designated patrol pattern again after the repairs are complete.

Players will be able to assign SCVs to repair duty, leaving another repetitive StarCraft 1 chore behind. This will be a handy tool for frequently raided expansions and stretched. turtled defense lines.

4. What use does the Overlord usually see versus the Nydus Worm? That is, in what capacity is each transport mechanic used?

It all depends on a player’s choice in each case. When you want try out a sneaky and clever attack on the enemy’s base, the nydus worm can be useful in that role as a more tactical and general choice for harassing the enemy’s economy. However, you can also use a mass overlord drop just like the original StarCraft, for an aggressive, all-out attack. However, the overlord drop is riskier, as you’re putting much of your supply and the cargo in jeopardy if you encounter strong anti-air defense.

5. Can Thors or Colossi be transported in any way?

Thors and colossi can be transported by each race’s transportation units: the medivac and the warp prism.

Thors being transported by anything short of a Battlecruiser constitutes a major realism issue. Thors are huge not only visually, but “by design”, so to speak. Two Reavers were never small enough to fit in a shuttle, but a Reaver was never perceived as a multi-cannon front-line behemoth like the Thor is. Carrying a Thor inside the Medivac reverses Blizzard’s long time decision of making the Thor untransportable.

6. How do you use the Thor’s resurrection ability? Does it cost resources to use?

Thor doesn’t have the resurrection ability any more in the current build. While the mechanic was a cool idea on paper, it didn’t end up being especially practical when we tried it in internal playtesting.

7. How has more efficient AI and pathfinding affected the game? Does it make the game easier?

AI in StarCraft II is much more developed from the original StarCraft. For example, the computer is required to scout to find you now in every difficulty mode. In higher difficulty modes, the AI will adapt to what it sees you are building to counter your selected strategy with key units of their own. This means that the computer no longer cheats as far as “knowing” where you are and what you’re doing. It can only react to what it sees when their scouts find your units and bases.

The pathfinding is also much improved in StarCraft II, which will reduce some frustration when directing your units to move long distances around varying terrain. Certain melee units are also smarter about attempting to surround enemies, but we don’t believe this makes the game “easier.” Players who choose to micro their armies will still have an advantage.

8. I would like to know if the MULE can repair air units and lifted-off buildings, and in turn, could we see MULEs being called down in the front lines to repair Battlecruisers and Thors or in the corner of the map to repair a burning Command Center that was lifted off to escape an attack? Also, at what rate does a MULE repair? Faster or slower than an SCV?

The mule is only for gathering minerals or scouting. You cannot repair units or structures with the mule.

9. Regarding the “Discussion with Artosis and Idra” video – does their prediction that Zerg vs. Zerg is degrading into “Roach spam” have any validity? Will ZvZ matchups frequent a more diverse selection of units beyond Zerglings, Roaches, and Mutalisks?

We would like to see as many units as possible being used in the battle, instead of some selected units like zerglings, roaches, and mutalisks. We are still polishing and balancing units including the roach, and hope to see how the players will make various combinations of units during the beta.

Blizzard has made it clear that they’re comitted to preventing all possible match-ups from “deteriorating” into battles involving 2-3 units many times before. Unit spam is a core issue which plagues the majority of existing RTS titles, and solutions require a lot of testing, feedback and balancing – the main goals of the upcoming beta.

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