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After a long month of waiting, Blizzard has finally approved the public release of information which was gathered by attendees of Blizzard’s HQ press conference last month, on the 20th of July. The videos, screenshots and interviews provide the deepest look yet into the much anticipated StarCraft 2 Single Player Campaign – Wings of Liberty.

In this post, we transform the information released and rehashed by the numerous sources into one chewable, concise piece.

StarCraft 2 Wings of Liberty

First up, new tidbits of information about the single player from the newest version of the official StarCraft 2 FAQ:

  • The campaign will focus on the adventures of Jim Raynor and his Raiders as they fight off Arcturus Mengsk’s New Dominion.
  • Kerrigan has resurfaced with her Zerg Brood, laying waste to all life as she sweeps across the galaxy.
  • Completing missions and specific secondary objectives in them will reward the player with new units and currency, which can be used to customize the army between missions.
  • Some of the units in the campaign are unique to the single player, and include classic StarCraft 1 units (Firebat, Wraith) as well as completely new ones (Diamondback Tank).
  • Credits earned can be used to unlock the service of mercenaries, which can then be recruited from Merc Havens during missions. Mercs are normal units with better stats.
  • Credits can also be used to purchase upgrades to units and buildings, allowing players to customize their army to suit their playstyle.
  • More than 25 missions will be available in the campaign, each designed to offer a unique gameplay experience.
  • Many side missions and optional objectives will yield researchable artifacts which have to be collected to unlock further upgrades.
  • In between missions, the “story mode” will let players explore an interactive environment which will have them interacting with NPCs, getting reports about current events, and learning more about the background story.

Blizzard has revealed the story mode locations in which the player will spend his time between missions:

Hyperion’s Bridge:

The bridge

The main area of the ship and the story mode. Tychus Findlay, of Marine suit-up video fame, can be found here. In older builds, Raynor was able to use the large Starmap view, but this has been taken out from the game to simplify matters, the functionality and information integrated into other parts of the gameplay experience more seamlessly. The decision about which mission the proceed to will likely be taken here, where Hyperion’s ship captain, Matt Horner, also resides.

Hyperion’s Armory:

Bunker Shrike Turret, now available for the low low price of $29,999.99!

Where story-aversive players will spend most of their time. This is where Raynor’s hard-earned credits will be spent on upgrading his available units and buildings. In last year’s single player presentation, units were purchased and unlocked here as well, but the Armory will now serve only as an upgrade center, with units being unlocked throughout the missions.

Hyperion’s Lab:

Screenshot074

Stetman, the ship’s scientist, will brief you on the research aspect of the game: finding artifacts in secondary mission objective and investigating them to procure upgrades to equipment.

Hyperion’s Cantina:

Screenshot078

Lore center. Chat up the ship’s crew members and learn about the StarCraft universe. Graven Hill, sitting at the left with his laptop, will be your contact to the available mercenaries.

Cantina television screen:

Screenshot079

More lore and relevant “current events” will be presented through the Cantina’s TV screen. Many of the featured characters will be recognizable from StarCraft’s various book and comic spin-offs.

The campaign will have four difficulty levels: Easy, Moderate, Hard and Insane. According to Dustin, only the “Insane” AI will actually cheat; the rest are pure AI, which will have to gather all their resources and scout the map. Skirmish games will also feature a Beginner AI to help newcomers adjust to the quick pace of StarCraft 2 matches.

During the campaign, the player will be able to choose between several available missions, but will not have to complete all of them to proceed with the campaign. However, these missions and ones that the player has already completed will still be available if the player wishes to return to them.

It’s also worth noting that it will be possible to record replays of single player missions.

***

Two massive Question and Answer sessions have been released, spanning 37 Q&As in total and covering in detail many aspects that were brushed over up until now.

