The 3rd, and best yet, StarCraft 2 Battle Report has been officially released. An epic clash between the Protoss and Zerg on Scrap Yard – a brand new StarCraft 2 map with very distinctive design and terrain features. The game is fast-paced, with the first conflict taking place just two minutes into the game.
David Kim, associate game balance designer, has shown that he can handle the Protoss race just as well after winning the last Battle Report game as the Terran. He shines with the Protoss, handling their forces in an intelligent manner and beautifully micromanages his few units to inflict maximum damage on the Zerg enemy. It’s so good, in fact, that in some points it’s hard to believe the game wasn’t orchestrated in advance.
Consistent with previous Battle Reports, this game also includes the unveiling of a new terrain feature, which was likely introduced due to the fact that Brush wouldn’t fit well on the metallic platforms where the battle at hand takes place.
This brings the list of StarCraft 2 terrain features to:
*Green – Smoke . *Yellow Squares = Starting Spots. *Red = High Yield
The map’s topography puts the opponents very close to each other, separated by a gap of space and a bridge with a destructible rock barrier. Scrapyard’s smoke placement is somewhat similar to the brush placement in Blistering Sands of Battle Report 2, providing enemy forces with a retreat/regroup/ambush option at the very entrance of the main bases’ ramps. The ramps are wider than “normal”, which makes sealing them early on more expensive and complicated.
- Expansion harassment takes its toll on the Zerg player, preventing an early expansion and forcing the Zerg to expand 2 minutes later than planned.
- The Nullifier, recently renamed “Disruptor“, is showcased as a potent defense and trapping tool, easily dealing with Zergling harassment at 6:05, and demonstrating beautiful divide & conquer tactics at 7:25-8:10 to cut the Zerg forces into manageable batches time after time. This unit has been used extensively and skillfully throughout the game, defensively and offensively, and looks to be a great addition to the Protoss arsenal of powerful units which benefit greatly from smart, precise use.
- A Dark Pylon is seen in “action” near the Protoss main mineral line, enhancing the Probes’ harvest rate. This is a remnant from earlier build, before the Dark Pylon was replaced with the Obelisk.
- Stalkers and Roaches clash around 9:00, with the Protoss micromanaging the Zerg forces into oblivion while continually warping in more and more forces to aid his outnumbered army, eventually chasing the Zerg forces down by blinking into range. The Roaches have also been used well, burrowing in and out of battle to avoid the death blow and quickly regenerate their health.
- David proceeds with some Overlord hunting using his single Phoenix, but the Phoenix’ true value is shown when its Graviton beam renders the Zerg Queen helpless while a Void Ray quickly melts it down at 11:00.
- Banelings deliver a massive blow to the Protoss economy at 12:00, evaporating around a dozen Probes in a second.
- The Protoss, on the counter-attack, decide to cut through the destructible rocks and make a shorter land path to the Zerg base… only to run into more cleverly burrowed Banelings, which quickly obliterate an entire company of bunched up Zealots.
- The Zerg employs its mind-controlling Infestor for the first time at 14:12 to take control of the Protoss Immortal - a portent of things to come.
- Total pwnage ensues at 15:55 when two Neural Parasite controlled Colossi “team up” with a hoard of Zerglings to eradicate a large self-trapped Protoss force.
It’s at that very point of the Zerg’s triumph that the true nature of StarCraft becomes apparent. StarCraft 2 is first of all a macromanagement RTS, and virtually no amount of micromanaging will save a player lagging behind from defeat. The Protoss player has maintained an economic advantage throughout the game and is able to sustain heavy losses for the purpose of distracting his opponent while pressing the offensive on two other fronts, completely obliterating the Zerg’s economy just seconds after losing the major battle by warping forces right into the Zerg’s nearly-defenseless expansions. The Zerg quickly yields with a “gg” as this excellent match comes to an end.
This Battle Report represents StarCraft 2 a lot better than the previous two instances. Both players keep the pressure on each other throughout the match with every available resource, from the first Probe blocking the Zerg’s expansion to the Phoenix/Void Ray combo picking off key Zerg units. It’s very apparent that the Blizzard players have had a while to work on their game and have reached the point where they’re proficient with both the tactical and strategic aspects of it. No unit goes to waste and every ability is used to maximum utility, from the Stalkers’ Blink to the Disruptors’ well-placed Force Fields.
Disruptors are definitely the surprise of this game, being built and magnificently used by the Protoss player before any other unit, replacing the Zealot in its traditional role as the Protoss’ first offensive unit. However, this does not mean that Disruptors are now required to play an effective Protoss game – both Zealots and Stalkers could easily be used alone or together in their stead to produce a viable early-game strategy.
With all signs pointing to the beta starting in the very near future, this Battle Report is great for exhibiting how far StarCraft 2 has already come. It shows that the game features all the strengths that made StarCraft 1 a masterpiece – and then adds some more into the mix.
