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It’s been more than a month since the last official Q&A batch. This does not come as a surprise, of course, since the entire Blizzard crew was busy dealing with the WorldWide Invitational event in Paris.

This Q&A batch is composed of a long, comprehensive “Chat with Devs” introduction, dealing with the new Vespene Gas mechanics, and six new answers to fan-submitted questions.

Chat with Devs: Since the Worldwide Invitational in Paris, the topic of the new Vespene Gas mechanic has come up a lot across many different fansites and message boards. Thus far, this is one of the biggest changes which will affect the macro management of bases in StarCraft II. To shed some more light on this new mechanic, I have gotten a chance to talk to Dustin Browder, our Lead Designer for StarCraft II, about the progress thus far of the new mechanic, as well as the objectives this new mechanic is designed to achieve.

  

To start, the new Vespene Gas mechanic is to further distinguish the play style in which players gather minerals versus gathering gas. In the original StarCraft, the gathering of gas was very linear in the rate in which gas is gathered. Often, players would put 3-4 workers on the gas, and the players would forget about it until the geyser was depleted. Minerals on the other hand, were much more exponential in the rate of growth and were also often played differently amongst different races. Zerg would likely expand rapidly with less drones in each expansion and Protoss/Terran could sustain a sizeable force with higher numbers of workers on a smaller number of expansions.

 

How the New Vespene Gas Mechanic Works
For StarCraft II, with the new Vespene Gas mechanic, players will have 2 gas geysers at their starting position. These geysers will start with X amount of gas (currently 600 and subject to balance) and at any time players can purchase additional gas in their geysers for X minerals (currently 100 and subject to balance). With each purchase of additional gas for your geyser, the geyser increases with X gas (currently 600 and subject to balance) and the geyser shuts down for 45 seconds. When a geyser is depleted, workers will still be able to gather gas at a low rate of 2 per round (subject to balance).

 

How the New Vespene Gas Mechanic Plays
With this new gas mechanic, players have a wider variety of strategies in developing and maintaining their refineries, as well as additional attention needed to make sure they are collecting gas at the most efficient rate. On the production side, players now also have to decide between sticking to Tier 1 units longer, or to play it balanced with one geyser, or even max out on gas to invest heavily on teching and higher tech units. Additional, the relationship between minerals and gas have an added layer of depth since investing in additional gas will actually cost the player minerals as well. How often a player invests in gas will also not necessarily be consistent through the game too and will depend upon what units that player is currently choosing to mass. Scouting too has an added layer of depth as well, as a players gas collecting play style may determine if the player is teching to a higher tier mineral heavy unit (like a Dark Templar) or a higher tech gas heavy unit (like a High Templar).

 


Overall, players will have to build the appropriate buildings as well as gather resources in a particular method in order to execute a certain strategy at a professional level. It is the hope of the development team that this new mechanic will not only make gas collecting more interesting, but also increase the amount of macro management skill needed to compete in StarCraft II at the top levels while at the same time making the game playable for mid level players without using some of these more advanced techniques.

Terran Vespene Gas Refinery

Aside from an adjustment to the numbers involved, the system described is the same as the one revealed during the WWI event, which we have already covered:

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.

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.

Check out our post about the subject here.

Moving on, the Q&A portion has interesting new tidbits and clarifications:

1. How exactly does the Corruptors attack work? Is it a stacking debuff that takes effect after a certain number of stacks? And if so can the debuff time out? Would you be able to hit and run kill for example Battlecruisers with a few Corruptors over a couple of minutes?

 

The attack is technically a debuff, but does not do damage over time. Every time the Corruptor attacks a unit, it’ll leave a debuff on it for a couple seconds. If the unit dies within those couple seconds, the unit will be corrupted.

This description of the Corruptor is incomplete, as evident by the Zerg reveal video, where a group of Corruptors corrupted a few Terran fliers on their own. The Corruptors likely cause damage themselves, or at least damage that goes towards Corrupting a unit which does not actually lower its physical hitpoints. Aside from this, the Corruptor also leaves a “Corrupting debuff” on the attacked unit, which causes it to become Corrupt should it die while under the effect.

