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While real StarCraft 2 news is scarce, Blizzard still continues dishing out interviews to all who ask, slowly revealing interesting details about StarCraft 2 and their other projects.

Gamasutra has published a long interview with Chris Sigaty, lead producer of StarCraft 2, discussing all things Blizzard. They talk about many of Blizzard’s games, the instant success of their foray into MMO territory with World of Warcraft, their legions of fans in Asia, and Blizzard’s plans for the future.

Here’s a small, interesting tidbit to whet your appetite:

How long do you think original Starcraft is going to keep going when Starcraft 2 comes out?

 

CS: You know, for us, we’re definitely not trying to remove the Starcraft original players out of the mix. We believe that people will want to move over and play, but we’re certainly not trying to eliminate anybody. It’s a totally different game. It’s a lot of the same magic, gameplay-wise: fun gameplay. So I think they can co-exist. I won’t know; this is just for me guessing of course, how many people are going to move over.

Another interview, conducted by OnlineWelten, asks a few redundant questions in an entertaining, hostile manner.

Starcraft-Welten: Will the mistake publishing an expansion pack which divides the community be repeated? Or have you already thought about this for a future expansion? (stopping Battle.net support for players without the expansion)

 

Blizzard: Actually Brood War was one of the most widely adopted and accepted expansion packs ever – hardly anyone stayed with vanilla StarCraft so there is no real division of the community noticeable. Today hardly anyone plays vanilla StarCraft only and all leagues and sites also support StarCraft Brood War. But to answer the question: We are still very early in the development process and it is far too early to discuss any details about an expansion pack.

We have gathered three fan created unit concepts that have been posted on the Battle.net forums. These are interesting concepts, graphically and gameplay-wise, and discussion about their place in the game is warranted (and just plain fun!).
On to the ideas:

First, The Matriarch.

The Matriarch is a medium/heavy melee support unit that can be used in different ways, depending on the owner’s preference. The Matriarch is also a Zerg counter to the Reapers and colossi in that it can scale cliffs. It can also jump small gaps(water, lava, etc.) which is also something the stalkers can do (I’m surprised nobody has brought up that the Terran don’t have a ‘gap-jumping’ unit). The Matriarch can function effectively as a tank with it’s Regeneration ability, it can assault bases with Acid Web or use it to cover their retreat by slowing enemy units. If they are outnumbered, each Matriarch can release a pair of Symbionts to reinforce their numbers. These create a lot of different strategies that the Matriarch is useful for, but abilities like EMP Shockwave and Feedback can be devastating to Matriarchs, and with no air attack and an inability to burrow, they are fairly vulnerable to enemy air units.

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An interesting idea for a Zerg unit. The Matriarch is meant to provide valuable support for the Zerg swarm and even function well in ground combat, as long as it’s not facing a greatly superior force – which its natural mobility will allow it to avoid.

A few original ideas for abilities were presented: The Matriarch can create two Zergling-like creatures on the spot, which last a short time on the battlefield before dying off, but only require the Matriarch’s energy to produce. Its “Acid Web” ability functions like a hybrid of plague and ensnare, and can also be set as a trap. The most interesting ability, strategy wise, is “Infest Building“, which allows the Matriarch to infest any large damaged building, and transform it into a sort of field hatchery, which will produce larvae and surround itself in creep.

 

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Is there a place for such a unit in the Zerg arsenal? The Matriarch and the Queen‘s roles clearly overlap. However, considering the Queen’s mediocre popularity, this fighter/caster hybrid might be the type of evolution the Zerg need. The Matriarch is more powerful than the Queen, both physically and in the impact its abilities might have on the game.

Next up, a lighter concept.

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This wonderfully drawn, yet nameless Zerg unit is intended to provide medium range support for the Zerg’s usually close-range or melee attackers. Its green energy-slime ball attack will damage enemy units in a radius, and will create an “ensnare” effect which will slow them down, allowing other Zerg units to quickly catch up with and surround the affected units. Another post, later in the thread, suggests another ability for this unit: a Baneling launcher! Traditionally, StarCraft has never had an artillery unit, but this idea is very cute and fits well with the Zerg theme.

Perhaps a name can even come out of it? How about “Catalisk“?

This Scropion-like monstrosity is intended to be a slow moving, relatively armored unit which will allow the Zerg to lay siege or create a presence on the battlefield, somewhat similar to the role Brood War Lurker plays. Will it fit the Zerg of StarCraft 2? We think Blizzard are gearing the Zerg to become the ultimate mobile, swarm based race (as opposed to the heavily fortified, siege capable Terrans), with no dedicated ground support or other units meant to take and hold ground. What do you think?

