Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On Music in StarCraft II

Before we begin, it is important to note that the music in StarCraft II is very much not finished. There is only one piece of music for the Protoss, while the Terran and Zerg have 5-6. So naturally, this will change over time.

It is also important to note my general feelings on the music in StarCraft I. To me, it was hit and miss. Most of the Terran music was good, the Protoss music had occasional insight, but the Zerg music was just blah. Except for the Radio Free Zerg song.

As for the StarCraft II music... it is pretty much the same style of music. Indeed, it may be too much of the same, but I'll get to that a bit later.

The SC2 menu piece is very good. It has echoes of the original main menu, but with some of its own character. Although, I have to wonder: why a 7 minute piece for a menu, when the menu for Battle.Net has a different theme? Anyway, the main menu piece seems very much like a StarCraft II Overture. It has echoes of Terran, Zerg, and Protoss themes. The Zerg theme you may have heard in the Zerg reveal video, though here it is done much better. The piece flows into the different movements reasonably well.

The Battle.Net menu music is unintrusive, but not something you're going to actually want to hear.

The in-game music is probably the least changed. Oh, it's recorded with better instruments and sound quality, and they are different compositions. But the style is still very clearly that of StarCraft I.

I would say that the most improved is the Zerg. In SC1, the Zerg music was mostly just noise, devoid of anything resembling a melody or real music. In SC2, they still have some of that quality to it. It uses many of the instrumental sounds of the SC1 Zerg, so it still hearkens back to its roots. Even so, it manages to actually have a point in SC2; the music sounds like something that grows and festers.

The Terran music is probably the least changed, thematically and instrumentally. Indeed, it seems to have somehow become more guitar-y than it was. This leads to certain riffs that sound like they came out of Firefly or something. There are other riffs that are so close to those in SC1 that you'll automatically assume that they will continue directly into one of the Terran pieces. This is not the case.

As previously mentioned, there is only one Protoss piece currently, so it is harder to evaluate it. Even so, it seems similar to the other two: no thematic differences and retaining the same instruments.

There is something missing from these pieces. And that is a definitive statement, a unique signature. See, there is nothing about these pieces that is unique outside from their identity with the original StarCraft music. And that is a problem.

Let me explain by analogy. Take the main-line Mario series of platforming games. Each of them has different music. And while the most iconic is the main level music from Super Mario Bros. 1, there is a clear understanding of what "Mario music" is. The main level music from every Mario game has it, from SMB3's more playful, almost toylike theme to Super Mario 64's energetic directive to seek and find. Each theme has its own identity, but they all have stylistic similarities to one another. Each theme pays homage to what came before, but they also have their own distinctive qualities.

There is none of that here. StarCraft II's battle music has no identity of its own; it is simply a restating of what StarCraft I did. It doesn't even constitute a remix, as that would require putting a different spin on the pieces. SC2's music may have different melodies, but the core of the music is nothing more than StarCraft 1. It has no voice of its own, no soul of its own; it is borrowing the soul of another game.

What the music is saying is that it is music for "StarCraft II", not "StarCraft II."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rank Fear

StarCraft II's matchmaking scheme is excellent. And the league/division system has an almost MMO quality to it. Progressing up in rank within your division feels like gaining XP.

There is a downside to this: Rank Fear.

See, unlike an MMO (or at least, WoW), you can lose rank. Each game is therefore zero sum of sorts: to gain rank, I must defeat my enemy. And if I fail, I lose rank.

That's all well and good. But improving at playing the game requires experimentation. And experimentation means that you're going to lose.

If you're trying to put together a new build, it's going to fail. A lot. If you're trying to find a good timing to expand, you're going to get caught and killed. A lot.

Back in the days of Battle.Net 1.0, this didn't mean much. Oh, you got a loss on your record, but what did that matter? But in 2.0, with your division rank on the line, are you really going to expand into a rush just so that you can have practice trying to fend it off?

But what happens if you don't? Then your opponent dictates your play. If you don't know how to fast-expand against an early-aggression build, because you've always scouted it and took the safe option, then your skills are going to be behind. You're going to play it safe.

And if there's one thing StarCraft is not about, it's playing it safe.

I have a tendency to be a timid player. This is just my natural inclination; whenever things are going wrong, I tend to fall apart and lose. To counter this, I force myself to play aggressively. I try to force myself to attack, even sometimes when it's not safe or even prudent to. In order to make myself expand faster, I simply say at the start of a match that I'm fast-expanding this game. And I stick to it.

Yes, that means that if I scout early Barracks+Reactor pressure that I'm pretty much hosed. But what if I could fend it off? I'm not that good at any skilled micro (focus-fire is about as good as I get), but what if I was good enough to hold my expansion against early pressure? And what if I could learn to do it consistently? I'd be a better player for it.

Remember: it's just one match. One game. So what if your rank goes down for awhile? In a week, you'll have that rank back plus some, once you've learned how to fast-expand into anything. Alternatively, you may have learned that you can't fast-expand into anything. This is also a valuable lesson; it teaches you to focus on something else where your play is deficient.

