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StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is going live this Tuesday! If you’re serious about being among the first to hit the virtual battlefield, Blizzard will be holding midnight launch events as well as allowing pre-downloaded copies to be insta-activated.

If you intend to buy a digital copy of StarCraft 2, you might end up with a small edge on everyone else, as the full StarCraft 2 client, weighing in at a healthy 7GB, is available for download through your Battle.net account.

  • Who should download StarCraft II in advance?
    If you intend to purchase StarCraft II digitally, downloading the client now will allow you to simply pay and play when digital copies of StarCraft II go on sale.
  • Will digital copies of StarCraft II be available as soon as the game is released in stores?
    No. They’ll go on sale slightly later, on 07/27/2010 10:00 AM PDT in North America and Latin America.

While the game is already available for download, we can safely assume it is fully encrypted. On 07/27/2010 10:00 AM PDT, gamers will be able to run the installer and activate their digital copy via their Battle.net account management console.

Blizzard will be celebrating the launch of StarCraft 2 in multiple select retail stores around the world, hosting midnight parties with StarCraft 2 developers in attendance – signing copies, hosting competitions, having awesome giveaways and just mingling with their most devoted fans.
Midnight parties are expected to take place in:

  • London
  • Berlin
  • Paris
  • Stockholm
  • Moscow
  • Singapore
  • Mexico City
  • São Paulo, Brazil
  • Brisbane, Australia

Throughout its development, StarCraft 2’s regional segregation has been quite an issue for gamers around the world, especially in the eSports community. With just a few days left till launch, Blizzard decided to grant full North American server access to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand!

North American Server Access for Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™ Players FAQ highlights:

Q: Who is eligible to play on the North American servers?

A: All players, including those in the regions of Hong Kong and Macau, who purchase the English Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand Standard or Collector’s Edition of StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™ will have the option of playing on the North American Battle.net® servers in addition to the Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand servers if they prefer.

Q: How much will this cost?

A: The option of playing on North American Battle.net servers will come at no additional cost to all players who have purchased the Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand version of StarCraft II.

Q: How will access to the North American servers be granted?

A: Our intention is to ensure that within 60 days after the launch of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, all players with a copy of the Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand version will automatically gain the ability to also access the North American servers — this will be handled through Battle.net account management.

Downloading StarCraft 2

With just 20 days left until the much anticipated StarCraft 2 gold launch and a massive promotion campaign underway, Blizzard faces a mounting barrage of concerns over Battle.net 2.0’s social and regional features. However, in a fashion not entirely typical of a software development company, Blizzard has responded firmly and directly to these concerns, making official statements about the future features of the platform.

Arguably the biggest concern, seen on the Battle.net forums on a day-to-day basis, was the lack of chat channels during the beta and Blizzard’s stance on the issue throughout StarCraft 2’s development. Kapeselus of Blizzard’s Europe RTS community team has recently addressed the issue, and much to the community’s delight, we should be expecting chat channels patched soon after StarCraft 2’s release on July 27.

There will definitely be “chat channels” coming in one of the patches after the release. The system will be based around groups, where you will be able to join public channels that are based around your interests, which can be virtually anything. Also the system will include private chat channels (in plans for release in the first few months after the release), where you will be able to meet with your friends.

Classic Chat Interface

Unique identifiers will be making a return. However, players will no longer be able to select their own .XXXXX suffix – those will be auto-generated by Battle.net upon account creation, making impersonation quite stupid and expensive.

As for identifiers they are returning for the second phase of the beta. The previous system did not work as intended to some degree and based on feedback received the developers decided to implement a variation of this, which is going to attach character codes. These will be three digit numbers added to your nickname and they will be seen in the UI screens. Thanks to this you will be able to add friends manually, just like previously with identifiers. On top of that you can still add friends using all other methods (using the score screen or RealID).

The number will be automatically generated. Please keep in mind that you won’t be able to see this code everywhere, but only on certain screens. (i.e. it won’t get in the way and it won’t ruin the “look” of your nickname, don’t worry! )

The explanations posted were very encompassing and sincere, clarifying the reasons behind Battle.net 2.0’s feature selection. Even gamers who grew up using chat channels could see how modern social-networking setups differ from the long-existing chat-channel based Battle.net interaction and how they may appeal more to mainstream gamers, less accustomed to arranging games and tournaments using IRC and IM chats.

I agree that Facebook integration was something that some players found controversial, but at the same time I disagree that this is something buyers are not looking for.