Lastly, The Desalisk.

The Zerg Desalisk is quite a nightmare in it’s own right, capable of delivering devastating results upon the field of battle. It seems almost insanely driven to kill anything in it’s path, leaving the power of the Cerebrets the only thing that keeps these ravenous monstrosities from tearing even other strains of Zerg limb from limb. What really disturbs the enemies of the Swarm is the fact that these beasts harbor two parasitic creatures within their bodies.

When the Desalisk falls, these little horrors, called Setalisks, burst free of the corpse, slowly developing from their parasitic form into nightmares of their own. Worse yet, these parasites can infest other organic targets, flooding their minds with a toxic chemical that strips their short term memory…thus they never remember that a parasitic creature burrowed into their flesh. These infected troops can be unaware of the creature they harbor within for countless days…until they’re compelled by the swarm to burst free of their host and kill all around. Many of outposts have fallen due to the unseen swarm of Setalisks within their very own ranks…waiting for the perfect time to burst from their new found hosts.

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The Desalisk and its Setalisk parasites could make an otherwise normal melee unit into something that requires more finesse. The Desalisk itself is designed as a normal Zerg close range attacker (although the author also entertains the option of a ranged-attack upgrade), but the Setalisks that are hosted within it make it more interesting. These parasites, released upon the Desalisk’s death, will burrow into unsuspecting enemies and remain undetected by them. The Setalisks will be able to erupt from their hosts at the place and time of their choosing, and wreak havoc on unsuspecting enemies. At times, after they’ve already been carried to more sensitive locations.

setalisk.jpg

This kind of unit will justify the Zerg’s old name – “Nightmarish Invaders”, and allow them to terrorize their enemies effectively (as if giant worms that travel underground, carrying Zerglings, weren’t enough).

This is one of the most detailed unit concepts ever submitted by a fan, and it’s worth checking out. The author even included some fiction, related through the eyes of a Terran marine engaging this unit in battle.

Another week, another batch of official answers from Blizzard. As always, Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, has posted a thread containing the answers and the new “Chat with the devs” section.

This week’s chat with the developers deals with blocking choke points. We’ve already seen the updated supply wall system, which allows lowering them into the ground to allow passage for the player who had built them.

 

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In the latest playable StarCraft 2 build, the supply depot wall was not impenetrable to a few of the smaller units. However, this might change soon enough:

Chat with Devs: In the BlizzCon build of StarCraft II, small units were able to pass through certain player created barriers, such as a wall of supply depots at a choke point. After experimenting a bit, the Devs are now testing gameplay with true barriers, which prevent all units from passing through, but will require a line of supply depots side by side rather than supply depots blocking a choke point diagonally. This new design will prevent smaller units such as Zealots and Marines from passing through player created barriers, but will be more costly for the player to build these barriers.

On to the Q&A, starting with four “you’ll have to wait and see” answers:

1. Are the Ultralisk making a return in SC2?

 

The Ultralisk figures heavily in our current plans, but as with everything else relating to units and balance, this is subject to change.

 

2. Will there be in game voice chat supported in SC2?

 

Yes, there are plans to implement VoIP into Battle.net, but details beyond that are yet to be announced.

 

VoIP has become an integral part the game experience in all of Blizzard’s multiplayer games, and is being used daily to coordinate WoW raids and DotA pushes – using 3rd party VoIP software such as Ventrilo and Skype. Karune’s answer states that Battle.net will provide some sort of integrated VoIP service – a bold move considering the bandwidth and load generated by VoIP communications.

3. What are the system requirements ?

 

We are still optimizing the game and do not have minimum system requirements yet. Nonetheless, StarCraft II will require pixel shader 2.0 and at least 128mb of dedicated video RAM.

Considering the 200 unit cap, the minimum possible limit of 8 players and the following screenshots, the release of StarCraft 2 might trigger the biggest software-motivated computer upgrade rush in history.
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4. Will we be seeing any hybrid units in StarCraft II?

 

We are planning to explore the mysteries surrounding the Xel’naga for the single player campaign. In the campaign you will encounter several unique units that would not otherwise be seen in multiplayer. At this time, you’ll just have to wait and see.


5. Does the Thor burn out like Terran buildings if it is damaged?

 

No, the Thor does not burn down like the Terran buildings. It will be like the other Terran vehicles, which are able to be repaired by the scv.

