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There’s been a steady torrent of StarCraft 2 news in the last couple of days. Without further ado:

Q&A 22: The Map Maker Part 2.

This Q&A has been posted by Xordiah, Blizzard RTS Community Representative in Europe. It begins with a lengthy chat with the devs, which should interest the large crowd of WarCraft III DotA players:

Chat with Devs: One of the most popular questions we get when it comes to creating UMS (User Map Settings) games or mods is: Will there be a DotA for StarCraft II? For those who are not familiar, DotA (Defense of the Ancients), is a popular UMS game created for Warcraft III. StarCraft compared to Warcraft III, does not focus on heroes as much, and heroes or units do not have the same experience gaining mechanic as Warcraft III, making it difficult to imagine how a game like DotA could be reproduced for StarCraft. Nonetheless, after chatting it up with our devs, we found out the ability to allow heroes and units to gain experience is built into the Map Editor, though it will not likely be in single player or standard multiplayer. In addition, those units can also be toggled to have the ability to carry an inventory, which is also a characteristic needed in UMS maps such as DotA. With those two additions, we can rest assured that our clever community modders can handle the rest in creating some awesome custom games.

The developers had mods in mind when they implemented this feature, which will not be present in the standard game in any way. Blizzard knows StarCraft and WarCraft’s popularity benefits greatly from user made maps, and have taken the necessary steps to make sure players can customize their games more than ever. Good job, Blizzard!


Next in the Q&A, more good news for UMS fans. Straight from the mouths of Dustin Browder, lead game designer, and Brett Wood, senior software engineer:

1) Will you finally be able to mix and match terrain types instead of being stuck on jungle, twilight, etc?


[Dustin Browder] Yes terrain texture is mixable now. Also tilesets are also mixable.
[Brett Wood] Essentially, you can define your own tileset in the editor, something that wasnt really supported even in Warcraft III.


2) Will the new StarCraft II Map Editor support text coloring, unit coloring, player “12” (i.e. neutral player) units?


[Dustin Browder] Yes, all of these features will be supported.


3) Will maps be larger than 256×256?


[Brett Wood] The maximum map size will still be 256×256, and we have no plans to increase that.


4) Will the new map editor support locking maps? People hate losing credit for a map.


[Dustin Browder] Yes, we are planning to support this feature. We hope that this feature will give the modding community more incentive to create their own original maps.


5) Will the new map editor support “square” terrain building as well?


[Dustin Browder] Yes. In the editor, users can adjust the footprint of buildings to whatever shape and size they like.

Is any feature in StarCraft not customizable? Well, maybe.

Especially interesting is the support for locking maps. Previously, a modder could spend months working on a UMS scenario, only to have it abused by anyone who downloaded the map to play. Locking maps would allow a modder to keep the credit for his creation and also make sure he’s the only one who can make changes to it.

The Story So Far

A new feature has popped up on StarCraft2.com: The Story So Far, a recap of the events of StarCraft 1. The summary contains a wealth of knowledge about the history and events of the game, starting from the first contact of the Terrans with the Protoss, to Kerrigan’s transformation to the Queen of Blades, and up to the ending event of StarCraft 1 – Tassadar’s suicide mission and the death of the Overmind.


The text is accompanied by many of StarCraft’s most famous illustrations and also features a few of the movies which originally appeared during the campaign.


This is a great way for newcomers to become acquainted with StarCraft’s history. Since the game has been released almost 10 years ago, it will probably also be appreciated by those who haven’t been religiously following the game, like some of us have, since its debut. Part 2, dealing with the events of Brood War, is “coming soon”. In the meantime, check out our more detailed recap of Kerrigan’s history.


Factory Firebats

Karune has posted an answer to a question about the new Firebats, which are now manufactured in the Factory.

Q: I was just wondering why the Firebat(if it stays in the game…)has to be built in the Factory. Can’t the Factory(or maybe Merc Haven) just be used as a prerequisite for FB’s to be built in Barracks.


I mean whats the difference between having it built in the the Factory rather than the Barracks with some prerequisites?

Karune: In terms of ‘realism,’ the Firebat has a much larger mechanical frame (with increased hit points), thus would need a larger facility to deploy these units. Additionally, the Barracks currently already has several units available to it, including the Marine, Medic, Reaper, and Ghost. Having the Firebat at the Factory also helps to make sure it is a Tier 2 unit, since its added hit points makes it quite the adversary on the battlefield.

We’re glad to see the Firebat getting a proper overhaul instead of returning unchanged from StarCraft 1. The old Firebat had a very limited role, but the new tier 2, armored menace sounds much more promising.

The StarCraft 1 Goliath, also a tier 2 factory unit, was originally designed with both a heavy machine gun and a close range flame thrower. Eventually, the flamer was removed from the Goliath before the game’s release, which limited the Mecha to its (somewhat unsatisfactory) machine gun in ground battles. It seems like Blizzard has decided to experiment with a flame throwing heavy-armor soldier this time around. Hopefully, it will find a better niche than the old Goliath did.




