GSL Season One finished, GSL2 starting soon

The Global StarCraft 2 League, hosted by GomTV in South Korea, has finished its first season and is preparing for the second. Amazingly, beyond all expectations, a Zerg player won the whole thing and walked away with $85,000 US. It was an exciting, unpredictable and historical tournament that has certainly raised interest.

I’m a bit disappointed to not see American news reporting on the event, but I guess they have their own paranoia and hype to peddle. Regardless, many people tuned in and the service did an alright job of standing up to the bandwidth demands, although many Low Quality viewers complained. Most importantly, the GSL has established itself as a life-changing opportunity for players all around the world to make huge money, doing what they love.

The season ticket was $20, and I think it was worth it. I’ve spent more money on crappy videogames, junk food and whatever else, and here we have hours upon hours of exciting StarCraft 2 history in the making. The money gets you access to the live events, as well as the Video On Demand. No doubt Blizzard is watching these games to determine how balanced their game is, hurrying the process as more and more people witness the power of cheap strategies, eliminating beloved players.

Next season’s qualifiers are underway, and the most legendary SC1 player “Boxer” has qualified. This will guarantee a huge surge in viewership and Korean interest, which will in turn make sponsors more interested as well. StarCraft 1 is a tough business to succeed in, with much smaller prize pools, so it will be tempting to everyone. I plan to get the next season’s ticket and hopefully watch many more hours of great gameplay.

I just spotted this thread on about some interesting rumors regarding Boxer’s move to SC2 and the general attitude shift towards the new game in Korea. It seems like at least one of the major broadcasters of Brood War will consider sacrificing their old SC1 tournaments in favor of the Global StarCraft 2 League if they can get the exclusive rights. This would be bad if the GomTV player no longer worked (ie. guys like me would have to watch illegal re-streams) and it would also be bad if it affected the English commentators Tasteless and Artosis, but who knows!


Real patch 1.1, upcoming patch 1.2

So the unofficial patch was fake! The notes given by Blizzard were true, but there was nothing more than that. Things like Overlord speed and cooldowns on the Orbital Command/Nexus were made up. The crazy “psi cliff vision” thing? Gone too unfortunately. Not much changed, and therefore, I feel like I’m still waiting for Zerg to become less demanding. Thankfully the next patch is supposed to help that.

The new patch notes (here) for what’s coming up include an increase to the Roach’s range attack. Fungal Growth will also prevent Stalker’s from blinking, and their buildings are going to get noticeably meatier, health points-wise. Bizarrely, the Barracks are also going to require a Supply Depot before they can be built (which will only effect the construction of an early Barracks, since after that Terran will need to have a Supply Depot anyway) and the Reaper’s speed upgrade is going to require a Factory, making it impossible to “Reaper rush” with the speed upgrade.

Looks like the Spine Crawler will not receive more health points, only research and tech buildings. However, while this will slightly punish two cheese strategies (Reaper rush and Stalker blink madness) it doesn’t change much overall. If we assume that the range upgrade to the Roach is only +1, and not suddenly +2 or so, then it will be a significant but not drastic shift for Zerg.

Also to be included are custom hot keys, which is an excellent feature, even if I’m not sure how I will use it yet.

Unofficial patch notes 1.1

The new patch for StarCraft II is going to be released on Tuesday, two days from now. The listed changes include a damage reduction for the Battlecruiser, Siege Tank, and Ultralisk, as well as a construction time nerf for Reapers, Bunkers, and Zealots. Beyond that, not much is known.

The following was reportedly “leaked”, although hit could be fake. I hope it’s real. These are unofficial patch notes:

– Ground Units of type Psionic now have vision in the air plane.

– Zealot build time increased from 33 to 38 seconds.
– Zealot warp-in cooldown increased from 23 to 28 seconds.
– Warp Prisms now unload their cargo instantly while in Phasing Mode.
– Chronoboost cooldown increased from 0 to 20 seconds.
– Dark Shrine build time decreased from 100 to 80.
– Dark Shrine cost decreased from 100 minerals 250 gas to 100 minerals 200 gas.
– Carrier cost increased from 350 minerals 250 gas to 400 minerals 250 gas.
– Carriers now spawn with four Interceptors prebuilt.

