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BlizzCast #6 has been released a few days ago, featuring a (relatively short) portion dedicated to StarCraft 2. The discussion focuses on the design process and the interaction between artists and developers while trying to find a role for, and balance, the units of StarCraft 2.

Karune, Sam and Dustin working

Karune met with Sam Didier, art director, and Dustin Browder, lead game designer. They discussed StarCraft 2’s state and fleshed out the process required for successful unit creation, from conception to implementation.

…..you know, does it start from a gamplay element like you guys have a specific unit in mind for a certain gameplay mechanic or does it actually start from the art side,….

Which later got quite an interesting response from Sam, providing a fine example of how a gameplay-based unit was introduced to StarCraft 2.

Sam Didier:
Yeah we did all drawn inspiration from some of the giant walking robots and tripods but if you notice our Colossus has four legs, not three. So our tripod is way better then everyone elses because we have one more leg. Take it!

The Thor has been pushed all around the tactical spectrum – from a long range, mobile sieger to an AA Flak station. It is discussed lengthily as the unit with the most incarnations, one which has changed significantly throughout the development process.
Sam Didier elaborated on the problems of applying gameplay functionality to a well designed unit with very explicit features:

The problem with it we had in the concept is we had these giant guns on his shoulders.  ‘Real cool!  Yeah that looks awesome!’  Well anytime we have something cool in the art like that we have to justify it in gameplay.  So it had these giant guns, what’s it do? Well we already have a siege tank that rains death upon the battlefield so what do these big guns do?  Rain bigger death?  That makes the siege tank obsolete.  So we couldn’t do that. So one of the problems with this unit is we went with the art first and because it had the big cool guns now were trying to figure out what to do with it design wise.

Thor and small animals

And a small teaser of the much anticipated single player campaign:

Sam Didier: All you guys out there listening, you should have seen how big it was before uh . . . we had to make it playable.
Dustin Browder: (laughs) They’ll see that version in solo play I’m sure.

But more importantly, Dustin describes the eventual Thor as the front-line damage sponge and a great AA support unit.

So the Thor does two things for the Terrans: It gives them a sort of tip of the sword kind of unit, something you can push up front that can take a lot of damage from enemy fire.  It’s very survivable, very tough, very hard to kill.  And you can use that sort of push past an artillery barrage or push directly into an enemy base to sort of lead your smaller lighter marines into battle.  And it’s also got these huge cannons on its back that can strike against air targets so you can use the Thor to defend your forces from enemy air threats and it’s a very powerful weapon in both of these roles.

While discussing the portrait animations found in StarCraft 2, the Marauder is mentioned as having one of the better portraits, and Blizzard were even kind enough to provide an example – watch the following video for several portraits which were revealed in detail during the BlizzCast. (courtsey of SCLegacy)

The rest of the StarCraft 2 portion deals with generic development decisions, providing insight into the workflow and development enviroment key Blizzard game designers enjoy.

The 46th Q&A session, featuring answers to questions submitted by fans, has been published on Battle.net by Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community manager. This batch starts with a Chat with Devs section, discussing the increased susceptibility to raid attacks in StarCraft 2:

Chat with Devs: StarCraft II is definitely evolving to be even more intense than the original StarCraft, with the increased mobility of units with cliff traversing abilities, as well as new transport abilities. In response, the development team has buffed up the Terran Planetary Fortress to have splash damage as well, which has proven to hold off decently against raids now, especially with your SCVs fixing the command center at a very high rate.

The Planetary Fortress, an upgrade to the standard Terran Command Center, will now be able to dispatch small raiding parties with relative ease – assuming, of course, these ever get into its weapons range. While the SCV resource line will likely be mostly protected, a significant portion of the base’s structures will probably still be exposed to enemy fire. As of now, the Command Center, when upgraded to a Fortress, cannot be lifted off and relocated.

Planetary Foretressation

Speaking of SCVs fixing at a high rate, and before we move on to the Q&A, a comment from Karune’s MiniMe, Cydra, is worth discussing:

In the current development stage, SCV’s Repair, Medivac’s Heal and Carrier’s Interceptor training can be autocasted.

