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starcraft 2 examining macro mechanics


The purpose of this article is to inform rather than dictate. To this end I have tried to express the concerns raised by the community. The issues have been structured in the manner I feel makes the most sense. I leave it to the reader to decide for themselves what issues are truly problems and what should be done about them.

Index

Overview of Macro
- What is Macro?
- The StarCraft II Macro Problem
The Current Macro Mechanics
- Queen
- Orbital Command
- Obelisk
The Energy Tension Issue (When do I use this?)
- What is Energy Tension?
- Energy Tension in the Macro Casters
The Redundant Targeting Issue (Where do I use this?)
- What is Redundant Targeting?
- Redundant Targeting in the Macro Mechanics
- Why Macro Struggles With Redundant Targeting
Conclusion
About the Author



Overview of Macro

What is Macro?

There are many definitions for macromangement. Generally macromanagement refers to increasing your army and micromanagement refers to controlling your army better. Other definitions relate macro to economic strategy and micro to combat tactics. Sill other definitions refer to macro as acquiring and spending resources and micro as issuing orders to units. These two tasks compete for the player’s attention. Players are required to balance macro and micro to play the game most efficiently.

The StarCraft II Macro Problem

The original StarCraft required players to manual order workers to mine. In order to produce more units, players had to click through each production building individually. These two tasks, manual mining and single building selection, required the player to have high APM (Actions per Minute) in order to macro.

starcraft 2 macro mining

StarCraft II features Automining (AM) and Multiple Building Selection (MBS). Automining, also known as rally mining, allows the player to set a mining rally point for new workers. Multiple Building Selection allows the player to select and hotkey multiple buildings at once. These interface improvements allow players to mine and make units without returning to their base. The concern is that StarCraft II has removed a significant amount of macro multitasking. Arguments have been made that this will deemphasize macro’s impact on gameplay and decrease the skill curve.

The macro problem itself is a notoriously hard thing to define. It hinges on three questions. Should macro require the player to complete tasks at a frequent and regular interval? Should macro require the player to camera shift away from his army and back to his base? Should macro require decision making and if so what types? There is much debate on these issues. Blizzard has not commented at length on macro with the exception of one interview. Below is an excerpt from the macro portion. I encourage all readers to check out this interview and draw their own conclusions.

Q: So manual labor instead of automation?
A: Exactly. There is a nice story about this. Back then, I was working on addons to Mechwarrior 2. That's how I know that there was still automatic targetting in an early version: You only had to decide, which weapons to fire in what order, the Computer would guide them to the target. The only thing you had to watch out for was not to overheat. That might even have been interesting, but just for few players. The majority wanted action, and they got it in the end. The same applies to Starcraft: We want the players to go back to their base in order to produce reinforcements. We want them to really take care instead of relying on an automatic process.

-Dustin Browder


- TeamLiquid Dustin Browder Interview


The Current Macro Mechanics

Here is a review of the macro casters. Actual stats may vary from the current build. More info can be found in Q&A Batch 49, although some of that info is outdated.

Queen

Spawn Larva is the Queen’s macro ability. The player can cast Spawn Larva on a Hatchery. The Hatchery gets 4 eggs that 40 seconds later hatch into 4 Larvae. You cannot put more then 7 Larvae on a Hatchery. Larvae are a vital resource for the Zerg and can be used to increase economic or army production. The Queen can also cast Creep Tumor which makes a permanent burrowed building that extends creep range. In StarCraft II, Zerg units, except Drones, move 30% faster on creep. Finally, the Queen can cast Transfusion which will heal one unit or building for 200 hitpoints.

starcraft 2 zerg larva starcraft 2 zerg queen

Orbital Command

Calldown MULE is the Orbital Command’s macro ability. The player can call a MULE unit down to any location or mineral field for which they have vision. The MULE mines 6 times as many minerals as a normal SCV, and can mine from the same mineral patch as a SCV. The MULE has a timed life of about 30 seconds after which it and any minerals it is holding are destroyed. It is important to notice that Spawn Larva and Proton Charge require exact timing for maximum effectiveness. In contrast, there is no penalty for casting MULEs slightly late because you can have overlapping MULE lifespan.

The Orbital Command also has Scanner Sweep which gives vision and detection anywhere on the map. Finally, the Orbital Command can cast Calldown Supply on a Supply Depot. This ability upgrades a Supply Depot with an additional +8 supply.

 

starcraft 2 terran mule starcraft 2 orbital command

Obelisk

Proton Charge is the Obelisk’s macro ability. The player can cast an area of effect spell on Probes. Unlike MULE and Spawn Larva, Proton Charge can be cast using the minimap. Each Probe receives a buff that allows them to mine 6 minerals instead of 5. The buff does not increase Probe speed or gas collecting. The buff lasts 30 seconds. The Obelisk also has Shield Recharge which recharges shields. Finally, the Obelisk has Energy Recharge (Argus Link) which recharges energy. It should be noted that the Obelisk is the only macro caster that lacks mobility. The Queen can move and the Orbital Command can cast anywhere on the map.

 

starcraft 2 probe starcraft 2 dark pylon

The Energy Tension Issue (When do I use this?)

What is Energy Tension?

Energy Tension relates to when it is best to use an ability. This type of decision making can be using an ability versus saving the energy resource for a better time. It can also be the choice to use one ability over another ability that requires the same energy resource.

Energy Tension in the Macro Casters

The Queen, Obelisk and Orbital Command appear to have poor Energy Tension between the macro abilities and the micro abilities. The restoration abilities - Transfusion, Recharge Shields, Recharge Energy - are only useful when there are depleted units. Even when the player does have depleted units it will almost always be better to choose additional minerals and Larvae. It is difficult to see a Protoss player ever deciding to recharge 50 shield points instead of casting Proton Charge. Likewise, it is hard to imagine a Zerg player ever choosing Creep Tumor over increased Larvae production.

And then we have the Orbital Command which many consider to have good Energy Tension. Chill from Teamliquid refutes this assumption in a recent macromanagement article.

There has been a lot (A LOT) of talk on the forum about the lack of choice between the macro mechanics, and the devastating effects of Terran losing scan. These are unfounded. After playing Starcraft II for 10 games and understanding the mechanics, you will see there is actually no choice. It's an illusion of choice. Given the "choice" between using the MULE and scanning, you will always choose the MULE unless forced otherwise by immediately cloaked units. The return is just too great. Even if I were supply capped, I would bank the MULE minerals while building a supply depot before I used the ability to gain extra supply. You've got to figure the MULE can make a round-trip every 6-8 seconds. And it returns 25-30 minerals every trip (I believe 30 but I'm erring on the safe side). Assuming it stays for 45 seconds (I believe it's actually 60). This yields somewhere between 187 and 300 "extra" minerals per minute. Clearly something that can't be skipped for a convenient scouting scan. This also shows the importance of getting the MULE early, which is a theme common between all the mechanics. The MULE pays for itself in the first minute, after which you are generating around 200 minerals extra every minute. You can see how this compounds.

-Chill


TeamLiquid “Macromanagement in StarCraft II” Article

starcraft 2 mule macro

 

The Redundant Targeting Issue (Where do I use this?)

What is Redundant Targeting?

Redundant Targeting relates to where it is best to use an ability. To begin with, let us define what a targeting action is. A targeting action is when the game asks you to pick a location or candidate. The reason the game asks for the player’s positional input is because there are various viable locations or candidates. It is the player’s task to pick the most appropriate choice.

Redundant Targeting occurs when there is not sufficient decision making in a targeting action. Whether an action has Redundant Targeting depends on the frequency the player changes their target, and not just the presence or absence of other targets.

As an example consider manual mining in the original StarCraft. The player would create a worker and then had to tell the worker where to go because rally points did not work for mining. There were other places you could send the worker but the majority of the time the target was your mineral field. This was Redundant Targeting.

Redundant Targeting in the Macro Mechanics

Automining removes mining’s Redundant Targeting. However, when macro mechanics were added the Redundant Targeting issue reappeared. The first attempt was the “Restore Gas” macro mechanic where players could refill depleted Geysers with more gas but had to transfer workers to minerals while the Geyser was refilling. This had Redundant Targeting in where players sent their workers. You would almost always want to send workers to the minerals right next to your geyser. Blizzard later replaced this gas mechanic with the current macro mechanics. Unfortunately, the current macro mechanics still suffer from Redundant Targeting.

The Orbital Command can be cast anywhere the player has vision. This global casting feature is perfect for creating targeting decisions. Unfortunately, Calldown MULE cannot take advantage of this because the best choice is almost always your mineral line. If you have a Planetary Fortress you want to drop the MULE there for added protection. If you control a yellow mineral field you want to drop the MULE there for more minerals. There is no frequent changing of targets and this leads to Redundant Targeting. It is hard to see how Redundant Targeting in SCV mining warrants rally points and yet MULEs do not.

The Queen’s Spawn Larva is another example of Redundant Targeting. You will almost always have one Queen dedicated to each Hatchery. This Queen will continually cast Spawn Larva on the same Hatchery. The same goes for the Obelisk’s Proton Charge. You will have one dedicated Obelisk that continually casts Proton Charge in the same place. Once you have chosen to dedicate a Queen, or Obelisk, to a Hatchery, or mineral line, you have made the decision about where to cast Spawn Larva or Proton Charge for the rest of the game.

starcraft 2 spawn larva

To a certain extent Warp-In also has Redundant Targeting. Much of the time players will be warping in units to the same place repeatedly. This will require Redundant Targeting because Warp-In lacks a rally point system.

Why Macro Struggles With Redundant Targeting

How is it that so many macro mechanics have Redundant Targeting? Much of the problem lies in the simplicity of Starcraft’s economic system. We will examine mineral targeting but similar observations can be seen in gas and building targeting.

First, minerals are uniform. All mineral spots in a mineral line are the same. If one mineral spot had X properties and another spot had Y properties then you could have targeting decisions. Second, all minerals are localized together. Mineral spots are proximal to each other in scarce and distant mineral lines. If you had mineral spots scattered around the map then you could make targeting decisions. Finally, all minerals are stationary. If minerals moved around the map like critters then you could create targeting decisions.

starcraft 2 proton charge

 

Conclusion

It can not be denied that there is much concern about these mechanics. The community has spent countless hours debating them. From these debates many innovative suggestions have arisen. One of my current favorite ideas is Krikkitone's proposal to link all Obelisks to a shared energy pool.

I see the macro mechanics not as an obstacle but an opportunity for Blizzard to revolutionize RTS gameplay. Done correctly, I believe these mechanics could enhance strategic decision making, engage players in the creation of their army, and breathe new life into economics.

At this point I do not know what the best solution is. But I do know that if there is anyone willing to work at something until they get it right, it is Blizzard.

starcraft alpha

 

About the Author

Occupation: Medical Student
Non-StarCraft related Hobbies: Swimming, Cycling
Currently reading: Winters Heart
Currently listening to: Radiohead
Playing StarCraft since: 1998
In the community since: 2007
Favorite StarCraft Race: Protoss
Favorite StarCraft Unit: High Templar
Favorite StarCraft Character: Aldaris
Favorite Comfort Food: Coffee

Article by ArcherofAiur.
This is a StarCraft: Legacy guest article.

