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Karune and Cydra, Blizzard’s RTS community managers, have been quite active on the official battle.net forums, answering various StarCraft 2 related questions and revealing a lot of new information relevant to gameplay. However, it’s Dustin “Cavez” Browder, Blizzard’s lead game designer, who provides the skinny on the current status of the Protoss Mothership.

Mothership moves slowly, can teleport to any Protoss building, can do huge damage to a single target with Vortex and cloaks everything nearby on the ground (including buildings). Mothership is build-limit-one.

The Mothership now has the role that once belonged to the Zerg Queen – that of the ultimate base defender. Being able to instantly teleport to any Protoss building, it can be anywhere it’s needed without delay, making immediate use of its abilities. Cloaking everything around it, including buildings, makes for an amazing defensive benefit – providing the Protoss player can negate enemy detection – and grants extra time for other defenders to arrive at the scene or for Phase Cannons to do some damage. If that’s not enough, the newly introduced Dark Pylon can enhance the Mothership even further:

You can cloak your Mothership with your Dark Pylon’s Null Shield.
In this case, the enemy can’t see anything in your base without a Detecting unit.

Since Dark Pylons are going to become quite ubiquitous in all Protoss bases (assuming they make it to the final game), this will provide total protection from detector-less attacks on Protoss expansions and Dark proxy Pylons.

Dark Pylon

The Mothership hasn’t lost too much of its offensive capacity, though. It can utilize the Vortex ability, which has been transformed from the uber-powered kill-everything AoE ability into a more direct offensive spell, not unlike the Terran Battlecruiser’s Yamato Cannon. It also possesses quite a lot of hit points and shields – perfect for advancing into defended enemy territory while safeguarding the rest of the Protoss army under its veil of cloak.

Next, we learn that Phoenixes, who recently gained the Anti-Grav ability, can no longer attack while using it – making Anti-Grav a channeled ability. Here’s the word from Karune:

The Phoenix in the latest build uses energy (4 per second) when casting anti-gravity, thus the same Phoenix is not able to attack the target it is lifting with anti-gravity.

Since a large group of Phoenixes were probably able to nullify entire ground armies in combat by destroying them as they helplessly hovered in mid-air, the developers decided to tone this ability down somewhat. Protoss players will now need double the amount of Phoenixes to achieve the same devastating goal – or just use them to temporarily remove key units from the battle.

Phoenixes

Next, a few updates regarding the Nydus Worm, which has recently lost its unique status as the Zerg’s sole transport. Cydra has made a few posts on the subject, contributing some new data about this unit/building combo. Here’s what we know about it:

  • A Lair is required to build the prerequisite building, the Nydus Network, which costs 150 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas.
  • From the Network, multiple Nydus Worms can be summoned to any place on creep.
  • Summoning does not require the presence or an Overseer anymore.
  • Each Worm costs 100 minerals and takes 10 seconds to be built, during which it is vulnerable to enemy attack.
  • The “tunnels” created are permanent and interconnected – units can enter and exit from any Nydus Worm or Network.
  • Units emerge one at a time and at the same order they entered the network in.

Nydus Network

The major change to the Worms is the fact that they now require resources to be built. Previously, Nydus Worms were summoned by Overseers, a process which only required energy. While 100 Minerals is not a high price to pay for such a powerful ability, it imposes a cap on something which would otherwise be too easy to abuse. The Overseer’s predecessor, the Overlord, will still be required in many cases thanks to his Generate Creep ability – laying the necessary foundation for the Worm. Of course, now that Overlords are transporters themselves, this step might not be necessary for some Zerg invasions.

With Blizzard just recently announcing significant macro adjustments for all three races and completely changing Zerg transportation and the Mothership’s role as per recent comments, it’s obvious that Gamestop’s release date might be just a bit off.

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Blizzard has released eight new screenshots through an updated StarCraft 2 Fansite Kit, all featuring battles from the single player campaign. Accompanying these pictures are some tidbits of information from Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager.

Crispy Zerglings

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A Terran base is attacked by a medium-size Zerg force. The base isn’t heavily defended – but it’s enough that a few Hellion shots land well and scorch a fair share of Zerglings for the Zerg attack to fail.

Speaking of scorched units, Karune has mentioned that many of the new art updates to the game involve animations, particularly the death sequences we had recently discussed.

