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The fourth Battle Report has been officially released! The battle report has been leaked to the net a couple of days ago, but now’s your chance to download a high-quality version straight from Blizzard’s official page, where you can also opt to watch it streaming along with the transcription of the shoutcast. The current Battle Report takes place in the StarCraft 2 incarnation of the legendary Lost Temple – an original StarCraft 2v2 ladder map that was extremely popular for 1v1s as well.

Lost Temple

StarCraft 2’s version of the Lost Temple has the following distinctive terrain features:

  • Very narrow main base choke points
  • Unlike the classic version, the top player’s natural expansion is placed to the left, at 11:00, instead of 01:00
  • Two Xel’Naga watch towers are placed at key center locations
  • Destructible Rocks block high yield mineral mining spots
  • High ground locations have been “standardized” to eliminate the original Lost Temple’s slight imbalances

The match itself is as fast and brutal as all StarCraft 2 games we’ve witnessed to this point. However, it was different in some key aspects, many dependent on the nature of the map, which has most of the minerals in the surrounding areas and a large open space in the middle.

It was very apparent that the Terran player, David Kim, prepared for a long game. He invested in an Orbital Command to call down Mules and gain an economic advantage very early on – just after constructing his first Barracks, in fact. Later, only 5 minutes into the game, he builds two command centers concurrently, floating one to his natural and another to the island. The Protoss player, Yeon-Ho Lee, had his natural expansion up at that point as well. The Terran also carefully blocked the entrance to his main base using the crucial “Gateway” Supply Depots, denying the Protoss important information about his base and making any early attack virtually impossible.

Double Command Center next to the blocked ramp

The battles between the two opponents went back and forth with their large standing armies, but also took place in their naked home fronts. Both players successfully harassed each other’s mineral lines many times, scoring important hits and damaging the enemy economy.

Standing Armies

In a devastating move, the Protoss player easily sent an undisturbed Phase Prism over to the Terran’s island expansion, knocking it out without even needing to load it up with troops first – just by acting as a power generator and warping in four Zealots from four Warpgates. The Terran player was the clear master of harassment, though, using the superfast Hellions to sneak past defensive lines, dropping units all over the enemy mineral lines and hidden cliffs, using stimmed reapers for hit and run attacks, and finishing with some extraordinary terrible, terrible damage…

Hellion Drop

The two players were able to set up impressive economies, and the battle remained undecided very late into the match. The Protoss player made impressive use of the new Psi-Storm, making short work of the Terran player’s tier 1 army, and did a great job constantly being on the attack.

Holy Psi-Storm, Batman!

Unfortunately, his late game unit use showed that he’s not an expert Protoss player, choosing to use Colossi and Stalkers against the armored Thors and against Marauders, which have a bonus against armored units. As well, and as Dustin comments, he fails to use the High Templar’s new Phase Shift ability, which would have taken out individual Thors out of battles, leaving the reduced Terran army crippled. A smart use of Immortals, which are resistant to the highly damaging attacks of the Thors, coupled with Phase Shift, might have made all the difference in this one.

Thor vs Colossus

However, what really sealed the deal was David Kim’s expert use of a single Ghost riding in a single Medivac Dropship. This successful team managed to drop 5 Nukes in succession, utterly devastating the Protoss Player’s economy, Warpgate farm, expansions, and will to fight. No screengrabs for these, since it will not do the effect justice! This paved the way for the Terran forces to walk all over the leftovers, prompting a “gg” from Yeon-Ho Lee.

Indeed, Nukes are no longer the “coup de grace” weapon of StarCraft 1, but an amazing tactical weapon to be used in normal games, with the potential to turn the tide of battle if used correctly.

A very interesting and intense game, once again dominated by David Kim. When will he be dethroned? Perhaps in the upcoming beta…

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The 54th installment of the StarCraft 2 Questions and Answers series has been posted on Battle.net’s forums by Cydra, Blizzard’s RTS Community Manager. The Q&A spans seven questions in total, and deals with a broad array of issues, ranging from individual unit roles and balance to specific map data extraction.

1. Does the Zergling vs. Zealot ratio remain at 4:1 or has it changed in the latest builds?
One zealot can usually take out two, and sometimes three zerglings. However, the ratio is mainly based on positioning and micro-controlling. As the number of zealots grows, it will take more zerglings to win the fight since the zealots can clump up and reduce the attacking surface area. Smart use of terrain, such as a choke or backing up against a wall, will also help a protoss player reduce this attack area. Zerglings have to secure a good surround around the zealots to keep the ratio close.

