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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.


StarCraft 2 has just received its first major patch. While several mini-fixes had been released over the course of the last two months, Blizzard has saved all the balance changes for this one. Staying surprisingly true to the Situation Report, the patch contained virtually no deviations from the plans revealed back in August – a clear indication of the amount of testing that went into the patch.

You can find the full original patch documentation (which includes many minor tweaks) here. In this post, we’ll go over the more meaningful parts of this update.

General Changes

•    A new game clock has been added. Players can now instantly see how long they’ve been in their current mission or match. This feature can be turned on or off in the Gameplay Options menu.

Notice the Game Timer on the very left - next to the Map

This small addition has a great potential. Many players learning and perfecting certain builds already use timers to know exactly when they should push out or what to expect from the enemy at any moment given intelligence gathered before. Integrating a timer into the game allows everyone to incorporate this extra piece of information into their game instead of relying on intuition.

The following balance changes are identical to those mentioned in the situation report released last month. Our analysis of the changes can be found here.

Protoss Balance Changes

• Zealot • Build time increased from 33 to 38. • Warp Gate cooldown increased from 23 to 28.

As Blizzard mention in their report:

Zealot rushes are currently too powerful at various skill levels, particularly those that rely on rapidly assaulting an enemy base from nearby “proxy” gateways. We feel the window players have to scout for and fend off this rush is too small. We also want to address the problem of protoss being able to dump minerals a bit too quickly with the combination of warpgates and Chrono Boost.

Terran Balance Changes

• Battlecruiser Ground damage decreased from 10 to 8. • Bunker Build time increased from 30 to 35. • Reaper Build time increased from 40 to 45.

….we have decided to increase the build time of reapers as well from 40 to 45 seconds. Fast reaper + bunker, or fast marine + bunker rushes are problematic against zerg.

Siege Tank • Siege mode damage changed from 50 to 35 (+15 armored). • Upgrade damage changed from +5 to +3 (+2 armored).

Zerg Balance Changes

Ultralisk •Ram ability removed. Ultralisk will now use normal attack against buildings. • Damage decreased from 15 (+25 armored) to 15 (+20 armored).

The adjustment to Ultralisk’s attack is a bigger boost than it may seem at first glance. Check out the following video to fully appreciate the implications of applying an AoE effect to a building attack.

This newly introduced “mechanic”  has already been acknowledged as a bug, however, and will be fixed soon.

Bug Fixes


• Chat windows no longer vanish when exiting a multiplayer map or campaign mission. • Fixed an issue where players would still receive toasts when their status was set to busy.

Custom Games

• Default race in a game lobby is now properly set to Random. • Lobby hosts will now receive a toast when an invited player declines an invitation.


• If a unit loads into a transport, missiles targeting it will no longer target similar units in the area.

• Fixed an issue where builders waiting for an area to clear could block units trying to leave the area.


• Queue tooltips now display information about what is in progress.

• Marines trained at multiple Barracks will now prefer a Barracks with a Reactor over one with a Tech Lab or no attachment.

• SCVs will now load into the closest Command Center if multiple are within range.

Check out the rest of the changes, dealing with the editor and detailing many small fixes, here. Along the detailed changes, we’ve noticed some other modifications to the game, in the form of many updates to existing icons for abilities and upgrades:

New Icon Examples - Recognize the Units?

The new Battle.net that had launched with StarCraft 2 might have taken many users by surprise – if they did not keep up with SC news during development – with its permanent character names and the lack of chatrooms.

Blizzard has promised to bring chat rooms back within a few patches, and now, gamers not happy with their handles will be offered a name change for free soon as well. Why bother writing “free“? Well, because Blizzard will be charging for Battle.net name changes in the future.

The recent 1.0.3 patch continued the tradition of providing a minor bug fix while leaving gameplay balance intact.

