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Cavez, StarCraft 2’s lead game designer, and Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, have each posted comments to threads in Battle.net, revealing some interesting information about the current build.

Cavez talks about the role of the Evolution Chamber in StarCraft 2, which, according to the latest information about the Zerg, is now almost useless:

Zerg evolution, or upgrades, only affect one unit. For example, the Zergling has 3 levels of evolution: Level one grants it more speed, level two provides +2 to damage and +1 to armor, and level three +1 to damage and +2 to armor. No word has been given about the favorite crack upgrade, which transformed Zerglings into insane machines of destruction in late games of StarCraft 1. The upgrades are researched at the unit’s building – in the Zergling’s case, the Spawning Pool.

StarCraft 2 Evolution Chamber

Cavez tells us about the new change:

We cut the Zerg upgrade per-unit idea. It didn’t really work. You had significantly fewer choices by upgrading them individually. It made the game feel a little more predictable (in a bad way). The Evo Chamber is doing what you remember it doing from SC1.

The Evolution Chamber now provides global upgrades again, like in StarCraft 1. Three upgrades are available – Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, and Carapace [armor rating] – and three levels for each.

Evolution Chamber

Evolutions

The StarCraft 2 Evolution Chamber also provides the following benefits and upgrades:

  • Burrow – allows ground units to burrow
  • Generate Creep – allows Overlords to use the Excrete Creep ability and increases the rate of creep expansion
  • Enables Creep Tumors to evolve into Shriekers
  • Slime – allows Overlords to use the Slime ability

Moving on, Karune clarifies the effect of the Ghost‘s Snipe ability:

Snipe does a lot of damage to ‘light armor’ units that are biological. To an Ultralisk, it will do nearly nothing.

Snipe will mainly be useful against high profile targets, such as the Protoss High Templar and the Zerg Infestor, which it will be able to take down in one shot. Other, larger targets, like the Ultralisk, will shrug off a Snipe shot easily. It’s worth noting that the new, and apparently quite potent, Nullifer will not be affected by Snipe at all, as it is robotic in nature.

Snipe has obviously been designed to complement the Ghost’s passive radar ability, which allows it to detect spell-casters. These key units are usually small and fragile – perfect for the Ghost, who can cloak, move in for a fast kill, and get out – crippling the enemy force which accompanied the caster.

StarCraft: Legacy has conducted an exclusive Q&A session with Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager. Eight of their questions were answered thoroughly, providing a lot of new information.

1) What is the current state of the Hydralisk? The current stats we have are tier 2-2.5, 100 minerals, 75 gas, 80-90 HP, and 8-10 dmg with no special abilities. Compared to the Roach, the Hydralisk appears inferior in every way, with it’s only saving grace being GTA capability. However, because the Mutalisk is in the same tier, only slightly more expensive, and it can fly, the Hydralisk appears to be almost useless for such an iconic unit.

 

Actually, the Hydralisk has since been boosted up quite a bit in terms of damage. They currently have 80 hit points and have a ground attack of 13 + 3 versus armored and an air attack of 12 + 5 versus armored. The Hydralisk also has a range of 6 and moves at a ‘fast’ speed, with no need to upgrade with the speed bonus anymore. Roaches on the other hand, only have an attack of 10, half the Hydralisk’s range, and is slower to move as well. The new damage the Hydralisk is able to put out now makes it very dangerous, as Zerg players will be able to take out buildings with a pack of Hydras, with only a few volleys (same goes to Battlecruisers!). Nonetheless, they are extremely weak at 80 hit points, and thus need to always be protected. The new cost for Hydralisks are also 100 minerals and 100 gas.

The Hydralisk of StarCraft 2, not unlike its old incarnation, is a well rounded, multi-purpose unit for the Zerg race. While its price has been increased, most noticeably on the Vespene Gas front (from 25 to 100), the Hydralisk now comes with both available StarCraft 1 upgrades pre-installed. As well, it has been given a damage boost – in damage points as well as in attack type: The StarCraft 1’s Hydralisk attack was “explosive”, which only dealt 50% of the damage to small units. With 13 damage per attack, the new Hydralisk will be able to take down his nemesis, the Marine, in just 4 hits.

Hydralisk Swarm

2) How does Anti-Gravity work on Zerg buildings since they’re organs intrinsically a part of the creep? They are essentially part of the creep. Do they lose health? Also, how does it affect burrowed units? Will they go back to being burrowed or not?