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protoss proton charge editorial
 
Proton Charge - The Potentially Game-Breaking Mechanic
By: DemolitionSquid
 

starcraft 2

Index:

I. Introduction
--1. Disclaimer
--2. Definitions: Micro and Macro
--3. What is Proton Charge?
--4. Why is it Flawed?
--5. A Note on Spawn Larva
II. Known Attributes
--1. Concrete Data
--2. Inferences
III. Problems
--1. Variable Mechanics
----A. Unequal Worker Levels
----B. Discrepancy Over Time
----C. Saturation Influence
----D. Low Saturation
----E. Expansions
----F. Differing Interpretations
------I. Additive Sequence
------II. Mandatory Usage
------III. Possibility Of Failure
----G. Racial Diversity
--2. Mass Effect
--3. APM Sinks
--4. Single Target Mechanics
--5. No Ability Competition
IV. Solutions
--1. Limit the Area Of Effect
--2. Diversify Targets
--3. Increase Relative Cost
--4. Meaningful Choices
V. What Won't Work, & Why
--1. A Single Change
--2. Changing Material Costs
--3. Mobile Obelisk
--4. Casting Within Pylon Power
--5. Put Proton Charge on the Nexus
V. Conclusion
--1. What is Game-breaking?

 

starcraft 2

Introduction


Disclaimer


This editorial does require the reader to have a basic knowledge of StarCraft, its economic structure, and both the races and units represented within. It involves algebraic math, and much of this editorial is theory grounded in this math and what limited concrete data there is. This editorial may become void if the mechanic analyzed within is removed from StarCraft II or altered in any significant way before this editorial is completed or exhibited. Finally, the editorial's conclusions may simply be wrong due to unforeseen, unexamined factors. The editorial nor its author will make no apologies for the theory contained herein based on the information they have been given.

Definitions: Micro and Macro

"Micro" in a real-time strategy game is defined as a series of actions centered on a single unit or group of units to maximize their potential. Micro is the efficient utilization of resources. A prevalent example is the micro usage of the relatively weak Terran Vulture unit in StarCraft I, using its speed and the nature of its attack to the players advantage. Skilled players can control the Vulture's movement to make it almost attack on the move, and dodge enemy attacks.

"Macro" is generally defined as a series of actions centered around one's economy and base, however it also encompasses the make-up and control of one's entire army. Macro is the culmination of micro actions. Macro is the efficient accumulation of resources, either money, units, or technology.

StarCraft is praised for its balance between micro and macro, where a player who is skilled in controlling lower-tier or weaker units has the same chance of winning as a player skilled in nurturing his economy and producing more or higher tier units but not using them as effectively.

What is Proton Charge?

Proton Charge is a new "macro mechanic" implemented for the Protoss race in Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming video game, StarCraft II. A macro mechanic is a mechanic of the game focused on letting the player maximize the efficiency of the players' base and economy through strategic actions. Proton Charge is a mirror to the Zerg faction's mechanic, Spawn Larva, and the Terran faction's mechanic, Calldown MULE. In the game, the Protoss use workers known as Probes to mine mineral resources that are then used to construct all of the Protoss' units and buildings so they can fight. Proton Charge causes all Probes caught within its area of effect to mine more minerals than usual. The focus of this editorial is to provide evidence that Proton Charge is imbalanced by its nature, either underpowered or overpowered at any given time, and that it negatively impacts StarCraft II for multiple reasons. It is not to state that Proton Charge is the overall most powerful of the three mechanics.

Why is it Flawed?

I believe Proton Charge is imbalanced and flawed in its core design, and if left in its current state, could be game-breaking. There are five main contributing factors to my belief.

1. It is a variable power mechanic, meaning that it has potential for gains disproportional to its cost in either energy, resources or skill. The other races' mechanics are additive and provide equal gains for equal effort invested.

2. Being that Proton Charge has variable power, and creates what is known as "mass effect." Mass effect causes a unit or ability to be underpowered at some times, and overpowered at other times - this can be balanced and offset using various methods, but, as will be explained, Proton Charge has no such counters.

3. Mass effect makes an ability either never used, because its profit-margin is too low to be worth the effort, or always used because its impact cannot be ignored. An ability that must always be used to gain an advantage provides no strategy in its use, and becomes what is referred to as an "APM sink." APM sinks are generally unfavorable because they promote tedious repetition instead of strategy and skill.

4. Proton Charge serves only one function in only one situation (making Probes collect more minerals), making it strategically void. This is more proof that Proton Charge is an "APM Sink."

5. Proton Charge is cast from the Protoss Obelisk structure. Because it is quite easy to produce multiple Obelisks, Proton Charge does not compete with the Obelisk's other abilities, Argus Link and Shield Recharge, for the Obelisk's energy. Terran MULES directly compete with the Orbital Command's Scanner Sweep and Calldown Supplies abilities, and all Larva created from Spawn Larva compete with themselves over becoming Drones to help boost the income rate, or other units to expand the Zerg's army.

Throughout the course of this editorial, I will elaborate on all aspects of the mechanic, including those five major factors that I believe form Proton Charge into an imbalanced mechanic which offers very little to the game. I will also list several solutions that may work to resolve the factors at hand, along with several suggested solutions that will not work, and why they will not work.

A Note on Spawn Larva

StarCraft is a constant balance of economy and army. The proper allocation of resources to maintaining one's base and economy, and to creating a fighting force, is crucial. A player with superior economy can create more units and overwhelm an opponent, and a player can also use a smaller army more effectively to achieve victory as well. Throughout this article one must stay constantly aware of how the economic boost received by the Terran and Protoss through MULES and Proton Charge is compared to the increase in army potential of the Zerg through Spawn Larva. Current balance estimates from testers place Spawn Larva as the most powerful of the three mechanics, but that is subject to change as balancing continues.

Known Attributes


Concrete Data

Proton Charge is currently an "area of effect" ability, cast from the Protoss Obelisk. It currently costs 50 energy to cast, and its function is to let any Protoss Probes caught within its area of effect to gather one extra mineral per mining cycle. Probes in StarCraft II carry 5 minerals per cycle from blue minerals, and seven from gold minerals. Thus after a casting of Proton Charge, those numbers rise to six and eight, respectively.

Proton Charge

Proton Charge being cast, affected Probes become highlighted.


The Obelisk itself is a building which costs 200 minerals, and currently has two other abilities aside from Proton Charge - Argus Link and Shield Recharge. Argus Link transfers 75 points of the Obelisk's energy to a target unit per second. Shield Recharge uses energy to boost the recharge rate of Protoss Shields.

Obelisk

A closeup of the Protoss Obelisk.


Inferences


I will refer to the following data as inference or educated guesses. All the information in this section is speculation based on others' first hand experiences of StarCraft II and the Proton Charge mechanic. The information is not claimed to be entirely accurate.

Proton Charge is estimated to currently last 30 seconds on normal game speed. Originally it was counted that energy in StarCraft II regenerated at one point per second on normal speed, but from first hand accounts it was possible to continuously have an active Proton Charge on one's Probes from a single Obelisk, meaning the energy recharge rate must be at least 1.67, probably closer to two, if it takes 50 energy to cast the ability. Workers are estimated to take between five and six seconds to complete a round trip of gathering minerals and dropping them off at the base, and it is this theoretical five seconds I will use in future calculations, because the exact numbers used are in fact not important, it is the equations themselves that matter.

Problems


Factor 1: Variable Mechanics

The first problem with Proton Charge is that it is a variable mechanic. This is the main issue, and there are actually many facets to this problem. Proton Charge affects Probes caught under its area of effect, and thus the power of the ability rests on how many Probes a Protoss player possesses. A player with 15 Probes will only receive an extra 15 minerals per cycle. A player with 30 Probes will receive double that. But the ability will always cost 50 points of the Obelisk's energy. This makes the power of the ability scale rapidly as the game progresses and a player builds more Probes. To fully illustrate the point, we must compare this to the economic (or military) gains supplied by the other race's mechanics.

"Calldown MULE" is an ability on the Terran Orbital Command, an upgrade of the Terran Command center, worth a base 400 minerals. The Orbital Command upgrade costs 100 minerals and 50 vespene gas to acquire. The mechanic itself produces a single MULE gatherer for 50 energy. This MULE collects 15 minerals per trip from blue mineral patches, and a yet unknown amount from yellow patches. These numbers stay consistent. They are additive. One MULE gathers 15 minerals per trip for 50 energy. Two MULES gather 30 per trip for 100 energy. Three MULES gather 45per trip for 150 energy, and so on.

spawn larva

A Terran MULE.


"Spawn Larva" is an ability located on the Zerg Queen, which currently costs 150 minerals to acquire. The ability must be cast on a Zerg Hatchery (or one of its two evolutions, Lair and Hive), which is worth a minimum 300 minerals. The ability creates 4 Zerg Larva at the Hatchery/Lair/Hive for 50 energy. Larva are the base Zerg unit; they can become every other Zerg unit. You will always get 4 Larva from using the ability for 25 energy. A Hatchery can only accept this ability every 25 seconds. The cost is additive. One Queen casting Spawn Larva on one Hatchery for 25 energy will produce 4 Larva. Two Queens casting Spawn Larva on two Hatcheries for 50 energy will create 8 Larva. Three Queens casting Spawn Larva on three Hatcheries for 75 energy will produce 12 Larva, and so on. These Larva may become Drones to collect minerals, at a cost of 50 minerals a piece.

spawn larva

Spawn Larva creating 4 Larva from a Hatchery.


From this, it sounds as if Spawn Larva is overpowered, and in fact may be because of these current stats. However, there are many ways to balance this purely through altering simple numbers - higher energy cost, longer spawn times, less Larva created. Mules also have access to balance through simple changes - higher energy cost, longer mining time, more or less minerals collected, etc. As will be explained, Proton Charge cannot be balanced so easily, as long as it remains a variable mechanic.

For visual aid, I offer this math. Remember, the numbers used are to help in illustrating the point; they are arbitrary. What matters are the equations themselves.

X = Workers
Y = Resources Gathered Per Trip in SC2 (8 in StarCraft I, 5 in StarCraft II)
Z = Length of Round Trip in Seconds (6 in StarCraft I, and I will substitute the number 5 for this variable in StarCraft II as that is the most consistent estimate by people who have played the game.)
IPS = Income Per Second

In StarCraft I, each faction's economy worked as such: (X x Y)/Z = IPS; (X x 8)/6 = IPS

ex. You have 10 Probes. (10 x 8)/6 = 13.3 minerals per second.

It is not hard to figure that out. This is the standard gathering rate for StarCraft I. For StarCraft II, we must adjust some of the variables.

In StarCraft II, each faction's economy works as such: (X x 5)/5 = IPS

ex. You have 10 Probes. (10 x 5)/5= 10 minerals per second.

The problem and inequality becomes apparent when you introduce the current macro mechanics.

