StarCraft 2, just like its predecessor, is full to the brim with cool gameplay mechanics just waiting to be discovered and (ab)used to their maximum potential. With some micromanagement skill, correct positioning and knowledge of the game’s subtleties, you too can gain a competitive edge in the e-arena!
StarCraft Scientist – the newest addition to the SC2Blog crew, will be exploring and documenting these useful, tricky game mechanics, and we will post them for your viewing pleasure. Without further ado:
Smart Blinking: How to blink a large group of Stalkers over a cliff with no Protoss left behind.
Might take some practice, but one can’t really cliff-blink a full contingent of Stalkers without it.
Void Ray Micro: Keeping your Void Rays charged and ready for battle may require a high APM count to pull off, but considering the fact that a fully charged Void Ray can output up to X4 the damage, it’s often worth the clicks!
Xel’ Naga Tower control: Manipulating the tower to keep it under your control while your unit stays safe from harm.
Creeping up cliffs: How to make Zerg creep tumors spread creep up to inaccessible higher ground with just a little help from an Overlord.
That’s all for now! If you like the videos, make sure to subscribe to StarCraft Scientist’s YouTube channel, and if you have some tips and tricks of your own that you’d like to be made into tutorials, leave them in the comments or post on our Facebook page.Google+
Blizzard have gone through with their recently announced plans: Battle.net has been wiped clean, and everything that has happened on the gaming service over the past month is gone. The reset included user accounts, friend lists, and all game records and rankings. Essentially, we’re starting from scratch.
While the reset was expected, the broad balance patch was quite surprising (as balance patches often are!). Patch #6 has some meaningful gameplay changes as well as general improvements to StarCraft 2’s interface and Battle.net’s social interaction.
- You can now report misconduct or block communication with a player after completion of a game by right-clicking on the offending player’s name in the score screen and choosing Report Abuse or Block Communication.
- You can now view any player’s profile after completion of a game by right-clicking on their name in the score screen and choosing View Profile.
The aforementioned feature is not just welcome, but almost “crucial”. Until this point, checking out your rivals’ profiles included adding them to your friends list first, clicking around to bring up their stats, and then removing them – a cumbersome process that does not fit in with the sleek usability that Blizzard aspires to with B.net. Unfortunately, the new “View Profile” option still requires you to add the player to your friend’s list first, but this will quite likely be changed in a future patch.
Improved 2v2 arranged team matchmaking so games are found more quickly. Improved replay functionality so missing maps will be downloaded from Battle.net when you view a replay. Korea: Improved the logic for the age gate functionality. Updated unit and ability tooltips to be accurate in all regions. Improved the visibility of units on zerg creep. Improved the visibility of team colors for protoss units using warp-in to help distinguish between multiple protoss players. Improved the system that handles promotion and relegation between Leagues. Improved the Favored functionality to more accurately portray Even matches and display properly in the score screen.
Curiously enough, on my very first placement match, with zero games under my virtual belt, I was listed as “favored” on my launch screen and as an even opponent on my rival’s screen.
The patch introduced significant balance adjustments across the board, covering all three races; 11 units and 5 buildings in total.
Pathing has been improved so units can now properly block ramps and choke points.
Made a change to how zerg creep affects doodads, such as trees, to prevent players from seeing the starting location of zerg players through the fog of war.
Some units (namely, Zerglings) were able to slip through ramps that were completely blocked by units if the player clicked persistently enough.
Cost changed from 125 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas to 150 Minerals and 75 Vespene Gas.
Cost changed from 100 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas to 150 Minerals and 150 Vespene Gas.
EMP Round radius decreased from 3 to 2.
Cost decreased from 200 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas to 150 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas.
Cost decreased from 50 Minerals and 50 Vespene Gas to 50 Minerals and 25 Vespene Gas.
Terran were the most gas-starved race, hindering their ability to use the higher-tier options and limiting many games to the now-infamous M&M&M/Bioball play, involving stimmed Marines and Marauders and Medivacs healing/mobilizing them as they lay terror all across the battlefield. The Terran changes brought in this patch will encourage players to use mech builds more often, leading to more variety in viable strategies.
