Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3
The following is an article provided by imba.Adolf[RA] at www.sc2tv.ru. He's spent large amounts of time testing and playing StarCraft II at IgroMir 2009. Thanks to Pure.Wasted again for the translation; the English community as a whole and StarCraft: Legacy appreciates your efforts.
The final gameplay article delves into his opinions on game play with each race. He also provides the reports on his 3 tournament games and speculates changes that he feels should happen in the future beta based on his limited experience with the game so far.
Games from Day 3
And here it is, the last day of Igromir, and our reluctant good-bye to the now beloved Beta version of SC2. It's time to crunch numbers, count chickens, and fix mistakes made in earlier articles (it turns out they exist). Today I got a chance to play a few interesting games against people-type people, to see in action the difference between attack and armor upgrades, to ask witnesses (among whom numbered members of clans 7x, SR, SCII). We'll also try to play at being Cassandra and guess what changes will be forthcoming once the Beta is available to the public.
For convenience purposes, we will break the information down by race.
We'll start with them for the reason that there's actually just about nothing new to say -- I didn't get to play a single game as Protoss. But I did beat the tar out of a few tourney-goers who extracted some interesting information from their own experiences. For example, the famous Moscow Zerg 3D.u3 (Fedor Potapov) played as Protoss in the tournament and was defeated by another Protoss. He says he was beaten down by Immortals, which destroy Colossi with ease, and I quote: "And they've still got half HP remaining!" PvP, which had until now gone expressly under the guise of Stalker and Colossi armies duking it out, might completely change its face.
My impression of PvP-to-come is stranger yet... I wouldn't be surprised to see plenty of Void Rays, or air battles in general. But this is just a guess, and here's some actual information: Warp Gates can be turned back into Gateways, although this takes some time. This trick is unimaginably useful -- Warp Gates are needed only for teleportation, and in all other scenarios Gateways are preferable. Already people are talking about the options opened up by Disurptors (formerly, Nullifiers), which do a great job of taking down the Zerg by preventing his reinforcements from getting into an expansion-raid-in-progress.
Unfortunately that's it for interesting Protoss tidbits -- maybe because their units haven't changed significantly since the original game, and people tend to play them more predictably. A few players at the tourney tried to actively put to use Warp Prisms, and this even netted them some victories.
I'll start by fixing up errors and inadvertant falsehoods told after the second Igromir. Overlords really can drop creep anywhere you want, but only after the Lair upgrade. So any sort of attacks predicated on their ability to plop down creep in the early stages of the game won't be happening. But later this really does turn into a neat trick, as it allows you to throw down Sunkens just as you're taking your third expo, for example -- like any Toss has been able to do since the beginning of time. Also opened are a variety of possibilities for late harassment -- for example, building in the dark corners of your opponents' territory, or even completely locking him inside (since you can now pick up your Sunkens and walk over to wherever you please).
More relevant to these concerns is the Queen's Creep Tumor. She's the one that'll let you throw down some creep near the entrance and place those Sunkens. It's simple; place one of these "growths" near the outskirts of your creep (like the Injection, only 25 mana) and soon enough the creep will spread to your desired destination. In general, it's pretty important to connect your main Hatch to the one at the Expo. Why? Because the Queen runs pretty quickly across creep... and very slowly on open ground. Her attack on the ground, by the way, is a dual attack, 2 by 4 damage. This means that armor will counter her pretty well. But in the air it's a clean 9. As far as her own armor goes, she's pretty well off, so harassing units have a tough time dealing with her.
I took some time to look over the armor of Zerg units and came to a disconcerting discovery -- the Zerg have practically nothing to deal with Hellions until Lair. Zerglings, Banelings, Hydras -- all have Light armor and die in droves to standard Hellions. That's why, IMHO, mass Hellions will be, for the moment, the optimal TvZ build -- and don't forget you can even upgrade them at the Tech Lab for +10 damage to Light. That's double damage... and all splash! These guys can be dropped to harass while you're already switching to Vikings to pre-emptively counter Mutas (because they will, apparently, see some use versus Terrans).
Roaches are pretty tough guys with 160 HP, to be aimed at anything sporting the Light armor tag. I expect they'll be countered by Marauders and Stalkers. At the Lair the regeneration is regular and at the Hive you can upgrade it. They start to regen like mad, and to put it simply, a Marine would never be able to kill one. It regenerates too quickly. If even this is too little for you, Burrow the bugger, and he'll regenerate about twice as fast. In ZvZ Roaches eat everything except Mutas for breakfast, and even then only because they can't hit air. And, I would venture a guess, Ultralisks... but this is not a fact. In any case, with their bonus against Light armored units, Hydras, Lings, and Banelings stand practically no chance. Same as Marines and Zealots. The micro at this stage basically comes down to picking out those Roaches that are being focus fired, and either Burrowing them or retreating them outright.