After a short hiatus in blue activity, Karune returns in full force to answer questions on the Battle.net forums, providing information on the latest changes to a few high-interest gameplay aspects: the Ghost and its abilities, the new Dark Pylon, and the High Templar‘s new spell.
Starting with a long post about EMP and the ghost, Karune had this to say:
Yup, EMP is currently on the Ghost and does 100 shield damage to all units and drains all energy in that area of effect. Having a Ghost presence in any TvP match up is crucial, especially if there are casters in the opponent’s army. In the original StarCraft, the EMP used to kill all shield hit points, but since in StarCraft II the ability has been added to the Ghost, which is more easily attainable unit than in the original StarCraft, we have reduced it’s potency a bit.
Plus a one-click ability that reduces an opposing army to half health near instantly isn’t something that we want to promote.
EMP, formerly a Science Vessel ability, has been made weaker due to its higher availability as a Ghost ability. However, at 100 shield damage, it still has the potential to wipe out the shields of entire Protoss armies, as there are few units with more than 100 shield points. Of course, there’s always the option of bringing multiple ghosts into a battle and making them focus their EMP efforts on one group. Karune does not particularly like this tactic, though:
True, though that would be much more costly in terms of minerals/gas as well as time needed to have enough energy for EMPs. Furthermore, it would take slightly more micromanagement as well.
It will remain to be seen how effective Ghosts are in Terran versus Protoss games and whether or not multiple EMP attacks on single targets will be cost effective. There is no doubt that Terran players will make use of several EMPing ghosts when engaging large packs of heavily shielded units – like Carriers - especially with lockdown no longer being a part of the game, as Karune reconfirmed:
No lockdown in multiplayer.
Another interesting topic raised is the Protoss increased shield regeneration rate, which fits perfectly with the increased pace of the game. Not only do shields regenerate twice as fast out of combat, but Shield Batteries, reincarnated as the much more useful Obelisks, will certainly be more prominent in games now. “Obelisk” is the new name for the slightly less new Protoss building – the Dark Pylon, tuned down in power so that it no longer functions as a one stop shop for all Protoss needs.
The Dark Pylon is now known as the Obelisk – primarily because it no longer cloaks units and no longer provides pylon power/supply. This change was mostly due to balance, since it is relatively easy to spam Dark Pylons everywhere and instantly have a Psi Storm recharge point to decimate incoming forces.
The Obelisk is the new name for the Dark Pylon, and the Dark Shrine is the new name for the Dark Obelisk. The Obelisk still has the buff, but now also acts as a generator, and still has to transfer energy as well. The ability has been removed from the Obelisk. The Dark Shrine remains the same in function, allowing the production of Dark Templars.
When put in a difficult situation, retreating with Protoss is a strategy that often times has to be used to recharge shields and regroup after attacks. Preserving Protoss units is particularly important because they are generally more expensive than the other races, have more hit points, and have that increased shield regeneration to help them fight another day.
Obelisks will undoubtedly be more abundant than Shield Batteries in StarCraft 2, as they provide both shield and energy points along with the Protoss’ economy buff. Even though Obelisks do not count as proper Pylons anymore and cannot serve as Proxy Pylons, used to deploy troops from Warpgates or Phase Prisms in remote locations, they are still likely to see off-base use.
Karune was kind enough to assuage the fears of Protoss players, now dreading the Terran Infantry more than ever:
The Colossus would be the unit you are looking for. One Colossi will be able to kill a group of Marines (before shield upgrade) with one sweep of its lasers. Multiple Colossi, with upgraded laser range, will surely mess up the day of any Terran player who does mass infantry.
If Protoss players do tech towards the Colossus, they will also have access to observers very early, giving them early warning to when the Ghost is in play and where it may be shooting its EMP from.
Moving on, some more news about everyone’s favorite lightning-powered caster, the High Templar:
Time Bomb is now known as the Temporal Rift and is cast by the High Templar.
Plasma Surge is no longer in the multiplayer version of the game, but will still be in the editor.
Time Bomb, previously a Mothership ability – demonstrated way back in the original StarCraft 2 introduction video, is gone from the game, replaced with the more mundane “Temporal Rift”. What does it do, Cydra?
Temporal Rift creates a distortion field at the target location. Ground units caught inside of this field have their movement speed, attack speed, and ability cast times slowed by half. And it lasts 30 seconds.
No longer will missiles slow to a crawl when meeting the huge time distortion field created by the dreaded Mothership. Instead, the High Templar has been granted a glorified, area of effect, slow spell. Coupled with Psi Storm, this ability can be devastating to the affected troops which will have a hard time moving away from underneath the surging lightning bolts or the Colossus’ earth-scorching beam.
Today, Blizzard has also released the 52nd installment of the Q&A series. This batch belongs to the Map Maker series and spans 8 map creation and custom script programming related questions.
1. Does it still use the JASS language, or perhaps an upgraded version of JASS?
StarCraft II uses an entirely new scripting language, which we’ve called Galaxy. This language is very similar to C, and anyone familiar with programming in C will have no trouble picking it up.
