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A few interesting changes to StarCraft 2 have been revealed during the last couple of days, at the WorldWide invitational in Paris. However, the most noteworthy change is that to StarCraft 2’s economy and resource system – a core concept of the game which has so far remained (almost) untouched.

Gamers who attended WWI could immediately see one of the major changes: all starting bases and expansions now contain two Vespene Geysers. This alone is a huge change from StarCraft 1, where only user-created “money maps” (and a few specialized maps) featured more than one geyser per resource area.

Big Gay Hunters

The other changes to Vespene Gas are:

  • Vespene Geysers start with only 1000 gas units, down from 5000 in StarCraft 1.
  • Workers pick up 6 Vespene Gas units per trip, down from 8, and 2 gas units when the geyser is depleted.
  • When a geyser has been depleted (all 1000 gas units have been harvested), an option to “Restore Gas” will appear when it is selected. In the WWI build, this allows the player to sacrifice 100 minerals in order to pump 400 gas units back into the Vespene Geyser, bringing it back to full operational status for a short time.
  • Hitting “Restore Gas” will temporarily shut down the geyser completely, prohibiting workers from harvesting any gas. Currently, the downtime is 45 seconds.

Zerg Refinery

All these major changes have been implemented to StarCraft 2 for one purpose: complicate the “macro” portion of the game, which has been downsized severely with the introduction of new and improved user interface aspects, and mainly, Multiple Building Selection (MBS) – which allows players to select all their similar unit producing buildings together and deliver a single command to construct units out of all of them.

Here’s how Dustin “Cavez” Browder, lead game designer, explains the changes:

1) We think gas could be more interesting than it was in the original StarCraft.

 

2) We think StarCraft 2 can benefit from additional economy choices.

The need to complicate matters has led to the introduction of the second Vespene Geyser and to the “Restore Gas” feature. These two additions will require players to more carefully plan their resource spending.

First, the decision to build the second geyser, just like the first one, will determine the amount of each resource the player will have and the type of army he can construct. Tech progressions and specialized units and abilities require a greater amount of gas, something that a smart scouting player will also note and react to accordingly.

Second, the “Restore Gas” feature will require the player to “babysit” his base more often. 400 units of Gas are harvested quickly, meaning frequent trips to geysers will be needed for a good Vespene Gas income. Of course, players will not always wish to renew their gas supply for the cost of minerals – another decision that will have to be carefully considered and weighted.

Terran Refinery

These changes will steal some of the added focus to the micromanagement portion of StarCraft 2, which pro-gamers, who’ve had a chance to play the game extensively, have reported about, and divert it back to base and economy management. Other such changes, meant to give players more macromanagement decisions to play with without dumbing down the UI, are being considered by Blizzard. Likewise, the added gas income might explain the higher price on some units which were previously a lot less expensive.

Moving on, a few changes to Minerals have also been implemented. Cavez says:

Minerals are down to 5 per trip, but they harvest a little more quickly. We have been doing some timed comparisons of minerals in the original SC to SC2 and we have been really putting a lot of effort into getting the collection rate to be the same. The pathing is SO much better in SC2 that we were collecting minerals at a ferocious rate.

 

So now mineral collection is pretty close to SC1.

Mineral patches will still have 1500 resource units, just like in StarCraft 1 – the collection amount change has been brought by because of the different pathing behavior of units in StarCraft 2, which, apparently, is 60% more efficient!

Protoss Refinery

All of these numbers are subject to change, of course. Currently, repleneshing the Geyser’s Vespene Gas supply is a somewhat futile effort.

Realistically, the difference between a depleted geyser’s output and an operational geyser is only 4 gas units. When factoring the downtime of 45 seconds, the real exchange rate hovers closer to 200 gas units for 100 minerals – not a great deal, considering minerals run out eventually (and fairly quickly), while gas fumes last the entire game. More number tweaks, and perhaps other ideas, will have to fill the void to macromanagement left by UI advancements.

    

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