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Three new videos, all in high definition, have emerged from the Leipzig Gaming Convention. Although players were given the chance to play for 15 minutes at a time, so far, these short videos contain the only worthy StarCraft 2 gameplay footage from the event.

The first video shows a Protoss base, as it is being built, up close. Nothing majorly interesting happens, but one can’t help but notice how pretty it all looks.

The next one is the most interesting of the bunch. It features a Terran attack on a minimally-defended Zerg base.

The two defensive buildings in place, the Spine Crawlers, are quickly taken out by Siege Tanks in siege mode, and the reinforcements being hatched come too little and too late. The Swarm units are making their first appearance – these can be seen when the Terran army destroys the Spawning Pool at 0:47.

Swarm

The Swarm are the same units that emerge from the Swarm Guardian‘s new attack, and are basically StarCraft 2’s Broodling units. They are very fragile, deal little damage – 4 points at melee range, and die off by themselves after a few seconds. However, they serve to keep an attacking enemy busy for a short time, which can be precious under some circumstances. In this video, we can see another great benefit – they close the distance to the attacking Marines quickly, drawing Siege Tank fire to them, and this greatly damages the friendly Marines themselves.

The Swarm are only created when major buildings are destroyed – the more important the building is, the more of them will come out. This is very reminiscent of the Command & Conquer games, where basic, wounded infantry units have a chance of popping out of destroyed buildings.

The rest of the video shows the slow and painful death of the Zerg base by the remaining Terran Siege Tanks. Two Reapers make an appearance before the end, moving in on the mineral line, quickly mowing down Drones with their dual guns. It’s clear that these units were designed with devastating the enemy economy in mind, as evident by the amazing speed in which two of them completely obliterate all the workers.

Reapers

The last video is another short one, with a few brief, interesting bits. A few seconds of the living, breathing Zerg base are seen, and the video quickly jumps to show Protoss units abusing an unhatched Zerg egg. Later, a group of Zealots and a Stalker are captured at the moment when they destroy a neutral barrier, moving on to attack another Zerg base.

Barrier

Throughout the videos, and especially in the Zerg portions, it’s very easy to see how alive everything looks. The creep is constantly shifting underneathe its purple skin, buildings have protruding, constantly undulating tenctacles, and everything seems to breath. Everything in StarCraft 2 is always in motion, enhancing the sense of immersion,  yet such high level of passive activity might impede the player’s ability to focus on meaningful animations. Either way, it’s highly apparent, with each new demonstration, that the graphical aspects of StarCraft 2 are being constantly honed and adjusted, just like the gameplay.

It’s been more than a month since the last official Q&A batch. This does not come as a surprise, of course, since the entire Blizzard crew was busy dealing with the WorldWide Invitational event in Paris.

This Q&A batch is composed of a long, comprehensive “Chat with Devs” introduction, dealing with the new Vespene Gas mechanics, and six new answers to fan-submitted questions.

Chat with Devs: Since the Worldwide Invitational in Paris, the topic of the new Vespene Gas mechanic has come up a lot across many different fansites and message boards. Thus far, this is one of the biggest changes which will affect the macro management of bases in StarCraft II. To shed some more light on this new mechanic, I have gotten a chance to talk to Dustin Browder, our Lead Designer for StarCraft II, about the progress thus far of the new mechanic, as well as the objectives this new mechanic is designed to achieve.

  

To start, the new Vespene Gas mechanic is to further distinguish the play style in which players gather minerals versus gathering gas. In the original StarCraft, the gathering of gas was very linear in the rate in which gas is gathered. Often, players would put 3-4 workers on the gas, and the players would forget about it until the geyser was depleted. Minerals on the other hand, were much more exponential in the rate of growth and were also often played differently amongst different races. Zerg would likely expand rapidly with less drones in each expansion and Protoss/Terran could sustain a sizeable force with higher numbers of workers on a smaller number of expansions.