Many of the newest art updates have actually been made in the animations, weapon particles, and in special effects, which are much harder to show in screenshots. For instance, HellionsMarines to a crisp when they are destroyed by the flames. Dark Templars also end up eviscerating Marauders in a ruthless fashion. In our next batch we’ll see if we can emphasize on some of these new additions made.

Projectile vomiting

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This screenshot is another one in the “base comes under attack by endless Zerg forces” series, which has become a favorite for Blizzard recently. In this shot, we can see the new and improved Roach attack – an Acid Spit – thicker and more menacing than before. As well, the Creep seems to be colored differently than before, having a more greish hue. This is likely a result of either the single player setting, where this shot is taking place, or perhaps a change meant to implement different Creep for different team colors.

Protoss air attack

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The Protoss attempt an attack on a Terran base, defended both by Missile Turrets and a few Vikings. Failure is imminent, and we get to see the hurt being put on the remaining units along with a Phoenix returning its pilot’s soul to the Khala. Unfortunately for the Terrans, the Protoss have also beamed down a ground attack force, and it seems that their economy is about to enter a depression.

Enemy at the gates

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Another Terran base is being swarmed from all directions in this shot. Will the Zerg ever run out of units to throw at their enemies? Hopefully not.

Fighting in the fields

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In this shot, Protoss and Zerg forces are fighting over what looks like a Terran settlement – implying that we will see those in the single player campaign. The Colossus’ weapon, seen here in all its might, has received a buff to its effectiveness. Here’s what Karune had to say:

The Colossus in the latest round of balance has had it’s damage increased, with its attack speed decreased a bit, giving it some more burst. With a couple of these on the field, it is quite effective at decimating armies of light armor units.

Well-aimed shots from two or three Colossi will now be able to devastate many of StarCraft 2’s smaller units in the first laser shot, increasing its usefulness and making the added attack cooldown less important.

Colossi crossing the deep sea

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Colossi are seen here again, this time emerging from the sea, their legs streching all the way to the bottom while the head-turrets fire freely. Did the Colossus get another buff? Not just yet:

The Colossi, like other ground units, will be able to move through shallow waters only. In this screenshot, it shows experimentation of having Colossi move through slightly deeper waters, but there are no plans at the moment to make the Colossi traverse all water terrains.

Lastly, Karune mentions a new mechanism for the Nighthawk’s deployables, which, as we have suggested, will now be tied to resources instead of energy:

On the balance side, in the latest round of changes, the Nighthawk builds mini defenses such as the auto turret based on resources now, instead of energy. This effectively forces players to think more in how they plan to use the Nighthawk’s support functions based on their resources. Additionally, these ‘almost instant’ drops on the battlefield could easily change the tide of a battle or even wreck havoc on an unsuspecting enemy economy.

Auto Turrets: now on sale

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Karune has replied to 4 gameplay related threads on Battle.net Forums, taking suggestions, clarifying mechanics and disproving some wrong impressions left from the Blizzcon 2008 build.

Starting with the misconceptions:

Karune has confirmed once and for all that there is no accelerated Protoss shield regeneration. Regeneration takes places once the unit is out of combat, and while being significantly faster than StarCraft 1, it does not accelerate over time.

The rate of shield regeneration has been increased significantly from the original StarCraft, but will be a fixed rate, rather than an increasing rate over time. The shields will not increase until the unit is out of combat.

It is measured by an X number of seconds in which a unit has not attacked nor was attacked. X being a number determined through balance.

It has also been confirmed that Nydus Worms will receive their significantly prettier “bursting” delivery form back. The current animation is nothing more than a placeholder for the actual implementation.

Right now there is a build time after you drop a nydus worm, the thing that bugs the heck out of me is that the nydus worm grows from that squiggly thing that drones morph into when they turn into buildings.

Yes, that is placeholder. In one of the previous builds, maybe it was WWI, the rock actually starts breaking and then the Nydus Worm comes out. It will probably be more along those lines.

Nydus Worms Bursting

The Ghost has found itself fulfilling a rather surprising auxiliary role: it is described as an awesome counter for Mutalisks. Thanks to his improved StarCraft 2 abilities, range and light armor damage bonus, the Ghost has joined a long list of Terran units which have already been confirmed to be great Zerg air counters.

