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The 11th StarCraft 2 beta patch, a gameplay-focused update, introduces some interesting balance changes all across the board. Unlike any previous patch, Blizzard has decided to clarify the rationale behind the adjustments in an extensive Situation Report post. The result is a nice insight into the balancing process and the Blizzard’s goals with the new changes to the game.

We’ll combine the patch notes with relevant info from the situation report in order to present the full picture.

Balance Changes

TERRAN

Battlecruiser


The build time has been decreased from 110 to 90.


Situation Report:

We are trying to make this ship a little more useful. In reality this unit is easily countered by Corruptor, Void Ray, or Viking which may already be in play by the time it arrives, but we think it might see a little more play if it’s just easier to build.


Fusion Core


The build time has been decreased from 80 to 65.


Hellion


The range has been increased from 5 to 6.


Situation Report:


This is not an actual change to the area effect of the weapon. The weapon was always range 6, but it would only acquire targets at range 5 so it would get a little bit of splash that would hit enemies behind its initial target. By making the weapon range 6 it is easier to shoot and run from enemy units. It does make the splash a little less useful if you are just using the “attack move” command.


The Hellion’s range adjustment is in line with Blizzard’s recent statements about its plans to increase the responsiveness and micro-oriented benefits for certain StarCraft 2 units, Hellions being mentioned specifically.

Planetary Fortress


The splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


Splash



We have changed how splash works for several units across the game to make it always hit the dead center of the target unit. Previously splash was centered on the front of the target unit. This makes splash generally more effective, though against certain large targets (buildings, Thors, Ultralisks) you will now not get any splash damage since the splash radius will be contained entirely within the radius of the large target.


Raven


Seeker Missile range has been decreased from 9 to 6.

Seeker Missile splash radius has been decreased from 2.4 to 2.

Seeker Missile upgrade no longer requires Fusion Core.


Situation Report:


We are hoping to see some more Seeker missiles without unbalancing the unit. At the same time we want to reduce the effectiveness of Seeker missile in 2v2 games where mass Ravens have (on occasion) been a problem.

Siege Tank


Life increased from 150 to 160.

Siege Mode splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


Siege Tanks are seeing good use in several match-ups but we still think they could be a little tougher so they can maybe get in one more shot during big fights.

The Tank’s hit point increase comes to address the simple and obvious truth – for a tank, the Terran Siege Tank is a mighty fragile unit. Ironically, tanks can’t tank at all, and more often than not, a Terran Bio-ball is used for tanking damage while the tanks deliver their AoE blows.

Thor


Ground damage decreased from 45 to 30.

Ground rate of fire improved from 1.93 to 1.28.

Air damage changed from 8 (+4 Light) to 6 (+6 Light).

250mm Strike Cannons are now an upgrade at the Factory Tech Lab.

250mm Strike Cannons research now costs 150/150 and 110 seconds.

250mm Strike Cannons energy cost increased from 100 to 150.

Anti-Air splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


The damage change reduces the Thor’s opening burst, which will mean that some units will be able to shoot a little longer before being destroyed. The increase in rate of fire means the damage-per-second remains the same, but it does change a few relationships. Thors are no longer as effective against Roaches (for example) without fire support from Marauders.

The Thor Strike Cannons have become an upgrade to try to help out the Ultralisk, who is countered so hard by this attack that we see very few Ultralisks in Terran vs. Zerg. This is (of course) not enough to really change that relationship, but we have some more plans for the Ultralisk in the next patch.
The anti-air changes make Thors a little more clear in their role as an anti-light AA weapon which gives more value to Vikings and Marines.

All three Massive ground units – the Terran Thor, Protoss Colossus and Zerg Ultralisk have received significant adjustments to their damage output. The Thor, being a mega-hard counter to the Ultralisk due to the stun and focused heavy damage effect of its Strike Cannons ability, has gone the way of the Marauder, and now requires a research to match its pre-patch state. It’s worthwhile to note that with this change, the Thor will no longer one-shot Hydralisks.


PROTOSS


Archon


The splash radius has been increased from 0.8 to 1.

Splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


This minor buff to the Archon makes it a little bit more useful but doesn’t really change a lot of its core relationships. We still view the Archon as a recycle for a High Templar who is out of mana and not a core unit that you will build unless you are facing very specific opposition (like mass Mutalisks for example).


Colossus


The damage has been decreased from 20 to 15.

The rate of fire has been improved from 2.2 to 1.65.


Situation Report:


The changes to the Colossus damage and rate of fire are similar to the changes to the Thor. They reduce the burst damage from the Colossus so fewer units will die in the initial blast and get to shoot a little bit longer before they are hit by more blasts. The damage is lower, but the damage per second is DPS is the same.


Phoenix


Can now attack while moving.


Situation Report:


This is a huge change that allows a Phoenix to dance around Mutalisks and other air units and attack them while moving. Phoenix always did hard-counter Mutalisks, but now even a very small number of Phoenix can challenge a very large number of Mutalisks so long as they are willing to attack and move away. Use your Phoenix to keep out of the Mutalisk attack range while firing yourself and you can do a lot of damage to a pack of Mutalisks.

Sentry


The damage has been decreased from 8 to 6.


Situation Report:


We are seeing a lot of Force Fields which we really, really like. We don’t want to see fewer Force Fields, but we do want to see a higher cost for those Force Fields. By reducing Sentry damage we believe that Protoss players will have to be more careful about the number of Sentry they make.

The Sentry damage reduction is reminiscent of the Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos caster nerf several years ago. Before the nerf, it was common to mass casters because of the relatively high damage output coupled with bonus ability spam such builds enabled. With a 25% damage nerf, the Sentry’s damage per cost is significantly reduced, forcing Protoss players to not rely on them as much as they did before. While the Sentry was previously an important anti-Mutalisk unit for the Protoss, the Phoenix buff will certainly help balance this change.