Ghosts and their EMP ability – an instant 100 damage AoE attack against shields – are a staple in Terran versus Protoss games. Previously, one Ghost was too often all that was needed to nullify the shields of the Protoss army throughout an entire game, and so it was not surprising to see it nerfed to 4/9 of its total AoE. Obviously, Blizzard is trying to encourage players to get more Ghosts out to the field, and we will not be surprised to see the Ghost’s cost bumped down a bit more and beyond just having its resources shifted around to make the unit less gas-dependent.
Life decreased from 60 to 45.
This change was brought by as a response to a recent flood of Marine/SCV all-in rushes, especially popular in Korea. After getting 6+ Marines, the Terran player would quickly send them and most of his SCVs straight to the enemy base. Since the unit AI prioritizes attacking workers over other units, the SCVs functioned as a tough 60 hp meat-shield for the attacking Marines, allowing them to take down enemy units from a safe distance.
Unfortunately, this change makes Terran vulnerable to early game harassment and hurts their role on the battlefield, where they are used to repair and construct turrets and bunkers. The SCV is the only worker that remains vulnerable during the construction of buildings, and so harassment with the first scouting worker has become a real pain for Terran players, delaying the first crucial Supply Depot or Barracks for many seconds. It will be interesting to see if Blizzard sticks to this change or finds a more creative solution that does not change one of the fundamental differences between the races’ workers – the SCV’s 50% higher health.
Build time decreased from 40 seconds to 30 seconds.
Build time increased from 20 seconds to 25 seconds.
Build time increased from 25 seconds to 50 seconds.
These changes, along with the previous ones, are clearly an attempt to make the early Terran bioball less dominant. Is Blizzard trying to encourage players to make do with less Marines, but keep them surviving longer in Bunkers?
The Protoss had several damage output modifications and a few surprising nerfs, especially to the somewhat underused Dark Templar.
Thermal Lances damage decreased from 23 to 20.
Such a subtle change, such complex consequences. Here are just a few aspects of the Colossus’ recent adjustment:
- No longer one-shots Terran Marines
- Still instagibs Zerglings
- Stimmed Marines die with a single pass
- Stimmed Marines with a Combat Shields upgrade survive
- A full Colossus attack was changed from a total of 46 to 40 damage – meaning that SCVs are still the only workers that can survive a Colossus attack
- Hydralisks can now withstand 3 full Colossus double beam passes
Cost increased from 25 Minerals and 75 Vespene Gas to 50 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas.
Build time increased from 33 seconds to 40 seconds.
Observers are arguably the best scouts/detectors in the game. Since they no longer require a pre-req building like in StarCraft 1 and since Protoss now rely heavily on the Robotics Facility, there’s no reason for this unit to be as cheap.
Particle Disruptors damage increased from 8 (+6 Armored) to 10 (+4 Armored).
Weapon upgrade damage decreased from +1 (+1 Armored) to +1 (+0 Armored).
Another interesting change. Stalkers are not a particlarly good standalone unit. While they are versatile, inexpensive and often form the backbone of the Protoss army, they are not outstanding on their own against anything, don’t have too much of a damage output and can’t endure a lot of damage either. Un-microed Stalkers are dead money – just about every other ranged units defeats them in a head-on clash.
Everything kills stalkers, and their true kickass shines through only when they are combined with other units, when they dance around and kite, or when they blink successfully to carry out hit and run attacks or chase down inferior enemy forces. However, Blizzard have decided that the Stalkers are just a tad too underwhelming, and so their damage is now more uniform, their use increased against non-armored units. They will take less shots to kill many important units, like Marines, Hydralisks, Zealots, Zerglings, Reapers, and Mutalisks.
Armor type changed from Biological-Psionic to Biological-Psionic-Light.
Armor type changed from Biological-Psionic to Biological-Psionic-Light.
Build time increased from 80 seconds to 100 seconds.
Cost increased from 100 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas to 100 Minerals and 250 Vespene Gas.
The Zerg have received relatively minor changes in this patch:
Volatile Burst damage increased from 15 (+20 Light) to 20 (+15 Light).
Burrowed regeneration rate decreased from 10 to 5.
