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Despite the release of the first major balance patch for StarCraft 2 last week – or perhaps because of it – many discussions about StarCraft 2’s state of balance have been taking place, possibly even more than during the beta, when things were constantly changing and before people have had the chance to experiment with the game thoroughly.

Is StarCraft 2 balanced? While only little time has passed since the game’s release, many already argue that the game is not as balanced as StarCraft 1, especially when it comes to the Zerg race. The Zerg have indeed been on the receiving end of quite a few nerfs during the beta. Particularly of note is the Roach, originally geared to be a fast, cheap, regenerating tank unit – which, during the beta, has had its armor rating reduced from 2 to 1, its supply cost increased from 1 to 2, its burrowed move speed reduced by 30%, and its regeneration changed and nerfed again and again to the point where it now regenerates more slowly and only while burrowed – a research that is only available at Tier 2, unlike in the original game, where Burrow is Tier 1.

Indeed, many players complain about the Zerg’s lack of viable options in the early-mid game: the limited ability to tech and macro at the same time (making a Queen prevents the Hatchery from being upgraded to a Lair); the extreme need to be reactive against Protoss and Terran early game attacks, which are themselves more diverse than what the Zerg can field during that period of the game; the much more demanding macro mechanic, requiring constant attention that one is severely punished for lacking; the lack of mobility before creep tumors can spread, and the competition between those and energy reserved for injecting Larva. All of these issues and more are even making some pro-gamers rant about the state of the game, a few going as far as as “threatening” to switch to a different race and to stop playing Zerg altogether.

IdrA, one of the most famous American Zerg players, has published his thoughts on the recent patch here.

The balance problems in early game ZvT come down to the fact that terran is simply stronger and much more diverse early on, zerg has to rely on hard counters to have any chance to survive, but cant scout in time to implement them.

Interestingly, in a recent interview, Chris Sigaty, StarCraft 2’s lead producer, said that he himself finds Zerg difficult to play and that he tends to avoid the experience:

I avoid playing Zerg as much as possible because I find them to be just more complex in general. Zerg, or rather larvae management is harder for me to deal with, so I don’t enjoy playing them as much.

On the topic of 1v1 balance problems, Chris does not seem convinced that any exist:

You can go up and read on the forums at any one time and there are a bunch of different theories about balance and imbalance. We’re being very cautious about making large swinging changes right now because at the highest level things are actually very strong. The things that we’ll probably be addressing are the 2v2 and larger scale games. Ultimately, the 1 to 1 is what we want to keep as sacred as possible, but as a result right now there are some things that we need to address in the 2v2 at the higher level. We’ll be looking at ways to do that without affecting the 1v1 balance.

Discussing the next patch, Chris slates it to be released by the end of this year, calling it “the e-sports patch”. Finally, and after months of being in demand, chat channels will be introduced:

largely our e-sport patch. A couple of big things that will be in there are support for the season rolling, so players can look at the history of how they did in past seasons. There will be bugfixes, balance changes and tweaks, too. Chat is the other major thing we want to get in there next patch. We’ll also add more significant features to the editor.”

Lastly, Chris makes a comment regarding balance and the time it took to achieve it in StarCraft 1:

[Balance] is an ongoing process that, honestly, will take a year of longer to do. Even after Brood War was released we still patched and continued to drive towards a really solid final balance.

Will patches be enough to balance the game, or will an expansion, introducing new units, be necessary for that purpose? Is the game balanced right now? Is the Zerg race “broken”? If you have an opinion on the subject, now’s the time to voice it! We are putting up a new poll on the sidebar to the right to investigate what you think about this important issue.


Chris Sigaty also took the time to talk to PCGamer about the upcoming BlizzCon 2010 event and, most importantly, Blizzard’s decision to not show any aspect of StarCraft 2: Heart of  The Swarm at the convention.

We’re still working on the details [of the expansion],” explains Chris, “and the last thing I want to do is to talk about theoretical things instead of talking about what’s real.

However, Blizzard will hold a story panel with a Q&A with the fans, tying some loose ends from Wings of Liberty. Some Heart of The Swarm bits of information can be expected despite the promises to the contrary.


