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Karune, Blizzard’s RTS Community Manager, has posted a brand new Q&A batch on Battle.net. This one includes a special “Chat with Devs” section, dedicated solely to StarCraft 2’s new death animations.

Chat with Devs: Between adding new unit models and sliming up the zerg buildings, the StarCraft II art team has also spent some time on some little details that make the game come alive, such as new unit death animations. Featured below, we have a protoss carrier being blown out of the sky by a squad of terran marines, as well as several zerg units falling to their fates.
http://www.starcraft2.com/features/misc/deathanimations.xml

The artistic effort behind these death animations was first mentioned in June 2008, when Karune stated that

currently, we are looking to have different types of death animations available for multiplayer than will be present for the single player campaign.”

That's Hot

And again in January this year, when the  Chat with Devs section included the following graphic descriptions:

The art team has been adding several new death animations for units including the Drone’s disintegration into ashes when torched by Hellions, or the explosion of the Overlord sacs by Marine Gauss Rifle fire, and even Marauders being sliced into various pieces by Dark Templars.

So be sure to check out the neat, short video that Blizzard’s Devs put up to demonstrate the art team’s recent efforts.

1. Add an option in the menu to disable the windows key, and same thing goes for ALT-TAB?
And add an EASY way to squelch your opponent. When their name “IllIIlIIlIIlIIlllI” (L & i), it’s a little difficult.


While we are not considering disabling the windows key and Alt+Tab, we are looking into the naming policy to prevent problems like the one you described.

A naming policy (except for profanity, racism, etc… ) for a futuristic RTS title would definitely be a first. Blizzard has implemented a rather strict naming policy in World of Warcraft due to its RPGish nature, but we highly doubt that it’ll find its way into the StarCraft world…. unless… use your imagination.

2. StarCraft 2’s terrain properties such as Xel’Naga towers, destroyable barriers and Brush have a significant effect on gameplay and appear to create specific points of interest/advantage on the map. Are there plans to introduce additional terrain buffs/effect to the battlefield?

The current terrain features are not finalized. We still have these three map features in the game and we plan to keep them during the beta, but it is always possible to add more features if we find something that’s balanced and encourages exciting game play.

3. Since there are/were plans to integrate voice communications into multiplayer, will StarCraft 2 replays be able to include Audio, as well as chat?

Replay files do not include audio. However you will be able to see all text chats while you are watching replay.

If Blizzard actually deploys a proprietary StarCraft 2 audio communication solution, there is no real technical reason not to allow an audio recording to be attached to the replay file that players get at the end of the match, so it’s quite a shame that it is not being presently considered. If Blizzard does not provide its own tool for recording the audio during battles, it’s likely players will keep using external tools for either recording voice or even for communicating, forgoing the use of Blizzard’s system completely.

4. You have talked a bit about replay functions lately and since patches will come up definitely former replays won’t work if the system sticks with SC1 or W3. Do you plan on making changes here so that players can view older replays ever after patches occur?

Yes, even as the game gets patched, you will be able to watch replays of matches played on older versions.

5. The interface we see in Battle Reports – is this interface available for Observers during a live game (in real time), or only while viewing replays, or both?

The interface you’ve seen in Battle Reports will be available in observer mode as well as in replays during beta.

6. StarCraft II is a package consisting of single player/campaign, multiplayer (+replay viewer), map editor and Battle.net. All four are complex and without a doubt require testing and patching. Has it been decided which of the above components are planned to be included in public beta testing?

You can have multiplayer game access through Battle.net during the beta and you can watch the replays as well. There will also be access to the Map Editor during the beta process but not necessarily from the start. Single player campaign will not be included in the beta.

Blizzard has officially confirmed that the beta will include:

  • Multiplayer via Battle.net 2.0
  • Replay viewer
  • Map Editor
  • No Campaign
  • Player versus AI

Blizzard has also released the 5th installation of the Fansite Q&A series, answering questions mailed in by the SC2Armory community.

1) Blizzard, how attached are you guys to the proton charge/mule extra macro-for-money system? I know nothing is set in stone at this point, but will these mechanics in all likelihood make it into the final game?

This is a mechanic that we would like to keep if possible. Because the game is not yet in beta phase, there may still be tweaks and changes to these mechanics, but we are looking forward to players trying it out themselves in beta. We will continue testing the macro mechanics internally and we really want to see how the players will adopt these mechanics into their gameplay.

