BlizzCon 2016 StarCraft II Multiplayer Panel Transcript

New Unit Exploration

Aron: Hi, everyone. As David mentioned earlier on, we were looking at accomplishing with this major patch a lot of the same things that we do with expansions. In fact, we think of this as a sort of a multiplayer-only expansion.


A key part of any expansion has been the addition of new units. They act as a focus point for new strategies, they add a lot of excitement to the game, and so this is something that we knew we definitely wanted to take a look at; but ultimately, did not end up working out. So I wanted to go into a little bit what we explored, what we tried, and sort of give you a behind-the-scenes look on why it did not end up working out; but what did come out of it.

When we started we were looking at two specific areas: there was the Terran and the Zerg to start with, and we knew that with Terran mech being such a big focus, the Goliath could actually be a really good unit to add here. We get requests to see Goliath from Terran players quite frequently, it is a very beloved unit from StarCraft I, and so this seemed like a great opportunity to explore adding and seeing how well it can round out the mech arsenal.


On the other side of things, for Zerg, we were really just looking for anything that Zerg was missing. We did not have anything in particular in mind, but we were thinking that maybe there is some role that is not being filled, or some cool tech option that we have not thought of. We often come up with units like that in the past. So we wanted to make sure we were being thorough, and really take a look at the Zerg race, and all other races as thorough as we can.

On the Goliath side, we knew we couldn’t just take the unit from StarCraft I, bring it over into StarCraft II, and everything will be fine. There are a lot of new threats that Goliaths would have to deal with that were not there.


For example: Void Rays are very strong anti-armored units. There is nothing really comparable in StarCraft I, and when we played with it in games we found that Void Rays would actually just wipe them out very quickly. Especially, if you had a small number of Goliaths.

Also Mutalisks, although used quite heavily in StarCraft I, could not be grouped up in the same numbers as we often see them in SC II. A StarCraft II Zerg player will sometimes bring out like 20, maybe even 40 Mutalisks, which really is capable of focusing down small numbers of Goliaths that you are trying to react to harassment with, and it just did not feel very effective.

So when we were looking at what could we do to bring the Goliath up to par, we were thinking about some of the weaknesses that it had here like AOE we would be really good. In order to deal with some 40 Mutalisks, having splash damage would be really effective. However, that is already what the Thor does. It does that job pretty well.

In fact, it is even more mech-like when it does it. It is not very mobile, you have to really carefully position it, it matches that kind of gameplay we have; and so we were thinking maybe that is not right, but the Goliath had always been a long-ranged unit. So maybe we could go down that direction; but when we tried that, we found that the Goliath was really acting just as sort of a mech-marine in these match-ups.

You were doing a lot of stutter stepping, you were taking groups of them around, and just using them as more of a general all-purpose unit; and we were losing some of that positional feel that we feel defines mech.

So we said maybe anti-air is not the way to go, maybe it can be a capable anti-air unit, but it is going to have a lot more anti-ground power. We had noticed that mech has a hard time claiming map control against other races, so we thought maybe we can do something there; but taking care not to make it feel again more like just a mech-marine.

So we were looking at a fast attack speed unit that is not really used to stutter stepping so much, and was also targeted more on the armored side of things since the hellion already deals pretty well at anti-light map control.

While we were thinking about that, we also realized this does not really feel like a Goliath at all anymore, it is this unit that is being used for skirmishes, harassment, mostly anti-ground usage. So rather than just bringing back the Goliath for the sake of it, we were looking at other units like the Cyclone which was not being used as much as we would like to see them, and we thought it could really use a revamp rather than just putting in a unit for the sake of having something new.

Ultimately, we decided no Goliath, but we were going to take that exploration, and put it to good use. So we still got the gameplay that we found and liked. The Thor, we decided would be the core anti-air option for mech, but we were going to commit to making any changes we needed to in order for this to be viable. Scipione went into that with the Tempest range reduction, and we have also looked at tweaking its damage if necessary. The cyclone is serving that sort of map control anti- armored unit role that we have looked at and liked, but did not feel fits a Goliath.


On the Zerg side, like I said, we were taking a more general approach to things. So we had to sort of think back to when we did not have as much to go on back in Wings of Liberty. In Wings of Liberty, we had this thing called the 15 unit max rule which (as I will explain in a moment) is really more talking about unit overlap.


The 15 unit max rule was a restriction we placed on ourselves that said: we are not going to put more than 15 units on any given race, just period; and it is not because 15 units is some magic number, it is the perfect amount of units that you want in an RTS or anything like that.

It is actually just that having that constraint forces us to really choose which units we are bringing the most to that race, which were adding the most strategic options, and really forces us to create a very tight and clean set of units that had very clear roles; and we found that although 15 units per race wasn’t really the max number for us (as we have added many more since then), it is still that process of saying: What does a unit add to the race? What roles does it fill that we really need to look at?

So going back to Zergs, specifically, we started applying this mindset, and saying: okay, what roles are currently being filled by Zerg units? What sorts of attack types do they have? What are they used for in terms of harassment versus main army engagements or skirmishes? and what units do they counter?


We looked at zerglings, roaches, hydras, etc. Anti-light, anti-armored, generalist; and we started playing with some of these and seeing if we just started adding units that we did not have what would it be like?

An example of this is a tier 1.5 unit, which means that it requires a tech building, but you don’t need a lair, and it is spawned in groups of 3, and was very tanky.

The idea here was maybe we could have a tanky unit to buffer for your Hydralisks. However, when we were doing this we found that because it spawns in groups of 3, it was feeling a lot like a Zergling. It was very swarmy, and you were using it in a lot of the spots that you would just want to overwhelm your opponent with a lot of units; and on the high health side, it was feeling a lot like a roach, and since we already have these two roles in, we are finding that we were not really clear when we wanted to use as Zergling, when we wanted to use a roach, or when we wanted to use this new unit; and if somebody fighting it, it was not really clear what tech options you need to go to defeat Zerg even if you knew he was going the Hydralisk tech path.

So it was feeling really muddy, we really did not like it, and so we moved on to the next unit and tried a new role, and we tried another one, and another one, and we tried this for all three races.

We did a lot of exploration on the Terran side, and the Protoss side as well, but none of them really worked out. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t get anything out of this still. As I said earlier, we were able to take these lessons and really apply them to underused units, focus on strategies that were not seeing as much use, and we think we were able to increase the diversity of the game, and it feels like there are a bunch of new units, because stuff is being done in a way that was not before; even though we are not adding anything new right now.


With that said, it does not mean that we are never going to add new units to the game. This is just the conclusion we have come to right now, and depending upon what we hear from all of you giving us feedback from how this is playing, or any ideas that people bring up; because we have had a lot of really cool stuff added lately that came from the community, and that is how we would be making the decision as far as new units are being added to the game in the future. Now to talk about what specifically we are going to be looking at up in the future is David Kim.

Next: Panel Q&A (Part 1)

Balance PatchesRedesign & RebalanceNew Units ExplorationPanel Q&A (Part 1)Panel Q&A (Part 2)

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts


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