 

How the New Vespene Gas Mechanic Works
For StarCraft II, with the new Vespene Gas mechanic, players will have 2 gas geysers at their starting position. These geysers will start with X amount of gas (currently 600 and subject to balance) and at any time players can purchase additional gas in their geysers for X minerals (currently 100 and subject to balance). With each purchase of additional gas for your geyser, the geyser increases with X gas (currently 600 and subject to balance) and the geyser shuts down for 45 seconds. When a geyser is depleted, workers will still be able to gather gas at a low rate of 2 per round (subject to balance).

 

How the New Vespene Gas Mechanic Plays
With this new gas mechanic, players have a wider variety of strategies in developing and maintaining their refineries, as well as additional attention needed to make sure they are collecting gas at the most efficient rate. On the production side, players now also have to decide between sticking to Tier 1 units longer, or to play it balanced with one geyser, or even max out on gas to invest heavily on teching and higher tech units. Additional, the relationship between minerals and gas have an added layer of depth since investing in additional gas will actually cost the player minerals as well. How often a player invests in gas will also not necessarily be consistent through the game too and will depend upon what units that player is currently choosing to mass. Scouting too has an added layer of depth as well, as a players gas collecting play style may determine if the player is teching to a higher tier mineral heavy unit (like a Dark Templar) or a higher tech gas heavy unit (like a High Templar).

 


Overall, players will have to build the appropriate buildings as well as gather resources in a particular method in order to execute a certain strategy at a professional level. It is the hope of the development team that this new mechanic will not only make gas collecting more interesting, but also increase the amount of macro management skill needed to compete in StarCraft II at the top levels while at the same time making the game playable for mid level players without using some of these more advanced techniques.

Terran Vespene Gas Refinery

Aside from an adjustment to the numbers involved, the system described is the same as the one revealed during the WWI event, which we have already covered:

All these major changes have been implemented to StarCraft 2 for one purpose: complicate the “macro” portion of the game, which has been downsized severely with the introduction of new and improved user interface aspects, and mainly, Multiple Building Selection (MBS) – which allows players to select all their similar unit producing buildings together and deliver a single command to construct units out of all of them.

These changes will steal some of the added focus to the micromanagement portion of StarCraft 2, which pro-gamers, who’ve had a chance to play the game extensively, have reported about, and divert it back to base and economy management. Other such changes, meant to give players more macromanagement decisions to play with without dumbing down the UI, are being considered by Blizzard.

Check out our post about the subject here.

Moving on, the Q&A portion has interesting new tidbits and clarifications:

1. How exactly does the Corruptors attack work? Is it a stacking debuff that takes effect after a certain number of stacks? And if so can the debuff time out? Would you be able to hit and run kill for example Battlecruisers with a few Corruptors over a couple of minutes?

 

The attack is technically a debuff, but does not do damage over time. Every time the Corruptor attacks a unit, it’ll leave a debuff on it for a couple seconds. If the unit dies within those couple seconds, the unit will be corrupted.

This description of the Corruptor is incomplete, as evident by the Zerg reveal video, where a group of Corruptors corrupted a few Terran fliers on their own. The Corruptors likely cause damage themselves, or at least damage that goes towards Corrupting a unit which does not actually lower its physical hitpoints. Aside from this, the Corruptor also leaves a “Corrupting debuff” on the attacked unit, which causes it to become Corrupt should it die while under the effect.

Corruptors

2. What are the current stats and build times for the Queen defensive buildings?

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To catch us up, Zerg defensive buildings arent built by the queen anymore. Instead, they are built from the drone once again.

 

Spine crawler:
– Only hits ground
– Health is 300 (uprooted health 100)
– Movement speed is 2.25 (1 off of creep)
– Damage is 20 +20 armored
– Range is 7
– Attack speed is 1.5 sec

 

Spore Crawler:
– Only hits air
– Health is 300 (uprooted health 100)
– Movement speed is 2.25 (1 off of creep)
– Damage is 15
– Range is 7
– Attack speed is .8608

The developers have decided that the Zerg deserve means to create defenses that don’t rely on the Queen, which can’t be everywhere at once. The new defensive colonies, aside from being granted mobility, are almost identical to their StarCraft 1 versions. However, the Queen likely still possesses her “Swarm Infestation” ability, allowing her to turn any building into a defensive structure temporarily.

