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Karunology and 4Players.de StarCraft 2 Fansite Q&A

This week in StarCraft 2 was marked with multiple blue posts on the official StarCraft 2 forums, topped with a seven question Q&A session for the German fan site starcraft2.4players.de. Most of the answers deal with the finer aspects of StarCraft 2, but there are some interesting new revelations in as well.

1. Are you still developing new units or are you satisfied with the amount of units for each race and, therefore, more concerned about the fine tuning and balancing?

Our philosophy has always been to keep the amount of units for each race to a certain number to keep the gameplay tight, and we are satisfied with what we have right now in terms of that number. Once we head into beta we definitely evaluate the role of each unit and will potentially add or drop units as needed based on feedback.

Throughout the development process, StarCraft 2 has gained and lost quite a few units.

2. Can you explain the movements of big melee units like the Ultralisk in detail? While running through idle units smaller units tend to move away so the Ultralisk can walk in a straight line. Will that happen only in battles or while moving your whole army as well?

The way movement collision works right now is that a unit has to be idle for it to be pushed to a new location by another unit like an Ultralisk. Generally if you are controlling your forces and they are active, you will not see this behavior.

3. In the campaign of StarCraft II, there are many optional objectives to do so that the player can choose how to play through the campaign. But there are players who want to see every cinematic and play every mission. Are there missions where you have to decide, which way you go (e.g. the Terran campaign in StarCraft I, where you decide to choose nuclear weapons or Battlecruisers), or will the player be able to play the whole campaign in a linear progression? Will there be a menu were you can replay already completed missions? If so, can you also unlock new missions in that menu?

As you play through the campaign, there will be a few cases where you must make a distinct choice that could change the outcome of a certain side plot or the fate of a specific character. These choices will be made very obvious to players, and for those who want to see all the possibilities, you’ll have the ability to go back and choose the other path. We will also have a way for you to replay completed missions or cinematic cut scenes via the story mode interface as well.

Blizzard usually provides players with the ability to go back and replay missions; providing gamers with the ability to adjust their decisions is a treat for any must-see-all-paths (/achievement-happy?) fans. Most RPG games, such as the recent Dragon Age: Origins, change plot lines and outcomes significantly according to the choices made. However, Blizzard has stated that the ending of StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty will be singular, providing the set up for the rest of the trilogy.

4. In the single player campaign of Warcraft III, even races like the Naga are playable temporarily. Is something like that planned for StarCraft II too?

The single player campaign for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty will focus on the Terran campaign, but there will also be a short series of missions where players take the role of Zeratul and other Protoss forces.

5. Is the range of the stalker’s blink ability limited to the distance between him and the target area or are cliffs and trees considered; so a stalker could blink farther when he’s blinking down a cliff than if he’s blinking up the cliff?

The distance you blink is the same regardless of blinking up or down a cliff.

6. Will players be able to send resources to their allies? If so, will there be a limit to the amount of resources they are able to send?

Yes, players can send and request resources among teammates but only after a few minutes into the game. The reason for this is to minimize imbalances that could be created by one player getting a massive early economic boost from his or her partner dumping resources at the outset of the game. There currently is no limit to how many resources you can share.

We would like to see Blizzard experiment with the resources issue on a race basis. Base the ability to transfer funds on a building, for example, making this decision locked to a certain tech-tree path rather than an arbitrary amount of time.

7. Some replays were not compatible with new patches in StarCraft I. Are you working on making replays compatible with new patches for StarCraft II?

Yes, we’re working on allowing replays from previous versions of StarCraft II be compatible with new patches as they are released.

Moving on, new developments on the Blizzard home front: Karune has introduced two new community team members, neither wasting any time getting their feet wet – both have already been posting StarCraft 2 related info throughout the week.

According the Zhydaris, worker command queues can be set up to be very complex as long as you can afford all the requested resources in advance – even building an entire base in one go.

You can order a worker to build something, then move to a different location, then build something else, and then start to gather resources again. That’s just an example of the queues you could set up with the shift key.

If you order a worker to build 5 gateways, you will have to pay for these gateways immediately.
The won’t build one gateway, then wait for you to collect enough minerals, and then build another one.

Next, Karune discusses the Roach‘s role in the game and the fact that it’s here to stay. Currently, it functions primarily as a damage sponge with multiple upgrades, perhaps even one for underground movement.

Most likely the Roach will be in the game – much of the balance work that is done is making sure it fits its role as a damage sponge. Throughout the balance process, the team has been playing around with lots of numbers in regards to how it regenerates, the upgrades the Roach has in terms of speed and health regen, as well as even the ability to have the Roach move while burrowed. None of these variations have deemed to be written in stone, thus we’ll just have to keep you updated as we move closer to beta and actual player testing.

Zhydaris cleared a lot of things up with a few detailed answers concerning “simultaneous casting” and “smart casting”. First of all, here’s a list of abilities that trigger simultaneous, all-unit, one click casting:

  • Stalker Blink
  • Zerg Burrow
  • Battle Cruiser Defensive Matrix
  • Baneling Explode
  • Viking Mode Switch

Smartcast abilities, on the other, hand include:

  • High Templar Psi Storm
  • Disruptor Force Field
  • All Zerg Mutations

Stalker’s Blink, Zerg’s Burrow, Battle cruiser’s Defensive Matrix, Baneling’s Explode, Viking’s switching from air-mode to ground-mode: you’ll only have to press the key once to trigger the ability for all the selected units at once (be careful with those Banelings!)

High Templar’s Psi Storm, Disruptor’s Force Field, Zerg’s mutations (Zerglings to Banelings, etc.): smart casting will kick in here and you’ll have to press the key for every selected unit.

Zhydaris later gives a detailed and helpful example as to why exactly mutations are now smart-cast:

Here’s one occasion where I think you might need smart casting. Let’s assume you have 20 Zerglings currently selected, you don’t have a lot of vespene gas and you feel the need for 5 or so Banelings. Without smart casting you’ll have to manually select 5 of these little dodgy creatures and then morph them, or else you’ll be mutating all of the 20 Zerglings into Banelings (and deplete your vespene reserves in the meanwhile).
With smart casting on the other hand you’ll be able to mutate 5 of them in a matter of seconds without deselecting them, just by pressing the key 5 times in a row.

Obviously this is just an example, but I feel that smart casting has a role to play here.

Will this change to the control mechanism be accepted? Similar changes to StarCraft’s most basic controls have been hotly contested, and this one will likely not go by smoothly as well.

Avarius, the other new blue, has posted some interesting information about how the Protoss’ Immortal comes into play against Zerg. Since the Immortal is most effective against high-damage dealing units, a concern was raised that it might be ineffective against the Zerg’s swarmy nature.

A good amount of zerg units are affected by the immortal’s Hardened Shield. They are particularly effective against roaches, ultralisks, and spine crawlers. Also, Psionic Storm and Nuclear Strike do not appear to be affected by the Hardened Shield as the immortal I just nuked disintegrated gloriously.

The new Blues have been ramping up their activity on the forums lately. Is this a result of the addition of new reps, anxious to contribute their takes on the game? Perhaps Blizzard is trying to restart the hype machine prior to the announcement of the imminent beta?

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