We at teamliquid.net were given the chance to ask the StarCraft 2 development team a few questions regarding the upcoming major design patch for the game due after BlizzCon.
You've now made substantial changes to the game every year after LotV's release. Do you plan on making this an annual thing? Do you see these annual patches as an iterative process towards a final goal, or a more cyclical process to shake up the game on a year-by-year basis?
The plan all along for ongoing support for StarCraft II was to make patches on an as-needed basis. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will do major changes annually. As we did last year, we saw an opportunity to make some positive changes to the game, so that’s why we’re putting this into testing.
Has the first design patch last year fulfilled your expectations in shaking the game up sufficiently?
Overall, yes. Not only did we see new strategies develop, but we also think the game is in a better place now than it was a year ago.
In general, a lot of issues debated by our community have found their way into this patch (Mech, Macro Mechanics, the economy even). How much has community discussion influenced these specific patches you're making?
Community feedback plays a big part in the goals we set for an update like this. We are very lucky to have a community that is so active and engaged with SC2, and we want to continue working with the community going forward.
Have these changes been developed in conjunction with progamer feedback or will they have to explore everything side by side with the community?
Pro level feedback is very important to us, and making sure the pros can give their feedback directly to us on the dev team has been a big goal of ours. While we don’t directly involve external sources into our design process, their feedback plays a big factor in how we approach this type of update.
Matchup "identity" is something that changed drastically with LotV. ZvT went from a tug of war between lair tech and 3/3 upgrades to a race to survive until Ultralisks for much of 2016. PvZ shifted from being focused on timings to the Zerg trying to overwhelm with ling/bane based armies. When making changes of this magnitude, is matchup identity something you take into account?
When making these kinds of changes we start with seeing how the current game is played. What options does each race have? What do they struggle with? Do they need new tools in any of the matchups? From there we consider what the race identities are and where we can make improvements or nerfs while still preserving how unique each race is. We take matchup states into account, but it is hard to predict where the meta will settle in the individual matchups when making so many changes, so we tend to place a greater emphasis making sure each race has enough tools for a variety of situations while still feeling unique.
Which of the changes are the most experimental in your eyes? That is, which ones are you most uncertain of?
The removal of the Mothership Core is likely the riskiest of the changes on the Protoss side due to how much power it gives in the early game. For Zerg the most experimental change is the Infestor, as its ability to interact with air units is changing quite drastically. And on the Terran side the Mule change is possibly the most experimental as it changes how they gather resources which in turn can greatly change what Terran players have access to over the course of a game.
Removing the MSC and Photon Overcharge has always been a heavy topic of debate among the community. Why was the decision finally made to scrap the unit entirely after two expansions? Why now?
It lined up nicely with the goals we had for Protoss. We wanted to try to reduce the number of active abilities on Protoss, so removing a caster that is around for most of the game made sense. We wanted to try to clean up the macro mechanic, so moving abilities to the nexus gave us an opportunity to take another look at Chrono Boost. And we wanted Protoss to be less reliant on Photon Overcharge for early game defense, so when looking for a solution that fit these goals it seemed like removing the MSC would be a good thing to try.
Recall on the MSC has been used primarily for scouting and instant recall of a main army under pressure, as well as some niche cases such as moving probes to a hidden base. What do you intend to accomplish with the new implementation of recall? With the 4s delay on teleporting, do you view it as a purely positional ability?
With the removal of Photon Overcharge, Protoss players will need to reinforce their base with units, so we wanted to make sure Protoss players had a tool for moving units into position. It can also be used to retreat from a battle, but since you can have multiple Nexus structures vs. a single MSC, we needed to add a longer cast time to make sure you can’t escape from every engagement with minimal losses. It is also worth mentioning that the Mothership has the same version of the spell as the nexus, meaning there could be cases where you send a Mothership behind enemy lines and use it offensively.
Are you concerned that certain changes (like the new Disruption Nova or the easier-to-kill Widow Mines–in short: What you call game ending units/abilities) will reduce excitement in games by taking out big “wow” moments for the viewers?
Yes, and that’s something we try to be careful with. For example, Widow Mines will still be able to get big exciting hits off, but they are easier to clean up. Disruption Nova can also still do a lot of damage in a shot, but the more extreme cases where a Protoss vs Protoss match is decided on a single Disruption Nova landing on the enemies Disruptors should be less likely to happen.
The proposed changes to mech units would greatly affect the way a mech army operates, fights and potentially, what units it is composed of. What is the balance team's vision for a mech army's role and how do you see it being utilized?
A pure mech army has always been about slower positional play, we aren’t looking to change that since it provides a nice contrast to the fast-paced play of bio. We hope that our changes don’t completely change the role of a mech army, but rather make it more competitive choice when comparing it to bio play.
How will the repair drone function? Can you micro it to repair multiple units during its lifespan? And what is the current repair rate intended to be?
It currently functions very similarly to a medivac, you will be able to target the specific unit you want healed and the heal rate is the same as a medivac.
There seemed to be a push in LotV to reduce the mechanical aspect of the game, particularly with the reduction of larva per inject and the changes regarding Chronoboost. These proposed changes to the Infestor and Swarm Host place increase the importance placed on spreading creep, however. Changes to Chronoboost are a move in a similar direction. Is it fair to say that increasing the impact of mechanical aspects of the game is now a greater focus?
In Legacy of the Void our goal was not exactly to reduce overall mechanics, but rather shift some of the mechanical difficulty from the macro systems over to unit control. Here we are looking to see if we can make other changes to streamline some of the mechanics a bit more, or improve consistency across races to make sure players of all skill levels are rewarded properly for their efforts.
Many of the changes (Lurker speed upgrade, mech transform time upgrades, splitting anti air between different Infestor abilities) seemed to be aimed towards increasing a unit's utility and versatility. How does this method of "buffing" units compare to just adjusting numbers (like the proposed changes to the Stalker) and how do the two approaches fit into the larger plan of balancing the game?
How we approach a change largely depends on what we are trying to achieve with the unit or ability. For example, Stalkers have plenty of utility (they can shoot air and ground, they have mobility with blink) so there’s no need to add something on that front, but Lurkers have a narrower set of situations where they are effective, so we are trying to open up some aggressive options there.
How much does the new Cyclone upgrade, Armor Piercing Rockets, cost?
150/150, 79 sec (on faster speed).
How much does the new mech upgrade, Smart Servos, cost?
150/150, 79 sec (on faster speed).