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Blizzard hand picks the events which are used to showcase its pre-beta stage games, and it is not often that StarCraft fans are presented with the chance to play the current StarCraft 2 build. One such event, however, is about to take place on the 20th of August, 2008, in Leipzig.

An announcement on WoW Forums by an official Blizzard poster, confirms that 

We’re excited to be able to showcase some of Blizzard’s games at this year’s Games Convention in Leipzig from 21 to 24 August. We’ll be providing playable demos of StarCraft II(http://eu.starcraft2.com/) and….

This is not the first time that the Leipzig Games Convention is used by Blizzard to showcase StarCraft 2. Even though last year’s event was anything but exciting, the comfortable location provides a great excuse for European gamers to attend one of the fastest growing and important events in the industry.

Game Convention Visitors

The most important thing you should know about this event is… the pricing. This is the cheapest way to play StarCraft 2 – tickets go for as low as 4,50 Euros, and you can pre-order here.

Day ticket** 12,00 €
Day ticket, reduced rate* 8,50 €
Evening ticket (from 3.30 p.m.) 6,00 €
Day ticket, child rate  4,50 €
Day ticket parents (adults in the company of children) 8,50 €
Four-day ticket** 29,50 €

Children up to the age of five years have free admittance with the company of an adult.

* Concessions apply to schoolchildren, students, pensioners and the unemployed
** Cards in the advance booking available

Episode 4 of the BlizzCast series has been posted on the official Blizzard site. BlizzCast is a series of recorded interviews and Q&A sessions, dealing with the latest developments and happenings in the Blizzard game universes.

This episode of BlizzCast features one item of interest for StarCraft 2 fans – the Community Q&A session, providing very thorough answers to interesting questions. The Q&A is also accompanied by two new, action heavy screenshots.

BlizzCast

Answers are provided by Mike Heiberg, senior game designer, and David Kim, associate game balance designer.

First, they are asked about the reason for the decreased mineral collection rate by workers. This was previously reported to be 5, but is currently at 6 units per trip, down from 8 in StarCraft 1.

The rate of collection for StarCraft 2 was planned to be similar to that of StarCraft 1, with the reduction in per-trip numbers originating from the increased unit pathing efficiency. To counterbalance that somewhat, SCVs will now have to spend less time on the mineral patch to acquire a full load.

However, both David and Mike comment that mineral collection feels faster now. The maximum rate of collection is achieved when 3 SCVs are used for each mineral patch, and it’s easier to see when this limit is reached in StarCraft 2 compared to 1.

The next topic is about the improved unit pathing. As an example, David and Mike describe how Zerglings easily surround Zealots from all sides, packing closely next to each other so more Zeglings can get a piece of the action. This creates a situation where smart players will push their Zealots against the wall or put them on choke points to minimize the amount of Zeglings they have to deal with simultaneously.

Zerglings gang up on a few helpless Zealots

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David Kim:  Yeah and the wrap around itself is a little easier to pull off I guess because the A.I. takes care of some of that for you but you do still need the micro if you want to get the maximum out of your melee units.

Another important change is to deceleration. In StarCraft 1, this was less precise, and units could sometimes slow down in a way that put them before or after the location they were ordered to go to. In StarCraft 2, this mechanism is much more precise, and units know when to start decelerating to reach the specific location.

Mike Heiberg:  Right, a lot of times you’d be floating your guardians in to take out some spore colony or something and they’d float a little too close and you’d be like “Whoa!” and you’d have to back a couple of them out. They’re a little more intelligent now about not floating directly into danger when they don’t have to.

Next, the developers discuss resource consumption and its effect on the strategies available to each race. They state that there are more options to choose from in StarCraft 2, which also makes scouting more important.

The last question deals with Infestation, Corruption, and Mind Control. Both Infestation and Corruption are time limited, and the inquiry was about a more permanent ownership changing spell, like the StarCraft 1 Dark Archon Mind Control ability.

Mike sums it up nicely:

Well when we were doing the classic Starcraft mind control we were finding that it actually resulted in some pretty big swings in balance where basically you mind control a large unit, say a Battlecruiser, and now the difference in power from the two different armies is like two Battlecruisers because he lost one and you gained one. So seeing as in Starcraft II we have a few more of those high impact units, we have Colossi, we have Motherships, and Queens, that’s a very scary type of spell to be still bringing into the game, I mean we have more opportunities for those large swings in balance.

A powerful spell like Mind Control would have to be restricted to specific units and leave some of them out, and Blizzard does not like implementing such artificial constraints.

Further, the devs discuss Infestation and its limited effect on StarCraft 1, which resulted from the difficulty in pulling it off.

Mike Heiberg:  Right, in classic Starcraft infesting someone’s command center was really more of an insult.