StarCraft 2’s new macro mechanics are expected to be tweaked and balanced heavily during the beta, but are very unlikely to be removed. Blizzard has every reason to get “attached” to these tools, since they provide an elegant solution to the over-automation that many gamers have complained about prior to the mechanics’ introduction in February this year.

2) With missile barrage and Yamato cannon, Battlecruisers’ can deal with most threats. My question is, how effectively can a Battlecruiser be countered? How well do Hydralisks, Void Rays, and Vikings work vs Missile barrage?

Hydralisks are easily the Zerg’s most important ground unit against air, including Battlecruisers. Void rays can be a good Protoss counter for battlecruiser, with focused fire and increasing damage over time on its attack. In fighter mode, the Terran viking does +10 damage against massive units like the battlecruiser.

3) Brood War Mutalisk micromanagement is an important aspect of the Terran vs. Zerg match up. Blizzard has been reported to be trying to implement some form of the Mutalisk stacking bug. My question is, how well do Terrans deal with stacked Mutalisks now that Irradiate is no longer in the game, Medics are higher tier, and a single control group can consist of much more then the eleven Mutalisks currently in StarCraft: Brood War?

The ghost’s snipe shot, which deals 60 damage (and ignores armor) to biological units like the mutalisk, can be a good defensive ability. The Thor’s anti-air attack also has +2 damage against Mutalisk’s Light armor. Additionally, the nighthawk’s hunter seeker missile gives splash damage, making it a great counter against mutalisk stacking, considering it does 150 damage. One missile can effectively 1-shot a whole stack of mutalisks if the zerg player does not try to dodge the missile. Even though players can group up many more than 12 mutalisks in a stack now, with abilities like the Hunter Seeker missile on the field, they may still want to think twice about it.

Well, that’s straightforward. Yes, we will allow Zerg players to stack a LOT of Mutalisks and use that to their advantage, just like in SC: BW. Yes, the Terrans get an instakill AoE banhammer to deal with the aforementioned menace.

4) When the Corrupters attack turns enemy flyers into “turrets” does the unit turned effect damage? In other words would a corrupted mutalisk do any less damage than a corrupted Battlecruiser or Mothership?

Once they are corrupted, all corrupted units will do the same damage.

5) If the Zerg Infestor uses neural parasite on a unit, will that unit still have all upgrades / abilities if the player researched them?

Yes, the parasited unit will have all upgrades / abilities.

Neural Parasite, the Zerg’s short-term late-game mind control ability, is not likely to see much play in intense 1v1 skirmish games, and there’s little, if any, reason to present limitations or nerfs on the controlled units. Prime targets would undoubtedly be casters; wasting the enemy unit’s energy and getting it killed in the process could become a viable late-game strategy for dealing with Protoss Templars and Terran Ravens.

6) Goliath could benefit from the Charon Boosters in SC:BW, However the Goliath is now replaced by the Viking (air mode) as AtA unit. Is there still any range increase going to happen for the Viking, to extend it’s missile range like the Goliath, or is it presumed unnecessary because Vikings can truly fly (and thus not limited in mobility)?

There is currently no range upgrade for the viking. However, vikings can still move in and out combat by shifting modes. In regards to the unit’s mobility, vikings will be much better than the original StarCraft’s goliath due to its new transformation abilities.

7) When we were told EMP was removed from the Ghost, it wasn’t mentioned what, if any, spell/ability would replace it. Can you comment on the current spells and abilities of the Ghost? And is EMP still a possibility for the game, whether on the Ghost or any other unit?

The ghost has regained the EMP ability again and EMP now does 100 damage to shields and drains all energy from player’s own and enemy units in the targeted area.

8 ) Can Blizzard give a well detailed explanation on how the new mechanic of the ability hallucination work. It was said that it can spawn 8 fake probes, how many then to other units? Zealots, stalkers, immortals, air units? Can it be used on allies (Zerg and Terrans)?

By using 100 energy, you can spawn one of these sets: 2 zealots, 2 stalkers, 1 immortal, 2 high templars, 1 archon, 1 void ray, 1 phoenix, 1 warp prism, or 1 colossus. You can only spawn Protoss units

It’s not entirely clear why this semi-nerfed version was put in place of the more powerful version originally suggested for StarCraft 2. Hallucination was a rarely used spell due to its direct competition with the dreaded Psi Storm and it’s highly unlikely to see anyone using it to create a single paper Immortal.

