Starcraft 2: One Player Hands-On (+ InterChat)

By Kieron Gillen on May 25th, 2010 at 1:00 pm.

Turning up to a hands-on event for a much-anticipated game when you’ve already been playing the game for a good few months is a strange one. Of course, I haven’t been playing it. What I’ve been playing is the Multiplayer Beta – and WORD WAR THREE will actually return one day – and that’s not Starcraft 2 at all. To see what else Starcraft 2 actually is – the entirity thereof – is the reason why I’ve made my way across London.

Blizzard have previously said that people are taking the Beta as somehow a kind of demo somewhat bemusing. That’s not what it is at all. They consider it a developing tool rather than a marketing one – and playing it is a lot like jumping straight into World of Warcraft at Level 80. “As the industry has grown, the idea of beta-tests of products has become more wildly known, they’ve sort of lost sight of the purpose of Beta Tests,” says Executive Vice President of Product Development and Blizzard-co-founder Franck Pearce , “It really is – for us anyway – to get the game into the hands of players, while it’s a work in progress, so we can re-iterate on it further. So that when we finally package it up and delver it to all our fans, the experience is as good as it can be.”

They’re learning from the feedback, though they haven’t made it easy for themselves and the results are fascinating. Apparently, the Zerg are considered overpowered to players in the East, while the opposite is true in the West. And the statistics bear them out – which shows a problem. They’re having to balance for possibilities and future discovery. From what I understand, historically speaking, Starcraft was initially dominated by high-level macro-economic play, and it took a while for the micro of character placements to emerge as players started having this inspired paradigm shift. I’d have thought it overwhelming to try and future-proof. Pearce disagrees. It’s actually part of the fun. “It’s not overwhelming. I’d much more tag it as exciting, for us,” he says “That’s where the map-editor comes in. It’s so full-featured and powerful I know that people are going to conceive gameplay styles and create maps around those gameplay styles that we haven’t even conceived yet. It’s exciting – we’ve not just created a great game experience. But that the map-editor with the engine is this whole other platform, where other ideas can come to fruition.”

In terms of the multiplayer balancing, they haven’t made it easy for themselves either. Because they’re actually testing two things at once. “The biggest thing for me is that the matchmaking system we’ve put in test works so well that it compensates when it matches people up for the race imbalance,” Pearce says, “Even if there are races that are imbalanced, you still see an average 50:50 win percentage. Which is a huge challenge for us – because we need a great matchmaking system and game balance.”

One element of the single player game which I’m particularly fascinated by – which, sadly, wasn’t on show today – is the challenge modes. The idea is that they’re a series of challenge tutorials which introduce key concepts for playing online in an atomic fashion – presumably – like drills in a game of football. So when you actually go and play online, you have more actual functional skills than what a single-play campaign can teach you. With one of the widest audiences of every developer, they see their duty to try and feed both – and facilitate the growth of one into the other. “When we look at the RTS and our experiences with World of Warcraft, where we’ve been drawing players to PC Gaming… and in some cases, these people not only have never played MMOs, but have never even played a computer game. And they’re trying it out, because we’re running Mr-T adverts or whatever,” says Pearce, explaining their thinking, “and so if you look at SC2 and the RTS, it’s a very complex experience. And we did not want to take for granted any existing knowledge, in terms of delivering that experience. We can’t assume that all the players who come to the game bring to the table the knowledge of all the games that have been made. So we really want to find ways to bridge the gap between someone who’s never played an RTS, and the hardcore element of the online, Head-to-head play. The story-mode campaign has traditionally been what we’ve used to bridge the gap, but we didn’t think it was enough this time. Which is why we’ve introduced the challenge maps.”

Which kind of leads to what I actually played, which was about a half-hour with a couple of maps, plus fiddling around with the interstitial parts. I was really, genuinely surprised by what they’re doing there. I mean, who’d have thought someone would put a rhythm-action Zerg-dance game between missions? No-one would have guessed that.

No, I’m lying. It’s actually got a full Mass-Effect-styled ship section, with immersive sim elements.

No, I’m still lying.

And I’m doing so, because I’ve got the suspicion that – to the always-novelty-hungry RPS-readers – they may be actually a little disappointed. What we have here is classic Blizzard – smart moves (in fact, arguably the smartest moves), but most impress in their precision rather than their vision. The nearly-thirty missions are connected by ship-set-scenes which recall the line of internal-environments used by games in the lineage of Wing Commander. Rather than menus, you click on things in the environment to activate them. So you can spend cash on upgrades in some manner of Armoury, sort out your research in the lab, and hire Mercenaries in the Cantina. Plus chat to people to forward the story. And watch the news. All of which can be ignored if you want to press on with the click-destruction, but savoured if you have that temperament. And, for all the talk about the relatively modest engine, the in-engine cut-scenes have some marvelously solid character work.

You may have noticed a handful of actually nifty things just casually dropped in there. The upgrade system seems pretty elegant. Completing missions gives you cash, which allows you to unlock permanent abilities for your troop types – alternatively, for starting a contract with one of the Mercenary groups. These are limited-number improved versions of normal unit types, who can be summoned from a special structure when you’ve signed the aforementioned contract. More money, but they turn up instantly to bring the kick-ass.

