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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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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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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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After a short hiatus in blue activity, Karune returns in full force to answer questions on the Battle.net forums, providing information on the latest changes to a few high-interest gameplay aspects: the Ghost and its abilities, the new Dark Pylon, and the High Templar‘s new spell.

Starting with a long post about EMP and the ghost, Karune had this to say:

Yup, EMP is currently on the Ghost and does 100 shield damage to all units and drains all energy in that area of effect. Having a Ghost presence in any TvP match up is crucial, especially if there are casters in the opponent’s army. In the original StarCraft, the EMP used to kill all shield hit points, but since in StarCraft II the ability has been added to the Ghost, which is more easily attainable unit than in the original StarCraft, we have reduced it’s potency a bit.

Plus a one-click ability that reduces an opposing army to half health near instantly isn’t something that we want to promote.

11 Vessles - harder to get than 11 Ghosts

EMP, formerly a Science Vessel ability, has been made weaker due to its higher availability as a Ghost ability. However, at 100 shield damage, it still has the potential to wipe out the shields of entire Protoss armies, as there are few units with more than 100 shield points. Of course, there’s always the option of bringing multiple ghosts into a battle and making them focus their EMP efforts on one group. Karune does not particularly like this tactic, though:

True, though that would be much more costly in terms of minerals/gas as well as time needed to have enough energy for EMPs. Furthermore, it would take slightly more micromanagement as well.

Convinced?

It will remain to be seen how effective Ghosts are in Terran versus Protoss games and whether or not multiple EMP attacks on single targets will be cost effective. There is no doubt that Terran players will make use of several EMPing ghosts when engaging large packs of heavily shielded units – like Carriers – especially with lockdown no longer being a part of the game, as Karune reconfirmed:

No lockdown in multiplayer.

Another interesting topic raised is the Protoss increased shield regeneration rate, which fits perfectly with the increased pace of the game. Not only do shields regenerate twice as fast out of combat, but Shield Batteries, reincarnated as the much more useful Obelisks, will certainly be more prominent in games now. “Obelisk” is the new name for the slightly less new Protoss building – the Dark Pylon, tuned down in power so that it no longer functions as a one stop shop for all Protoss needs.

The Dark Pylon is now known as the Obelisk – primarily because it no longer cloaks units and no longer provides pylon power/supply. This change was mostly due to balance, since it is relatively easy to spam Dark Pylons everywhere and instantly have a Psi Storm recharge point to decimate incoming forces.

The Obelisk is the new name for the Dark Pylon, and the Dark Shrine is the new name for the Dark Obelisk. The Obelisk still has the probe buff, but now also acts as a shield generator, and still has Argus link to transfer energy as well. The cloak ability has been removed from the Obelisk. The Dark Shrine remains the same in function, allowing the production of Dark Templars.

When put in a difficult situation, retreating with Protoss is a strategy that often times has to be used to recharge shields and regroup after attacks. Preserving Protoss units is particularly important because they are generally more expensive than the other races, have more hit points, and have that increased shield regeneration to help them fight another day.

Obelisk?

Obelisks will undoubtedly be more abundant than Shield Batteries in StarCraft 2, as they provide both shield and energy points along with the Protoss’ economy buff. Even though Obelisks do not count as proper Pylons anymore and cannot serve as Proxy Pylons, used to deploy troops from Warpgates or Phase Prisms in remote locations, they are still likely to see off-base use.

Karune was kind enough to assuage the fears of Protoss players, now dreading the Terran Infantry more than ever:

The Colossus would be the unit you are looking for. One Colossi will be able to kill a group of Marines (before shield upgrade) with one sweep of its lasers. Multiple Colossi, with upgraded laser range, will surely mess up the day of any Terran player who does mass infantry.

If Protoss players do tech towards the Colossus, they will also have access to observers very early, giving them early warning to when the Ghost is in play and where it may be shooting its EMP from.

Colossus wiping out Terran Marines with a single pass of his beam

Moving on, some more news about everyone’s favorite lightning-powered caster, the High Templar:

Time Bomb is now known as the Temporal Rift and is cast by the High Templar.

