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Karune, Blizzard Entertainment's Community Manager, posted four sreenshots alongside the standard Q&A today. New unit models for the marauder, jackal and nullifier have been released along with many graphical updates. Our coverage will focus on the four screenshots followed by discussion of the Q&A material. The new changes in SCII's art design and the various graphical updates shown in the screenshots shall be discussed in the "ArtCraft" section.

Karune wrote:

In addition to our Q&A Map Maker Series, Gameplay Series, Lore Series, we are going to include our Community ScreenCraft Series, featuring screenshots crafted specifically to progress the dialogues and discussions we have currently going on in the community.

 

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Screenshot A shows updated Protoss shield graphics and the lens flare yamato cannon graphic.



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Blink Assault

 

In Blink Assault you can clearly see and feel the new sense of Terran grittiness. Team colors are a bit worn from battle and the metal texture in Terran units and building have been desaturated a bit. In this screenshot you can see Immortals take on the pounding of fortified Siege Tanks with their hardened shields, while the Stalkers blink up on the cliffs for the assault.

In this screenshot stalkers are blinking up the cliff to attack siege tanks. The barricade is stopping the Protoss warriors from getting through while the Terran tanks pound them from above. The marines on the top left look extremely plastic, whereas the marines in combat look much better. Also, the battlecruisers and the tanks are extremely detailed. The angle that the units are viewed at appears to make a difference.

 

 

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Screenshot B depicts AtG attacks and inline AoE mechanics.

 

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A Lone Outpost

The Terran Army struggles to defend their lone outpost in the scrap yards, fending off a Protoss onslaught just long enough until the Battlecruisers arrive. Though even with their reinforcements, the battle is far from won, as the Protoss also arrive with their fleet of Carriers to counter.
Nothing particularly new in this one, although a new Battlecruiser air-to-ground attack with an AoE is showcased. The screen clutter of too many lasers is also evident in this, although large battles are clearly very impressive in StarCraft II.

 

 

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Screenshot C features psi storm, the updated jackal model, and the hover height of the high templar.

 

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The Final Push

 

This screenshot depicts a large counter attack upon a Protoss base responsible for warping in several waves of attacks on Terran outposts. Dropped Siege Tanks bombard the area, while the Jackals torch up the surroundings with their area of effect line attack. Furthermore, the Marauders slow incoming Zealots as the Battlecruisers plasma weapons make short work of them.

Here we see the jackal model, which is basically a rehashed cobra. It has three wheels and a flamethrower attack, although the turret does not seem to match the direction it is firing. Things of note include the air distortion inside the gateway's warp, the twilight archon's body, which seems to be more filled out, and the change in the viking's brightness as it passes under the floodlight. The high templar seem to float very high above the ground; they could almost be air units. The soil texture on the bottom right looks out of place, and does not seem to fit the StarCraft II style. It appears that the texture artists simply took a picture of soil and put it in StarCraft II; this same problem was experienced with the ice terrain.

 

 

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Screenshot D highlights the marauder and nullifier models and animations while showing that anti-gravity affects some doodads.

 

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Anti-Gravity Back Door

 

I have taken a screenshot showing a Dark Templar squad secretly infiltrating the Terrans front lines with the help of the Nullifier and its Anti-Gravity ability (previous moved from the High Templar).

Screenshot D has further key points to notice. Foremost among this is possibly the Nullifier model and attack animation. The similarities to the Observer model cannot be ignored, although the scorpion additions are a nice touch. The attack animation has provoked a cry of "too many laser beams" from our staff members, wondering where the "plasma balls" of Dragoons and Arbiters have gone, worried that lasers will be needless screen clutter, however pretty they may be. Also important is the Marauder model, which appears to be a retooled firebat. While evidently quite fat, this model looks frankly great being both highly detailed and well proportioned. Finally, the apparent ability to use levitate on doodads, which was confirmed by Karune. While a good idea in theory, we do not see this being of much use in the multiplayer game. The creation of a players own paths will be easily spotted and neutralised by professional players, and even maps designed specifically to use this mechanic will be unbalanced in the favour of Protoss.

 

 

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Overall, Blizzard has improved StarCraft II's graphical style. Decreased contrast and saturation serve to reduce the cartoon overtones present in previous designs and build a sense of realism during gameplay. The team colors on Terran buildings are muddied with grit as opposed to being solid, vibrant colors. Unfortunately, this has not had a positive effect on all units; the marines on the top left of screenshot A appear extremely plastic, while the siege tanks and battlecruisers are much prettier, appearing very metallic and extremely detailed. The Protoss have been given a similar treatment, however it might have been overdone. Even though the Protoss still maintain their armor's familiar shine, the golden hue has been diminished and appears more "flat."

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One, Two, & Three wrote:

Will allies be able to use each others transport/teleportation methods? Marines in Overlords, Zealots in Nydus Worms, etc.. ? (sc2blog.com)

 

Many of these questions are still being debated within the development team and the final decisions will ultimately be determined through balance. Nonetheless, classic abilities, such as heal by the Terrans, will be usable on allies regardless of faction.