For Zerg, Spawn Larva only has a direct effect on income rate IF you use the Larva to create Drones, which you then send to mine minerals. Based on using the 0 to 4 Drones one can produce from the mechanic, the equation becomes

(X [+ 0 - 4] x 5)/5= IPS

For Terran, when you use MULES, you're adding a unit that gathers 15 minerals instead of 5.

We'll call MULES M. So the equation is:

[(X x 5) + (M x 15)]/5 = IPS

For Protoss, each Probe gets an one extra mineral per trip when Proton Charge is cast. The equation is:

(X x 6)/5= IPS

These equations calculate the effect each mechanic has on a players economy when they are used. To calculate the effect this will have over time, being as each mechanic will be used at different times during the game, we need to substitute the variable X for different amounts of workers as the game progresses. Say, X = 10 workers early game, and X = 30 workers for late game.

First, Zerg Spawn Larva.

We'll say you use all 4 of your 4 Larva as Drones to mine, seeing as they cost you 25 energy (one cast of the ability).

[(10 + 4) x 5]/5= 14
[(30 + 4) x 5]/5= 34

Terran MULES now. We'll say you have 1 MULE for 50 energy (one cast of the ability).

[(10 x 5) + (1 x 15)]/5 = 13
[(30 x 5) + (1 x 15)]/5 = 33

For Protoss Proton Charge, 50 energy is the base (one cast of the ability), the Probes are variable.

(10 x 6)/5= 12
(30 x 6)/5= 36

From this, we can gather some concrete data, and explore its meaning and interpretations.

A. Unequal Worker Levels

At any given time, Zerg will need more workers mining than either Terran or Protoss if they wish to maintain an equal income rate. If they cast Spawn Larva and do not use at least 3 of the 4 Larva to mine, they will not get remotely the same income rate as Terran or Protoss. Drones take up supply, whereas MULES do not and Proton Charge works on the Probes you already possess, meaning that the Zerg, who's greatest strength is numbers, will have a smaller army than they could if the abilities were more balanced.

However, Zerg can also choose to sacrifice IPS and use the extra Larva from Spawn Larva to build more cheap units faster early game. In reality, we're comparing the army size of the Zerg given though Spawn Larva to the economic gain the Terran and Protoss get. This may be imbalanced, or may provide balance, and will be explored further in section G. Racial Diversity.

B. Discrepancy Over Time

Proton Charge increases income the more Probes it effects, marginally underpowered in the beginning of the game, and possibly overpowered at the end. The difference appears minute, but remember those calculated numbers are PER SECOND. Over the course of a 20 minute game, the gap will increase between the player using Proton Charge and a player who isn't using their own mechanic, or using it ineffectively. The 3 mineral gap per second between Terran MULE and Proton Charge becomes 1,800 minerals over 10 minutes (given each player has 30 workers and is consistently using their mechanic.) We also have to take into account that Spawn Larva cost half of what the other mechanics do. Theoretically for the same energy cost of 50 a Zerg player could be at 18 Drones when the Protoss is only at 10 Probes.

C. Saturation Influence

If we factor in saturation, the numbers become more accurate and clear. Saturation is when all mineral patches in a field are being mined continuously by the most efficient amount of workers. Any more workers, and you're wasting income on workers who are waiting their turn to mine, effectively inactive or idle. Any less, and you're not receiving the highest income rate you could be. The problem here is that all Drones and all Probes count as part of that saturation. But MULES can mine from the same minerals as SCVs at the same time.

Lets say the saturation rate of a field is 23 workers. We'll plug that into our equations. The Zerg mechanic affects the Larva not the Drones mining so we stick with 23 base saturation. Mules mine independently of SCVs so we'll have a single 50 energy MULE mining 15 minerals per trip in our equation. Proton Charge effects all Probes so we get 23 Probes mining 6 minerals instead of 5.

Zerg: (23 x 5)/5 = 23
Terran: [(23 x 5) + (1 x 15)]/5= 26
Protoss: (23 x 6)/5 = 27.6

Even with MULES being able to mine independently of SCVs Proton Charge still gives an extra 1.6 minerals per second to the Protoss player. The Zerg player has the lowest income rate however we must again consider that the extra Larva a Zerg player can create can be used to bolster his army.

D. Low Saturation

As another example lets try limiting the saturation. If the saturation of a field is only 9 workers we see these numbers:

Zerg: (9 x 5)/ 5= 9
Terran: [(9 x 5) + (1 x 15)]/5= 12
Protoss: (9 x 6)/5 = 10.8

This is why we state that Proton Charge is not overpowered but simply imbalanced. Because of the low saturation Proton Charge cannot meet its full potential unlike MULES who have set gains. Suddenly the Terran player has the highest IPS. Saturation levels this low are rare but not unheard of and must always be taken into account when designing a balanced StarCraft map. A field of 8 mineral patches provides a better opportunity for Proton Charge to maximize its power compared to two fields of 4 mineral patches because those two fields would require two castings of the mechanic. MULES are unaffected by this problem and Spawn Larva has no relationship with it all.

E. Expansions

All this culminates as the player expands and creates new bases. The gap increases as you add more workers and the ability to use the mechanics more. At three saturated expansions of 23 the equations become:

Zerg: (69 x 5)/5 = 69
Terran: [(69 x 5) + (3 x 15)]/5= 78
Protoss: (69 x 6)/5 = 82.8

Granted these are extreme numbers and are unlikely to occur in an actual game but must be recognized as existing.

F. Differing Interpretations

There is argument against the implications of these statistics. Critics say Zerg may receive a lower income rate but their units are also cheaper. Also once you achieve saturation any Larva you spawn are used to build structures and more units for your army. They also say that Protoss need the biggest income gain because they have the most expensive units. A final claim is made that economy in StarCraft is variable anyway even exponential and that all abilities are also variable and exponential depending on skill such as Psionic Storm so there is no problem with variable mechanics like Proton Charge who also have exponential potential. These arguments are flat-out wrong and I will elaborate on why.

I. Additive Sequence

To start we must explore the basic economy of StarCraft itself. The more workers you produce the better your income rate becomes. Some people including myself before actually doing the math have claimed that economy is exponential but that is incorrect. It's clear from the basic equation (X x Y)/Z = IPS that economy in StarCraft operates in what is known as an additive sequence. As you add more workers you increase your minerals in groups of five. We get a line as in figure 1. All races have access to this line potential to achieve it and it is the same for all the races. It is balanced.

starcraft resources


Let us consider the new macro mechanics now. For Spawn Larva and MULES which are additive sequence mechanics we get the same 45 degree increasing progress line. Every time you cast Spawn Larva you know you're getting 4 Larva a possible 4 IPS before saturation. Every Time you cast MULE you know you're getting one MULE that gives 3 IPS [(1 x 15)/5= 3]. This is illustrated in figure 2.

starcraft resources


Proton Charge compared directly to economy becomes graphed as (X x Y)/Z = IPS where Y = 6 instead of 5 as in figure 3.

starcraft resources



So how do we graphically display variable Proton Charge against Spawn Larva and MULES? Given (X x Y)/Z = IPS we know that we can substitute 0 for X meaning the graph must start at 0. Using our earlier calculations we know that the Zerg IPS to Protoss IPS was 14:12 to start and 34:36 at the end. The energy spent remains consistent in groups of 50 but the mineral intake is entirely variable based on Probe count at any given time. This creates a curve as shown in figure 4. This curve illustrates that Proton Charge can be underpowered or overpowered based on Probe count at any given time.

starcraft resources



II. Mandatory Usage

Secondly the game should be balanced without either player ever using the new macro mechanics. The player should reserve the right to not employ the use of them or to use them sparingly. When one person uses theirs their income rate (or army) will skyrocket compared to the player not using the mechanic. This forces the other player to employ their mechanic if they wish to retain the same potential for income rate that their opponent does. Zerg players may have cheaper units but those units are balanced against the higher costing but more powerful units of the other races without the mechanics. If both players are using their mechanics but the Zerg are not receiving the same economic or military benefits as the Terran or Protoss for the same amount of effort and energy that is imbalanced. The note of many extra larva for the Zerg due to Spawn Larva after saturation helping to address this pure economic imbalance will be addressed in section G. Racial Diversity.

III. Possibility of Failure

Third we address the comparison of Proton Charge to an ability like Psionic Storm. Psionic Storm is an ability on the Protoss High Templar. It does area of effect damage. At first glance the two "spells" appear similar. Both cost a certain amount of energy both have the ability to affect variable amounts of units. One increases how many minerals you have and the other decreases the resources of your opponent by killing his units. They are variable and Psionic Storm is balanced so the critics say there is no problem with Proton Charge being a variable mechanic either.

This is flawed. The difference between the abilities is in when you will use each ability and their targets. There is no point in casting Psionic Storm if your opponent has no units or you are no where near his units. The use of Psionic Storm is finite. It may even be wasted on empty space or not do enough damage to a stronger unit to kill it letting it regain its health and thus have no impact on the opponent at all. Psionic Storm can be countered the High Templar can be killed quite easily out in the field. Proton Charge does not suffer from these fallbacks. There is never a moment you will not want to cast it; it is increasing your income rate which you can do as long as you have minerals on the map to gather. It is extremely hard to waste: once Proton Charge has paid for the cost of the Obelisk it is on any casting of it on any Probes even one is pure economic gain. The only way to counter Proton Charge is to destroy the Obelisk deep in your opponents base it is being cast from or to force the Obelisk to use its other abilities which would likely still require infiltration of the base. Proton Charge has no real drawbacks. The only thing it has in common in Psionic Storm is "mass effect which will be discussed in the section Factor 2: Mass Effect.

G. Racial Diversity

StarCraft is a constant balance of economy and army. There is another convincing argument that the races require different income rates at different times in the games progression to compete to maximize the balance and that the nature of Proton Charge as underpowered in its initial use early in the game when compared to Spawn Larva and MULE and its higher intake rate later into the game as more Probes are added can be balanced by that fact. This argument is supported by the need of StarCraft I Zerg to expand faster than either Terran or Protoss and that in fact their expansion rate is often used to plan the expansion of the other two races and pace the game itself. It is also supported in StarCraft II where Spawn Larva gives the Zerg access to more Larva faster letting them create their army faster which some say in turn compensates for their lack of economic power especially early game.

The answer to this problem is related to the numbers we saw in the first equations we did.

Zerg Spawn Larva:
[(10 + 4) x 5]/5 = 14
[(30 + 4) x 5]/5 = 34

Terran MULES:

[(10 x 5) + (1 x 15)]/5 = 13
[(30 x 5) + (1 + x 15)]/5 = 33

Protoss Proton Charge:
(10 x 6)/5 = 12
(30 x 6)/5 = 36

Saturation Example:

Zerg: (23 x 5)/5 = 23
Terran: [(23 x 5) + (1 x 15)]/5 = 26
Protoss: (23 x 6)/5 = 27.6

In StarCraft I the balance was simple. There was no discrepancy between additive macro mechanics and variable or exponential ones because they didn't exist. All races had access to the same income rate. It is clear that Zerg have the advantage at the start of the game in StarCraft II if they choose to use all Larva from Spawn Larva for mining before saturation sets in. However we see that the logical progression of the numbers falters. Terran is still behind Zerg at 30 SCVs and one MULE compared to 34 Drones (or in energy costs 38 Drones) but actually overtakes the Zerg at saturation because of the MULE. And Proton Charge consistently has the highest IPS once the player has more than 15 Probes.

