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Q&A 27: More Nullifier, Map Effects, Introducing Marauder

Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, is making Q&A history – this batch, #27, has been posted only 2 days after the last one. Unlike the 26th batch, which mainly dealt with lore questions, this one is purely gameplay-oriented.

First up, some more information from Karune’s gameplay blog about the newly revealed Nullifier.

Gameplay Blog: By the way, Im still looking for a good name for this section, that I hope everyone here could help me with Additionally, this week I want to elaborate on the second ability of the Protoss Nullifier mentioned in the last Q&A Batch. The Null Void, an ability currently at 50 energy cost, prevents abilities from being cast in an area of effect radius. In recent skirmishes with Terran opponents, when my Zealots engaged a group of M&Ms (Marines & Medics), my Nullifiers were able to cast Null Void over the enemy group, and the Medics were unable to heal for a good 15 seconds. When they retreated out of the Null Void area, I cast a second Null Void on them, and by that time, more than half of their Marines had fallen to my Zealots. Furthermore, my Nullifiers, having a base ranged attack, were able to focus fire on fleeing Marines.

 

However, I still did end up losing that game versus the Terran player, as Ghosts later on were able to devastate my army with EMP, followed with their Marauder units, replacing the old Firebat, making quick work of my ground army. GG. Next time.

Before we address this new information, here’s some more meat about the Nullifier, which Karune posted later on in the thread:

Balance Update: Nullifiers are now Tier 1.5, being built from the Protoss Gateway, requiring a Cybernetics Core prerequisite building. The unit also costs 50 minerals and 100 gas. They also have a base attack similar to a Terran Marine.

 

Thus, a player can still get them relatively early, especially if you skip the Forge, and go straight to gas. Using a Zealot and Nullifier combo is pretty decent against any Zerg based melee army, with Zealots using up your minerals, and Nullifiers, using up your gas.

The Nullifier is shaping up to becoming a very important unit for the Protoss. First, we will summarize the information about it so far:

* Prerequisites: Tier 1.5, requiring only a Gateway (150 minerals) and a Cybernetics Core (200 minerals) to be produced.

* Cost: 50 minerals and 100 gas.

* Abilities: Force Field – creates an impenetrable psychic wall that lasts 15 seconds. Null Void – area of effect “Silence” spell, cast on a location for 15 seconds, preventing ability use.

* Attack: Ranged attack for 6 points of damage.

The Nullifier is a natural early game companion to the Zealot. Its abilities allow it to effectively complement Zealots when facing either races’ early game units, either by dividing their forces or by nullifying special abilities. While not casting off spells, the Nullifier’s ranged attack will supplement the Zealots combat effort somewhat. Since they are relatively expensive gas-wise, this advantage might come at a price – a Protoss player who is Nullifier happy might suddenly find himself out-teched.

More posts from Karune further clarify how Null Void works:

Also, to clarify about the Null Void ability, when a unit is in the area of effect, it cannot use any abilities which take up energy. When the unit exits that area of effect, it can resume using abilities taking up energy.

 

For instance, a Terran Ghost will not be able to use his EMP or snipe ability while under the Null Void’s area of effect, but if it moves out of that range it can then cast those abilities.

 

In the current version of the game, Null Void if used correctly is actually able to prevent an EMP hit, allowing just enough time to cast your own Psi Storm on those pesky Ghosts. It does take some micromanagement, but nonetheless, EMP is still being looked out heavily in terms of balance.

With such an ability, the Nullifier will obviously play an important role throughout the game. Since it doesn’t require special tech-branching, Protoss players will likely end up building a few Nullifiers even if not in the first minutes of the game.

Before we move on to the Q&A, lets take a moment to silently stare at Karune, who name dropped a new Terran unit without giving out any information about it what so ever.

Good bye (for now), Firebat.

firebats.JPG

1) How will the map pool for the ladder be handled? Only maps made by Blizzard or will there be opportunities for mapmakers to contribute? If so, how will new maps be selected/balanced and how often are you planning on updating the map pool?

 

[Dustin Browder] The map pool for competitive play will only be Blizzard maps or Blizzard-approved maps. We are always excited to see new maps from the community and when we see new cool maps we will definitely include them in the pool. I have no idea how often this will happen. It really depends on the map makers and our schedule. We also have some really cool plans for mod support for Battle.net for StarCraft II, which we will be rolling out to the community soon. We have all watched with great enthusiasm the impact that mod makers have had upon our previous games, especially Warcraft III, and we really want to continue to support and encourage this community.