I got a better look at Infestors. It turns out he can't quite move around while burrowed until the Zerg Burrow ability is researched for all. It seems that this upgrade can now only be researched at the central Hatch (though I may be wrong). The Infestor really does start with all his spells, but moves around above-ground VERY slowly, and for this reason the speed upgrade is a must. He can cast his voodoo from underground no problem, which instantly makes him a lot more attractive. Apart from the aforementioned pack of 4 Marine-Zombies (very slow, but otherwise perfectly statistically analogous to their Terran Marine counterparts) and mind control, he's got one more SUPER useful skill. After being targeted, the enemy unit's movement speed is slowed, and after about 5 seconds, stands in place stupidly, losing the ability to move. But be warned: if you're not careful, you can get your own units caught in the cast, as it's AoE! He stands for about 10 seconds. Oh, and the Infestor looks amazing... very Zerg-like.
The last curious fellow is the Lurker. Here I was figuring that a Lurker is just a Lurker, and, well, what's there to say? But it's not quite so simple this time around. You get him at Hive-level by upgrading your Hydralisk Den (the same way you might upgrade a Spire). He's morphed from a Hydra, of course, and runs pretty speedily. And it seems like everything's just about the same... except for one very interesting detail: he can be upgraded to increase range by THREE units! This turns the Lurker into just a monster machine that can (as long as I haven't screwed anything up) destroy FROM AFAR any of your opponents' belongings.
More and more new and interesting things keep coming up for these guys, and you'd think, didn't we cover everything?! Oh, no, we didn't! To start, I took some care in examining the Engineering Bay. This is now a pretty important building that houses a whole bunch of upgrades (apart from the infantry attack/armor ones). For example, an upgrade that increases the Bunkers' holding capacity! Yup... after this upgrade you can fit inside your Bunker 6 Marines or 3 Marauders or 3 Ghosts. Naturally, improving your Bunker's capabilities by half is going to come handy in many pinches, and figuring out just how tough a Terran defense is may be trickier than before. And this is still not everything, as while you're here you can also get an upgrade for Terran structures. Click and +2 to all building armor. The upgrade might as well be called "good luck, Zerglings, even denting a Bunker." But wait, there's more. One final upgrade in the Engineering Bay allows the Terran to increase the attack range of his Planetary Fortress, Missile Turret, and the Raven's Autoturret and defensive drone.
If we take into account that the Planetary Fortress is already the toughest, most powerful defensive structure in the game, so with upgrades to range, armor, and SCVs repairing 'round the clock... destroying it will be possibly only at LONG range, or from the air (I'm reminded of the Castle from Age of Empires 2). And even a pair of Bunkers will allow the Terran to hold back even some serious pressure from his enemies. There's also some bad news related to Stimpacks. Not only are they now researched in the completely out-of-the-way Merc Compound, their duration has been reduced to only 4-5 seconds. Yes, Stimmed Marauders showering anything and everything with their rockets is a sight to behold, but this is such a hassle to get to and lasts so little that I'm not sure that, in this version of Beta, this is a usable upgrade.
By the way, I figured out why the Ghost is so awesome -- and this is unbelievable -- he costs 200 gas! So hold on to any Ghosts you make and never let him go. And under no circumstances are you allowed to lose him after a Nuke or a successful economy harass! Speaking of the Nuke, the thing can be built MONSTROUSLY fast. Nearly as fast as a Hellion drop -- though that's not counting the wait for Cloaking research. But in a 2 on 2, when a Ghost can be covered by your teammate's army, the Nuke will be absolutely the first choice for breaking down any doors. Hell, probably even in 1v1s. The Ghost is considered a Psionic unit, though what exactly this entails I'm not quite sure. Maybe takes some extra damage... or dishes it out.
Marauders are pretty excellent, and I'm sure I've said this before. I've also told you that they slow down the units they hit, not including Massive ones. That would be the Thor, Colossus, and Ultralisk. They hit for 6, but twice, which comes out to 12. In general StarCraft 2 seems to have a lot of these dual attacks, which in the original was had only by Zealots, Gollies, and Scouts. Marauders deal extra damage to armored foes, which includes themselves. They're great for dealing with Stalkers and not quite so great against Zealots, Zerglings, Hydras, Banelings. Very handy with Medivacs, and not just because of the healing. You can pick up the near-death ones mid-battle and carry them away to safety, healing there.
Take heed! If you've dropped one of your Supplies to below ground and an enemy walks over it, you CANNOT raise it. So be careful, or some careless micro can easily cost you the whole match. It's basically the same thing as with a floating Barracks.
