BlizzCon 2018 StarCraft II: What’s Next Panel Transcript

VERSUS: DESIGN PATCH

Day[9]: Now speaking of competitive one-on-one, I’m a master of transitions… that’s what I get hired to do this, Scip. Talk to me about who you are, and what’s coming for StarCraft II balance.

Michael: So I’m Michael Scipione, but I usually go by Scip as you pointed out here; and I’m representing the versus design team here today. We’re going to talk about the big patch. We have a big design patch. We did one last year and we have one this year.

 

Day[9]: Well, talk to me a little bit about how you approach design, because I know it’s not just about tweaking a unit here that feels strong or weak, and so on and so forth.

Michael: So yeah, we have a couple big design goals when we go into one of these patches. This one, in particular, we wanted to look at the end-game. We want to look at all six supply units, we wanted to look at bringing up some of the races that may have been felt like weaker in late game; but we don’t want them to all play the same. They need to have their own flavor. They need to each feel like distinct races, but we want to make them a little bit more equal.

 

Day[9]: And when you talk about end-game units, often you see early-game units like Marines, and Marauders. In a late-game Terran composition, you really are referring to those like Highest tier units that you’re looking at is that right?

Michael: Yeah, we were looking at both what people are doing in the late game; but especially looking at all those 6-Supply units: Ultralisk, Colossus, Battlecruiser, those kinds of things. We also want to look at upgrades. Upgrades also play a great role in the late-game. It can also play a big role in the mid-game; or if you are a neo-steel enthusiast, you can also build that whenever you feel like it.

 

Day[9]: Who here loves neo-steel frame? Yeah, yeah. You guys are going to get a real treat apparently. Yeah.

Michael: So with that one, we’re actually merging it in with the building armor upgrade, the building armor upgrades cost and upgrade time. So the neo-steel armor, you get as part of it. So we were looking at areas where we can encourage more of the mid and late game encounters. So early game is good, and we also want to encourage that as well. This should be clear strategies there and we also want to make sure you have ways to transition in the later game.

Day[9]: Right, because when you say encounter like early-game, I know that there is like a lot of Adept and Oracle and Reaper harass, are you looking for more harassment type things where you are trying to just encourage more general conflict? What does it mean to have more encounters in like mid and late game?

Michael: It’s more of general conflict and the feeling that you have the tools to cause those conflicts. If you’re too scared of your opponent’s mid game or late game, you might feel like you’re constrained into just: “oh, I have to do this in the game, otherwise, I don’t have a chance.”

Day[9]: Oh, to avoid that like I harassed once, and then pull back and take four bases, and chill out until I’m maxed.

Michael: Well, you can do that if you would like to.

Day[9]: That’s what I like to do, man.

Michael: We also wanted to look at re-introducing some exciting composition from the past. So we wanted to like encourage more Mutalisk play in like TBC. We wanted to look into bringing back the old Cyclone from before 3.8. It’s actually part of our Summer highlights that we have with the upcoming patch.

 

Day[9]: So talk to me about some of the specific changes that you’re looking at and how those connect back to some of those design goals.

Michael: So for example with the Cyclone, the current Cyclone is very good early-mid; and we wanted to see if we could introduce the old 3.8 version. Our pre-3.8 version where it was more of an assassin tool– which was very good in the mid and late game; and we started seeing some really interesting uses from it, and the pro series– before it was changed before; and we wanted to try reintroducing it to see if we can get some of that back.

Day[9]: Oh, awesome; and I understand that the Battlecruiser— oh excuse me… I understand that the Tempest also has some additional changes to it.

Michael: Oh, we do. We actually have a video, up ahead. If we can get to it. You mentioned the Battlecruiser. Let’s take a look at the Battlecruiser.

Day[9]: Yeah, because this is so nice. If you have ever been the Battlecruiser on the top, it is so painful to try to accelerate and decelerate. It requires a lot of APM just to keep pushing the Battlecruiser forward.