Queen on the defense

3. The Queen seems to be a very potent unit, although its tasks are more defensive ones, it can be used in crazy rush strategies, according to Karunes experiences. Well, if the Nydus Worm was able to transport even queens, she would get even more potent. You could easily think of crazy rushes using your opponents creep to just overwhelm him with your units AND your defensive structures. So here is the simple question: Can the Nydusworm transport queens among all the other units?

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Defensive structures will not be able to enter the Nydus tunnel network, but the Queen will be able to. Furthermore, the Queen will no longer be able to build defensive structures. Drones will morph into defensive structures, similar to the original StarCraft.

 

4. When the Zerg Sunken Colony is uprooted and on the move is it more vulnerable to enemy attack?

 

Yes, the Spine and Spore Crawlers will have less hit points while they are uprooted. The actual number of hit points will be determined through balance testing.

 

5. In many cases, the micromanagement of units in StarCraft revolved around gameplay mechanics (Dragoon dance, Mutalisk stacking, Reaver/Shuttle micro, etc.), rather than special abilities with cooldown/charges (Stalker’s Blink, Phoenix’s Overload, etc.).

 

Is the amount of this kind of special abilities in SC2 a concern of Blizzard, and how would this affect the overall gameplay?

 

Players will still have dependence on both gameplay mechanics as well as special abilities. For instance, Stalkers will have the basic dancing mechanic as Dragoons had in the original StarCraft. Marauders are another unit highly dependent on micromanagement to get the most effectiveness out of the unit, making sure you use their attacks slowing effect at opportune times.

 

Though for StarCraft II, we are introducing much more positional micromanagement, which will amplify units damage significantly. A Colossus will fire in a line and lining up that radius with the enemy units will be crucial in battles. Flanking Jackals from multiple angles will surely add to its potency as well.

 

Overall, we definitely want to balance the game with both plenty of gameplay mechanics as well as special abilities that create opportunities for the players to initiate clever strategies as well as innovative maneuvers on the battlefield.

Unlike what many people may think, Blizzard’s developers know what made StarCraft 1 the great game that it is, and are not likely to forget to implement one of the most important and fun aspects of battle in their new game.

6. Terrans currently appear to be at a disadvantage in terms of troop mobility, (as compared to ‘Warp-in’ and ‘Nydus Worm’) are there any plans to bring back the, ‘drop-pod’ or other new transport mechanic?

 

Actually, we consider the Terran side to be quite mobile. Let us first look at the Reapers. This unit is the fastest ground unit in the game which traverses terrain without even having a spotter. In addition, the Medivac Dropships, allow added mobility to all Terran ground units. With the addition of the Dropship being able to heal, it has become even more of a staple in Terran strategies, giving even more increased incentive for players to build Dropships than the original StarCraft. On top of this, Vikings providing both ground and air support at a click of a button, gives that added support of mobility and options when moving a Terran army around.

 

The method in which Terran will be mobile is indeed different than Warp-in and Nydus Worm, though they are not considered less mobile than the other races.

Also worth mentioning is the Terran’s ability to relocate their buildings by lifting them into the air and repositioning them on the ground. Aside from that, the Salvage ability makes it easy for Terrans to create impromptu production bases, knowing that the investment will not be lost.

Terran base

In accordance with the StarCraft tradition, one race lacks a distinct ability that is available to the other two races, while still managing to function in a balanced way. While the Terran race may lack a point-and-click transportation method which the Protoss and Zerg now have, they will not be at a disadvantage on the whole.

A new feature has been launched on the official StarCraft 2 site, and today’s update is the first of its type. The Planetary Update gives us the background story of Char, one of the main points of contention in the StarCraft universe. Along with the history of the place, the page also contains two new concept art pictures and a new amazing screenshot of a battle taking place on the planet’s surface between Zerg and Terran forces.

Char currently serves as the primary hive planet of the Zerg. It’s a volcanic hell, with temperatures that shoot right up to 800c when its orbit brings it close to the sun. It also has a Terran-constructed space platform, termed “Char Aleph”, which now serves as an orbital nesting site and hatchery.