This is where things get increasingly complicated. If we factor in the time it takes for the races to reach saturation which is usually a very small portion of the game maybe the first five minutes of a 20 minute game it is clear that any economic gain the Zerg may achieve through a quick Queen and a few casts of Spawn Larva can almost be matched by the Terran and surpassed by the Protoss. What occurs is what has been stated before: Zerg will consistently need to have more expansions and more workers mining at any given time than the other two races to reach the same IPS. Now we can finally tackle the argument that Spawn Larva is then used to create more fighting units faster balancing Zerg army with the other races economy and thus why they don't need equal IPS.

To address this we must acknowledge there are three other saturation limits faced by all the races - the rate of unit creation to income intake supply and tech level. Lets first explore the rate of unit creation to income intake otherwise known as the queue/IPS balance where at a certain point either the build queues of units or income rate surpasses the other factor. So you end up with times you have open queues but not enough resources to build any units (or you're saving up to build a particular unit) and times you accumulate resources because all of your production queues are full. Next you'll hit supply cap and after that research everything available to your race. At this point you can choose to build defensive structures and more production buildings to increase your queue. It is here the problems arise.

Because Zerg buildings are built by Drones you must either wait for an open Larva to build a Drone to build your building or you must remove a Drone you currently possess from gathering resources to build the building. Terran face somewhat of the same issue an SCV must build the building through its entirety meaning you lose the SCV for the construction time of the building. Protoss Probes are unique. They simply plant the building and it warps in on its own. The Probe can then resume mining at an increased rate if Proton Charge has been cast. It is another way that the Protoss have economic advantage through the use of Proton Charge. Where normally the building methods of the races would be balanced Proton Charge and saturation rates create imbalance.

In relation to the way Spawn Larva gives the Zerg access to a larger army faster once mineral saturation is reached because all extra Larva can become fighting units the same matter applies. Eventually the IPS/queue (or economy/army) saturation point will be reached or the second factor of supply limit is reached and any extra Larva will just sit around or need to become buildings. We arrive at a competition based on two factors - IPS and player skill at controlling their full supply army where each player is replacing any units they lose as fast as they can and countering each other with the best units available. At this point the game still needs to be balanced. But if we factor in the following:

  • Protoss can always have a higher IPS than the Zerg after saturation with Proton Charge.
  • It costs Drones to build structures.
  • Extra Larva the Zerg have just sit at supply saturation because Zerg do not have a queue.
  • The Protoss player can still increase his queues.
  • It is clear that a Protoss player can rebuild his army faster than the Zerg and build more structures faster than the Zerg.

Amazingly there is in fact one solid conclusion that can be drawn from all this and it is crystal clear. Between the variable economic boost for the Protoss from Proton Charge the extra Larva the Zerg have access to from Spawn Larva and the saturation ignoring power of the MULE the base income numbers don't lie. Zerg gain 8 Drones through Spawn Larva for the energy price of one Terran MULE which is equivalent to 2.6 times the possible income rate of the MULE before saturation. Anytime after that they can still make more Larva and create a bigger army. Meanwhile Proton Charge causes Probes to surpass the power of the MULES at a mere 15 Probes affected.

Essentially Terran is currently without a doubt the race with the lowest overall benefit from their mechanic.

Factor 2: Mass Effect

No I'm not talking about the Bioware game Mass Effect which uses the term to mean a special property of the fictional Element Z to change the mass of objects through electric currents.

Mass effect for our purposes is defined as unequal gain for cost. A great example of mass effect in StarCraft I are "area of effect" spells on caster units like the Science Vessel and Defiler. A single Science Vessel or Defiler in StarCraft I was relatively expensive and high in the tech tree. The Science Vessel had an ability called Irradiate which dealt 200 damage in an area of effect around a targeted unit. The Defiler had an ability called Dark Swarm which voided all non-splash ranged attacks entering into the area of effect around the spot on the terrain Dark Swarm was cast upon. The tension between these two units and these two abilities is a major factor in all Terran versus Zerg games. Irradiate has the power to obliterate normally powerful clumps of Zerg and because almost the entire Terran army is ranged Dark Swarm lets Zerg ground units run rampant immune to most damage. These spells along with the Protoss High Templar's Psionic Storm described in the last section are all variable in power. They can effect one unit or many for a static energy cost. Multiple Science Vessels Defilers and High Templar can blanket entire areas in spells making what are normally balanced abilities into roving walls of death. This is mass effect in its purest form.

 

 
A few High Templar destroy a Terran force using well-placed Psionic Storms.


Mass effect is created by anything that has varying levels of power. Abilities like Irradiate Psionic Storm and Dark Swarm are balanced through multiple means in StarCraft I. Irradiate can only damage biological units and the targeted unit can be placed in isolation to decrease the impact of the spell. Psionic Storm cannot affect buildings and the High Templar who casts it has no natural attack so a mass of High Templar casting multiple Psionic Storms cannot win a game. Dark Swarm does not negate melee or splash damage and the Defiler itself is very weak. Also choosing to build many Defilers Science Vessels and High Templar means that you have chosen to not build other units or technology possibly leading to exploitable weaknesses in your army or base composition. The point being made is that mass effect can be negated by opposing mass effect (such as the eternal dance between Science Vessels and Defilers in late game Terran versus Zerg matchups) limiting factors or counters by the opponent using his own units abilities or just pure micro skill. This is important as we examine Proton Charge. It has no opposing mass effect to deal with seeing as the other races' mechanics are additive and not variable thus the mass effect of Proton Charge has potential to be fairly large. It is limited in its targets but it cannot be wasted as easily as the unit spells. It can be countered by the opponent if he kills your Probes or Obelisk but that in itself is limited by his ability to seek entrance into your base making it far more difficult to counter than a Defiler Science Vessel or High Templar exposed in the field. And perhaps most importantly it is cheap to produce an Obelisk at a mere 200 minerals whereas the Defiler Science Vessel or High Templar in larger quantities all cost much more in both resources and time.

So why is mass effect a problem? Because of mass effect Proton Charge is theoretically either more powerful or less powerful than the additive mechanics of the Terran and Zerg at any given time given any number of factors from the length of the game to the saturation limit of the map. This makes it extremely variable every game and thus hard to accurately balance. It means that the unit or mechanic with the mass effect problem will either never be used because its too hard to achieve a reasonable profit and maximize the ability or will always used because not using the mechanic will mean certain disadvantage. For example Irradiate is frequently seen in Terran versus Zerg because it is so effective and the potential cost of not using it and letting the Zerg swarm freely is too high. Alternately it is rarely seen in Terran versus Protoss matches because the Protoss have less biological units and thus its ability to effect the Protoss army is severely reduced. Mass effect is always a problem because it means that something is either underpowered or overpowered and has a very small balance point that in fact may not even exist or be possible to acquire. Proton Charge epitomizes these problems because it cannot be countered like other mass effect aspects in the game. The only reliable way to counter it is by somehow killing the Probes buried deep within his base.


Factor 3: APM Sinks

By adding one mineral to every Probe that Proton Charge is cast upon you start getting larger numbers of minerals every time it is cast. The more Probes you add over the course of the castings the more return you'll receive. At the start of the game you may not receive much benefit from casting Proton Charge at all because you don't have enough Probes to pay for the cost of the Obelisk. Later in the game you may get such a massive boost from the mechanic as it gets cast on many more Probes that if you don't cast it you're losing out on hundreds of minerals. So Proton Charge becomes what's known as an "Action Per Minute" or APM sink. An APM sink is something that must be done every X (variable seconds) to maximize the ability or it becomes exponentially more useless. APM is often used to determine how good a StarCraft player is; players with higher APM do more beneficial actions (like microing their Vultures) than players who can't do as much in the same time frame. Players who can do more beneficial actions generally have a higher chance of winning.

What we arrive with is a mechanic that is strategically void. Proton Charge provides no choice; if you do not use it it serves no purpose and is wasted. A Protoss Zealot standing in your base can still be used to defend if you are attacked. A High Templar not casting Psionic Storm is saving that energy for when it is needed and useful because Psionic Storm has variable uses and times to use it. Neither the Zealot or Psionic Storm is reaching their full potential by being idle but they still retain potential itself. An Obelisk not casting Proton Charge is wasting the ability because it only serves one purpose at only one time. APM sinks are mindless. There is no choice to them other than either you do the required task every X seconds or you don't. If you don't your chances of losing increase the longer you do not use them. They promote tedious repetition. You cannot use them to provide benefit because everyone is using them but if you don't use them you will suffer. The reason StarCraft survives even with spell-based mass effect is because spells have a chance to fail and have counters. Proton charge has neither drawback in any great quantity. What we end up with is a mechanic that offers nothing substantial to the game but consumes time that could be better used on actual strategic action and promoting real skill.

The irony is that in fact all three of the macro mechanics in the game are actually APM sinks. There is no reason to never cast them. Yes they compete with other abilities or factors but ensuring those other abilities or factors are comparably worth the loss in economic/army boost from Spawn Larva MULES and Proton Charge is a difficult feat. Spawn Larva and MULE appear to have acceptable alternative options namely the versatility of Larva themselves and Scanner Sweep which is why this editorial focuses on the most flawed and imbalanced of the three mechanics Proton Charge. Proton Charge has no such competition as will be elaborated on in section Factor 5: No Ability Competition.


Factor 4: Single Target Mechanics

Proton Charge only affects Probes who are mining minerals. If cast on any other unit it is wasted. It has a single target and must be cast on that target every chance it gets to make the most of the ability. There is no choice involved. If all players are using their mechanics the one who doesn't will suffer. Those who do use them receive no benefit they just remain on equal ground if the abilities are balanced. Proton Charge offers no choice no strategy in its use. This is related to and contributes to the APM sink issue but I believe it warrants a separate overview.

Contrast this to MULES and Spawn Larva. MULES suffer from the same problem they are only usable on minerals however if the player wishes he can use a MULE as a quick scouting unit although Scanner Sweep is clearly more effective. MULES could also once be used for repair and that ability may return. Spawn Larva is only target-able on a Hatchery but once again we can point out that each Larva created is full of strategic choice in what unit it becomes from a large selection. A Queen can also cast its other two abilities Creep Tumor and Transfusion as it waits for Spawn Larva's cool-down to finish.

There is some debate on this conclusion. Namely choice being created by the timing one sets for building their Obelisk in their build order. That sometimes you'll want to rush for your Obelisk and spend 150-200 minerals early to build it and other times you'll want to wait until your base is more secure from attack or you have more Probes to spend the 200 minerals on your Obelisk and maximize it. Effectively this is but an illusion of choice. Build orders used by professional players are decided before the game starts. They are not reactionary. They are set just like the use of Proton Charge


Factor 5: No Ability Competition

Obelisks currently cost 200 minerals. With the current energy regeneration rates and length of time Proton Charge lasts a single Obelisk can tend to an entire mineral patch. Because the Obelisk is mass producible they can also be built outside your base to maximize the other two abilities they currently possess: Argus Link and Shield Regeneration. Any Proxy Pylon built for Warp-In can become home for an Obelisk to use as a retreat point or forward assault post. These Obelisks being nowhere near any Probes will have no reason to use Proton Charge. Essentially you end up with two types of Obelisk which serve entirely different purposes whose roles never overlap. One stays in your base and casts Proton Charge exclusively and the other becomes an offensive building which casts Argus Link and Shield Recharge and has no reason to ever cast Proton Charge. There is no competition between the abilities.