The StarCraft 2 infestation will be even higher on the tech tree, requiring both the tier 3 Infestor Pit and Infestation research, but will be easier to manage. Since Infestation is going to be easier and the Infested Marines free, the effect will only be temporary.

Infestation!

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As for Corruptors, the developers mention that introducing this mechanism instead of using simple mind control creates new gameplay decisions:

Mike Heiberg: Right we want to allow those types of little micro decisions where in the middle of the battle: “Should I focus on his guys, his Corrupters? Should I focus on my own corrupted units because I’m not getting them back?  Or should I back off and make those basically invalid because there’s nobody nearby for them to be messing with?”.

 

The official BlizzCon 2008 site is up. The site currently contains information about the panels that will take place during the convention, and will be used to release updates and information pertaining to the upcoming mega-event. Most importantly, however, this is where wishful fans can purchase tickets.
What is BlizzCon, you ask?

In addition to serving as a gathering place for the different Blizzard Entertainment gaming communities, BlizzCon will offer an array of activities, including discussion panels, hands-on playtime with upcoming games, tournaments, contests, and more.

The event is going to take place on Blizzard’s home turf, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on October 10 and 11. Until then, anxious enthusiasts may take a sneak peak at the swag bag that each visitor will receive upon entering the premises of the convention:

BlizzCon

If you’ve ever been on the verge of finishing off a paladin, only to be foiled at the last second, you’ll appreciate the 16″ inflatable divine shield ball, complete with a paladin inside in the midst of hearthing away. Half of the goody bags handed out will contain the bubble-hearth ball, while the other half will have…

n

Frostmourne. The very name of Arthas’s runeblade strikes terror into hearts across Azeroth. Now it comes to you in a more convenient package, and you don’t even have to travel to Icecrown Glacier to get it. As you go about your daily activities, whether they be raising legions of the undead or just brooding on your throne, carrying this 48” inflatable Frostmourne will grant you an extra touch of sinister majesty.

Frostmourne

Aside from the goody bag, fans will also have access to the on-site store, which will feature all sorts of Blizzard game-related products – Diablo health and mana stress balls, pandaren brewmaster bottle openers, Zerg Creep, and much more.

Mounted MurlocOf course, no Blizzard event will be complete without a Murloc, and this one is going to be special:

This one has developed a taste for speed, and sits astride an exclusive polar bear mount, waving a BlizzCon flag. It’s the perfect way to cruise Northrend in style.

As previously announced, the tickets to BlizzCon 2008 are now available for purchase – starting today. Get them while they’re hot!

Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager, has been active on the forums lately, posting bits and pieces of new information about StarCraft 2.

First, Karune posted concept art pictures from two, now-cut units from StarCraft 2, and one picture of the evolution of one of those.

FirebatMarauder

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This is the original art concept for the Firebat, which is operating a small mechanized armor. The Marauder has slipped into the Firebat’s old shell, keeping most of its armor, but replacing the flame weapons with grenade launchers.

Next up: can you guess which cut unit this concept art picture belongs to?

Purifier

This is the Purifier, the old name for the now-defunct Soul Hunter. Perhaps if the Soul Hunter had been this magnificent in-game it would not have been cut.

Next, another old concept art picture:

Ultralisk

The Ultralisk originally had spiny tentacles, as Karune mentions, and as this picture illustrates so well. The spines, which apparently flailed around randomly, skewering marines in their path, were eventually cut due to the random nature of their damage output, which doesn’t fit StarCraft’s professional, competitive nature.

Karune further promises that during Blizzard’s upcoming mega-event, BlizzCon 2008, new artwork changes will be shown. Specifically, he mentions a “planned community event around the Dark Templar in which we hope to get much feedback about the models in-game of these units“.

Finally, an interesting change to the Warp Ray has been described by Karune:

Yes, the Warp Ray can fire while moving. Once it begins firing at a target, the Warp Ray will follow the target if it begins to move, keeping at a close proximity since the Warp Ray’s range is currently quite short.

The Warp Ray, whose beam increases in intensity and damage output the longer it is being focused on a target, currently has a relatively short range for its devastating attack. To compensate for the cut in weapons range, which used to be quite long, and to make it harder for units to break away and eliminate the Warp Ray’s deadly lock, the Warp Ray will be able to keep firing at its target while it’s moving – even if it means it has to follow it itself.

Warp Rays

This means that the only way to avoid the Warp Ray’s damage barrage is to destroy the Warp Ray itself. This eliminates an aspect of micromanagement, in which the player would constantly move his units out of the Warp Ray’s range to avoid its attack, just as it’s gaining focus. Fast units would probably still be able to outrun the Warp Ray, but these are not the units that should fear the Warp Ray’s attack – its juicer targets, units and buildings which possess many hit points, generally move very slowly.

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