Even _if_ majority of people don’t have friends to add there are still some who will welcome an opportunity to use this (even here or on teamliquid of all the places :)). I don’t think that looking only on one side of the issue is the right approach, especially when you can make a case that for example majority of buyers don’t care about chat channels.

You just don’t have the data and there are definitely a lot of people out there who just want to log in and play (I know a few myself). Does this mean that implementing chat channels is a mistake, as there are more pressing features that need to be there? Certainly not and I am sure you will agree with me. I am also not comparing the magnitude of both these features, just a hypothetical situation, especially given Facebook integration definitely didn’t take priority over chat channels and wasn’t hard to implement, as it is a very simple option.

The community’s second-biggest concern, a social, eSports and pricing issue all in one, is the localization of StarCraft 2 accounts and built-in measures for preventing cross-regional play, as was disclosed in the Russian StarCraft 2 pricing announcement.

….the game will be fully localized and playable only on Russian Battle.net servers, and players will be required to pay an additional fee to play on international European servers.

Kapeselus addressed the issue again, stating Blizzard’s intention to patch additional features and infrastructure improvements in after StarCraft 2’s official release.

We are aware of players’ concerns about the cross-region play and they are being addressed. As stated previously out long term plan with Battle.net is to allow players to play together. This unfortunately cannot be achieved at this point, due to various challenges and issues connected to it, making it more difficult to implement than in the past.

On the other hand we are looking into solutions which will allow interested players to get access to different regions without buying another full copy of the game. There will be support for this on the Account Management site in the first few months after the release.

During the beta, it was not uncommon for tournament participants to use alternative accounts, burrowed from friends, in order to compete against opponents from across the sea. Blizzard, obviously acknowledging the fact that such a common situation must not force players into an awkward workaround, has set a goal for enabling cross-region play.

We are looking into ways of letting you switch between servers, no matter whether you buy a European or American version of the game. As for the second question you won’t be able to play in the same game using different servers, as we have never had global servers for our games. It is our goal for the future, but won’t be there for release.

Benzen of Blizzard’s forum community team posted a lengthy reply to pricing concerns, which were mounting as Blizzard revealed its multiple region and subscription based pricing plans for Russia and Brazil.

How is the cost of the limited version reasoned? The money has to be used to support Brazilian datacenters?
One of the main goals was to make our game accessible to a wide array of players (novice to veterans), this also applies to pricing options that we have.

As a scenario, if you know you’re going to play StarCraft II and are expecting to play for a while, you have the option to purchase and download the unlimited version online, directly from us. However, if you’re a new player or, if you’re unsure about how long you’re going to play for, you also have the option to purchase the limited version of the game at a reduced price. Then if you decide you want to play more, you have subscription options readily available for you.

Nothing has really changed in terms of being able to purchase the full version of the game. We’ve simply added additional purchasing options so that the game is accessible to a wider audience.

I wish to elaborate on this as there seems to be quite a bit of confusion surrounding this. Currently, there are no plans to allow upgrading from limited to unlimited. However, it is something we’re looking into.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the scenario where you know you’re definitely going to play the game (and for a while at that), you have the option to purchase the unlimited version. We want to make this game very accessible to everyone and we feel that having diversified payment options will help facilitate this.

Collector's Edition - 99 Dollars, Limited Availability

While the reasoning behind the pricing structure is sound and clear, the flipside is a bit harsh on regular gamers in Brazil. The unlimited version costs twice as much, almost $60, while the 6-month limited version is priced at $27. With no way of upgrading between the two after making a purchase, gamers on a budget will have quite a pricey decision to face when StarCraft 2 hits the stores.

With the nearing StarCraft 2 release and the second phase of the beta hitting any day now, updates will soon return in full gear. Get ready for the summer of StarCraft 2!

Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2’s Lead Designer, has gone on an interview spree, giving three full interviews to representatives of German and Polish fansites along with Joystiq, an international gaming news website. Dustin talks about many aspects of StarCraft 2, providing long and detailed answers to all questions. We bring you the new and most interesting bits of info:

Polish interview extract. First up, a question about the end of the beta:

Q: This will be few days before release date or maybe some more?

It won’t be necessarily just a few days. We do have to take down the servers to prepare for the launch so there will be some time between the launch and when the beta comes down. I don’t know how long it’s gonna be right now. There will be at least couple weeks or maybe more where the beta is down before launch.

If you managed to get addicted to StarCraft 2 already (we sure have), prepare to go cold turkey for a few weeks.

Q: What can we expect in the future patches? We already know that there will be some Facebook integration from today’s announcement. Can you tell me something more about that? Or maybe about map publishing system?