Thors and Marines (with stimpack and the additional hp upgrade) are quite effective against mass Mutalisks. Additionally as mentioned already in this thread, BCs are also very effective, especially with its new missile barrage ability (but of course this is at a later tech).

There is one other counter, which is not mentioned in this thread, which is the Ghost! The Ghost is awesome at taking out Mutalisks as well, since they get a bonus to light armor, and have a very long range. Add that to snipe, cloak, or a bunker and it is quite a formidable counter as well.

And to make sure Zerg players don’t develop any expectations from their TheoryCrafted Mutalisk fleets, Karune also reminds us that Protoss Archons are still the ultimate stacked Mutalisk poppers.

Archons still have their splash damage and are still quite the beasts they were in the original StarCraft. There is no better feeling than watching a group of Archons instantly pop a stacked group of Mutalisks.

An interesting suggestion (and a question) came from another poster, who proposed an upgrade to unload speeds for the Terran Medivac Dropship. Considering the fact that some players are fond of shock raids and mass infantry drops, such an upgrade is a legitimate idea.

Medivac Action

do medivac dropships still load units at the same time but unload one at a time? or can dropships unload all their cargo at once?

if it can only unload one at a time, i have a sugestion, make it so that infantry can unload two at a time (researchable?) or at least at a much faster rate than vehicles so that the drops can b faster. it takes forever to unload 8 marines in comparison to unloading 2 tanks which are much more deadly

 

Loading is instant, but unloading has a delay between units. Will bring up the suggestion, but do note that the rate in unloading is already quite fast, and mass drops do usually include several dropships at the same time.

That’s all for this week’s Karunology.

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Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, has been sprinkling various bits of information about StarCraft 2 on a select few threads on Battle.net. Karune provides his take on several new gameplay mechanics and changes to existing units and reveals some new data on them.

First up, some more information about the new Nydus Worm transportation mechanic, which we have also brought up for discussion.

The worm is no longer underground and moveable. It is a spawned unit that acts as a exit/entrance to the network.

Since the Worm no longer travels to its destination, it can not be intercepted on the way. However, it is not invulnerable – the enemies of the Zerg will still have a chance to kill it before it starts hurling Zerglings at their base.

Yes, you can see and attack the Nydus Worm before it becomes fully built. The visual graphics of this are not totally complete yet.

Next up, Karune talks about two of the Terran’s new units – The Reaper and the Marauder – and their roles on the battlefield.

Reapers are actually one of the best units against any light units in the game. They kill Zerglings, workers, and even Zealots pretty well with a little maneuvering. Their mines also decimate stationary defenses, as well as tech buildings. They are no doubt one of the best raiders in the game right now.

Reapers, which have bonus damage against light-type units, are currently the best economy raiders in the game – being able to jump into the enemy base, dispense with its workers, and plant some explosives for extra measure. Aside from that, they are also quite capable against all other light units, including the basic units for the others races – Zerglings and Zealots. However, they are very lightly armored – meaning that efficient usage might require quite a lot of dancing.

Reapers on their way to another raid

Marauders on the other hand are probably better mixed, unless you are going up against an all armored ground force. Marauders work well against both Protoss and Zerg. Early game, as mentioned above, they are great for slowing Zealots while Marines do the damage. Against Zerg, they are better suited against those pesky armored Roaches with the fast regen.

Marauders are now found in almost every Terran build. The slowing effect of their attack is beneficial when coupled with the ranged Marines against the other two races’ melee units. In the later parts of the game, the Marauders’ bonus attack against armored units keep them viable. They are especially important against the Zerg Roach, which quickly regenerates and shrugs off damage, as they can focus their anti-armor attack and squash it before the Roach has a chance to recover.

Marauders

Karune answers a question about Stargates and the option of upgrading them to Warp Gates, like Gateways.

Only Gateways can be upgraded to Warp Gates. Gosh…warped in Carriers/Void Rays over an enemy base would be OP!

Next, a discussion about abilities which may or may not make it into the game:

The Molecular Disrupter is a new ability we are testing out on the Nullifier, in which the unit fires a psionic projectile which bounces between units of the same type, doing 10 damage with each hit, up to a maximum of 10 bounces. Thus, if you were to use this ability on 2 Marines (with 40 hit points each, not upgraded), both Marines would die easily. If there were 3 Marines, it would kill 1 Marine and leave the last two at 10 hp each. Currently, the ability costs 125 energy.