This is a problem because Calldown MULE has competition with Scanner Sweep and Calldown Supplies abilities on the Orbital Command. The Zerg situation is different but still an issue. Spawn Larva on the Queen competes with two other abilities: Creep Tumor and Transfusion. However just like the Obelisk you can build multiple Queens and use one to cast Spawn Larva exclusively and one to cast Creep Tumour and Transfusion. But there is competition inherent in the abilities because of the Larva being spawned. They can become Drones to mine and increase income rate. But they can also become buildings and any other Zerg unit. The Queen can also actively cast Creep Tumor in between casting Spawn Larva. Spawn Larva creates a level of competition between economy and army that Proton Charge completely lacks. Proton Charge never has to compete with the other abilities on the Obelisk in any way. This again contributes to Proton Charge being an APM sink.

Solutions


Solution 1: Limit the Area Of Effect

The first change the Proton Charge requires is in limiting its influence on Probes. Instead of letting the ability become more powerful as you increase your Probe count limit it to a certain number of Probes. Currently the greatest balancing number is 15 being as MULES collect 15 minerals per trip and 3 Drones possibly created from the 4 Larva created by Spawn Larva also mine 15 minerals (5 each) and this is restricted by saturation. This simple change completely nullifies the problem of Proton Charge being a variable power mechanic.

Solution 2: Diversify Targets

MULES technically do not affect any units they are their own unit so there's no problem. It still competes with Calldown Supplies and Scanner Sweep. Larva produced by Spawn Larva have many options either becoming Drones to mine or make buildings or become any other Zerg unit to add to the army. Proton Charge is not faced with this issue it only affects Probes. I propose letting Proton Charge affect more units in some way. No other ability in the game is so radically focused on one unit and consequently no other ability poses the problems Proton Charge does. There are multiple ways to implement effects. For example make Proton charge increase movement speed of any effected unit or add damage to a unit's attack. Although admittedly those are not very good alternatives because they are better focused on offence than defence.

Solution 3: Increase Relative Cost

Another solution is to make Proton Charge cost more. Not necessarily in the monetary sense whether more minerals to build the Obelisk or more energy to cast it. In fact both of those solutions would not solve the APM sink issue - the ability would still be used every chance it was available or if it was not able to effectively provide sufficient profit for its cost never used at all. I believe what Proton Charge lacks is risk. It lacks a downside. I suggest giving Proton Charge a form of harmful side effect. For example the ability lasts 30-40 seconds. For that time maybe all Probes affected by the ability lose their shields. Suddenly there will be times you do not want to use the ability that can be exploited by your enemy. Having 15 Probes destroyed in a raid because they were only at half health could be devastating to your economy. Such a downside would create choice strategy or tension in the ability - exactly what Proton Charge lacks.

Solution 4: Meaningful Choices

The last solution is to make Proton Charge actually compete with the Obelisk's other abilities. Currently Proton Charge has no reason to be cast outside one's base. Argus Link and Shield Recharge have no reason to be cast inside one's base. Multiple Obelisks can be built ensuring that the abilities will likely never truly compete. To promote meaningful choices between abilities the abilities must be useable interchangeably or with equal benefit in different areas. For example with MULES is it better to cast a MULE and gain 3 extra minerals a second or cast Calldown Supplies and save yourself 100 minerals right away? For Zerg is it better to use your extra Larva from Spawn Larva to build another Evolution Chamber or to build another Lurker? The Obelisk and Proton Charge lack this kind of strategic tension. Giving the Obelisk more/better base-centric abilities or expanding the targets of Proton Charge (as suggested in Solution 2) will solve this issue.


What Won't Work & Why


Bad Solution 1: A Single Change

It has been suggested that only one of the changes illustrated above is required to "fix" the Proton Charge. I believe this is not possible given that the problem with the mechanic stems from a few different sources. It will require a combination of changes to salvage Proton Charge; there is no singular change to bring the ability on par with MULES or Spawn Larva. Stabilizing the variable power problem won't fix the lack of ability competition. Adding more target variety won't cure the mass effect.

Bad Solution 2: Changing Material Costs

All numbers are subject to change for balance. This is a common thing to hear and is a common solution to balance issues. However some of the problems with Proton Charge have nothing to do with the cost of the Obelisk and Proton Charge. Mass effect and the APM sink issue in particular is not affected by these numbers. The problem of underpowered or overpowered will remain regardless of how much you adjust costs. Either the profit gained from Proton Charge will be too little to be worth using the ability or too much to ignore using it. Proton Charge is flawed in its design as a variable mechanic not in resource or energy costs.

Bad Solution 3: Mobile Obelisk

An intriguing suggestion is to make the Obelisk mobile. Not so much as a unit but able to warp around anywhere within Pylon power. Theoretically this would let players build less Obelisks and use a single Obelisk to cast Proton Charge and its other abilities by moving location between inside and outside the base. It would create meaningful choice and competition between abilities.

This is however flawed yet again. We must always take into account the APM sink issue. An Obelisk using Proton Charge will eventually pay for itself. After that point all income from the ability is profit. If that profit is high the ability will continue to be used. If the profit is low the Obelisk will likely never be built in the first place. Any Obelisk built outside the base will be built specifically to cast Argus Link and Shield Recharge and attempt to pay for itself that way. There will be no reason to move the Obelisk and the abilities will still never compete.

Bad Solution 4: Casting Globally Or Within Pylon Power


In respect to the mobile Obelisk it has been considered to let the Obelisk cast globally or within Pylon power like the Orbital Command can do with its abilities. That way an Obelisk in the base can cast Argus Link and Shield Regeneration from across the map and an Obelisk outside the base can cast Proton Charge on Probes inside. Admittedly this is the best of the so called "bad solutions." However it still fails to address the APM sink issue completely. If Proton Charge is worth the profit it will always be cast. If it is not it will never be cast. Regardless of where the Obelisk is on the battlefield. What you end up with is the Obelisk storing energy. For example say the Obelisk has 200 maximum energy and Proton Charge still costs the 50 it does now. Once the Obelisk has stored all 200 energy the player will cast Proton Charge and the energy in the Obelisk will revert to 150. The player will wait until the Obelisk again gets 200 energy then cast Proton Charge again. The 150 energy the Obelisk is saving is emergency energy. Energy to be used on Argus Link and Shield Recharge when needed. Once that energy is expended the player must decide whether to cast Proton charge and leave the Obelisk at low emergency reserves or let the Obelisk regain its 200 energy. This gives the illusion of choice but it is not real choice. What the player does is based on the current profit margin for Proton Charge. If it is high the ability will be cast again and the Obelisk will retain low emergency energy. If it is low the player will let the Obelisk reach 200 again before casting Proton Charge.

MULES suffer from this as well. An Orbital Command with 200 energy will spend 50 on MULES or Calldown Supplies and the other 150 energy generally will be for emergency Scanner Sweeps. There are exceptions for scouting purposes but it is rarely true choice it is an illusion of choice. However the illusion of choice and possibility for choice is still better than no obvious choice at all.

Bad Solution 5: Put Proton Charge on the Nexus

Consider this as part two of the global Proton Charge suggestion. The theory is that by putting Proton Charge on the Nexus and possibly the Obelisks other abilities as well it makes the abilities more important because they are harder to acquire due to cost. As explained before monetary cost is irrelevant to APM sinks. This would also make the Nexus a clone of the Orbital Command decreasing racial diversity. This proposed solution offers no solution at all.


Conclusion


What Is Game-breaking?

A mechanic is game-breaking when it is inherently imbalanced either through exact statistics design or implementation. A game breaking mechanic ability or unit can essentially and literally stop people from playing or buying a game or it can cause a significant aspect or portion of the game to be completely ignored boycotted or banned. I believe that Proton Charge has the potential to be game-breaking to create an imbalance in the Protoss that will be evident in the highest levels of play. Though its design as an variable mechanic when compared to the Terran and Zerg's additive mechanics and its implementation with no competing abilities or diversity in its use I firmly believe Proton Charge is harmful to the success of StarCraft II. Proton Charge must be altered in a significant way or removed and replaced completely for it to be a fun and balanced mechanic.

starcraft 2

About the Author

Age: I am the Alpha and the Omega
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Education: College Degree
Family status: Single
Location: Calgary AB Canada
Non-StarCraft related Hobbies: The irresponsible consumption of alcohol
Currently reading: The Shiva Option by David Weber and Steve White
Currently playing: ODST
Playing StarCraft since: 1999
In the community since: May 2007
Favorite game (FPS): Halo: Combat Evolved
Favorite game (RTS): StarCraft
Favorite StarCraft Race: Zerg
Favorite StarCraft Unit: Hydralisk
Favorite StarCraft Character: Zeratul
Favorite Comfort Food: Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream
Favorite Meal: 10 cent wing night at the local pub

 

Article by DemolitionSquid.
This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) guest article.

starcraft legacy

 

Kerrigan: An Analysis of the Queen of StarCraft

Sarah Kerrigan. No character in the StarCraft universe evokes more rage or interest than the Queen of Blades. From Kerrigan’s humble origins as a slave to the confederate military, to her rise in becoming ruler of the universe, Kerrigan has grown and changed a lot over the course of the series. In my personal opinion she is an extremely interesting and dynamic character. What makes her so dynamic and such a controversial character among the fans?

To begin to answer this question I draw your attention to Uprising, an e-book written by Micky Neilson. It outlines the origins and meeting of two of StarCraft’s most iconic characters: Kerrigan and Arcturus Mengsk, leader of the rebel group Sons of Korhal. Even to begin with, the relationship between these characters is extremely complicated. They first meet when Mengsk sends a Sons of Korhal raiding party to retrieve Kerrigan from a confederate research facility. Kerrigan, at this point in the story is under the Confederates' mind control to keep her in line. Deciding that she could be a useful ally, Mengsk frees her from her mind control, then convinces her she’s on the wrong side and recruits her into his army. At times Kerrigan seems to look at Mengsk as something between a father figure and an idol. She frequently speaks of him with reverence, at his mental prowess, at his skill as a leader, and at his integrity as a man.

starcraft uprising

The relationship between Mengsk and Kerrigan is explored in the e-book StarCraft: Uprising.

 

Another important character in this story, relative to Kerrigan, is that of Lieutenant Rumm, the Confederate officer involved in Kerrigan's initiation as a Ghost. He attempts to coerce her into serving his government through various inhumane methods, including threatening to kill her father. She refuses to work for him, forcing Rumm to take control of her mind through technology. After being freed by Mengsk, Kerrigan eventually winds up taking her vengeance by killing Rumm.

