Hi everybody, I’m Kantuva, also known as Uvantak, I’m one of the better accomplished and known Community Mapmakers around and I was asked by a couple friends about my take on the Balance Test Map from my Game, Unit and Level Design point of view.
Some of the ideas I’ll write about will be heavily personal, such as my tastes regarding UI or other things, but even taking that into account I hope my ideas and point of views can be of interest to the DevTeam, Community and improvement of the Game via an open conversation; so lets begin!
We discussed this a few weeks ago and got a lot of great feedback. Regarding worker/army supply matching the supply count, almost everyone agreed that the change regarding working/army supply matching the supply count was good, so we’ll try implementing it sometime soon.
At the same time, we received mixed feedback on displaying the counter all the time versus displaying it only when you move your mouse cursor over, as it is currently. Right now we feel that it’ll be best to leave this as-is. We don’t want extra clutter on-screen, and since it isn’t primary information that’s needed on the screen at all times, it just doesn’t stack well with team games.
Regarding UI and usability improvements to the game I see myself as an “Open Minded Hardliner”, I personally don’t like to have UI improvements like the Worker Counter over Town Halls, nor things like the Army Button nor infinite Unit selection. A good way I could put it is that I don’t see “the game” and the “user interface” different from each other, to me they are just one big packet, a RTS game where you can select 6 units at a time, to me as a player will be just as interesting and likeable as a game with infinite unit selection, as long as the Developers of said games took that fact into account while developing their game and inserted it in a streamlined way into their user interaction/user experience.
Now because of this taste of mine, I don’t see issue with adding a worker counter into the supply, I don’t particularly like it,but I don’t see an issue with adding it either, and actually I consider that the set up or worker supply currently in place might be a poor way to handle it because from a UI perspective, the Icons in the top right of the screen are simply too small for an average player to aim & hover his mouse over it without the mental strain that he might miss the actual icon and accidentally scroll the screen, which from a UI point of view is (imo) enough of a nuisance for it to not be there at all.
There also is the point that this is not the kind of thing that can be easily discovered by those that need it most (new and “non-community connected” players). The top right border of the screen hasn’t “been taught” to the players as an “area of UI interaction” other than for the lone Diplomacy button which players use when they forget what race the opponent is.
Now, I fully agree that avoiding clutter in the UI is of very high importance and priority, even more so for Team games, and spectating of said games. Yet as it stands I don’t see value for the Worker Count with Hover System. I just don’t see it being used by those that need it, when they need it because it won’t be apparent to them that there is such a feature, of course I’m talking once again of the more community isolated side of the player base.
Regarding a possible implementation here’s my take on the issue.
I consider the UI of SC to be one if not THE ideal way to achieve a solid UI for RTS games, and fully agree that clutter should be kept to an absolute minimum, for all the well known reasons that entangles. Now this small proposal sacrifices instantaneous clarity to those just learning about the new addition for compactness, instead of adding a small Worker Icon to the left of the number like on Gas and Minerals or Supply itself, we can do so, by adding a | right of the supply, and then add the new digits. The | character is easily recognizable in that area because it is not a character that’s used on any other place of the SC UI, this way we can at a rather fast glance (like proper SC player) easily differentiate the new number from the total supply.
Now when it comes to aligning the new text, in order to avoid issues I consider that the new Worker Supply should “grow/be aligned” towards the right side of the screen using the new | as a pivot, like this;
I do not consider this to be “the only implementation” if this worker number were to be added, because there might still be issues lurking, visually players might be used to supply checking by mentally searching for the “end of the string”. And making the new Worker Number too visually similar to the current max Supply might disturb this unconscious search behavior of players. Because of this I consider that it would be a good idea for this new number (if this change were going to be tested) to be colored in a more darker tone compared to the white outlined font Supply uses, yet I don’t have the expertise to say which color should that be, probably a dark light bluish gray, but that’s better left to experienced UI designers.
I see a fair amount of benefits from coloring this new value, to start, by making it darker than the Supply text as I previously said, it wouldn’t clutter much, nor heavily disturb those unconscious & twitchy “search patterns” players brains might have, second the information would still be there, only it wouldn’t pop at the player’s eyes when he looks at the supply meaning that it wouldn’t be cluttering as much until the player decides to actually look and mentally focus on the number itself.
