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The month of February began with a reinvigorated, hopeful, and well justified beta rumor frenzy. Blizzard has been contacting gamers, websites and certain individuals about their StarCraft 2 beta access, and all eyes will be focused on Blizzavision’s public conference call, only 3 days away. Blizzard is setting up the pieces for the most massive RTS game beta test in history – a beta that will test not only StarCraft 2’s mechanics and balance, but also the revolutionary gaming platform Blizzard has been working on for a long while.

Blizzard’s Korean community representative commented on the topic and summarized Blizzard’s intentions in the following response:

(Credit for translation goes to our friends at IncGamers)

We know that all of you are very curious about the development of the Beta with the release of many Starcraft 2 Beta Testing related news across various news portals.

Unfortunately, the specifics of beta testing have not been finalized yet and I cannot give you a definite answer through this thread.

But we are trying our best to make the necessary preparations ready and introduce Starcraft 2 as fast as we can. I can definitely say that the Beta test will not just involve industry experts and other VIPs but rather will involve all fans of the franchise.

We understand how long and excruciating the wait was, and we also understand what you want the most right now as well.

We will tell you about any specifics that become finalized as soon as we can.

In the meantime, Blizzard has made some standard updates in the form of new features on the official site and new bits of information from the blues, Blizzard’s official RTS community managers.

The StarCraft 2 website has been updated with new fan art, all very inspiring StarCraft works.

Zhydaris took the time to post about the updated Zerg Baneling mechanics on the Battle.net forums in response to a 5-question inquiry by a fan.

Baneling Art from 2005

1 – The Banelings cannot detonate while burrowed, they have to unburrow first and then explode. I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, probably exploding while burrowed would be a better warfare tactic”. You must understand that exploding in the name of the Zerg is indeed a great satisfaction for a Baneling, thus they prefer to unburrow in order to showcase their enthusiasm for their role by exploding with a smirk on their face. If you zoom close enough you will see a little smile on their little glowing face of theirs. Ah, gotta love the Banelings.


2 – They’ll wait for your command. If you don’t tell them to explode, they’ll just wait while staying burrowed. That’s nice for setting up ambushes.


3 – They always wait for your command.


4 – They’ll not behave like Infested Terrans. The attack-move command is not going to be interpreted as “Go and explode at this location”, but rather as “Move to this location and attack any enemy unit. If you can’t spot an enemy unit, just sit there”.


5 – It’s comparable to a D8 Charge, yes, the explosion covers pretty much the same area.

The above answers clear the air (if not to most Zerg players’ satisfaction) about the Baneling’s most dangerous, coolest and problematic property – the ability to act as a powerful underground mine. Some players will undoubtedly be disappointed that Blizzard took the safer (balance-wise) path of forcing the suicidal Zerg unit to unborrow prior to exploding. Of course, this won’t prevent them from still being very dangerous in this role.

Zerg units were not alone in getting blue attention, as both Terran Reapers and Protoss Nullifiers were mentioned by Blizzard’s community teams. Most importantly, the Nullifier, the superstar of the freakishly awesome 3rd battle report, has been renamed to Sentry and has received an updated unit model.

StarCraft 2 Sentry

Kapeselus took the time to clarify how the Reapers’ D-8 charges act once deployed. The D8s have a 2 second delay before exploding, providing some panic dodging time, and are indestructible, at least in the current build.

In the current build you cannot destroy D-8 Charges. By that I mean that you can select them, but they are indestructible (they don’t have HP like other units do, just like units caught by Arbiter’s Stasis Field in SC:BW for example). If you are playing against Reapers though, you can still dodge the charges, as it takes them around 2 seconds to blow up.

He also answers some follow-up questions about the dangerous use of the charges against buildings:

D-8 charges don’t stick to buildings. You can only throw them directly to the ground and if you target a building they will just appear next to it. They also only damage ground units, so they won’t do any damage to your buildings if you manage to lift them off before the charges blow up.
You cannot damage burrowed zerg units if they are not affected by any means of detection. For example if you raid your opponent’s mineral line and he burrows his drones you won’t be able to damage them without a detector, like for example a Scanner Sweep.