While there’s questions of priority with the cold cash, it’s in the actual research which the hard decisions start. As you play each mission, there’s the option to gather Protoss and Zerg tech. As you collect it, you climb the respective tech-tree. At each stage, you get the choice between two mutually exclusive upgrades. So – for example – choosing between the specialist-close-combat blast-field robo-dogs (Well, they looked like dogs to me) will stop you getting the hardy transporter, and vice versa. Fundamentally, the single-player game is a chance to step away from the rigorous balancing of the multiplayer game, and drop in some interesting units which would break the game in a competitive environment but can be contextualized in a single-player mission much easier. There’s a degree of non-linearity to it, with you being able to select from a number of missions. In other words, get stuck and you can go off and do something else, then return later with some better guns.

The two levels played certainly are promising. Both offer a lot of colour, while not falling to being simple gimmick levels, divorced from the actual real experience. The first involved actually gathering six energy sources from nine in the area – while the Protoss were trying to seal up the same sourcexs. The second was a defensive mission, based around you holding a base while an enormous mining laser cut its way into a vault – with the actual laser under your control, so it could be repurposed for annihilating an attacking wave. In other words, both let you have places where you could show actual skill and decide on different options. They’re also cutely reactive – in the first, one of your advisers suggests you not to try and take two at once, because they’re going to send in an enormous response. Being stupidly macho, you give it a shot – which the adviser comments on what a ballsy move that was. Good luck with it, eh?

At which point things get a bit messy as the Protoss pile on. Well, you were warned.

So, a strong RTS game is here, at least in this tiny impression. You can see the workmanship, like a craftsman-produced furniture. I’m certainly looking forward to playing more of it as the team finish their gargantuan, expectation-heavy route. I’d be intimidated. Blizzard, apparently, aren’t. “The team on Star Craft 2 is the same who worked on Warcraft 3,” says Pearce, “They’re accustomed to working on highly anticipated sequels. It’s one of the most experienced real-time-strategy teams in the industry, and they’re really passionate about the genre – so they’re making it for themselves as much as anyone else. And I think we’ve done a great job so far. I don’t think anyone’s going to be horribly disappointed at all.

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90 Comments »

  1. DrazharLn says:

    I’m sorely tempted.

    I thought I would only buy this for the custom maps (as that was all I ever used wc3 for) but after playing the beta a number of times at a friend’s, I think the multiplayer could actually hold some value for me too.

    I really liked the original starcraft campaigns, and this one looks to be even more interesting. I’d go out and preorder for a beta key right now if I wasn’t supposed to be revising…

    I agree that the challenge things sound like a great idea, too. In the multiplayer matches there isn’t really any room for error, so experimentation is right out if you want to win.

    Even if the MP does fail, the level editor looks brilliant…

    • Philip L says:

      I am in exactly the same boat as you. I pre-ordered this mostly for the user made maps (which is all I ever played in the original Starcraft, and in Warcraft 3). However, after getting the beta and playing some ACTUAL RTS games, I’m really, really enjoying it for what it is! Cannot wait for the campaign either. Definitely my most anticipated game of the year!

    • Kerome says:

      That rings a bell. I’m getting quite interested in trying the co-op multiplayer. It should be really interesting to see how far they’ve taken that concept, in many ways it should be more forgiving and more open to experimentation with strategies than the competitive ladders. And I always enjoy Blizzard’s story-telling, it was always going to be a day-one purchase for the campaign.

      But the competitive ladders are a lost cause as far as I’m concerned – it’s just a treadmill, and not a very interesting mode of interaction with other players for me. Although there are probably hordes of teenagers which will disagree.

  2. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Never played Starcraft 1, my young eyes melted when it came on-screen.
    I’m still playing Red Alert 2 though <- The greatest RTS in my opinion.

    Might give this a shot. Maybe. Should just save my money… and stick with Red Alert 2

    • DrazharLn says:

      Wut!?

      I thought starcraft had aged really well, much better than wc3 has, anyway. It’s like many of the 2D games from that era, they still look great because the technical limitations on 2D art were very small.

    • Philip L says:

      I am a big Red Alert 2 Fan (It is perhaps my favourite RTS PC-wise, at least), and highly urge you to try Starcraft 2. You’ll love it (… I offer no refund if you go through with it :P).

    • jameskond says:

      I too am one of these young people, but I started with Warcraft II then went over to Red Alert 3 and ended with Warcraft III :), but having played the beta for a while this seem to get my Warcraft vibes going agaiN!

  3. dwfoljkbfoihhw says:

    The one question that stands out for me in general about starcraft 2′s single player campaign is: how does it compare with the dull Dawn of War 2 campaign?
    They’re doing the same style of mission set up, but does Blizzard take note of what those kiddos did wrong at Relic concerning the campaign (i.e novelty of their innovation set to repetition, annoying defend mission 20+ times at one location, very not compelling story)?

    On another note, I am gold (pre-patch)/platinum rank 7-10 in the beta. I can already feel it- this is one of those games that is going to be here for a while, so long as Blizzard doesn’t go Kotick money crazy. I put in over 500+ hours into warcraft 3, and this is looking to work out the same. It’s Red Alert without all the crazy hard counters and gobal/player special abilities (the bane of all RTS games when you have too many of them), and that’s all I wanted in my RTS. It’s really astonishing how much polish is already in the multiplayer, and balance has been fine tuned to a point where small changes are the only things needed now. Blizzard, you haven’t disappointed me yet with your RTS.