Yes, you heard it right – The SCV’s repair ability can now be set to autocast. As we suggested a few ages ago, Terran players can now bring several SCVs along to every offensive bout, set their repair ability to be automatic, and enjoy their services hands-free. Here’s what we had to say back then:

SCVs should acquire an “auto-fix” toggle – allowing them to automatically fix units in a specified range, thus strengthening the presence of the Terran forces on the battlefield. This advantage is offset by the fact that repairs cost resources, and are not free, like for the Protoss and Zerg.

This move will greatly reduce the amount of micromanagement required – veterans of StarCraft 1 all know how frustrating it can get to fix all your bunched up fliers after a rough fight – and free up more time to engage in playing the game. The only problem here is that SCVs will essentially auto-“heal” mechanical units mid-fight, which might be somewhat overpowered. To compensate for that, a similar mechanism to the Protoss shield regeneration can be implemented, not allowing SCVs to fix units (but not buildings!) while they are taking damage.

With repair being autocast, SCV-only armies have started to surface and ravage the battlefields of StarCraft

Next, the Q&A:

1. In StarCraft II, will there be friendly fire?

Yes, friendly fire is still available in StarCraft II. You can take out cloaked units attacking your base by using friendly fire on your own unit and giving splash damage to cloaked enemy units, which has been executed by many players in the original StarCraft. For example, if you play Zerg, you can kill Dark Templar attacking your Hatchery, by targeting your Banelings to attack your Hatchery near the invading Dark Templar.

We believe the question was about receiving friendly fire while attacking the enemy. In that case, currently, only the Siege Tank can damage friendly units when in Siege mode. Banelings, on the other hand, will not harm friendly units unless targetted directly.

2. Trilogy is Beginning, mid and end, or is it the same story told from three points of view?

The stories will be sequential. The Zerg story will begin from the end of the Terran story, and Protoss story will begin from the end of the Zerg story.

3. Are there any special animations for units which are standing around doing nothing for a long time?

There will be multiple animations for units which are idle.

4. What is the optimum procedure for the new gas mechanic? Should a player mine both gases at the same time and cycle the inactive workers (when the geyser goes down) to the minerals? Or should a player mine only one geyser and alternate the workers between the two?

It totally depends on what your strategy is in the game. For example, you can mine two at the same time and double up your gas supply to build up certain armies or tech up very quickly. Or if you need more continuous and stable gas supply for your strategy, you can switch off your workers between the two gases with your micro-controls.

The gas mechanism, as it is currently implemented, is a cause for both anger and confusion for most players who’ve had a chance to experience it. While it’s clear that Blizzard intended to expand on the available options for gas management, as laid out above, we suspect the current execution won’t last long.

5. What Protoss unit is now the best option to counter mass enemy air units? The Phoenix lost its overload ability which was really the only Protoss splash damage option other than Psi Storm.

Against Zerg’s mass air units like Mutalisks, Archons and Psi Storm are still the best counters. Against Terran’s mass air units like Vikings and Banshees, Protoss can still use Phoenixes and focus fire. Vikings currently do additional damage to large ships, rather than light armor.

6. What kind of damage do spells deal? Is there a type “Spell” or don’t they have any specific attack type?

There isn’t a specific “spell” type of damage, but some do additional damage to current types already in the game. For example, Ghost’s Psi Round deals an additional 40 damage to Psionic units. There are ‘special’ cases though as well, seen when Psi Storms instantly kill Hallucinations and when a Yamato Cannon will not activate an Immortal’s hardened shields. “Spells” also ignore armor, as well as the Immortal shields.

Blizzard, as many of its developers are quick to state, does not like “special” cases in its games – it usually takes an extreme case to create an exception for any rule. The Battlecrusier’s Yamato Cannon is one – this is an ability meant to take out most units and even some buildings with a single hit, and it would not make sense for Immortals to shrug it off. However, it’s not entirely clear why Psi Storms instantly kill Hallucinations.

As in StarCraft 1, damaging abilities will completely ignore all types of armor, but unlike the Nuke, the Yamato Cannon will now also not be affected by the Immortal’s hardened shields.

Karune has replied to 4 gameplay related threads on Battle.net Forums, taking suggestions, clarifying mechanics and disproving some wrong impressions left from the Blizzcon 2008 build.

Starting with the misconceptions:

Karune has confirmed once and for all that there is no accelerated Protoss shield regeneration. Regeneration takes places once the unit is out of combat, and while being significantly faster than StarCraft 1, it does not accelerate over time.

