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We are proud to present our newest creation and hope our readers will enjoy it – today we have launched our own Webcomic – the Official Unofficial StarCraft 2 Comic.
SC2 Comic‘s story, characters and events are based on Blizzard’s StarCraft universe, and inspired by the upcoming StarCraft 2 game.
The first comic is called “Four Years of Peace – The Real Reason“.

Zerg Typing

The comic will be updated on an irregular basis, and we suggest subscribing to it via RSS.

CNN has conducted an interview with Jungwon Hahn, managing director of Blizzard’s Korean office. Jungwon describes the StarCraft phenomenon to the CNN host and explains its incredible popularity in Korea. A never before seen short bit of gameplay can also be seen, though it’s unfortunately of very low quality.

The CNN host mentions the Asian financial crisis as a catalyst for StarCraft’s popularity. The crisis led to very high unemployment rates. That, coupled with subsidized broadband Internet access, caused many people to spend a lot of time playing video games. They were easily sucked into StarCraft. Jungwon replies and talks about the gaming rooms that have popped up and became very popular at the same time, allowing a new gaming culture to emerge.

The short gameplay video shows a couple of skirmishes between Marines and Reapers, who are trying to raid a Protoss base, and the Zealots defending it.

Overall, we have expected more from CNN, even if the interview is only 3 minutes long. Also, You’d think CNN would know how to embed the videos in their site with a proper aspect ratio…

aspect.JPG

This week’s batch of Questions and Answers came a bit late, but we certainly aren’t complaining – Karune has delivered a very interested Chat with Devs section, along with six answers, including one submitted by SC2Blog.

Chat with Devs: After bringing up much community feedback from the last Monthly Discussion, Dustin Browder filled me in on the latest role discussions about the current units in game. This is the thought that has lead to the introduction of the Firebat back into StarCraft II.

Furthermore, they have also changed the Terran Cobras abilities to take on what was previous known as the Protoss Stasis Orb (which is now removed from the game). The Terran Cobra now acts as a slowing unit, with an electrical attack. In addition, many of the units already seen in game are having their roles re-evaluated, to again make sure that every unit has a distinct role in StarCraft II.


This week’s Chat with Devs section shows just how dynamic and feedback-oriented StarCraft 2’s development process is. While the unit models and game engine are clearly in place, unit roles and abilities are undergoing constant modifications. The fact that Firebats are coming back should make plenty of fans happy – StarCraft 2’s physics and graphics engine will certainly do the flamethrower good.
During BlizzCon 2007,
the Star Relic changed its name to Statis Orb, and is now completely out of the game, while the Terran Cobra seems to be assuming a tactical role similar to the WarCraft 3 Dryad .
Cobra

On to the Q&A:

1. Will the defensive matrix of the Terran Nomad apply to enemy units within its AoE (Area of Effect)?

Yes, the Terran Nomads Defense Matrix ability will affect both friendly and enemy units, thus using this ability on a position that the player can hold will be wise.


2. What helps to delineate the Thor and Battlecruiser as both being high-tier support units? Lots of concern over this duality?

Currently, the Thor has splash damage, whereas the Battlecruiser has direct damage in its attack. We definitely agree with most of the community that the Thors role overlaps with various other roles on the Terran Faction, thus we may modify that role or possibly cut the unit.

The fact that the Defensive Matrix is an AoE that applies to both friendly and enemy units has been known since BlizzCon, and the fact that the Thor‘s tactical role overlaps with everything but the SCV is also common knowledge. But this is the first time that Karune or any other Blizzard employee mentions something as radical as the exclusion of the Thor.

<a href="http://starcraft2.com/flash/global/unitsplayer_terran_thor.swf" target="_blank">http://starcraft2.com/flash/global/unitsplayer_terran_thor</a>

 

3. Will there be any consideration of having an oceanic battle.net server?

Unfortunately, this has not been decided yet, as many aspects of Battle.net has still yet to be implemented.