    • DrazharLn says:

      How do the games play up in the lofty heights of the gold/platinum league?

      I’ve only played in the Copper league (though my friend and I managed to get to 1st in the league before the reset) and I’m sure I’ve missed out on most of the cool tactics. Almost all the games I’ve played ended quickly in a rush of some kind.

      [clarification: I was playing the SC2 beta at my friend's house, on his account, we weren't sharing a key across multiple computers]

    • Pod says:

      DOW2′s campaign wasn’t dfull.

    • Psychopomp says:

      As far as the single player goes, it’s Blizzard. Their entire shtick is perfecting the ideas and innovations of other developers.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Drazhar, the higher up you get, the less effective rushes will be on average. You will see far more harrassment, and will have to deal with far more pressure, though.

    • mrmud says:

      The difference betwen say Silver and Platinum/Diamond is pretty much all down to mechanics. Silver and gold level players (bronze perhaps less so now that there is no copper) usually have a pretty good grasp at tactics and strategy. Its just that its hard to pull it off perfectly.

    • Psychopomp says:

      I see you watch Day9, too

    • mrmud says:

      Its pretty much true as well.
      Something he said during the “Plugging leaks in silver/gold level” cast totally explains why I have been doing so well with zerg too. That lower level players are so passive that its really easy to get away with just dronepumping as a zerg. And a zerg that is allowed to dronepump and take his half of the map becomes really hard to deal with.

  4. RogB says:

    top shot, nice!

    Its a shame Blizz dont have any art directors. (i jest!)

  5. Tom OBedlam says:

    I was already interested in this for the single player with absolutely no interest in the MP, but this challenge mode sounds very interesting and might do the trick to get me into MP. I’ve always had the problem that I’m a fairly casual RTS gamer, so on the few occasions I’ve tried playing Red Alert 2 online I’ve had my arse squarely kicked.

    • Brumisator says:

      You and me both, bro.

      I’ve always sucked at MP RTSs, and I have no interest in training like Rocky to be come the pokemon master.
      I just want to play, for…you know… fun.

  6. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Another very interesting aspect to single-play in Starcraft, Kieron, is the fact they are also trying to balance races differently between single-player an multiplayer. Essentially Blizzard recognizes that the two game modes are played very differently and so data must be split. units stats and even powers may not be the same.

    Some cynical gamers like myself may call that an excuse to hide AI deficiencies. But I think that is missing the point. What I think is that Blizzard really seems to want to give a different experience to single players from that of multiplay. And in doing that, help hone the skills for a single-player to eventually go competitive on multiplay. I agree with their assertion that single-player campaign modes in RTSs have historically been more damaging to single-players aspirations in becoming good multiplayers than what one would be lead to think.

    To be honest with you, I would be a lot more skeptical of this whole move from Blizzard if it wasn’t for the fact they are actually including a full-blow editor exclusive for single-play. And that is gold. Because this editor will give creators the ability to draw maps and hands-on experiences that no multiplayer will ever see in their games. For what purpose? For instance, to actually simulate multiplayer conditions!

    Of course there’s always the argument if this isn’t just a another way blizzard is using to hint players into multiplay mode. I mean, show them the carrot on the end of a stick… I think it is. But contrary to Diablo 2 online exclusive content, now we have singleplay exclusive content. I think that at least should put the most skeptical singleplayers like myself on hold. Let’s see if this will work.

    • PHeMoX says:

      “Essentially Blizzard recognizes that the two game modes are played very differently and so data must be split.”

      Wow, I totally disagree. What they try to accomplish is providing a similar experience for single and multiplayer. Not a different one.

      Most of the auto balancing behind the screen tends to do more harm than good. Starcraft 1 did not actually have a whole lot of that casual orientated crap.

      I sure hope Starcraft 2 doesn’t either. And it’s certainly not hiding AI deficiencies through odd balancing or something. That would be quite unlike Blizzard, although I haven’t been excited about them ever since the abomination called World of Warcraft.

    • Mac says:

      Don’t really get what you’re trying to say here. They actually HAVE split the data. All the numbers between singleplayer campaign and multiplayer are different, it’s 2 different files. And that’s good, it means they can make an engaging and cool single player experience without worrying that removing some ability from multiplayer will take all the fun out of a unit in singleplayer. Or they can give singleplayer units more fun abilities without worrying about game balance.

      The singleplayer practice they’ve implemented to train people before they go multiplayer, challenge modes, will of course have multiplayer values.

    • Kualtek says:

      @PHeMoX

      From what I understand of all the interviews and previews i’ve seen, they are doing EXACTLY what Mario is mentioning. What he said might even be a direct quote.

      For instance, in the single player there are ground based medics, like SC1, however they do not exist in multiplayer. The upgrades and mercenaries you can purchase are also single player only. It may be the same game, but the way it’s played will be different from single to multiplayer.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @Phemox

      By completely separating data, you get all the freedom to design all sorts of differentiated single-player experiences as well as design multiplayer training “maps”.

