Legacy of the Void: Multiplayer Development Update # 1
Blizzard Entertainment plans to launch StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void beta in 2015. Today we got the first Legacy of the Void Multiplayer Development Update.
We wanted to give everyone an update on the current state of Legacy of the Void in order to gather more feedback and work together with everyone in order to prepare better for the upcoming beta next year. Obviously, nothing is final (even for the beta) and as you’ll see below, we’re still in a phase of exploration and testing, so please keep this in mind.
General Gameplay Changes
First, we’d like to give an update on the resource changes we showed at Blizzcon. In that build, resources were reduced to 70% of what they currently are in Heart of the Swarm. From our playtesting, we really liked that this set-up encouraged players to move out more and take expansions more aggressively which led to action packed games. One element we were still concerned about was the potential diminished importance of harassment since workers were being transferred much earlier. Since Blizzcon, we’ve looked at changes that keep the positive aspect of encouraging players to take more bases, while still providing incentives to harass bases in various locations. The change we are currently testing is as follows:
- Half of the mineral patches have 1500 (same as HotS), and the other half has 750.
- Gas is at 75% of total.
The main things we like with this change so far are:
- Players are still encouraged to move out and take bases aggressively.
- There are still reasons to harass most of the bases since they remain operational at half efficiency.
- Macro on bases and transferring workers throughout the game becomes more meaningful and more rewarding to players who do this better.
We currently feel like this solution help resolve the main negative side of the change we proposed at Blizzcon, but we’ve only been testing this for a few weeks, so we can’t say with 100% certainty. We’d definitely like to hear your thoughts in this area.
Worker count change
We’ve heard a lot of thoughts and suggestions on different starting worker counts for Legacy of the Void, so we’ve tested alternate starting counts internally. Currently, we feel 12 is the correct number because that number feels like the point right before decisions start diverging. However, we feel that since this is a simple change from a development standpoint, we could explore alternate worker counts in the beta without any issue. Looking at our data, we believe this is the correct starting worker count, but it’s still something we are willing to test further in beta.
We’re exploring a couple things in this area. The first is to have more meaningful upgrades in the game. Here is what we’re thinking in this area.
- Locate units that are used in the game that could potentially bring an impactful change at a much later stage of the game.
- We’re currently looking at upgrades that bring a meaningful change to how existing units on the battlefield are used in later stages of the game. The upgrades for Zergling speed and Ghost cloaking are good examples of this. These units are already used in gameplay, but the upgrades provide visible changes to the interactions with that unit.
- Don’t add upgrades on for unit late-game units.
- Units like Battlecruisers, Carriers, or Thors come out so late that additional upgrades aren’t as interesting. Generally speaking, the late tier units are used only after the upgrades are purchased anyways, so we don’t see a huge value in adding more upgrades to them. For example, Ultralisks wait until their armor upgrade is done because both building Ultralisks and researching the upgrade start at the same time. So this upgrade is clearly not as interesting as say like Zergling speed or Marine stim pack that really change up how the units already on the battlefield are used.
We’re also considering splitting-up mech and air upgrades once again for Legacy of the Void. Currently, the unit lineup for the Factory and Starport are both very solid, and so we wonder if bringing back the choice of which tech to upgrade will make those upgrade decisions more interesting. For example, our internal playtests are seeing multiple builds that involve mixing bio with mech or air independently. Therefore, we believe splitting the upgrades might add to the strategy. It’s important to remember however, that we’ve made a lot of changes in order to make mech viable, so we need to be careful and see if this change would make mech less of a strategic option.
We’ve gone through lots of iterations on various units and abilities, and this is just a snapshot of where we are at right now.
Changes to the HERC
The main things we didn’t like about the HERC were:
- Too much overlap with Hellbats
- Grapple ability isn’t really needed for the unit to function well.
- Tech level changed to Armory requirement
- No longer deals splash damage
- No longer effective for cost
- Grapple is to target ground
- When landing from grapple, knocks enemy units in that area back
One of our goals with the HERC is to help give Terran an advantage vs Zerglings and Banelings and encourage the Zerg player to tech switch. By adding a knockback to Grapple, the HERC can counter Banelings in a way that makes the ability more core. And while these changes clearly fixed the two main issues we had with the HERC, it also brings in new challenges with the unit. If Grapple is too spammable, it takes too much control away from the opponent. We’re seeing that it feels silly because players using HERCs can shut down the ability for micro on the opposing side by timing the knockbacks correctly. In general, what we want is the potential for micro on both sides, and this new HERC was going against that philosophy. Therefore, we’re currently not in a good place on the HERC, and we’re working towards a better solution.