ZERG

Brood Lord


Life has been decreased from 275 to 225.

Armor has been decreased from 2 to 1.


Situation Report:


Broodlords are awesome. They needed to be a little weaker. They should still be pretty scary.


Corruptor


Corruptor damage changed from 12 (+10 Massive) to 14 (+6 Massive).

Corruptor speed increased from 2.75 to 2.9531

Corruption ability redesigned:

Single target.

Increases damage taken by 20%.

Lasts 30 seconds.

Costs 100 energy.

Range 6.

Cannot target structures.


Situation Report:


All of these changes are a buff to the Corruptor. You will pay less gas for a similar level of Corruptor fire power. The Corruptor is faster and more able to keep up with your Mutalisks. In addition its special ability has changed. You no longer use Corruptors just to stun important enemy buildings but you can weaken important enemy units on the battlefield to make them more vulnerable to attack by both your air and ground units.


Infestor


Neural Parasite is now an upgrade at the Infestation Pit.

Neural Parasite research costs 150/150 and 110 seconds.

Neural Parasite can now target Air units.

Neural Parasite energy cost increased from 50 to 100.


Situation Report:


The changes to Neural Parasite are there to try to protect the Ultralisk from being mind controlled too easily. It is also consistent with what we think the power level of the ability is against Thor and other units. We have also buffed the ability to allow it to target air units so you can use it as a defense against Void Rays.


Spine Crawler


The root time has been increased from 6 to 12.


Situation Report:


At some levels of play we are seeing spine crawlers used to protect a Zerg player until he can advance to some dangerous technology (like Mutalisks). In these cases players are using Spine Crawlers almost exclusively to defend themselves and the ability to move the Crawler as a way to protect not only their base but their expansion as well. We want there to be a higher cost to this strategy and more risk associated with choosing to go “Only Spine Crawler.”


Spore Crawler


The root time has been increased from 6 to 12.


Ultralisk


Damage has been increased from 18 to 25.


Situation Report:


We are buffing the Ultralisk, but we don’t think this buff is sufficient. Expect more changes to the Ultralisk in the next patch.

As a concept, the Ultralisk is awesome. It warms our heart to see Ultralisks used in high-level gameplay. Few effects can match a giant, 600 HP-strong, über-armored biological monster dishing melee splash damage. However, the Ultralisk’s cost and its front-line battle position (unlike the Terran Thor and Protoss Colossus) make it a prime target for strong single-target effects like Neural Parasite and the stunning/damaging Strike Cannons – both being nerfed in the recent patch.

The patch also brings numerous minor bug fixes, hotkey swaps and leftie key layout changes – all found here.

All in all, this patch feels like an attempt to refine the game, pushing players from all races to diversify their builds and incorporate different units into their army. It will be interesting to see whether Blizzard succeeds in doing this and what other changes are in store, especially for the Ultralisk!

Recently, Blizzard’s top StarCraft 2 personnel – Chris Sigaty, Dustin Browder and Samwise Didier (Lead producer, Lead Designer and Art Director, respectively) have taken the time to provide extensive answers to 41 questions submitted online, through Twitter, by the community. The result is a lot of interesting and up-to-date information on the current state of the beta, future plans for the game, and some balance talk. We bring it to you in full here:

Q: There has been talks about possibly changing the queen a bit, can you elaborate if that is indeed true?
A: We have no current plans to change the queen, bearing possible balance changes.

Q: Are there plans to release a chat utility to be used outside of game, similar to say how steam/xfire currently works?
A: Eventually we would like an external client for chat and other Battle.net related features, but we don’t have anything firmly planned at this point.

Q: What unit do you feel is completely different from when it was first designed [in both art and gameplay] within SC2?
A: The Corruptor has changed many times in his life cycle, though he was always designed as an anti-air unit. The Mothership has had a long list of different abilities that have changed substantially over the years.

The Mothership is indeed one of the units that the developers have played around with the most. Many different abilities and attributes had been given to and lifted from it before it attained its current form – some just recently, in the first two patches of the beta.

Q. Currently, FPS UMS maps are viable but prevented by lag. Are there any plans to reduce Battle.net 2.0’s minimum latency from 250ms?
A. In the newest patch latency network turns have been reduced to 125ms latency. We’d love to see an FPS-like custom map in the beta as soon as publishing is available!

The latency discussed here is the time between each game-state update over the network, translated to the delay between issuing an order and the game acknowledging it. Previously, at 250ms, this value was relatively high (although still lower than that of StarCraft 1) for modern games, and many have questioned Blizzard’s decision about it. Blizzard has previously discussed this issue and promised to review it over the beta, the result showing here.

However, 125ms of latency is still quite high for first person shooters (FPS) that rely on split-second decisions and super-tuned reflexes. These sort of games require a sub-50ms latency to really be played smoothly, and so the reduction is still unsatisfactory when it comes to this genre. Surely, not all FPS games are of the Quake and Counter-Strike variety, and there’s plenty of room for less twitchy first person experiences with the StarCraft 2 engine.

Of course, all of this is purely theoretical for someone whose connection’s latency isn’t equal to, or lower than, 125ms to begin with. Since many players will indeed not reach these relatively low latency values, Blizzard had originally opted to even the playground by setting a higher hard cap.

Q. Any plans to allow allies to see one another’s resource and supply totals as was possible in past Blizzard RTS games? If not, why?
A. We had talked about this and felt that the additional complexity was not worth it in our current UI. It was also a tool that was largely used by players in random games to give grief to their less-skilled allies. But we don’t hate the feature and could get enthusiastic about if we saw a need while playing.