      Single-player data is fully parameterized and in your control. Now, contrast that with the more traditional RTS single-player campaign where you would be constrained to set data shared between multiplayer and single-player modes. Your only hands-on experience as a single-player wanting to move to multiplay was the game AI. And that’s essentially what most players eventually wanted to beat, delegating their actual knowledge of the game mechanics.To beat the game AI and, worse, in a well defined environment given by the game map.

      The reality of multiplay mode however is the opposite. There, players ability to fully understand the game mechanics is crucial and a decisive advantage. Something you eventually gain with experience. But for many single-players coming into multiplay with all the bad habits of what will always be a poorer AI, the experience was so traumatic they would seldom consider returning. To this date I don’t even know how or why my ass was so soundly beaten in Starcraft multiplayer. It’s the classical “I didn’t even see what hit me”.

      So Blizzard is introducing a mechanism that allows you to really hone your game skills in single-player mode. Trying to get closer to the some holy grail of RTS game design that says “If you beat the single-player campaign, you are ready to go online”. This will be the focus of the main single-player campaign. To give you good skills at the game.

      But being that this also happened to become a game within a game, the single-player mode freedom of creation, really should appeal to any hardcore singleplayer with its potential to be fully tweaked and new content to be created.

  7. subedii says:

    What complaints there were for DoW2, Relic took to heart for Chaos Rising, which was vastly improved.

    It was a more linear campaign, but that allowed the experience to be far more structured in terms of making each mission unique and much more story driven. I was actually a lot more interested in the story and characters this time around, which is rare for an RTS.

    Also, I found the campaign in DoW2 really rocked when you turned up the difficulty and played it coop with someone.

    • Sassenach says:

      The problem I had with the DOW2 campaign wasn’t so much it’s structure, but that if you played it on the hardest level there were some situations that couldn’t apparently be beaten except by retreating and reinforcing multiple times, or whittling down enemies with nukes deployed either from out of range or by stealth. Worst of all was the final boss of the expansion, which took the better part of an hour to kill. It rather broke the theme of The Emperors Own Chosen Space Marines having to chip away tiny portions of health before having to run away and get a free refill of elite soldiers.

      It’s disappointing because I thought the campaigns in Company of Heroes were much better at challenging you on the higher difficulty levels, leaving you room to improve. Should it be that I am simply not seeing how to finesse my way through the campaign rather then bludgeoning my way through I would be interested in learning how I might remedy this situation.

    • kout says:

      You need to manage your base, defend incoming attacks, keep your minerals low, rescue a neutral unit and defeat your opponent all while microing a probe that is constantly being chased by a zergling.

      Great.

  8. rocketman71 says:

    Still no LAN. Still no sale.

    • alseT says:

      I think you aren’t up with the news. LAN is in, you can even play with just one CD key, but one person needs to be logged into battle.net.

    • Brumisator says:

      I suspect alseT is talking about some kind of hack.

    • alseT says:

      I can’t find the interview again but it was a while ago after the uproar. If I find it I’ll post it here.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Please do because Blizzard has been very clear on this. There will be no LAN.
      They said the same thing about Diablo III.
      It’s, btw, one of the two reasons I probably won’t buy both. I never (with very rare exceptions) play games online. Only with my friends on weekend game parties.

    • royale says:

      Any chance you may bring LAN support coming to Starcraft 2?
      “No. We’ve made the choice at this point that we’re not including LAN. The biggest part of this is when you look back, we changed the feel of Starcraft 2 around getting away from Battlenet being this place you go up to do the hardcore gaming and that you’re always connected to.

      The experience is shared as much as you want with friends – but those things are tracked as you do it and we felt like staying connected is a part of that, so that’s been our main driving force. You don’t have to worry about going and clicking the scary Battlenet button to go do that and login. As a part of that, we feel like LAN is not necessary feature.”

      –interview with Blizzard’s Chris Sigarty, 5/20/2010

    • alseT says:

      Yeah apparently I was talking out of my ass. I don’t know where I got the impression they backed down on the “no LAN” thing. Wishful thinking maybe

    • Jeremy says:

      I’m not really bothered by lack of LAN. There comes a point where people hang onto an idea because it’s comfortable even though everyone in the industry is moving away from it. The chances of me ever being in the same room as multiple people to play a game locally over a network is down to about 0% now, and I think that’s probably true of a lot of people. Even in the past when I’ve been in the same room as people, we generally would join together, via the “internet”, to play some games.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      There will be a LAN crack anyway, and Blizzard will likely offer some solution of their own if this turns out to be a serious limitation.

    • jsdn says:

      There won’t be a LAN crack because you can’t crack something that isn’t there…. Don’t pretend you have any idea how a crack works.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @jsdn: Are you just arguing the terminology, or something? The need for the official servers have been removed from various games before, one way or another. The SC2 beta already has such a crack, though no LAN play yet.

    • jsdn says:

      There’s no P2P or LAN networking code in SC2. If there was the networking code, but you had to login to bnet before it was available, it could easily be cracked to bypass the login. But there’s nothing to bypass, because there’s nothing there. The easiest thing to do would be to emulate bnet’s servers, and that’s not something that will happen overnight. I wouldn’t expect to see a stable emulator within 6 months of release.

    • Jeremy says:

      I beg to differ. I’m working on the AAA FPS crack… right now.

