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Beta Blizzard Mods

On January 25th, players from all regions were able to test the beta versions of three of the four official Blizzard custom maps announced at BlizzCon. These maps demonstrate the improvements made to the Galaxy Editor by Blizzard engineers and exhibit some of the polished experiences that can be created with it. This editorial will discuss the positive and negative gameplay aspects of each of these maps in their current design stage. In addition, it will explain some popular strategies and tactics discovered the SC: Legacy Strategy Staff and also explain some of the implications each map has on level design. To see how far they have come, check out our BlizzCon Custom Maps and Editor Panel editorial and map previews here.

Aiur Chef

Aiur Chef Category: Collection/Cooking
Mode: Free For All Players: Up to 8

Gameplay

Aiur Chef is a map where each player controls one Zealot skilled in the arts of cooking and killing. The inspiration for this particular parody seem to have stemmed from the popular Food Network shows, Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, as well as previously unused fruit models available in the editor. The Blizzard iteration of this game consists of three short rounds. Players must gather preset combinations of ingredients from around the map to complete recipes. Once all the necessary ingredients have been obtained for a particular recipe, players only need to return to the kitchen, located in the middle of the map, to complete the dish. They earn various amounts of points and additional rewards, which depend on the recipe completed. The player with the most points at the end of the three rounds, wins.

The map begins with a short introduction cinematic, in which the Chairman welcomes the players and the theme ingredient is revealed. At the start of each round, the player automatically has control of their aspiring Protoss chef. Each chef is identifiable by their unique individual color. Each round of Aiur Chef features a theme ingredient and three succulent recipes that play upon its unique flavor. Before players can master these themed dishes, they will first need to scout across the map and collect a variety of ingredients (including the theme ingredient). Each recipe has its own set of required ingredients, listed in the recipe menu in the upper-left of your screen, which can be picked up off the ground or acquired by killing specific creatures. Since inventory space is limited, players shouldn't get too greedy when loading up on ingredients. Thus, it is essential to focus on collecting ingredients for one recipe at a time.

Above the standard user interface options is a set of six boxes arranged horizontally, which represents the player's current collection of ingredients and special items; it's important to note that your inventory can only hold six items at any given time. There are a few abilities that the Zealot chef can learn by completing certain recipes:

 width= Blind
Blinds and slows the movement speed of the targeted zealot chef.
 width= Blink
Teleports the zealot chef to a nearby target location. Ability can only be used once every 3 seconds.
 width= Dash
Greatly increases the speed of the zealot chef when used.
 width= Psi Blast
Does damage and knocks back all surrounding enemies. Also stuns them for a very short time.
 width= Enrage
The zealot chef does 25% more damage and moves faster for 12 seconds.
 width= Barrier
Creates a psionic barrier at the targeted area.
 width= Hallucination
Creates 3 hostile zerglings that cannot use active abilities, cannot deal damage, and die more easily. Hallucinated zerglings last 30 seconds before they disappear.
 width= Influence
Influence a nearby zealot chef into attacking the nearest creature.
 width= Graviton Prison
Makes the target unit float in the air, disabling its abilities and causing damage over time.
 width= Musk
Forces all beasts near the affected target to attack it.

 

Gameplay Analysis

Positive Aspects

The map has in-game transmissions, which will generally improve the experience of new players. It's also a fun parody of Western culture that combines awesome cooking shows with virtual StarCraft styled competition.

Negative Aspects

A single instance of the map can be played by up to eight players at a time, but sadly it feels restrictive and devoid of real strategic depth, especially since there is no team mode implemented. It seems like there is much more potential for this map than is initially offered. For example, by introducing complex recipes that would require more ingredients than one player could carry or by adding more fighting dimensions a team mode could work beyond simply summing the team members' scores.

The briefing cinematic cannot be skipped. Players should have an option to skip the opening cinematic as well as subsequent briefings by consensus.The gameplay elements are very limited. Players get to choose from three recipes and can either concentrate on working on the recipe that provides more points or the ones where players can earn abilities or items to harass other players. The game is set to Free For All (FFA); the general rule in a FFA states that players should focus on empowering themselves rather than specifically focusing on disrupting an opponent. A map such as this with few, simplistic, gameplay elements can become repetitive and boring quickly.

The gameplay elements are very limited. Players get to choose from three recipes and can either concentrate on working on the recipe that provides more points or the ones where players can earn abilities or items to harass other players. The game is set to Free For All (FFA); the general rule in a FFA states that players should focus on empowering themselves rather than specifically focusing on disrupting an opponent. A map such as this with few, simplistic, gameplay elements can become repetitive and boring quickly.