Now the concerns I have regarding this value as I outlined earlier would be that this new number can’t be understood by just looking at it, and this comes from the lack of icon, yet players seeing the new UI addition and not understanding what it is, will try to to hover their mouse over it expecting to see a pop up explaining the reasons of the new number there the corresponding explanations can be made, just like they have been made for Minerals, Vespene and Supply.
KR Pro/Coaches Meeting
Last week, we had a chance to meet up with majority of the coaches in Korea as well as some of the pro players. Their main complaint was that StarCraft II is way too difficult to master even for the highest level pros. Initially, we responded that StarCraft II is meant to be the peak challenge of all games, and therefore it is supposed to be nearly impossible to master—even for the best gamers in the world. After we dug into the specifics, however, we found two main topics that we want to bring up with the StarCraft II community.
It makes me very happy to hear that the DevTeam has a good link of communication with the Top players in the world and their coaches. From my experience working on my own little maps designed for top players, I know how extremely draining can it be to actually meet and talk with the top players, many times said players have incredible insights when it comes to the game, but they tend to know these things by intuition and gut, the experience they have build up over years of mastering the game. And this can sometimes sadly lead to them being incredibly biased regarding their own experiences, and what makes this worst is that these are not conscious biases, they are not trying to make the game bend in their advantage intentionally, actually it can go the other way around, they try to analyze their own short comings and come forward with what to them are good ideas which can help the game. The thing is that said ideas can end up being incredibly destabilizing for the game, if they are not quickly spotted and understood.
Now to the community readers, I’m not advocating NOT hearing the players, that would be madness! But doing so with care, I mean, we all know where the game would be if the Developers had decided to comply with many of the things IdrA or others wanted to change balance wise! It is exactly because of this that I consider very good that the Developers are more than willing to build communication links with the Korean pro-gamers among many others. Because doing so can be extremely tiring and exhausting when you know that the thing X said simply can’t be done under the design restrictions of SC.
KR Pro/Coaches Meeting
First, the Korean coaches and players felt that zerg requires many more actions than the other two races to be able to compete. To address this, they suggested that we bring back the automated larva injects that we tested in the beta. That’s a possibility, but bear in mind the buffs to other zerg units we’re exploring in the major redesign patch and zerg’s respectable performance in recent tournaments.
Now I’ll try to step with care here, macromechanics are a touchy subject for a good percentage of the community and I don’t want my little sequential/answer to the Community Blog to be discredited so early in its life.
Just kidding! Let the reddit downvotes rain!
So, in LotV the Zerg got basically shafted macro mechanic wise, but this is by very understandable reasons, the new economy heavily punishes non-expanding races, and Z is a race which tends to expand quite a bit, because of this and the natural asymmetry of SC, it is understandable that a good attack vector to avoid the Z economy from blossoming too much, whereas P or T can’t, is by asymmetrically nerfing the production rate of Z. And This works, as said, Z has fared respectably in the latest tournaments. Now that does not mean that it will continue to do so as the metagame develops, timings sharpen and player efficiency increases, I think we all can give that idea for granted.
But it is my opinion as an “Open Minded Hardliner” that I don’t consider reducing the APM tax of inject to be a good idea. Now, I don’t particularly like Inject as a back to base mechanic, but that’s what proved to work back in WoL and later LotV alpha development where you guys were trying all sort of interesting ideas to have a good back to base mechanic for Z and inject was the result of that, so I’ll not put into question Inject as “The best” back to base mechanic for Z “we” have from a design perspective.
As I said, I don’t think adding the automated Inject might be a good idea because the skill ceiling of players can easily take normal Inject as a mechanic/APM tax, the good old argument I would use is that “In HotS players used to Inject just fine! And it was harder than today back then!”. Yet there is a part of what “the Koreans” said that I find of crucial importance and that is:
Zerg requires many more actions than the other two races to be able to compete
Which I agree with, I do consider that Zerg requires more actions that are disruptive of “Battle/Army gameplay” than the other races for the race to compete, but I don’t think only making Z easier to play is the answer. I (as an “Open Minded Hardliner”) think that a way to correct this might be to make the mechanics of the other races more disruptive of the “Battle/Army gameplay”, to get inline with Zerg’s.