  9. Vandelay says:

    I find it odd that people say the Zerg are underpowered, because I really see them as having a lot of early game advantage. Most of my games versus Zerg seem to go the same way (I play Protoss); I start to get my Zealots out, but by the time I get 3 or 4 a swarm of about 8 to 10 Zerglings arrive in my base and head straight for my Probes. I have to stop them gathering and chase the Zerglings around the base with my Zealots, until I eventually get rid of them. By the time this is done another load of Zerglings is already in my base.

    If, by some miracle, I am able to hold this off (which I have recently started to be able to do) I am them quickly assaulted by a whole load of Roaches. With my economy already suffering heavily from Zergling harassment, I don’t have enough to hold them off and I am done for. The odd occassion I have been able to get to Immortals, I am then quickly swamped by Mutalisks and no chance to come back. The game generally devolves into us both attacking each others bases, trying to destroy all the buildings before the other one does.

    I may only be down in lowly Copper (although I quickly went to the top of the division after some horrid placement matches, so I probably should be in Bronze,) but I really can’t see how you should be able to cope with the Zergs ability to quickly switch between techs so easily. All it takes is for the play to set up a Spire whilst he is attacking, cast Spawn Larvae on his hatcheries and suddenly he has a massive army of air to deal with the forces I have been building to counter his Roaches/Zerglings. Their unit diversity is a real problem for them and late game they really suffer, but an aggressive early attacker seems impossible to stop and they seem to be able to rush much quicker than any other side.

    I love the sound of this single player (and I am enjoying playing multiplayer in other match ups besides Zerg.) I just hope they are able to keep the mission diversity up. Only focusing on one side could make things a bit tedious if they are not careful.

    • Psychopomp says:

      It helps if you put your first few zealots on your choke, and hit hold position. If it’s one of the maps with a wider ramp, you might want to consider setting your first few pylons and gateways up there if you suspect some early agression. It’ll leave them open to harassement later on, but it’ll stop Zerglings dead in their tracks.

    • alseT says:

      Yeah blocking your ramp against zerg is basic basic stuff. And zealots absolutely destroy zerglings so they will need to get roaches pretty fast.

    • Chiller says:

      Use the buildings to block the entrance to your base with a few zealots to defend the narrow gap you might want to leave in. Zerglings hitting probes is a valid tactic (because of their great speed) that zerg players will use at all stages of the game so you have to be prepared for that.

    • mrmud says:

      As people have already said. Build your initial pylon at the ramp. You either use your first gateway + pylon or gateway + cyber core to create a 1 zealot gap at the top of the ramp. Put your first zealot there on hold position. Now the zerglings cant get past and if they try to kill your zealot you will score loads of kills.

      This pretty much holds any very early push. Then you should try to get a sentry out fairly fast, position the sentry at the top of your ramp (behind your choke) and if the zerg tries to break in you forcefield the ramp.

    • mrmud says:

      *Cant edit because I cant log in*
      Little known fact (for people who arent very familiar with the game):
      Zerg wants to be passive! Due to the way that zerg larvae work, zerg works best when he is allowed to spend all his money on drones in the early game with just a few units as either defense or harrass. Because of this, it is incredibly important to be agressive when facing a zerg so that he has to spend larva on combat units instead of on drones.

    • KikiJiki says:

      As others have said, wall off leaving one hex path open and plant a zealot firmly there until you want to expand with hold position.

      From patch 12 roaches cost double food as well (bringing them up to 2 food) so as a (current terms) platinum league player I can tell you that they aren’t as widely used in my experience as they were before, and certainly can’t be in as great numbers (kind of annoying when someone tries to 2 gate proxy rush you but you adapt).

    • Sic says:

      Two things:

      1. Blocking your ramp with either buildings or lots (or a combination — right now it’s pretty popular to have a one-Zealot slot blocked off by a Zealot).
      2. Going for early Stalker.

  10. Munken says:

    “elegant pretty elegant”

    New U2 song about Irish dressmakers shot dead by British troops?

  11. Thirith says:

    I keep thinking that there must be an RTS out there that I’ll enjoy, and I never do. I thought that the first one or two campaigns of Warcraft 3 were pretty good, but somewhere down the road I always lose interest and fail to finish these games. Perhaps I’ll give Starcraft 2 a chance once it’s out at cheaper prices. Or perhaps I’ll finally accept that RTS simply isn’t the genre for me.

    • subedii says:

      Well every genre isn’t for everyone. Personally I got bored with Warcraft 3 as well.

      Are you talking about singleplayer or online experience? Because whichever RTS you play there’s always a HUGE difference between the two.

      Maybe you’d like the less micro intensive gameplay of Dawn of War 2. Red Alert 3 is good for its quirky singleplayer and pure kitsch. Company of Heroes is good if you’re looking for something with a “Band of Brothers” feel to the campaign.

      In any case, the singleplayer of SC2, from what I’ve heard, is shaping up to be something quite well executed, so personally I wouldn’t rule it out completely just yet. Even non RTS games seem to be showing a hefty interest in Starcraft 2 these days.

    • Xocrates says:

      @subedii: don’t you mean “less mAcro intensive gameplay of Dawn of War 2″?

      Macro pertains to base building, which DOW2 has none. Micro is about the individual unit control which DOW2 is nothing but.