The full Q&A session with Rob Pardo is availible at Starcraft-Source. Here’s our summary of the juicy parts:

  • The Blizzard game development method mandates the creation of the hard-core, multiplayer aspect of the game before approaching its more casual parts. This, they believe, is the key to creating depth, making for games that people can enjoy playing for 500 hours or more. Units and their design come from the requirements of the multi-player game first and are only then used for the campaign.
  • Blizzard will go with digital distribution for StarCraft 2, but will give physical retail stores an exclusivity window. Another Blizzard box for the collection!
  • The StarCraft 2 expansions, featuring the Protoss and Zerg campaigns, will likely be priced as expansions and not full retail games.
  • Battle.net 2.0: “Will it require a subscription?” We are certainly not doing that for Starcraft 2.
  • Single player will be playable offline, but Dustin believes that not having access to achievements, which do require a connection to Battle.net, is game breaking. You’re basically saying, “Please, I would like to break your game now because I want to play offline for some reason.”
  • Dustin and Rob confirm that demo or spawn versions will be available in some way.
  • Match-making will work similar to WarCraft 3, where players are matched based on their approximate skill level. Anti-smurf measures will be taken, though no details have been provided.

And a few of the more interesting answers in full:

1) You build in-depth to the hardcore first, then work backwards into making the game more accessible for more casual players. Is that a design philosophy that you employ across all of your products, or is that a product-specific thing?

n

It’s something we do across all of our games. I’m a big believer in that it’s the right way to develop a multi-player game, one that is capable of lasting for years and years. It’s a little bit counter-intuitive in the gaming industry that I think most other gaming companies tend to tag multi-player on at the end. From an hours of play standpoint, it’s logical if you want a game to last for 500+ hours, which is something we strive for in all of our games. You have to spend a lot of time making sure that your game has that much depth to it. Then you really want to put in that single player element and read that story through, once you have those fundamental foundations of gameplay if you consider single player can last anywhere from 24-50 hours of gameplay. People go through it once, twice, maybe a few times. But multi-player is really what has longevity that can last for years and years.

Five hundred hours of gameplay per title is quite an ambitions mark, and an absurd one to aim for for virtually any other video game company in the world. Blizzard’s games are indeed unique in this regard, containing enough depth to keep people playing for extremely long periods of time.

16) How does match-making work on the new Battle.net?

n

Dustin: It’s similar to how it works in Warcraft 3. After about 5 or 10 games, we have a pretty good idea of your skill level, and we’re matching you at that point based on your skill level. So assuming you’re paying attention, you should win about half of your games. As you begin to improve, we upgrade your skill level once again. I know a lot of players would rather win 60-70% of their games because that would be the most fun, but that means that somebody else is losing 60-70% of their games. We had some – not a whole lot – of issues with players re-rolling characters in Warcraft 3 and coming back through ranks and being rematched. So you’d be enjoying your lower rank of gameplay, and here comes somebody who’s obviously meant to be at level 25. He’s going to be there in a minute, but meanwhile he’s going to pound on you. We’ve got some ideas on how to smooth that kind of thing out and prevent a lot of that kind of behavior.

The matchmaking algorithm, as well as perhaps other means, will be implemented to prevent experienced players from repeatedly plowing through the lower ranks every time they create a new account.

This smurf is unhappy about the changes.

The second Q&A, with Dustin Browder, focuses mainly on single player and campaign gameplay issues, and is also availible in full at StarCraft-Source.

  • Missions will not “evolve” or change if you don’t complete them right away.
  • There are two incentives to doing well in missions rather than just finishing them: Achievements, which are for bragging rights only and have no impact on the game, and secondary objectives, which provide research artifacts that unlock more upgrades.
  • There are only few and very specific points in the campaign where the player’s decision affects the plot and events, but all paths eventually converge to one ending. Blizzard wants to maintain one continuity line that’s congruent with the books and comics of the StarCraft universe as well as the beginning of the next game in the series.
  • A Protoss mini-game will be a part of the campaign, providing the opportunity to play as Protoss for a bit.
  • Heros will mostly show up on more specialized maps so they don’t get lost in the confusion when large armies clash. While heroes cannot use items in the campaign, this option will  be easily available to modders through the game editor.

n

5) Does it matter if you succeed “very well” at a mission or just “OK”?

n

Well, it does in some ways. We do have these achievements that you can show off to your friends which is one measure of success. The second is whether you completed all the secondary objectives as they relate to research. If you complete those objectives, that will add additional firepower to your forces. Again, we’re still working on what those bonuses are going to be, but it will give you additional access.