Now I realize that this is not the move a considerable amount of people might want, yet, streamlining the Zerg mechanic so much might be incredibly dangerous down the line from a Design/balance perspective, because as I said previously the player’s skill ceiling is always rising, and as such changes in the macro mechanics can very easily scale out of control. Even more so with the current LotV economy which forces players to expand at a very high rate which Zerg is mostly Ok with.
Going into detail of what I mean by nerfing/increasing the levels of “Battle/Army gameplay” of the other races macromechanics, I’m thinking of adding things like cooldowns for Mule and chronoboost, those cooldowns wouldn’t be “tight” ones like the old inject, but more of a 2 second Cooldown on the Mule cast to punish a Terran that does decides to leave his Mules in the sideline while doing “Battle/Army gameplay” because he knows he won’t really be punished when he comes back. Now, this is a touchy subject because of the asymmetry in the races, yet I’m not talking of this in a balance way, but more to bring parity to the disruptions of Battle/Army gameplay and APM/Attention tax with Zerg.
Now, when it comes to Protoss. I do not have truly valuable ideas of what could it be done with the macromechanics, it is known that many Protosses do not like their current set up, and would be happy to comeback to the old chrono set up. I think a decent way to slightly increase the back to base attention tax for Toss would be to utilize the old HotS chrono, and straight up increase the length of the spell considerably alongside energy cost.
Looking at possible downsides of these changes, they are clear. They strike against what has been the streamlining of the macro-mechanics that has caused so much interest from that side of the SC population that simply despises doing macro managing and I’m not sure I that would be the best movement to make if the Developers want to make the game more accessible to the greater population.
That said, there are other options regarding this topic of making Z less taxing, one which I have always considered interesting, and that is maybe finding a way to trade resources for attention, by that I mean something along the lines of finding a way to reduce the amount of injecting by allowing players to have more macro hatcheries, so they are trading resources in building macro hatches and having access to more larvae, instead of needing to invest their APM/Attention into Queens.
Now I don’t have a solid idea of how such a thing could work and the balance of such and idea between resource efficiency/player attention/base space/Build Order Optimization Based on Queen Defense would be quite precarious. But going by Liquipedia’s numbers, a hatchery spawns 10% less larvae than a Queen:
Inject; 3 Larvae/ 29 seconds | Hatch; 1 Larvae/ 11 seconds
So, I suppose roughly my point is, what if Inject is not a must, but a way players can get that extra edge to a well established core of macro hatches? Sadly I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself correctly here, so let me rephrase.
At the moment Zerg is designed to absolutely need inject, not only as a back to base mechanic, but also because hatcheries will simply not produce enough larvae, this small proposal is to not make Inject an absolute must, but make macro hatches a good alternative to having Queens on every base, this way reducing the heavy need of Zerg players to be attention taxed.
Other alternative to go along this might be to make some kind of upgrade which would allow hatcheries (or certain hatches, an evolve option like dropperlords?) to increase their larvae output.
In any way, I consider this idea of trading resources for attention is quite interesting. Yet I do not know how much might have the Developers already explored this area in the past. But I consider it something so attractive that’s worth writing on.
KR Pro/Coaches Meeting
Secondly, they felt that some of the harassment options in Legacy of the Void are either too mobile or too strong. We mostly discussed Adepts, Tankivacs, and Warp Prisms as the key units on this front, however, and we already intend to address all three of these in the major redesign. We don’t have any action items resulting from this feedback, but we feel more confident than ever that we’re on the right track with the changes we currently have planned for the major redesign patch.
This second point worries me, in the past I have wrote about the issues that sprout from forcing players into expanding, one of those is that because of the 3|4 base supply cap generated by Worker Pairing, units in the past were balanced and designed in an environment where players wouldn’t be as expanded and exposed as they are now in LotV, and because of this harassment of mineral lines would be considerably stronger than “it should be”. Specially when there is no “income pillow” generated by (comparatively to LotV) the very efficient first 8 workers in a No Worker Pairing Mineral line. And as I said, I’m concerned that these complaints might be one of the early ways Economy issues disguise themselves into balance problems of harassment units.
Adjustments to Balance Testing
We want to move pretty quickly with our next pass of changes since we didn’t get to discuss any community feedback last week. Let’s get the ball rolling on discussing upcoming changes so we can put them out as soon as possible—assuming everyone’s in agreement, of course.