      Actually, for all the talk about micro in Starcraft (1 & 2) I’ve personally find DOW2 and CoH more demanding on that front since at low level play (which is where most people are) “blobbing” is not an option in DOW2 and CoH.

    • Thirith says:

      I don’t think I played much of multiplayer RTS – I’m a story junkie, so there are few multiplayer games in general that I enjoy all that much.

      Dawn of War sounds interesting. Might give that one a whirl at some point.

  12. Quests says:

    I have no idea what i read, i thought i was gonna read about how the Single player campaign is structured, the story, the drama, those cool “puzzle adventury” times between missions, instead i read about balance in the multiplayer(something im not even going to touch with a 10 metres stick), and “tutorial” missions that introduce to those deathmatches with online madmen.

    Yes i’m only here for puzzles and drama. I think that playing a game online means that every aspect of the lore, the setting, the charisma is going to be dissed as “RP carebear” junk. When a person plays online matches, he’s going to put all graphic details to zero to be smoother.

    So why call this Starcraft2, give it a sci-fi attitude? For all players care, the “factions” could have been kitties, millers and santa-helpers.

    I hope Starcraft2 DOES care about players who want good single player experiences, with a story, variety, choices, interaction.

  13. Finn says:

    @Quests: i’m one of those online madmen, been consistently playing in the beta for some months now and the SP part of SC2 is as important for me as the MP part; true fans of SC2 love the game AND the lore, even hardcore korean players usually know bucket loads of SC lore, it’s the medium/random/occasional/takeyourpick player that only cares about “pwning noobs” and “rolflore”.

    • Quests says:

      Good. So i hope there IS a SP campaign that’s interesting AND so solid as to NOT BE A TUTORIAL FOR THE MP(that is the serius business of any game, for many), that it’s not just the link to connect newbies and hardcore deathmatchers,

      Will my hope be wasted?

    • Psychopomp says:

      The single player and the multiplayer have nothing in common besides setting and units.

  14. Vandelay says:

    @everyone telling me how to stop Zerg rush

    I have started to block my ramp whilst playing against Zerg, but the fact that the opponent simply just clicks right on my mineral line to rush straight past the Zealots means that it generally doesn’t help much. I don’t normally use hold position though, which probably would help. The fact that the Zealots automatically move to attack the Zerglings means they just open up a gap for them to continue moving in. I assume that hold position would stop that.

  15. Dolphan says:

    @Vandelay – hold position is necessary. Once you have it on, your zealots will start slaughtering the blocked zerglings, so long as you’ve placed them so only one or two lings can take on a zealot at once. Also, after about the first two zealots, depending on build order, you can probably get a sentry out and start using forcefield to keep them out/split them up.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Yeah. A Zealot in this position can take roughly twenty or so zerglings before finally dying. In addition, the +1 weapons upgrade will let Zealots two-shot a zergling, pretty much making them a waste of resources until your opponent gets +1 carapace.

  16. Matt Brown says:

    I just wrote a whole paragraph about how bad RA2 is compared to RA1 and the sheer awesomeness of westwood and how much I miss them. Then my internet browser crashed soooo yeah I´ll just give a summary. Westwood is awesome and they need to reform. RA2 is decent but feels like they tried to remake magic of RA1. RA1 looks like utter rubbish but plays better strategically than starcraft and with more hilarious moments than Monkey Island (I still like monkey island before people start ranting). Must play first level of Soviet campaign in RA1: Shoot Barrels, Chain Fireball Burns Enemies, Green Flare Calls In More Reinforcements, Rinse and Repeat. Did I mention that RA1 has some of the most hilarious acting in a game?

    • jeremypeel says:

      I’m guessing you mean EA’s Red Alert 3? Red Alert 2 was made by Westwood and was pretty frickin’ awesome, featuring sonar-powered dolphins, stealth squids and a great building-capture system.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Oh no! It turns out that the enemy was already within when RA2 was made, and that the good name of Westwood was used as a mere facade, much as Hannibal Lecter used a police officer’s face to escape capture in Silence of the Lambs. Everything I know is wrong!

    • Starky says:

      If you use Firefox, get the addon Lazarus, and never lose a half typed post again :)

    • Sic says:

      RA1 looks like utter rubbish but plays better strategically than starcraft

      No, it doesn’t.

  17. Pijama says:

    I just noticed one thing.

    Starcraft II is more XCOM than the upcoming XCOM remake.

    That is all.

  18. Jacques says:

    I myself like RTS MP, but only versus people who are not ‘pros’ because what it comes down to is looking at an online guide, memorizing some strategies for each map, and then repeating them, there’s no fun in that for me and facing such a player (even if not a ‘pro) just results in frustrating early losses. I could go and look up the strats, but I prefer to experiment, and it is awesome when it works. That said this means the percentage of MP RTS events that I enjoy is very low, so I focus more on SP usually. The most MP I’ve played in RTS is CoH Opposing Fronts, which is both fun and outright frustrating at times, particularly due to the time limits imposed by the victory point mode. I by far prefer annihilation, as I focus on base construction more than expansion tactics (I’m a turtle, so sue me). My favorite match being between me as Wermacht and the enemy as the US military, they took the infantry branch and quickly got ranger squad deployments. Relying solely on ranger squads and requisition points, they managed to wipe out most of my base two or three times. Meanwhile to the side I had been building an army of flak tanks, oh the glory as my HQ crumbled and seconds later their entire force was annihilated by a half dozen flakpanzers who then proceeded to annihilate their base where they had practically no defense, having invested everything into ranger production. That was a fine day.

