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China’s ChinaJoy 2009 event on July 23rd was among the lucky few to have been chosen by Blizzard to host a public presentation as well as to make openly available the currently playable version of StarCraft 2. Blizzard’s participation in this event was scheduled to predate the massively successful presentation on the following day in South Korea.

Unfortunately, StarCraft 2 was banned from public play due to a recent ruling by China’s State Bureau Of Culture, which declared that “Starcraft 2 is much too bloody, which will severely affect the mental as well as physical health of adolescents” (translation courtesy of TeamLiquid).  The decision draws from a regulatory note, released on July 1st, 2009, which stated that

Any activity related to foreign games, including their showing, demonstrating, trading and marketing promotion, shall also abide by the censorship laws aiming at imported online games and shall be subject to censorship and approval by the State Administration of News and Press. All promoters, sponsors, and companies related shall held their respective legal responsibilities.

The StarCraft 2 South Korean E-Stars Seoul 2009 event, however, was a great success, and some media has been released both officially and by fans. You can find the official extensive media gallery here.

E Stars Seoul Credit - SC Legacy

Two decent-quality gameplay videos have been released during the event, showing a short and intensive Protoss vs. Terran match:

The video is another example of just how fast paced and merciless StarCraft 2 multiplayer is designed to be, as mentioned repeatedly by the design team in various interviews. One on one games are not supposed to last more than 20 minutes (if that!), as the game provides players with sufficient tools to exploit the opponent’s mistakes and leverage them, along with the player’s own skills, into quick victories.

While fans and gamers around the world marvel at every released detail, battle report or gameplay video, the stock market is not as patient and forgiving towards Blizzard’s developmental practices, and analysts blame the recent stock dive on the realization that StarCraft 2 will not be coming out in 2009.

Activision_Blizzard_Stock

Now, there is a growing concern that an even bigger game — “StarCraft 2” — may be pushed out of this year, due to development delays.

“The beta testing for ‘StarCraft’ hasn’t started yet. If it starts in August and takes 5-6 months, then launching the game this year is next to impossible,” said Jess Lubert, video game analyst with Brean Murray.

While it doesn’t take a genius mutant ninja analyst to figure out that the StarCraft 2 beta is highly unlikely to be over by the end of 2009, it does take some history knowledge to understand that virtually all of Blizzard’s titles end up being played for many years, each serving as a benchmark and a poster child for their respective niche; that is to say, there is no doubt that when it is released, it will generate considerable revenue for Activision-Blizzard.

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With Blizzard’s StarCraft 2  Development news being on cooldown after the recent press blitz, the last week has provided the community with little new insight into the current state of StarCraft 2, with neither recent Community Q&A nor official RTS community managers revealing much.

Here’s the Q&A session recently released via a Polish StarCraft 2 Fansite:

1. Dustin said on BlizzCast #8 that the Banshee is a very powerful air-ground unit vs. ground defenses. What are the chances of Banshees against ground units? For example is it equal 5 Banshees against 5 Stalkers or the Banshees have to run if they notice Stalkers.

Yes, the Banshee can be a very strong anti-ground air unit but it is definitely not unstoppable. For example, Marines and Thors can be great ground counter units for Terran and Hydralisks for Zerg are also good. And just like the example in the question, Stalkers with blink ability and High Templars with psionic storm can be counter Banshees as well.

2.Zerg can move and regenerate faster on creep. Terrans have medivac, the mechanical units can be fixed by SCV. Do you think that is a good idea for Protoss to regenerate shields faster when they are near pylons?

Protoss currently has the Shield Battery ability on the Obelisk, which recharges the shield of the target friendly unit or area. This is an active ability that drains energy from the obelisk, but is a similar concept to the one suggested.

StarCraft’s approach of providing all three races with similar capabilities based on profoundly different mechanics is live and kicking in its sequel.

  • Zerg’s healing bonus is absolutely passive, always on and inherent into the very design of the Zerg.
  • Terran’s repair ability is the fastest, most focused way of handling retreat n’ regroup situations, but at the cost of resources.
  • Protoss “repair” is based on energy and depends on the amount of resources invested in the infrastructure beforehand.

3. Do you have any plans for Infested Protoss? If yes, what sort/kind of unit will it be?

Based on the lore, the Protoss do not become infested. The combination of the two result in a hybrid race.

This reverses the previous decision to allow the creation of Infested Protoss in the same way Infested Terran are created. In earlier builds, the Infestor could infest Protoss Gateways for this purpose.

4. Question is about replays. Do you plan to create a feature to see what that player saw during the battle? It’s like if I was behind him while he was playing and I was watching his screen.