Corruptors

2. What are the current stats and build times for the Queen defensive buildings?

n


To catch us up, Zerg defensive buildings arent built by the queen anymore. Instead, they are built from the drone once again.

 

Spine crawler:
– Only hits ground
– Health is 300 (uprooted health 100)
– Movement speed is 2.25 (1 off of creep)
– Damage is 20 +20 armored
– Range is 7
– Attack speed is 1.5 sec

 

Spore Crawler:
– Only hits air
– Health is 300 (uprooted health 100)
– Movement speed is 2.25 (1 off of creep)
– Damage is 15
– Range is 7
– Attack speed is .8608

The developers have decided that the Zerg deserve means to create defenses that don’t rely on the Queen, which can’t be everywhere at once. The new defensive colonies, aside from being granted mobility, are almost identical to their StarCraft 1 versions. However, the Queen likely still possesses her “Swarm Infestation” ability, allowing her to turn any building into a defensive structure temporarily.

Queen on the defense

3. The Queen seems to be a very potent unit, although its tasks are more defensive ones, it can be used in crazy rush strategies, according to Karunes experiences. Well, if the Nydus Worm was able to transport even queens, she would get even more potent. You could easily think of crazy rushes using your opponents creep to just overwhelm him with your units AND your defensive structures. So here is the simple question: Can the Nydusworm transport queens among all the other units?

n

Defensive structures will not be able to enter the Nydus tunnel network, but the Queen will be able to. Furthermore, the Queen will no longer be able to build defensive structures. Drones will morph into defensive structures, similar to the original StarCraft.

 

4. When the Zerg Sunken Colony is uprooted and on the move is it more vulnerable to enemy attack?

 

Yes, the Spine and Spore Crawlers will have less hit points while they are uprooted. The actual number of hit points will be determined through balance testing.

 

5. In many cases, the micromanagement of units in StarCraft revolved around gameplay mechanics (Dragoon dance, Mutalisk stacking, Reaver/Shuttle micro, etc.), rather than special abilities with cooldown/charges (Stalker’s Blink, Phoenix’s Overload, etc.).

 

Is the amount of this kind of special abilities in SC2 a concern of Blizzard, and how would this affect the overall gameplay?

 

Players will still have dependence on both gameplay mechanics as well as special abilities. For instance, Stalkers will have the basic dancing mechanic as Dragoons had in the original StarCraft. Marauders are another unit highly dependent on micromanagement to get the most effectiveness out of the unit, making sure you use their attacks slowing effect at opportune times.

 

Though for StarCraft II, we are introducing much more positional micromanagement, which will amplify units damage significantly. A Colossus will fire in a line and lining up that radius with the enemy units will be crucial in battles. Flanking Jackals from multiple angles will surely add to its potency as well.

 

Overall, we definitely want to balance the game with both plenty of gameplay mechanics as well as special abilities that create opportunities for the players to initiate clever strategies as well as innovative maneuvers on the battlefield.

Unlike what many people may think, Blizzard’s developers know what made StarCraft 1 the great game that it is, and are not likely to forget to implement one of the most important and fun aspects of battle in their new game.

6. Terrans currently appear to be at a disadvantage in terms of troop mobility, (as compared to ‘Warp-in’ and ‘Nydus Worm’) are there any plans to bring back the, ‘drop-pod’ or other new transport mechanic?

 

Actually, we consider the Terran side to be quite mobile. Let us first look at the Reapers. This unit is the fastest ground unit in the game which traverses terrain without even having a spotter. In addition, the Medivac Dropships, allow added mobility to all Terran ground units. With the addition of the Dropship being able to heal, it has become even more of a staple in Terran strategies, giving even more increased incentive for players to build Dropships than the original StarCraft. On top of this, Vikings providing both ground and air support at a click of a button, gives that added support of mobility and options when moving a Terran army around.

 

The method in which Terran will be mobile is indeed different than Warp-in and Nydus Worm, though they are not considered less mobile than the other races.

Also worth mentioning is the Terran’s ability to relocate their buildings by lifting them into the air and repositioning them on the ground. Aside from that, the Salvage ability makes it easy for Terrans to create impromptu production bases, knowing that the investment will not be lost.