    SC2 seems to be shaping up to follow the annihilation mindset, but the lack of squads bothers me a great deal; I know that’s how it worked in SC1 and without it SC fans would raise hell, possibly rightly so. I know you can map keys to groups and technically you have more tactical options with more micromanagement, but squads just seem to keep things at a balance point, and besides what can one marine really do? What can a zergling do alone might be a better question. I’ve come from the Rome Total War camp to the Relic RTS camp and am considering setting up a tent at the SC2 tent, but… hmmm.. just hmmmm

    • jsdn says:

      You’re incorrect with the first sentence. The second sentence is what Starcraft is about. Starcraft has never been “solved”, every tactic is valid and experimentation is key.
      Also, squads vs single units is almost purely aesthetic. I prefer single unit because I hate to think that the game is restricting my control, but squads are essentially just one big unit that loses power as it loses HP.

  19. internisus says:

    I realize that most people, especially among the PC community, play games for competitive reasons nowadays, but reactive speech like that you described is exactly the kind of thing that I play games for. Similarly, I have been extremely excited about the Wing Commander / TIE Fighter style ship-environment interactive elements since they were first announced. Thank you for these details; my anticipation is building nicely.

  20. SwiftRanger says:

    “What I think is that Blizzard really seems to want to give a different experience to single players from that of multiplay.”

    Which is what almost every other RTS dev has been doing in recent years. Balance data between sp and mp has never been the same for most of these titles, even the game itself is radically different sometimes (cfr. DoW II). I think the only real thumbs up you can give to Blizzard is that they want to push specific competitive subskills in those challenge modes much more and that they can actually do a tutorial right. It’s gonna be like UT for RTSs with that difference that UT never felt limited in terms of UI and control of course. It’s easy to make actual mechanics out of that narrow set of interface tools but I think it’s bit over-the-top, I am not playing an FPS with only keyboard controls anymore either. Certain standards have advanced in the RTS genre and there is plenty of scope to go beyond it (even without mimicking the likes of WiC, SupCom, CoH or DoW II), too bad Blizzard only looks like pushing something in the singleplayer area here…

    Good thing the singleplayer sounds worth it because online just seems like pre-1998 all over again: not enough time, not enough UI shortcuts, and too much of everything else that only a Korean pro-gamer can handle. What a pity of that editor and Battle.net 2.0, they deserve a better base game than this imo.

  21. Manley Pointer says:

    Very excited about what they’re doing with single player. After playing maybe 200 SC2 multi matches a while ago and hanging around in Silver (I know, I suck), I sort of burned out. I do like the game quite a bit though, and look forward to playing it in the context of a larger story.

    There’s something that always struck me as weird about the SC2 community, though. I had decent success against Silver and Gold players with cannon rushing (which I didn’t do all the time, but was usually tempted to do vs Terrans). This was post-patch 3 or 4 or whatever, after they made the build time for warp games longer. People usually insisted that cannon rushing was “rude” or bad manner. I really can’t think of an example of another multiplayer game where people got upset 95% of the time about a strategy that was clearly counterable, and was clearly intended to be viable by the developers. I remember one of the patches right before I quit gave cannons more HP and SCVs less, which improved this strategy.

    It wasn’t really a matter of people calling me gay or cheap or whatever, which you see all the time in multiplayer games. It was like people explaining to me, the ignorant jerk, that I had broken some rule that everyone in the community knew. They would insist that cannon rushing was unlike any other kind of rushing; that it was just a nasty thing to do.

    I don’t see it this way at all. I was sick of somewhat predictable midgame battles, and I liked that the cannon rush changed the shape of the game, threw off build orders on both sides, and made me feel like I was playing a game where I had to think on my feet. Terrans at my level (which with the matchmaking at that time meant silver, gold, and bad plat) would almost ALWAYS wall-in, and tactically it just made sense to get inside their wall before they were finished building it (rather than using warp prisms and weird pylons to get inside their base early midgame). This is exactly what everyone else hated: how dare I disrupt their build order or use a strategy outside of the norm.

    If you want the gory details, my rush wasn’t exactly standard (at the time I was doing it). I didn’t build cannons behind the mineral line (which was popular at one point), which is very easy to spot and stop. I usually sent a scout out at the very beginning of the game, and aimed to get a forge up in my base as soon as possible. I had a decent BO figured out and would get only minerals, no gas. As soon as my scout found the enemy base (always before the wallin), I would find the darkest corner of it and immediately build a pylon, a cannon, and two gateways (in that order). If the cannon finished before the enemy pulled enough workers to stop it, the game was pretty much over.