There are more advanced functions and options implemented in the current replay system. If you select a certain player in the replay, you can opt to see that player’s camera while he or she is controlling units, buildings, and spending resources. Additionally, you can select the options for all players’ Units, Army, Spending, Production, and APM status to view all statuses simultaneously in a replay.

Seeing the game through your opponents’ eyes can greatly improve your game when playing against your buddies, but seeing the game through the eyes of the game’s greats will do wonders for players trying to improve their game.

5. What will happen when we double push a hotkey of a group of buildings? (4 lairs for example at one hotkey) Our screen will move to the first lair in a group? Or to set point of all or maybe to the point where everything crosses? (Point of gravity)

When you designate multiple units or structures as a group and the units or structures are spread out in different places, selecting the group by double pressing the hotkey, your screen will go directly to the place that you have the largest amount of consolidated units or structures first. If you have the same amount of units or structures on different positions of the map, your screen will go to the closest one to your current location.

6. What is the status of a nuke? Range, cast time, power etc. And sub-question: will the air be contaminated for some time (10-20 seconds) and affects the units after the blast?

You can arm a silo with a Nuke at the Ghost Academy and it will take 60 seconds. Upon completion, a Ghost can call down a nuclear strike at a target location dealing up to 300 (+200 structures) damage to enemies in a large radius. There will be a period between the casting of the Nuke until the Nuke actually hits its target, in which the Ghost must stay alive. There will be no contamination for the ground or the air after the blast.

StarCraft 2 Nuke remains a single-hit, massive AoE attack, and it’s somewhat disappointing that Blizzard has not implemented an additional twist to this underused and powerful ability, such as:

  • Area contamination.
  • Permanent mutation bonus for biological Nuke survivors.
  • EMP effect that “stuns” mechanical units.

Nuke hitting a Terran Base

A creative tactical twist may push the Nuke out of  the “I pwned you” niche of abilities and create a more viable weapon for the Terran.

7. Several SCVs can repair buildings together. So why can’t they work together to build a new one? Sub-question: Does SCV have an ability (or is it planned) “Patrol and repair?”

In order to keep the game balanced, SCVs aren’t able to build structures together. SCVs can repair the damaged structure or mechanical units together, while also costing more resources. However, the SCV does have an auto-casting repair ability, so when you give a command to a SCV to patrol while auto repairing is activated, the assigned SCV will repair the structures or mechanical units around it automatically and will continue their patrol.

8. Question about Protoss drop. We can see that Protoss players often do reaver drops. Now when we don’t have this unit, we can drop Dark Templars, because Colossus are too weak for killing drones/SCVs/Probes (it’s a conclusion after watching many battle videos.) Is there any alternative tactic of drops by Protoss, or this element of a Protoss game was excluded.

Colossus is as great of a worker killer as the Reaver in the original StarCraft. The Colossus has 2 attacks with 23 damage each and gives splash damage, so it can kill drones and probes with a single shot and SCVs with two shots. If the Protoss player is trying to harass the enemy’s economy by killing workers, dropping Colossi from the Warp Prism right next to their base is a possible option, while Dark Templars can also be very devastating as well.

Having Colossi warped in on your worker line is bound to become an unpleasant yet common experience for enemies of the Protoss if Colossi keep their single-pass killing capability. Considering the fact that Colossi neither cheap nor easy to bring down in a toe-to-toe fight, backdooring Colossi are more than just suicidal worker drops, and have a lot of potential of wreaking even decently defended expansions and worker lines.

Blizzard has also unveiled June 2009 Comic Contest winners, 3 lucky and creative fans, each receiving a prize package consisting of a StarCraft II Hat, a StarCraft-themed T-shirt, and one StarCraft II Poster, with the winner also getting two StarCraft 2 Beta Keys.

Rejected StarCraft 2 UnitsWarp JokesLeaning the Alphabet, the StarCraft Hotkey way

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In a short and concentrated press blitz, Blizzard has released a wealth of new StarCraft 2 information and media, including a new HD gameplay video, 10 high resolution action packed screenshots and a batch of updated unit and building models. The information was released during a press event that took place in Blizzard’s HQ, and we’ll summarize the elaborate coverage, interviews and build updates that were uncovered during the event in this post.

The brand new gameplay video features several skirmishes, six battles in total:

  1. Large Zerg and Protoss forces clash: Ultralisks and Roaches face a Mothership, Phoenixes and an armada of Void Rays.
  2. Terran Hellion forces raid a Zerg opponent behind the lines.
  3. Protoss offensive-cannoning a Terran choke, with the Terran defending using Supply Depots, Marines and Bunkers.
  4. A massive Protoss Mothership-led force invades another Protoss base.
  5. Hellions repeatedly hit-n-run a large group of Banelings.
  6. Ultralisks rampage all over the place until a small group of Ghosts fend them off.