Terran base

In accordance with the StarCraft tradition, one race lacks a distinct ability that is available to the other two races, while still managing to function in a balanced way. While the Terran race may lack a point-and-click transportation method which the Protoss and Zerg now have, they will not be at a disadvantage on the whole.

Time has come to conclude another SC2Blog Poll. Just like the previous poll, concerning StarCraft 2 fees, this one ran for enough time to reach a large audience and has stayed up through multiple important announcements over several months – the WWI event, the Zerg unveiling, and numerous build changes.

 2746 unique votes have been cast, which constitute more than enough for a significant statistical representation of SC2Blog readers. Keep in mind, however, that the average SC2Blog reader is not the average Blizzard gamer – our audience is composed of the sort of people who follow news about Blizzard games in the pre-beta stage.

StarCraft 2 Poll Results

The results are in, and we are delighted to report that only a mere 12% are disappointed with what they’ve seen so far. The most popular choice was actually “Better than I could ever Imagine“, which hopefully makes a few Blizzard employees happy in their pants.
For most readers, the impressions of StarCraft 2 can only truly be judged against two reference points, and both are Blizzard games – the masterpiece predecessor, and the Micro-oriented WarCraft 3. Despite the fact that StarCraft 2 is heavily influenced by multiple successful titles, the games Blizzard create tend to reside in a league of their own, each serving as the gold standard of its genre.

Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2’s lead game designer, has given an interview to IncGamers’s brand new StarCraftWire.net. He discusses everything from the map editor to super units in length and provides some insight into the gameplay design process.

Highlights:

So when will the Starcraft II editor become available to modders?

 

I don’t know yet, it’ll certainly be shipped with the game but I don’t know the answer to whether it will be earlier. That would be cool though.

Could the StarCraft 2 map editor be released before the game? Blizzard has not done this before, but some other companies have turned to this move to increase interest in their game before it is released, especially if it has been baking in the development oven for a long while.

Concerning 3D graphics, what’s tools do you need? In StarCraft it was just using paint and opening it and just adding new units. What 3D do you consider for modders? Will you be giving your own editor for the graphics?

 

I think we may ship the art tools but you still have to have a 3D program, there’s no way around that.

 

Well, StarCraft seems very… “conservative” would be a good word I suppose. Were there any other concepts that you discussed at the beginning of the development process that you ended up scrapping because you felt; “no, we want it to be like it was”?

 

Some… By the time I started working on the project three years ago the team really wanted to make a game that was true to the legacy of the original StarCraft. So in terms of “are we being too conservative or not?” We talked about that every day. It was a constant discussion.

It’s obvious that the same debate the fans are always engaged in – is StarCraft 2 enough of a “new game”? – is shared by the developers as well. Currently, it looks like Blizzard has managed to stay true to StarCraft 1 while enhancing it in almost every possible way and while introducing new ideas that further differentiate the races, creating a new experience if not a completely new game.

Carrier

When asked about the Rock-Paper-Scissor relationship between units, Dustin provides a good explanation for how unit interactions in StarCraft work:

It’s not even just that, of the relationships in StarCraft; lot of them aren’t even Rock Paper Scissors, which is one of the things that makes the game so exciting. One of the standard RTS paradigm is that we use the Rock Paper Scissors but a lot of the relationships, especially in the early tech tree of StarCraft, are positional based. It’s not so much *whether I beat you* its *where do we fight*.

 

Zerglings will crush Zealots in the open field. They’ll just overrun them completely, and these are both the core units. Whereas the Zealots, at the choke, will just kill hundreds of Zerglings based on the Zerglings getting all trapped up behind. So in addition to where you fight there are also the questions of micro that are really interesting.

 

What we are really worried about are overlapping roles, it’s a constant struggle for us, but if you go there and play it now you can find a couple:

 

Player: “What about these guys”
Dustin: “Yes, I know!! They overlap, oh my god”.

Many RTS games completely rely on unit statistics and their predictable interactions to determine the outcome of battle. It is indeed one of StarCraft’s greatest strengths that so many other factors affect the result of an engagement between units, and produces equal match ups between even the lowliest of units and the most powerful ones.