10) How many endings will the game have?

n

There’s one ending. We really wanted to have a game that still had a continuity to it, and this is the important thing, too – that this is not Fallout, you’re not choosing whether Raynor is good or evil. Raynor is who he is, a conflicted man, a troubled man who’s seen too much war; and it will have a very specific ending, and the next game will have a very specific beginning.

A single ending, to segue into the single beginnings of the upcoming expansions. StarCraft is a universe with its key characters and its own lore, and players can not change the fate of neither villains nor heroes, at least as long as StarCraft is an RTS game.

17) If you use a hero, does it have the ability to get and use items?

n

We have the ability to put in items for mod makers, but it’s not something we typically use in the Starcraft environment. They’re not around often enough for you to collect a lot of items; it just didn’t make sense to include that in the gameplay. But we are working on the interface and having the UI available for people who want to make mods because we know that there’s a huge tradition of mods from Warcraft 3 that are dependent on that interface. We’ve got that interface in and we’ll be polishing it up as we get closer to ship so that we have that available for the mod makers.

StarCraft 2’s editor, Scumedit, supports items, despite the fact that this feature will not be incorporated into the the campaign. The support for unit items was made available to capitalize on the massively popular hero-based WarCraft custom scenarios, such as DoTA.

20) How do the units change from single player to multi-player?

n

The actual units are the same. A marine is a marine; a medic is a medic. We do, however, have units in the single player that are not in the multi-player, such as medics, cobras, wraiths, and cannons on top of your bunkers.

Over at ShackNews, an Interview with Chris Sigaty, lead producer, yields this new piece of interesting information:

Chris Sigaty: Challenges are something we’re trying. We always hear people say, “You look at singleplayer as the training ground for multiplayer, right?” And we don’t really.

And in fact here we’re kind of training you all wrong, because you can have any unit depending on what missions you went through, and there are units that aren’t in multiplayer at all, like Firebats, Medics, all sorts of stuff. We kind of created challenges out of this, and our concept behind challenges is to train you at some of the things that are important to a good competitive player, to be at least aware of. They’re little minigames that teach you about things like economy, how to maximize getting resources, unit countering, control grouping, micro, spell usage, all sorts of things like that. Those two things are available when you’re offline.

n

Shack: It almost sounds like a tutorial-plus.

n

Chris Sigaty: Yeah, it’s like a master version of a tutorial. And you can best yourself too. There’s a minimum bar we want you to hit, and you can try to best yourself by playing them again and again. It’s pretty cool stuff–I’m really excited about it, because I think that’s one of the things we haven’t done as well in the past, is really helped out people who aren’t really experience in multiplayer. And when they jump on there for the first time, nobody’s telling them these things, they jump into a game and get their assed handed out, and they just walk out of the experience. We want people to have a place they can go to learn, and eventually get to the point–some of the better players do research, they get replays, they see what the best players do.

A great new idea from Blizzard. Such challenges have appeared in many other genres before, but this is a first for RTS games, and it’s certainly a welcome addition. Coupled with replay capability for single player, this feature will certainly become an integral and fun part of StarCraft 2.

Another Q&A session with Chris Metzen, vice president of creative development, has been published over at SC Legacy. The interviewer challenges Chris with lore questions from the StarCraft 2 books to the disabled mission on the original StarCraft CD. Where Chris fumbles a bit is the question about the possibility of infesting the Protoss:

Q: Can Protoss get infested?

n

A: I’m trying to think if there are specific fictional answers to that, I could have sworn we had a story or two like that in the manga recently. But I’m spacing out… I feel like I wanna take the 5th on that too. It’s a weird one. Off the top of your head you’d think “sure!”

This conforms to Blizzard’s original stance regarding the concept, but directly contradicts a statement from last month:

Based on the lore, the Protoss do not become infested. The combination of the two result in a hybrid race.

Can the Protoss become infested? It is a mystery.

***

The new single player HD video provides short glimpses into the first few missions of the campaign and showcases the various mission types available. Among them are a quest to find Zerg Crysalis DNA, a turtling mission against the Zerg horde, an obligatory civilian escort objective, and a mission to retrieve Protoss relics.