There’s been an issue with the Cyclone’s weapon where its actual damage output was lower than its tooltip indicated. However, this lower damage output has been the value we have been intending to test against. We are adjusting the Cyclone weapon’s attack period and attack delays so that its damage output and tooltip line up with its intended values.
From my perspective, and I’m sure you Devs have had the same concern Cyclones are in a funny place. They overlap with non-Sieged tanks quite strongly which saddens me, but it is understandable that you guys can’t easily think of what space is left empty on the factory’s arsenal. That said, the unit as it stands in the test version has developed an interesting personality. In my personal opinion it works much better than the live iteration of the Cyclone when it comes to mobile anti-armored and Hellion support, on TvZ it is quite interesting to fight the Cyclone-Hellion comp with Roach-Speedling, same for PvT. Yet I have concerns of the unit’s scaling into the Late-Midgame and how easy it can be for the Cyclones to snipe TownHalls.
Now days with the extra volatility generated by the LotV economy compared to old HotS days, I’m not sure if the added game volatility of having this kind of mobile anti-armored unit is worth having games end because a player missed that sneaky Cyclone run-by into one of his 2 to 3 actually mining bases. Same thing applies regarding units like the current Swarm Host, only here it is a unit that gets made constantly.
Other than these two things and maybe thinking of an interesting way to make the anti-air capabilities of the unit more interesting, I find the Cyclone will be on a fairly interesting place once the unit becomes balanced as the stats tweaking advances.
We’re seeing feedback regarding Baneling health being too high (especially in the early game in ZvZ). If this is the case, we could simply move the health boost to come with Centrifugal Hooks instead of at tier 1. Please let us know if you agree with this direction.
I have a question, now I know that I can’t expect this question to be answered, but here it goes anyways:
Why do you guys think the Baneling needs a HP buff? What is the end goal for this change? For what Match Up are you guys aiming this buff? I can only assume that this change is to Buff Z capabilities vs the Terran 2-1-1, and Protoss Adept attacks and the new buffed Tanks (!) and making the race less volatile if the Z player gets caught with its pants down.
If this is the case, I can’t avoid but think that this 10 hp buff is misplaced. I consider the 2-1-1 will be mostly sorted out by Metagame changes on the upper two thirds of ladder population, and in the bottom one third, well… They will probably won’t be buildings banes to start with.
I personally consider that a Spine Crawler morph time reduction might be a better idea, Banes scale all too well for them to be buffed in the initial way, as you well said ZvZ was suffering very strongly. Not to mention all the new Bane-Bust timings that would be developed once the patch hit live, or how strong Ultra-Bane would be in the lategame vs those poor Terrans that still tried to play Bio.
Now, I can’t really say I disagree with the direction of the Buff towards the bane, but I would say that I don’t quite understand what particular issue are you guys trying to tackle. Maybe are you just generally concerned that we might stop seeing Banelings with all the new strong units that are entering the game and you are being proactive regarding the metagame Buffing the banes? I can’t really tell, but I can say that. Banes are mostly made for two things, Bane-Busting and dealing with Terran Bio. We are not seeing as much Bio as we have in the past on Live and in the Test version because Bio and Terran in general have always lacked an end game scenario other than Mass Snipe Ghost and few others. If this is the way the DevTeam might be thinking, by Buffing Banes the Meta won’t start seeing more Banes again, because Banes are an answer to Bio and Marines, if we stop seeing many Marines then naturally we will stop seeing Banes.
But anyhow, I’m sure there must be some people in the community that can give me an answer as to why there is this Bane buff that has me so baffled.
Raven Auto Turret
We agree with your feedback that the Auto Turret’s damage after the upgrade appears to be too high right now, so we’d like to leave their damage as is, and change the upgrade so that it only further increases the effectiveness of Seeker Missiles. Therefore, the change we’re thinking of here is to remove the damage bonus to Auto Turrets from this upgrade, keep the damage bonus to Seeker Missiles, and also add a longer tracking time to Seeker Missiles through this upgrade. This way, Seeker Missiles will follow their target further before expiring.