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.

Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s VP of online technology, has taken the time to provide some revealing details as well as answer a short Q&A in a session hosted in Samsung City Hyatt Hotel. The original articles have been released in Korean, and are available here and here. A kind soul has posted the full translation on Battle.net’s forums soon after the articles went live.

Korean Battle.net Press Event

According to the information released today, Battle.net 2.0 will immensely improve community features. It will create a better competitive environment that players can enjoy and also will make changes to ladder and league.

Also, Blizzard is currently setting the new battle.net release date to around April and here are the scheduled contents:

  • Achievements
  • Community related contents
  • Player’s detailed connection info
  • Player’s detailed game history
  • Friend’s friend invite contents

It’ll be surprising to see features like Achievements go live during the beta, mainly because of the huge sign that states “Disabled for Beta” on that part of Battle.net’s interface. More detailed game histories and the ability to see information about your opponents and allies will also be welcomed features.

The most controversial decision reported about in the Q&A is the confirmation of the lack of chat channels – the heart and soul of Battle.net. This is how many gamers have met their allies and rivals on the gaming service throughout the years, starting new friendships and gaining arch-enemies. It’s the way the team behind this blog originally met 12 years ago! Unsurprisingly, many have already expressed their disappointment with this change and are urging Blizzard to reconsider.

Instead of the normal chat features, Blizzard will implement something more akin to the popular social sites flooding the Internet nowadays:

Especially about friend’s friend related contents, blizzard will implement in battle.net 2.0 as the main community system. According to blizzard, the new battle.net 2.0 system with friend’s friend invite will enable users to be more active in the community.

This is similar to facebook and twitter with micro-blogs and blizzard is also following this trend. Blizzard also states that since battle.net 2.0 does not have open chat channels, they will have to shoot for an even better community system as the ultimate goal.

Gamers are not Twitter social-media type simpletons. Most do not need another Facebook to interact with the people they already know. Chats and Forums are the natural habitats of gamers, and Blizzard is taking away the ability to randomly meet people to chat, play and discuss the game with. Despite the fact that this is in line with most recent gaming platforms, we, among many others, would love to see Blizzard reconsider the removal of chat channels.

Is not $%^$ Twitter

The update, which is due in April, will not include the following:

Single Player Contents

  • There are contents that will be locked at the beginning and will only be unlocked as you clear specific objectives. When you unlock these contents, you will be given some awards.
  • Unlocking achievements will give players decals(distinct patterns) or portrait pictures.

Result screen revamp

  • Currently, when you finish a match, you only see scores but the revampt will include all the details.

The more anticipated contents such as professional leagues and use-map marketplace will be included in future updates after release and will include watching replays of the players in professional league. Also, the players in pro-league will be able to advertise his career history and others.

The Q&A session spans 7 questions in total:

Q : There are currently hacks out there for single player and multiplayer is in danger too. Are you guys working on more security measures?

A : Hacking is something that we did not want to see. It is very unfortunate. The current hacked clients may contain virus and we would like to encourage our users to avoid downloading them. In the case of multiplayer, we will be working to make sure that it is not hacked but since you will be able to play any multiplayer without battle.net, I think the system is pretty secure from hacking.

Q : Will the April content release include 3v3 or 4v4?

A : 3v3 and 4v4 team plays will not be released in April but will be in the official release.

Q : Is there plans to release public chat channels? Also, if you do release it, how will you fight against spams and profanity?
A : Battle.net 2.0 will not support open chat channels. We will take actions to the reported spams, profanity and rude behaviors with the new Report Player functionality.

Q : Then, how will clan system work? If there is no open chat channel, then wouldn’t that impede clan system?

A : We will be announcing clan system at (after?) release so we cannot discuss that right now.

Apparently, there is a distinct, separate clan system planned, which will not depend on open chat channels and is not limited to the social features that have been implemented or announced up until now.

Q : Unlike Warcraft 3 battle.net, will you be able to see your rankings and match history in the website?