I spent some more time with the Raven. It turns out that apart from their fire-and-forget rockets (from the second BR, I believe) and Autoturrets (duration - 3 minutes) he can place a defensive drone. This thing floats in the air and shoots down any air units from pretty long range. This thing is great for fending off economy harassment from those pesky Banshees, and, probably, from Mutas, too. It also turns out that apart from MULEs and ComSat, the Terrans have the ability to throw down +8 Supply at a time. Whether it's permanent or temporary wasn't clear. What this means is you should never be afraid to make a wall of Supplies because you might lose one, since all it takes is a cast to get yourself back in the green. Another convenience is that building add-ons is now strictly a hands-off approach -- click a button and presto! The thing builds by itself.
Oh, and that range indicator for the Tank's attack? It's shared by the abilities of the Thor, High Templar, Infestor, and plenty of other units. Convenient but still a bit unfamiliar. Almost as if your hand is being held as you're crossing the street and someone's placing coats under your feet so your shoes don't get wet.
Thanks to all Blizzard staff for giving us this opportunity to play in the tournament without answering any of the trivia questions (albeit without a chance to go for the prize). In all, the support was very competent, everything was done strictly by schedule, and "longstanding customers" like ourselves were even given a chance to play longer. Today I played in the tourney three times, and I'll attempt to cover them all.
Terran vs. Protoss:
Map from second BR! I started walling, and specifically walling so that a Tech Lab would have no trouble being placed next to my Barracks. My SCV found the Toss, noticed his lack of gas and an obvious attempt at a second Gate. His Probe showed up fairly early and placed a Pylon at the entrance. A classic situation from the original game, and the intuitive solution turned out to be just as correct -- took a few workers off the minerals, took out the Pylon, and finished the Supply before the Zealot showed up. And this is now a lot more convenient -- just bring out a few SCVs and set them to autorepair, and they'll fix your wall for you as it comes under fire.
Back home I set up a Factory. After my first Refinery I made the second, made a Tech Lab at the Barracks. Started production of Hellions, Marauders, and a Starport. Came out with 2 Hellions and 3 Marauders. Not far from the entrance stood 5 Zealots. I got in pretty confident, thinking that the Toss would turn and run. When he didn't, I figured that his Zealots would start keeling over any second. Turns out, if I hadn't microed, he would have come out on top! I lost 2 Marauders and a Hellion before getting some sense, and with reinforcements beat him away. I built a CC on the expansion, placed the Hellions and Marauders in a Dropship, and threw right on top of his Nexus. The Probes died quickly; they tried to duke it out with the Marauders, but the Medivac was there to heal. At that time a pair of Stalkers showed up at my expand, but new arrival Marauders beat them back easily. The Stalkers continued to press and, leaving his main behind, the Protoss made a last grab for it... but Marauders are cheaper, build faster, and hit just as hard. By the way, they're 2 supply to a Tank's 3. At the very end a lone Colossus showed up and attempted to dismantle my defenses, but the Marauders killed him surprisingly quickly.
Terran vs. Protoss 2:
Duel map. Again Protoss, so I start to wall up immediately. It turns out, not for nothing. My Supply+Barrack+Tech wall was sound. A few Zealots showed up but saw they couldn't accomplish anything. I took to Hellions (and Marauders along the way) but decided to try without a drop this time, and got another Factory instead of the Starport. 1 Marauder, 3 Hellions go out to meet the Toss, and he has pure Zealots. In the battle the Marauder and one of the Hellions die, but he loses all Zealots. With the two Hellions I race around his base for some two minutes, killing Probes and Zealots. Just as doable as with Vultures. Killing workers is a lot harder, since there's not so much damage per attack, but there is splash. Plus I came up on another Hellion trick -- the longer you keep attacking, the more damage you end up dealing. If you pull them off an attack to retreat too quickly, you might end up doing nothing. Stalkers showed up and I had to run.
While I was racing around town, I took an expansion and started building Tanks, Hellions, and Marauders. With three Tanks and a whole bunch of everything else (and a few SCVs on autorepair for good measure) I started the attack which closed the game with a win.
Terran vs. Terran:
The same duel map as last game. I seal off the entrance easily. My plans, from before the match, are to attack him with early Marauders while floating overhead with an Engineering Bay for vision of the wall. OMG, the Engineering Bay won't fly! Now it's like an Academy. I lose it, my plan folds, and I have to fast-track onto a fast expo. I build Hellions, Marauders, Vikings, an Armory for Thors, everything I can get my hands on. Even Ghosts. The lack of a concrete plan hurts my game -- I feel like the army doesn't mesh and will buckle under serious pressure. I drop my first Nuke on him and completely demolish the wall. I control the map through superior vision, but build a Fortress on my expand just in case. Good thing I did.