Upgraded burrowed regeneration bonus decreased from +20 to +10.
Roaches present a serious balance problem only on the novice and pro levels, but remain a fairly balanced unit for most of Battle.net’s population. A well executed Roach rush spells certain doom for Protoss newbies, while on the pro level, uber-APMs allow some insane roach 0burrow dancing. This makes the units extremely hard to kill even with Psi Storms placed directly on top and repeatedly. For most, the unit will continue to function as intended.
Banelings, the only unit to inflict bonus damage to light units for the Zerg, has been given an upgrade in the form on a shift in damage to a more standardized attack. This makes them somewhat more useful against armored targets rather than only against masses of low-tier light units such as Zealots, Marines, Zerlings and Hydralisks.
Overall, it seems that Blizzard are taking the feedback from beta players to heart. Many have complained that the game has shifted the focus to hard-counters and that soft-counters and micromanagement are less important than they were in StarCraft 1. With the previous change to the Viking – shifting more of its damage from anti-armor to normal – and to the Banelings and Stalkers now, StarCraft 2 is slowly finding a balance between the rock-paper-scissors formula and other, more advanced aspects of the game that allow its gameplay to transcend such simple mechanics.
Bashiok, Blizzard’s Community Manager, has posted a lengthy League/Ladder/Division FAQ, clarifying many of the issues – some of them bordering on the mystical – concerning the players’ placement, ranking, bonus pool/rested points as well division assignment.
Q. How do your placement matches calculate which league you will be joining?
A. During your placement matches we match you against players from a wide variety of players and skill levels and we watch the results; whether you win or lose. From this, we are able to determine your ability and place you in a league that we believe to be appropriate for your level of play.
Since the variety in player skill one meets during the placement matches is so great, the initial division assignment is often not accurate. Don’t get overconfident if you get placed into Platinum – it might be as simple as crushing a few guys who are playing their first RTS game ever in 8 out of the 10 placement matches.
Q. How do we move up in rank in your division? For example, from rank 51 to rank 44.
A. Simply by competing with other players and winning. However, it is important to remember that the individual matches themselves can vary in points awarded based on the rated difficulty of your opponent.
Example: Player A may have a win-loss ratio of 19-17 and be ranked in the Silver League at 35; while player B may have a win-loss ratio of 18-19, but because of the difficulty of some of those matches (say playing against Gold League players) he either received more points for a win or lost less for a loss.
As an aside, players breaking even while hovering at 1500+ rating is a common sight across all leagues and divisions, so don’t be surprised if you manage to be promoted to a higher league while barely have a 50:50 win:loss balance.
Q. How do players move down in rank on the ladder? For example, from rank 44 to rank 51.
A. This is done simply by losing matches. You are ranked relative to everyone in your division within your league. The amount of points you lose per match is comparable to how points are calculated when you win. If you lose to someone who is rated higher than you, you should lose less points then if you were to lose to someone who was rated lower than you.
Q. What is the relevance of the Favored indicator and how does that effect the points distributed from winning or losing a match?
A. The Favored indicator helps give you an idea of whether the contender you’re pitted against is considered to be even with you, challenging to you, extremely challenging to you or not a challenge.
Currently there is a known bug where the score screen will display a level of you or your opponent being favored that’s incorrect. The loading screen however shows the correct level of ‘favoritism’.
You can use the level of ‘favoritism’ to gauge the number of points you are likely to gain or lose after the match depending on the result.
Q. What are the league ranks?
A. Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum. In that order. There is also the practice league for player’s starting out and there may be other special leagues created in the future, such as an invite-only pro league.
An invite-only pro league! Blizzard has previously stated that it desires to have a strong saying over StarCraft 2’s eSports presence, and it appears that the system is being built to handle such features from the get-go.
Q. How does a player move laterally from one division to an adjacent division in the same metallic league? (For Example, From Division 5 Silver League to Division 4 Silver League.)
A. In theory, they shouldn’t. There have been some select cases where this has happened, but this is a known issue in the current beta build and is being looked into.