Karune also mentions that the Reaper is now available at the Barracks. It appears that Blizzard has dropped the idea of assigning them to a separate building, where they could be recruited in a unique way.

. . . Zerg?

Lastly, we bring you word from “Cavez”, better known as Dustin Brodwer, regarding the complete lack of information about the Zerg:

We will give you Zerg stuff just as soon as we can. We aren’t holding it on purpose, it’s just not ready yet. We had a lot more time to work on the Protoss and the Terrans before the announcement that you guys didn’t see (because the game wasn’t announced yet).


I don’t have an ETA but we won’t be waiting for the next Blizzcon. We are quite happy to put stuff out on the web for you guys to check out. It doesn’t HAVE to be a giant event to show a race, though when an event happens to match up with a race announcement that is a lot of fun.=)

A Blizzard deadline? Who’d have thought. Cavez claims the Zerg are not ready to be revealed, but we’re still hoping they’re close to completion, with Blizzard aiming to showcase them and generate hype just before the release of StarCraft 2.

That’s all for today’s mega-update.



An Austrian research institute has developed what they call a “Neurotic AI“.

The Austrian researchers want games to be more engaging by having emotional, not just coolly calculating, computer players. Instead of just challenging your rational planning and decision skills, you’ll have use your emotional intelligence too.

They have created a few versions of the AI for the “Age of Mythology” RTS game, based on “the big five” emotional dimensions:

In psychology, the Big Five personality traits are five broad factors or dimensions of personality discovered through empirical research. These factors are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

(Quoted from The New Scientist Blog)


The AIs are able to switch between “emotional states” in response to gameplay events, based on their programmed personality. The neurotic AI was more prone to distorting the input it had received and change its emotional state in extreme directions accordingly. Surprisingly, this allowed it to win more matches than all other AI personalities!


The next step of the research, of course, is to pit the emotion-enhanced AI player against humans. This will be the real test for this kind of AI, which might finally create a worthy opponent for us human players. Today’s standard AIs’ formulaic predictability is no match for anyone who’s more than a casual gamer, and only serve as early learning tools or punching bags.

StarCraft 1 had its share of customized AIs – take a look at this project, for example. While Blizzard’s Map Maker series of Q&As have revealed several details about the upcoming customization tools, the ability to develop complex emotion and feedback-driven AIs using ScumEdit’s C-like language is yet to be mentioned.

christie-golden.JPGOver the last five months, Blizzplanet has conducted two interviews with Christie Golden, author of the StarCraft trilogy of books that serves as the introduction to StarCraft 2.

Christie has a rich background – she’s worked on Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft and more. For Blizzard, she’s created the Warcraft: Lord of the Clans and World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde novels.

The interviews deal with the plot of the books and the way they relate to the story of the game.

Check out the first interview, about The Dark Templar Saga: First Born, here. The book was released in May 2007, alongside the announcement of StarCraft 2’s development.

Will we see protoss characters we have been previously introduced to, such as Raszagal, Zeratul, Adun, Tassadar and Artanis? Will there be terrans such as Raynor, General Edmund Duke, Arcturus Mengsk, Dan Liberty or other characters from previous novels or from the game? What role will they play?


Christie: Yes, you will see all kinds of familiar faces throughout the series. Since this is set after Brood War, though, no Duke I’m afraid. Don’t want to give too much away, but this is a very big and important series and many of the main players in the game will make appearances. Some of them have very significant roles indeed! It’s been very exciting to be able to use well-established characters in addition to creating my own. I hope the readers enjoy it!


Read the second interview, about The Dark Templar Saga: Shadow Hunters, here. The book is slated to be released on the 27th of November, 10 days from today.

How will the trilogy fit with the single player storyline of Starcraft II?


Christie: It’s interesting—when I was first contracted for the trilogy, it was intended to be rather small scale. While of course computer games take years to develop, nothing had been made public at that time about StarCraft 2. I began work on the trilogy, then I shifted attention to RISE OF THE HORDE so it would be out in time for the WoW expansion of The Burning Crusade. When I got back to the trilogy after that little delay, the decision had been made to announce StarCraft 2 along about when the first book was due out. Suddenly my trilogy went from being a small scale storyline to something quite major, as a way to get readers excited for the game (like that would be hard—StarCraft players love their game with a passion!). It was definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time. There are challenges that go along with that, because as the game is constantly changing as it develops, we all of course want the books to reflect that as much as they can. So I do a lot of rewriting, but hey—that’s part of the fun of being involved with something so cutting-edge! Unfortunately books have to get “set in stone” at a certain point, so often changes are being made to the game after the books have been turned in. But we all do everything we can to make it as close as possible within those constraints. So to answer your question, it’s my hope that it will be a very, very good fit indeed.


If you want to know what the books are about without actually reading them, look no further than this Wikipedia synopsis.