4. Will the Protoss Colossus be able to walk over Supply Depots like over cliffs?

This is an issue that is still being discussed quite a bit. We like how when enemy units enter your base, they are forced to deal with the layout of your base, but at the same time we are also dealing with the realism factor, where cliff climbing Colossuses ought to be able to step over Supply Depots. Many issues we face are similar to those debated amongst the community, and for this particular topic we dont yet have a final answer.

The pseudo-realistic engine and actual 3D models will certainly generate a lot of tactical issues in StarCraft 2. Multi-layered terrain, coupled with units like Reapers and the Colossi – which are designed to take advantage of such terrain, will surely have implications on base layout and sieging strategies. Currently, Blizzard simply cannot provide a definitive answer regarding the Colossus’s ability to step over Supply Depots.
Supplu Depot

5. An obvious goal (among many) for Starcraft2 is to maintain the profile of being an E-Sport. What facet do you consider more integral to the growth of that ideal: An extremely high skill ceiling that demands years upon years to achieve mastery, or an extraordinarily large base of interested players to provide the attention that such a sport needs in order to succeed and grow? Obviously both are important, but when it comes to design ideals, what has more pull? Accessibility or Longevity?

I think for e-sport we need the high skill ceiling. Though really as you say, both are very important. As designers we have spent years focusing on accessibility. Ideas must be accessible to even be put into the game. So we are just not as worried about making the game accessible. That will happen. What we are focused on, what is the more challenging problem is making the game last for years and years and years. So in our development cycle at the moment, longevity definitely has the larger pull. Longevity is the harder problem to solve, so we put way more effort into making the game as challenging as possible to master. Dustin Browder, Lead Designer of StarCraft II

Now that’s one big question. Despite Blizzard’s best efforts to predict and establish StarCraft 2’s role as an E-sport, the result is as unpredictable as StarCraft’s stunning success in Korea, or the phenomenon called World of Warcraft. StarCraft 2’s true destiny will remain a mystery until it is actually released to the general public.
Just a brief reminder – the original StarCraft didn’t have major “skill ceiling” design planning. It is being played on a professional level for ten years now.

6. How will unit collision and stacking be handled ? Can flying units pass on top the Colossus or is it blocking ?

No, the Colossus will not block a flying unit.

In terms of collision and stacking, units first always follow your order, and when it completes your order, they will stop and spread out. The area in which those units spread out will be slightly less than in the original StarCraft.

This is a question we’ve submitted to Karune as part of the feedback that we at SC2Blog provide to Blizzard. The Colossus, while tall enough to be vulnerable to anti-air weapons, is not an obstacle to flying units. At present time, the stacking mechanism appears to be almost identical to StarCraft 1.
That’s all for this week’s batch. Another round of interesting questions answered, courtesy of Karune and the developers.

One of the major issues people have with StarCraft 2, at this stage of development, is the updated control scheme. The new User Interface (UI) constitutes a major overhaul to the now-outdated, almost-10 year old system of the original game. Among the obvious improvements, some changes are the cause of many arguments that are raging all over StarCraft 2 fan sites and forums.

The changes all deal with automation. The new UI will require less attention from the player and will not force him to micro-manage his game as much as the old one did. Some people argue that this represents a cheapening of the game and the skill it requires to play, while others claim that this is a logical progression and a clearly warranted update to the outdated control scheme.

In this post, we will review the proposed changes:

1) Auto-Mining Peons

In StarCraft 1, every peon (Drone, Probe or SCV) a player built out of his headquarters building would idle near its selected rally point. Unlike other, more modern games of this type (including Blizzard’s WarCraft 3), it was impossible to rally the workers to the resources by right clicking them. Instead, a player had to manually select each and every one of his peons and send them to the a mineral patch or to the Vespene Gas extractor. When selecting a group of workers, high level players would still send them to the minerals individually, since they tended to clump together trying to mine one patch, slightly reducing efficiency.

minerals.JPG

This proved to be a major hindrance to slower players – having to focus on one’s base to keep the economy going every time a new peon popped out meant having less time to focus on the battle itself.

This system would be replaced with something that already exists in WarCraft 3. All the player has to do is select the HQ building, right click on the resource location, and the built workers would get to work right as they came out.

SC2Blog Verdict: This should have been patched into StarCraft 1 by now.