Q. Do the different numbered divisions indicate various levels of skill; is 4 a slightly tougher division than 5?
A. No. The divisions are sectioned off so that we have the appropriate amount of people in each.
Ending all speculation – the number of your division has no meaning in terms of skill. Of course, they are created in order as new players arrive, so earlier divisions (lower in number) will generally have more experienced players.
Q. How does a player move from one league to another? (For Example: from Silver league to Gold.)
A. After you’ve finished your initial placement, the system continues to review your performance and determines what league you should be placed in based on those reviews. The time and frequency of these reviews is kept hidden.
Q. Are matches ever made between different leagues? (For Example: A Gold league player playing against a Silver league player in a rated match.)
A. Yes, you may be matched up against players from different leagues to test your skill. So be on your guard and play your best in every match.
Q. What is the bonus pool and how are bonus points acquired?
A. The Bonus Pool (incorrectly called “Rested Points” in some parts of the UI) is an accumulation of points that every player receives whether they’re online and playing or not. They’re essentially used as a means to help give a player a catch-up boost if they haven’t played in a while. The pool does have a cap but it increases slowly until the end of a season.
Q. How is the bonus pool used in competitive play?
A. When you achieve victory against another player, you are awarded a certain number of points. The Bonus Pool points will match the number of points you received for winning.
For example: If you were to have a Bonus Pool of 30 and you win a match that would normally give you 10 points, points will then be pulled from your Bonus Pool to match those 10 points and you’ll be awarded 20 points for winning that game. Your bonus pool will then sit at 20. (We’re aware of an issue your bonus pool not displaying properly in some parts of the UI).
Finally, a clear explanation about the bonus pool. Your bonus pool points can up to double the points you are awarded for winning a match. It seems that they are awarded when facing favored players as well as when being placed in a different league, a change that reduces your ladder rating to around 1000 and gives you the difference between that and the rating you had before in bonus points.
Q. Are the gains and losses in the 2v2 game type higher than that in 1v1?
A. No, the gains and losses are the same as 1v1.
Q. Are 2v2 ranks counted individually or in pairs? For example: If Player A plays with Player B and their team is ranked 2, is there another ranking for when Player A plays with Player C?
A. Yes. Every pair is ranked individually. Of course, only after finishing the 10 placement matches.
Q. How are ratings calculated for 2v2? Is it an average of the two players or cumulative?
A. Each pairing of players for arranged 2v2 matches carries its own rating. If you participate in 2v2 random, you would have your own individual ranking. Matches that include 2v2 random players average the rating of the two players and compare it to their opponents rating.
The 2v2 ranking and rating methods are quite clear, with each unique team having its own rating, and each random team player carrying his own unique rating. At this time, the most frustrating placement on Battle.net 2.0 is perhaps the Random Team in Gold or Platinum levels. You get a random partner to fight against arranged teams that often consist of very good and coordinated players who are used to fighting together.
If you happen to carry a terrible Win/Loss ratio from the earlier days of the beta and you’re looking for a fresh start, Blizzard’s got some great news for you: the world is coming to an end. The entire StarCraft 2 Beta ladder is about to be reset and everyone will get to recreate their account.
In the near future, we will be doing a full reset of the beta database. This reset will wipe the following information for all players:
- Character and identifier
- Friends list
- League placement
- Ladder rank
Due to the amount of people currently participating in the beta, this database reset will allow us to monitor and test conditions similar to a game release (albeit smaller). We want to thank everyone for their patience and continued help and support in testing StarCraft II.
Not only is Blizzard planning to reset the ladder to simulate StarCraft 2’s real launch, it has initiated a massive invite-a-friend program for beta key holders, beneficially targeting potential Real-ID friends to test the social features of its new platform. Here’s a paragraph from the email we’ve received:
This key can only be used once to upgrade a Battle.net account to participate in the beta test, and while we encourage you to share this key with someone you know, it must not be traded or sold.
Once your friend has joined the beta test, be sure to add him or her as a Real ID friend by opening your friends list in the bottom-right corner of the Battle.net interface and selecting Add Friend.
Avarius also invites parties interested in running StarCraft 2 beta tournaments to contact the E-Sports team at firstname.lastname@example.org – a great opportunity that might bring us the first major organized clash of StarCraft 2 pro-gamers!