The German GameStar gaming magazine has gotten StarCraft 2’s Lead Designer, Dustin Browder, to sit down and give them a lengthy interview, primarily reiterating the changes StarCraft 2 went through over the course of the last two years and the main goals of the upcoming Beta. Team Liquid was kind enough to post a detailed translation, and you can download the entire 29 question interview here.

Some of Dustin Browder’s answers contain new information and also provide some insight about Blizzard’s plans for the immediate future.

Q: What happens during the beta test?

A: We take a look at which strategies are most popular. By that we realize, which elements work out already. Then we adapt the game into this direction, to make it even more fun. The players’ opinion has always been important to us, Starcraft and Brood War have made fundamental changes during beta and even after release. The final version of Sc2 could be vastly different from what you have played so far.

Blizzard’s utter (and justified) disregard towards official release dates puts a big fat “When It’s Done” stamp on StarCraft 2. The Beta period is unlikely to have a specific time frame, and it’s reassuring to see that the developers are willing to tweak and change the game as much as needed for it to become a masterpiece.

Q: By the way. Why did you change Zerg’s Nydus Channel? When we played the aliens the first time, we have a giant worm dig behind the enemy lines to spew out troops there. Now we can only build a building that look like a worm. The original one was way cooler!

n

A: Right, but it caused technical issues. We had difficulties with its looks and its control. It would have been lots of efforts to get it right. Also, the worm didn’t work out well in terms of balance. Therefore he won’t make it in, at least not into the first episode of Sc II, Wings of Liberty. After that we will consider what we can do with him in future. We still talk alot about him.

The burrowing Nydus Worm was one of the coolest, most ambitious and problematic mechanisms to be introduced into StarCraft 2. Showcased during the initial Zerg Introduction in March 2008, and confirmed to be removed during the BlizzCon event of the same year, the worm has received a lot of attention from both fans and the developers before it stopped being a unit and turned into a structure.

Q: Right, in the first part, you could only cross cliffs with flying units, plateau bases were therefore better protected. Since we just touched this topic: How do units benefit from being placed on high ground?



A: You cannot see them from low ground. At least as long as you do not use spotters, flyers or special talents, like the Terran scan. This can be a huge advantage, especially for Terran with their mighty Siege Tanks: As long as the enemy does not reveal them, they can blow him into pieces without resistance. Zerg profit the least from height advantage, since their ground range units do not fire very far. But with the Overlord and the Overseer they field two very good spotters. Apart from this, height differences have no effect. In SCI, there was a chance that units on the lowground would miss enemies on high ground. We removed this percentage since we do not like chance elements. The players ought to know exactly what advantage they have. And how to counter it.


Q: Apropos huge armies. In comparison to its predecessor, you are allowed to select many more units in Sc2. And that’s great. But still, some game concepts seem antiquated, for example the 3D camera that does not zoom out very far. Or the production queue that can only hold five units. Why did you change unit selection but kept the other elements the same?


A: There is a quite obvious reason for the camera position. I am not a big fan of zooming out very far from battles. In other games, this might work out, but not in Starcraft. There is so much Micro that the battles would look confusing if you could zoom out further. Also the atmosphere would get lost – the units would transform into tiny symbols and you couldn’t recognise anymore, how diligently they are designed. The feeling of fighting for a distinctive faction would get lost – and just in Starcraft, with its three characteristic races! Zoomed out very far, those battles would degenerate to a feud of ants. This might be appropriate for games like Supreme Commander, which are fully geared towards the zoom function, that have huge maps on which the units traverse very long distances. But Starcraft works differently: It happens faster, matches often last only half an hour. A zoom function simply wouldn’t fit in.

Another great call by Blizzard, which, nevertheless, is nothing short of a forced limitation. StarCraft 2, being a live 3D game, has no technical difficulty providing players with a full, zoomed-out view of the battle map – a feat that could come extremely handy if a player wanted to see his production buildings and worker line while skirmishing on the ramp leading to his base.

StarCraft 2 Can't have Simcity View Thingies

But StarCraft is neither Supreme Commander nor SimCity, and a full-map view, despite having obvious uses, would simply ruin the game. However, Blizzard should definitely consider the Zoom-out option of in-game Observers and in the Replay viewer.