My point is this. Experiment. Try things. Try things a lot. Don't be so afraid of losing one match that you're unwilling to improve and expand the tools in your répertoire. Because that's the only way you're going to be good at StarCraft II. Fear is the path to rank stasis.

StarCraft II is not an MMO. Your character doesn't get better simply by winning, because there is no character. There are no stats, no loot. There is only you and your skills. Leveling yourself up requires taking risks, and taking risks means losing.

Do not let your fear of losing now stop you from improving your game.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On Spellcasters, Research and StarCraft II

It's actually quite interesting to take a look at how spellcasters have changed in StarCraft II. One of the most interesting aspects is spell research.

In StarCraft II, there are exactly 6 spells that require research. I don't mean per-race, I mean through the entire game. Some of them aren't really "spells" in the traditional sense. Psi Storm, Hallucination, and Seeker Missile are the traditional spells. Weapon Refit (gives BCs Yamato), Ghost Cloaking, and Banshee Cloaking are the others.

Every other spell, every one doesn't require research.

In SC1, every actual spellcaster only had one native spell, and some like the Arbiter didn't even have that. Beyond that, you had to research. Even spells on non-dedicated spellcasters like Corsairs had to be researched.

So let's explore what effect this has on the game.

What does spell research do? Effectively, it bumps a spell up a half-Tier. To the extent that a game of StarCraft plays out in a series of Tiers, a spell that requires research is much like a unit that requires a new tech building.

This means that Defilers (for example) require a Defiler Mound to build, but they become much more useful once you have produced the equivalent of another tech building. On the plus side, this means that all Defilers you produced while researching something useful immediately get better. On the downside, we have the SC1 Queen.

Queens just aren't worth it. 150/100 for the Nest itself, and 100/100 for each Queen. But a Queen can only cast Parasite (and infesting a Command Center isn't even a spell; it's simply an ability). The Queen is thus almost useless without spending extra money and precious time to research either Ensnare or Spawn Broodling.

If a spellcaster cannot quickly appear on the battlefield and make a difference, then it cannot be used as a defensive counter to some tactic or unit your enemy is using. If Queens are going to require 4 minutes from the time the Drone first starts the Nest to the time when they can actually do something, then they cannot be an effective short-term reactionary unit.

This means that typically, you need to see farther into the future to react to something with spellcasters. You have to know, before starting on your Templar Archives, that your opponent is doing something that a High Templar spell can stop. This effectively means that good researched spells must have general utility.

These spells can't screw around; they have to be seriously powerful. Looking at the popular researched spells in SC1, you see that this is very much the case. Psi Storm, Dark Swarm (admittedly doesn't require research, but Consume is basically required for Defilers, so it counts by proxy), Stasis and Recall: these spells are to be respected and feared. They change games.

But they are less than half of the spells in SC1. Those other spells don't change games, and they require too much effort/time to acquire. So nobody uses them.

And this is the purpose of having fewer researched spells in SC2. It allows you to quickly get something of value into play. It means that spells that have limited functionality or utility can still be used within those limitations. Force Field is not the kind of spell you would bother researching; it has fairly limited utility and is not always devastating to the enemy. But you don't have to research it; Sentries get it for free.

So again, look at the 6 researched spells in SC2. Psi Storm again, Seeker Missile, Hallucination, Weapon Refit, and the two Cloaks. Yamato can make BCs into devastating units against single targets. Psi Storm is obviously strong, even in its current not-as-powerful-as-SC1 state. Hallucination has lots of potential: it can confuse an opponent, create meat-shields for your Stalkers/Immortals, or simply act as scouts that allow you to see up cliffs. Seeker Missile is a semi-dodgeable Psi Storm. The cloaks force your opponent to get detection if they want to deal with the unit in question.

What this also does is allow spellcasters with semi-strong spells to immediately make a different on the battlefield. If you see Immortals coming, you can throw down a Ghost Academy and get Ghosts with EMP. You may not be able to stop the first Immortal strike, but because EMP is standard on all Ghosts, you are able to effectively react with a spellcaster.

Another thing you will note is that they got rid of those silly +50 max energy upgrades for spellcasters. These were replaced with upgrades for +25 starting energy for newly constructed spellcasters.

This shows the difference between how spellcasters were thought to be used by Blizzard and how they were actually used in SC1. It was intended that people would use casters sparingly, husbanding their energy and making due with regular units until a critical point, when actual spells would be brought to bear.

This also fits with the idea of having lots of spell research. If you are keeping your spellcasters around until they get full energy, or even the overfull +50 energy, then the time spent researching additional spells is not that bad. And if you are not building 10 High Templar, you have more gas available to do that research with.

Obviously, that's not how spellcasters were actually used. In the most degenerate case, High Templar are basically walking Psi Storm bombs. They are built, they drop Storm, and they are either killed in battle or become Archons. Arbiters are also semi-disposable, though this is as much due to their cloaking field and their priority targets for EMP as anything else.

Essentially, what this means is that the 50 starting energy for a caster is considered highly valuable. And this makes sense. The construction time for most casters is generally not as slow as the time it takes to gain 50 energy. Thus if you need another Psi Storm, it is generally faster to make a new High Templar than to wait for him to get 75 more energy.