Plasma Surge is no longer in the multiplayer version of the game, but will still be in the editor.

I am protected.

Time Bomb, previously a Mothership ability – demonstrated way back in the original StarCraft 2 introduction video, is gone from the game, replaced with the more mundane “Temporal Rift”. What does it do, Cydra?

Temporal Rift creates a distortion field at the target location. Ground units caught inside of this field have their movement speed, attack speed, and ability cast times slowed by half. And it lasts 30 seconds.

No longer will missiles slow to a crawl when meeting the huge time distortion field created by the dreaded Mothership. Instead, the High Templar has been granted a glorified, area of effect, slow spell. Coupled with Psi Storm, this ability can be devastating to the affected troops which will have a hard time moving away from underneath the surging lightning bolts or the Colossus’ earth-scorching beam.

***

Today, Blizzard has also released the 52nd installment of the Q&A series. This batch belongs to the Map Maker series and spans 8 map creation and custom script programming related questions.

1. Does it still use the JASS language, or perhaps an upgraded version of JASS?

StarCraft II uses an entirely new scripting language, which we’ve called Galaxy. This language is very similar to C, and anyone familiar with programming in C will have no trouble picking it up.

2. Is the language event-driven or object-oriented?

The language itself is not object-oriented, although most of the native functionality is based around operating on game objects.

Blizzard has finally named the puppy publically: the Galaxy scripting language. A fitting name for a tool so often described as able to alter any property and behavior in the StarCraft 2 Universe.

3. In comparison to the Warcraft III Editor, how much more, if any, can the GUI of the game be edited (it was extremely limited in Warcraft III)?

The in-game UI layout is externalized in data files to a large extent, however there is no editor support for working with these files. So it will be possible to customize the game UI, it just won’t be a user-friendly process.

StarCraft 2 is unlikely to gather a massive UI modding community like WoW has, but since the possibility of UI modding exists, we will , no doubt, see detailed manuals pop-up after a few brave and clever souls document the process.

4. Are there new noteworthy functionalities in the Starcraft II Editor, or will the new editor just have general improvements?


I can’t think of a single editor feature from WarCraft III, large or small, which has not been improved in at least some way for StarCraft II.

5. Will the ability to communicate among triggers, for instance via actions or conditions, be improved in the new language?

One significant new feature of the Trigger Editor is support for custom function definitions, including actions and conditions. This means you can create your own actions that are built up from other actions (or custom script code), then use those in triggers just as you would any other action.

6. How does “Hero” support differ from the Warcraft III Editor? Or is it practically identical?

We’ve been working hard to create a hero system that is even more flexible than WarCraft III’s. For example, map makers will have the ability to define any number of custom attributes that modify a hero based on its level.

Dota Allstars Background

The inevitability, and Blizzard’s own encouragement, of a StarCraft 2 DoTA mod is clear to anyone following the trail of Q&As since the announcement of Scumedit. DoTA has become an important and integral part of the professional (and mainstream) WarCraft 3 scene, and the creation of a similar mod will definitely contribute a lot to the StarCraft 2 gaming community.

7. Will there be a public API for the programming language?

As with WarCraft III, there is a large set of “native” functions representing game functionality that can be accessed through scripts. If this is what you mean by “public API”, then yes.

8. Will there be improvements on the “Garbage Collector” for the new language? For example, in JASS all local variables need to be set to null at the end of their use, and certain data-types need to be removed from the game (such as Locations) at the end of their use to avoid memory leaks.

Galaxy features a robust garbage collection system for all native types, which is a huge improvement over WarCraft III (which technically did not have a garbage collection system at all). The script memory leak issues from WarCraft III will be a thing of the past.

Everything about Scumedit and Galaxy is bigger, better and more robust; it is the eventuality of 10 years of modding and map creation coupled with Blizzard’s own ideas for improving these aspects of StarCraft. It will be interesting to see just how far modders take this new tool and whether or not they are able to one-up the legendary DoTA.

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