D-8 Reaper raids are going to be a major issue for enemies of the Terran to take into account when constructing their bases. Clumped up Supply Depot farms, undefended worker lines, or expensive, high-tier buildings – all will be easy pickings for quick and painful Reaper raids.

Last but not least, Matt Horner – one of StarCraft 2’s key Terran characters – has been awarded with his very own lore page on the official StarCraft 2 website, being added to the respectable list of heroes: Jim Raynor, Zeratul and Tychus Findlay. Read it here.

“…he was young, smart, idealistic, and bored.

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January hasn’t featured any significant official update from Blizzard (yet),  but a few pieces of information have surfaced through the constantly-growing RTS community team. Here’s a quick run down of the recent updates to the StarCraft 2 Universe.

The role and functionality of the Changeling, a shape-shifting spy unit that can be spawned by Overseers for an energy cost, has been clarified by Avarius.

The changeling’s transformation is permanent. Once it is within range of opposing forces, it will transform to that race’s basic tier 1 unit (marine, zealot, or zergling) and remain so for its duration. In the case of a team game or FFA where there are multiple races, the changeling will transform to the race it encounters first and not change again.

When questioned about the viability of the ability in high-level 1 on 1 matches, Avarius made it clear that he considers the Changeling a worthy addition to the Zerg unit roster.

I definitely think you will see them used effectively, even in high level 1v1 play. Who wouldn’t want an essentially free scout (only costs energy) to use to gather intel on their opponent? With the potential that you opponent might not kill it immediately, it can provide you with a sustained scouting advantage. Even high level players can get caught up in harassment, or base management and may miss this little guy sneaking into their base.

The next blue posts were translated by a SC:L staff member, and come from the Korean side of the Battle.net forums:

When more supply is required, and when I have to quickly build three Supply Depots at the same time, this is usually the method that I use.

1) I select some mining SCVs by drag selection or Ctrl + Left Click. It’s good to select at least three.

2) After pressing ‘B’ (building hotkey) then ‘S’ (Supply Depot hotkey), while holding Shift, consecutively left click at the locations you want to build at before right clicking a mineral patch.
3) Out of the selected SCVs, only three of them go to the selected locations and each build a Supply Depot, and once construction is complete they return to mining minerals.

That’s how automated things have become in StarCraft 2: building multiple supply depots and sending the workers back to harvest minerals is easily achieved by issuing one concentrated and short batch of commands, eliminating many of the repetitive actions otherwise required in the original game.

Building entire Tech Tree via a Single Queue Achievement ?

Another bit of info from Korea details the unit classification system, which has received a major overhaul in StarCraft 2. The new system is much more streamlined and simple, following clear rules that make hard unit counters very apparent.

Light armor, heavy armor, biological, mechanical, giant, psionic, etc. are some attributes that units can have.

For example, the Ultralisk has heavy armor biological giant attributes, whereas the Archon has the psionic attribute. You can probably tell from looking at the Archon, but not all units are divided into [light armor/heavy armor]. Damage calculation is also different from the previous game. Units attacks always do at least 100% of the damage value shown on the screen. And then, depending on the attacks property, additional damage may be dealt when attacking units with specific attributes.

For example the Archons base damage is 25, and deals an additional 10 damage against biological targets. Therefore, Zerg units (which are usually biological) take 35 damage when attacked by Archons. And in the case of the Siege Tank, its Siege Mode deals 60 damage, so it deals 60 damage to all ground units. If the old system of explosive, concussive and small, medium, large was used, then Marines would take reduced damage from a Siege Tank.

On the topic of friendly damage, Zhydaris explains which explosion is ally-friendly and which should be more carefully handled:

… exploding Banelings do not damage allied units: both your units and those of your allies are not affected at all by the acid explosion.