Colossus and friends

 

Which particular unit has been the most problematic one when working, balance wise, not only for the Zerg but the other races as well?

 

The Mothership – hands down.

 

What is the problem with it?

 

Well, by its size it doesn’t look like a super unit from other RTS games. The problem here with super units is we want every unit to be a decision. There’s no point in shipping a unit if the player says: “I have to build that, it’s powerful, I should always build that. If I get to this tech level, I build it.”

 

We don’t have that in StarCraft II, the games meatier then that; you have to work for everything. So we don’t like the “super units”… The Mothership visually seems to suggest that, but at the same time we don’t want that to be part of the core gameplay experience so we’re continually balancing the ship, we’re continually looking for a new spell kit for this unit to make sure there are reasons to build it, really solid reasons, and really solid reasons not to build it.

 

Today the really solid reasons not to build it, and it’s been this way for many months, is the Mothership can’t really, cost for cost, defend itself effectively in the air. This means you can’t have air superiority dumped on the Mothership. If you already have your superiority, go for it, the Mothership is a good addition, but like I say; “it’s been a big pain.” It’s not helpful that it’s located at the end of the tech tree against how fast StarCraft games can be and how brutal it can be. There is a great chance that you can die within the first three or four minutes. So even in our play test process we don’t get to see this unit as often as we like:

 

Designer: “Did you get to play with the Mothership”
Tester: “Well, no, we didn’t, we topped out at the Immortals and Stalkers/Colossus”
Designer: “Ok ok ok, play again, play real hard”
Designer: “Did you get to play with the Mothership”
Tester: “No, no, we didn’t really get that high in the tech tree”

 

So once in a while it happens and then we’ll get some data but it just makes it a lot more complicated. We get a lot more data obviously on play testing Stalkers, Zerglings, Marines and all these guys because you see them all the time.

The Mothership is one of the units which has gotten the most attention – both from fans and from the developers – and has changed a lot accordingly. The Monthly Topic initiated for its sake generated a lot of comments and ideas, and Blizzard is still trying to nail down the right formula for making this unit worthy of the StarCraft 2 Protoss.

Mothership

How did you decide to change the Queen that dramatically? Like, from a flying unit to a ground unit, from a mass unit to one-only unit?

 

It started conceptionally as kind of a story hit, we felt like the Queen was an opportunity to create a creature that owns the base, that lives inside and that she somehow lays eggs maybe, she’s monstrous and evil – like a Queen that you may see in an ant hive or a film.

 

We wanted that Queen, because we felt like the old Queen didn’t really hit that vibe. For example; that Queen could be called any other name and you’d be fine with that. It wasn’t a Queen in the classic sense, so that was the core idea.

 

How could we make this unit into something that feels like the Queen and we tried it a bunch of different ways and for awhile she was laying eggs to create weak organisms, so for example, there’d be different types of Hydralisks running around. That was kind of fun but then it got confusing, like which Hydralisk could attack me in the air, and what do I counter that with, I don’t remember.

 

So it was kind of a problem, so we’ve sort of settled down on this base defender which seems pretty successful, I don’t know if it’s really good enough for StarCraft II [but] that’s what we’re going to find out. It seems pretty fun.

The Zerg Queen is another unit that has gone through many changes, but this one is more set in its role due to story considerations, unlike the numerous incarnations of the Terran Thor and the Protoss Mothership. While the current “base mother” role is not likely to change, there is still plenty of room for flexibility left in terms of implementation.

Mommy?

 

The WWI event in Paris gave Blizzard a chance to showcase many of the new changes to StarCraft 2 in the latest build. Some of these, the most important ones, we’ve covered during the event, but there are still many interesting tidbits to discuss. Here, we will gather up all the remaining pieces and get a clearer view of the puzzle.

First up, this artistic presentation provides a direct comparison between Blizzard’s first attempt at some of the units of StarCraft 2 and their current look. It’s evident that Blizzard won’t rest until they’re all perfect, Blizzard-style. Pictures courtesy of SCLegacy.