Another reason to implement this feature is neglected here: as many 2v2 players – both in arranged teams and random team ups – can testify, losing an ally to a disconnection or a ragequit is not an uncommon occurrence. This is when players can often push the pedal to the metal and leverage their ability to control two armies synchronously into an advantage and win what would otherwise be a doomed fight. Of course, without this crucial economy knowledge, the task becomes that much more difficult.

Since Blizzard is concerned with player interactions and griefing, this could be painlessly implemented to work only when one’s ally is down or as a toggle similar to the one allowing shared unit control.

Q. Any UI improvements in the works for commentators, such as the ability to hide the replay bar?
A. Yes, we’re currently looking at this and will likely have some additional features when the game launches for hiding some of the interface.

Q: Which unit was the hardest/most time consuming to work on aesthetically? Are you proud of certain unit? Does one still haunt you?
A: Thor is still difficult. We want to make him big and bad ass but then there are issues with him clipping or hiding units. We’re still polishing the God of Thunder. Favorite unit would be the Stalker, Reaper and Baneling. Simple design-wise but they add a cool newness to there armies. None haunt me. Though zergling with wings and certain dark templar have haunted our fans. 🙂

The Thor has gained a lot of popularity lately, especially after the recent improvement to its anti-air attack. Still, its humongous size makes it somewhat of an odd creature on the battlefield, and its quirky behavior isn’t always easy to work with. Can you spot the hidden Marines in this picture? (click to see them!)

Q: How does the dev team accomplish making StarCraft II units and maps “blend” together, despite three distinct races?
A: The races are pretty simple as we follow basic guidlines. Terrans are grey, bulky and grimy. Protoss are gold, smooth surfaced and regal. Zerg are brown, purple and spiny. With maps we usually try to make the textures more simplistic to help the units pop out. Sometimes when the texture gets too busy or dark (i.e. Creep) we lose units on them. We are still working on that issue.

Q: Will Real ID have more privacy controls for people nervous about sharing their real name/what they’re playing?
A: There will be parental controls available to prevent accounts from using real ID. Other than that players should create Real ID friends with people that they feel comfortable sharing their name with.

Q: Last Dev Chat, Terran was behind in all 1v1 and 2v2 matchups. How do the racial matchup numbers look now? Any outlier matchups?
A: We have several tools to measure race balance. The simplest is the win loss by race, factored by leagues. In Platinum and Gold leagues the numbers look like this.

  • Terrans vs. Protoss 46% – 54%
  • Protoss vs. Zerg 51% – 49%
  • Terrans vs. Zerg 51% – 49%

I do not have the more interesting numbers that factor for player skill. The last time I saw these numbers Zerg were ahead of Protoss, Protoss were ahead of Terrans and Terrans and Zerg were fairly even.

Obviously there is a lot more work to be done and more beta time in front of us but we are very pleased with the current numbers.

Considering how complicated and profoundly different StarCraft 2’s races are, achieving such a level of balance in less than three months of beta is undoubtedly a win for Blizzard.

Q: Are there any plans to allow creep to spill over the edge of cliffs?
A: We do not plan to have creep spread down cliffs. We like that there are some restrictions to creep movement.

Q: Do you think you will add any new units (or take any out) before release or is the current unit roster definite?
A: I doubt we will cut units but I expect that we will make some changes to current units. The Phoenix and Corruptor are currently being evaluated and may see some changes in the next few weeks.

Previously, the developers made it very clear that they’re not afraid to cut (or add) new units during the beta. As the beta progresses and the balance solidifies, the chances of seeing new units diminishes.

Q. Currently the Map Editor has a small variety of unit/item models for mappers to use. Will there be additions to usable models?
A. Yes. Currently the beta is limited to objects ONLY in the beta, which is a limited number of tilesets and no campaign units or objects. There will be a much larger set of models and assets for mappers to use at launch.

Q. The Hydralisk attack animation has gotten a lot of complaints in beta. Will it get its acid back as a part of its attack?
A. The Hydra attack was always meant to be spines. In the original game you couldn’t see that so we gooped it up. Now with Banelings exploding goop and the Roach attack’s looking all gooby, we thought that the Hydras would look more unique having the original spine idea incorporated back in.


FYI: Goop and gooby are Samwise trademarks.


Q. Do you plan to implement 3v3 and 4v4 match-ups at some point during the beta? If so, when?
A. We do intend to release 3v3 and 4v4 matchmaking in the beta around the middle of May. We will likely limit the number of maps because we still want players to primarily focus on 1v1 games to continue to help test balance.

Q: With the large discussion on Zerg changes, is there any planned? Or do you believe that they’re not being used fully?
A: We are looking at changes to the Corruptor. We are looking at the balance on Ultralisk and Infestor. We are not planning to introduce new units at this time, though we shall see as Beta progresses. =)

The Zerg race still stands out as the one most in-need of refining. Since many Zerg match-ups still revolve around fewer units than the two other races, Blizzard will definitely seek to make other options more attractive at all levels of play.

Q: Will we be able to use original units for the map editor before release?
A: No. The beta editor will not include campaign units prior to release.

Q: Do you feel that micro needs to play more of a role in SC2? Will moving shot be re-introduced?
A: I don’t that we need MORE micro in SC2. We have a ton of it. But we are always looking to make the game more fun. A large number of units do drift in SC2 as they shoot (I assume that is what you are asking about). However our engine is a lot more precise than the original StarCraft so when you tell a unit to do something, it does it. We did find a few units this week that we felt were less responsive than we wanted (Hellion for example) and we will be making some changes to make them more responsive in a future patch.


It is a different game, we did make a new engine. We will never be able to duplicate the controls of the original StarCraft exactly.