This explains a lot. It explains why Arbiters are more valuable than High Templar: they take longer to produce than it does to regain that 50 energy. Similarly, Defilers are valuable because they take longer to produce than it does for them to Consume a Zergling.

Since the most efficient way to use spellcasters in the game is with this pattern, Blizzard changed the +50 max energy research into +25 starting energy research. For High Templar especially, this is a boon. It allows a newly Warped HT to instantly cast Psi Storm. A new Sentry can cast Guardian Aura immediately. A new Infestor can immediately cast Fungal Growth. And so on.

The game is still in Beta, so it is hard to say how this will work out in practice. One thing that would make the starting energy upgrades more valuable would be to globally reduce the starting energy of all casters and increase the starting energy upgrade respectively. The reasoning for this is as follows.

The time it takes to get 75 energy when starting at 50 is significant, but not huge. In some cases, this may be the travel time to the battle in progress. However, if you start with 25 instead of 50, now you have a pretty long time. The research is much more valuable then; not only can you cast your favorite spell, but it also allows you to cast the other spell from the start.

There is one other thing that is interesting when surveying the SC2 spellcasters: spell energy costs. Of the 3 main spellcasters in use in SC1, two of them were long-duration spellcasters. The mere presence of an Arbiter had an effect, so it didn't rely exclusively on its spells for its effectiveness. And Defilers, once Consume was researched, could quickly and effectively regenerate their energy. In both of these cases, spell cost is not a huge factor.

For all other spellcasters, it is. The SC1 Queen is our best example of this. Spawn Broodling is a spell that is worthy of research due to its power. It instantly kills one unit. It's 150 energy cost compared with the utility of this power is what makes it unworkable. Thinning out the number of Siege Tanks would be valuable, but 8 Mutalisks have more general utility than 4 Queens with Broodling. So as useful as it potentially is to kill even quite a few of a Terran's tank force or even just Medics for their M&M ball, it simply isn't worth the cost.

If Spawn Broodling had instead cost 75 energy, then you might have something of value.

Now, if you look at the spells in SC2, few of them go above 75 energy in cost. The only ones that do are Hallucination and the two Mothership spells. The latter is on a big-ticket item, and both of the spells are very powerful. The former is on an early-game caster that can be built en masse. Mass Hallucinations can be very dangerous, so keeping that to a specific strategy is important.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Don't Fear the Reaper

The unit most likely to get hit with the Nerf Hammer when the first patch of SC2 comes out is the Reaper. Cheap, fast, faster with an upgrade, cliff-climbs, murders light units, 5 of them can kill a Pylon in 2 shots (no, really), I can keep going. I'm not sure who's idea it was at Blizzard who said, "Hey, instead of an activated ability that can have a high cooldown, let's just let them all do insane damage to buildings!" I hope he's unemployed now.

I can't say how much this affects Protoss. Having a unit that can kill Pylons that quickly, is faster than Zealots, and doesn't take the damage bonus from Stalkers looks really hard to deal with. You effectively need Zealots with Charge, which requires 2 buildings after a Gateway plus research. That's a long time to be vulnerable to Reapers.

As a Zerg player, not so much. Oh, don't get me wrong; if you're not expecting them, they will kill off something important. Queens are neither Light nor Armored, so they don't take damage bonuses from much. But a Reaper demolition squad can kill important tech buildings quickly.

I've learned, from online sources, how to deal with Reaper rushes. It's a really simple equation: fast Zerglings + Creep movement = Dead Reapers. Zerglings with speed on Creep move absolutely disgustingly fast. They may as well be ranged units.

Incidentally, I would love to see what Banelings with speed are able to do on creep. I've never really had the opportunity to use them effectively.

Anyway, speed-upgraded Zerglings are the key. So we craft a build order based on getting Zerglings with Speed. Reapers are not a fast unit to get out. A Terran needs to double-Barracks with Tech Labs, so they've got to get some gas. And then they've got to produce a pair of Reapers. If they want speed, they have to put down the Merc compound and research it.

The build:

  • 10 Overlord
  • 13 Pool
  • 13 Extractor
  • 15 Overlord

    You want to have 3 control open when the Pool finishes. That gives you 1 Zergling pair and (more importantly) a Queen. When the second Overlord finishes, get however many Zerglings you feel comfortable with. When your Queen pops, use Spawn Larva on the Hatchery immediately. However, make sure that when you get 100 gas, you have 100 minerals to get the speed upgrade.

    From here, it's just a matter of getting about 10-12 Zerglings, and then paying attention to your base. But of course, that's not all you want. You might want to drop a Creep Tumor (from your Queen) on the Creep, so you can extend the range of your super-speed Zerglings.

    You need to make a decision. Since he went for fast Reapers, he's hurt his economy. So you have three choices: break the front with Banelings, break the front with Roaches, or expand. If you choose to expand, make sure that you use the Creep Tumor's ability to extend the Creep to connect your main to your natural. Later, you'll use Nydus Worms, but those are higher tech than you can afford right now.

    If you choose to expand, you've basically decided to play a guessing game: you guess what his plans are after his failed harass. Scouting is possible with Overseers. If he goes for air, throw down a Spire and get Corruptors. Indeed, even if he doesn't, Corruptors and Mutalisks together (while very gas intensive) can harass very effectively. If he goes for Marauders, counter with +1 Zerglings. If he keeps going for light infantry, get speed Roaches or Banelings.