Somo Hung is Kerrigan's love interest in Uprising. Hung is something of a precursor to Jim Raynor but exists as his own character as well. Whereas Raynor is down-to-earth and something of a tough guy, Hung is more intellectual and enjoys literature and philosophy. However, they are very much alike in one key way: they’re both good, unassuming people where what you see is what you get. Kerrigan doesn't need her telepathy to see what they are thinking or intending, and after her experience with Rumm and the Confederacy that's a very good thing.

In the end, Kerrigan discovers that while she’s been working for Mengsk, he’s been using her for his own personal goals. Obviously she takes issue with being manipulated in that way, but before she can leave Mengsk gives her a piece of information that shocks her to her core. While she was under Rumm's control, she killed his father in cold blood. Despite this, Mengsk informs her that he doesn’t want revenge as she has proven herself a useful ally. While Mengsk has forgiven her, Kerrigan still feels insurmountable guilt for her evil deed.

If this book proves anything, it’s that Kerrigan struggled with issues of morality even before her transformation into the Queen of the Zerg. When murdering Angus and Rumm, Kerrigan is described as animalistic and aggressive. This description is a stark contrast to how she is portrayed throughout the rest of the book, as a cunning and insightful person who cares a lot about others and wants to make sense of her self and her life.

In StarCraft, Kerrigan’s story continues as the second-in-command of the Sons of Korhal. It is here that she first meets Jim Raynor while she continues to help Mengsk with his plan to defeat the Confederacy and free the people of the Koprulu Sector. Kerrigan also begins to see things in Mengsk that she hadn't before. His ruthless attitude, and with that his willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals - even using the Zerg as a living weapon, brings harm to others. This distaste for Mengsk's methods transforms her internal conflict (between the side of her that is a murderer and the side of her that is a moral human being) into an external one as she continues to try and be a moral compass for Mengsk.

 

sarah kerrigan

Sarah Kerrigan in ghost armor.

This story reaches it's climax in the mission "New Gettysburg". Mengsk needs somebody to go on a suicidal mission to protect the Zerg from the Protoss, so the Zerg can destroy what's left of the Confederacy. For this mission he chooses Kerrigan. Kerrigan is successful in her mission of routing the Protoss, but at her moment of triumph, the Zerg overwhelm her. Mengsk, instead of trying to rescue her, orders an immediate retreat and Kerrigan is presumed dead. At this point, there are a few questions that are brought up, some of which we still don’t have answers to.

 

New Gettysburg StarCraft mission

 

First off, why is Kerrigan is so loyal to Mengsk? As Raynor points out, simply saving her from the confederacy isn't enough to cause her to be so devoted to him. Kerrigan deflects this by coming up with a weak excuse, that the Protoss are coming to destroy the entire planet. She doesn't really explain how she knows this, and we find out later that the Protoss commander, Tassadar, was specifically avoiding destroying anything but the Zerg. We can postulate at this point that her guilt over killing Arcturus's father is what compels her to be so loyal, that somehow going on such a risky mission will make it up to Arcturus and to herself, but this is never confirmed.

Secondly, did Mengsk intentionally send Kerrigan down to New Gettysburg to die? This question has no definitive answer and probably never will. Later on, both Kerrigan and Raynor seem to think so, but Mengsk does not respond to their accusations. It is worth noting that he never explicitly denied that he sent Kerrigan to her death.

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Kerrigan betrayed at New Gettysburg.

 

Lastly, if Mengsk betrayed Kerrigan, why did he do it? Was it because she was questioning Mengsk’s methods and orders? Something that is brought up in Uprising is that Mengsk has no use for irresolute individuals in his army; he threatens Somo Hung when Hung questions whether or not he should join the Sons of Korhal. Or was it simply revenge for Kerrigan killing his father? He killed the two ghosts responsible for killing his sister and mother so that would not be out of the question. My personal perspective rests somewhere in-between the two points. With the Confederates defeated, Kerrigan had outlived her usefulness and her moral dissonance would be problematic after he created his new government. So he sacrificed her in a seemingly affable and guiltless way but secretly took vengeance for his father. This, however, is just my theory.

The next time we see Kerrigan, she has been transformed by the Zerg. Changing her from the disharmonious girl she was into a monstrous killer who has no need for integrity or principles. A half-human, half-Zerg hybrid with only two goals: to grow more powerful, and to kill anyone who gets in her way. The two halves of Kerrigan's biology reflect the two halves of Kerrigan's character. Sarah and Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades.

Sarah is a happy, intelligent, cunning woman with no preconceptions about life. She struggles with having to kill for what she believes in and avoids having to do so at all costs. While Kerrigan is the rabid animal who hungers for nothing but control and revenge. I don't believe that she has a split-personality, or that Blizzard would ever be heavy-handed enough to showcase these two halves in the game's dialogue. However, I still feel this is an important aspect of her character. In part Sarah is who she is, while Kerrigan is what all the various men in her life have transformed her into.

Up until this point, Kerrigan has had many different men in her life. Each one acting as a sort of father. Firstly, there is her biological father from when she was a small child. A decent if rather ordinary man who gave her life. Then there was Lieutenant Rumm, who acts as a cruel abusive father, he expands her talents as a ghost while torturing her and those she cares about. Of course there's Mengsk, who gave her, her freedom but manipulated and sacrificed her when it served his interests. There is also the Overmind, who empowered her while stripping away her humanity and free will. To a certain extent even Tassadar acted as a father to Kerrigan  - someone who taught her an important lesson while also degrading her in some other way. Each one of Kerrigan’s subsequent fathers has empowered her, while also harming or hurting her in increasingly heinous ways. Rumm showed her the potential of her psychic power, but he enslaved her and killed her biological father. Mengsk gave her hope and freedom, but then betrayed her even after she'd proven herself to him. While the Overmind gave her the strength to pursue what she desired, but at the same time made her into a monster with no free will.

 

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Mengsk and many other characters have played a patriarchal role in Kerrigan’s life.

Then came the Brood War. With the Overmind killed by Tassadar, Kerrigan was now free to pursue whatever dreams she still possessed. At the same time, the Cerebrates were now working to create a new Overmind - as this new Overmind would take control of her just like this first, this was something that Kerrigan could not allow. She quickly enlisted with the one group that hated the Zerg enough to possibly see past what she was: the Protoss. Using her now advanced mental powers to take control of the Protoss Matriarch’s mind, she managed to manipulate the Protoss into helping her to do battle with the new Overmind.

A major question in Brood War is whether or not Kerrigan has truly been freed from the Zerg biology that has taken hold of her. Is she truly free of the Zerg's influence, or has the infestation itself taken a hold of her mind? Towards the end of the expansion pack, a new imperialist Terran faction known as the UED manages to take control of the fledgling Overmind. In response to this threat, Kerrigan goes out of her way to recruit her old allies, Mengsk and Raynor. Saving Raynor from the overwhelming hordes of Zerg on Aiur, and Mengsk from a UED fleet that intends to have him executed. Of course, their alliance doesn't last long, and Kerrigan betrays Mengsk. The pawn has become a king, and in one brilliant stroke Kerrigan manages to kill both Mengsk's second-in-command Edmund Duke and Raynor's new Protoss ally Fenix. Here's where a lot of the criticism of Kerrigan comes in. Some people believe that Kerrigan didn't deserve this victory - that her allies were mostly responsible for her victories and that they were just victims of the story’s plot to make Kerrigan look good. What I think these people are missing here is that when Kerrigan makes her offers to Mengsk and Raynor their only choices are really either to die or join forces.

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Zeratul is arguably Kerrigan’s greatest foe and archenemy.

Raynor and Fenix are forced to work with Kerrigan because she's offering them salvation. Not only is she willing to help protect them from the Zerg on Aiur, she’s also offering to organize a coalition that’ll deal with this new UED force that’s threatening to enslave or kill everybody. They mention once or twice that they know what they’re probably doing is a bad idea, but they figure they can trust her to at least wait to betray them once the UED has been dealt with. Zeratul only works with her due to his complete devotion to his Matriarch. Also because Kerrigan makes a good point, whether or not he's playing into Kerrigan's hands, killing the Overmind is a good idea. Either way, Kerrigan is the lesser threat. As for Kerrigan's victory being the result of her allies' hard work, besides the fact that it was Kerrigan's choice to ally herself with these people, there are also quite a few occasions where it's her plan and her manipulation that brings her victory. For example, using the Matriarch to manipulate Zeratul into killing the Overmind, even Duran, by all appearances, isn't sure what's going on - though his sincerity is as always, in question.

So after manipulating her allies, after killing her enemies, her revenge is finally completed. Mengsk is banished to Korhal, the Overmind is dead for good, the UED expeditionary fleet has been completely annihilated, and Raynor and Zeratul have gone into hiding. Everyone has been defeated, and Kerrigan now sits atop her throne unchallenged. But what was the point of all of it? What did she want all along? She wanted one thing: control.

The character of Linderman in Heroes puts this concept particularly well in a single quote, "Like most women whose lives have been ruined by men, all Jessica really wants is security, and money buys that. Money's all she's ever really cared about." Substitute money with power and Jessica with Kerrigan and you’ve pretty much summed up Kerrigan’s entire motivation. Kerrigan teamed up with every established power in the sector but in the end, she betrayed them all. Kerrigan is the archetypal bastard, she was created from an unholy union between different factions, and because of this she is scorned and hated by all. She’s hated by the Zerg for being a Terran, and by the Terran and Protoss for being infested by the Zerg. Essentially because of her unique biology, Kerrigan does not belong anywhere. So instead she has chosen to take over and make the rules herself, she decides who does and doesn't belong.

In part, what also makes Kerrigan interesting in Brood War, is that for the first time she’s whole. All her ethical misgivings have been justified - betraying Mengsk is all right because he deserves it, killing Fenix is fine because he’s a warrior, it's his dream to die in battle. She has all of Sarah’s clarity and cunning, mixed with Kerrigan’s drive and determination forming into one extremely powerful individual. Another interesting aspect is that in Brood War she is probably for the first time in her life, in complete control of all her actions. No neural inhibitors, no guilt-trips and no mental control by the Overmind, every action is of her own free will, and not because she’s infested.

And that is who I think Kerrigan will continue to be in the future. In StarCraft II it is extremely likely that there will be forces that threaten her well constructed empire and her security. It is very likely that Kerrigan will move to prevent this, because when it comes down to it she is terrified of her own vulnerability.

And that is why I am so interested in this character; she possesses a desire to be strong, but she needs justification for her actions no matter how flimsy her excuses. Her fear that she is somehow in the wrong, or that she’s defenseless, is overwhelming. This combination makes for an extremely complex character. One who I hope the writers involved continue to make just as dynamic, just as complicated and most importantly: just as dangerous.

 

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What does the future hold for Kerrigan?