Q: Since Blizzcon, you have changed many other things. Aren’t you frustrated about designing new game-content that gets scrapped again after a few months?

n

A: Hell, no! We have been doing this since years! It was always Blizzard’s philosophy to try things. In Sc2 we just started early with announcing units and abilities. Wc3 went through just the same process. Admittedly, maybe it’s a bit more serious with SC2. But that’s how it works: We develop a game, then we change it. And then we change it again. And again. That’s how we give the game the fine tuning. Of course many pieces of content accumulate that we cannot use at the moment, since they work reasonably well, but simply not great. I love that we are this flexible. We owe this to our technicians who have constructed such an outstanding engine. To rework a unit completely takes 2-3 hours at max.

n

Q: In Paris we noticed that the AI opponents play extremely strong at the highest difficulty setting. Are they cheating?

n

A: Yes, on the highest setting “insane”, the AI profits from additional resources. On all other settings, the opponents do not cheat. On the 2nd highest level “hard” they act as smart as on the highest, simply without the added resources. This is a notable improvement compared to the first game. As in many other RTS titles, the AI in SC1 would see the entire map and would know exactly where the player’s units and buildings were. In part 2, this does not hold anymore. The AI opponents have to send out scouts to find the players. Only when they find out, what the opponents are building, they adapt their tactics. If you hide units from the AI – on hills or behind bushes – you gain an advantage.

A fair AI will make StarCraft 2’s single player experience, as well as custom game allies and rivals significantly more valuable and interesting, granting advantage to players willing to “surprise” the enemy with unconventional attacks.

Q: But the day-night cycle and the weather effects wouldn’t have any gameplay effects?

n

A: We talked about it, and even tested it, but the answer’s: No. We do not want maps with differing rules. Just imagine a snowy area in which ground troops move more slowly. That would completely revert the balance. The Zerg would suffer a lot, since they are highly dependant on their speed. Or imagine rainy maps, on which the sight-range of flying units is reduced. The balance would be shaky and we would have to rebalance the races just because of the stupid rain. That might be an interesting idea for the future, but at the moment we don’t want it.

Also of note are several build updates, most notably to the Terran Nighthawk, formerly known as the Vulcan, formerly know as the Nomad, now called The Artist “Raven”. A new ability has been introduced as well:

Defensive Drone: With this drone you are able to intercept enemy projectiles, e.g. rockets of the terran missile turrets. Therefore this special weapon is especially well suited for attacks on bases. Against small bore (like the spines of the Hydralisk), however, it is powerless.

Considering the very specific use implied in the ability’s description, it’s likely adjustments to the Defensive Drone will be made somewhere down the road.

The recently mentioned Brood Lord has been finally revealed, and it is not entirely dissimilar to the Zerg Guardian and Swarm Guardian predecessors in neither look nor purpose.

Brood Lord

Blizzard’s game designers have finally given StarCraft 2’s Protoss a Shield Battery, in the form a High Templar ability – making the Templar Energy- for-Shields quite an intriguing trade-off, considering the high value most Protoss players place on the Templar’s energy reserves. Of course, this will strongly depend on the exact exchange ratio determined by careful balance.

High Templar
*new Ability*
Plasma Surge: This ability is similar to the shield battery in sc1 as it allows the ht to recharge the damaged shields of all friendly protoss units in a selected area

As the game nears its beta, the changes we see become more and more important – they  have a very good chance of sticking until the game’s release. However, Dustin has made abudantly clear that the developers will not shy away from making  signifcant adjustments to StarCraft 2’s units and mechanics based on the feedback gamers will provide over the course of the beta period.

The Massive 49th StarCraft 2 Q&A batch includes an informative and graphic Chat with the Devs section, and coupled with six gameplay oriented Q&As, it has shed a lot of light on recent critical changes to StarCraft 2. The developers have unveiled significant changes to Zerg graphics and the Queen unit, explained the mechanics of the recently mentioned Protoss Dark Pylon, and unveiled the brand new Terran Orbital Command.

Within hours of releasing the Q&A, Cydra and Karune, Blizzard’s RTS community managers, have provided more than 30 follow-up clarification posts to complete the puzzle. The following coverage makes use of these clarifications within the context of the original Q&A for your reading pleasure.