    Also, one last thing. Creep is your friend. Use Overlords and Creep Tumors to extend the Creep whenever possible. Overlords are a good start, but CTs make permanent Creep. Connecting your bases is good for keeping a fast unit flow between them, pre-Nydus. All of your ground units are substantially better when fighting on Creep.

    Note: the above does apply to ZvZ too. Though be aware that if you lose control over a patch of Creep, it can become a highway into your base.
  • Friday, February 19, 2010

    Conquering 3-Gate Zealot

    Well, I finally beat the 3-Gate Zealot build. That's less of an accomplishment than it sounds, as the metagame may be shifting away from that as people start to understand the game. But I'll take it.

    I forget the name of the map it was on. But it was a 4-player map, with two pairs of spawn locations near each other. Kinda like Lost Temple, but that wasn't the map.

    Looking at the replay, I'm not sure exactly why he went for the build the way he did. Not being a Protoss player, I can't say for sure what tech patterns work and what don't.

    In any case, my Overlord scouted him before his Gateway even started. I was in the middle of my standard build (14-pool, 2 Drones, Overlord, Drone, Zerglings+Queen) when I saw the second Gateway go down. So I knew what was coming.

    I also knew that Roaches or Banelings would be far, far away. Not to mention any Tier 2 tech. So I went for something else: Spine Crawlers. I put three of those down, two early on with a third added later as my Zergling army built.

    At the same time, I used extra money to throw down an extractor and get a Roach Warren. They may not arrive in time to save me, but I'd need them after the initial phase was over.

    Things go as predicted. A team of Zealots enter the base and quickly back off; he's good enough to know when he's out-matched. However, they do erect a solid contain. Without marching Creep over to him, I don't have a shot at pushing them out without Roaches.

    The other thing I did was take 4 Roaches worth of gas and invest in a Lair. Getting Roach speed is pretty important when dueling Zealots. You can kite them if you have speed. This delays my breakout, theoretically.

    Unfortunately, in reality, I throw my Zerglings at the contain, expecting them to somehow break it. Um... they didn't.

    I'm stupid sometimes.

    However, the good thing about Zerglings is that they don't cost much. And they weren't exactly integral to my defense, because by then, I had my Roach production going. Also, they didn't die in vane, because it made him cocky.

    So even gross stupidity can work itself out in the end.

    After melting my Zerglings, he holds off his alive-but-damaged group of Zealots until reinforcements arrive. At that point, I get the impression that he decided that I'd held him off, so he was teching. He dropped a Forge and a Robo Facility.

    That was when I decided that he needed to die.

    Effectively, we had switched places. That is, I was rushing him. He Zealot rushed, but failed. I countered with a Roach rush.

    However, he didn't see it coming. When I threw away my Zerglings, he figured he could just contain and tech. 8 Roaches taught him otherwise; they devoured his Zealots. And, like a good StarCraft player, I sent them straight into his base, and started rallying Roaches there.

    We did some micro dancing at his ramp, and he even pushed my Roaches back after a little mis-micro on my part. But my next Queen-forged brood of Roaches was arriving to turn the tide. And then I gutted his base.

    In the end, I found out that he actually out-resourced me, with almost 2x the number of workers I had. That's why I say we exchanged places; I was all-in. He lost because he had the wrong tech and was doing the wrong thing.

    I have no idea what it was he wanted to build with that Robo bay, as he never did anything with it. I suspect that he was going to flank me with a Phase Prism, knowing how vulnerable the Zerg are to air attacks. But once he saw my Roach production, he knew it was all over.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    First Impressions: Zerg

    Welcome to the StarCraft II Beta, build version

    I played 10 games as Zerg. I'll talk more about the specifics a bit later, but here are my impressions of the game from a Zerg perspective.

    It works.

    The overall hectic feel that SC1 had is retained in this game. I can't guarantee that everything will feel the same for someone with 300+APM and the multitasking skills to match. But for me, there was always something better that I could do.

    The Zerg themselves don't feel finished. At all. There are a number of just flat-out odd things.

    Roaches at Tier 1, but without their trademark regen. Indeed, they don't get their regen until Hive tech. What they are at Tier 1 is a Zerg Zealot: 16 damage and 145 Hp, for 75/25/1 cost. I'm not sure what burrowed movement is really supposed to do to these guys, but it isn't really helping. To make them useful at Tier 2, you have to research 2 upgrades, as well as do a lot of burrow micro. That just isn't worthwhile.

    Also, Roach regen only works (unless it's the Tier 3 upgrade) when the Roach is burrowed. But this upgrade doesn't give Roaches burrow; that has to be researched separately, thus driving up the cost of Tier 2 Roaches.

    Overseers also are very odd. They don't give extra control when made. All they are is detectors that can create Changelings. The Zerg only have 3 spellcasters to begin with: Queens who are stuck in your base casting Spawn Larva, Infestors, and Overseers. And now Overseers are practically useless.

