This thread will take a look at the "Problem" from the Zerg side with three easy fixes that are already in the game that could open up Zergs options and bring new life to the stale early game. None of these are new. They've all been discussed before and I take credit for none of them. Some were even already this way in beta but changed for reasons that are not known to me.
More Options Please
By moving three upgrades from Lair Tech to Hatchery Tech I think Zergs early game could expand exponentially.
Pneumatized Carapace(Overlord Speed)
Overlord Speed would give zerg the ability to scout when they need it the most. This free's up the Zerg to make good decisions. And free's them to play different styles rather than the prepare for everything style. The "reaction race" can now react accordingly.
EDIT: Some people have pointed out some problems with Burrow at T1. Namely with Roaches with their regen which could be imbalanced. And Banelings burrowing in creative spots such as your opponents mineral line. These are valid points that sound strong on paper but I'm not sure if they would be imbalanced in game or not. Wall offs prevent allot of in base baneling problems. But Roach regen would most likely have to be nerfed a little. Burrow was already moved away from T1 by Blizzard so it's obvious they saw some problems. I still think it could be viable with a few tweaks though.
Burrow has many functions. Scouting, trapping, etc. I'll talk about the "closing the distance" aspect of burrow briefly. This allows burrow to overlap with speed upgrades in the early game where they would be to powerful. Most notably on the Baneling. Which would be one of the main reasons for getting early burrow. The strategies it unlocks are quite imaginative and require reactions from both players. If people start burrowing three banelings behind a mineral line, then a Meta might develop where Terran players start to put a little more thought into their harassment techniques and choices. Two Banelings burrowed on an obvious Reaper cliff hoping spot can start to change the way these units interact on a much more dynamic level then just nerfing numbers.
Glial Reconstitution(Roach Speed)
Glial Reconstitution allows roaches to be functional off of creep. Having speed at Hatchery Tech gives Zerg a more aggressive early game option which they currently lack. It would also help Roaches to stand up to Stalkers/Marauders outside of Wall offs.
Opening up the Early Game Betters the Entire Game
The coolest thing about these changes is the options that are opened up in the early game are carried into the mid/late game as well.
Ventral Sacs(Overlord Transporting) is 200/200. Pretty expensive. But hey I already researched the speed. A more natural transition is set in place.
If you opted for burrow in the early game tunneling claws is only 1 more upgrade, and you probably already have a bunch of Roaches if you chose that tech path. Not to mention that this[Burrow] is something that you can find uses for now that you already have it. Burrow some Ultras. Set some traps. If it was part of your early game strategy then it's essentially just there(or free) for the rest of the game. And players will find new and interesting ways to use what is there.
Have a bunch of Ling/Roach/Bane from the early games slaughter? Why switch to spire tech when the units you already have(and have invested upgrades in) work better with Nydus Canals.
Giving the Power back to the Zerg
The upgrades at Hatch tech will not only give you more options for your gas spending but also keep you at hatch tech longer. Suddenly different styles could emerge such as choosing to expand twice before lair. Roaches with speed, Speedlings, and Banelings with Burrow will allow you to survive. And Overlord scouting will let you know if it's going to be possible or not. See air coming? Make more queens. If your going for the two fast expands and a heavy T1 army then your going to want more Queens for early creep spread. And you'll need them for your early expands anyway. You might also need some anti-air if scouted. Everything begins to develop synergy.
But not to the point, I believe, of being overpowered. They all come at a cost. And thats the real beauty of it. Cost vs reward.
If you spend gas on overlord speed then you give up lair tech. You gain the ability to scout but the tech is coming later. Spend gas on burrow and harass can be deterred or even shut down. Allowing you to expand and take a more aggressive nature. But your stuck with Lings, Roaches, Blings, and Queens for a while. Leaving you vulnerable to mass air or stealth. There are trade offs and I think the trade offs are great. They allow for so much better game play then what were currently working with. Which is in my opinion, very restrictive.
Current Problems with Zerg Early Game
A problem thats been discussed before is Zergs lack of T1 options suddenly explodes into a plethora of T2 options. Everything is expensive and every upgrade is required to make a tech path work.
Tech paths include Nydus Warren, Spire, Infestation Pit, Hydra Den. Upgrades to make units usable include Roach and Baneling Speed, Overlord Speed and Transportation, Burrow, etc.
And then any upgrades from your chosen tech path. Hydra Range and Infestor energy upgrade, etc. All essential if your going to use those units.
Tons of options. All requiring major commitments in gas and time. If your given many options like this all at once then you are always going to choose the best ones. Thats one of the reasons Zerg is fairly one dimensional at this tech level. You may not think anything is wrong with always getting Muta vs Terran but consider all the options you have. No one is going to gimp themselves by getting burrow so they can be fancy instead of a spire. And if they do, then they are gimping themselves.
By spreading out upgrades you give more options, make more choices available to the players, and make a more dynamic game. Transitions become more natural. Strategies are built upon rather than just decided once you hit T2.
You would never choose burrow at T2 over another T2 option(unless your specifically going mass roach) but you'd be happy to use it if you already got it when it was good back at T1. And you don't feel so frustrated when an observer spots your trap because you know that upgrade already payed for itself back in the early game. It's just icing on the cake now. And making you feel more Zergy.
Would They be OP'd?
We will have to ask though. Are these upgrades to strong to be at Hatchery Tech. Burrow was once there but was nerfed in cost, tech level, and I think even research speed. Does the simple act of burrowing a ling at your opponents natural make this to strong? Roach Speed allows roaches to be aggressive off creep and help to close some of the gaps between them and their other T1.5 evil twins. The Marauder and the Stalker. It's sometimes puzzling why these units come out of the box owning roaches. With a speed upgrade at hatchery Roaches would stand more on par with Marauders and Stalkers off of creep. This advantage would be negated as soon as concussive shells was researched. Or by a wall off. And I think thats just fine. I can't think of one thing wrong with Overlord Speed at T1. Given it's cost of 100 gas and the research time, it becomes a huge early game investment. A great cost but at a great reward.
Some extra thoughts on Burrow
It may be that I'm viewing Burrow with the wrong mindset. In Broodwar it only granted the ability for most ground units to go underground. In SC2 it has that same function but some units gain other benefits. Mainly, the Roach(increased regen and movement), Baneling(ability to detonate underground), and Infestor(fast movement and spell casting). Only the Banelings ability(if you could call it that) is available before T2 anyway. So perhaps burrow is just an extra upgrade to allow the special abilities of 3 units. And the fact that it happens to affect all the Zerg ground units to a lesser degree is just a bonus. With this mindset it doesn't make sense to be at T1 since it's main function cannot be realized at that tech. On the other hand it seems a little on the expensive side.
In conclusion I say let Terran keep their tech lab's and wall offs. Let them have their many harass options and excessive amount of openings. But give Zerg the ability, in choice, to defeat these things. We don't want these tools for free. Were willing to pay a high price for them. But right now they are nonexistent until a certain Tech is reached. Which makes reaching this tech the main focus of every Zerg player's game. Second only to surviving.
Thanks for Reading.