The Raven has always ever since WoL Beta struck me as something of a misfit. It has these curious utility abilities which are quite useful for a battle like PDD and Seeker; a spell that forces a mid-battle disengage from the opponent unless he has the attention, care and APM to select the Seeker Targeted units and move them away to reduce the splash. Yet, it also has Auto-Turret, a spell which clearly was designed as an harassment tool. An harassment tool on a slow 200 gas support unit which takes 43 seconds to build from an Starport with Techlab, the Raven also costs only 2 supply.
I can’t avoid but feel that the design of the Auto-Turret is not on a good place, in the way I see it, it just doesn’t belong where it is, I see it in the same way I see the current Locusts, it adds volatility to the game, 2 Supply Ravens with Auto-Turrets scales too well, excessively well, we saw this issue in HotS and it was patched with stat tweaking. Yet I can’t but feel that the design of the unit is problematic.
If for Auto-Turrets to “work” their duration timings need to be so short, and to keep them “balanced” their DPS needs to be so incredibly high, I can’t but feel that the unit is flawed. I honestly don’t believe people will use Auto-Turrets in the “original” conceived way, of having one or two Ravens added to the army which could fan out and place Auto-Turrets as harassment of mineral lines, the unit is simply too expensive and slow for this to occur, the risk of losing them is too high, instead players as always will try to play it safe and build up a critical mass of Ravens and slay the very crucial LotV 2 to 3 mining expansions with Auto-Turrets and PDD. I once again, don’t consider this volatility to be positive to the game.
Now seeing the Auto-Turrets from a battle support perspective, as previously outlined, Seeker Missile works as a disengage tool, now Auto-Turret works as a disengage tool too? The DPS of the unit is so high and it lasts for so little, I can’t but see it as a disengage tool instead a terrain control tool like it was used in HotS when Mech/Air Terran players utilized Auto-Turrets.
What proposal can I make that won’t be too disturbing for the Raven’s and Auto-Turret’s concept? Not sure, I do have a fair amount of ideas for the Raven and it’s spells. My first idea might be to make Auto-Turret’s bigger (not on Z axis), and increase its Armor while reducing the DPS, so it ends up with a 3×3 footprint and this way can be used more as a “Terran Forcefield” that players can use as a very useful support spell, for the value altering the battle field has, and because of its size it will be harder to put many of them behind a Mineral line, so it should be easier to fine tune them balance wise in that area.
Other small idea could be to change its attack into a flame thrower, similar to the Hellion, area, amount of shots to kill drones and energy cost could be fairly easily tweaked for it to not decimate entire bases, armies and mineral lines with ease. But it would still retain the issue that it would work as a disengage tool in mid battle, when the Raven already has two other spells that work in a similar fashion. Yet because the Auto-Turret attack would work in a straight line, players would be rewarded by using their Ravens in the flank of the battle, and hit the battle concaves from the side.
Fast Teching to Tempest
We’re seeing a lot of feedback on the Tempest ability being too strong when players rush their tech directly to Tempests. To combat this, we could potentially add a research for this ability to help slow down the timing in which Disruption Sphere comes into play.
The Disruption Sphere in my eyes is on a very interesting position, it is designed to “shoo away” tanks, and it does the trick, it also is meant as a good utility AoE spell for StarGate openings, which in the past for PvZ have been in a sometimes dangerous spot, specially if the Phoenix opening Toss got caught by Hidra timings. With this AoE spell it grants a much bigger stability to Stargate openings in PvZ in the face of a Queen, Hidra and Bane buff.
That said, I find the overlap with Storm very unfortunate. But once again, like with the Cyclone/Tank overlap, it is understandable. Yet the way in which this spell works worries me, it works wonderfully as an Area Denial spell, which is what the spell is meant to be, but in my mind I’m terribly concerned when down the line Protoss players try to build up Colosus-Tempest deathballs or derivatives of those. The amount of splash and area denial in these armies would be simply outstanding, and I’m not sure the other races have the tools right now to deal with that.
Because of that, I would suggest that the current iteration of the Disruption Sphere might not be the best for the long run, and this is without taking into account the issues generated by the spell being too early into the game. Now what route could this spell be moved into? I’m not sure, but I can give for granted that DevTeam has messed around with a considerable amount of different iterations for this spell, and because of my lack of knowledge regarding what were the iterations tested, I don’t feel like I can give a good constructive idea for this spell, nor that I could either way, not without it having strong overlap with other spells already in the game.
