One of Blizzard's stated goals for HotS is to make mech for Terran more viable.
1) I don't think they're goal to make bio and mech viable in TvT will ever work. At most we see bio-mech, but I don't think we'll ever see pure mech style play because it's such a tremendous sacrifice. Bio will always be more preferable. More on that later.
2) The warhound is designed to be anti-mech. Granted, what Blizzard thinks a unit will be used for, isn't necessarily what it will be used for. But it's completely counter-intuitive to want mech play to be more viable and then make yet another unit that kills mech faster...
3) Mech units ≠ Mech play or Mech style play.
Don't believe me?
This is not mech play. It looks just the same as m&m only slower and less interesting.
This is also not mech play.
As far as I'm concerned this is an all bio/ infantry army. Just because it comes from a factory and looks mechanical, doesn't make it mech play.
What's the difference between these units really? They all walk in and attack the same. You have infantry (marine), and medium sized infantry that's tougher and can't shoot up, and a bigger sized infantry that can't shoot up and has splash and is even tougher. Then you have even bigger infantry that's even tougher and is better against mechanical units. And then you have absolutely massive infantry that have splash and are even tougher and even clunkier.
It's interesting that the unit that remains the most spectator friendly is the first one. The fastest one. The weakest one, among the best burst damage. And the most microeable. The marine. Everything else is a less interesting iteration and more and more like WoW Tanking units. The least interesting role in WoW imo.
A lot of units feel like the design role came from the Tanks of MMORPG's.
Why Should We Care?
Perhaps from the games I've provided as non-examples indicate that mech-style play is rare. Actually, I'm not sure it exists in any RTS except in BW.
Whatever man, just go play BW.
I'd argue it's fun for the pro's and newbs alike. Pure mech style play is unique and therefore interesting for that reason alone. It's very difficult to master and therefore a joy to watch pro's go to work. But at the lowest level, when we taught people starting with Terran, we'd say just go tanks. Lot's and lots of tanks. It's a little difficult to siege hop for newbs, but it's very satisfying having tank lines shelling down the enemy.
So perhaps your asking, even if a unit originating from a factory does not necessarily make it mech play... What is Mech Play?
1) The Tank
2) Cannon Fodder
4) Protection against Flanks/ Defence in Depth
1)The Heart of Mech Play: The Tank
You can't have mech play without the tank. There's no way around it. Tanks are what makes mech play different from any other type of play in any RTS I've ever tried.
So what is it about the tank that makes the difference?
Tanks make a tremendous sacrifices
i) They have a set-up time
ii) Therefore, they sacrifice mobility
iii) They have a slow rate of fire
iv) It has a minimum range
v) It has turret rotation time (turret needed to be facing the right way to fire.)
On paper why the heck would you make this unit.
If you set up your tanks here...
I just go around.
I can NOT stress enough how huge a sacrifice losing mobility is in a game as fast as starcraft.
So what do Tanks gain?
Sheer, unadulterated firepower + splash damage and insane range. But that's why I strongly believe bio and mech play cannot be equal in a straight up fight. If bio can take on a tank army, then bio will win every time, because they can also abuse their mobility. Tanks need to FLATTEN bio for it to be viable simply because mech play is so immobile. You can have bio viable in TvZ or TvP, but I don't think you can have it viable in TvT. Or you just never have mech play.
Or to make bio more viable, you make tanks not as unique and make it more 'samey' as everything else. Tone down it's firepower (35 damage +15 armoured) rather than 70 and then size reduction. And speed up it's rate fire. BW tanks rate of fire is really quite slow. And then have other units with crazy range and none of the sacrifices *cough* Collosi. And what you get is bio mech is alright, but pure mech isn't.
In addition turret rotation, provides options for drop play. Depending on which way the tanks are facing would depend which direction you want to drop from.
I actually think getting rid of overkill didn't make tank ai 'smarter.' Overkill is a better design choice as it is anti-deathball. Having overkill allowed for more tactical options on both sides. But I'm going to leave that alone for this thread.
Tanks also thrive where High Ground Advantage is at a premium.
It's not very mobile, so wherever they can be very defensive, it will excel. Furthermore, high ground advantage is also anti-death ball. With high ground advantage, fewer units can hold more territory. Therefore you can afford to split up your army and take more territory on the map. Without it, you must ball up or risk losing units for free and stopping nothing.
i) Getting rid of miss chance hurts tanks/ mech play. People that say random chance has no place in RTS can suck rocks You've created a maxim and over-applied it. Miss chance gives defenders advantage and allows small groups of units hold off bigger groups. Anti-death ball.
I probably got the wall wrong, but this can hold off a surprising amount of troops.
ii) Cliff walkers. Cool idea, but it hurts positional play and tanks/ mech play suffers as a result.
You could replace the tank with something else because all a tank really is
with the attack damage of
That's all a tank is and that's the heart of pure mech play.
2) Cannon Fodder.