The rate of shield regeneration has been increased significantly from the original StarCraft, but will be a fixed rate, rather than an increasing rate over time. The shields will not increase until the unit is out of combat.

It is measured by an X number of seconds in which a unit has not attacked nor was attacked. X being a number determined through balance.

It has also been confirmed that Nydus Worms will receive their significantly prettier “bursting” delivery form back. The current animation is nothing more than a placeholder for the actual implementation.

Right now there is a build time after you drop a nydus worm, the thing that bugs the heck out of me is that the nydus worm grows from that squiggly thing that drones morph into when they turn into buildings.

Yes, that is placeholder. In one of the previous builds, maybe it was WWI, the rock actually starts breaking and then the Nydus Worm comes out. It will probably be more along those lines.

Nydus Worms Bursting

The Ghost has found itself fulfilling a rather surprising auxiliary role: it is described as an awesome counter for Mutalisks. Thanks to his improved StarCraft 2 abilities, range and light armor damage bonus, the Ghost has joined a long list of Terran units which have already been confirmed to be great Zerg air counters.

Thors and Marines (with stimpack and the additional hp upgrade) are quite effective against mass Mutalisks. Additionally as mentioned already in this thread, BCs are also very effective, especially with its new missile barrage ability (but of course this is at a later tech).

There is one other counter, which is not mentioned in this thread, which is the Ghost! The Ghost is awesome at taking out Mutalisks as well, since they get a bonus to light armor, and have a very long range. Add that to snipe, cloak, or a bunker and it is quite a formidable counter as well.

And to make sure Zerg players don’t develop any expectations from their TheoryCrafted Mutalisk fleets, Karune also reminds us that Protoss Archons are still the ultimate stacked Mutalisk poppers.

Archons still have their splash damage and are still quite the beasts they were in the original StarCraft. There is no better feeling than watching a group of Archons instantly pop a stacked group of Mutalisks.

An interesting suggestion (and a question) came from another poster, who proposed an upgrade to unload speeds for the Terran Medivac Dropship. Considering the fact that some players are fond of shock raids and mass infantry drops, such an upgrade is a legitimate idea.

Medivac Action

do medivac dropships still load units at the same time but unload one at a time? or can dropships unload all their cargo at once?

if it can only unload one at a time, i have a sugestion, make it so that infantry can unload two at a time (researchable?) or at least at a much faster rate than vehicles so that the drops can b faster. it takes forever to unload 8 marines in comparison to unloading 2 tanks which are much more deadly


Loading is instant, but unloading has a delay between units. Will bring up the suggestion, but do note that the rate in unloading is already quite fast, and mass drops do usually include several dropships at the same time.

That’s all for this week’s Karunology.

Karune has recently released the 45th installment of the Q&A series, featuring six questions and a Chat with the Devs section. Two thirds of the batch are dedicated to the clarification of Zerg gameplay issues, such as Zerg Creep behavior and the recently altered Nydus Worm.

Chat with Devs: After BlizzCon, it has been very exciting to see all the feedback from the fans and pro players about the latest build of StarCraft II. There was lots of noted feedback about both the Colossus and the Nydus Worms. At my most recent meeting with Dustin, we decided to chat about some of the lesser focused on topics, that have undergone quite a few changes since the original StarCraft.

Blizzcon 2008 has indeed provided fans with plenty of hands-on experience and gameplay mechanics information, which translated promptly into a barrage of both positive and negative feedback, as well as pleads for an earlier beta.

Here’s what the developers had to say about some of the lesser focused topics:



The first topic was about hallucination, a classic Protoss ability, that honestly did not get that much use in the original StarCraft. To make it more interesting, Dustin explained how the ability has been brought down in tech to the Nullifier. Additionally, hallucination could be used to create units in which the player doesn’t even have prerequisite buildings for. That in itself should be an interesting scare for opposing players, watching 3 Colossi trampling in, only to counter with Corruptors and realize that they were not real. Furthermore, even probes could be hallucinated! Since the amount of hallucinations you get are based on ‘actual’ costs of what they would cost if they were real, you could get 8 probes per hallucination to trick those incoming Reapers. Dark Templars, Observers, and Carriers though were not on the list of units that could be hallucinated since the first two would be quite overpowering to use as an invisible fake scout (soo OP). Carriers too, would just have much too many hit points, as well as become quite a bit over complicated when you deal with how many interceptors they might have.