Q. Will you be adding a timer in-game so we can stop using stop watches/clocks ?
A. We know a stop watch is desired in-game by the community and are currently discussing the feature. This is not likely to happen by launch, but is definitely something we’ll consider for a patch shortly after we’ve shipped the game.

While it may sound outlandish to casual gamers, using a clock to know exactly how long the match has been going on is not uncommon in higher levels of play. StarCraft is a game of timing, after all, and one needs to know when a Dark Templar attack might arrive to take care of detection or when a 2-base Mutalisk raid is likely to come in full force. The builds, tech levels and strategies the enemy is practicing are only meaningful if one also knows the stage the game is in.

Q. Any plans to implement a clan system that automatically adds “clan tags” in front of your ID?
A. Clans are definitely something we plan to implement in the future. No specific date has been identified yet. They will likely correspond with the first expansion or a future patch.

Q. Are there plans for a “Do Not Disturb” option that prevents incoming messages from showing?
A. Yes. You will have options when StarCraft II officially launches to turn off incoming messages and prevent toasts while playing the game. This may not be available in the beta prior to release.

Q: Do you plan on rework/rebalance of the Forcefield or are you already statisfied with it.
A: We are never “happy” about anything in the game.=) We are always looking at everything and trying to see if it works or it is broken. We think Force Field is a fun ability that has a lot of great uses that introduces a ton of new strategy into the game. We worry that it might be a little powerful. We are looking at some nerfs to the Sentry to create a higher cost for Protoss players who choose to bring too many Sentrys to a fight.

We will continue to evaluate the ability as we do all abilities during the beta and beyond.

The Protoss’ ability to instantly create a wall or a choke at will is seen as incredibly overpowered by some. While this very cool ability leads to highly skillful and entertaining play, it might indeed offer too great of an advantage in the hands of capable players. It will be interesting to see what solution Blizzard goes with for this issue – assuming they deem a solution necessary. An HP value instead of indestructibility, perhaps?

Q: Art direction in beta looks great so far. Will the Star Map make an appearance of some kind or has it been cut completely?
A: On behalf of the StarCraft II art team, thank you. We use the star map in the single player alot but it isn’t like what we have shown previously. A big galactic map is something I really want to use for future expansions.

Q: The damage modifiers have been slowly weeded out through the patches, have you thought about getting rid of them completely?
A: StarCraft had a damage system that was similar to ours only it was more complicated and a lot less clear. We are very happy with our damage system as a significant improvement over the original StarCraft and will continue to use it as a balance tool to try to create the best strategy game we can. There are no plans to cut it.

Q. Will multiple building selection for Terran stay like it is now and why is it so? (e.g. 2 barracks with different add-ons in one control group requiring the Tab key to switch between them seems odd)
A. We are changing the way Terrans build from their buildings with different add-ons. I get confused about what is live and what is in the version I played at the office today. =)

If it isn’t out now you’ll see it in a future patch.

Q. Will you ever give the Medvac a follow command that does not force it to pick up units ?
A. We hadn’t planned on it, but I can look into it. =)

Q. Are there any plans to giving Reapers more of a late-game viability, similar to the Zealot charge?
A. If we need to we can always add upgrades that make units more powerful in the late game. We have no current plans for the Reaper. Frankly the meta-game has not settled down enough yet for us to know what is and is not really useful in the end game. But I would worry about the Reaper and your suggestion is interesting.

Because of the Reaper’s extreme fragility, it tends to lose its usefulness when more units and static defenses can be found on the battlefield. In most games, the Reaper is sort of a one-trick pony. Once the enemy knows you’ve got a few, it becomes very hard to make any use of them past the early game.

Q: How far in the ‘long term’ are those plans which allow for swapping to U.S. servers on an E.U. account – or a global account?
A: Jumping to the region you want is definitely in the long term plan for Battle.net, although we do have some concerns about communicating properly to the player what’s happening if they choose this because it WILL affect the latency of the game. As far as a date on when, I don’t have one yet. There are a number of features that we want to make sure get out their first and jumping to different servers is lower on the priority list at the moment.

Q: Will there be cross-game communication options for people who don’t want to use RealID?
A: There are no plans for cross-game/realm communication without Real ID.

Q: Would you ever bring back the cobra for the thor? Seems like it would be a much better fit and fix mech.
A: The Cobra was not that fun. He is OK for solo but he does not have the precise control with his “fire-on-the-move” ability for multi. There are no plans to cut the Thor.

The long forgotten StarCraft 2 Terran Cobra

What’s a Cobra, you ask?

Q: Are there any plans to change the current high ground advantage to the Wacraft III/StarCraft mechanic or other alternatives?
A: No. We like the high ground rules and we think they are cool for StarCraft II. The random high ground from StarCraft just didn’t seem right for a such a skill based game. The clarity of “if you can see, you can shoot” makes a lot more sense to us.

Q: For several Australian players at a LAN, who have logged into a custom Battle.net game, will the game be local once initiated?
A: You’ll be connected through Battle.net. However, we’re locating game servers more strategically to allow the best possible game experience from where you play. For Australia we are by default routing games through the Oceanic region which should provide a much lower latency experience.

Q: Blizzard you ROCK!
A: You rock! Thanks so much for taking the time to join in the chat today!!

Q. Do you plan to redo the Hatchery (Lair, Hive) art so that it represents the classical evil, sharp-looking building from StarCraft: Brood War?
A. No changes will be made on the Hatchery and its upgrades. We added some of the sinister, spiny-ness (is that a word?) to newer buildings like the Infestation Pit and the Baneling Nest. The core buildings were revamped to be more of what a standard zerg building would look like. They now look like upgrades to the Hatchery as opposed to completely new structures.