It’s worth noting that there never was a 4:1 Zergling:Zealot ratio to begin with, as positioning was the name of the game in StarCraft 1 as well.

2. In World of Warcraft pvp they found an issue over time that it was “very unsatisfying” to the player when they lost control of their character as it limited their ability to do their job or role. There is a noticeable increase in stuns and immobilization in Starcraft 2, which was barely present in Starcraft 1. From your experience in testing, do you feel abilities, which limit unit control, provide more dynamic game play so far or are you noticing more concern?

First of all, there were actually some abilities in the original StarCraft that could cause players to lose control of units. These abilities include the ghost’s lockdown, the corsair’s disruption web, and the dark archon’s mind control. It may be premature to suggest at this point that there’s a “noticeable increase” in stuns and immobilization in StarCraft II.
To address the comparison anyway, in World of Warcraft, you control a single character, unlike RTS games where you manage multiple units and bases. The difference in the World of Warcraft is when you lose control of your character you simply have to wait it out, assuming you don’t have any control breaks. However in StarCraft, when units in your army are being controlled, you can still issue orders to the rest of your army, manage your base, build new units, etc. There are a lot of options and we happy with the diversity it brings to gameplay at this point.

Ghost Lockdown - Old School StarCraft Stun

Stunned and disabled units are simply a non issue, and it’s correct of Blizzard to brush the concern off. Unlike WarCraft 3, and even more so, unlike WoW, StarCraft is a macro oriented RTS, with no distinct heroes, main characters or units that are absolutely required to proceed with normal multiplayer gameplay.

3. What is the current status of the Mothership? What niche does it fill at this time, and if the unit were removed, would there be a reason to fill that niche with a different unit or would protoss still be fine?
Currently the mothership has a passive cloaking field for nearby units and buildings, wormhole transit, temporal rift, and vortex as its abilities. We are happy with the state of the mothership at this time, and would like to hear feedback from the players once beta starts.

A year ago, we’ve run a long and much debated poll about the Mothership’s role on the StarCraft 2 battlefields. Many have felt that the unit has huge potential and can bring additional  depth to the Protoss’ late game tactical arsenal without being an uber-unit.

Sadly, its current role appears to be virtually similar to StarCraft’s original Protoss Arbiter.

4. What is your overall goal for the Infestor? The units have had and removed so many abilities, are you trying to focus into a support role, or disruption and harassment, or just to have a wide variety of spells so it can be a quick response unit?
It is intended to play more of the disruption/harassment role. They are meant to burrow and move up ahead of the swarm to soften up their opponent’s forces.
5. Is EMP dodgeable, or there’s some sort of indication that it’s going to be launched? And does this cause a problem with Immortals?
It’s possible to dodge EMP, but it is difficult to do. Your options include anticipating your opponent will be casting an EMP by seeing the ghost or its shimmer and predicting it; being near the edge of the EMP range and moving out quickly; or using the stalker’s blink ability.

Blinking away from danger

6. Map/mod to site communication – Will there be support for map/mod makers to bridge a connection between their map/mod to their site? For example, if a person wanted their map/mod to submit scores/results to the site, and vice-versa the map/mod could pull the highest scores from the site and display it in the game.

It is possible for players to make their own custom score screens but there are no specific plans to bridge map data to web sites via Battle.net.

It is unclear whether the above answer means that no game and player data API will be provided to developers when Battle.net 2.0 is launched. In the current day and age when virtually all modern social platforms provide developers with great API tools to enhance and expand their products and user base, Blizzard should seriously consider giving developers (especially ones eyeing the premium content marketplace) tools to extract specific game map and player data.

7. Launcher support – Will maps/mods be able to have their own “launcher” (ala WoW’s launcher), as in shortcut or start icon from the computer outside of StarCraft, and have their own screens, after a Battle.net authenticating screen (ala Twitter’s, or Facebook’s, application authentication).
There are no plans to allow maps and mods to have their own launcher. However, making a loading screen or launch screen is still possible.

In other news, StarCraft has now been proven once and for all to be a dangerous activity and a threat to society as well as to moral human conduct in modern culture.

An 18 year old Starcraft player has been reported as attacking a 15 year old girl. The gamer became angry when his internet connection wouldn’t work and picked up a kitchen knife and headed into the street…

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Today’s post contains a few leftover bits of StarCraft 2 from the BlizzCon event. While not entirely new, these offer a good chance to catch up and perhaps find some information previously missed.