About the Author

Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Location: Canada
Non-StarCraft related Hobbies: Writing, Gaming, Acting, Creating, Discussing, Thinking! Also making overly long forum posts.
Currently reading: Tsar, Dark Templar Trilogy
Currently playing: World of WarCraft
Playing StarCraft since: 2001? I think. It was before WC3 came out, so either 2001 or 2002.
In the community since: March 2007 I think it was when StarCraft 2 was in the process of being announced.
Favorite game (FPS): Don't really like FPS games that much. Closest thing I like is Metal Gear Solid.
Favorite game (RTS): WarCraft 3 I think. No game has really had as much impact on me from a narrative point of view as that one did.
Favorite StarCraft Race: Zerg.
Favorite StarCraft Unit: The new Queen or the Lurker
Favorite StarCraft Character: Kerrigan or Zeratul.
Favorite Comfort Food: Sushi
Favorite Meal: Stir-Fry or something. Not sure.

Article by Alex aka. "Aldrius".
This is a StarCraft: Legacy guest article.

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Like many of you, I was glued to my browser refresh button this past May to see if the new game Blizzard Entertainment was hinting at was the long awaited sequel to StarCraft. I've spent the days, weeks, and now months since then going over the movies and seeing some of the new Protoss and Terran units. Like you, I reacted to the initial product announcement with excitement and I have been reacting to the news that has slowly leaked out of Blizzard's headquarters. We all react to this type of news according to our character. As someone with an interest in observing online communities, I have found it interesting to see how individuals in this community have reacted.

A mentor of mine told me once that I should never ask a question to which I am not prepared to hear - and deal with - the answer. We in the StarCraft community have waited a long time and have asked the question "what about StarCraft II?" repeatedly to the executives at Blizzard. Yet how many of us really asked ourselves if we were ready to hear Blizzard's answer to our question? I will admit, I did not and I am sure most of us did not. Still, we asked, and Blizzard is preparing their answer. Do we trust them?

We could easily still have a year or more yet to wait for StarCraft II. In that time, many decisions will be made, reversed, changed, updated, reconsidered and simply dropped, sometimes with community input and sometimes without. This is a time of great change for the StarCraft universe, and we need to come to terms with some realities as we play the waiting game and watch the development of StarCraft II unfold from afar.

Blizzard is going to do something with StarCraft II that you won't like. Every major revision of software has introduced or changed features some of their users don't like. Nearly every story with a sequel goes in a direction that not every fan appreciates. I personally didn't care for the way Brood War ended. In the end, it is Blizzard's story to tell; while I don't like the way the second installment of the story ends, it is still a fantastic story that I have returned to time and again.

Game makers face a two-fold problem when creating a sequel, especially a sequel to a game so widely played 10 years after its original release. The first problem is that they have all the difficulties of a massive software project. All the development, design, testing, debugging, and patching issues for any software application exists within the confines of a game project. The second problem is that game developers have many of the same issues as creating a major motion picture. Plot advancement, character development, continuity, and the big ending all exist within the confines of a game project. A slip up in any one of these issues can cause disaster for the product as a whole. This brings us to another big issue about StarCraft II.

The StarCraft II development team cares more about StarCraft II than you do. As a technology professional, when you take on a project like this, you are staking your professional reputation on your ability to not only ship the game, but to ship a game that is a worthy addition to a lucrative franchise. Blizzard's executive management knows the gold mine they are sitting on with StarCraft. Blow the sequel and the franchise dies. Every member of the development team knows they have to hit an out of the park home run on the first pitch with this game. Their professional careers depend on it and they wouldn't have it any other way. They get up daily and walk that tight rope to satisfy both the newcomers who are expecting the latest and greatest the RTS genre has to offer, and the old guard who want as little changed as possible. To get up every single day and put 60+ hours a week into developing this game that will quite literally make or break your career is an investment few of us are prepared to make. We have nothing on the line that even comes close to what they have invested in this game.

The development team wants StarCraft II to succeed just like we do. Sure, there is the financial side of things. The developers have mortgages and car payments to make like every other adult. However, they love the game as much as we do. You can see it when they talk publicly about StarCraft II. As a professional application developer, I know that you don't bring yourself to work for 60+ hours a week for a product you don't care about. You develop a personal attachment to your work in a way that rarely exists in other fields. Yet, they value our opinion highly enough to give it some influence on the development of their product. However, the reaction by some to this has been the most disappointing aspect of managing my wait for StarCraft II and probably the most hurtful to those who are developing the game. Too many have attached an "us vs. them" attitude to Blizzard's desire for input. Some talk about "rights" as though Blizzard owes us. The "add this to your signature if you agree" folks seem to choose bumper-sticker sloganeering over thought provoking and intelligent feedback. Some take it even further and take a confrontational approach, gloating when their least favorite unit, spell, or game mechanic gets the axe. This leads me to a point I've tried to make several times.

It is a mistake to equate a desire for input as a place on the development team. We do our community a huge disservice by equating a desire for community input into a seat at the development table. We actually damage our cause when we take it a step further and make impotent demands of the development team. I have it on good authority from people I trust that the development team does entertain our feedback. However, this does not mean that Blizzard wants to develop StarCraft II by consensus. I've worked on projects like that. They are infuriating for developers to work on, and rarely deliver results that anyone is particularly happy with. You always seem to anger about half your users with every decision that is made. Even open source projects have project leads that make final decisions that guide the project. If Blizzard placed as much importance on our opinions as some here have demanded, I doubt very highly you'd see too many people willing to work on StarCraft II, let alone buy the finished product. Again, they have to walk that fine line between valuing our input and relying on it too heavily.

Enthusiasm from users is something a developer can draw strength from. I've worked on projects where in relating new functionality, my client's eyes light up and their enthusiasm for my work makes me attack my work with renewed vigor. I'm sure the development team at Blizzard draws a great deal of strength from our enthusiasm. It is why a company like Blizzard makes their development staff available at events like BlizzCon. Conversely, skepticism can sap your energy at an incredible rate. Ingratitude for your efforts works even faster to demoralize you. Developing software on this scale is not just a labor of love, but a test of attrition. Our responses to the changes must be well reasoned and constructive lest we eliminate the desire of the developers to seek our input. The orthodox among us must understand that Blizzard is not releasing a second expansion to the original StarCraft, they are releasing a sequel. The newbies here from other games must likewise realize that there is an established history with this game and some of it must carry forward. We don't want "Warcraft III in space".

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Changes to the StarCraft experience are inevitable. How you deal with them in public reveals a great deal about your character. Would you say the things you say to Blizzard at their headquarters in the same way you express them here? We all enjoy a certain anonymity sniping from the shadows of the internet. While that provides Blizzard with a certain amount of candor they might not otherwise get in a sit down meeting, the way many people choose to express their opinions here embarrasses themselves and those who have to represent our little community when Blizzard does come asking for our opinions.

It is rare that an entertainment company accepts input from their fans in the way Blizzard has chosen to with StarCraft II. They do so at great risk, knowing that genuine constructive criticism on the internet is a rather rare commodity. Our input is valuable to them to keep StarCraft II feeling like the original, but ultimately they want to flex their creative muscles and bring us new stuff as well as the familiar.

So how do we manage the wait until StarCraft II ships?

First of all, relax. The world isn't going to come to an end if StarCraft II flops. The gaming community will take note and move on. The gaming industry is pretty brutal like that. Blizzard Entertainment is not in the business of hiring game industry newbies either. They mostly hire veterans with some game industry experience. Even when they hire new talent, those people fill entry level positions, not positions with broad decision-making authority. These people know how brutal the industry can be and how the criticism, when at its best, can be harsh.

None of us are going to lose our jobs (in fact, many may keep them) or get kicked out of school if StarCraft II doesn't live up to our expectations. Even if Blizzard decides tomorrow to introduce Orcs as a playable fourth race in StarCraft II, take a deep breath, check the calendar to make sure it isn't April 1, and realize there is little you can do about it if Blizzard is set on that decision. The developers understand what is at stake here and they won't purposely set out to ruin this game. It would be ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

Second, be selective in what you choose to get upset over. Remember that your pent up rage will likely have little effect on the final release of StarCraft II. You waste your energy fuming about decisions that are by no means carved in stone yet. The community has some capital to spend in getting some changes made. Some of it has been spent and changes have been made due to community input. We need to be sure we're not wasting it on trivial matters when (at the time of writing) hardly any information has been released about one of the three races. Wasting your energy with excessive anger over this unit, that spell, or where the Firebat is produced means you'll be burned out by the time StarCraft II is released. You'll be too tired of StarCraft II to actually give the game a fair chance when it ships.Understand, I'm not recommending apathy. However, we must pace ourselves and attempt to reach the release date with an open mind and a lot of anticipation.

Third, remember who you are in the grand scheme of things. We all like to consider ourselves more important than we really are. In our world, we can all stand to spend some time to set the ego aside and reflect on who we really are as it relates to the development of StarCraft II. I have very strong opinions on how I'd like to see StarCraft II evolve and ultimately be shipped. I carefully relate my opinions and I even more carefully examine the thoughtful and logical responses to my opinions here in this community. I face those responses with an open mind and I've had my opinions changed on more than one occasion. The moment we consider ourselves the authority on all things StarCraft, and that becomes a reason why we shouldn't listen to others, is the moment we've let our ego get too big. If a decision doesn't go in the direction we'd like it to, we must remember that those decisions are not ours to make. Would I have a lot to talk about should the developers want to discuss StarCraft II directly with me? Yes. However, I keep in mind the same level of respect I'd use in a face to face meeting with the developers as I do communicating with the community here.

Trust is a difficult thing to have in strangers. Yet, Blizzard Entertainment at one point created the game we have come to love. StarCraft was 10 years old this year and Brood War will be 10 years old next year. This game is not only still played, but is played professionally around the world. StarCraft still ranks highly on game ranking charts. After all that, hasn't Blizzard earned the benefit of the doubt?

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Finally, remember that this is supposed to be an exciting time to be a StarCraft fan. We're a few months (hopefully) from finding out what Raynor, Zeratul, Artanis, and Kerrigan have been up to since we last heard from them. We're about to get a whole new StarCraft experience. Right now the potential of this new experience is fraught with fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Yet if we keep in mind that the people who want to bring us this game care about it as much - and more - than we do, we won't be as susceptible to succumbing to cynicism and anger over the choices they make. I'm not saying we should meet every announcement with sheer bliss. If you have a concern, express it. Let's talk about these concerns in a way that engages everyone. Let's talk about our thoughts regarding StarCraft II in a way that is open minded and allows our words and not our egos to do the talking. The developers are listening. We must make sure what we have to say is worth listening to.