– Reaper build time increased from 40 to 45 seconds.
– Bunker build time increased from 30 to 35 seconds.
– Siege Mode damage decreased from 50 to 35, +15 armored.
– Siege Mode damage upgrades per level changed from +5 to +3, +2 vs. armored.
– Battlecruiser damage vs. ground decreased from 10 to 8.
– Calldown MULE cooldown increased from 0 to 40 seconds.
– Planetary Fortress build time decreased from 50 to 40 seconds.
– 250 mm Cannons research time decreased from 110 to 80 seconds.
– 250 mm Cannons cost decreased from 150 minerals 150 gas to 100 minerals 100 gas.
– 250 mm Cannons may now be used on friendly and neutral structures and units.

– Ultralisk damage decreased from 15, +25 vs. armored to 15, +20 vs. armored.
– Ultralisk Ram attack removed.
– Nydus Worms can now be cancelled and refunded while building.
– Overlord base speed increased to from 0.469 to 0.938.
– Overlord upgraded speed increase from 1.875 to 2.344.
– Overlords can now use Excrete Creep while moving.
– Overlord base speed now decreases from 0.938 to 0.469 while Excrete Creep is active.
– Overlord upgraded speed now decreased from 2.344 to 1.875 while Excrete Creep is active.
– Spawn Larvae energy cost reduced to 20 from 25.

The first note, that “Psionic” units would be able to see up cliffs, is very left-field, but creates a very interesting possibility. It actually suggests to me that these patch notes are real, because it deals with the controversial high-ground mechanic in SC2. In the first game, units shooting from high ground could be fired upon from units below without sight, but with a random chance to miss — this meant that high-ground was valuable, but not that valuable. When they stated that SC2 would disable this feature, most people were upset, but I guessed that it was thanks to an increased emphasis on proper scouting and air units. Sure enough, high-ground has become a huge advantage, with units such as Reapers, Stalkers and Colossus becoming devastating when abusing cliffs. What this change would accomplish is to make Psionic units serve an entirely new role: cliff scout.

I won’t go into too much detail about the possibilities, since these notes could be fake. But it’s fascinating. Here are the units that would suddenly gain a new pivotal role:

  • Protoss Sentry
  • Protoss High Templar
  • Protoss Archon
  • Protoss Dark templar
  • Terran Ghost
  • Zerg Queen
  • Zerg Infestor

I’m not sure if there are any more, but it clearly looks like Protoss gets the best deal out of this. It would mean High Templar could cast spells on units that are on high ground, but require them to walk close to enemy ledges; the same goes for everyone else too, I suppose.

Other notes, such as the speed boosts to the Overlord combined with the ability to generate creep while moving, is also a very “Blizzard” solution in my opinion. Blizzard obviously wants Zerg to use creep all the time to cover the map, which would make Hydralisks more viable and generally make Zerg more powerful, but people only use Creep Tumors currently. Zerg also suffers from weak scouting ability, and weak “drop” ability. Overlords just aren’t useful. With extra speed they will be able to scout, drop, and spread creep much more effectively!

Additionally, the Nydus Worm refund ability is huge as well. Being able to cancel a developing Nydus means that Zerg no longer has to be afraid to take a chance — this is psychologically huge. You will see a very mobile, map-controlling Zerg if these changes take place.

Finally, the huge macro-ability changes. If the Chrono Boost and MULE abilities are given cooldowns, and the Spawn Larva ability costs less, you will see a big shift in the economic style of Terran and Protoss across the board. Currently, there is no reason for either Protoss or Terran to maintain constant usage of their macro ability, whereas Zerg must constantly juggle theirs or be punished. Lowering the energy cost means that by the time the larva spawn, the Queen will have an extra 5 energy, which will eventually build up too (since the spawn larva completion time has stayed the same). Terran especially will be unable to take a huge leap in their economy, when they plant a new Command Center at a gold mineral patch, for instance. This is a very important, elegant solution to the current imbalance I think.

I’m excited for it! I’ll be pretty disappointed if these are fake, to be honest.

Infest and Consume, where art thou?

If there are two things that I found gruesome and fascinating about the Zerg army in StarCraft 1, they were the Infest Command Center ability, as well as Consume. Now in StarCraft II, these abilities — and any equivalent — are both completely missing from the Zerg. This really sucks, as a fan of the original swarm.

You know, the entire modus operandi of the Zerg is supposed to be one of infestation and mutation, according to the story, and in SC1 they had the abilities to prove it. I’ve only seen the Infest Command Center ability used once in a pro-league Korean game, but it was amazing when I saw it. But much like the Nuke for Terran, it’s just important that it’s there. In SCII, Nukes were made extremely easy to access and use compared to the previous game, and yet Zerg lost its signature end-game move completely.