Chat with Devs:

Art Updates
The StarCraft art team have been making massive updates to the Zerg faction, adding various new animations and improving even further on the textures of Zerg units and buildings. A picture is a thousand words so check out the updates for yourself!

Zerg Drone (Before/After)
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/UpdatedDrone.jpg

Zerg Overlord (Before/After)
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/UpdatedOverlord.jpg

Zerg Hydralisk (Before/After)
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/UpdatedHydralisk.jpg

Zerg Overseer (Before/After)
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/UpdatedOverseer.jpg

Zerg Baneling (Before/After)
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/UpdatedBaneling.jpg

Throughout the development process, the team is constantly reiterating and improving on the game in every way. As mentioned before, the Infestor too is getting a makeover, becoming much creepier and intimidating – you definitely don’t want to end up helpless at the will of this thing!

Zerg Infestor Concept Art
StarCraft 2 New Infestor Concept Art

The StarCraft 2 team has made a number of changes in each of the races as the game gets closer to Beta. These are some of the new weapons and abilities that are currently being tested on the battlefield.

A Mechanical Infestor
If the above concept art reminds you of a certain Protoss unit, you are not the only one. The Zerg Infestor looks just like the biological counterpart of the mechanical Protoss Reaver. The Reaver is well remembered for being an extremely slow unit that depends on Shuttles for mobility – and as Karune confirmed, Infestors will indeed be relatively slow units.

The Infestor will still be relatively slow, though they have been sped up a bit from when you guys last saw it.

Overall, Zerg model improvements focused on giving the units a slicker, more polished Xenomorph-like look and have also greatly enhanced their detail. Obvious improvements include “translating” some of the model textures into actual 3D.

Protoss Dark Pylon
Long used only by the Dark Templar of Shakuras, the Dark Pylon is now used by all as the Protoss war for survival becomes more desperate. In addition to providing supply and giving power to nearby Protoss structures, the Dark Pylon has several unique abilities that require energy to use.

Proton Charge:an area-of-effect ability that gives all targeted Probes additional charge for their Proton-Cutters. Probes that have an additional charge gather additional minerals per trip when collecting resources. The Proton Charge lasts only a short time before dissipating.

Null Shield: a single-target ability that causes a Protoss Shield to shimmer and warp, cloaking the targeted Protoss unit. The Null Shield lasts only a short time.

Argus Link: a single-target ability that transfers energy from the Dark Pylon to any energy-using Protoss unit.

Screenshot: Proton Charge in Action
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/PROTOSS_DroneTarget.jpg
http://www.battle.net/images/misc/09-02/PROTOSS_DroneHarvest.jpg

The Protoss Dark Pylon is a brand new Protoss building with two unit support abilities and one macro complication.

The Dark Pylon currently costs 150 minerals (50 more than normal Pylon) and has the Gateway as the prerequisite building. This of course is all subject to change while more balance testing is occuring.

As stated in its introduction, it provides the Protoss with all the benefits of a Pylon (power, supply) but its abilities give the Dark Pylon a significant advantage when used defensively at expansions or as a proxy Pylon, as well as a home-base gathering-accelerator. Its AoE Proton Charge ability benefits the player proportionally to the number of probes affected, making its construction a great investment for a well-populated mining line.

Terran Orbital Command:
The Terrans rely not only on the troops they can train on the battlefield but also on troops called from deep space. The Orbital Command allows the Terrans to make use of their orbital assets to support their fight on the ground. As an upgrade to the Command Center the Orbital Command can create SCVs and serves as a drop location for collected resources. In addition it has several abilities that require energy.

Calldown Mule: sends a single automated mining robot by drop-pod that assists SCVs in collecting resources by working around current SCV mining operations. Unfortunately the Mule is still in the prototype phase and has a limited battery supply (timed life).

Calldown Extra Supplies: sends additional supplies to a targeted Supply Depot. Generally used by Terran commanders only in an emergency to allow them to support additional troops.


Scanner Sweep:
using a satellite in high-orbit, the Terrans reveal a large area anywhere on the map and detect all cloaked units within the target area.

The Terran Orbital Command upgrade replaces the “Surveillance Center” which has been unveiled during the introduction of the Terran’s new upgradeable Command Center. Players which have upgraded their Command Center to a Planetary Fortress can not upgrade to Orbital Command and vice versa.