Lastly, a somewhat single-player-unrelated but quite interesting, strictly gameplay/development interview with Chris Sigaty and Dustin Browder delivers a few highlights:

  • Terran buildings can be repaired in mid-air.
  • Emphasis is put on tech paths that do not over-simplify unit countering decisions, i.e. no “one tech path fits all”.
  • Immortal Hardened Shields are now available by default.

n

That’s it for the single player information explosion. With BlizzCon coming up in just a couple of days, it’s safe to assume we’ll get just as much new information about the multiplayer part of the game, if not more…

The entire collection of screenshots which were released during the event is available for download here.

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.

This weekend, GameMeca and PlayXP, two Korean gaming websites, have published extensive hands-on impression articles and have released numerous new StarCraft 2 screenshots which were taken during a event in South Korea. Blizzard has also released a new Fansite Q & A session via SCLegacy, spanning 9 questions, though revealing little new information.

South Korean Press Event

GameMeca’s article has been translated by SCLegacy’s editors (download the article in PDF version here). The lengthy article hasn’t revealed any drastic changes in the latest StarCraft 2 build; however, some observations are worth noting.

The amazing truth is that there was no loading time. Like eating rice after putting it in water (a common way for Koreans to cool down rice instantly while not altering the flavor SC:L) the loading time was over almost instantly

It appears that Blizzard’s developers have opted for pre-caching the game’s map data, graphics and engine during the players’ stay in the game waiting room, prior to the actual match. This is a welcome improvement over current models, and it won’t be surprising to see more developers following in Blizzard’s footsteps in newer games.

….the game being host to a fast sense of speed. From the speed of Probes mining minerals to the movement and attack speeds of the Zealots and Zerglings, and also the rate at which units killed and died in the middle of a battle. The speed was approximately 1.5 times faster than the current ‘Star’.

The above statement is in line with Blizzard’s own statements regarding average game length expectations and what’s been observed in the Battle Reports. Games are furiously fast, and army collisions often result in immediate and heavy damages due to the abundance of splash and AoE dishing units and the overall increase in game pace.

The graphics quality probably will not surpass those of the recently released RTS, ‘Warhammer 40K, Dawn of War2’, but its refined, polished look and the light, warm colors give the whole game a graceful, pristine feel

StarCraft 2 is not  graphically inferior to contemporary RTS titles, especially after the recently implemented model and texture upgrades. Having participated in DoW2′s beta, we’ve enjoyed the killing blow animations and explosive effects of Dawn of War 2, but there’s little, if any, need for improvement to StarCraft 2’s graphics.

Protoss and Swarm Clash - StarCraft 2' graphics

…when multiple workers were selected and one mineral was clicked, instead of rushing all to that one mineral they all spread out, going in different directions like the good friends they are.

And so passes the ancient art of first-second worker control.

Next is the ability to hotkey multiple selections and squads. The original selection cap of only 12 multiple selections has increased to 24, and when selecting with hotkeys it was possible to go above the 24 limit. If 25 Zealots were set to hotkey number 1, the space that showed unit details said 24 units were set to hotkey 1 and the leftover one unit was set to hotkey 2.

There is no limit on the number of selected units. However, hot-keyed control groups are limited to 24 units each, with the game automatically assigning the “overflow” units to the next control group number.

… when multiple buildings were selected it was necessary to press the unit production button as many times as the number of buildings.

It was because if you pressed the button once, the first of the selected buildings started producing, and if you pressed another time the second building produced and so on. It was the same for unit upgrades, like in the case of 10 hydras. If all ten were selected, you needed to press the Lurker button 10 times to make all ten into Lurkers.

The above mechanism is an example of the sort of brilliant decisions that make Blizzard games what they are. Players are provided with a comfortable, “automated” way of selecting multiple units and buildings, yet are given full control over the number and types of units produced/upgraded. Pressing one button does not create a horde of identical units, but players are not denied the option of producing from groups of buildings via hotkeys either.

PlayXP has published six super hi-res shots:

Thors and Ultralisk Collide in Epic BattleTerran Air ArmadaRaiders Raid a Zerg Worker LineZerg Going Old School MutalingProtoss Colossi Fight TerransBrood Lords Swarm Terrans

SC:L’s Fansite Q&A clarifies several moot points, mainly on aspects either inherited from StarCraft 1 or left unclear after previously being discussed in a vague manner during StarCraft 2’s development.