Char

There has been a great deal of speculation over the zerg choice to occupy Char, given its harsh environment and total lack of any organic life forms to exploit. Theorists are evenly split among the ideas that Char forms a useful jump-off point to the core worlds of terran and protoss space, that its inhospitable nature makes it easier for the zerg to defend it, or that Char’s high radiation levels promote an increased rate of mutation in zerg organisms to enable forced evolution of specialist strains.

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Regardless of the reasoning, the zerg presence on Char has ensured that the planet has remained a cauldron of battle. Protoss and terran forces have attempted infiltration missions on the planet with varying degrees of success. Huge and bloody battles were fought there amongst the zerg themselves as the Queen of Blades overthrew the cerebrates controlling the Swarm. Four years ago three entire fleets met their demise when they confronted the Queen of Blades on Char. The Queen of Blades emerged as the dominant power in the sector after an apocalyptic battle that destroyed a Terran Dominion fleet, a protoss armada, and finally the UED expeditionary force. Since then the zerg have remained curiously quiescent, apparently content to remain on the worlds they infested so rapidly during the initial invasion.

The screenshot that was coupled to the update reveals a few new Zerg structures and a new design for the Terran Jackal.

TvZ

* Click for Big

screenshot highlights

  • The new Baneling Nest, the prerequisite building for morphing Zerglings into Banelings.
  • The new Jackals have 2 front wheels, providing them with a buggy look, distancing them from the old Vulture design.
  • The Infestor Pit is the prerequisite building for Infestors, and also serves as the place for Infestor upgrades.

That’s it for this planetary update.


A few gameplay videos have popped up over the net recently. These are all products of Korean exhibitions in which lucky observers had managed to film the computer monitor with their video cameras, resulting in horrible quality, short clips of gameplay.

First up, a video showing the Jackal and Nullifier in action.

Unlike the previous Vulture replacement, the Cobra, the Jackal is unable to attack while moving and has to stop before firing off its weapon. This allows the engaging Zealots to catch up with the Jackal and put in a few hits from time to time.

The Jackal, at first glance, operates exactly like a Vulture that’s been equipped with a Flame Thrower instead of Concussion Grenades. The Jackal in the video is eventually overwhelmed by the two Zealots, but a similar battle between a group of Zealots against a greater force of Jackals would obviously end differently. When taking the Jackals’ AoE attack and great speed advantage into account, a micro-capable player would scorch the Zealots and leave the battle relatively unharmed.

The next couple of videos are a longer cut of the Terran versus Terran match we’ve reviewed a short while ago. This video shows the surrounding gameplay, and also features some more action:

* A Medivac Dropship dropping two Jackals and a Siege Tank right on top of the enemy’s mineral line, followed by another dual Tank drop.

* Near the end of the game, a Terran force, composed of Battlecrusiers, Thors, Siege Tanks and Jackals completely decimates the enemy’s main base.


Next up is a short video of a Terran versus Zerg match. Notably, at minute two, the Zerg player futilely attempts to engage a large group of Marines with Mutalisks. A bit later, Swarm Guardians make an appearance when they come under attack of a Battlecruiser. (This is where the picture we discussed a while ago was taken from)

The most interesting thing happens at 2:54, where a group of Ultralisks get hit by a Nuke head on and survive.

The last video is a long one, at 22 minutes. It’s a fight between a human Zerg player and an AI Terran, with the Zerg player experimenting with the abilities of the race.

Not a lot of action in this one, but a few interesting highlights are:

  • Near the end of the 8th minute, an Overlord can be seen evolving to an Overseer.
  • A small group of Ultralisks walk over entire Terran forces at the end of the 10th minute, and then proceed to raise their base to the ground a bit later. It’s clear that the Ultralisks have a hard time navigating through the clumped base.
  • At 12:30, a group of Overlords extend the base’s Creep using their Excrete Creep ability. This takes a while for the Overlord, which remains in positions and drops purple goo to the ground for some time.
  • Infestors use their Infest ability on a Terran Command Center that’s under construction at 16:00. The Command Center becomes infested despite not being complete, and Infested Marines pop up immediately.
  • A short while later, the Infestor feasts on a nearby Ultralisk, consuming his hitpoints for energy until it’s eventually eaten up entirely.
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