We know that the Infestor unit was supposed to originally have the ability to — big surprise — infest buildings, but it was removed before the Beta started. It kept the name, though, which makes it a misleading unit that constantly reminds me of what’s missing.

Look at the signature moves for Protoss, such as the cloaking field and the ability to manipulate battlefield space, and you notice a huge boost in the options in SCII. Graviton Beam, Force Field, Vortex, Cloaking Field, and even the Warp Gates all reinforce this notion of Protoss mastery of space/time. They feel more Protoss-like. Unfortunately, Zerg doesn’t feel more Zerg-like.

The Infestor is a good unit, I’ll admit, but it’s absolutely lacking that one central ability that would define Zerg’s new form: INFESTATION. Think about the psychological impact of having your production buildings being stolen from you, and converted to the enemy, and just what that says about the nature of the Zerg. Think about how exciting it is to be able to infest the enemy’s buildings (or units) adding insult to injury. Why take this away? If anything, Zerg should have a whole new array of methods to assimilate the enemy’s forces into their own.

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Zerg complaints ceaseless, pressing

Here’s a post from the forums, which unfortunately I have to absolutely agree with. It’s entitled “Why Blizzard is stupid”:

Corrupters can shut down turrets. Blizzard buffs turrets to compensate. They then take away the corrupter’s ability.

Roaches are 1 supply armored tanks that do good damage. Blizzard gives every other t1 unit awesome anti armor to compensate. Roach is nerfed to 2 supply. Awesome anti armor stays.

Blizzard gives stalkers anti armor, they give immortals anti armor. They make anti light reapers and anti light hellions. They remove lurkers for being redundant. Even though lurkers are anti armor and banelings are anti light.

Blizzard makes neural parasite to counter thors. They streamline thors time, cost, and tier placement to compensate. Then they nerf neural parasite.

They nerf the queen’s movement then place hydras in tier 2. Then they make sure that banshees can kill queens 1v1 even though that’s the only anti air zerg have tier one.

They make roaches have above ground healing. The idea is to make your opponent micro by focus firing your roaches one by one instead of attack moving. Then they decide against this and change it so that you have to do extra micro to make your roaches heal.

They leave reaper speed, and concussion grenades at 50/50 but increase overlord speed, ventracal sacks and burrow costs b/c they were “gimme” upgrades.

They give point defense droens “AKA dark swarm” to the most heavily ranged race in the game.

They make terran’s transport unit their healing unit as well, giving them not only the best mobility but the best survivablility.

Blizzard from now on hire a 4 year old to just look over your work. Ask him if you’re doing something stupid. if he says yes then don’t do it.

Having gone through the beta and watched the changes as they were being made, I must say that I was confused by the decisions. However, I was so optimistic about the game and Blizzard that I didn’t question it seriously. Now I look back on it and it seems like Blizzard really did exactly what this fellow is saying.

Custom maps

Today (technically yesterday) I played a bunch of custom games with my two brothers. There were some interesting maps, such as the side-scroller action game with jumping and special abilities. Other ones hearkened back to the classics, such as Tower Defense and Defense of the Ancients. Some felt cheap and unfinished, while others were a lot better and just needed a little balancing.

I plan to make some of my own maps in the future, but I think they’ll be story-driven and single player only.

The nature of balance discussion

Discussing how to balance a game with so many factors this early is a tricky thing. Right now, there are people at Blizzard discussing what to do, when to do it, and how much of it to do when they do it. Meanwhile, the community is having their own discussion. But there are some important reasons why even having a discussion about balance is inherently tricky.

Let’s take a look at why it’s hard to discuss balance, so that we can hopefully improve the conversation. I’ll number them in order to make it simpler to follow. I hope you enjoy the read and take it into consideration in the ongoing discussion of balance. With each point, I will try to give the typical solution to the problem, and reasons why those solutions are generally failing to help the discussion as well.

[b]1. What to blame[/b]

The #1 most important factor that makes balance discussion tricky is actually [b]not[/b] the game’s newness, but rather, the fact that there is always something else to blame besides the “imbalance”, if indeed there is imbalance. If the losing player had done A, B, and C a little bit differently, he would have won; and if the winner had failed to do X, Y, and Z, he would have lost. Ultimately, if we trace the [b]root cause[/b] of a player’s loss, we’ll arrive at some juncture where he could have done things differently, and won. So, there’s no “need” to balance, right? Wrong.
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