Here are a couple of units that have been restyled to fit better with the StarCraft 2 theme:

Old MarineNew Marine: more defined, added decals

* Click for Big

Old VikingNew Viking: leaner, stronger, more intimidating

* Click for Big

This part of the presentation explains Blizzard’s art direction with StarCraft 2:

Boring lifeBlizzard\'s style: Epic & Explosive

* Click for Big

Next in the presentation, a Q&A session. Here are the highlights:

Q: How are you going to make the nydus worm travel through different types of terrain (water, space, etc)?

A: We still have to work on that but in your current build there is no worm it functions as a nydus canal – creep here, creep there, it shows up there.

The Nydus worm previously acted like a normal transport unit, actually traversing the terrain to reach its target location. Now, it functions like the StarCraft 1 Nydus Canals – point, click, and the Worm pops out at its destination after a short delay.

Q: Are you still creating units?


A: Everytime we have a finished race we end up redoing half of it. I’m sure that once we’re in Beta you good people will show us the error of our ways and we’ll make new units to fix those. And of course we’ll end up patching it for ten years 😛 .

Q: Will the dark templar be changed – have they changed – especially considering all the flak you’ve received?


A: The dark templar is still a unit that we’re going to go over. What I’d like to do is go over it and make the old dark templar and maybe have people vote on it. I can’t promise that but it’s still in the process of being worked. And we’re still working on our cloaking mechanic so that will have an impact on the design as well.

A Dark Templar

Check out SCLegacy for the rest of the presentation and Q&A.

***

Lucky visitors to the WWI event also got the chance to glimpse a new unit joining the Zerg roster: the Changeling. No picture is available for this new unit yet, but it did get the honor of a full exposition by Dustin “Cavez” Browder, lead game designer:

Overseers can create a Changeling by spending energy. The Changeling is a small unstable Zerg creature with timed life. When he gets near an enemy structure or unit he will change shape into the correct basic unit type and color to match that player. So if you get near a Blue Barracks you become a Blue Marine. If you get near a Red Stalker you become a Red Zealot, etc.

The Changeling is very vulnerable and has no attack. It cannot actually fight or take any damage, and is only meant to be a spy for the Zerg. The opposing player cannot control or even select the unit, making this attempt the only way to find out the Zerg agent amongst the ranks of real troops.

What it does for the game:

1) Gives the Zerg a fun way to scout (though really they already have plenty of scouting options).
2) Makes enemy players constantly fearful of all of their own units. Is THAT a Changeling?! What about THAT GUY!?


In live games it is pretty difficult to keep on top of the “Changeling Problem” if an enemy Zerg player is trying to sneak into your base. However when you do catch them it feels pretty good.

This is a cool concept for the Zerg, reminiscent of the Queen’s old “Parasite” ability, which served a very similar purpose. This ability/unit contributes to the Overseer’s role as an intelligence gathering unit for the Zerg, along with its extremely large sight radius, which increases the longer it stays in the same position, and its detection ability.

Overlord

***

Eurogamer.net have an extensive interview with a few of the top figures at Blizzard: Frank Pearce, the executive vice-president in charge of product development; Bob Fitch, the lead software engineer; and Sam Didier, senior art director. This interview won’t surprise any devout StarCraft 2 fan, but a few gems can be found:

Eurogamer: The in-game editing package in StarCraft – did that push the game’s development and community?

Bob Fitch: When I play other people’s games, one of the things I’m constantly saying to myself is, “Boy, I wish this game had X,” and every time I say it to myself I come back here and say, “we’re having that”. So every time I played a game and I said “I wish this game had a map-editor” I come back here and our game has a map editor. That’s how these things get into the games.

It’s no secret that one of Blizzard’s greatest strengths is gathering the best features from all games in a genre and applying them perfectly in the game that they create.

Eurogamer: You sold 1.5 million copies of StarCraft in the first year, over ten million copies of WOW so far. What keeps you going?

Frank Pearce: [Shouting along with Bob Finch] Because we want to play cool games!


Frank Pearce
: One of the best ways to ensure that we get to play the games we want to, is to make them.

Be the change that you want to see in the world” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

***

SC-Source have written a long, comprehensive review of each of the three StarCraft 2 races. These offer valued insight into the game as it currently plays. Here are a few interesting excerpts. There are many, so be sure to check out the rest at SC-Source.

