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Bashiok, Blizzard’s community manager, has posted on the battle.net forums, discussing a subject that’s on the mind of every StarCraft 2 player: gameplay balance and patches that change it. The thread began with worries that Blizzard is keeping the game in an unbalanced form that will only be addressed by the next expansion, Heart of the Swarm, when it introduces new units and balance changes.

First of all, Bashiok quickly dispels this myth:

Our intent is not to have a game with broken balance in an attempt to sell an expansion. That should go without saying. It makes me sad it isn’t.

Next, he clarifies Blizzard’s approach to patching:

Our intent is also to not apply knee jerk fixes based on the first few weeks as understanding of the game and strategies are still in flux. The game is young, and we don’t feel that it would have been helpful to progressing peoples understanding by throwing in tons of fixes based on flavor-of-the-week (or day, or hour) strats.


We see a lot of variation between the regions. Making a change for how NA players play may be completely ridiculous for how KR players play, and actually mess up a balance there. For instance 10 of their top 20 players are zerg. So that’s one place where we have to be mindful and careful and attack balance issues with great prejudice.

Unlike during the beta, Blizzard can’t afford to patch the game every few days or radically alter components of the game for a test run. “Real” patches are indeed coming, but they will be heavily scrutinized first to make sure the introduced balance changes are worthy:

That said. There are balance changes coming. What everyone was seeing in beta with tons of quick balance changes are because it was in beta and we feel we can get away with throwing out a lot of ‘we think this may help’ type fixes. With a live environment we’re not going to throw stuff out there unless we’re pretty sure. We’ve played. We’ve looked at data. We’ve looked at each region. And then we act. Which isn’t to say we may not be wrong from time to time, but it’s a more measured approach than beta players may be used to or expecting.

There you have it! Balance changes are coming, and they’ll be thought out and tested before we’re exposed to them. Indeed, in mid-September, Blizzard is planning on releasing the first real patch, and they’ve already released a situation report detailing some of the planned changes:

Patch 1.1 will contain a number of improvements including additional mod features, Editor improvements and bug fixes, some custom game improvements, support for NVIDIA’s 3D Vision, and more. We’d also like to share some specific plans for this patch with you.

Balance Changes

We have several balance changes in store. One general change we’re making is that friendly units will no longer provide vision after being killed. Enemy units previously revealed will no longer be targetable. Now let’s break down the additional balance changes we’re implementing.

This changes the way vision works so that units that are killed immediately lose the vision they provided on the field. Previously, killed units would still supply intelligence for a few short seconds, allowing players to jump to the location of the “under attack!” ping and see exactly what had happened.

Maps

We’re going to be adding destructible rocks to the Desert Oasis map to make natural expansions easier to protect. In addition, the center map watchtower area is being narrowed.

Protoss

We have two key changes in mind for the zealot: the build time is being increased from 33 to 38 seconds, and the warpgate cooldown is being increased from 23 to 28 seconds. Zealot rushes are currently too powerful at various skill levels, particularly those that rely on rapidly assaulting an enemy base from nearby “proxy” gateways. We feel the window players have to scout for and fend off this rush is too small. We also want to address the problem of protoss being able to dump minerals a bit too quickly with the combination of warpgates and Chrono Boost.

While this gives victims of proxy gateway rushes a little more breathing room, it also puts Protoss players in danger of getting Zerglings going past their choke point just slightly before the first bouncer Zealot comes out.

Proxy Gateway

The late-game effect that slightly hinders the Protoss’ ability to mass up Zealots quickly is also no doubt a reaction to the following Siege Tank change:

Terran

There are several changes in the works for terrans. Reapers against zerg are stronger than expected. Due to the zealot build time increase, reapers would be a bit problematic in combination with proxy barracks, bunkers, and/or marauders against protoss. Therefore, we have decided to increase the build time of reapers as well from 40 to 45 seconds. Fast reaper + bunker, or fast marine + bunker rushes are problematic against zerg. Although this rush would never outright destroy the zerg player, we feel zerg suffers too much of a disadvantage from either having to cancel the fast expansion, or getting trapped inside the main base for too long, so we are also increasing the bunker build time from 30 to 35 seconds.


Siege tanks in large numbers are performing too well in all matchups. In the mid- to late-game, siege tanks are too dominant against all ground units. We want a small set of light and unarmored ground units to perform better against siege tanks. With this in mind, we’re changing the Siege Mode damage of the siege tank from 50 to 35, +15 vs. armored; to correspond with this, damage upgrades will be changed from +5 to +3, +2 vs. armored. This change reduces the base damage of the siege tank against light and unarmored units, as well as the splash damage.

Siege Tanks will now perform more like their StarCraft 1 Predecessors, dealing less damage to light-armored units like the Zealot, Marine, Zergling, and Hydralisk. A huge change for this unit that the Terran race has come to rely on, Tanks in siege mode will now be significantly less deadly to these units. Hydralisks will need 3 shots instead of 2 to be killed; carapace-upgraded Zerlings will survive the first shot, non-stimmed Marines will as well. Zealots, already capable of taking some tank fire while charging in to the battle, will be able to take one extra hit as well and survive 5 direct shots. This is not the first nerf to the Siege Tank, which has already had its damage lowered from 60 to 50 during the beta.