    Corruptors have an ability that shuts down any building for 30 seconds. This feels very... strange. It's an AtA unit, but unlike the Phoenix, it's spell has nothing to do with its AtA powers. The Phoenix's Graviton Beam allows other Phoenixes to shoot at ground targets. The Corruptor's corruption ability doesn't. It's simply an alternate reason to get Corruptors. I never got the chance to abuse this ability, but I will in the future.

    Ultralisks were nerfed hard. They're basically 600 Hp versions of their SC1 incarnation. No linear AoE attack, no double attack, and no research upgrade for either. Their research is exactly their SC1 research: +2 armor and extra speed. On the plus side they can still burrow and they still have their 60-point anti-building attack.

    Having two gas Geysers in your base (that provide half the total gas of one in SC1, so you don't get more gas) is actually quite a boon, particularly for the Zerg. Roaches and Banelings are Tier 1 units. Being able to throw down an Extractor at 25 less minerals than SC1, and only put 2 Drones on it to give you just enough gas to power out a few supporting Banelings or Roaches to compliment your Zergling army. It's not really much of a difference, but you can control your gas income a bit better. The double-geyser also makes gas more valuable: you have to pay almost twice as much to get the same income rate as SC1, so teching has more of a cost to it.

    On to the games.

    ZvZ: I can't say what this match will ultimately be like, as my only ZvZ match was against someone even less skilled than me. Mutalisks were annoying due to the only GtA being Hydralisks, who are 100/50 and quite strong. I suspect that any ZvZ that survives past the initial Roach spam will likely become a war for air supremacy. Tier 3 tech is utterly useless against someone massing Tier 2: I eventually won with mass Hydra, slaughtering 10+ Ultralisks.

    ZvT: I have a pretty solid opening build for this game. I feel it's pretty safe, though I won't know until I play more than 3 games of it.

    It's 10-Overlord-Pool. While the pool is making, Drone to 13 and save Larva. At the moment the Pool spawns, you should have ~300 minerals. Enough for instantly 3 Zerglings and a Queen, taking up up to the 18 unit cap.

    With Terran Reapers and other tricks, plus the fact that they easily deny you a scout, I find this is about as econ-heavy as you can afford in ZvT. Zerg fast expansions are too easy for the Terran to punish without having some Hydra or Muta around. So you'll probably want to scout the Terran to see if he's expanding. If he did, mass Zerglings/Banelings and attack. If not, expand yourself.

    Note: I've since heard that the extractor trick works in SC2. This might be worked into this build.

    ZvP: If you're playing any game against Protoss, you're going to see one build 80% of the time: 3-gate Zealot. I played 6 games vs. Protoss, and lost 5 of them (winning only to someone who really had no idea what they were doing). Of those 6 games, 4 players went 3-gate Zealot.

    The problem with 3-Gate is Chrono Boost. Oddly enough, it isn't the effect on Probe production that is the problem. The problem is if they save up 100 energy (4-casts worth), throw down 3 gates, and dump all of that energy into Zealot production. That's pretty much death. It's too many Zealots too fast.

    I'd heard about this build before the Beta finished downloading. And despite going 0-4 to it, I don't think it's invincible. You just have to know about it. And SC1 Zerg are so used to relying on Overlord scouting and being the aggressor in ZvP that it's mentally hard to take a defensive posture. That means one thing: Drone Scouting. You must know that this is coming before your pool finishes.

    Since 3-gate Zealot is a rush build, it auto-kills any fast expand. So you need to know if they're going for it before you expand. Also, Tier 2 is not going to save you from this; you will die while whatever Tier 2 building you're going for is still being produced. If the Zerg are going to be able to deal with 3-gate Zealot, it will have to do so at Tier 1.

    Being hyper-defensive probably works. If you throw down 5 Sunkens, you'll probably survive. But it's not going to let you win, because 3-gate Zealot isn't very econ-damaging. You'll be stuck behind your Sunken line in your main, so you'll have to go for Lair tech on one base. This isn't going to work, since they have contained you. They can expand and build a devastating economy.

    So you need to do the containing. That means you need units. Since it's Tier 1, it has to be Zergings plus either Banelings or Roaches. I tried Banelings, and they might have worked if my enemy hadn't attacked while my Ling/Bane army was about to attack them. I was out of position and killed. But I don't think Banelings do enough damage per their cost to Zealots (despite Zealots being Light). Also, the Baneling Nest itself costs gas.

    The Roach Warren does not. Roaches do of course, but this buys you valuable time. So if you see 3-gate Zealot, instead of instantly getting a Queen with the extra 150 when your Pool pops, get a Roach Warren. You're really going to need the Queen's Spawn Larva, so don't forget to get her too. You'll also need gas. Whether you get an extractor before or after the pool, you'll need one quickly.

    Your goal with a Zergling/Roach build is to contain your enemy and expand. You don't want to overextend yourself and get your army cut down, but you want to make your expansion safe. You'll probably need at least one Sunken to help with the defense against the initial attack. This buys you time to Drone up to getting a good gas and mineral flow. Once you have that, pump Lings and Roaches, then go for the contain. Try to periodically enter his base and kill Zealots before they build up into too big of a ball.