 

Zerg buildings will not take damage when they are lifted. Burrowed units lifted will become burrowed again when the ability finishes.

Karune reveals a new way to detect burrowed units – Anti-Grav! The Nullifier will be able to “explore” important locations and reveal hidden underground Zerg units for the cost of some energy.

3) With the Thor back to having both anti-air and anti-ground attacks, will he be capable of discharging both weapons simultaneously at a Colossus? Or will only the stronger attack affect it? If it is only the stronger attack, is that dynamically chosen by the game?

Any unit with both ground and air attacks will attack the Colossus with the stronger of the two attacks, but not with both.

4) With the Medivac being a late-game tech, are Terran infantry impaired against the other two races in early to mid-game?

 
No, Terran is actually quite strong early game for a few different reasons. One, their tier 1 unit is ranged and is thus excellent at defending cliffs without being able to be countered without sight. Two, the new supply depots are excellent at building the perfect barricade in early game. Three, Marauders are very tough and are excellent at winning heavy micromanaged battles, preventing units from reaching your Marines.

5) Does the Ghost’s EMP Grenade ability function any differently from the Science Vessel’s EMP ability from StarCraft Vanilla?


Nope, the EMP currently works the same as the EMP from the original StarCraft.

  

6) What special abilities, in the current build, can be cast from inside a bunker? Can a nuke be called down?


In a bunker, units will be able to use Stim Pack, call down Nukes, Sniper, and use EMP.

The news about the Ghost being able to call down nukes from within the safety of bunkers has been discussed before. This is a concern for the enemies of the Terran, since it’s going to be impossible to figure out which Bunker actually holds the attacking Ghost, before even mentioning the unbalanced nature of the Bunker’s protection. Since the Ghost has to be killed for the Nuke to be disabled, this is a big issue. here’s what Karune said about the subject last time:

Honestly, this is completely up to balance, and of course if it proves too difficult to prevent or avoid, I’m pretty sure it will be changed.

Nuclear Bunker

7) Does the Jackal’s attack damage friendly units and/or have AoE capabilities?

 

The Jackal’s attack will only damage enemy units in its area of effect. Technically, it will target a set unit and all units in that line of fire will take damage.

This is where being able to target the ground would come in useful. Since the Jackal has to target a specific unit which will determine the path of the linear Area of Effect weapon, it is limited in its ability to optimally utilize its fiery attack. Smart enemies of the Terran will quickly put distance between the units coming under attack and their friendly forces or just spread their units in advance.

8 ) The Zerg do not seem to have equal air power compared to the other two races. The Protoss have Carriers and Warp Rays; the Terrans have BCs. While the Mutalisk makes a great harassment unit, they simply cannot stand up to significant firepower. Corruptors and Swarm Guardians are strong in their respective fields, but they lack a single unit that can attack both air and ground well. This suggests that air units will be limited to defense and support for a primarily ground based army. The other two races seem more able to have a well-rounded primarily air-based army. Is this the case, and if so, will anything be done to give the Zerg stronger air options?

 

Zerg currently has the most powerful anti air unit in terms of damage per second, which is the Hydralisk. Furthermore, while the Mutalisks are not the stronger aerial fighter, they do have flexibility, being able to morph into Swarm Guardians for that additional ground damage and range when needed. Corruptors, in mass groups are also one of the most powerful air to air units, especially considering every unit you kill, makes the battle turn even more into your favor. While we have experimented with other types of Zerg air units, there are no plans to introduce any of them to the multiplayer version of the game.

Karune makes a good argument in favor of the Zerg, and lends strength to our assertion that the Hydralisk is a robust unit. The Zerg of StarCraft 1 do not have a capital ship, like the Battlecrusier or the Carrier, but that’s part of the charm of the game – every race has obvious disadvantages in some areas, but balance is still maintained between the three of them. It’s only natural for the Zerg of StarCraft 2 to rely on mass numbers, overwhelming their enemies with sheer force, without relying on any capital-class fliers.

An angry Hydralisk

A new feature has been launched on the official StarCraft 2 site, and today’s update is the first of its type. The Planetary Update gives us the background story of Char, one of the main points of contention in the StarCraft universe. Along with the history of the place, the page also contains two new concept art pictures and a new amazing screenshot of a battle taking place on the planet’s surface between Zerg and Terran forces.