Mules and Orbital Command

The Calldown Mule ability is not the innocent Macro twist it first appears to be:

Cydra:
Dark Pylon’s abilities has a cast range.
Orbital Command’s abilities technically don’t have a cast range, since mules can be dropped any place on the map and Extra Supplies only can be dropped on the Supply Depot. And as you know, Scanner Sweep can be used on the any map location
.

Karune has later confirmed that theoretically, Mules can be called down “offensively“. Land a Mule on top of a bunched up group of enemy Marines, and a nearby Siege Tank will share his love with them in an attempt to kill it. Fortunately, the Mule Drop Pod animation lasts 5-10 seconds, providing enough time for splash-heavy units to prepare for its impact and adjust their targeting.  The current state of the Mule is:

  • Has the repair ability.
  • Able to mine more Minerals per trip than an SCV.
  • Costs no supply and has no quantity limit. The Orbital Command’s Energy is the only limiting factor.
  • Has unlimited range – can be dropped anywhere on the map.
  • Has SCV-equivalent attack strength.
  • Has a time limit and disappears when its battery runs out.

The ability granting extra supplies, on the other hand, is a permanent Supply Depot buff, which even makes the building look differently.

Cydra:
1. Calldown Extra Supplies costs 50 energy.
2. Extra Supplies increases the supply output by 2.
3. You can still lower/raise your Supply Depot after calldown Extra Supplies on it.
4. It is permanent and looks different from the Supply Depot, which means you’d better take out this Depot first when you attacking the enemy Terran base.

While  the Terran’s macro-complication agent is the Command Center and the Protoss receive the Dark Pylon twist, it is the Zerg’s Queen that lands the mother of all macro buffs.

Zerg Queen
The Zerg Queen has continued to evolve over the last few months. She is a fierce defender of the Zerg Hatcheries and can often be found in small groups defending the larger Zerg infestations. In addition to defending her Hatchery from ground and air threats, the Queen has several special abilities that require energy to use.

Build Creep Tumor: with a mighty push from her bowels, the Queen creates a cluster of organic tumors that generate additional creep. In recent months the Zerg have mutated to move more quickly on creep, making this an important function for the Queen.

Spawn Larva: by injecting Queen ichor into a Hatchery, Lair or Hive the Queen can cause the Zerg structure to undergo a startling metamorphosis. The Hatchery starts to throb and green sacks swell up on the structure. Eventually four additional larva burst out of the Hatchery and land next to whatever larva are already wriggling around nearby. While a Hatchery hosts more than 3 larva, the Hatchery will not spawn additional larva, until that number drops below 3.

As Karune has reconfirmed in response to a question, Queens are not unique units. This creates the possibility of coordinated multi-Hatchery, multi-Queen production bursts, which can effectively more than double the amount of units produced at a given time. The Zerg have been given an extremely flexible, purely macro oriented tool that pushes the player to make meaningful production, offensive, defensive and resource gathering-related decisions.

15 Larvae Hatchery

Karune:
Being able to spawn additional larva can potentially help Zerg production quite a bit actually. Prior, when a Zerg player hatched offensive units, they were always sacrificing the creation of more drones. This ability allows more bandwidth to create even more offensive units for a big push, build more balanced with more drones and additional units, or double up on the teching effort with all drones. There are a lot of options to play with that will surely inspire many new strategies.

The Queen has also been given the perfect AoE attack, which has been confirmed to damage both ground and air, and not damage friendly units.

Razor Plague: with a great breath the queen exhales a cloud of tiny Zerg creatures that create a vast swarm nearby. These creatures attack all enemy creatures within their swarm, doing additional damage to biological targets. What makes it worse is the Zerg player can control the swarm, moving it around to attack whatever enemies he wishes until the swarm becomes exhausted and dissipates.

That wraps up the Chat with the Devs part. Enter Community Q&A section:

1) I am very curious… previously, SCVs, Drones, Probes, Vultures, Archons, and Dark Archons hovered above the ground so they were not hit by mines. My question is simple: Are there any hovering units in Starcraft 2? If there are, can they hover over shallow water?

If Spider Mines stay in the game, then there will be hovering units. Shallow waters are currently just a visual effect and will not ‘play’ differently.

2) How does the Mutalisk attack work in StarCraft II, what defines its bouncing pattern? Is it random or not? If not, what is the criteria that defines how it bounces?