The Nullifier’s chain-lightning like ability, the Molecular Disruptor, joins his other two abilities – Hallucination and Force Field. This one looks a little out of place for the relatively “peaceful” caster, which has so far only passively affected battle situations with its abilities. The mechanic of only jumping between alike units feels a bit tacked on, not having any real use in any fight.

Nullifier

The Seismic Thumper is no longer in the multiplayer game, but was originally dropped on the battlefield, which slows all units within it’s radius by 50% (including friendlies). The only way to stop it was to destroy the Seismic Thumper itself.

The Seismic Thumper, an ability designed for the Nighthawk, will only appear in the single player portion of the game. An interesting idea for an ability that fits the Nighthawk’s role, it is currently out of the game, replaced by another new ability, Targeting Drone:

The Targeting Drone is similar to the Auto Turret in the fact that it does not have a timed life. It currently costs 50 energy to deploy and has 120 hitpoints (all subject to balance of course). The Targeting Drone can target one unit at a time, and increases the damage that unit takes by 50%. You cannot have two drones targeting the same target. These drones are also flying, stealthed, and immobile. They may excellent perimeter defenses and can be coupled with Auto Turret raids to maximize the damage.

With the addition of this ability, the Nighthawk has truly become the master of defense for the Terran, able to deploy Auto-Turrets, Spider Mines and now Targeting Drones. Coupled with its detection capabilities, this is a unit that will accompany Terran armies into many confrontations, scouting ahead of the main force and preparing preliminary defenses until the heavy gear is deployed.  Aside from that, it will certainly be useful for quickly setting up a defense perimeter around any new expansion. This is a great defensive addition to the Terran, which, in StarCraft 1, had no standalone defensive structure they could rely on for protection against ground forces.

However, since all of the Nighthawk’s deployables are energy based and permanent, a limit will likely be imposed on the number of concurrently deployed abilities to prevent abuse. Perhaps, like the old Protoss Reaver, it will have to pay to manufacture some of them first.

Nighthawk gang

Finally, Karune discusses the Colossus‘ role in detail. The Colossus, which used to be extremely powerful as an individual unit in the previous builds, has been toned down somewhat and now has a more defined place on the battlefield.

In my opinion, the Colossus is the most effective when you have more than one. Three seems to be my optimal number, especially against Terran. Medivacs heal at a very fast rate, but only one target at a time. Against a group of Marines with a Medivac, one single Colossus would do virtually nothing, because the damage would be healed through easily. With three Colossi, the Marines would die in one sweep, negating any healing that could be done. A single Colossus is good at softening targets, but with more rapid healing from Medivacs and new units like Roaches, it may not be enough. At that point, you need enough to kill them in one sweep, and when you do have that, it will do significant damage to any army, especially with the additional range upgrade for the Colossus.

The Colossus has changed from the powerful assault unit it once was into more of an attack support unit. It will function best when it utilizes its extreme range upgrade (9) to target distant enemies from the safety of cliffs, or behind other, cheaper and more expandable units so it can inflict its AoE damage and soften up targets.

Some concerns were raised about the mechanism of the attack, which sweeps across in a line in front of the Colossus. The area of effect is very dependent on the position of the Colossus, and the timing of the animation also raised some questions. Here’s what Karune had to say:

Even though the beam is currently shown visually in various ways, the damage is done to all units in that straight line at the same time instantly. That line will always be based on the position you are attacking from, so in that way there is a lot of control as how to use the Colossus.

THREE Colossi is the only way to roll

Lastly, Karune reveals an interesting piece of information about Blizzard’s plans for competitive play:

The range of the Colossus is what makes it such a great support unit, as well as an awesome raider from cliffs. Additionally, all competitive maps will have cliffs to some degree.

StarCraft 2 has intergrated many mechanics which depend on cliffs and height differences. This is something that differentiates it from StarCraft 1 in a great way and adds more complexity to the game. Aside from units, like the Colossus, which can traverse these heights naturally, the line-of-sight changes add to the importance of utilizing cliffs intelligently. It’s no surprise that Blizzard will want to see these new additions in maps designed for balanced, competitive gameplay.

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