I think it's a mistake to design a unit to 'tank damage.' I think it's boring unit design that borrows from the worst WoW PvP role. Gamers will discover which units are most cost effective to send out in front so that they can protect their expensive units. Typically cheap units that will survive a couple extra hits. (zealots protect dragoons, zerglings 'tank' for lurkers, etc)
But what mech play needs is a unit to sit in front of their tank lines to prevent surrounds and so that their tank splash is not turned against them. This is especially important if Tanks have proper OP damage and have Overkill. Overkill means your own tanks will die much easier if you aren't spread out and enemy units get in beside your tanks to turn your splash against you. Cannon fodder in front stops that.
What exactly you put in front doesn't really matter. This is where there's a bit of overlap between pure mech and bio mech. And I think most people will agree that bio mech is fun to watch. Adding pure mech to the mix is just as much fun. (It's what Artosis has been ranting about since Beta. Not sure he's ever going to see it though )
But I think there are some interesting things about pure mech that bio mech doesn't do. The cannon fodder protects the tanks, but don't have the ability to take on tanks themselves. This is where I can't consider mauraders as part of pure mech as it actually kills mech style play (tanks) when combined with marines. For mech play to be viable, Tanks kill tanks.
What's interesting about pure mech is the cannon fodder can't shoot up. Tanks and vultures. Tank-hellion are most similar to this. What's interesting about this vs bio mech is you have this massive army that is vulnerable to air. What this opens up is more drop play over top of the mech army. Zealot bombs (especially if tanks have overkill.) Or using shuttles to move around massive tank armies to new positions or to land your own tanks on top of their tanks.
Without the core army able to shoot up, the sky becomes clear for some very cool plays.
But again, not being able to shoot up is such a huge sacrifice. Why would you go pure mech, when marines work just as well? Mech has to be able to kill bio for pure mech to work. Most people that get introduced to BW think vultures are the suckiest unit. Weak, non-continuous rate of fire, and can't shoot up. On paper, why would they ever be made? More on that later.
Because the core of pure mech is so immobile, it's not good enough to let the opposing side to macro up un-opposed. Interestingly, here comes our cannon fodder again. Turns out they weren't just useful for soaking up damage (one role design), but they're super fast, very maneuverable, and very cheap.
Hellions again look fairly similar on paper. But there's an interesting difference that I think the HotS design change highlights a flaw in the Hellion design. The big difference is in burst damage.
Vultures fire off a shot and then they have time when they aren't shooting, but can move. And there really isn't much of a delay between shooting and not and moving in one direction and the other. This design means that the most efficient way to use it is constantly attack retreating. If it was continous damage, the time spent running away is wasted damage. But there's these small gaps where there is no shooting. Therefore no damage wasted and if you can keep melee units at range, you can pick apart your opponents. Fantasy is known for this.
Fantasy vs Flash
Starting at 20min 10seconds. Or watch the entire game because it's awesome.
Hellions also have burst damage, but it is much, much longer. Therefore, the emphasis/ most efficient use is to let the hellion complete it's attack for full damage. Otherwise you're wasting damage. The problem is they are quite weak and staying in one position for longer times makes them more vulnerable.
So how does Blizzard intend to fix this? Battle-hellions. Slower. Tankier. So they can last longer while they do their full damage. Another infantry unit. The same as all the other infantry units, only they do splash. So while we're hoping for more cool micro units, the battle-hellion is going in the opposite direction.
But perhaps now you're starting to see the appeal both of vultures and of mech play in general. You have these massive tanks sieging down everything. You have these weak, fast raiders that are sometimes protecting the tanks out front, sometimes whipping around and killing workers. And you have more drop play because the skies are fairly clear. Vultures and Tanks don't shoot up.
4) Protection against Flanks
Flanking is bar none the biggest vulnerability to mech style play. Tank leap frogging is slow. If you push too far out, a more mobile enemy can loop around and cut off your reinforcements. Or take out an expansion. Or base trade. Base trades were very rare in BW. Very common in SC2. An increase in base trading means it's much harder to stop or slow down flanking manuevers.
Surprisingly, BW had prepared for this eventuality. Spider Mines. 3 Spider mines off of every Vulture that cost 75 minerals. Basically free. And it doesn't take up any supply.
What spider mines allowed a player to do was mine off entire routes. It wouldn't stop a player, but it would slow them down. Long enough perhaps for the tank army to reposition. I'm hoping the widow mine will fulfill this role, but I'm not crossing my fingers.
7 Vultures. 525 Minerals. 14 Supply
14 Mines, but there's another round of 7 that could be mined.
But that's a pretty good minefield that'll slow a Protoss army down.
The interesting thing is that after mines are laid, the vultures can go back to the main army. So while the mines get cleared, the Terran's army keeps that 14 supply and doesn't lose the 525 minerals. (As a side note, magic boxing means you can lay 3-4 mines at a time rather than so-called smart casting forcing you to lay mines one at a time in the SC2 campaign.)
To do the same thing with the Widow Mine
14 Widow Mines. 1050 Minerals 350 Gas. 28 Supply
But that's 28 supply pulled from the main army and if they get cleared, that's 1050/350 that's straight up gone.
In other words, Spider Mines can slow down armies and they don't have to risk money or supply even if every single Spider is cleared without killing a single unit. It pays for itself because it's basically free and just needs to slow down the flanking army.