Q. Will there be any more voice acting changes for the units and such before the final release?
A. No, the actors are final, though we may choose different “takes” they did in the studio or change some of the processing on their audio.

Tricia Helfer, StarCraft 2's Kerrigan

Q. Any plans to put decals on units as well? As they are now only on buildings, you don’t see them much.
A. There are decals on some (Marine and some others), but the units are already so small and clean we don’t want to mush them up with decals. We could put them on larger ones, but there weren’t enough big bad boys to do this to. Plus, it would delay the game. Do you want to be personally responsible for delaying the game? 🙂

Q: Really excited about campaign. Can you tell us about a mission that was a challenge to create?
A: We have a mission that takes place in deep space around a Xel’Naga space platform. This ancient floating artifact has powerful “Rip Fields” around it that warp time and space, doing damage to all of your units so long as they are in a Rip Field. Creating this exotic location and balancing the difficulty of the Rip Fields was challenging.

StarCraft 2 Includes many mission-specific terrain features and mechanics

Blizzard recently showcased some of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty‘s single player’s original mission design and innovative campaign mechanics, demonstrating a few of the mission-unique units, artifacts and features that players will encounter over the course of the campaign.

Our biggest campaign challenges usually center around creating really unique game mechanics that tie to the story. It’s easy to make a battle, it’s hard to make a battle that really pushes your skills as a commander and asks you to do something you have not done in our game before.

Q: SinglePlayer – will we see installation missions in Zerg hives or tunnels? Always wished for this in StarCraft.
A: We’d prefer not to ruin any further surprises . . . 😉

Q: People think zerg is boring and doesn’t support much diversity in playstyles, but it doesn’t mean imba. How do you feel about this?
A: We are always working on our race match ups and we will continue to do so. We have certainly heard this complaint. We think we have the tools to solve the problem. If we get more play out of Infestor, Corruptor and Ultralisk we think we might have a more fun and more diverse race. If that doesn’t work then we’ll evaluate what else we can do. We have some time left in the beta as well as patches after the beta is complete (not counting expansions) to continue to work on these races to meet our quality standards.


Still I don’t think the Zerg are boring. They can do some fun stuff.=)

Q: You boast fewer classic “kill everything” missions but will there still be some in the campaigns? They have their place!
A: There are a few missions that allow you to “play with your toys” and just crush the enemy. They usually have some kind of twist (like you are fighting on a giant space platform that contains several highly unstable fusion reactors) but they are at their heart missions where your objective is to search and destroy.

Q: Will the map editor be revised to be more newbie-friendly around release?
A: We have plans to put some new user help files online and additional help text, but overall the editor will not get many more newbie-friendly options as making custom maps is a pretty technical endeavor and there is already a lot of great information appearing all over the web to help with more complex development.

Q: Please clarify response: Has the 125ms latency update been in effect since the last update or will it be available with the next?

A: We put this in a while ago in the US to see what the community response was. We did not announce it (even internally) to see who noticed. There was suprisingly little response to such a huge change. But some of us noticed and we thought it felt better.

Q. The latest we’ve heard, the single-player campaign would feature about 25+ missions. Does this include the optional missions?
A. There are 29 total missions in the campaign. In a single play through you can get to 26 of them if you do everything. You’d have to play again to see the other optional missions. Of course, your experience through how you play those missions can vary widely depending on the technology, research, or mercenaries you’ve decided to purchase along the way.

Q. Getting custom script into maps is currently complex. Are there plans to implement Galaxy scripting directly into the editor?
A. There are currently no plans for Galaxy script editing in the editor itself. However, through the Import Manager it should be pretty easy to add in your scripts as necessary. Are you having trouble doing it that way?

Q. Flying units fly through the Colossus. Will there be any changes to make sure they fly over them?
A. No changes on this one. We realize this could look doink, but in a 3D game, the higher the flyer, the closer to the camera it is. We could shrink the flyer, but then its scale would be off when looking at the art from certain angles (mostly single-player). We could shrink the Colossus but then his/her/its cliff walk would look bad. We thought that it was okay enough that it would only be noticed by the most(!!)eagle-eyed fans of our games. Good job!

A Protoss Colossus towering over puny Zealots and Marines

Q: Any plans to allow players to pick what races they want to fight vs off of ladders so they can get some practice in ? (ie: custom game search for only people playing X race)
A: We are aware of the issue of players not wanting to try new races or strats on the ladder and so we know there is a desire to play “unranked” play to get some practice. I like your idea, though I don’t know that we could get to it before launch. Sounds like something we would have to consider for a future patch.


As far as unranked play goes we are discussing it, what we still have time for is the big question.=)

Q: Can you detail how the map publishing feature is going to work?
A: Sure. Map publishing will allow the user to store a few maps or mods associated with their account. You can choose to publish a map privately which will not display the map in the custom game list when you open it up, but you ca invite your friends into a game on the map to help you test your map and ideas. Once you decide the map is ready for the rest of the community to play you can publish it publicly and then the map will be available for the rest of the community to see and start playing games with.

Q: Please please please let us, excited mac users, know when we can expect the client to be available on the EU realm.
A: We’re targeting next Monday to release the European English, French, and German versions of the StarCraft II Mac beta. 🙂

Q. After the beta has commenced, how many CPU cores will StarCraft II be optimized for upon final release?
A. For launch, StarCraft II will be optimized for dual-core only. In the future we will definitely be looking into other optimizations to support additional cores, but do not have specific dates yet.

With the introduction of 3v3 and 4v4 games, even high-end gaming rigs will be challenged by the amount of actions, pathing calculations, physical interactions and concurrent Pretty Explosions that a 1600-food battlefield introduces.