    I can't guarantee that this will work, of course. But it has a chance.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Pre Beta History 12: BlizzCon 08

    This collects the information from BlizzCon 08.

    Terran Units:
    • Hellion: Gets an researchable attack speed upgrade.
    • BattleCruisers: Gain a third ability option: Defensive Matrix. This creates a temporary 200Hp shield around the BC.
    • Nomad: Renamed to Nighthawk.
    • Ghosts: No longer passively detect energy units.

    Terran Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Terran +1 upgrades now built at Tech Labs. Individual unit upgrades come from subsideary buildings.

    Protoss Units:
    • Nullifier: Gains Molecular Disruption (chain-lighting-type ability).
    • Phoenix: Overload replaced with Anti-Gravity. AG cannot pick up buildings or massive units. AG is a channeling ability.
    • Mothership: Unique again. Loses previous abilities except the AoE cloaking. Gains Time Bomb (all air units near the mothership are immobalized, but invulnerable to enemy ranged attacks) and Vortex (enemy air units become immobalized).
    • High Templar: Gains the ability to phase a target unit out (causes it to become unable to attack or be attacked).

    Zerg Units:
    • Queen: no longer unique. Loses all previous abilities except Spawn Mutant Larva. Spawn Mutant Larva changes: it targets a Hatchery. The Hatchery then later regurgitates 3 Mutant Larva. These Mutant Larva do not take up supply, but they can move wherever they want. Queen can also can create Creep Tumors.
    • Infestor: Loses all prior abilities. Gains the ability to create 5 Infested Marines, Fungal Infestation (causes a unit to drop in Hp. When it does, it explodes for AoE damage), and Neural Parasite (temporary Mind Control).
    • Overseer: Gains the ability to heal units. And spawn Nydus Worms (see below).
    • Corruptor: Requires the Infestor Pit instead of a Lair.

    Zerg Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Nydus Worms: Are spawned from the Overseer. They do not require Creep.

    Global Mechanics:
    • Gas Mechanic, v2.0: The geyser simply has X quantity of gas. After mining 400 out of it, the building shuts down for ~45 seconds.

    Pre Beta History 11: Pre BlizzCon 08

    This covers the period of time between BWWI 08 and BlizzCon 08.

    Terran Units:
    • Jackal: now called Hellion. Same unit otherwise.

    Protoss Units:
    • Nullifier: Hallucination changes: instead of copying a unit you already have, you create units. This can create several of a particular type of unit from a single cast. Note that you specifically do not have to have the tech for a unit to produce a Hallucinated one.

    Protoss Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Observatory: Removed. Observers only require a Robotics Facility.

    Zerg Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Hydralisk Den: requires a Spawning Pool.
    • Creep Speed Boost: Zerg ground units move faster on the creep.

    Pre Beta History 10: Blizzard World Wide Invitational 2008

    This information comes from Blizzard's World Wide Invitational tournament 2008, where the first broadcasted matches of SC2 were played.

    Terran Units:
    • Thor: gains Mechanical Rebirth. Killing the Thor creates "Wreckage". This wreckage is immobile and has no attacks. However, the wreckage can activate Mechanical Rebirth and rebuild itself into a Thor at full health.

    Protoss Units:
    • Nullifier: Loses Null Void.
    • Mothership: No longer unique.
    • Carrier: Loses escorts.

    Zerg Units:
    • Queen: Loses the ability to create defensive structures. Gains the ability to transform a selected Larva into a Mutant Larva.
    • Mutant Larva: larva that take up 1 supply, and can mutate into any unit. This costs the same resources as regular larva production, but is faster than regular production.
    • Corruptors: require only a Lair to be built.
    • Overlords: gain drop Creep.
    • Overseers: lose Creep drop [? Again, they may never have had it]. They gain the ability to create a Changeling: a unit that can impersonate the basic unit of any other race.

    Zerg Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Swarm Clutches/Shriekers: cut
    • Sunken/Spore Clusters: now called Spine/Spore Crawlers. They have less Hp when in mobile form.
    • Hydralisk Den: requires a Lair.
    • Nydus Worm: no longer a free-roaming unit. A Nydus Worm is now a building much like the Canal: it can be built on any patch of creep that you have vision over. With Overlord creep drop, this still allows greater mobility.
    • Creep damages enemy buildings slowly.
    • Zerg buildings not on creep take damage slowly.

    Global Mechanics:
    • Gas Mechanic, v1.0: Geysers start with some quantity of gas, 600 at this point. Players can spend minerals (100) to get an additional quantity of gas (600). During this process, the geyser turns off for 45 seconds (workers can't get gas). Geysers that are empty still provide 2 gas.

    Pre Beta History 9: Pre-Blizzard WWI 08

    This collects information after the Zerg reveal in March 2008 and before the Blizzard World Wide Invitational tournament in July.

    Terran Units:
    • Nomad: replaces Mine Drone with building Spider Mines.
    • Battlecruiser: replaces Plasma Torpedoes with Missile Barrage: an AoE AtA ability.
    • Thor: gets its anti-air attack back. Loses Barrage again.

    Protoss Units:
    • Mothership: loses Time Bomb and Black Hole. It gains the ability to be used as a destination point for Warp-In, and can transfer energy to units below it. And has passive AoE cloaking.