Reaper’s explosive charge does actually damage allies, as well as your own units and buildings, so be careful when playing with those flashing packages.

The official StarCraft 2 website has been updated with a brand new 6-page Mothership story, including a short, action packed clip of a Mothership-backed Protoss force decimating a Zerg army. The Mothership sports a slightly altered design and a new attack animation.

Ain't no ship like a Mothership

StarCraft 2’s community team has also revealed a new doodad screenshot via Twitter. The art is high-detail and worth a closer look – make sure you click on the image for the full-size screenshot.

StarCraft 2 Doodad - Tude Debris

The following concrete and un-speculative bit of info is bound to make quite a few people happy, as it serves as real evidence that StarCraft 2 is indeed being tested live on Battle.net or, at least, that it is about to be in the immediate future. The Blizzard official support page now includes lengthy support articles for StarCraft 2!

Starcraft 2 Support Pages

The guide gets quite specific and even includes a detailed StarCraft 2 Mac Version Video troubleshooting article!

There’s also some hype about the the recently announced Activision-Blizzard public conference call that will be broadcast on the internet, as it might include a clear plan of action for the upcoming months.

Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) intends to release its fourth quarter and calendar year 2009 results after the close of the market on Wednesday, February 10, 2010. In conjunction with this release, Activision Blizzard will host a conference call that will be broadcast over the Internet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
1:30 pm Pacific Time (4:30 pm Eastern Time)

To listen to the call, please log onto:
http://investor.activision.com/events.cfm

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In this update, we willl cover the StarCraft 2 news bits and updates from the last 2 weeks, during which a few small pieces of information popped up around the world.  The most important announcement comes to us from Russia’s massive gaming convention, IgroMir (GameWorld in English).

For this event, Blizzard has effectively produced a Blizzcon parallel in Russia. StarCraft 2 was playable for two whole days and fans got a chance to talk with Blizzard’s representatives, who were also present. No new information was revealed, but Chris Sigaty, StarCraft 2’s Lead Producer, has unequivocally confirmed that the StarCraft 2 beta will be released in 2010, and not during November of this year as previously promised.

IgroMir Screen

To the same effect, Blizzard’s President, Mike Morhaim, gave a talk to BlizzaVision’s investors, stating that the game is set to be released towards the end of the second quarter of 2010. This is in line with the statements regarding the length of the beta – 4-6 months – and lends more credit to Sigaty’s statement. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the dates won’t be pushed back yet again, even though Morhaime said that the bulk of the work on the game has been completed, with the project still progressing according to the established timeline.

Last Saturday’s Blizzcast dealt with a few open issues from August’s event, and, most importantly (or relevantly) for the StarCraft 2 audience, produced two new screenshots:

BlizzCast 11 StarCraft 2 Kerrigan Screenshot
BlizzCast 11 StarCraft 2 Screenshot

Blizzard has reinstalled the Vespene Laughs competition, allowing artists to submit StarCraft-themed comics and win some much coveted beta keys. The competition was likely scheduled to end close to the original planned date of the beta, but is now being extended in conjunction with the recent delays.

Comic!

Lastly, Cydra has been kind enough to answer a series of Sensor Tower related questions on the official StarCraft 2 General Discussion Forum.

1. Is the proper name Radar Tower or Sensor Tower?

Sensor Tower

2. What model is being used: Radar Tower, Sensor Tower, or a completely new one?

Sensor Tower has a passive Radar ability which expose enemy movements within its radar capacity.

3. What are the stats? (mineral cost, gas cost, build time, HP, armor)

It costs 125 mineral and 100 geyser gas and it takes 25 build time. Sensor Tower has 200 hp and 0 default armor. You can upgrade the armor of buildings by 2 at Engineering Bay.

5. Do cloaked and burrowed units appear as blips within the radar’s range?

No. Cloaked and burrowed units don’t appear.

7. Does the Tower have any other special abilities besides its radar function?

No.

8. Is the Tower salvageable?

Yes. you can salvage it for 100% fund.

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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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