Or… one could produce an infinite amount of Overlords.

Q. Will Dustin Browder PM me his name & identifier so i can show him how to play his own game? =p
Dustin: Sir, you could not handle my terrible, terrible damage. But if you are playing in Platinum, I often play in the evenings and you may get your shot. Just play everyone to the best of your ability and sometime you may end up showing me how to play. =) Hell, I lost 4 in a row yesterday. Mabye one of those was you?


Samwise: You don’t want to play Dustin. He can’t even beat the UI, let alone the AI.


Chris: Only if you’re willing to cyber . . .

That’s all for this epic Q&A session. Chris, Dustin and Samwise deserve a lot of credit for putting it all out there, though it certainly looks like they’ve had fun doing it!

Q: There has been talks about possibly changing the queen a bit, can you elaborate if that is indeed true?
A: We have no current plans to change the queen, bearing possible balance changes.

On April 19th, SC2Blog representatives visited Blizzard’s Headquarters for an exclusive press event focusing on the StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty single player campaign, exhibiting new single player missions, new campaign features, and fully clarifying key single player mechanics: mercenaries, research and challenges.

Mission Progress and Campaign Management

Players will manage their mission progress, research for upgrades, interact with NPCs and hire special in-game units from four different locations in Jim Raynor’s massive Battlecruiser, the Hyperion. Navigation is done by simply selecting the desired destination on the Hyperion navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.

A visit to the Hyperion Cantina

Armory – BridgeCantinaLaboratory

These areas have actually been revealed after the press event in July, 2009 – an interesting complimentary read to the current post, which is the result of hands-on experience with the most recent version of Wings of Liberty.

The Bridge

This is where you choose your campaign missions. Key characters will appear on the Hyperion bridge during the campaign, allowing Raynor to interact with them.

Players can also access all of the previously completed missions and unlocked cinematics here. It is possible to go back and replay a mission once you have unlocked more units and upgrades, and it is sometimes the only way to get to some previously inaccessible areas and unlock some extra rewards and achievements.

The Armory

Here players can inspect, in great detail, various units that can be deployed to the battlefield, as well as access the unit upgrade console which allows purchasing upgrades for each unit in the game.  Unit screens include cool bits of information and awesome, highly detailed models of the units. You’ll  find quotes by “Franko Tildon, widely credited as the first fighting firebat, reformed mass murderer” along with other profiles for the people behind the units we know and love.

The Firebat Armory Screen - StarCraft 1 Nostalgia

Unlike in multiplayer StarCraft matches, during the campaign, players do not research things like Stim Packs or Neosteel Plating in each mission. These are instead purchased while staying on the Hyperion with the credits you earn by completing missions.

Once you buy an upgrade, your units will have it for the rest of the game; no research required in-battle. Every unit in the game has two such upgrades: for example, Firebats gain +40% splash damage area for the first upgrade and +2 armor for the second one. The second upgrade is usually more expensive and powerful than the first.

The Cantina

There are many interactive objects spread across the room, like a television that plays news reports based on Raynor’s recent activities. A retro arcade machine featuring The Lost Vikings is on the scene as well – a classic Blizzard puzzle/platform game. The game was not functional during the press event, but the development team was pretty excited that they were able to integrate this classic into StarCraft 2, meaning it will likely be available when the game ships.

UNN TV transmission from the Cantina

The fellow Cantina patrons will speak shortly when you click on them (but offer no real conversation options), but the Cantina is mainly the place to go when you wish to speak to the mercenary vendor. Once you unlock certain units in the campaign, these will be available through the mercenary, who you’ll pay with your credits.

The Laboratory

In the lab, players can research special upgrades that enhance existing units and buildings, as well as introduce completely new units to the campaign. There are two distinct tech trees: one for Protoss technology and one for Zerg technology. During missions, depending on which race you are facing, research points can be gained that can later be spent in the lab. Sometimes, this is as simple as thoroughly searching the map for pickups, and at other times specific enemies must be killed.

When starting a mission, players are informed about the total amount of research points that can be gathered, and you can go back and replay the scenario in case you missed some.

Zerg And Protoss Tech Trees in the Laboratory

Check out the researchable abilities and their costs in the game (big thanks goes to SCLegacy for creating this table):

Protoss Research Points
Tech Reactor

Your Tech Labs also work as Reactors

25 Orbital Strike

Units from Barracks are deployed through Drop Pod

Raven 20 Science Vessel
Automated Refinery

Refineries do not need SCVs to operate

15 Reactor Command Center

Your Command Center can train two SCVs at once

Orbital Depots

Supply Depots build instantly

10 Micro Filtering

Increase gas harvesting by 25%

Ultra Capacitors

Weapon upgrades at the Armory and Engineering Bay increase weapon speed by 5%

5 Vanadium Plating

Armor upgrades at the Armory and Engineering Bay increase health by 5%

Zerg Research Points
Hive Mind Emulator

Create a building that can Mind Control any Zerg Unit

25 Psi Disruptor

Decrease the movement speed of all Zerg units

Cellular Reactor

Increase starting energy of all units by 100. Increase maximum energy of all units by 100.

20 Regenerative Bio-Steel

Damaged ships and vehicles recover hit points over time.

Predator

Unlock an anti infantry unit

15 Hercules

Unlock a massive transport with instant deployment of all units.

Planetary Fortress 10 Perdition Turrets

Unlock flame turrets that hide underground when not in use.

Strike Turret

All bunkers are equipped with a Strike Turret. (Similar to an auto turret on a bunker)

5 Fortified Bunker

Bunkers gain 150 Health

Early Merc Compound Model

Merc Compound

Originally called “Merc Haven”, the Merc Compound was a Terran building that Blizzard created to be a part of the StarCraft 2 multiplayer game, producing Terran Reapers and Marine upgrades. In 2008, it was removed, and during the press event in August 2009, its current function was established.