The beautiful high-resolution screenshots that were part of the press blitz are some of the most action-packed and detailed StarCraft 2 images yet.

Protoss and Terran in the CityProtoss Faces a Terran Armada
Mar Sara Battle
Psi Storm Hits HardActionA Protoss Phoenix Raid
StarCraft 2 Shakuras clash
Battle for Mar SaraStarCraft 2 Queen Laid Eggs
Zerg and Terran Toxic Battle

Images include a variety of beautiful terrains and battle moments with shots including a fight taking place in a sky-scraper themed terrain, a Terran force being immobilized by an Anti-Grav-abusing Phoenix armada and many other great scenarios.

You can download the entire screenshot collection here.

Blizzard’s art team, which has unveiled multiple model and texture updates over the course of the last six months, has released a batch of updated models. Worth noting are the different models for the differently-upgraded Battlecruisers, each clearly showing which path the Terran player took with the specific unit:

Blizzard has also released the latest StarCraft 2 tech trees for all three races. These are likely to make it to the beta, so if your testing intentions are serious, now would be a good time to print and memorize the following.
StarCraft 2 Zerg Tech Tree

If you haven’t been following StarCraft 2’s development and internal balancing, take notice of the fact that both the Zerg and Protoss had their cloaked units pushed up the tech tree, with both the Lurker and Dark Templar becoming Tier 3 units, and the Terran Ghost becoming a viable mid-game unit with an arsenal of useful abilities.

StarCraft 2 Terran Tech Tree
StarCraft 2 Protoss Tech Tree

The press event included an abundance of gaming time, and several attendees have published extensive impression write-ups, the most notable one being TeamLiquid’s summary of the visit. A few highlights from TL’s own and others’ impressions:

  • With Overlords no longer having detection capabilities, the lack of Zerg detection coverage makes the Protoss Phoenix + Dark  Templar a powerful combo in the current build – even more so than the equivalent Corsair + Dark Templar build of the original game.
  • Banelings can explode while burrowed.
  • The upgraded Zerg Hydralisk movement speed is on par with that of Cracklings (speed-upgraded Zerglings).
  • The Terran ability to salvage 100% of the resources invested in a building proves a fertile ground for offensive bunkering, cliffing and early-game harassment.
  • Reactor add-on cross-building compatibility allows the Terran to crank out key units such as the Medivac Dropship two at a time immediately as a Starport becomes available.
  • The Protoss High Templar Psi Storm is even more powerful than in StarCraft 1, with a larger radius, shorter duration and more total damage.
  • Ultralisks are no longer a late-game screw-you unit, but hands down the most powerful and effective physical ground unit in the game.
  • Merging different Protoss Templars together still produces the exact same Archon.
  • Cliff-walking Colossi and burrowing Infestors are not able to traverse destructible rocks.

Dustin Browder and Chris Sigaty Interviews have been released via G4TV and Joystiq, summarizing the recent development challenges and their expectations of the beta.

Here are the highlights from the Dustin Browder interview::

  • StarCraft 2 will include an online Casual Gaming League that will feature “anti-rush” map designs, a normal (slower) game speed and other care-bear perks.
  • Blizzard will push for mainstream adoption of E-Sports and public broadcast/televised StarCraft 2 matches.
  • The Beta is expected to run for 4-5 months.
  • Blizzard will seek ways to prevent uber-skilled players from plowing through the low ranks repeatedly when they create new names on Battle.net.
  • Beta testers will be added over the course of the beta.

Chris Sigaty, Lead Producer for StarCraft 2 and a long time contributor to Blizzard’s developmental efforts, has unveiled some interesting tidbits in an interview for Joystiq:

  • In two years, Chris is expected to receive the Ring – a special mark for fifteen years of Blizzard service, complimentary to the Sword and Shield which are given at 5 and 10 years, respectively.
  • StarCraft 2 has been in the works ever since World of WarCraft’s shipment in 2004 – marking 2009 the 5th year of its development.
  • Unit portraits’ lips are in full sync with the units’ voices, and the original voice actors for Jim Raynor and Arcturus Mengsk are used.

All in all, Blizzard’s official intents for this recent press blitz were quite clear and fully disclosed – the StarCraft 2 Beta is imminent; do your tech-tree homework, get your gaming rigs ready, ‘couse, hell… it’s about time.

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