So we’re obviously working on map publishing so that you can publish your map on Battle.net and share it with all your friends. We’re adding two levels of publishing plant. We have sort of a beta test publishing which will share with just you and your friends so that you can test your map and see if it’s any good enough before you publish it live for whole world to see. At that point you will be able to control versioning of your map, decide what version of your map you want people to be playing. We also continue to polish a lot of UI elements that you guys aren’t seeing today. Like we have some very rough version of achievements in the beta right now which we’re gonna keep working on before we go live. We’ve got improved profile functionality, we’ve got lots of little tweaks and fixes across Battle.net to sort of bring it up to speed. Once we go live we have patches planned in the future for things like tournament support, for things like obviously chat channels, lots and lots of little features to happen after we go live as well. We’re sorta viewing Battle.net as sort of a more of a living service in StarCraft II. A little more like we do In World of Warcraft where we’re sort of adding as we go and it’s not just major games that see improvements to Battle.net we also do improvements along the way. I don’t know a lot about Facebook integration functions you probably want Greg Canessa for that stuff but that is something that gonna go live with the product. They are putting it in beta patch so that will just allow you to sort of import your Facebook friends into Battle.net allowing you to quickly populate your friends list with people who are playing StarCraft with you.

Q: How do you assess commitment of players in beta test? Do they provide you enough statistic data?

We’re seeing lots and lots of play on Battle.net right now. The average Battle.net player right now is playing over 20 games a week. Which is really great. Our highest end players up in platinum leagues are playing upwards of 50 games a week. And this is including players who tried it out for two or three games got beaten down decided they didn’t want to play anymore until game went live when they had more time to learn and left. So that means that the players that are active are playing well above 20 games. They are playing lots and lots of games. We’re seeing a lot of information about balance, we’re seeing lots of feedback on the Battle.net service itself. Like all our betas it’s a great learning experience for us. The fans have really sort of jumped in with both feet, played our game is not the most polished experience yet but they played our game and gave us a lot of great feedback to improve final product.

Q: Is there any possibility that units from the single player will be some day in multiplayer mode? Maybe in expansions?

It’s totally possible. It happened in the past, right?. Like Dark Templar was a single player unit in StarCraft and became a multiplayer unit in Broodwar. So anything is certainly possible. I don’t anticipate that at this point but we’ll be certainly looking at that stuff as we’re moving to the Heart of the Swarm and multiplayer elements of that game.

The glorious Terran Firebat - Only in Single Player

Since Blizzard’s creativity is truly set loose in single player design settings, not hampered by the constraints of balanced play, there’s little doubt that the campaign will feature a few very interesting, unique units. Hopefully, the most popular and useful ones will eventually be made playable in multiplayer in StarCraft 2’s expansions, just like the Dark Templar had been when Brood Wars was made.

German interview extract:

At BlizzCon 2009, we saw that there is also the possibility to make 3rd person view maps with the editor. Will we see anything like this stuff used for the campaign?

No, we don’t have anything of that stuff in the campaign, we leave all that to custom maps. In the campaign we really focused on making a great real-time strategy game and we’re not throwing in 3rd person elements. So, that kind of stuff will be for our mod makers, for our custom maps, but not used in the campaign.

So you won’t redesign StarCraft: Ghost as kind of campaign mission?

Dustin Browder: No

StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty single player campaign will be an RTS. Not FPS, not 3PS; no scrollers or tower defense scenarios.

In contrast to the campaign the new Battle.Net is probably a huge disappointment for a lot of the fans. That’s on the one side because of the fact that features we know from the original Battle.Net won’t be included and on the other side, we have to read news, that even the social networking website facebook will in some way be included. So what can you tell fans who say “Just give us chat channels now and leave it with the other stuff”?

Well, we’re working on the chat channels but the reason they are delayed is that we have something, which we think is much better than what we had in the original games. In the original games the chat channels were used by some of our users but they were largely misused just for spam. It was kind of a mess that they weren’t focused on only one particular topic. While we definitely feel the fans sort of enthusiasm to get them back, we don’t want those chat channels back. We feel like those chat channels were not a huge success for us and we can do them much better. So we will be looking into chat channels down the road that are more focused on specific topics, that are better organized around different social structures. We could certainly just jam the old channels back in but we didn’t feel like those were a huge success for us. But we really want this thing back, just much more interesting than before. So we’re definitely working on it and we definitely hear the users’ complains, but we think we can do better down the road.