The hero Zealot each player receives has more hit points and shields than a normal Zealot. In addition there are a lot of power-ups around the map that can quickly restore them; consequently, strategies focusing on killing enemy Zealots are far less attractive.

Strategy & Tactics

In this map time is of the essence. Before deciding which ingredients you will start collecting, look at their positions on the minimap and ensure you start from bottom to top, left to right or vice versa in order to complete the recipe in the shortest possible time.

Each round your inventory resets, but abilities you earned in previous rounds carryover. Thus, it is advisable to complete the second recipe at least once, because it provides the best power-up reward available via the completion of a recipe.

 width=

There are three recipes to choose from and each with different reward. Players should keep in mind there are diminishing returns each time a player completes a receipe. To maximize score, you should attempt to at least make the third dish twice and the second one once. The order is up to you to decide. However, it is adviceable to get the ability recipe first as it might speed the gathering process of the following receipes.

While it is generally very hard to lose your Zealot, because of the increased toughness of the environmental creeps, it becomes much easier. It is in this round that aggressive spells and abilities matter the most.

Level Design Review

The map has some nice aesthetic elements. The User Interface (UI) has been modified to have more kitchen-like feeling. The terrain and doodad placement is also visually appealing.

The in-game models are done wonderfully and are noticeable from the very beginning of the match. Each Protoss chef has a chef's hat on their head and holds in each hand one of a variety of different psionic cooking tools, such as a frying pan, a whisk or a spatula. Many of the different ingredients are not typical StarCraft models, and were added for the mod. These include various vegetables, animals, as well as some of the ingredients that appear after butchering a creep or StarCraft II unit, such as a High Templar. While some of the custom animals don't have the same graphic style as the StarCraft II units we're familiar with, they are still clearly identifiable and there was no visual confusion in their addition into the map.

There seems to be Not Yet Implemented (NYI) features on this map regarding weapons. This mechanic will start some time after the initial briefing. It is set to display a dialog screen asking each player to choose a weapon.

  • Knife: +25% Psi Blade Damage
  • Spoon: +25% Life
  • Whisk: +25% Energy

This seems like an interesting dynamic, which players might see when the map is officially released post beta. Extra damage might make aggressive strategies more viable or even speed-up the overall ingredient gathering process. The extra life seems like it would best benefit players in tight situations in the last round. 

In Closing

This map has virtually no potential link to the lore. In fact it doesn't have a potential link to anything except competitive cooking shows. Regardless, it is still an amusing tongue-in-cheek StarCraft experience. It is well worth checking out, for the beautiful models and unique, if not compelling, gameplay.

Left 2 Die

Category: Survival and Siege
Mode: Co-op, Night 2 Die
Players: Up to 2

Gameplay

Left 2 Die, one of the four professionally developed StarCraft II custom mods announced and previewed at BlizzCon 2010, is Blizzard's tongue-in-cheek homage to Valve Software's popular zombie apocalypse survival FPS franchise, Left 4 Dead. By combining the frantic survival zombie-vibe of Left 4 Dead with StarCraft II's RTS engine and gameplay, Blizzard has crafted a simple but engaging co-op mod to bridge the genres and broaden the game's selection and appeal.

Left 2 Die is an expanded version of Wings of Liberty campaign mission Outbreak, in which you must survive the nights on Meinhoff against hordes of the undead, while destroying the infested structures in the daylight hours. This mod offers a story driven opening in-game cut-scene, similar to Outbreak's, that introduces the players to their plight and their objectives.

The starting base is almost identical to Outbreak's. Each player must continually mine and produce armies to defend the shared base from the numberless undead. In addition to the normal undead, special infected units occasionally spawn as well. Modeled after their Left 4 Dead counterparts, they each have a unique attack or ability and are more difficult to kill. For example, one of the special infected is a "Hunterling", inspired by Left 4 Dead's "Hunter", that leaps on your units and a "Choker", that is similar to the Smoker, that grabs and consumes a few units at a time.

For each Zerg structure players kill, they earn Biomass. Biomass can be used to unlock new units (such as the Medic, Reaper, or Hellion) or new technology (such as reinforced and expanded Bunkers or Tech Reactors). Each player accumulates their own biomass but any units or technologies unlocked are then available for both players. Players will also earn Biomass if they kill special Zerg creatures. These creatures are modified versions of existing Zerg units.