Hallucination done right is one of Protoss players’ wet dreams for StarCraft 2. StarCraft 1’s hallucination, despite being an incredibly fun and easily obtained spell, did not see much action due to its direct competition with the Psi Storm over the Templars’ energy pool.
StarCraft 2’s incarnation of Hallucination is availible to the low tier Nullifier unit, and can create:

  • Hallucinations of units which have not yet appeared on the battlefield
  • Multiple hallucinations per use, based on the actual unit cost.

Considering the early stage of availability, Hallucination can easily play a vital role in both tech- and rush-oriented strategies. The defensive and offensive possibilities of its employment are so vast that we’d bet on the ability getting nerfed in the next build. Enjoy it while it lasts, alpha testers.

Queen Spawns 3 Mutant Larva

The mutant larva count has increased with the latest version of the Queen to encourage more use of a pretty powerful ability if used correctly. Mutant larva crawl around independently of a Hatchery and can create units at a discounted production rate. This is like a free Hatchery with each additional Queen! Along with the Queen’s ability to defend against air units early game, it shall make her quite a crucial unit in any Zerg army.


In case any of our readers assumed the Queen is being nerfed due to it no longer being a unique unit, we suggest re-reading the above paragraph. The situation where a Zerg player had to build additional hatcheries to ramp up his production capacity has been changed in an interesting way. To get more production going, the Zerg will now rely on the Queen, which also has plenty of other abilities to offer besides spawning Larva.

1. Do enemy Zerg units also get a boost on your Creep? (StarCraft 2 Forums)


Yes, enemy Zerg units will still get the speed boost when on creep. Currently, the creep shares no affiliation.


2. Are there abilities that remove creep? (TheWarCenter)


The 2 ways to push that expanding creep is to kill the burrowed creep tumors, or kill those Queens building them. On another note, the creep no longer damages enemy buildings. Through testing, the ability actually affected players adversely in team games where players allied with Zerg players would end up having their units damaged by their friend’s creep. In 1vs1 matches, the usefulness of this mechanic was hardly ever used, amongst all the new cooler Zerg strategies that have spawned.

September’s monthly discussion provided Blizzard with plenty of ideas as to what kind of role the Zerg Creep should play on the battlefield. The removal of Creep’s ability to cause damage is not a “nerf”, however, due to the simple fact that it was not beneficial in the first place, as Karune explained.


3. Does the creep speed boost apply to zerg air? (TheWarCenter)


No, they do not apply to air units or drones.


4. Won’t Reapers, Marauders, Hellions, Siege Tank’s splash damage, and Stimpacks be too powerful against a Zerg player? All of that seems pretty well suited to counter masses of low-hp units, like most Zerg ground units. (StarCraft Legacy)


As you know, there is still much balance to be done since we have not even entered into a beta phase yet. With that said, there are several counters still to these Terran units, but Zerg players will be forced to adapt with new units and strategies veering away from some of the original StarCraft strategies. For instance, Roaches and Lurkers are excellent counters to Hellions and Reapers. At a later tech, Infestors simply rock massed units such as Marauders with Fungal Infection, causing them to explode when they die. All the new mechanics and abilities will add many new strategies to your bag of tricks.


5. Can Allies ‘merge’ their Nydus networks? In other words, can you enter through the Nydus Warren of player A, and exit through the Nydus Worm of player B? (TheWarCenter.net)


No, allies can’t share Nydus networks between networks, but allied units can enter into another ally’s Nydus network.


6. Is the Thor still an anti-air unit? Does it fulfill this role effectively? – Thelorme (Battle.net)


Yes, it is still an anti-air unit with the longest range against air units of any unit in StarCraft II. Visually, we are moving to give the Thor anti-air missiles that will fire from his shoulders, unleashing a devastating barrage from a remarkable range.

The Thor, a unit that has gone through many iterations by now, seems to have transformed into a glorified Goliath. Its current role seems to be to counter pesky Zerg hit and run attacks and sieges of longer ranged units, such as the Protoss Carriers.

Will this satisfy Blizzard? Will it satisfy the fans, who have expected something more impressive than the somewhat anemic Goliath of StarCraft 1, and who are still enamored with the old Barrage ability? Time will tell.


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