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Q&A 50: Replay Analytics, Hold Fire; Beta Opt-In Available

With the release of Blizzard’s 50th StarCraft 2 Q&A batch came the announcement of Battle.net’s first step towards full Blizzard Account integration – the recently announced unified platform for all your games, accounts and achievements across Blizzard’s many Universes.

The Q&A batch opens with a Chat with the Dev section, elaborating on the much anticipated StarCraft 2 replay and observer interface.

Chat with Devs: StarCraft II from its conception has been designed to be an eSport and one of the backbone features to helping players learn more about their own gameplay as well as their opponents is through replays. In our chat with Dustin this week, he highlighted various features that will be available to players while viewing replays. These features are designed both to help players improve in StarCraft II as well as serve as a platform of statistics for eSports commentary.

• How much damage did that Reaper raid do on the enemy economy?
• Does it look like the enemy is going to be able to make a comeback?
• Is that player walking into a losing battle?

These are all questions that are raised in exciting competitive games and replays. With the new replay system, players and eSports casters will be able to follow these games in much more depth, as well as understand the repercussions of players’ major decisions on the battlefield. Players will be able to easily compare statistics of opposing players in real time as well as make their own predictions based on stats comparing army size, resource collection rate, resource allocations, and tech research in progress.

Real-time in-depth game statistics cater not only to eSports casters and fans, but first and foremost to players wishing to improve their game. Learning from mistakes, be it others’ or your own, is essential for improving your game; being able to analyze the impact of a player’s move on the balance of power in real time gives the viewer the perfect tools for understanding the consequences of it.

Resource Box View

1. Overlord can be upgraded to carry units, and spawn creep, and Overseer can detect, spawn changeling, and has a longer line of sight. Why not just have the Overlord upgraded with these abilities, rather than have him transform?

We want each race’s detection ability to be well balanced. We don’t want to see every Overlord with detection after upgrading the ability once at Lair. Separating detection capability into two units creates important choices for Zerg players, to ensure their army has enough support of each type available.

One of StarCraft’s signature approaches is forcing players to make irreversible upgrade choices, like the ones that can be applied to the Terran Command Center or the Protoss Templar Archon “upgrade”. Zerg players will now face the same choice with the Overlord, who is no longer a natural detector. There’s a clear choice between using an Overlord, which can create Creep and transport units StarCraft 1 style, and upgrading to the Overseer, which is now somewhat like an uglier, non-cloaked version of the Protoss Observer. Zerg players are forced to make tactical choices early, or pay dearly for adjustments later on.

2. Any support for stereoscopic play?

Stereoscopic vision can be an interesting feature, as we’ve seen with the recently added support in World of Warcraft and other games. For now however, the team is concentrating on the core aspects of StarCraft II and making sure the core features of the game that will be used by everyone are as good as can be. Later on down the road we can evaluate more features like this and see if they make sense to support in StarCraft II.

3. At previous events with playable StarCraft II stations we often saw players doing classic Brood War build orders and tactics. Taking all the new things into account, how far do you get with playing just like in Brood War? Is it a clear disadvantage or a good way to start?

It will depend on the player’s play type and creativity. The experience and skills from the original StarCraft will definitely help players get familiar with StarCraft II. However, there are a lot more units, abilities, and buildings in StarCraft II than the original StarCraft. Players can always start out playing in the way that they used to play in the original StarCraft. As they grow more comfortable with the game they can begin exploring the new units and abilities and discover lots of new strategies. It’s not a matter of advantage or disadvantage, it depends more on the players’ play styles and preferences.

The above question applies to some extent to any RTS available today. A person who has played multiplayer Real Time Strategy for several years and makes a switch to another game, be it StarCraft 2, WarCraft 3 or Dawn of War, is bound to perform better than someone who had been recently introduced to the genre. The closer the new game mechanics are to the previously played game, the greater is the player’s advantage over a complete chobo.

4. Will it be possible to use characters to colour ingame text like in SC1?

No, currently there is no in-game colored text support. Colored text was a neat trick in the original game, but we wanted to ensure that all in-game communication is clear and easily-readable, so we’re only supporting default text style.

5. In the single player, you said we can choose from the missions and the way we want to go forward. Will it be like we definitely will play all the missions and we can choose the order, or does it mean that probably we will miss some missions?

In most cases, you’ll be able to go back and explore a mission branch that you skipped earlier in the campaign, so you can experience almost all of the missions in a single play-through of the campaign. There may be a couple of rare cases where a choice you make closes off a mission, however.

6. Will campaign decisions in the Terran portion affect campaign outcomes/branches in the Zerg and Protoss portions?

We looked into this possibility, but after some debate, we decided it was most important that each campaign delivers a self-contained, yet epic storyline. Giving each campaign a single start and ending was the best way to ensure a coherent plot.

7. In the original StarCraft, you could make the Lurker (through bug use), while burrowed, hold fire until told to attack, something which led to many exciting situations. Are there any plans to include a “hold fire” command for the Lurker in SC2? In addition, worker units lacked Hold and Patrol commands in SC, will this be the case in SC2 as well?

There is no hold fire command for Lurker in the current build. However we will look into every possibility that encourages more tactical, exciting gameplay and keeps the game balanced.

The aforementioned “Hold Fire” command is brought up for discussion during development for virtually every RTS, and it is beyond our comprehension why it is not present for every single unit and defensive building in all of them.

The Hold Your Fire command is as basic as Move, Stop, and Attack, and opens the door to many strategies, while closing the door on others. Adding the Hold Fire command will have a vast impact on tactics, especially on splash-damage dealing, cloaked, burrowed and long range units, and would be a welcome new mechanic for StarCraft 2.

Karune also took the time to finally address StarCraft 2’s longest standing question:

Why do Zerglings have wings?

Karune : When Zerglings get their speed upgrade, they will visually be added with wings.

Pay attention to the crisp, high level detail of models and portraits in this batch’s screenshots, as well as to the clearly noticeable unpolished effects as they appear in the Unit Summary image. The game’s graphics and mechanics have come a long way since StarCraft 2’s unveiling. However, considering the fact that Blizzard is still heavily modifying the game, its release (or a public beta) aren’t expected any time soon.

Speaking of the StarCraft 2 Beta:  be sure to log in to Blizzard’s new Battle.net account management system and check the Blizzard Beta Opt-in check box, and you will have a chance to be invited whenever Blizzard decides to randomly issue StarCraft 2 Beta keys.

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