    The great thing about this strategy was that it wasn’t as all-in as it looked. If you saw that the enemy had pulled a lot of workers (which any decent player would) you could always cancel the buildings before they finished. (So it seemed less risky than building the gateways outside of their base, where they would surely finish, but might not pump zealots in time to kill the base, and thus be a huge waste of minerals.) There was a lot of crazy micro to do with your scout to avoid getting surrounded, and you could even try building another pylon + cannon behind their mineral line while they were distracted killing the stuff you’d been building elsewhere in their base. It was a good test of your micro and theirs, and a pretty fun opening. When it didn’t work, you’d obviously cannon up and block the choke back in your own base, start working double time on gas, and maybe send out a worker to make an expansion (as the other player is either going to push hard or expand). Because he had to pull workers off his mineral line too, and you cancelled those buildings in time, you really weren’t badly matched on economy.

    I think it was a fair thing to do. Good players don’t usually fall to cheese, they say, and any good player would follow my scout as it started building, outmicro me as I caused trouble around the base, and maintain their econ. It was really a test of the same skills that determine every starcraft match, but in a very specific context.

    Sorry for the lengthy description. The point is, I found a way to play the game (sometimes) that I thought was fun and mixed things up a little, but everyone in the SC2 community found it absolutely intolerable. I usually have a thick skin in multiplayer games, but over time the constant whining from Terrans killed the fun of SC2 for me. The community likes to stick to the build orders they’ve learned by heart, and it’s apparently “rude” to force people to adapt. That’s a shitty way to play games, in my opinion.

    • Dolphan says:

      @Manley Pointer

      I think people just get frustrated with strats like that. There’s nothing really ‘wrong’ with it, but it’ll never be very good against decent enough players (I suspect they’d let you finish the pylon before swarming you, and then you’re behind even if you cancel the cannon) and you don’t get any better by playing that way.

    • Manley Pointer says:

      @Dolphan: Actually, I remember seeing replays from high-level tournaments on Teamliquid where people used strats exactly like that. It seems like a lot of good players open with cheese some (or a lot) of the time — the difference was just that they’re better at execution and adapting than I was. The cannon rush requires a lot of micro to keep your scout alive, cancel buildings, and continue to pump workers back at your base. so I don’t really buy that the strat teaches you less than “standard play.” It’s something that improves as your execution improves, like everything else in the game. As I said, I used this strat only some of the time, and it’s more fun when it doesn’t entirely work, when it makes the midgame more unusual.

      You’re probably right about good players letting the first pylon finish, but usually people didn’t have that calculated a reaction to it (again, playing games vs gold and some bad plat players). Also, I know some obsess over this stuff, but I don’t think losing 100 minerals for a pylon is that great a setback. You could make up for it by, say, killing a single unit of theirs by coming out slightly ahead in a skirmish. It puts you a little behind, but if the rush fails you’ll probably be turtling in preparation for their counter, so it’s not like very early game when a single unit could be decisive.

  22. Vinraith says:

    It’s going to be interesting to see if this one is worthwhile for people that have no interest in competitive multiplayer. I suspect, between the modding and the apparent care that they’re putting into the SP campaign, that it may be. I hope so.

    • Dolphan says:

      The first one had a well-paced and gripping campaign (it made a massive impression on me in my teens and I never once ventured online, though I have got interested in that side of things since). I really doubt SC2 will only be of interest to the multiplayer crowd.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Dolphan

      I enjoyed the story and the cinematics in the original, but vastly preferred skirmish play to the actual game play in the campaign. Too linear, too “go here do that” and so on. It looks like there’s been some move here to address that, I’ll be interested to see how well it works.

  23. Shane says:

    Multiplayer aside, it’s my understanding from words and moving pictures, that the map editor is so solid you can actually make 3rd person style encounters. It just seems like there’s as much opportunity for quality player made solo maps as multiplayer. A little something for everyone.

  24. Jacques says:

    Starcraft Spandex Ghost will yet live!

  25. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Also, squads vs single units is almost purely aesthetic. I prefer single unit because I hate to think that the game is restricting my control, but squads are essentially just one big unit that loses power as it loses HP.

    Way to contradict yourself there. As you said, squads lose attack power as they lose HP. Single units don’t. If squads can be reinforced anywhere, like it was in DoW, that’s even bigger difference.

  26. Joshua Rodman says:

    My burning question is: Will it have an Easy setting for the single player campaign? If so, I’m interested.

  27. Ovno says:

    I have to completely disagree with people complaints about dow2 I loved that game especially the single player, you didn’t need to faff with bases or anything you just got good battles and a bit of roleplayness, best singleplayer RTS in a long time IMO

  28. DMJ says:

    @Subedii: Hell yeah. DOW2′s co-op mode made the game for me. For me it is played best with both players in the same room. It makes you feel like a real team as you scream for fire support because the Commander has to fall back, or demand instant Death From Above from the Assault Marines to do something about the hordes of scaly creatures about to introduce the Scout squad to the finer points of disembowelment.

  29. Dominic White says:

    Quite frankly, any lack of crazy-weird gimmicks in the official campaign will be more than made up for by the community. It has already been proven that the editor can do pretty much anything.

    See this Touhou-styled bullet hell shmup made in the SC2 editor:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIkPcMbR5HE

    Modding in a dancing minigame, or a Mass Effect style explorable ship as a mission hub would be simple by comparison.

  30. Overwatch says:

    Remember this post when Blizzard starts selling James Raynor’s t-shirts for Legacy of the Void :). Hell, why not?

  31. Mathemazilla says:

    What planet do you come from?

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