1. Are any other units aside from the Dark Templar going to have multiple models (ie. male and female Ghosts)?

Currently, we’re not considering any other units for multiple models.

2. In the original StarCraft and Brood War, Carriers have been very rarely used for competitive matches due to their ineffectiveness in small numbers because of their critical mass effect. Up until now, what changes or ideas have played with to increase their effectiveness in small numbers with or without other ships for support, and what is the current status on the Carrier? Also, what about the Battlecruiser?

In general, it’s still better if you have as many carriers or battlecruisers as possible in the battle. However, small numbers of carriers or battlecruisers will be still very useful for supporting both ground and air units.

3. We were told recently that workers can’t patrol. This makes SCV auto-repair a lot less useful. (In Warcraft III, you could set a worker to patrol, and it would auto-repair any damaged buildings or mechanical units nearby. Great for keeping towers (and bunkers!) alive.)

SCVs can patrol, so if you activate auto-casting of the SCV’s repair ability, that SCV will repair damaged buildings or units it encounters while on patrol. The SCV will repair nearby units and buildings and continue its designated patrol pattern again after the repairs are complete.

Players will be able to assign SCVs to repair duty, leaving another repetitive StarCraft 1 chore behind. This will be a handy tool for frequently raided expansions and stretched. turtled defense lines.

4. What use does the Overlord usually see versus the Nydus Worm? That is, in what capacity is each transport mechanic used?

It all depends on a player’s choice in each case. When you want try out a sneaky and clever attack on the enemy’s base, the nydus worm can be useful in that role as a more tactical and general choice for harassing the enemy’s economy. However, you can also use a mass overlord drop just like the original StarCraft, for an aggressive, all-out attack. However, the overlord drop is riskier, as you’re putting much of your supply and the cargo in jeopardy if you encounter strong anti-air defense.

5. Can Thors or Colossi be transported in any way?

Thors and colossi can be transported by each race’s transportation units: the medivac and the warp prism.

Thors being transported by anything short of a Battlecruiser constitutes a major realism issue. Thors are huge not only visually, but “by design”, so to speak. Two Reavers were never small enough to fit in a shuttle, but a Reaver was never perceived as a multi-cannon front-line behemoth like the Thor is. Carrying a Thor inside the Medivac reverses Blizzard’s long time decision of making the Thor untransportable.

6. How do you use the Thor’s resurrection ability? Does it cost resources to use?

Thor doesn’t have the resurrection ability any more in the current build. While the mechanic was a cool idea on paper, it didn’t end up being especially practical when we tried it in internal playtesting.

7. How has more efficient AI and pathfinding affected the game? Does it make the game easier?

AI in StarCraft II is much more developed from the original StarCraft. For example, the computer is required to scout to find you now in every difficulty mode. In higher difficulty modes, the AI will adapt to what it sees you are building to counter your selected strategy with key units of their own. This means that the computer no longer cheats as far as “knowing” where you are and what you’re doing. It can only react to what it sees when their scouts find your units and bases.

The pathfinding is also much improved in StarCraft II, which will reduce some frustration when directing your units to move long distances around varying terrain. Certain melee units are also smarter about attempting to surround enemies, but we don’t believe this makes the game “easier.” Players who choose to micro their armies will still have an advantage.

8. I would like to know if the MULE can repair air units and lifted-off buildings, and in turn, could we see MULEs being called down in the front lines to repair Battlecruisers and Thors or in the corner of the map to repair a burning Command Center that was lifted off to escape an attack? Also, at what rate does a MULE repair? Faster or slower than an SCV?

The mule is only for gathering minerals or scouting. You cannot repair units or structures with the mule.

9. Regarding the “Discussion with Artosis and Idra” video – does their prediction that Zerg vs. Zerg is degrading into “Roach spam” have any validity? Will ZvZ matchups frequent a more diverse selection of units beyond Zerglings, Roaches, and Mutalisks?

We would like to see as many units as possible being used in the battle, instead of some selected units like zerglings, roaches, and mutalisks. We are still polishing and balancing units including the roach, and hope to see how the players will make various combinations of units during the beta.