Char currently serves as the primary hive planet of the Zerg. It’s a volcanic hell, with temperatures that shoot right up to 800c when its orbit brings it close to the sun. It also has a Terran-constructed space platform, termed “Char Aleph”, which now serves as an orbital nesting site and hatchery.

Char

There has been a great deal of speculation over the zerg choice to occupy Char, given its harsh environment and total lack of any organic life forms to exploit. Theorists are evenly split among the ideas that Char forms a useful jump-off point to the core worlds of terran and protoss space, that its inhospitable nature makes it easier for the zerg to defend it, or that Char’s high radiation levels promote an increased rate of mutation in zerg organisms to enable forced evolution of specialist strains.

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Regardless of the reasoning, the zerg presence on Char has ensured that the planet has remained a cauldron of battle. Protoss and terran forces have attempted infiltration missions on the planet with varying degrees of success. Huge and bloody battles were fought there amongst the zerg themselves as the Queen of Blades overthrew the cerebrates controlling the Swarm. Four years ago three entire fleets met their demise when they confronted the Queen of Blades on Char. The Queen of Blades emerged as the dominant power in the sector after an apocalyptic battle that destroyed a Terran Dominion fleet, a protoss armada, and finally the UED expeditionary force. Since then the zerg have remained curiously quiescent, apparently content to remain on the worlds they infested so rapidly during the initial invasion.

The screenshot that was coupled to the update reveals a few new Zerg structures and a new design for the Terran Jackal.

TvZ

* Click for Big

screenshot highlights

  • The new Baneling Nest, the prerequisite building for morphing Zerglings into Banelings.
  • The new Jackals have 2 front wheels, providing them with a buggy look, distancing them from the old Vulture design.
  • The Infestor Pit is the prerequisite building for Infestors, and also serves as the place for Infestor upgrades.

That’s it for this planetary update.


A few gameplay videos have popped up over the net recently. These are all products of Korean exhibitions in which lucky observers had managed to film the computer monitor with their video cameras, resulting in horrible quality, short clips of gameplay.

First up, a video showing the Jackal and Nullifier in action.

Unlike the previous Vulture replacement, the Cobra, the Jackal is unable to attack while moving and has to stop before firing off its weapon. This allows the engaging Zealots to catch up with the Jackal and put in a few hits from time to time.

The Jackal, at first glance, operates exactly like a Vulture that’s been equipped with a Flame Thrower instead of Concussion Grenades. The Jackal in the video is eventually overwhelmed by the two Zealots, but a similar battle between a group of Zealots against a greater force of Jackals would obviously end differently. When taking the Jackals’ AoE attack and great speed advantage into account, a micro-capable player would scorch the Zealots and leave the battle relatively unharmed.

The next couple of videos are a longer cut of the Terran versus Terran match we’ve reviewed a short while ago. This video shows the surrounding gameplay, and also features some more action:

* A Medivac Dropship dropping two Jackals and a Siege Tank right on top of the enemy’s mineral line, followed by another dual Tank drop.

* Near the end of the game, a Terran force, composed of Battlecrusiers, Thors, Siege Tanks and Jackals completely decimates the enemy’s main base.


Next up is a short video of a Terran versus Zerg match. Notably, at minute two, the Zerg player futilely attempts to engage a large group of Marines with Mutalisks. A bit later, Swarm Guardians make an appearance when they come under attack of a Battlecruiser. (This is where the picture we discussed a while ago was taken from)

The most interesting thing happens at 2:54, where a group of Ultralisks get hit by a Nuke head on and survive.

The last video is a long one, at 22 minutes. It’s a fight between a human Zerg player and an AI Terran, with the Zerg player experimenting with the abilities of the race.

Not a lot of action in this one, but a few interesting highlights are:

  • Near the end of the 8th minute, an Overlord can be seen evolving to an Overseer.
  • A small group of Ultralisks walk over entire Terran forces at the end of the 10th minute, and then proceed to raise their base to the ground a bit later. It’s clear that the Ultralisks have a hard time navigating through the clumped base.
  • At 12:30, a group of Overlords extend the base’s Creep using their Excrete Creep ability. This takes a while for the Overlord, which remains in positions and drops purple goo to the ground for some time.
  • Infestors use their Infest ability on a Terran Command Center that’s under construction at 16:00. The Command Center becomes infested despite not being complete, and Infested Marines pop up immediately.
  • A short while later, the Infestor feasts on a nearby Ultralisk, consuming his hitpoints for energy until it’s eventually eaten up entirely.
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