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The third Fansite Q&A session has been released, with Dustin Browder, Blizzard’s Lead Designer, answering 11 questions for SC2Pod. Dustin took the time to clarify multiple game design and visual aspect issues, and also stated openly that Blizzard is looking forward to the beta crowd to take the new game mechanics for a ride.

1. How will StarCraft II handle widescreen monitors? If the screen isn’t going to be stretched, either widescreen or traditional format will have the advantage of seeing more of the battlefield, have you decided which one?

[Dustin Browder] Widescreen monitors will be able to see slightly more of the battlefield, but the extra visual real estate players will be getting will be quite small. Nonetheless, for competitive gaming, there will be a small visual advantage to having a widescreen.

2. When cloaked units move you see a graphics effect hinting their presence. Can you see some trace of the Infestor when it is moving underground?

[Dustin Browder] The Infestor while burrowed will be like any other burrowed unit, and will not be seen unless there is a detector nearby. On the other hand when the Infestor moves above ground, there is a (visual) slime trail the unit leaves in its wake, which disappears over time. We are also discussing the possibility of having some type of visual that may imply an Infestor is moving while burrowed nearby, similar to how cloaked/stealth units currently move above ground.

StarCraft 1, as well as some other RTS games, provides players with hints of cloaked/burrowed unit presence. Exposing the hidden unit’s position gives observative players a chance to adjust their positions or even use AoE attacks to hit the unit – all that without negating the unit’s tactical advantage. Could a burrowing Infestor leave a blurry sand trail similar to the Dune 2′s Sandworm trail?

Dune 2 Sandworm

3. The Colossus’ attack mechanic has changed a number of times, how does it currently work?

[Dustin Browder] While this is still going through balance, the Colossus currently does 23 damage but attacks twice and has 6 range, which players have the option to upgrade later to 9. When the Colossus attacks a target, it does a horizontal spread of damage in relation to where the Colossus is facing. This type of area of effect attack is extremely effective at eliminating massed lower hit point units.

4. How are the new macro mechanics (Mule, Spawn Larva, and Dark Pylon) working out so far? Are they often used during gameplay testing? How much more per trip than an SCV does a Mule mine? And is it Mule, MULE or MUL-E?

[Dustin Browder] The new macro mechanics works great in the internal testing but we are really looking forward to how players will use it in the beta. Currently the MULE mines three times the minerals of a normal SCV per round.

Dustin Browder is probably correct in his expectation that the community will abuse the newly introduced macro mechanics in ways internal testing can’t even begin to predict. During the early days of StarCraft 1, it took the Reaver Drop more than 3 months to be discovered – and that’s just putting two units together.

Nobody can anticipate the unit combinations and original strategies that will arise within hours of public beta play, and it’s safe to assume that people will find quite a few original ways to abuse the MULE.

5. What is the status of the Radar Tower? It overlaps heavily with the Missile Turret in terms of function. Does the “view” into the fog warrant the creation of a new building with an additional cost of 25/100, the additional health notwithstanding?

[Dustin Browder] The Sensor Tower is no longer a detector since the Missile Turret already serves that purpose. However, with the Sensor Tower you can see enemy units in the fog of war and you can ‘salvage’ your Sensor Tower when it is no longer needed anymore.

6. You recently updated the 3D models for a couple of units (Baneling, Drone, Hydralisk etc), making them much more detailed. Which other units can expect to receive similar updates?

[Dustin Browder] All of the Zerg units and buildings are being updated in the same fashion. There have already been several updates, though we are currently polishing up the Infestor, Roach, and Corruptor. As needed, new models may also be created during this period. The Infestor, Brood Lord, and Spawning Pool, and Ultralisk Cavern have new models from which the community has previously seen.

As revealed during the massive Q&A 49 Batch (almost three months ago),  Zerg art is getting a major and much welcome overhaul, with highly detailed 3D models and better textures.

7. How is the soundtrack coming along? Will any of the music themes from SC:BW make a reappearance in StarCraft 2 or is everything new?

[Dustin Browder] There will be some edited versions of soundtracks based on the original StarCraft music in addition to many new tracks lead by the original composer of StarCraft, Glenn Stafford.

8. Do air transporters (like Medivac Dropship and Overlord) have to land or do some sort of special animation before dropping loaded units?

[Dustin Browder] Currently only the Medivac has an animation while it unloads units. All transporters like including the Medivac, Warp Prism and Overlord unload units one at a time with a slight delay between each unit, which is subject to balance.

9. How much damage does the Void Ray deal? What are the time intervals and how much does the damage go up?

[Dustin Browder] The Void Ray does 6 damage in the first stage, 12 damage in the second stage, and 24 damage in the third stage. Each attack stage ramps up every 3 seconds.

The Void Ray has amazing offensive potential, especially against buildings and large, slow targets; an unchecked Void Ray unit deals quadruple damage. This unit has great “base cleanup” capabilities, and is likely to be a high-priority target in any battle due to its damage-dealing mechanism.

Void Rays attack Buildings on a Busy Day

10. What is the current status of the Corruptor? Does it still have its turret mechanic? If so, how does it currently work?

[Dustin Browder] When the Corruptor kills an enemy air unit, that unit will be turned into a stationary ‘turret’ upon death. That turret currently does 7 damage, has 6 range, and can target air as well as ground units and buildings. The turret will also be player controlled so you can force fire with them as well.

11. What have been some of the hardest choices you have had to make during the development of StarCraft II?

[Dustin Browder] There have been many tough choices in designing StarCraft II – Amongst the most difficult would be what parts of the original StarCraft should be in StarCraft II. Next would be what new mechanics are worthy of introduction to the StarCraft universe. Balancing visual appeal with the serious game play that StarCraft has always offered has always been challenging as well. Overall, we hope that the choices we have made will give our players the best possible StarCraft II experience.

The StarCraft 2 developer team’s greatest concern and challenge remained the same throughout the entire time passed since StarCraft 2’s announcement – making it worthy of its heritage.

StarCraft 1 is a masterpiece, and the introduction of stronger PCs, better graphics standards, broadband communications, and even other modern and well polished RTS titles by competitors (and Blizzard itself!) did not make StarCraft obsolete. Neither will StarCraft 2, probably – while it has a good chance of capturing a strong professional following, it still has the 11 year old masterpiece predecessor to compete with.


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