Siege Tanks will now benefit greatly from the +1 damage upgrade, allowing them to one shot Zerglings regardless of upgrades. A +2 attack Siege Tank will two-shot Hydralisks again, even if the Hydralisk is +2 carapace upgraded itself.

Battlecruisers currently lack good counters from the ground and still perform very well against a wide array of unit types. We’re aware that it is not easy to get battlecruisers out for the cost, but at the same time, it is possible in both 1v1s and team games to create stalemate situations to bring them out. Overall, we feel that battlecruisers are too strong for their cost, and the terran-forced stalemate situations are causing less interesting gameplay. We will be lowering their damage against ground units from 10 to 8.

Zerg

Ultralisk damage is being decreased from 15, +25 vs. armored to 15, +20 vs. armored. This reduction is comparable to the changes being made to the battlecruiser and siege tank. Like the battlecruiser, ultralisks are simply too powerful for the cost, even though they are difficult to muster. Also, in combination with other units, ultralisks are difficult to counter from the ground. The ultralisk building attack (Ram) is being removed because the damage rate is too similar to its normal attack, which will be used against buildings instead. When ultralisks target tightly packed smaller buildings such as supply depots, the Ram attack is actually outputting considerably less overall damage than its normal attack, as Ram only hits a single target.

The Ultralisk, which was highly underused during the beta, has finally been seeing use since the release of the game thanks to the final patches of the beta that have improved the unit’s damage, speed, and have given it a permanent “frenzy” effect along with the ability to break down Sentry Force-Fields. This is has made it quite devastating in some situation, so the current damage reduction definitely makes sense. On the other hand, Ultralisks will now be better than ever for breaking down tight chokes, as their AoE melee attack will be used against buildings as well.

Interesting changes all around, and these are only some of the promised ones to come in the next patch!

In a hilarious and predictable turn of events, that will perhaps prevent Blizzard from releasing these situation reports prematurely in the future, players who had read the report and have noted that Zealot proxy rushes and Siege Tanks are overpowered are abusing those to the max while they still can. Be warned!

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Here is the full chart of the currently available StarCraft 2 Battle.net Profile pictures. Enjoy!

Starcraft 2 Portraits Chart  - Battle.net

Click through to see the full high-res version. Big thanks go to our reader Jason for creating this great looking, helpful chart!

Google+

The new Battle.net that had launched with StarCraft 2 might have taken many users by surprise – if they did not keep up with SC news during development – with its permanent character names and the lack of chatrooms.

Blizzard has promised to bring chat rooms back within a few patches, and now, gamers not happy with their handles will be offered a name change for free soon as well. Why bother writing “free“? Well, because Blizzard will be charging for Battle.net name changes in the future.

The recent 1.0.3 patch continued the tradition of providing a minor bug fix while leaving gameplay balance intact.

Bug Fixes:

Fixed an issue preventing some players from accessing offline play from the login screen

Our Nvidia-sponsored GeForce GTX 460 StarCraft 2 flipbook contest came to an end this weekend, bringing multiple interesting submissions. As promised, the winner of the contest will be awarded with a EVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB and the runner up will receive a SteelSeries limited edition professional grade StarCraft 2 mousepad.

The second place, along with the mousepad, goes to Stephen Barnes for submitting this animated battle, called “Death From Above”.

The winner of the contest is Nadya Emmyl from Stary Oskol, Russia, who submitted this excellent animated reenactment of Kerrigan’s last stand on New Gettysburg.

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BlizzCon 2010, Blizzard’s massive annual event – the celebration of all things Blizzard –  is a bit more than two months away, scheduled for October 22nd. During the wait, Blizzard is offering a few opportunities for its fans to win good money by putting their creative side to use – offering big prizes in Fan Art, Movie and Music contests.

The Fan Art contest, undoubtedly the most popular and easiest contest to participate in, offers the following prizes:

  • First Place:
    Wacom Cintiq 21UX and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Second Place:
    NVIDIA video card, one copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Third Place:
    One copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5 and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online

You can see what the Cintiq 21UX is about in the following video:

The virtual BlizzCon ticket is worth $40, and includes the following:

  • Expanded live coverage over four Internet channels offering 50+ hours of HD BlizzCon programming
  • BlizzCon 2010-exclusive World of Warcraft in-game item
  • Access to exclusive BlizzCon merchandise
  • Complete coverage of panel discussions, tournaments, and game-related announcements, plus exclusive interviews and epic closing ceremonies
  • Enhanced video on demand and DVR functionality

The Music contest offers even more lucrative prizes, with the entries having to meet simple criteria:

To enter, simply submit your song before September 27. Entries must be no longer than two minutes in length, in MP3 format, and meet the requirements listed in the official rules in order to be eligible to win.

  • First Place:
    $2,000, one Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment boxed set signed by Blizzard Entertainment composers, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Second Place:
    $1,000, one Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment boxed set signed by Blizzard Entertainment composers, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Third Place:
    $500, one Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment boxed set signed by Blizzard Entertainment composers, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online

Blizzard Echoes Of War

Blizzard’s BlizzCon 2010 Movie contest offers $11,000  in cash prizes alone.

To enter, create an original movie (up to three minutes in length) using footage from Blizzard Entertainment games, and submit it before September 27.

  • Grand Prize:
    $5,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue
  • First Place:
    $3,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue
  • Second Place:
    $2,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue
  • Third Place:
    $1,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue

Blizzard Oswald Award

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