StarCraft 2: Over 20,000 Players Online

I hear what you’re saying but as you know there are already a lot of tournaments and other events run through the new Battle.Net and they all need some kind of place to meet without having to know the opponent’s account first. So what about implementing just a kind of chat channel system now, maybe just for private channels and redo the other stuff later?

It’s not gonna happen with the launch, it’s just a production issue and we don’t have the time to do it at this point. We disappointed our fans, that is a huge bummer, right, and that is never a goal we intentionally pursue, but it’s not gonna happen for launch at this point. We simply got too much polish left to do on the rest of the game to also get that in. And we certainly hear that from some of the players but a lot of players are also enjoying Battle.Net quite a bit at this point. So, we surely hear the people’s need for additional features that we don’t have and we definitely keep working on those down the road. We’ve got what we’ve got for launch at this point and it doesn’t include chat channels.

Dustin knows that Battle.net can not exist without chat channels due to the nature of interaction between players, tournament organizers, clans and communities. While channels will not be part of Battle.net 2.0 when StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty goes gold, Blizzard will indeed implement a new chat channel setup afterwards.

Sticking to feedback: You might actually get a lot of feedback from all over the world now, concerning very different issues. Especially the responses on the balance of the game must be contradictory sometimes. So on what are your balance changes based on?

We use the feedback to sort of let us check things out. We have some pretty skilled guys in the office playing, we have some pretty unskilled guys in the office playing, so we can use the feedback to sort of validate, verifying our points in a specific direction. Nevertheless, we also want to see it in replays or in live games that we play, so we don’t just take someone who send us a note and then say “Okay we just gonna fix that because somebody said we should fix it.” We actually go out and check it ourselves playing 50 or 60 games with that race and see what’s going on in that match-up, trying to understand what the feedback tells us. Then we make a decision how to fix it, based on our playing experience.

How many people do actually work on the Battle.Net team?

I don’t know if I know that answer, but there are quite a few guys. It’s well over 50 at this point, but it’s difficult to calculate everything that’s going on, because you’ve got 60+ guys on team one, you’ve got 50+ guys on Battle.Net, you’ve got, I don’t know, maybe 100 guys working on cinematics, right, you’ve got 80 or 90 people in QA working on the game, you’ve got customer support, you’ve got all kind of people around the studio from IT to whoever giving us all kinds of tactical support as we got. At the end of the day, you look at the credits and it’s gonna be hundreds and hundreds of people who worked on this game.

Around 50 people are working on Battle.net…. and 100 people are working on the cinematics. Throughout the last 15 years or so, Blizzard’s cinematics have always stood out in terms of quality, detail, art and atmosphere. StarCraft’s ending sequence is widely considered to be one of the best game endings ever.

Joystiq interview extract:

How will balancing continue with the expansions? I’m assuming the expansions will affect the multiplayer, right?

They have to. I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. Once we get done with this, we’re going to be working pretty hard to figure out what we can and can’t do, but we obviously want to add. We’re sort of doing them as expansion packs. If you got a Brood War expansion pack, what would you expect? Well, you’d expect two to four new units per race and you’d expect maybe some gameplay modes or something and you’d expect a great new campaign. That’s what you’d expect. Right? So, we want to try to hit that quality bar for our fans and try to give them something that’s rational — that is both fun for them, but is also something that’s not 17 units, then 21 units per race, which would be insane. So, I don’t know what the magic bullet is yet, but we’ve got some ideas. We’ll see if they pan out.

Dustin hit the nail right on its head. Blizzard has quite a challenge on its hands – StarCraft 2 multiplayer gameplay is planned to expand twice, and given the fragility of a three-way balance setup, it won’t be easy to come up with creative, fun and worthwhile additions to the game.

Yeah. I know you’re all focused on Wings of Liberty, but have you guys been able to even conceptualize or think about the next title?

A little bit. Not a lot. That’s going to be challenging for us to make that transition. But we’ve done a little bit of thinking about it. I think the biggest challenge for us is we’ve got so much content that we’re so comfortable with here, and the challenge is to really make it feel like a Zerg game. We really want to make sure that, “Hey, I’m sort of playing the villains!” I want to feel that. I want to feel that switch over to the dark side and I want you to feel like, “Dude. This is the bad guy game. Woo! Yeah!” And not feel like it’s just a slimy version of the Terran game.

And what about having a unit that looks just like you in the game?

it’s just fun to see yourself in the game, as well as flattering. It’s just one example of how we have some fun while making the game.

Zeus And Browder Portraits

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.
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