Take a deep breath before attempting to read the next question.

2) Terran in StarCraft 1 had a very interesting dynamic in that the optimal strategy combating a Zerg would require large amounts of infantry and science vessels, whereas Protoss would require a large amount of factory units, leading to more diverse gameplay between the two matchups. This dynamic existed in mirror matchups as well – Goliaths, Battlecruisers and Wraiths were very useful in Terran vs Terran, but are rarely seen versus Protoss and Zerg (with the exception of Goliath vs Carrier).

 

Protoss and Zerg also had this trait – Protoss would often need large amounts of Corsairs, Zealots, and Archons to combat Zerg and a large amount of Dragoons, Arbiters, and Carriers to combat Terran, skipping zealots entirely until the speed upgrade is done. Zergs would frequently use Hydralisks versus Protoss, but would always immediately morph them to Lurkers vs Terran until Plague was researched.

 

For some people this was viewed as a positive aspect of SC, others are frequently disappointed that Terran cannot realistically integrate marines into their strategy vs Protoss and so forth. What style of gameplay is StarCraft II looking to attain – will each of the 9 different matchups play in a unique fashion with less viable strategies overall, or is the game looking to ensure that every unit has a useful role against every race?

 

[Dustin Browder] So far StarCraft II plays similar to the original StarCraft in that different matchups require a different unit mix. On the design team we enjoy this type of gameplay and prefer to have players use different strategies and different units against different races. Our goal is that every unit will have some use against each race, but that players will tend to prefer certain units against certain races. We are going to strive to make sure that no unit is completely worthless against any one race but there will definitely be better and worse choices depending on the enemy race, strategy, the map, and your start position on the map.

A high quality question which received proper attention. Many units in StarCraft were completely irrelevant in certain match ups. Of course, when those were designed, no one had expected StarCraft to become such a paragon of balance and gameplay. In StarCraft 2, the developers seem committed to delivering an even more polished game in terms of unit uniqueness and usability.

3) In StarCraft 1 the basic tier 1 units were balanced against higher tech units almost equally by their unique role within each race as they were by unique unit upgrades and a greater benefit from the standard upgrades.
How much effort are you putting into making lower tech units viable higher up in the tech tree in ways other than upgrades that just makes them a “better unit” such as hit points and damage?

 

(This question is brought up because of the Terran Marine +HP upgrade which IMHO is really cheap)

 

[Dustin Browder] We are putting a huge amount of effort into making sure that the tier 1 units are useful throughout the game. We are also putting a large amount of effort into trying to get as much mileage as we can out of each of our upgrades so that upgrades really change how you can use a unit (but without fundamentally altering its role). The Marine is an example of a work-in-progress unit. We think the shield looks cool, but we are still working on how it will affect gameplay. Actually, in current builds Marines+Medics+Stim are so powerful that the shield is not that necessary in a lot of matchups.

Another important question – but just like the previous one, the answer here is obvious. Blizzard won’t neglect such an issue; we can expect the same standard as in StarCraft 1, if not a higher one.

numbers.JPG

4) Some new maps used in the pro scene for StarCraft have started to include permanent spells like “Dark Swarm” and “Disruption Web” as a part of terrain. Are there any plans to allow this as a kind of special terrain by default or allow map makers to add it as a special attribute to some sections of the terrain?
Examples would be areas with decreased movement for some or all units like shallow water, terrain making units immune to missile fire like dark swarm or terrain making the units unable to fire like web.

 

If you plan to include it will it be usable on melee maps or UMS only?

 

[Dustin Browder] Our data editor allows the creation of this type of terrain. You could easily put this type of terrain on melee maps. We have not finalized our feature set for terrain yet so I dont know what will make the final cut for the default Blizzard maps.

Maps that feature permanent effects spice things up for those who’ve spent countless hours playing StarCraft. They can create interesting situations which require expert strategy to be taken advantage of, taking the standard StarCraft game to a new level.

Many RTS games have incorporated gameplay-relevant terrain features – most notably, the recent hit Company of Heroes – while StarCraft 1 players had to resort to awkward workarounds to keep up. Though creating maps with permanent spells somewhat compensates for the lack of a built-in implementation, incorporating different terrain types that change the way units behave into official Blizzard maps will provide StarCraft 2 with the added strategic depth expected from a modern RTS game.

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