The Merc Compound is similar to WarCraft 3’s Mercenary Camps, where special units can be recruited based on a unit production cooldown. The units are available during gameplay, however, unlocking the units for production is done by visiting the Hyperion Cantina in between missions.

Campaign Missions

During the visit, we got the chance to play a few missions and were also given a video with gameplay footage of two brand new missions, focusing on Raynor’s quest for Terrazine, an important gas resource found only on sacred Protoss ground. StarCraft Scientist has created a version of the video with descriptions and explanations of the gameplay, so make sure to check it out:

Each mission in StarCraft 2 has a unique feature, gameplay mechanic or goal that sets it apart from the rest. This is something that old RTS games did very badly – rehashing the same scenario over and over – and that newer ones have attempted to correct in recent years. As expected, Blizzard is trying to perfect the RTS campaign design with the lessons learned, and the results show.

Many Terran Units Not Availalbe in StarCraft 2 Multiplayer

Like StarCraft 1, the missions are sometimes interrupted with transmissions from units on the ground or NPCs who broadcast messages to you, the player. Unlike StarCraft 1, where the majority of information and commutation occurred in the pre-game briefing, StarCraft 2 transmissions are often interspersed with the game, greatly enhancing the immersive experience, keeping the player focused on the objective, and setting the mood for the mission. A portrait is shown on the side of the battlefield screen with the relevant unit or character until the transmission ends.

Terrans Reach Their Goal

As previously described, the mission progression/selection screen has also been enhanced greatly, and is now a part of the story itself. You enter missions by clicking planets from the galaxy map, where available mission-planets are clearly shown. When you click on a planet, a relevant NPC explains what he wants to hire you for, and you can view the research point opportunities and credit reward before deciding whether or not to commit to it. Some missions, however, are mysterious. Questions marks cover the details, and there’s no telling what reward the mission might yield!

Once the player chooses a mission, the game returns to the bridge in a special zoomed in view where the computer terminal is seen. It displays videos, overviews of the mission, and dialogue between Raynor and NPCs prior to launching the actual mission. Overall, all these sequences are highly engaging and work very well for setting the tone for the following mission.

We were also given a chance to see a part of the Protoss “mini-campaign”, centered around Zeratul and his few Protoss allies. You get to relive the memories of Zeratul as he goes to a planet with archives of Xel’Naga-related information. There, he meets Kerrigan, and hears a disconcerting message about the future…

Zeratul must then fight his way through a map full of narrow canyons that is infested with Zerg. The StarCraft 2 Zeratul is very powerful, dealing 100 damage per psi-slice. Zeratul also possesses Blink – a short teleport ability -  along with “Suppression”, an ability that stuns units and is used by Zeratul to sneak pass the Overseers which can detect him and Brood Lords which are out of his reach. Later, a few Stalkers join Zeratul as he continues his quest, complicating matters and keeping the gameplay intense. It’s clear that the designers put a lot of thought into starting out simple while constantly adding more obstacles and variables for the players to watch out for, never letting the mission go stale!

Zeratul, Kicking Ass and Writing Down Numbers

The unit attributes, or “balance” in the single player game is very different from that of the multiplayer game. Units have different stats, abilities, and upgrades. With quite a few units that are not present at all in the multiplayer game, the single player gameplay is going to be quite different from what StarCraft 2 beta players are now used to.

Challenge Mode:

Blizzard is aware of the cold-water-dip sort of shock that players go through when they decide to dabble in multiplayer StarCraft. Most get completely crushed by even the lowest ranked players due to the difference in gameplay mentality.

Challenge modes will hopefully lessen that initial shock by presenting players with scenarios that are challenging  enough to force players into using the game’s more advanced mechanics. Currently, There are a total of nine challenges, which are divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced mission groups. We got to play in two such challenges, one focusing on Protoss caster control and one focusing on multi-front army management. Both challenges were graded Bronze, Silver and Gold according to the amount of enemy kills attained – 75, 150 and 225 kills respectively.

The first challenge was of the intermediate level, and it involved controlling some High Templar and Sentries. This is a very challenging mission as you are positioned on a platform and required to use force fields and hallucinations to keep the enemy from attacking your fragile units while using Psi-Storms to deal AoE damage to masses of incoming enemies. One cool feature is printed messages in red text , saying “9 kills… Terrible Damage” when killing that amount of units. The challenge is not random, so players will eventually learn how to beat it by correctly saving energy and using the units’ abilities with maximum efficiency – an excellent preparation for online battles!

Challenging Single Player Doesn't Prepare You For Multiplayer

Another challenge puts you in command of a large Protoss army of a dozen Stalkers, six Carriers, some Zealots, High Templar, and a group of Phoenixes. You also get three Warp Prisms and six Warp Gates as well as full tech for ground units. Each group of units is positioned to attack one segment of the map with units that are easy to kill. For example, the Phoenixes fight against groups of Mutalisks with one Hydralisk that players are expected to target with the Gaviton Beam. Carriers fight against Marines and Missile Turrets, while Stalkers fight Terran Reapers on cliffs. To succeed, one must maintain control of everything that’s going on. Interestingly, one part of the challenge in this mission is that button clicking is completely disabled! In order to build units, issue orders, or use abilities players must press the correct hotkey on the keyboard. This is a great way to familiarize new players with hotkeys, which are absolutely required in competitive games but are often overlooked by beginners.

Get Ready For An Epic Campaign, Commander.

Overall, the single player component of StarCraft 2 is shaping up to be an epic experience. A lot of effort has gone into making it a unique experience among the somewhat generic gameplay normally found in the RTS genre, and it looks like it won’t be for naught!