Does the Anti Gravity spell work for your own units? In other words, can you use it to lift up buildings to protect them from an early wave of Zergling? (TheWarCenter.com)

Yes, the Anti Gravity ability can be casted on friendly units and buildings. Also, the Anti Gravity ability has been added to the Nullifier, as the ability has proven much more effective in the earlier parts of the game. Nonetheless, this is still being tested and is subject to change.

What happens to units who are under a flying building when it falls down? Can you build a building under the building that are flying? and if that is the case, what happens to that building that it is landing on? Get.Yourgun (gosugamers.net)

This is actually a notable design challenge the development team is currently facing with the Anti Gravity ability. Currently, players are not allowed to build buildings under the floating object. When the object does land, it will land on top of whatever unit is under it. For example, if a Supply Depot is lifted up by Anti Gravity and it lands on a Marine when the ability duration is over, it will indeed land on the Marine (but will not cause damage). The Marine can then move out from under that building in the direction of that players choosing. The details around Anti Gravity are still very much in testing. As this is a new ability, many of the details are not finalized.

 

The questions and answers about anti-gravity fail to provide useful insight. In StarCraft, Terran production buildings have the ability to lift off and land. If a unit is “in the way” during the landing process, they are displaced. Defensive use of levitate (i.e. lifting allied structures) requires focused attention for ineffective gains. In the context of TvZ, a terran player rescuing a command ceter by lifting off implies the game is already lost. They are simply prolonging the inevitable defeat. Terrain is being levitated in some of the screenshots; this is imbalanced in the context of the competitive scene because terrain is placed specifically to ensure balance. Thus, the current incarnation of the ability highlights some powerful offensive use in the early game as well as some “cute” features that will provide flavor to Single Player gameplay.

Four wrote:

In StarCraft many glitches and near-bugs were discovered with the years passing. Many of them are used regularly and changed the game (Mutalisk stack, patrol-attacking, mineral hopping, Lurker hold, etc). This is and was even more true for other games (bunny hopping in quake or through-floors dmg, etc) and it became part of the identity of the game that people knew about those glitches, learned and mastered them. They became important aspects of the game.
Will any of these bugs make an appearance in StarCraft II, but as intentional features?

- Chosi (Teamliquid.net)

 

Yes, certain unit characteristics like the firing on the move dynamic of the Mutalisk, as well as stackable flyers will be in StarCraft II. Some of these characteristics may not feel completely the same, as it is a bit tougher to get flying units to stack, it will still be possible. Although it is important to note that not all of these characteristics will be making it back to StarCraft II, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to find new ways to use the units of StarCraft II in creative ways similar to the original.

 

There are many facets of the competitive scene that have been derived from glitches and bugs in StarCraft's original design. Blizzard is trying to respect the post-release developments while attempting to make a flawless product. The glitches of the original StarCraft are what makes the game so appealing and memorable as an e-sport. The coding mishaps of the time have never been repeated, Command & Conquer 3 for instance has no bugs as nostalgic as Mutalisk stacking, as memorable as a successful Lurker hold-fire ambush. The implementation of these "bugs" could prove vital to the survival of StarCraft's legacy, and of StarCraft II as an e-sports game as a whole.

Five wrote:

What are the duties of the Blizzard eSports team, and how much will they be responsible for promoting Starcraft II as and eSport? (starfeeder.com)

 

The eSports team is responsible for developing Blizzards presence in the increasingly popular eSports scene. Their duties include the planning and operation of Blizzard tournaments around the world in places such as Asia, Europe and the United States. They also provide third-party support for the eSports leagues that host both online and live events using Blizzard titles. Additionally, they help provide balance feedback to our development teams based on interaction with professional gamers and response from the eSports community. They will have an integral role in promoting StarCraft II as an eSports as they have done for the previous Blizzard titles.

 

StarCraft hyped itself without input from Blizzard. Additionally, the competitive scene exploded naturally without “dedicated” support. This is attributed to dynamic, fair, and accessible gameplay; the quality of a game is independent of marketing. “Dedication” to eSports and the concept of “community outreach” will not change the implications of poor design choices a decade from now. Marketing and public relations are secondary to expanding StarCraft's aggressive and balanced gameplay. In contrast, Warcraft III joined the trend of funding events, tournaments, and prizes for the multiplayer scene. This focus on the competitive community exists arguably outside the environment of a truly well-balanced, fast-paced product. Similarly, we want marketing to be pursued only after concrete aspects of development have been created.

Sources:
Battle.net - Karune's Q&A Batch 32
Battle.net - Screenshot A: Blink Assault
Battle.net - Screenshot B: A Lone Outpost
Battle.net - Screenshot C: The Final Push
Battle.net - Screenshot D: Anti-Gravity Back Door

StarCraft II Q&A Batch Archive - Batch 32

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