Terran:

The Terran have been reimagined, and I think they are the most interesting race in Starcraft 2. They have retained their identity, but they have gained flexibility and adaptability that they were clearly lacking in the original. The new Terran are fast, mobile, and offensive.

*

The real improvement the Marines have gained is the UI. The Marines clearly gain more from large groups than their Zerg or Protoss counterparts, the Zergling and the Zealot. Their ranged attacks make them extremely devastating in large groups, and now the UI allows you to manage these groups effectively.

Marine pack

*

Reapers are the true guerrilla fighters of the Terran. With their ability to hop cliffs, no base is safe from raid. At the WWI, most players were still leaning on original Starcraft build strategies, and because of this, 90% of players were wide open for a Reaper attack in the earl-mid game.

*

The Siege Tank has not changed at all since the original Starcraft. Due to this lack of change, I don’t feel that it factors in well with the new Terran feel of guerrilla fighting. Siege Tanks are great for base defense, however that is about it. Largely, I ignored this unit in many of my games.

Siege Tanks

Zerg:

The Zerg are very frightening, everything about the makes you feel like you really are controlling a massive swarm. Visually, they have done some amazing things. First off the creep. They have changed the way creep looks from the gritty purple mass to a purple slime that appears to ooze and move. When creep expands they have changed it from adding blocks of creep to an effect that appears to be creep tendrils stringing out, corrupting the land. It makes everything else seem much more alive.

Creep can now spread through ramps

The buildings of the Zerg have also gotten a great overhaul. They all ooze and pulsate. Its almost to the point where you get dizzy from all the constant movement on the screen. The Zerg really are a living race now, instead of just having ugly buildings on strange purple stuff.

*

Roaches are your tanks before you get Ultralisks, so for the majority of games, they will be taking the damage. The Roaches however, are not perfect. They lack a speed upgrade which means that unless you spend a lot of effort micro’ing your units they will blaze right past your Roaches and go straight into the fight, negating the Roach’s entire role.

*

The Baneling is a unit that I feel has been over hyped. It is fun to watch and interesting indeed, but beyond basic harassment, it falls short. The Baneling is too weak to send into battle, and although it does do massive damage, it is extremely hard to deliver effectively.

*

The Ultralisk is extremely powerful. Its new cleaving attack makes it so that it can dispatch mass amounts of units. It has a huge amount of life and armor which makes it a great front runner for your Hydralisks and Lurkers.

Ultralisks munching on some Marines

Protoss:

Once your base is up and running, Zealots are a must. Considering there is no goons anymore, pumping Zealots seems to be the only viable strat after the first gateway.

*

Warping works great and is really efficient, especially used with MBS. Just assign all your Warpgates to a group, and once your Psi Field is set up you’re just making new units in 5 seconds, straight into your enemy’s workers. By the time he cleans up that attack, the cooldown is already over and you can Warp some more!

*

Concerning the Mothership, it’s pretty much useless. It comes with all its abilities fully upgraded, but since you build it from the Nexus, you’d have to go all the way across the map to get into your enemy base. Which wouldn’t be a problem really, if it wasn’t so ridiculously slow. It’s probably slower than a Reaver in BW, except you can’t load the Mothership into a transport unit to make it go faster.

Mothership

***

Along with the screenshots we posted previously, three new ones have appeared on StarCraft2.com:

Epic battles in all three!

***

The OnlineWelten has conducted an interview with Rob Pardo, Executive Vice President of Blizzard. Rob is mainly asked about the development process of Blizzard’s latest games and Blizzard’s game creation philosophy. Of note is this answer:

OnlineWelten: A few months ago you offered a job on the official Blizzard webpage, considering a next-gen MMO. A community manager added that it’s an unannounced title. Is there any information? Is Diablo 3 the next-gen MMO?

 

 Rob Pardo: No, obviously, since it’s not an MMO! We have another dev-team, that’s …

 

 OnlineWelten: So there is still one project, which is … ?

 

 Rob Pardo: Yeah, there is still one unknown project!

World of WarCraft was announced on September, 2001, and released a little more than three years later, on November of 2004. Four years later, what are the chances that Blizzard is NOT working on a sequel?

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