    Protoss Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Phase Cannons: cannot become mobile.

    Zerg Units:
    • Overseer: gains the following abilities from the Overlord: Creep generation, resource corruption. [The move of Creep generation may have just been a mistake by Karune]

    Zerg Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Sunken/Spore Clusters: can become mobile.
    • Zerg loses individual unit upgrades, reverts back to SC1-style upgrades.

    Global Mechanics:
    • Units must have vision on a unit to be able to fire at them. And units firing from a cliff do not give vision to other units. Thus, to attack units on a cliff, you must gain vision over them.

    Pre Beta History 8: Zerg Reveal

    This covers the information from the Zerg reveal in March 2008

    Zerg Units:
    • Hydralisk. More expensive and more dedicated to GtA.
    • Roach: Fast regeneration and shorter-range. GtG only.
    • Corruptor: AtA unit that turns defeated enemies into stationary AtA turrets.
    • Infestor: Can move while burrowed. Can infest buildings, causing them to produce infested units. Has Dark Swarm and Disease (Irradiate for the Zerg)
    • Ultralisk: Massive Hp, massive AoE melee damage with a special anti-building attack. Oh, and they can burrow.
    • Queen: Unique. Evolves with your Hatchery. Lays Swarm Clutches and Creep Tumors/Shriekers. Has Toxic Creep (causes creep to damage enemies), Swarm Infestation (causes buildings to attack enemies), Regeneration (enhances the speed of Zerg building healing) and Deep Tunnel (teleport to target Zerg building on your side).
    • Overseers: Morphed from Overseers. Detectors. Gain greater vision the longer they remain stationary.
    • Overlords: Not detectors or transports. Can drop Creep. Has Slime, which allows it to disable resourcing from a mineral patch or geyser.
    • Swarm Guardian: Like the Guardian, except its attacks create Broodlings.

    Zerg Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Nydus Worm. When you create the original Nydus building, you can produce Nydus Worms. These units are always ground units, always burrowed, and can move while burrowed. They can go anywhere. Once they reach a location, you can command them to emerge. At which point, after a few seconds of vulnerability, they become entrances to the shared Nydus network. Units in the network can emerge from any entrance.
    • Creep Tumors can be upgraded to Shriekers
    • Swarm Clutch: Egg that hatches to attack. Shriekers give them added range.
    • Sunken/Spore Clusters: Basically, sunken and spore colonies, except that they don't need Creep Colonies to be built.
    • Individual unit upgrades. Rather than having separate +1 upgrades based on unit types, each unit gets its own series of 3 upgrades. These combine the +1 attack/armor for that unit, as well as certain special abilities. The first upgrade for Zerglings, for example, includes their speed. While the last gives them their attack speed upgrade.

    Protoss Units:
    • Carrier: Gains the ability to create strong Escorts. Doing so costs money and they take energy.
    • Phoenix: Loses AtG attack.
    • Archon: Loses "Twilight" prefix and Feedback.

    Terran Units:
    • Medivac replaces Medics and Dropships. It's a DropShip with ranged healing.
    • Banshee: AoE attack replaced with single-target damage.
    • Thors: now built from Factories.
    • Ghosts: Drop Pods cut. Gain the ability to sense units with energy for up to 30 squares.

    Pre Beta History 7: Pre-Zerg Reveal

    This covers the time in the run up to the Zerg reveal in March 2008.

    Terran Units:
    • Viking: Moves back to Factory. Gains the ability to shoot air units while in ground form. Loses the ability to shoot air units while in ground form.
    • Thor: Becomes a ground pounder again.
    • Marauders: Replace Firebats. Produced from Barracks. Have a slowing attack.
    • Nomad: Gains Mine Drone, which places and cloaks mines in an area.
    • Jackal: Fast vehicle that has flamethrower.

    Terran Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Bunkers again allow unit abilities (except repair) to be activated while in them.

    Protoss Units:
    • Colossus: Attack becomes a linear AoE effect, rather than single-target. The visual effect for this is firing a very wide beam.
    • Nullifier: Null Void gains the ability to decloak units cloaked via energy abilities, and reveals burrowed units. Gains Anti-Gravity.

    Pre Beta History 6: Early 2008

    This covers the time from around the beginning of 2008.

    Terran Units:
    • Nomad: Gains auto-turret.
    • Thor: Replaces the Cobra as an anti-air unit. When it takes lethal damage, it becomes immobile (but can still attack) and must be killed again. SCV can repair it back to full health to regain mobility.
    • Cobra: cut.
    • Firebat: Produced from the factory.
    • Viking: Moves to the StarPort.

    Terrran Mechanics:
    • Drop Pods change from simply producing 5 Marines to having to be loaded with specific infantry units.

    Protoss Units:
    • Nullifiers: Replace Statis Orb. Gain the Force Field ability. Have Null Void, which stops enemy casters from being able to activate their abilities while within the field.
    • High Templar: Gain Anti-Gravity. Can lift anything, units or buildings.

    Protoss Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Protoss casters can redistribute energy to one another.

    Pre Beta History 5: Late 2007

    This post covers the changed information roughly corresponding to late 2007.