However, you can also risk your vultures and surround powerful units, plant the mines right next to the enemy to blow them all up.
But there's more. You can also put mines out in front.
So now the enemy has to push through, mines, cannon fodder, and then try to kill the spread out tanks (because overkill forces tanks to spread out more.) Defence in-depth. Against competent Terrans, this is a hard nut break for Protoss or another Terran. But it's absolutely fascinating to do.
Crazy damage from mines.
You're forced to spread out, flank the tank lines. Catch them when they aren't sieged. Drag mines into tank lines. Send in sacrificial units (zealots) so other units can get in close. Drop units on top of the tank line so they shoot themselves, etc, etc.
Here's our Warhound/ Battle-hellion red player attacking against Mech Play. This would actually be worse with SC2 unit clustering. I basically had a perfect concave with a ton of goliaths on separate hotkeys But can you see the difference between a Mech Unit (Goliath, our stand in for the Warhound/Battlehellion/Thor) and Mech Play?
Now perhaps you see the power of the Vulture. Why any competent Terran will make them and why they are such an interesting unit (it does so many different things and requires so much skill.)
Mines are also important to protect against late game drop tactics. Spread them out amongst the factories and when the drop comes, they all blow up. If it's a unit that costs supply, you can't possibly have enough of them to do what the spider mine does. They can be freaking everywhere. And even if the Terran guesses wrong and the enemy never goes near the mine field, it's not such a big deal, because the Vulture itself remains in play. Rather than hiding units all over the map when they could be part of the main army.
The final element (from my non-Terran perspective. Perhaps an actual Terran player would have maybe more element) of Terran mech is actually anti-air. I made a big deal about the lack of anti- air and that is true well into the midgame in many cases.
But you need to protect your Tanks from getting sniped. A hard push across the map, the Terran might just make a whole bunch of turrets. Goliaths might come out, especially if Carrier are on the move. TvT sometimes, the tank lines are so tough, both Terrans take to the air. Sometimes with drop ships, sometimes with wraiths, sometimes with Valkyries to counter wraiths. Sometimes Battlecruisers. But goliaths are most likely.
A completely ground based army makes the game more positional. Originally I was on board with Blizzard's push to get more air units viable, but now I'm not so sure. Asymmetrical air fights are interesting. Carriers hugging the cliffs to pick off tanks. Banshees sniping workers by abusing cliffs. Very positional. Very interesting. Vikings vs Vikings. Not so much. There are no terrain features in the air and if the units aren't terrible microable like BW mutalisks, then there's not much going on. Even ZvZ muta flocks sometimes came down to a big, stationary slugfest.
But the key to Mech Play is the Tank is the cornerstone. Everything else is support units to protect the tanks. (Except maybe if BC's come out.) Tanks are what makes Mech Play unique from any other sort of game style in any RTS. Siege tanks makes Terran, Terran.
Thoughts on Late Game
The very interesting about Mech Play is by late game, Terran's defence in depth is so strong, it would become very difficult for melee units to be of any use. How can a unit that has to run all the way up to hit you in the face be of any use, if you have to run through mine field, dodge past hover bikers with attitudes, chucking grenades, to even reach the tank line?
Blizzard cleverly included some abilities that allowed melee to close the gap. Fast ships with cloaking fields under them and great orange clouds that ranged fire couldn't shoot into, but melee could attack unimpeded. The Arbiter and the Defiler.
It's rather unbelievable, that these abilities work as well as they do. Sure Terran has scans and Science Vessels. But it's sufficient to get the Protoss and Zerg army within striking distance. Not only that, but late game also has tremendous drop play potential. Multiple arbiters can be flying around, recalling on different bases, pulling the Terran death machine in multiple directions. Or carriers can harass it and strike in one place before running away.
Covering cloak to close the gap
Recall to distract the Terran death march
And again for Terran, they can bust siege lines either by finding a weak part in the line and sending a giant force streaming through blitzkrieg style. Or go drop ship, wraith, bc, or on rare occasion nuke.
Just because it comes from a Factory doesn't make it "mech" Or rather it might be a Mech Unit, but it doesn't necessarily contribute to Mech Play. If it's just another mech unit, it might as well be bio because it doesn't really change how the game is played.
This is more than a labelling issue. People have been ranting about how much they want to see mech in SC2. Artosis has raved about it since Beta. Blizzard has said they want to see more mech in HotS. But what people mean by more mech is not a reskinned Marauder. But a different style of play. Mech play that centers around the siege tank or it's equivalent. (Trebuchet with the attack damage of the Siege Onager.)
I don't particularly care to see more BW units reintroduced into SC2. That's why while I talked about specific units, I tried to explain the roles they filled. I'm quite certain that new HotS units could be designed to fulfill those roles or old WoL units could be retooled to fulfill those roles.
But in the end, the Siege Tanks needs to be powerful enough to be the cornerstone of the Terran army. Without that, there really is no mech play and the Terran army is just another generic RTS force.
Screw you. This took a long time to type.
Ok, ok. Tank is Mech Play. Without it, it's just another infantry fight with a different unit skin. And creating another mech unit designed to kill the siege tank anti-mech... unless that mech unit is the siege tank itself.