The Terran's been building an army of his own and decided to move out. It turns out he's got both Tanks and Thors. In the coming conflict my multipurpose army suffers a defeat, but even he takes some serious casualties. He's coming up on the Planetary Fortress, which starts firing back at the invaders. He retreats. At this moment I toss my second Nuke at a nicely-placed row of his Supplies, destroying them en masse. I decide to try my hand at Banshees, but keep building Thors all the same.
In all, this match had me thinking. Are we really returning to the Tank lines of old? On the ground, even Thors aren't capable of breaking through a sound Tank defense. Once again it looks like everything will come down to careful selections of air/anti-air, etc. And there's no Wraiths this time -- Vikings are clearly not a replacement. But this is just contemplation. In-game, I take a third expo at the yellow minerals, siege with Banshees (which take fire from Thors, OMG, they attack air? But I thought they didn't do anything to Mutas... or did I just miss it?). Banshees take SCVs out pretty well, even working alone. Buildings, too. But you won't get too many, since they're pretty expensive. It only takes one moment of carelessness on the part of the opponent to let a Banshee slip through the defenses, and this can cause serious damage to his economy... and create a fun diversion, all at the same time.
After this came the frontal assault; Thor artillery attacks, by the way, aren't AoE, but single-target. This comes in handy for Tank-sniping, even from below. And buildings don't stand a chance. Wham-bam, Factory's gone, GG. This was it for the game, although he spent some time floating around the map with a Barracks. But not too long, since now, after you lose your last Command Center your opponent will see all your buildings, just like in WarCraft 3. Very convenient. Pretty much all niceties from WC3 have been carried over into SC2. I don't even mention this, since it's to be expected. For instance, throwing down a Sunken in the mineral line is easy enough, since they'll all disperse automatically; idle workers can be selected on a left-hand button; Tab moves through unit groups within a selection; 12 High Templar casting a Psi Storm will do so one by one; you can bind all structures to one key; and so on, and so forth.
A great thing was said today by the not-unknown [7x]Zeratul -- "He who looks for StarCraft I in StarCraft II will be disappointed. This is a different game." I agree, that's how it is. But the game is without a doubt solid... maybe even a masterpiece. Everything will come down on the balance. When the Beta will come out is unknown. The President at BlizzCon promised it would be this year, but Igromir staff say it's coming sometime in 2010. In any case, the Beta's going to be a lot of work. Beta-testers are the ones tasked with bringing SC2's balance to the state of SC1's (if this is even possible). I think that the following things will be (or ought to be) changed; IMHO, of course:
-Change Inject Larve. Fewer larvae, higher mana cost, etc.
-Changed armor type for at least one type of pre-Lair unit, so they're not all Light.
-Nydus taken up to Hive. Lurkers and Roach regeneration brought down to Lair.
-Higher cost for casting PC (alternately, it only works on a few Probes at a time, ie. 8). Remove ability to regenerate energy.
-For Disrutptors, make Hallucination come standard and Force Field require research.
-Dark Templar back down to Templar Archives.
-Only Phoenix allowed from Stargate to start. Void Ray now requires Twilight Council.
-MULEs are possible from Planetary Fortress instead of Orbital Command.
-Remove Marauders' slow.
-Require Starport as pre-req for Nukes.
-Stimpacks moved over to Barracks Tech Lab.
Additional Forum Comments:
In practice it turns out that Scan is used all the time, and there's no energy left over for MULEs. How are you supposed to NOT scan your opponent? Maybe he has hidden expos, or maybe he's build Dark Templar, Banshees, Ghosts, and you wasted it all on MULEs...
What this means is that cross-race match-ups end with the Terran receiving far less resources than the Protoss or the Zerg, thanks to Dark Pylon and Inject Larvae, respectively.
It seems that going into MULEs blind is just too dangerous. Of course each player will play differently, but we can discuss optimal BOs, right? No one will argue that you can 5-pool... and in some situations that's a must, but you can't play like that all the time. If the Protoss got Stalkers, scouting becomes pretty much impossible. He might be going mass Stalkers with Blink (Twilight +3 Gates), for this you need to defend with Tanks and Marauders or just mass Marauders. He might be going for a drop (Robotics + Warp Gates), you have to be ready for a Prism flying in overhead. He might get a fasto expo, or go DTs, or get Stalkers+Colossi, Zealots+Immortals, the list goes on. Usually you have only too many reasons to get the Fortress on an expansion. And surviving off a single ComSat is tough -- you can't scan or keep your energy saved for later. [Presumably due to casting MULEs all the time.]
I won't argue that maybe some compromise is called for -- getting MULEs in the beginning, for example, when a worker scout will suffice, then save up energy for Scans you know you'll need (based on worked out timing), but switching back to MULEs right after.
We'll see in Beta. =)