The 2v2 StarCraft 2 exhibition matches were prime example of the fast-paced, unforgiving RTS action that gamers are bound to experience when StarCraft 2 is released. The three videos, totaling just under 30 minutes, contain two full 2v2 matches, from the very beginning to the inevitable GGs. While the videos were available on YouTube during the event, Blizzard have only recently uploaded them to their official exhibition match page. Unfortunately, the quality stayed the same – we won’t be seeing these in HD.

Key quote of the match: “Nerf David Kim“.

Blizzard has also recently sanctioned the release of a five part interview with Dustin Browder, Lead Designer of StarCraft 2. The interview covers little, if any, unknown ground now that BlizzCon is behind us, as it mostly deals with issues which were revealed and analyzed during or immediately after the convention.

Here’s the first video of the 5:


In case you have no intentions of going through this hour-long 5 video interview, check out the following exhaustive summary, courtesy of TeamLiquid:

  • For BlizzCon 2007’s story-mode build, most players would just click through Raynor’s dialog lines, ignoring them. Blizzard wanted the player to choose how they want to play the game based on the missions they chose, not based on something they said in a bar, because that doesn’t feel appropriate for a game about commanding armies and smashing empires. Choices that gave more meaning were; “Where do I send my army next?” and “How do I upgrade my technology?” The choices you were given when speaking to other characters looked like they were important and meaningful, though they really weren’t, that’s why Blizzard removed it from the game. Some people would probably have enjoyed this part of the game, but that’s not most people. Blizzard cut content because they want to keep the best stuff, and overall this makes it a better game.
  • Blizzard does have interest in exporting replays to a video format, but will probably not get around to it soon due to time constraints. Dustin Browder claims “We’re hugely interested in supporting e-sports and this is one of those things we want to do. I don’t know what the status on this is, but we will have patches after ship and expansions yet to come.”
  • The map editor will be released on beta, but not on day 1. Probably somewhere mid beta. Blizzard wants to beta test the editor itself first and see how it interacts with Battle.net. Also Blizzard wants to let modders try it, so when release comes we will see some cool mods pretty early.
  • Some RPG-style quests in StarCraft II take hours to create, others could take weeks or months, depending on how difficult it was to put together. Blizzard wants some of the quests to have multiple solutions. They did not want an RPG system that implies that there will be hundreds of quests. They want it to be more about the starmap and tech purchase.
  • StarCraft II has a lot of unit models that are no longer in the multiplayer, and some who were made specifically for single player. Dustin didn’t have a number, but claimed we will probably have to wait until the expansions to reach the same amount of models that were in WarCraft III.
  • The BlizzCon demo takes place at the middle of the beginning part of the campaign, there are three missions previous to the mission branch playable at BlizzCon. The Zerg are making their move into Terran space, but Jim Raynor at the time is leader of a relatively small and helpless faction.
  • Blizzard has put equal emphasis on the importance of single-player and multiplayer. Many fans of the series that are still active in the community are focused mostly on multiplayer, but much of StarCraft’s popularity is based on its campaign modes.
  • Dustin’s biggest hope for the game is racial balance and living up to StarCraft’s expectations and legacy.
  • The campaign has a full tutorial system, with videos and interactive missions. Skirmish mode also includes starting tutorials for the non campaign races. The campaign also includes multiplayer oriented challenge modes that help practice skills and tactics used for multi-player battles.
  • Internally, Blizzard feels the Zerg are vastly underpowered, namely in tier 2. Beta will be the period where they direct the game’s balance.
  • Racial identities and playstyles are being treated as self-emerging through development. Terrans have developed into a much more mobile race, but this is not the final decision for their overall playstyle feel.
  • Unit upgrades and unique ability upgrades are not segregated in order to make the building choices more varied and interesting.
  • Macro mechanics are still being reworked, overall they are happy with spawn larvae and MULE calldown, while Proton Charge is still being looked at for big changes.
  • Dustin feels that Zerg and Terran are close to equal difficulty, with Protoss being the easiest to use.
  • The Raven is close to how they want it designed, with some changes possibly needed for the point-defense turret to make its role more clearly understood.
  • Infestor’s spells are currently being re-worked.
  • Burrowed Banelings contain Terrans until they acquire mobile detection (Ravens).
  • Some Protoss missions are playable in WoL for storytelling purposes.
  • The campaign currently has approximately 15 tilesets.
  • Multiple tilesets can be used in single maps.
  • The basic idea for the Protoss campaign is the ultimate shattering and re-unification of the Protoss factions. The basic gameplay idea is to utilize the strengths and weaknesses of different Protoss factions to create your own new Protoss unification.
  • The Protoss campaign will be more focused on the Star Map and planet exploration than the Terran campaign.
  • The DLC plan includes additional challenges more geared to the evolution on the current meta game. Other DLC plans are still not decided.
  • Map editor features not necessary for StarCraft II (such as an inventory and hero system for DOTA clones) are included.
  • Models and graphics from the campaign can be used in custom maps, animations can not.
  • The Zerg have more “iconic” units that they feel could not be removed (Zergling, Hydralisk, Mutalisk), so it is more difficult to make the Zerg fresh and interesting.
  • The campaign will feature a lot of super high powered unit upgrades and abilities that won’t be in multiplayer.