That said, I always considered a variation of the Mothership’s Time Bomb which only affected the fire rate of units inside it, and that said spell increased the fire rate of units inside it the longer the unit stayed in the AoE (Reduce the DPS) to be quite interesting. I’m not a fan of spells that reduce the speed of units because it means that a player’s retreat becomes extremely costly, so costly in fact that it can easily end up ending the game right there and then. Now, I agree that having mechanics and spells that help punishing a player’s over-extension/mistake is important, yet, I consider that many older spells go far beyond the acceptable limits of that increasing needlessly the volatility of the game and making players more passive with their armies, because they know if they make a single misstep, they might lose the game for it.
Protoss in General
We agree with a lot of your feedback saying the Void Ray change could potentially be a different option for Protoss to tech to, but some people also seem to feel that the Protoss need more tools at their disposal. We would love to hear some specific suggestions on this side, so that we can explore potential new strategic routes that we can test out.
I do consider a Void Ray buff to be quite interesting, it is a unit which has (imo) never received the necessary care for it to work, and with good reason, the potential for Void Rays to reach critical mass is a quite real threat, maybe not so much on GSL games, but it is not the idea to balance only around GSL.
Regarding what to do with the Void Ray, I have thought some curious ideas over the years, like changing the spell Void Rays have to instead of straight up increase the unit’s DPS vs armored, to increase the Void Ray’s range by 1.5 or 2 (to >7) and at the same time receive a speed de-buff, this way the unit earns its old WoL title of Siege Ship, and with its temporal 8ish range can be used to attack/harass static structures such as Turrets, Spores, Vespene Buildings, Bunkers, Spines and others.
Because of the speed de-buff it would mean that units could retreat more easily from the charged Void Rays, which tends to be a problem when the unit reaches a critical mass because it can shoot while moving, and on competitive games they are not alone, usually accompanied by stalkers, who excel at denying retreats, so players are forced to stand up and take the fight even if they know they will lose the battle because retreating mid battle would be terribly costly.
At least I tend to favour this idea over the straight speedbuff for the same reasons outlined above, charged Voids on a mid to lategame stalker or adept heavy army means that players will be reticent to retreat. Even when giving more mobility to Void Rays sounds like an enticing move in a highly movement oriented LotV, I would personally shy away from it.
Protoss in General
Some of the ideas here that we’re currently discussing are: Finding ways to potentially buff Disruptors vs. Terran and/or Zerg, or Stalker base damage increased vs. light while keeping the total damage vs. armored the same.
The Stalker buff is something that has been asked for years, and personally, to me it feels like I’m saying no to free candy, but this kind of buff on a core unit, which is already very mobile and when upgraded can fairly easily take on a considerable amount of Lings, its supposed “counter” makes me worried that even trying such a buff might get stalkers to scale all too well on PvZ, even with the Hidra range buff, I’m not sure that this stat change would be positive for the MU.
Yet at the same time, Marines deal very well with Stalkers, all too well actually, and I can 100% foresee some hard timings with Cyclones, Marines, Marauders and all, giving any kind of Stalker based army a run for its money.
The choice between a Stalker or a Disruptor buff is a very hard one to make, and I can totally see why DevTeam would want to ask the community. That out of the line, I personally would go for a Disruptor Buff, but not for a buff in line of a stats buff, but more in line with the original idea of the Annihilator which was meant as a reliable AoE unit.
Now I’m not saying to outright copy the Annihilator, but to make the DPS from the disruptors more reliable by allowing individual disruptors to have a lower and more consistent fire rate, maybe change the AoE to degrade over distance from the center while allowing for individual disruptors to “stock up” ammunition, not many, just two or three shots, which can be casted/shoot with a small cooldown between shots in order to avoid players shooting all their projectiles in the same second.
I hope this lengthy write up will help stir the discussion in the DevTeam, and just like I mentioned about DevTeam weighting Pro-Player feedback with care, these thoughts must also be seeing through the lens of the biases a Mapmaker might have.
I’m very interested on what other people think about some of the ideas in this blog, specially the ones regarding the Auto-Turret and Baneling, which I consider to be on very curious positions. But anyhow, enough writing for the day!