A : Of course. Just like WoW armory, you will be able to see those in the new battle.net community site. You can expect some great things since it will be a whole new innovative web service.

Q : Even if you divide realm servers by continents, if you look at Asia, there are many different spoken languages. Will you provide real-time translation system?

A : We have no plans to support realtime translation system right now but we are looking into it and considering it.

Q : The currentl battle.net supported games include Starcraft 1, Diablo, Warcraft 3. Will you keep supporting this? Are you concerned about merging them with battle.net 2.0?

A : The current battle.net will continue being supported. I would like to see it being supported continuously and we are discussing how we will go about. The merging details have not been completely decided in terms of technical aspect so it is hard to answer that. We will be discussing that later.

In case you have forgotten (it’s been a while!), Battle.net was launched with the release of Diablo in 1997, 13 years ago. It is a live platform that serves Diablo, Diablo 2, StarCraft, WarCraft 2, WarCraft 3, and all the expansions of the aforementioned games. Adjusting the platform across so many games would require a huge amount of patching, and it’s not suprising Blizzard has not declared its official stance on the issue.

A significantly more lengthy interview was given by Dustin Browder to VG247, going into the gory details of the expectations and numbers emerging from StarCraft 2’s beta testing. Many of the things Dustin mentions, like the possibility of adding and removing units, have been talked about extensively in the latest Blizzcast, but there’s certainly some meat in this one.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the interview:

Dustin Browder: So far, the beta numbers we’ve been looking at have been very, very positive. We’re close to a 50 percent win ratio for almost every race. What we’re really doing right now is waiting to see, as the community learns more, to see if something changes in the meta-game that causes this not to be the case. And, of course, we’re still dealing with issues of unit diversity, particularly on the Zerg side.

What level of concurrency to you want to get to before the end of the beta?

Dustin Browder: I think we want to maintain about 10,000. It’s sort of our goal, and we’ve just about hit that at this point. I can see we’re at 9,000-something right now, and 10,000 is the goal.

The number of online players has certainly been growing steadily as Blizzard sends out more and more keys.

StarCraft 2 Beta: 7000 People Online, No one to talk to

While some StarCraft 2 Beta testers have been hacking at the world’s fastest RTS for 12 years, a significant portion of the gamers are… noobs that are overwhelmed by StarCraft’s ruthless pace and macro-oriented mechanics.

Dustin Browder: We’re seeing two types of players. We’re seeing the hardcore who’ve been with us for the past 12 years, who are just totally loving it and having a great time. We’re seeing newer players get into the beta and struggling a bit with the speed, with the rushes, with the style of gameplay we’re presenting them with. We’ve seen a lot of feedback from the newer players saying, ‘Oh my God, this is really rough. What the hell are you guys doing?’

Are you seeing clicks-per-minute generally increase as you run the beta over time?

Dustin Browder: I’m sorry, I’m able to see it on a game-by-game basis; I’m not able to see it globally. But that’s a great question, and certainly a stat we’d love to have. We have a ton of stats right now, and we’re having a trouble getting at them a little bit. There’s a large volume of data that our business intelligence guys are working very hard to give us access to. What I have access to now is fairly limited. I have access to maps, I have access to win-loss by race and by skill, I have access to certain unit stats, but no, I don’t have access to action-per-minute on a global scale. I’m not able to see it increasing as we go. I imagine that it would.

Some more interesting quotes:

  • Our internal stats show us that Terrans are down in 1v1 versus Protoss and Zerg, and our internal stats also show us that Terran-Terran teams are also taking a hit in almost every match-up. This we believe to be largely because of map design. The Terrans lack some of the mobility to come rescue their allies in the early game…
  • We’re going to change the maps a little bit and see if we get different results, but the Terrans being down is something we’ve started to address and we’re going to continue to address in the coming weeks.
  • In addition, we view Battle.net this time around a little more as we do WoW. We hope to be doing constant content development going forward…
  • There are also going to be some changes to how we do match-making. I know this for sure. But I’m not exactly sure of everything that’s going to happen. We develop these features and some of them will make the content patch, and some of them will not.
and disappointing to a significant portion of the community
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