The SC2Blog team has been having a blast playing the beta over the last two weeks, raking in hundreds of games as well as watching many high-level replays, video commentaries and live streams. After gaining some insight into the workings of the game as it is currently played, we have decided to present you with a few of the commonly used strategies in mid to high level of play for all three races. Since there’s a lot to say, we’ll separate the races into three posts, the first of which is dedicated to StarCraft 2’s psionic, photosynthesizing, warp (ab)using Protoss.


Protoss!

Chronozeal

This strategy dominated the early days of the beta and can still be seen quite often. It is simple to execute, fast to achieve and quite devastating – especially before the Chrono Boost nerf, the 10 point reduction in Zealot shields, and the 30% increase in Gateway build time made it a little less quick and easy. This strategy involves quickly getting 3 gates up while building one assimilator for gas. While constantly pumping out Zealots and Chrono Boosting the gates, a large group of them could be amassed rather quickly. The attack is best timed with the completion of Charge research, which greatly enhances the effectiveness of Zealots. Not only does it become impossible to dance around them, they also surround enemies very quickly since the added distance already attacking Zealots add is negated by the superspeed. The toughness and relatively high attack damage of Zealots make this one of the first winning strategies for the Protoss in the StarCraft 2 beta. Evolutions of this strategy involve adding a Sentry or two, helping the Zealots take less damage from ranged attacks or trapping enemies with the Force Field ability.

Counters:

  • Well-defended choke points
  • Mass Roach
  • Marine and Marauder balls with a couple of Hellions for flavor

Quick Colossus

Colossi lasering the field of battle

After players began exploring the game some more, many have found the awesome power of the Colossus to be too good to pass up in just about every match. Soon enough, Protoss players understood that the Colossus literally wipes the floor with just about any ground unit, and so, many now rush to get one out as soon as possible. The most common strategy involves getting a Zealot wall to be used as fodder along with a handful of Stalkers and Sentries, with the Colossus laying back and lasering everything in sight with its huge, sweeping beams of scorching death. The upgrade found in the Robotic Bay is a critical one, increasing the Colossus’ range of attack from 6 to 9. Most players seem to understand that despite its cost (200/200), this upgrade is more important than getting a second Colossus out. Indeed, upgraded Colossi are a mainstay unit for the Protoss: not only are they easy to use effectively, but with a little micro, positioning the Colossus so that the the beams inflict maximum damage or dancing with it up and down cliffs is extremely rewarding.

Counters:

  • Immortals, Void Rays
  • Banshees, Vikings, carefully handled Marauders with EMP support in the early game
  • All Zerg air units

Void rush

The Void Ray is a very unique unit with a distinct Protoss feel. Few tier 2 units in the game can inflict so much damage in such little time, and so it did not take long for Protoss players to abuse the potential of this unit. Requiring only the Cybernetic Core as a prerequisite and the Stargate to manufacture, the first 200/150 Void Ray can be brought to the field very quickly – especially with some help from Chrono Boost. Protoss players would quickly block off the entrance to their base, hopefully prohibiting the enemy from knowing what they’re up to, and then send 2-4 Void Rays to attack their unsuspecting enemy right inside their home.

Void Rays taking down Nexus even while being shot

The usual harassment at this point of the game focuses on the mineral line, but Void Ray rushers do not compromise for such petty means and go straight for the Town Hall. Players who lack any sort of anti-air will lose immediately, while others who can defend will spend the next few minutes losing various units and buildings to hit and run attacks while the Protoss player solidifies his economy and expands. Players who wish to use this strategy must make sure they possess the ability to micromanage these attention-requiring units, which are quite slow and not heavily armored, while also taking the time to take care of their economy and production.

Counters:

  • Stalkers with Sentry (Sentries are light and, with Guardian Shield, take little damage from Void Rays)
  • Mid-sized Marine groups
  • Hydralisks

Dark Templar harassment

Still alive for the most part, and as effective as ever, or more so – now that Overlords are not detectors anymore. StarCraft 2’s Warp-in mechanic allows Dark Templars to be summoned directly to expansions, proxy pylons and to the occasional Warp Prism, hitting where detection is lacking and where the dark ones are least expected. Players lacking detection or an observant eye on the battlefield will take heavy damage before stopping the sneaky, hard-hitting Templar.

Mothership

Before Yo Mommaship got so fat, it was quite the unit to aspire to and get out to the field as soon as possible. Not only did its devastating Vortex ability cost 75 energy units, allowing it to be cast in every battle easily – it was also a fighting beast itself. With 400/400 hp/shields, a powerful, rapid attack that could take down workers (sans SCVs) and Marines in a single shot, a base armor of two, and an insta Town Portal button, the Mothership was often seen patrolling the skies all by itself, looking for prey. What was the risk?

Later in the game, the Mothership carried the entire Protoss army (or just cruised around with an air force) under its cloaking veil, vortexing everything in its path and destroying the remnants. Fortunately for the enemies of the Protoss, the wide range of nerfs to the Mothership have reduced it to something resembling more of a powerful Arbiter than anything else.

Counters:

  • Sucked into a Vortex

Mothership so fat

What is the standard?

If one could point out a “solid” strategy, which does not either over-commit the player to a certain route nor expose him to a hard counter, it would be the standard Gateway/Robotics build.

A Healthy Protoss Mix

Zealots, Stalkers and Sentries are all availiable practically from the very beginning, and Immortals coupled with Observers provide the early-mid game Protoss player with enough tools to deal with most normal threats. Healthy scouting and pressure that can be applied via the early attainable army would often counter most cheese tactics and allow the Protoss player to force an end to the game right away or comfortably segue into late-game play.

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