Bug Fixes:

Fixed an issue preventing some players from accessing offline play from the login screen

Our Nvidia-sponsored GeForce GTX 460 StarCraft 2 flipbook contest came to an end this weekend, bringing multiple interesting submissions. As promised, the winner of the contest will be awarded with a EVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB and the runner up will receive a SteelSeries limited edition professional grade StarCraft 2 mousepad.

The second place, along with the mousepad, goes to Stephen Barnes for submitting this animated battle, called “Death From Above”.

The winner of the contest is Nadya Emmyl from Stary Oskol, Russia, who submitted this excellent animated reenactment of Kerrigan’s last stand on New Gettysburg.

With StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty experiencing phenomenal growth numbers after going live just ten days ago, Blizzard’s ability to keep the servers live and available worldwide for each of the localized versions and various licensing plans is nothing short of a phenomenal achievement.

Blizzards Epic Achievement

That being said, Blizzard has already released two StarCraft 2 patches and is keeping an updated list of known issues here. Up until now, none of the documented issues, fixes and patches have affected unit abilities or multiplayer gameplay. However, playing a 2v2 with a flickering screen and scrambled voice communication is clearly not the optimal gaming experience.

StarCraft 2 patches so far:

PATCH 1.0.1

Bug Fixes

*     Campaign saves have been optimized.

*     Fixed an issue with sound not playing on some 7.1 systems.

PATCH 1.0.2

Bug Fixes

*     Fixed an issue where campaign mission victories would not always trigger properly.

*     Fixed an issue where some players were unable to access single player features.

The list of technical issues acknowledged by Blizzard at this point, however, is significantly longer:

1. Graphical issues


You may experience random corrupted graphical issues affecting units, structures, terrain and transmission.


None at the moment.


You may experience corrupted graphical issues when the Paged Pool Memory is running low.


Quit unnecessary background applications and processes then restart the game client. For additional information please read the following article:


You may see missing buttons to create previously unlocked units, characters become white spheres or only able to start older missions on the Starmap.

This is due to save game corruptions and connectivity issues when saving.


This is being patched shortly to prevent further occurrences but for now you should attempt to load an older save game that is not corrupt.

If this is unsuccessful you will need to restart the campaign.

2. Sound and Voice Chat issues


In-game sound might not play properly on some hardware devices set to 7.1 Surround on Windows Vista / Windows 7.


Set sound output speaker options to 5.1 Surround or lower.


Players are able to send but not receive in-game voice on Windows 7 computers equipped with the Realtek HD Audio sound card when the Output Device in the Sounds Menu option is set to Speakers.


None at the moment.


Changing the OS speaker mode on Windows Vista and Windows 7 whilst the game is running causes all in-game sounds to stop.


None at the moment. Temporary solution: Change the OS speaker mode prior to launching the game.

3. Galaxy Editor issues


The Terrain editor may lag or stutter when dragging the mouse around the map.


None at the moment.


Changing certain values in the Galaxy Editor is causing a crash while in detail view.


None at the moment.

4. Mac issues


The game may occasionally crash on OS X 10.6 with Nvidia drivers.


None at the moment.


Playing with an USB headset will drastically lower in-game performance (FPS).


None at the moment.

5. Miscellaneous


A language pack error may occur under certain conditions.


Ensuring your system clock is correct can help resolve the error.


Players will be unable to download or use the digital installer when attempting to download or install the game to a hard drive formatted in FAT32.


Download or install the digital client to a NTFS formatted hard drive.


Error Message: „The Battle.net Account does not include an associated copy of Starcraft 2.” after registration of the CD-Key.


Please change the password at the battle.net website. Make sure you use the correct game client EU game client for the EU StarCraft II Account or US/US

Blizzard is not the only company facing pressure over StarCraft 2’s performance, as hardware manufacturers scramble to update their drivers to be compatible with the game. ATI stands out after releasing the Catalyst 10.7a Beta Driver virtually solely for the purpose of supporting anti-aliasing in StarCraft 2 – a feature we had no problem with when reviewing Nvidia’s Geforce GTX 460 and GTX 470 graphics cards using a standard set of drivers.

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