… Jake finds a dying Protoss who transfers her mind into his brain beforing finally expiring. Jake eventually discovers the Protoss inside his mind was a female named Zamara, a Protoss Preserver that was in charge of housing the memories of both dead and alive Protoss. Zamara warped Jake’s brain to be able to house the memories of all the Protoss, essentially making him a preserver.

Driven by the living memories of a long-dead protoss mystic and hounded by the Queen of Blades’ ravenous Zerg, archaeologist Jake Ramsey embarks on a perilous journey to reach the fabled protoss homeworld of Aiur.

Seeking a vital piece of protoss technology, Jake finds that Aiur has been overrun by the Zerg. Descending into the shadowy labyrinths beneath the planet’s surface, he must find the sacred crystal before time runs out — for him…and the universe itself.

Yet, what Jake discovers beneath Aiur is a horror beyond his wildest nightmares — Ulrezaj — an archon comprising the seven most deadly and powerful dark templar in history….

Keep it coming, Karune! Only a day after publishing three new, explosive pictures, batch #21 of the Q&A sessions has been posted on Battle.net. As usual, we get a glimpse into the world of StarCraft 2 development and see a few of our questions answered.

The Chat with Devs section deals with the new Terran Nomad ability that’s been revealed yesterday, the stationary “Auto-Turret“:

Chat with Devs: Since the Terran Ghost has an upgradable EMP ability, the Terran Nomad’s has been given the ability to create stationary defenses in addition to its Defense Matrix ability. One of the new stationary defenses is the Auto-Turret, which can attack ground units, and this unit be seen on this screenshot:

Protoss Vs Terran

We are hoping the Nomad’s new abilities will innovate its role, in addition to being a detector.

Here’s what Karune had to say about these turrets:

Karune: The turrets are dropped by the Nomad (using energy), acting as decent defenses, and even better harassment, if used by a skilled player.

It looks like the Nomad has a nicely defined role on the battlefield as the ultimate support unit. A company of stimmed Marines will greatly benefit from an increased survival time under the Defensive Matrix, while the Auto-Turret ability supplies additional firepower where needed – perhaps when the Nomad detects a pack of approaching Dark Templars.

The only question left right now is – will it also get Irradiate?

A Dark Templar taking his last, poisonous breath...


On to the questions:

1. Do you have any plan to put the auto-casting ability into StarCraft II units, just like in Warcraft III?


At the moment, Medics are the only units that we have deemed fit to have an auto-cast ability. StarCraft II, compared to Warcraft III, has fewer abilities but are much more potent when executed properly, thus making them manual cast will give players a huge opportunity to demonstrate much skill in the game.

This question and its variants have been appearing in Q&As since the dawn of time (ok, maybe not that far back). StarCraft fans are understandably worried about auto-casting and its effect on the skill required to play the game. So far, the Terran Medic is the only smart unit on the battlefield when it comes to automatically casting spells and intelligently interpreting orders. What about Auto-Repair for SCVs?

2. Would you make it possible for players on observing mode to check various information including a mini map, upgrading status, and resource status on a personal window? If not, would you consider developing this function?


These are all great ideas and we will work to get these in for observing mode. We will be working hard to have the observing mode innovative and comprehensive, building upon all the features that were in our previous RTS titles, as well as other titles in the market.


3. Will the story of StarCraft II be continued right from where the original StarCraft story ended? Or, will it begin at the moment after some amount of time passed since the last time of the original StarCraft?


The StarCraft II storyline will continue 4 years after the events of Brood War.

Isn’t this common knowledge by now? Maybe Blizzard can try putting up a sticky FAQ post with some basic information. Remember our take on the events that caused the 4 years hiatus between wars?


Four Years of Peace - The Real Reason

4. It is not possible to watch how a mouse was moved in a saved replay game. Could you make this possible to see the movement of mouse?


We would also like the mouse to be viewable in saved replays, however, it may be more likely that well have the options to show both the view of the players playing as well as selection icons of the units being currently selected in the replay.


5. When grouping units to a control group, how many units could be added to one group?


Currently, players are able to select more than 150 units in a single control group. The final actual number will be determined by hardware performance tests on the game, but should still be close to that number.

Gone are the days of limited selection. A lot has already been said about this issue, which is still the cause of heated debates. This is a huge increase from StarCraft 1, which only allowed up to 12 units to be selected at the same time.



6. Players often tend to stack up workers and air units looking as one group in original StarCraft. Will this still be possible in StarCraft II?


In StarCraft II, this is harder to do than in the original StarCraft, but still possible. Units tend to group together more and more with each manual attack order. As long as you keep giving that manual attack order upon a target certain attacking units of the same type will group closer together. When the unit attacked upon is destroyed or the units become idle, they will naturally spread out again.

In StarCraft 1, selecting and giving order to air units along with ground units (even immovable ones, like the Larva) would clump up the air units, allowing them to function as one. This “feature” was sometimes abused to make pinpoint attacks that deal a lot of damage, instantly killing units, without spreading the attacking forces. It appears that Blizzard has implemented measures to lessen this effect in StarCraft 2, but the final result remains to be seen.


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