Regardless of the position of the Mutalisk, when its attack hits a target, it will then acquire the next target based on proximity to the first target. The attack will always bounce to the next closest target.

3) Is it possible to toggle off Multiple Building Selection (MBS)?
No.

Blizzard is sticking to its stance on MBS, establishing it as a basic game mechanism.

4) Balancing of 2v2 team play: Roaches + Medivac are too over powered for 2v2 team play unit combinations?

The regeneration rate of the Roaches and the healing of the Medivac will not stack upon each other.

5) What is a good counter for Zerg against Marines, which are upgraded from the original StarCraft?

Zerg actually have a few options that are quite effective. Zerglings can catch Marines out in the open and surround them relatively easily. Secondly, Banelings with the burrow ability are also very effective. There is nothing more gratifying than watching a group of Marines walk over a burrowed Baneling. When it unburrows – BOOM! Another counter that can be used are Roaches with burrow. A player can burrow a Roach at low health for it to regenerate back to full health in seconds, at which point it can unburrow and begin attacking the Marines again.

In late game, Infestor’s with their fungal scourge ability, which causes a biological unit to take damage over time until the unit explodes and does an area of effect damage, decimating groups of Marines easily if the opponent is not fast to react. Additionally, Ultralisks with their new cleave attack as well as 200 more hit points from the original StarCraft also make them an excellent counter to massed Marines.

The Roach has been confirmed to regenerate fast enough to survive Psi Storms, so Blizzard’s decision to deny this biological unit the additional healing source was made due to obvious killability issues. Karune’s description of the burrowed Roach’s regeneration capabilities promises that we will be seeing a lot of Zerg Roach micro, perhaps even forcing opponents to bring detectors to every fight so they can finish off Roaches trying to escape the heat by burrowing.

6) How do you keep the Baneling from exploding on targets that you don’t want them to hit?

The Baneling now has an ‘attack building’ ability now which allows players to have more control over what the Baneling attacks. Players no longer need to worry about Banelings accidentally exploding on a building when they actually wanted it to hit a unit.

And so ends another massive update, which has included significant changes to game mechanics, the introduction of new buildings and abilities, new upgrades to existing units, and perhaps the final graphical touch ups for the Zerg race.

Q&A 48 delivers. Featuring a lengthy and interesting Chat with Devs section, coupled with seven, mostly gameplay-oriented questions, the batch could not have been more relevant for these “we can almost smell the beta” times. The batch even starts with a promise of a second StarCraft 2 Battle Report, to showcase the variety of newly introduced gameplay mechanics and animations.

Chat with Devs:

The new year is well on its way and with it, the devs have been making much progress in both the artistic polish of the game, as well as continued development of multiplayer game mechanics. The art team has been adding several new death animations for units including the Drone’s disintegration into ashes when torched by Hellions, or the explosion of the Overlord sacs by Marine Gauss Rifle fire, and even Marauders being sliced into various pieces by Dark Templars. All of it is quite a sight to see and it is the hope of the art team that these additional animations will really give players a grand experience of immersion into an epic StarCraft battle. On the multiplayer side, the designers are testing out various macro-management encouraging mechanics that will be implemented to each race, but still be played out differently per race. These macro elements will be aimed to allow players with greater macro-management skills to compete with the advantage of gathering more resources than a player who does not emphasize as much on resourcing. More details about the mechanics that are being implemented will be covered in the next Q&A batch and is also planned to be showcased in the next StarCraft II Battle Report.

The StarCraft Universe’s weaponry varies wildly; from the Colossus’ massive lasers and Thor’s Flak cannons to the Zerglings’ claws and Hellion’s flamers – it is only fitting to have at least several key weapon-type dependent deaths per unit. The unit’s death animation is unlikely to be tied to an attack by a specific unit, however. Instead, it will probably be the result of a certain type of attack, perhaps divided into categories such as projectiles, beams, fire and slashing or the like. This design would allow a unit to behave (ahem, die..) correctly when facing user-created enemies in custom maps – which, as Blizzard has mentioned before, are the maps that will include the fancy death animations.

Hellions and Zerglings getting along

As mentioned just a few days ago, Blizzard is clearly looking to complicate the macromanagement aspect of StarCraft 2. With its multiple automation mechanisms, StarCraft 2 differs greatly from StarCraft 1’s Spartan approach to base and economy management. With the demanding Gas Babysitting mechanism not being met with open arms even by seasoned professionals, it is only natural for Blizzard to try and introduce additional concepts that will allow the much needed professional macro-skill edge to be expressed in StarCraft 2.