That’s the last of it for this year’s BlizzCon. To celebrate the final ending of the event, here’s a video of a real StarCraft party!

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Blizzard has released a brand new Questions and Answers batch, continuing the long-time tradition after a 3 month hiatus. This is understandable, though, as the last months brought us expansive coverage of the Single Player aspects of StarCraft 2, the beautiful third Battle Report, lots of information, pictures and videos in a large press event, and the yearly BlizzCon festivities.

Without further ado:

1. Computer AI – Does the computer’s online AI vary from its offline counterpart?

No. They are the same.

2. Have you considered allowing a post-game lobby for users to discuss the last game, collectively watch replays, or immediately enter into a rematch?

Yes, we have a plan for a post game lobby. However the details are not finalized yet.

The success of the StarCraft 2 multiplayer as well as the Battle.net Marketplace greatly depend on the social appeal of  pre-, in- and post-game player interaction, and Blizzard’s efforts in this area have not gone unnoticed. Battle.net’s social features, the improved observer and replay HUDs, and the advanced integration of the interface into the game will make StarCraft 2’s online experience a real treat for both professional and casual gamers.

3. Is there any update on additional map features other than the Xel’Naga watch towers, destructible rocks and tall grass?

No. Currently there is no update on additional map features.

4. How many different voice actors are needed for StarCraft II, including the unit sounds and campaign heroes?

There are 58 unique voice actors participating, with some voicing multiple roles, and the number may increase as the game gets closer to release

5. The terrain types in StarCraft II we have seen so far had names like “Bel’Shir (Jungle)”. Does this mean that “Bel’Shir” is just an alias for jungle and every terrain is just named after a typical planet using it or are there – to stick with this example – other jungle maps with a different terrain set, something like “Aiur (Jungle)”?

We named our terrain sets based on the planets. There are a lot more terrain sets than in the original StarCraft and you will have huge flexibility in modifying the terrain sets (including adjusting textures, doodads, lighting) allowing you to create your own variations of the default maps. There may be other jungle-themed default maps named after other planets.

StarCraft 2’s terrain types have been unveiled in full during BlizzCon 09’s Art Panel, and can be seen in this video:

Environments shown in the video include:

  • Bel’Shir – a  rich Protoss world, with nature unbound and forests untouched.
  • Valhalla Installation – Terran Thor construction station.
  • Castanar Installation – Laboratories for Zerg research.
  • Monlyth– a Protoss world with distinct Protoss structures.
  • Avernus – doodad rich tech/lab installation.
  • Redstone – lava planet with reactionary doodads and changing lava levels.
  • Zhakul’Das – a dark ancient world.
  • Port Zion – a tech junk world.
  • Korhal – a very rich Terran world, with monorails, billboards, skyscrapers and even pedestrians.

6. Will there be any chance to have more options on pausing the game? In StarCraft: Brood War every player can pause the game three times, but every other player can unpause it. How about a (user editable) time limit before other players can unpause the game?

We recommend that players communicate with each other in the game to agree on when to pause and unpause during the game. We feel that pausing the game interrupts the game flow and it would be inconvenient for players to be forced to wait for a certain amount of time before being able to unpause. The pausing feature is mainly meant to allow for pausing of the game when all players are in agreement and for which duration.

7. I already knew the map editor would be available to beta testers a while after Beta was released, but this is why I’m asking the bland question, will it also be available to non-participating people?

No, the map editor will only be available during the beta for beta testers.

8. When a unit comes out from a building will there be only 4 exits from the building like in Warcraft 3 or will there be “infinite”?

It is not infinite, but your units will come out from a building at the closest point on the building to where your rally point is set.

This wraps it up for the recent Q&A batch. Make sure you follow the official @StarCraft Twitter feed, as Blizzard’s team has been quite active recently, tweeting fun stuff like the following fan-made Lego Immortal.

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