Banshee attack range decreased back to 6
With the Banshee speed upgrade alone, Banshees were doing many cool things to the game. However, we felt the range increase didn’t really impact the late game but hurt the early game vs. Zerg. The number of Spore Crawlers needed to counter just normal banshees became high enough that it felt cost effective to just build a Banshee and show it to the opponent. Because we already get the effect we want with the Banshee speed upgrade, we felt we didn’t have to also increase the Banshee’s attack range.
Cyclone ability is autocast, and the unit is rebalanced accordingly
In Legacy of the Void, we’ve added a lot of units that are more active or difficult to use. So we’ve been exploring various ways to keep the high-level, intensive micro play while allowing the game to be a bit more casual for average-level players. We believe the Cyclone’s ability being autocast is a good step in that direction. We wanted to push the importance of the positioning of the Cyclone more so than the click micro and because they’re autocast now, where they stand when engaging the army will be a lot more important. Prior to this change, whoever clicked faster was the more effective player using this unit. And players who want to make 100% sure that their Cyclones hit the right targets to turn off autocast and use it manually still.
Lurker siege range upgrade no longer has a Hive requirement
The Lurker is still working out well for us, but we felt the siege range upgrade comes in a bit too late. Seige range will still be at a very late Teir 2 tech level because it’s still gated by not only the Lurker Den, but also an upgrade on top of that. This isn’t set in stone, but we currently believe this is a better place for it.
Infestor ability removal + add?
Aggressive Mutation was only really effective when combined with Zerglings, due to the fact that ability provides a flat damage buff. At the same time, we also didn’t want to make a general upgrade that just generally buffs all Zerg ground units. If we feel that the buff its providing Zergling damage is needed and is good for the late game, we can just buff their Tier 3 attack speed upgrade. Therefore, we’re looking for other areas where the Infestor can be utilized.
Zerg AA vs. mass air strategies
We’re currently trying out an ability on the Viper to help deal with large numbers of air units (but not small numbers of them). This new ability deals an AoE dot to enemy air units. If only a few air units are in play, it’ll be easy for the opponent to micro against this ability, whereas when the air unit count gets really high, dealing with this ability will be exponentially more difficult.
We’ve tried out abilities like this in the past and we’ve experienced a couple problems. Counter micro on the opposing side is to just kill the unit that has the DoT on it. This is problematic, because it’s not difficult to just select everything you have and kill the one afflicted unit. Design wise, this type of enemy reaction is also problematic because it just becomes a doom type spell, and not the spell we’re going for. To solve this, we’ve tried versions in the past where burst damage goes through if the unit is killed. The problem in this case is that I can then cast this spell on the enemy unit and quickly focus fire it down.
In order to solve both of these issues, we’re trying a version where if you use the ability, the effect is applied to the enemy air unit, but if the unit is killed before the DoT damage expires, the DoT damaging effect still remains flying in the air at the location where the unit died. This way, the optimal move for the opposing player is to move the affected unit away from the other units rather than just killing it. On the user’s side, it’s slightly more effective to have the affected unit move around with the DoT damage, than to have the DoT damage remain stationary, so there’s little incentive to quickly focus fire the affected unit down.
We haven’t had as much testing with this ability yet, and we’re not even sure if the Viper is the correct unit for this ability, but the general idea of exploring a late game Zerg AA vs. mass air armies is something we’re focusing on.
Additional new Protoss unit
We haven’t finalized design on a new Protoss unit, but it’s something we’re heavily focused on these days. We have general concepts and ideas we’re trying, but haven’t nailed down something solid yet. Generally speaking, we’re experimenting with allowing Protoss to play a more aggressive containment game in the early game by utilizing a new unit. We feel this will give some more variety to Protoss openings, since Protoss generally tends to play defensively. If you have good ideas or feedback in this area, it would be appreciated.
We’re currently exploring a very different type of harassing unit. We don’t yet have the specific details yet but these are the things we’re thinking right now:
- Early game unit
- Slow movement speed (to differentiate from other early game harassers)
- Phase shift ability. Unit goes completely invulnerable for X seconds on a short cooldown (to be able to move in and harass and to get out in a different way compared to say like Blink harass)
- Doesn’t counter core units for cost (idea of having a core unit that goes invulnerable just sounds like it would be too much. Plus with this effective ability, this unit could still be a great harasser even if it’s not effective for cost).
But like we said, we’re still in the concept/discussion phase of this unit so additional feedback is welcome. It could even be suggestions on a completely different unit that the Protoss can use to make the game more exciting for everyone.
Mothership Core’s Photon Overcharge ability now hits both ground and air again.
Because of the resource changes we’re currently testing, Protoss is most impacted as they’re the ones that struggle the most with taking additional bases. We felt this nerf was no longer needed because to this.
Immortal Barrier ability is an upgrade
The Barrier ability combined with the new ranged pick up from Warp Prisms has been too difficult to defend against without having air units. We’re currently testing having the ability as an upgrade. We may need to make tweaks to improve the ability if needed, but this is something we’ll look at going forward.