On to the Q&A:

1. The recently released screenshot (http://www.sc2blog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/ss104-hires.jpg) shows a combat in rainy night appearance. Will night or different weather be limited to campaign mode? And will it be possible to select it on the map editor?
Night and rain effects will be possible in campaign mode but are not likely occur in multiplayer. Additionally, these effects will be available to map editors to use for custom maps.

It has yet to be seen whether this decision truly benefits the professional competition or just constitutes a missed opportunity for introducing an additional, relevant concept of StarCraft 2 gameplay. Of course, the decision to not use the existing Day/Night/Weather cycle mechanism in competitive multiplayer matches might be caused by graphics requirements or other gameplay/balance issues that have been discovered during internal testing.

2. Does blizzard plan any interface options for people with physical issues (such as color blindness, deafness)? – Kain175 (USEast)
This is a good suggestion and we would like to give all players opportunities to enjoy our games. While we may not be able to create accommodations for everyone, there have definitely been strides made to accommodate more players than the previous StarCraft. For example, you can find more alerts on the screen, such as attack, build complete, and more in StarCraft II and this system will be helpful for players who have difficulty hearing the game sound.

3. Will there be any multi monitor support? – SC2Pod

StarCraft II will support widescreen but not multi-monitor. Widescreen is definitely becoming more of an industry standard, but multi-monitor support for StarCraft II may be too great of a tactical advantage over other players without more than one monitor.

As awesome and practical multi-monitor support may be for the RTS and RTT genre, no game that is aimed at the mainstream and professional audience simultaneously can afford implementing this feature. It has appeared at the very bottom of our StarCraft 2 Wishlist 18 months ago, a fitting place for a great feature that has no place in the real world.

4. SC1 “caster” units did not have a regular attack; some of WC3 “caster” units did have a regular attack; will SC2 “caster” units remain attack-less? – TheWarCenter
Some of the caster units in StarCraft II like the High Templar and Infestor lack a default attack, but there still are some caster units which also have a normal attack ability such as the Mothership and the Ghost.

5. When two opposing forces come to a Xel’naga tower who gets control? Is it the person with the largest army or is it on a first-come/first-serve basis? – TheWarCenter

When two opposing forces are near a Xel’Naga Watch Tower, they both lose control of the Watch Tower, regardless of the size of the army or the order of who arrives first. For example, when you have a ground unit next to the Xel’Naga Watch Tower, you will get vision of the area surrounding the Xel’Naga Watch Tower. When the opponent’s unit approaches close enough to control the Watch Tower, the Xel’Naga Watch Tower will shut down and both you and your opponent will lose the increased visual range given by the tower.

The first (and only, as of today) StarCraft 2 Battle Report demonstrated the importance of Xel’Naga Watch Tower control as well as the fact that a significant portion of battles are waged in their proximity.

6. Is the charge ability only limited to the distance between the zealot and its target or is it also limited to the time that is needed to reach the target? Presumed you have a zealot on a cliff and you want him to charge an enemy unit below the cliff, will it charge all the way over the ramp or will it stop charging after some time? – StarCraft 2 Source DE
Zealot’s Charge ability is based on the ground range, regardless of the height. So a Zealot on the cliff will not start charging a unit below the cliff, even if they look like they are visually right next to each other. The Zealot must be within a set pathing distance from the target for it to activate it’s charge ability, meaning the path in which the Zealot takes to get to the target is a set amount. Additionally, Zealots will not be able to charge through cliffs. They must go around.

7. Are you going to add some of the best custom maps to the regular ladder pool? – StarCraft 2 Source DE

In the future, there will be opportunities for map makers to get their maps added to ladder pools. These maps will of course, be selected based on quality, in terms of competitiveness for multiplayer games.

It is not entirely clear if Karune’s answer covers the case of “custom gameplay experience” that can be found in popular custom maps like DoTA or just user-created maps of exceptional quality, built for normal StarCraft 2 gameplay.

All in all, both the art and game design teams seem to have their hands full. The upcoming Battle Reports, Q&A sessions and community feedback requests are likely to focus on the few key issues which have not been resolved internally so far, but have no place in a public beta.

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