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Dustin Browder, Lead Designer of StarCraft 2, has posted a lengthy and interesting article detailing StarCraft 2’s race usage and win percentages as well as gameplay balancing plans for the next patch.

For the Zerg race, the present looks grim (but the future seems bright!) – Blizzard’s numbers show that less than a quarter of all players play as Zerg.

Protoss are played 38.5% of the time.
Terran are played 38.0% of the time.
Zerg are played 23.5% of the time.

These cross-league statistics leave no doubt as to which race drew the shortest popularity stick. Indeed, the Zerg have become increasingly harder to play as the meta-game settled in with both Terran and Protoss openings being “simpler” than the Zerg’s fragile early game.

Reapers - Keeping the Zerg annoyed and contained early on

In reality, however, players that willingly pick Zerg are not the underdogs comapred to their Terran and Protoss opponents. The Diamond numbers are actually quite reassuring, displaying a fairly balanced 3-way relationship, while Platinum is currently favoring Zerg in terms of win percentage.

Win % in Diamond (accounting for player skill)

49.6% win rate for Protoss when fighting Terran.
52.8% win rate for Protoss when fighting Zerg.
49.6% win rate for Terran when fighting Zerg.

Win % in Platinum (accounting for player skill)

56.3% win rate for Protoss when fighting Terran.
47.3% win rate for Protoss when fighting Zerg.
44.5% win for Terran when fighting Zerg.

Win % in Gold (accounting for player skill)

61.0% win rate for Protoss when fighting Terran.
61.1% win rate for Protoss when fighting Zerg.
49.5% win rate for Terran when fighting Zerg.

Win % in Silver (accounting for player skill)

63.6% win rate for Protoss when fighting Terran.
50.7% win rate for Protoss when fighting Zerg.
51.6% win rate for Terran when fighting Zerg.

Win % in Bronze (accounting for player skill)

59.0% win rate for Protoss when fighting Terran.
55.1% win rate for Protoss when fighting Zerg.
45.4% win rate for Terran when fighting Zerg.

Interestingly, while the Zerg are not as popular – likely due to being slightly less comfortable to play with, as Chris Sigaty himself had said recently – it is the Protoss vs Terran match-up that appears to be in need of balancing, especially across the lower leagues. We’ve highlighted those numbers in green. Curiously, Diamond-level Terrans enjoy a slight advantage over the Protoss – probably because of much better use of EMP, abundant M&M drops, and efficient Reaper micro at these higher levels.

Dustin also took the time to preview some of the balance changes planned to be included in the next patch:

•    We’re increasing roach range. This will allow roaches to be more effective in large groups, giving the zerg more options in the mid to end game.

The Roach has received many nerfs throughout its life in StarCraft 2, and this change will definitely help settle the score in its favor. By giving extra range to the Roach, large groups of these units become much more viable. Not only can more of them shoot over their brethren on the field, but they’ll also offer nice support when Ultralisks join the battle and clog-up the front lines with their massive size. Busting up walled ramp-chokes will surely become an easier task as well with more Roaches firing.

•    Fungal Growth will now prevent Blink, which will give zerg a way to stop endlessly Blinking stalkers which can be very challenging to deal with in large numbers.

•    The Barracks are going to require a Supply Depot, which will impact a lot of early terran reaper pushes.

•    The reaper speed upgrade will require the Factory, which is meant to weaken a lot of the early terran reaper attacks that dominate so many matches, especially in team games.

Despite being completely ignored by players in the mid and late game, the Reaper is slated to be hit with more early-game nerfs. While on paper, Reapers have the potential to be great economy harassers and tech-deniers, their extreme fragility makes even the puniest defensive measure a prohibitive obstacle – and these can be found anywhere beyond the first few minutes of a game. It’s unclear what Blizzard has in store for the Reaper, but for now, it will definitely see a lot less play.

•    We’re making a number of increases to the health of zerg buildings, which will make the very vulnerable zerg technology structures more resistant to raids.  We don’t expect these hit point changes to have a super significant impact on the game, but the current numbers felt way too low.

All in all, this patch will definitely make the Zerg’s life easier. However, since it doesn’t address any of the complications in Zerg play that we mentioned in our post on the subject, it’s not clear that it will actually increase the amount of Zerg players. That will remain to be seen.

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It’s Replay Roundup time! We’ve gathered five videos for today’s update, featuring great plays, creative usage of units, and battles between some of StarCraft’s all-time superstars.

First, we begin with a match showing a Protoss player, HuHuman, exploiting the terrain to the extreme on the map Delta Quadrant. Watch him abuse his helpless Zerg opponent using great micro-managing skills.

The next game is a classic, long, epic game on Metalopolis between BratOK playing as Terran and Socke playing as Protoss. There’s so much action in this game, it might make you think there are two players are controlling each side!

This game, cast by Artosis – a great player by his own right – features IdrA, the infamous professional Zerg player, fighting against none other than BoxeR, playing as Terran. BoxeR, a legend of StarCraft 1, has dominated the scene for many years, and is often credited with inventing modern Terran play. A Korean, his fan club is the largest in the world as far as professional players go.

In this clash of titans, one can definitely see that BoxeR does not play a standard game, and it’s often unclear whether his StarCraft 2 skills have yet to become refined or if he’s exercising his own unique style of play. Will BoxeR, the ultimate Terran player, prevail against IdrA, the ultra-methodical and unstoppable Zerg player?

Our next game of the day was played on the Asian server, a Zerg versus Protoss. After quick fast expansions by both players, this Metalopolis game geared up for a macro war. Notably, the Zerg player takes great advantage of Nydus Worms, using them to the extreme to exert constant pressure on his opponent and maintain map control.