An interesting question. The Thor, having 900 hit points, is more armored than a few of the Terran’s structures. This could actually have been an interesting gameplay mechanic – perhaps adding the Pyrrhic Victory concept to StarCraft 2’s battlefield. Heavily damaged Thors burning down after a glorious victory could be a interesting sight; however, the Thor will apparently act like any other unit.

That’s it for the 13th StarCraft 2 Q&A – maybe Ultralisk, probably VoIP, maybe your current PC is good enough to run StarCraft 2. All It means is that there are still plenty of open questions, and we will definitely be seeing more Q&A batches in the near future.

The High Definition version of the Terran video presentation, originally exhibited in BlizzCon and later in GenCon and Leipzig, has been added to the official StarCraft 2 site.

In the video, Dustin Browder, lead game designer, presents the Terran forces and shows off their strengths and weaknesses. Right away, it is very apparent that the style, sounds and feel are very close to those of the StarCraft 1 Terrans. Unit responses are similar, and at times, identical. The buildings look very much like 3D versions of their predecessors, and most of them have returned from the original, practically unchanged.

The first thing presented to us is the Radar Dome. Within its detection radius, any approaching unit is represented as an exclamation point. While the Terran player can’t tell exactly which units are coming his way, this still provides invaluable tactical information for the race that is most dependent on deployment and positioning. Likewise, expert players might be able to determine which threat is approaching by analyzing the movement speed and concentration of units. A pack of Zerglings, for example, will be highly concentrated and move much faster than a group of Stalkers.

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Next up, we are presented with a group of Vikings in flier form, which devastate a few Battlecruisers with their heavy air-to-air missiles. Then, Dustin shows how easy it is to raid other Terran bases with the Vikings, since the Terran static defenses are only capable of anti-air attacks. The Vikings storm the base and transform to mech mode before the enemy Missile Turrets inflict a lot of damage to them, allowing the Vikings to eliminate the defenses and wreak some havoc on other enemy installments. However, since the mech mode’s weapon is a light one, the Vikings can not hold their own against a group of Siege Tanks, which forces them to transform again and fly away from the enemy base.

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This is a great demonstration of the Viking’s strengths and weaknesses: while it is a very versatile unit, it is still easily countered by dedicated anti ground forces. It will likely not be able to stand against dedicated anti-air attackers as well. Obviously, with its transformation ability, it will usually avoid confrontation with units that are dangerous to it.

 

Next up: The Banshee. Not much to say about this unit, except that its cloaking ability coupled with a very strong anti ground attack smells of a future nerf. However, since its attack is not concentrated, but spread over a relatively large radius, it will have a harder time facing static defenses and dedicated, ground anti air units. Also, the Banshee seems to be low on hit points.

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Reapers: We see how they use their timed explosives to take down a few buildings. The explosives stick to the ground and go off after a fixed number of seconds. This is very lethal to buildings. The ability is an exciting one from a gameplay point of view, as it will require great skill to effectively use against moving targets.

The Reapers go on to raid the enemy’s economy, annihilating its SCV workers. The enemy Terran player upgrades its Command Center to a Planetary Fortress, which completely outclasses the Reapers. It seems that the Planetary Fortress upgrade will be very effective in deterring these types of ground raid attacks.

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Dustin now presents a Thor being built by an SCV. Everything about the Thor has already been said, and as expected, it easily obliterates ground targets. Dustin uses the Thor’s bombardment ability to quickly take out the Planetary Fortress.

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Everything in StarCraft 2 has weaknesses, and we next see how a small group of Cobras easily outmaneuver the Thor, which has a very slow turning rate, and bring it down to its knees.

 

Moving on from that scene, we are presented with the Ghost. Cloaked and closing in on the target, we see the Snipe ability in use – each Ghost instantly takes down one marine. More interestingly, the Ghost uses its signal for Drop Pod ability to call down pods with six marines each. This works amazingly close to how we described it in our “Suggestions for StarCraft 2” article, and the end result is added mobility for the Terran race, similar to the Zerg’s Nydus Worm and the Protoss’ Phase Prism/Warp In.

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The video ends with a large Terran on Terran fight, showing how intense the game can get, with impressive explosions going off all over the battlefield.

This presentation offered an exciting look into the Terran race, but a lot still remains to be seen.

There are rumors of a similar showcasing of the Zerg race later this year. We hope that the Blizzard development team can create a worthy successor for the Zerg in StarCraft 2. At this point, they certainly seem to have done so for the other two races.

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