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About the Author

Age: 33
Occupation: Web application developer and Adjunct Professor
Education: Bachelors Degree in Computer Science (Michigan Tech. University),Masters Degree in Information Technology (Capella University)
Family status: Married, two children (4 year old daughter, 4 month old son)
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Non-StarCraft related Hobbies: Firearms, self-defense, swimming, hockey, computers
Currently reading: Starship Troopers (again)
Currently playing: StarCraft single-player on my computer, and Guitar Hero III on my Wii

Playing StarCraft since: 1998
In the community since: 1998 - 2000 and 2007 to present
Favorite game (FPS): Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Favorite game (RTS): StarCraft
Favorite StarCraft Race: Protoss
Favorite StarCraft Unit: Archon
Favorite StarCraft Character: Artanis (I identify with him more than the others)

Favorite Comfort Food: a Krautdog from Yesterdog
Favorite Meal: Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings

I'm a typical family man. Working to earn a living for my wife and children. Playing when I get a chance. I've played a lot games over the years. It is these times when I feel the age difference acutely. I realize fully that I probably have ten years on the average poster. I've seen the progress of computer gaming from a quirky set of programmers at little companies to the corporate behemoths of today. I played Dune II in college and did my first tank push while I was supposed to be doing my Calculus homework (which explains why I'm a programmer and not an engineer). I played Command and Conquer with the other guys in my dorm by running coaxial cable through the hole in the wall the steam heat came through. I was introduced to StarCraft by a student of mine and it only took five minutes with the demo to get me in the car to buy the full version. Since then, StarCraft is the only game I've replaced in my game collection (twice, once to fix a scratched disk once to switch from PC to Mac). I find myself consistently replaying single-player campaigns, and playing online with a handful of close friends. I returned to the discussion boards around the time of the announcement of StarCraft II after a long hiatus to get married and start a family.

Editorial by Johnathan "wyseguy" Wyse
This is a StarCraft: Legacy guest article.

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Troubled with the advancement of her combined Swarm, Sarah Kerrigan - the "Queen of Blades" - removed an assortment of raiding scouts from their hidden burrows on Char; sending them instead to investigate the distant planet Azeroth, one of the last outlying planets reached by the late Terran Confederacy's deep-space research vessels (which belonged to the Swarm now). This long-forgotten world held Kerrigan's hopes to discover evolutionary potential harbored within the indigenous inhabitants so that she might use it in an effort to evolve the Swarm.

Despite her numerous broods and hundreds of thousands of warriors, the Zerg under her sway were still formed by, and thus belonged to their first master, the Overmind. Kerrigan was merely the latest master to hold the leash, not unlike the previous Terrans who had attempted to harness this alien power previously. However, she alone bore witness entirety to the existing evolutionary knowledge within the Zerg. She was able evolve the Swarm to fulfil her ends.

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After collecting some of the more menacing specimens that thrived on Azeroth, Kerrigan's scouts hurried back to Char carrying the first of her evolutionary test subjects (the future of Kerrigan's own Swarm). Kerrigan made no delay in processing the abducted captive's genome into the existing Zerg strains; she sought to sculpt a Swarm that resonated to her own twisted human vision. And time was of the essence; it would be some time until her fledgling genetic manipulations reached culmination.

Aside from the whimsically-selected physical alterations Kerrigan derived from the Azerothian specimens, the integrated strains had also given birth to entirely new warriors. Their creator, jubilant, ordered the ancestral (and outdated) Zerg brethren to be devoured without hesitation. Kerrigan had begun successfully the ultimate unraveling of the Zerg that were so diligently conceived by the Overmind. She had initiated her personal change to the Swarm. What arose from the ashworld, Char, is the Queen of Blade's Swarm - and hers alone.

Below are examples of the different genomes of Azeroth that now compose the Swarm:

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The Ultralisk has acquired much of the distinctive form and pose from the most powerful Centaur-like species of Azeroth. This included the Magnataur Destroyer and the demonic Magtheridon. Though less material was gathered from the Crypt Lord, Kerrigan has been inspired by some of the insect-like qualities natural to the Nerubian species.

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The Zergling, once formed from the Zz'gashi Dune Runner, is no more. In its place, Kerrigan has selected the Fel Hound's physically bovine appearance to instill fear and hatred within the hearts of her enemies. Though the Zz'gashi Zergling had the aid of forearm-attached scythes as well as alien-like webbed feet for all-terrain performance, this new Zergling - born out of Azeroth - was Kerrigan's distinctively; this was all the reasoning she required to supersede the original form of Zergling.

As a preliminary test, she sent forth a small group of the Azerothian-spawned Zerglings to wage battle against the local life-forms living on the planet's surface. These Zerglings were certainly considered dangerous by the inhabitants of Azeroth, but the new-founded strain of Zergling still required some aesthetic work to give the Zergling - more of what her old colleague Jim Raynor would have put it, "Frickin' Awesome". Kerrigan merged the smirkingly devilish face of her infested Magtheridon, the arms of her newly inspired strain of Hydralisk, the insect-like wings of a Nerubian Crypt Fiend, and the ceremonial shoulder guards of the Nerubian Crypt Lord into the final strain of the Zergling.

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One of the most profound discoveries Kerrigan's scouts had made on Azeroth was that of the Undead who cause great devastation. While she would have loved to study their ways in greater detail, her scouts had but a limited time frame to observe the planet.

The only significant characteristic of the Undead that her scouts were able to retrieve was the physical make-up of the burning Blight that the Undead spewed forth from their structures. Kerrigan, enthralled with yet another demonic visual, merged the rocky, toxic, and burning properties of the Blight's traits into the Zerg's Creep by matching the chemical reactions observed. The sheer toxicity of this new Creep comes at the cost of losing the sprawling tentacles and thickness the Creep once had, and instead the Creep has taken on a more violet-colored, watery-asphalt existence. This form of Creep would soon be aptly nick-named The Bleep by those who encountered it.

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Gargoyles, employed by the Undead, provided several creative concepts for an evolution of the Mutalisk. The most visually outstanding of these are the thickly armored membranes bracing the wings as well as the dull spines extending several feet past the wing's ends. Despite the overall weight of the Mutalisk being noticeably increased due to these physical adaptations, Kerrigan was one again convinced that the mutation was necessary to instill a fearsome and demonic look among the Swarm.

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The Defiler was a tactically powerful strain of Zerg that could threaten easily the defenses of even the most secure adversaries, but the creature was also one of the first species introduced into the Zerg Swarm (thus was one of the first Kerrigan was intent on replacing). The greatly-feared Forgotten One discovered on Azeroth had many hidden potentials that lay dormant - not the least of which including the capacity to expatriate great portions of liquid. Though the Infester was found to have little use for them, the great eyes that once protruded from the individual directions of the Forgotten One's body can be found once more upon the most recent mutation of the Overlord, which Kerrigan named the "Overseer" in obvious reference to the Forgotten One's assimilated features. Kerrigan decided to utilize directly the vile creature's 'man-eating' evil appearance and evolved the strain for her soon to-be-created "Infester" from the Forgotten One's infested body itself.

Sprouting three simple, yet menacing, mouths and adding the Swarm's now-standard procedure of "six insectoid legs to walk upon", the Infester has come into existence. Kerrigan was pleased to unleash the Infester upon the surface of Char, where her first commands brought the last of the Zerg Defiler to be digested inside the Infester's stomach cavities.

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With the death of the Cerebrates, Kerrigan had to manage the entirety of the Swarm by herself. To remedy the possibility of losing control over large portions of her swarm, she sought out immediately the commanding ( hero-esque) qualities of the Crypt Lord, the insectoid body structure of the Crypt Fiends, and the fortuity that the Nerubian species was an adept layer of eggs. The assimilation of the Nerubian design into Kerrigan's new swarm was effortless. In a final, whimsical decision, Kerrigan decided to instill her own former-female figure to her new Matriarch rather than adhering to the Zerg's anonymously alien appearances.

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Since the latest incarnation of the Queen was born directly from the tissues of Azeroth's Nerubian, Kerrigan felt that the former Queen's Nest would no longer befit her beloved Matriarchs as a throne. To this end, she chose the towering menace of the Undead's Ziggurat. She felt that it would now cast the same feeling of dread as it did in the lands of Azeroth. This dread would emanate from the throne of the Swarm's Matriarchs, who held dominion over their very own demons.

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These are but a few of the revisions Azeroth has graced upon the Swarm, but there are more that have been left uncovered in this historical reference including the purely demonic strain of Hydralisk and the pacification of the Overlord's functionality within the Swarm. This dastardly, and almost human influence Kerrigan has submitted to the Zerg is only the beginning, for the evolutionary path she takes will eventually lead to the Swarm matching Kerrigan in both behaviour and appearance, forever.

In all honesty, the "writing(/art)" is on the walls folks. The Tauren Marine joke gave me the perfect "in" to expel a portion of it. It's no secret that Warcraft™ has, is, and will continue to be a great influence on the development of StarCraft's sequel. It's not that I'm terribly against the expansion of the 'universe' or the addition of new, respectful units (to the lore), or just a plain-and-simple "fun" StarCraft universe, but I feel the developers owe it to the fans to flat-out tell us their intentions. Is it to make a devoted sequel to StarCraft while still adhering to the subtle dark (read: not demonic) nature of the lore, art (all of us miss you, Blizzard North), and style? Or, is to build a multi-million dollar "Rated-E For Everyone" franchise that will produce quantities of Happy Meal™ toys and a visual appealing to their 9+ million paying World of WarCraft users?

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About the Author

Age: 20
Occupation: Game Developer Extraordinare
Education: Self-Educated in all ends of Game Development
Family status: Unmarried, five siblings; four brothers, one sister.
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Non-StarCraft related Hobbies: Flying small aircraft, swimming, running, raising Northern Largemouth Bass, the criticism of films, and the development of multiplayer games.
Currently reading: Plane Crazy
Currently playing: Anything locally multiplayer that can give you a good laugh, Call of Duty 4, Call of Duty 2, Halo 2, Soul Caliber 2, Smash Bros. Brawl, Diablo II, StarCraft, WarCraft 3, and the console classics.

Playing StarCraft since: 1998
In the community since: 1999 to present
Favorite game (FPS): Goldeneye 64 / Perfect Dark 64
Favorite game (RTS): StarCraft
Favorite StarCraft Race: Zerg (The aliens who, until Brood War, were the only "good guys" of StarCraft)
Favorite Starcraft Unit: Zz'gashi Dune Runner Strain of Zergling
Favorite Starcraft Character: Zasz

Favorite Comfort Food: Diet Pepsi & Almonds
Favorite Meal: French Toast

I was born and raised on video games. With the constant arrival of new siblings, there'd always be a reason to pull out the Super Nintendo for another spin with the classics, as this was always a garauntee for some laughs. One of the earliest games I can remember playing was actually Blizzard's own Radical Psycho Racing Machines. With its cooperative gameplay and 3D course editor, the game was just a marvel for its time. It wasn't until I was 9 years old that I really had a desire to discover why certain games were more entertaining than others and how the gameplay itself functioned within the game. As a fledgling game developer, I'm always in the pursuit of those golden nuggets of gameplay that can captivate a group of friends, and most importantly, make them laugh. In regards to StarCraft, it was actually introduced to me over the phone by an exuberant cousin who ordered me to immediately download the demo. Although the demo version was certainly unique, the minute I begun the Zerg campaign (before the Terran and the Protoss I might add), I was in love. The Overmind and his Zerg "children" were the greatest concept for an alien race I've yet to see, bar none. The Zz'gashi Dune Runner strain of Zergling in the StarCraft instruction manual also catches me to this day as distinctly original design, and an icon for the Zerg. May it rest in peace.

Editorial by Aaron "EdFishy" Harris
This is a StarCraft: Legacy guest article.

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