The game sealing today’s update is nothing short of insane. Played between fan-favorite TheLittleOne as Terran against Dimaga, the highly-talented and often unorthodox Zerg player, this game features unit combinations that will make your jaw drop with awe – especially since both of these great players actually make them work!

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How do we manage to keep up with all the videos posted, you ask? Simple: we use a dedicated video panel that is automatically updated with videos from several select channels!

The SC2Blog team is proud to present our newest addition to the site: the StarCraft 2 Video Feed Panel. This page will be updated as new videos are added to the various channels, comfortably laying them all out for you to see. Soon, filtering and sorting options will be added to provide even greater utility. Bookmark it and enjoy the latest and greatest StarCraft 2 replay videos!

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Think your channel should be on our page? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m0RuVQ741c&feature=channel
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Blizzard’s recent micro-patch was of no surprise to most of the community, as Kragg, a Blizzard quality assurance representative, had already confirmed that the Ultralisk‘s mega-splash damage is a bug on September 22nd – right after the release of patch 1.1.

StarCraft 2’s 1.1.1 patch focuses exclusively on bug fixes:

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed an issue where Ultralisk cleave range was being unintentionally extended by larger targets.
  • Fixed an issue where the Phoenix’s Graviton Beam was automatically canceled if you used it just after the Phoenix reached 50 energy.
  • Fixed an issue where queuing Return Cargo on a worker would cause it to ignore the built-in delay after it finished gathering.
  • Fixed an issue where players watching older replays or saved games would experience stuttering.
  • Fixed an issue where some Mac users were unable to join games properly.

We now return you to your previously scheduled StarCraft 2 program.

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Despite the release of the first major balance patch for StarCraft 2 last week – or perhaps because of it – many discussions about StarCraft 2’s state of balance have been taking place, possibly even more than during the beta, when things were constantly changing and before people have had the chance to experiment with the game thoroughly.

Is StarCraft 2 balanced? While only little time has passed since the game’s release, many already argue that the game is not as balanced as StarCraft 1, especially when it comes to the Zerg race. The Zerg have indeed been on the receiving end of quite a few nerfs during the beta. Particularly of note is the Roach, originally geared to be a fast, cheap, regenerating tank unit – which, during the beta, has had its armor rating reduced from 2 to 1, its supply cost increased from 1 to 2, its burrowed move speed reduced by 30%, and its regeneration changed and nerfed again and again to the point where it now regenerates more slowly and only while burrowed – a research that is only available at Tier 2, unlike in the original game, where Burrow is Tier 1.

Indeed, many players complain about the Zerg’s lack of viable options in the early-mid game: the limited ability to tech and macro at the same time (making a Queen prevents the Hatchery from being upgraded to a Lair); the extreme need to be reactive against Protoss and Terran early game attacks, which are themselves more diverse than what the Zerg can field during that period of the game; the much more demanding macro mechanic, requiring constant attention that one is severely punished for lacking; the lack of mobility before creep tumors can spread, and the competition between those and energy reserved for injecting Larva. All of these issues and more are even making some pro-gamers rant about the state of the game, a few going as far as as “threatening” to switch to a different race and to stop playing Zerg altogether.

IdrA, one of the most famous American Zerg players, has published his thoughts on the recent patch here.

The balance problems in early game ZvT come down to the fact that terran is simply stronger and much more diverse early on, zerg has to rely on hard counters to have any chance to survive, but cant scout in time to implement them.

Interestingly, in a recent interview, Chris Sigaty, StarCraft 2’s lead producer, said that he himself finds Zerg difficult to play and that he tends to avoid the experience:

I avoid playing Zerg as much as possible because I find them to be just more complex in general. Zerg, or rather larvae management is harder for me to deal with, so I don’t enjoy playing them as much.

On the topic of 1v1 balance problems, Chris does not seem convinced that any exist:

You can go up and read on the forums at any one time and there are a bunch of different theories about balance and imbalance. We’re being very cautious about making large swinging changes right now because at the highest level things are actually very strong. The things that we’ll probably be addressing are the 2v2 and larger scale games. Ultimately, the 1 to 1 is what we want to keep as sacred as possible, but as a result right now there are some things that we need to address in the 2v2 at the higher level. We’ll be looking at ways to do that without affecting the 1v1 balance.

Discussing the next patch, Chris slates it to be released by the end of this year, calling it “the e-sports patch”. Finally, and after months of being in demand, chat channels will be introduced:

largely our e-sport patch. A couple of big things that will be in there are support for the season rolling, so players can look at the history of how they did in past seasons. There will be bugfixes, balance changes and tweaks, too. Chat is the other major thing we want to get in there next patch. We’ll also add more significant features to the editor.”

Lastly, Chris makes a comment regarding balance and the time it took to achieve it in StarCraft 1:

[Balance] is an ongoing process that, honestly, will take a year of longer to do. Even after Brood War was released we still patched and continued to drive towards a really solid final balance.

Will patches be enough to balance the game, or will an expansion, introducing new units, be necessary for that purpose? Is the game balanced right now? Is the Zerg race “broken”? If you have an opinion on the subject, now’s the time to voice it! We are putting up a new poll on the sidebar to the right to investigate what you think about this important issue.

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Chris Sigaty also took the time to talk to PCGamer about the upcoming BlizzCon 2010 event and, most importantly, Blizzard’s decision to not show any aspect of StarCraft 2: Heart of  The Swarm at the convention.

We’re still working on the details [of the expansion],” explains Chris, “and the last thing I want to do is to talk about theoretical things instead of talking about what’s real.

However, Blizzard will hold a story panel with a Q&A with the fans, tying some loose ends from Wings of Liberty. Some Heart of The Swarm bits of information can be expected despite the promises to the contrary.

http://www.sc2blog.com/2010/07/08/starcraft-2-beta-phase-2-begins-brings-patch-16/
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