    Terran Units:
    • Cobra's attack gains a slowing effect.
    • Firebats return.
    • Predator cut.
    • Ghosts gain EMP.

    Protoss Units:
    • Carrier: replaces Tempest.
    • Stasis Orb cut

    Pre Beta History 4: Blizzcon 07

    This compiles the information and changes released around the time of BlizzCon 07.

    Terran Units:
    • Medics.
    • Marines: Now have shield upgrade to give more Hp.
    • Starports can become Starbases. Starbases are flying buildings that can produce air units like a Starport (with TechLab). They can also repair flying units.
    • Predator: Has a small AoE AtA attack. Has Intercept ability, which causes certain ranged attacks near the Predator to be stopped.
    • Nomad: Takes the spot of the Science Vessel. Constructs things

    Terran Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Salvage: Immobile buildings can be salvaged for their cost.
    • Bunkers no longer allow unit abilities to be activated while in them.

    Protoss Units:
    • High Templar: Has Psi Storm and Force Field.
    • Stasis Orb: Ground unit with a slowing attack.

    Pre Beta History 3: Terran Reveal

    This compiles the information Blizzard released with the Terran reveal.

    Terran Units:
    • Cobra: Mobile anti-armor unit.
    • Reapers: now have D-8 charges. They are built from the Merc Haven, with special mechanics.
    • Ghosts with Cloak. They have Snipe (auto-kills certain kinds of units). They can summon Drop Pods (see below). And Nukes.
    • Thor: Built by SCV. Has lots of HP, and the Barrage ability. Barrage is a channeling ability that does lots of AoE damage to a specific location.
    • Siege Tanks with new model.
    • BattleCruiser: Has multi-shot attack now. Gains two upgrades, each one individually: Yamato Cannon or Plasma Torpedoes (ground AoE).
    • Viking: Ground unit with an air mode transformation. Produced from Factory.
    • Banshee: Air unit with AoE ground attack. Can cloak.

    Terran Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Sensor Tower provides Missile Turrets with detection.
    • Sensor Tower upgrades into Radar Tower, that can detect units in the Fog of War.
    • Missile turrets do not detect. They must be within range of a Sensor Tower to detect.
    • Reactors double production of a building.
    • Tech Labs allow the building to produce more kinds of units.
    • Tech Labs have research for those specific kinds of units.
    • Supply Depot: Can submerge, allowing units to pass.
    • Bunkers: Abilities can be activated while in a bunker.
    • Command Center: Can upgrade into a Planetary Fortress or an Orbital Command. The PF upgrade gives it an attack (while also making it immobile), while the OC upgrade gives it ComScan.
    • Drop Pods: These have to be constructed separately, like Nukes. They create 5 Marines at the location the Ghost summons them to.

    Pre Beta History 2: Pre-Terran Information

    This covers the time between the initial StarCraft II reveal (focused mainly on the Protoss) and the general release of Terran information.

    Protoss Units:
    • Tempests: Flying Carrier-esque units that have lots of shield strength, but the shields only work on ground targets. Instead of Intercepters, they fire Shurikens.
    • Soul Hunters: Ground units that deal additional damage when they kill other units.
    • Twilight Archon: Merged from any two Templar. Has Feedback.
    • Star Relic: Similar to an Arbiter. Had Hallucinate (Batch 7) at some point.
    • Reavers.

    Pre Beta History 1: Initial Reveal

    This is the known information about the state of SC2 at the initial Protoss reveal.

    Protoss Units:
    • Zealots with Charge (research).
    • Stalkers with Blink (research).
    • Immortals with Hardened shield (research).
    • Colossus, cliff climbing with single-target beam. Does ~144 damage per salvo, but the beam moves to a different target after the first one is dead.
    • Phase Prism: Transport with the ability to deploy a Psi field.
    • Phoenix with Overload: AoE-style damage to nearby flying units, but the unit is left deactivated after casting. Phoenix can attack air and ground.
    • Warp Ray. Does more damage the longer it attacks a single target.
    • Mothership: Unique. Has Planet Cracker (massive AoE ground damage), Time Bomb (stops enemy ranged attacks within an area), and Black Hole (AoE death to enemy flying units).

    Protoss Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Phase Cannon. Can convert into a mobile form. [The mobile form might have been restricted to moving only within Psi]
    • Warp-In: Gateways can become WarpGates and cause units to be produced anywhere within Pylon power.

    Terran Units:
    • Marines.
    • Reapers: can cliff-climb arbitrarily.
    • Siege Tanks with Siege Mode (old model).
    • BattleCruisers with single-shot attack and Yamato Cannon.
    • DropShips: They land to drop units, but this is only a visual thing.

    Terran Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Command Center carries SCVs.

    Zerg Units:
    • Zerglings (model with wings).
    • Banelings, morphed from Zerglings.
    • Mutalisks.

    Zerg Buildings and Mechanics:
    • Nydus Worm (exact behavior unknown, but units that emerge from one do so 4 at a time).

    Friday, January 22, 2010


    This blog exists to chronicle the evolution of Starcraft 2 from the beginning of Beta to its shipment as a final product.

    It will also have a historical section that details how Starcraft 2 changed from its first public revelation to its current form.