 

2) Multiple Building Selection

Many recent RTS games have reduced the focus on building multiple buildings with the exact same purpose, like StarCraft does to increase the potential rate of unit production. StarCraft 2 still keeps to this formula, though, but an improvement in this scheme is proposed: Instead of having to select each building individually and issuing the unit production order, multiple buildings of the same type could be selected. That way, a player with 4 Gateways would be able to click once to produce 4 Stalkers (assuming he has sufficient resources for them).

This would streamline the often-tedious procedure of keeping unit production going, especially considering StarCraft’s 5 unit queue limit for each building and the need to churn out units like mad in some matches. Again, this reduces the player’s need to focus on his base and allows him to manage his units in exploration, battle or positioning on the field. Will this really reduce the gap between newbies and professional players?

SC2Blog Verdict: Another logical improvement.

How often do you build fewer than two Stargates?

 

3) Automatic Unit Formation

In StarCraft, and more than likely, in StarCraft 2 as well, unit positioning plays a very important role. The brilliantly executed meld of melee and ranged attacking units lives and dies on the starting position of each unit as it enters the battle. A group of properly positioned Marines, helped by a handful of Firebats, could repel a much larger number of attacking melee units like Zealots or Zerglings. The same attacking group would annihilate those Terrans if they managed to surround and/or separate them, taking few losses.

StarCraft had a very unforgiving unit formation/pathing system. Often, units (un)managed by less skillful players would march to battle in a single file and die before firing a single shot. Players had to make sure each and every one of their units were positioned smartly to make the best use of them, according to the threat they faced and the conditions of the battlefield.

The StarCraft 2 developers are now entertaining the idea of creating automatic unit formations. We do not yet know the nature of these formations, but can speculate as to how they will be implemented. Other RTS games have several formations you can choose from (e.g. box formation, arrow, straight line) while some do as much as make sure your melee units are positioned at the front while weaker, ranged units are protected in the back. How far will StarCraft 2 take automatic unit formation?

formation.JPG

SC2Blog Verdict: Properly positioning units and “formatting” them to best take advantage of their strengths while hiding their weaknesses is one of the most important and skill demanding features of every RTS game – with StarCraft being no exception. We hope Blizzard doesn’t take this too far. We would like to see improvements to general pathing, however.

 

4) Context-Dependent Unit Behavior

Issuing an attack-move order? In StarCraft 1, Medics grouped with Marines who were given this order would run head first into the enemy while the marines paused to attack from a safe distance. In StarCraft 2, the dev team promised, the Terran Medics will receive additional training, allowing them to interpret their commands in a smarter way. We don’t yet know of other examples for more educated unit behavior, but with this precedent, others are sure to come.

SC2Blog Verdict: While we’re usually proponents of streamlining the game and increasing automation, this might be taking it too far. The player should be the one deciding what units do – even at the cost of them performing stupid moves when he doesn’t notice. If there’s anything that differentiates the pros from the noobs, it’s their ability to control all their units quickly and skillfully at all times.

 

5) Smart Casting

Another improvement to the normal (as of StarCraft 1) behavior of units. Previously, a group of the same units with a special ability who were given a command to use the ability would all activate it together. This would result in 12 Ghosts all locking down a single Carrier, a group of Templars Psi-Storming a single spot on the field, or Queens using up valuable energy by casting ensnare on a single position.

In StarCraft 2, “Smart Casting” would allow the player to use abilities when selecting a group – only this time, only one of the units (the closest one, no less) would use it. A smart player would select a group of Templars, shift click a few locations on the field, and cover a huge area with a devastating super Psi-Storm.

Formation Psi-Storm in StarCraft 1

SC2Blog Verdict: We approve. The end result of this is the same, only less mouse clicks are required. Careful planning will still be needed to execute a good move, just like in StarCraft 1 – but this time, it won’t require superhuman dexterity.

 

Any changes to the winning formula that is StarCraft would obviously lead to many arguments among fans, and probably among the developers themselves. We will all have to decide which update is essential to the game and will allow all players to enjoy it better, while making sure they do not detract from the skill required to master StarCraft 2.

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