2. Is the language event-driven or object-oriented?
The language itself is not object-oriented, although most of the native functionality is based around operating on game objects.
Blizzard has finally named the puppy publically: the Galaxy scripting language. A fitting name for a tool so often described as able to alter any property and behavior in the StarCraft 2 Universe.
3. In comparison to the Warcraft III Editor, how much more, if any, can the GUI of the game be edited (it was extremely limited in Warcraft III)?
The in-game UI layout is externalized in data files to a large extent, however there is no editor support for working with these files. So it will be possible to customize the game UI, it just won’t be a user-friendly process.
StarCraft 2 is unlikely to gather a massive UI modding community like WoW has, but since the possibility of UI modding exists, we will , no doubt, see detailed manuals pop-up after a few brave and clever souls document the process.
4. Are there new noteworthy functionalities in the Starcraft II Editor, or will the new editor just have general improvements?
I can’t think of a single editor feature from WarCraft III, large or small, which has not been improved in at least some way for StarCraft II.
5. Will the ability to communicate among triggers, for instance via actions or conditions, be improved in the new language?
One significant new feature of the Trigger Editor is support for custom function definitions, including actions and conditions. This means you can create your own actions that are built up from other actions (or custom script code), then use those in triggers just as you would any other action.
6. How does “Hero” support differ from the Warcraft III Editor? Or is it practically identical?
We’ve been working hard to create a hero system that is even more flexible than WarCraft III’s. For example, map makers will have the ability to define any number of custom attributes that modify a hero based on its level.
The inevitability, and Blizzard’s own encouragement, of a StarCraft 2 DoTA mod is clear to anyone following the trail of Q&As since the announcement of Scumedit. DoTA has become an important and integral part of the professional (and mainstream) WarCraft 3 scene, and the creation of a similar mod will definitely contribute a lot to the StarCraft 2 gaming community.
7. Will there be a public API for the programming language?
As with WarCraft III, there is a large set of “native” functions representing game functionality that can be accessed through scripts. If this is what you mean by “public API”, then yes.
8. Will there be improvements on the “Garbage Collector” for the new language? For example, in JASS all local variables need to be set to null at the end of their use, and certain data-types need to be removed from the game (such as Locations) at the end of their use to avoid memory leaks.
Galaxy features a robust garbage collection system for all native types, which is a huge improvement over WarCraft III (which technically did not have a garbage collection system at all). The script memory leak issues from WarCraft III will be a thing of the past.
Everything about Scumedit and Galaxy is bigger, better and more robust; it is the eventuality of 10 years of modding and map creation coupled with Blizzard’s own ideas for improving these aspects of StarCraft. It will be interesting to see just how far modders take this new tool and whether or not they are able to one-up the legendary DoTA.Google+
Beta season is on the horizon! A total of 38 StarCraft 2 beta keys will be given out by TeamLiquid and SC2Forums, so if you’re capable of making videos, baking cakes or are willing to write an extensive StarCraft guide, now is your time to shine.
The video contest, taking place between the 1st and 14th of the June, asks fans to submit StarCraft related videos on the following subjects:
- Outpost Outtakes:
Best podcast oriented video. Examples would include (but are not limited to) a webcam show, a creative commentary on a match, or a voice-over of an existing StarCraft cinematic.
- I’m an “SC”:
Best fan-made StarCraft 2 commercial.
- Psi Report:
Best “coverage” of StarCraft 2′s release. Should be in news broadcast format. Examples would include a reporter covering StarCraft 2′s release or interviewing fans about it.
- Auir’s Funniest Videos:
Best general comedy video.
- Carapace of Creativity:
Most creative overall video.
- Mutalisk Muse:
Best cover of a StarCraft theme or StarCraft music video.
For instance, here’s the first person to camp out for StarCraft 2…
Here’s the quick rules briefing:
- Minimum 720×480 resolution.
- Minimum length 1:00, maximum length 3:00 (Not strict).
- Can be submitted via YouTube, etc. but must be available upon request in avi video format.
- Must be StarCraft related.
- Must be PG rated (no excessive violence, profanity, nudity, etc.).
- No illegal acts may be displayed in the video.
- Submitted videos must be original content and not include copyrighted material outside of Blizzard Entertainment owned entities (this includes music).
- All videos must be submitted by June 22nd, 2009.
Check out SC2Forum’s full video contest and signup details and more creative samples on the contest page.
Team Liquid’s 20 key giveaway contest is a bit more diverse, allowing players to bake, write or win their way into the coveted beta.
- Bake a cake (or similar original StarCraft inspired pastry)
- Write a guide
- Join a multi-discipline StarCraft tournament series.
Both sites have slightly adjusted their initial contest schedules, have published eligibility rules and participation requirements (for instance, players from China can’t participate in TL’s tournament) – so be sure that you’re in the green before applying.Google+
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