 

Michael: So with the Battlecruiser, we’re looking into making it a move-and-shoot unit. Right now, we have in multiplayer the Phoenix, and sort of the Cyclone that can also do it; but this one can fire up and down, makes it very dangerous to sort of encounter it, and then try and pull away. You have to really commit to it to fight it.

Day[9]: Now when you say move-and-shoot, I know the Phoenix can pretty much swivel as its firing. Does the Battlecruiser still need to face, or can you be retreating and firing from behind?

Michael: It can fire backwards. They have to watch out even if you’re trying to pursue a Battlecruiser.

Day[9]: Oh, interesting. Okay.

Michael: So what about the Tempest?

Day[9]: What about it, Scip?

Michael: So the Tempest, we’re doing more of a numeric change. So while the Tempest gun will remain the same (it’s a long-range, very powerful anti-warship weapon), we wanted to look into making it a little bit more flexible, a little bit different than the Carrier more so than now. So it’s faster, it costs a little less, and its supply went down by 1; but the health also went down.

Day[9]: Oh, right. Yes, because it kind of felt like you had to commit… like if your opponent was building Brood Lords or something like that, you’d have to actually invest quite a bit in terms of time and resources just to get 2 or 3 out.

Michael: Right, and so we wanted to look into making it a little bit more also micro-friendly.

 

So then we also have our changes with the Zerg. So one of the big ones we did was the Nydus Worm; and one of the main things we changed was: it is now no longer invincible while it’s unburrowing. It’s still in the ground, so we decided we can increase its armor as well. We’ve seen in the past, people will just pool workers to battle it; and we wanted to be more…give it a little bit more defense while it’s underground, but it loses that armor once it pops out.

 

Day[9]: That’s really in line with a lot of the other Zerg units that when their eggs still have like boosted armor during construction they pop out. A little squishier to target.

Michael: We also made it cheaper, because one of the big feedback we got from pro players that have been using it in late-game was: “Oh, it cost a little too much for what it does.” So we’ve reduced the cost to see if it can promote more of the late-game usage of it as well.

Day[9]: And this makes a lot of sense with what you were talking about with trying to encourage the mid and late game encounters. Obviously, you get so much spread in Legacy of the Void multiplayer over the map that if it was easy to get picked off by workers it would be kind of trivial; but now, if you’re able to watch the mini-map along and split your army that’s how you are going to have to answer that kind of threat.

Michael: Right, and you’re rewarded a little bit more when you see it. Like if you just dump a worm in the middle of your opponent’s base, they clearly can just blast it with their army units; but because it’s cheaper, it rewards you a bit more for being a little bit more sneaky.

Day[9]: That’s awesome! What about balance going forward because I know that balance is always evolving with the way new strategies are emerging, with the way map design is changing with trends and gameplay… how do you see long-term design?

Michael: So with long-term design in regards to the future, we’re still evaluating it. This hasn’t gone out completely to the public, and once the pros get their hands on it– especially, we’ll be able to see how people at the very highest level are able to make use of these changes; and we’ll make adjustments accordingly. Much like last year, we have a lot of the same goals going forward.

 

Big patches aren’t the goal. They’re only as warranted and part of that is we want to respect player time investment. When players get really good at the game, they want to be able to say: “Okay, I understand the meta; and now I can counter what you’re doing, because I understand what your meta is.” And that’s like…. A big part of StarCraft is knowing: “Okay, here’s what I want to do. Here’s what they’re going to do; and here’s how I’m going to respond to it.

Day[9]: Right. Well, that’s awesome. I really look forward to the changes and getting a chance to try out Nydus Worms. They’re much cheaper. Makes me so happy.

Michael: I know. They’re really fun.

NEXT: DEEPMIND

BlizzCon 2018 StarCraft II: What's Next Panel Transcript
1. Intro2. War Chest #43. Co-op Commander: Zeratul4. Versus: Design Patch
5. DeepMind

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