Blizzard has made it clear that they’re comitted to preventing all possible match-ups from “deteriorating” into battles involving 2-3 units many times before. Unit spam is a core issue which plagues the majority of existing RTS titles, and solutions require a lot of testing, feedback and balancing – the main goals of the upcoming beta.

The second installment of the StarCraft 2 Battle Report series delivered. With both players being “StarCraft II team’s associate game balance designers“, there was little time wasted on figuring things out and both proceeded to pound each other aggressively throughout the game.

Battle Report 2

Just like the first Battle Report, the map chosen for this match also includes plenty of novelties which weren’t part of StarCraft I’s terrain:

The brand new Brush terrain acts as a line-of-sight barrier; an artificial cliff on plain ground. There are a few obvious usages for it:

  • Retreating units to find cover from ranged pursuers.
  • Approaching long-range heavy hitters without taking damage.
  • Ambushing with either Melee or Ranged units – without scouting, units can easily wander into a close range trap.

Blistering Sands StarCrarft 2 Map

*Green – Brush. *Yellow Squares = Starting Spots. *Yellow Circles = Natural Expansions. *Red = High Yield

Blistering Sands includes Brush on top of the second access ramp to the players’ bases, providing a secondary line of defense in case the ramp gets overtaken. Next to each ramp there is another Brush, which is used as a retreating path for attackers. The Zerg player puts it to good use at [8:41] to lose the pursuing Terran Reapers.

The game includes active use of the recently introduced Macro “Buffs” – and indeed, these are no longer chores but decisions made by players to alter their production and resource gathering rates. The Zerg Queens spawns additional larva at [5:13] to initiate a counter attack against the early Terran offensive, and the Terran puts the Mules to good use in his new expansion at [19:50].

StarCraft 2 Mules

The Battle includes several interesting battles, which shed a lot of light on the Terran’s new best friend – Splash Damage. We’ve mentioned before how the Terran appear to have a lot of Area of Effect attacks “on paper” … well, this match showcases this nicely, without even featuring any ground vehicles.

The Reaper’s Detonation Charges coupled with Banelings cause a mutual annihilation of armies at [10:25], a Nighthawk self-destructs on Banelings in what was confirmed to be a Hunter Seeker Missile mishap at [14:50], and Zerg dancing ensues when the Terran goes missile-happy at [18:30].

Mutual Destruction - Zerg and Terran in their natural enviroment

The Zerg got a chance to showcase many of their new abilities, with Banelings receiving plenty of air time throughout the whole game. With infantry receiving NO HEALING, the Banelings’ splash and the regenerating Roaches usually had the upper hand on the Terran M&M (that’s Marauders and Marines now), which later managed to push the Zerg back only with the help of some Aerial support.

Notable features, changes and abilities in this Battle Report include:

  • Infestors can spawn Infested Terrans (ranged Infantry unit), no infestation needed. Appear to pop out in groups of five.
  • Burrowing does not save you from Hunter-Seeker Missiles.
  • Each Marauder takes up two out of four slots when placed inside a bunker. [13:31]
  • Zerg Banelings don’t roll, but walk into targets.
  • The Zerg’s defensive structure, the Spine Crawler, has relatively fast movement speed, but long burrow-setup time [7:15]
  • Terran Mules insta-mine crystals, and emerge from drop-pods ralatively quickly when called for.
  • The Zerg Hydralisk appears to have a Melee attack now, and one is clearly seen here clawing away at a Terran Auto-Turret.

The map’s new qualities play an important and integral role throughout the match. Many battles are waged around the Xel’Naga watch towers as units tend to gravitate towards it to receive the benefit of its sight range. The Zerg player put constant pressure on the Terran’s secondary choke point in order to take out the barrier blocking the path leading directly into his base. The Brush was used effectively as a cut off point on open terrain and created another position of interest on the map that a skillful player could exploit.

Collectively, the new terrain features have a great impact on the way the game is played. Every map now comes with a well defined selection of key points which grant certain units and races an advantage by default. It will be interesting to see if Blizzard decides to introduce additional terrain features in the future, to take the game even further in this direction.

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