For those players who enjoy a particularly rough challenge, there is a mode called Night 2 Die. This mode does not have a victory condition; players must try to hold off the zombies waves as long as they can. The first night is endless but zombies will attack the base by waves. Each wave is progressively more difficult to handle.

 width= Hunterling
This is a miniature version of a Brutalisk. It is able to leap to get to higher cliffs.
 width=

Kaboomer
A larger Baneling that can spit acid at a very fast rate. Additionally when it dies it will splash acid in a small radius.

 width= Spotter
An Overseer that can contaminate defensive structures such as Missile Turrets and Bunkers. It also has a slow but deadly attack.
 width= Choker
Unlike the Infestor, the Choker does not possess special abilities. However, it can do a Tentacle Attack that can disable and slowly kill units.
 width= Stank
A bigger and deadlier Ultralisk with 5000 Hit Points. Its Headbutt ability can quickly destroy buildings.

 

Gameplay Analysis

Positive Aspects

Left 2 Die is definitely a map that demonstrates how much fun cooperative play on singe player mission can be. The map has all the elements of single player experience. There are objectives and in-game transmissions alerting the player to the approach of the special enemy zombies. Additionally, it has multiple difficulties which allow players of all skill levels to enjoy the game and lastly, it is consistent with the Wings of Liberty campaign.

Hanson: Our readings indicate some kind of bio-infestation is spreading through the refugee camps. Even the buildings are being covered by it!
Raynor: It's a zerg virus. All we can do is burn it out.
Raynor: Every one of those infested buildings has to be destroyed.
Hanson: It looks like they burrow underground by day and emerge only at night.  The virus must make them vulnerable to the high UV output of Meinhoff's star.
Raynor: Then we'll hit the infested buildings by day and protect our base at night.

 

The custom content created for the map is visually appealing. While the actual models were changed slightly, the texture work definitely makes Zerg units resemble vile zombie monsters. Their adaptation so that these units had similar functions to the ones in Left 4 Dead was a brilliant idea that demonstrates the compatibility of other games in the Real-Time-Strategy genre.

Negative Aspects

This map can easily be modified to allow more players and this could create new interesting dynamics. For instance a player could have control of the special Zerg units or in a similar way more players can share the initial base if the size of it is increased.

The mode Night 2 Die does not have any victory condition. The mode simply forces the players to survive under the onslaught for as long as they can. Other than score and bragging rights, the mode has no incentive for players to continue playing once tedium sets in.

Strategy & Tactics

In the Brutal difficulty or in the Night 2 Die mode, it can be quite a challenge even for experienced players to beat the map. While there are viable strategies to obtain a victory in this map, this editorial will concentrate in a basic straight-forward strategy for the Brutal difficulty.

  • First Morning

Before the first night, players should attempt to raid a few infested structures to obtain some early Biomass. Avoid actually engaging any infested bunkers (they fire back), so that your combat units are still all at full health before the first night. Notice each player starts the game with 100 gas; in order to maximize the early production of Marines, at least 50 gas should be invested in one Reactor. Marines are the backbone unit of choice as they are cheap, have high DPS, and easy to mass produce. After the first Reactor, players can get either a second Reactor or a Tech Lab to research Stimpacks as soon as possible. The Bunker that already exists should be salvaged and rebuilt closer to the ramp, but not far from the choke or zombies would just stumble inside the players' base without being in range of Bunkers .A second Bunker must also be made next to the first in the choke. This is especially useful against Hunterlings, since they can prevent Hunterlings from leaping around to other areas of your base. Once the Adjutant announces there are only 30 seconds left before the morning, units should be finishing killing infested buildings and retreating back to the base. Make sure resources are spent on SCVs and Marines almost exclusively to save gas for Siege Tanks. Having a few Medics is also good since they can heal wounded Marines out of Bunkers. Lastly, it is helpful that Marines outside Bunkers stay together and in shooting range of the adjacent Bunker.

  • First Night

Players should keep massing Marines and SCVs. Eventually, when players have 400 minerals at their disposal, they should each make a Command Center right next to their Bunkers, so that choke is either partially or completely blocked. As soon as its construction is completed, the Command Center should be upgraded to a Planetary Fortress. On the first night, Hunterlings will leap to the ramps and attack Marines or structures built on them. Hunterlings within close range die very fast since the Marines will focus fire each time they get too close. As soon as 40 Biomass is accumulated by either player, the first purchase in the Science Laboratory should be Medics as these play a vital role in healing Marines that were attacked by Hunterlings or Boomers. The next 40 Biomass points could be spent on Hellions but one could also save these points to get to Siege Tanks faster. As soon as players have enough disposable resources, marine upgrades are very important to get as well as the Terran Building Armor as it will help all the player's buildings live longer. Kaboomers should arrive late at night and it is important to players focus fire on them as they destroy bunkers very quickly.