Interested in running Starcraft II beta tournaments? Please send an email with the following information about your tournament to email@example.com.
• Name of the tournament
• Name of the person operating the tournament
• Name of the organization running the tournament
• Contact information
• Mailing address
• Times and dates of your tournament
• Participating country(ies)
• List of tournament sponsors and partners
We will review and evaluate your request.
Blizzard eSports Team
Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s VP of online technology, has taken the time to provide some revealing details as well as answer a short Q&A in a session hosted in Samsung City Hyatt Hotel. The original articles have been released in Korean, and are available here and here. A kind soul has posted the full translation on Battle.net’s forums soon after the articles went live.
According to the information released today, Battle.net 2.0 will immensely improve community features. It will create a better competitive environment that players can enjoy and also will make changes to ladder and league.
Also, Blizzard is currently setting the new battle.net release date to around April and here are the scheduled contents:
- Community related contents
- Player’s detailed connection info
- Player’s detailed game history
- Friend’s friend invite contents
It’ll be surprising to see features like Achievements go live during the beta, mainly because of the huge sign that states “Disabled for Beta” on that part of Battle.net’s interface. More detailed game histories and the ability to see information about your opponents and allies will also be welcomed features.
The most controversial decision reported about in the Q&A is the confirmation of the lack of chat channels – the heart and soul of Battle.net. This is how many gamers have met their allies and rivals on the gaming service throughout the years, starting new friendships and gaining arch-enemies. It’s the way the team behind this blog originally met 12 years ago! Unsurprisingly, many have already expressed their disappointment with this change and are urging Blizzard to reconsider.
Instead of the normal chat features, Blizzard will implement something more akin to the popular social sites flooding the Internet nowadays:
Especially about friend’s friend related contents, blizzard will implement in battle.net 2.0 as the main community system. According to blizzard, the new battle.net 2.0 system with friend’s friend invite will enable users to be more active in the community.
This is similar to facebook and twitter with micro-blogs and blizzard is also following this trend. Blizzard also states that since battle.net 2.0 does not have open chat channels, they will have to shoot for an even better community system as the ultimate goal.
Gamers are not Twitter social-media type simpletons. Most do not need another Facebook to interact with the people they already know. Chats and Forums are the natural habitats of gamers, and Blizzard is taking away the ability to randomly meet people to chat, play and discuss the game with. Despite the fact that this is in line with most recent gaming platforms, we, among many others, would love to see Blizzard reconsider the removal of chat channels.
The update, which is due in April, will not include the following:
Single Player Contents
- There are contents that will be locked at the beginning and will only be unlocked as you clear specific objectives. When you unlock these contents, you will be given some awards.
- Unlocking achievements will give players decals(distinct patterns) or portrait pictures.
Result screen revamp
- Currently, when you finish a match, you only see scores but the revampt will include all the details.
The more anticipated contents such as professional leagues and use-map marketplace will be included in future updates after release and will include watching replays of the players in professional league. Also, the players in pro-league will be able to advertise his career history and others.
The Q&A session spans 7 questions in total:
Q : There are currently hacks out there for single player and multiplayer is in danger too. Are you guys working on more security measures?
A : Hacking is something that we did not want to see. It is very unfortunate. The current hacked clients may contain virus and we would like to encourage our users to avoid downloading them. In the case of multiplayer, we will be working to make sure that it is not hacked but since you will be able to play any multiplayer without battle.net, I think the system is pretty secure from hacking.
Q : Will the April content release include 3v3 or 4v4?
A : 3v3 and 4v4 team plays will not be released in April but will be in the official release.
Q : Is there plans to release public chat channels? Also, if you do release it, how will you fight against spams and profanity?
A : Battle.net 2.0 will not support open chat channels. We will take actions to the reported spams, profanity and rude behaviors with the new Report Player functionality.
Q : Then, how will clan system work? If there is no open chat channel, then wouldn’t that impede clan system?
A : We will be announcing clan system at (after?) release so we cannot discuss that right now.
Apparently, there is a distinct, separate clan system planned, which will not depend on open chat channels and is not limited to the social features that have been implemented or announced up until now.
Q : Unlike Warcraft 3 battle.net, will you be able to see your rankings and match history in the website?
A : Of course. Just like WoW armory, you will be able to see those in the new battle.net community site. You can expect some great things since it will be a whole new innovative web service.
Q : Even if you divide realm servers by continents, if you look at Asia, there are many different spoken languages. Will you provide real-time translation system?
A : We have no plans to support realtime translation system right now but we are looking into it and considering it.
Q : The currentl battle.net supported games include Starcraft 1, Diablo, Warcraft 3. Will you keep supporting this? Are you concerned about merging them with battle.net 2.0?
A : The current battle.net will continue being supported. I would like to see it being supported continuously and we are discussing how we will go about. The merging details have not been completely decided in terms of technical aspect so it is hard to answer that. We will be discussing that later.
In case you have forgotten (it’s been a while!), Battle.net was launched with the release of Diablo in 1997, 13 years ago. It is a live platform that serves Diablo, Diablo 2, StarCraft, WarCraft 2, WarCraft 3, and all the expansions of the aforementioned games. Adjusting the platform across so many games would require a huge amount of patching, and it’s not suprising Blizzard has not declared its official stance on the issue.
A significantly more lengthy interview was given by Dustin Browder to VG247, going into the gory details of the expectations and numbers emerging from StarCraft 2’s beta testing. Many of the things Dustin mentions, like the possibility of adding and removing units, have been talked about extensively in the latest Blizzcast, but there’s certainly some meat in this one.
Here are some interesting excerpts from the interview:
Dustin Browder: So far, the beta numbers we’ve been looking at have been very, very positive. We’re close to a 50 percent win ratio for almost every race. What we’re really doing right now is waiting to see, as the community learns more, to see if something changes in the meta-game that causes this not to be the case. And, of course, we’re still dealing with issues of unit diversity, particularly on the Zerg side.
What level of concurrency to you want to get to before the end of the beta?
Dustin Browder: I think we want to maintain about 10,000. It’s sort of our goal, and we’ve just about hit that at this point. I can see we’re at 9,000-something right now, and 10,000 is the goal.
The number of online players has certainly been growing steadily as Blizzard sends out more and more keys.
While some StarCraft 2 Beta testers have been hacking at the world’s fastest RTS for 12 years, a significant portion of the gamers are… noobs that are overwhelmed by StarCraft’s ruthless pace and macro-oriented mechanics.
Dustin Browder: We’re seeing two types of players. We’re seeing the hardcore who’ve been with us for the past 12 years, who are just totally loving it and having a great time. We’re seeing newer players get into the beta and struggling a bit with the speed, with the rushes, with the style of gameplay we’re presenting them with. We’ve seen a lot of feedback from the newer players saying, ‘Oh my God, this is really rough. What the hell are you guys doing?’
Are you seeing clicks-per-minute generally increase as you run the beta over time?
Dustin Browder: I’m sorry, I’m able to see it on a game-by-game basis; I’m not able to see it globally. But that’s a great question, and certainly a stat we’d love to have. We have a ton of stats right now, and we’re having a trouble getting at them a little bit. There’s a large volume of data that our business intelligence guys are working very hard to give us access to. What I have access to now is fairly limited. I have access to maps, I have access to win-loss by race and by skill, I have access to certain unit stats, but no, I don’t have access to action-per-minute on a global scale. I’m not able to see it increasing as we go. I imagine that it would.
Some more interesting quotes:
- Our internal stats show us that Terrans are down in 1v1 versus Protoss and Zerg, and our internal stats also show us that Terran-Terran teams are also taking a hit in almost every match-up. This we believe to be largely because of map design. The Terrans lack some of the mobility to come rescue their allies in the early game…
- We’re going to change the maps a little bit and see if we get different results, but the Terrans being down is something we’ve started to address and we’re going to continue to address in the coming weeks.
- In addition, we view Battle.net this time around a little more as we do WoW. We hope to be doing constant content development going forward…
- There are also going to be some changes to how we do match-making. I know this for sure. But I’m not exactly sure of everything that’s going to happen. We develop these features and some of them will make the content patch, and some of them will not.
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