  • Morning Second Day

It is time to push out; players should have enough Marines to take out Infested Bunkers without incurring any losses. In the meantime, each player must make a Planetary Fortress in the north entrance because Infested Marines will break the barrier down. It is important that each player has at least two Barracks with Reactors and one Barracks with a Tech Lab to train Medics as they will make your morning pushes much easier. Players must build at least two Missile Turrets per ramp along with a bunker to quickly dispose of Spotters in the second night. If there are still undisposed resources players must build two to three Missile Turrets, near their minerals. Along with the players' main base upgraded to a Planetary Fortress will stop any Hunterling harass with Spotters from coming over the base edge. Also, make sure you have the Terran Building Armor before the second night.

  • Second Night

This is perhaps the hardest night, so one single mistake by either player can quickly result in the entire base being overwhelmed. One should not hesitate to take mining SCVs from the mineral line when Planetary Fortresses are under heavy fire as losing any of them can result in the entire shared base being overwhelmed. Generally, when more than two Spotters come to attack a ramp you will need extra Marine support as they will contaminate everything and thus they will get free shots at your buildings as well giving Infested Terrans vision to the adjacent cliff. In this night players can expect to see a lot more Boomers. These can take down Planetary Fortress down quite fast so players must focus fire them to prevent any substantial damage. If players can afford to research Siege Tanks, they will definitely be useful in dealing with the massing zombies. If Tanks are not purchased, then players should produce pure Marine/Medic as they will need to push hard on the third morning to get Tanks as soon as possible as they are helpful in dealing with groups of ground units and the Stank.

  • Third Morning

Both players should have a Tech Lab on their Factory and constantly producing Siege Tanks. Each choke should have two Planetary Fortresses to tank damage along with a few Missile Turrets for support. Players must have at least six SCVs on auto-repair for emergency repairs when a Stank is headed to a choke. If the choke has two Planetary Fortresses with SCVs repairing, along with Siege Tank support then the Stank will not be able to kill any unit..

  • Beyond...

From here on out, the game should be easy. If you have appropriate Siege Tank support, do not engage Nydus Worms outside the base. Later, as the instance progresses, Nydus Worms will spawn at some randomly within the base area. These must be taken down as soon as possible as the Siege Tank fire will splash nearby units and buildings. Having the Shaped Blasts upgrade before the fourth night is an important investment for this particular strategy. If you got lost or want additional details on how to follow this strategy, you can view how this is done in-game by watching this replay.

Level Design Review

The terrain is very similar to the one introduced in Outbreak. The base has been slightly modified so that two players have enough room to build any necessary structures. There are also two initial choke points. Later in the game Infested Terrans and Marines will break through scrap to open two additional choke points.

This map will most likely have Achievements available for players. Looking at the map's triggers one can get a few hints as to what will be required to earn those achievements. The Hard - Flawless Stank Kill will require players to kill the Stank without losing any units to it. The Brutal - Fast Win will consist of having players destroying all the infested buildings in less than 5 nights. However, it seems the hardest achievement will be N2D - Survive 15 Waves.

 width=

In Closing

This map is an interesting mix of cooperative gameplay and decision-making. Additionally, it offers a glimpse into the kinds of small lore related maps that are possible. Left 2 Die is a fun diversion from regular gameplay and while there are some improvements that could make it far more interesting, its quirky premise is appreciated.

StarJeweled

Category: Puzzle/Strategy
Mode: Solo vs. A.I., Co-op vs. A.I., Player vs. Player
Players: Up to 4 (1v1, 1v1 A.I., 1v2 A.I., 1v2, 2v2, 2v2 A.I., etc.)

Gameplay

Starjeweled essentially combines the gameplay elements of the puzzle game Bejeweled, from PoPCap Games, and traditional Desert Strike and Tower Defense maps. The objective of the game is to destroy the enemy's base, represented as a Xel'Naga Vault. To produce units, players must swap jewels, according to their color, to make a match of three or more in a row to earn points. Each successful combination will produce a Marine and will grant a player energy. This energy can be accumulated and spent in producing additional units as well as powerful abilities that have the potential to change the tide of a battle instantaneously.

Bejeweled players might notice that Starjeweled has some characteristics that make the puzzle easier. The grid size is also 8 by 8 but instead of 7 different jewels, StarJeweled only has 6 different jewels. Furthermore, players are able to reset the board at anytime and can perform this reset every 15 seconds. All together this decreases the overall difficulty of the map.

Gameplay Elements

As soon as players gain energy, they are able to spend them on the following units: Zealots, Hydralisks, Mutalisks, Siege Tanks, Collosi, Roaches, Ghosts, Banshees, Immortals and Ultralisks. Units produced cannot be controlled by any player instead they will simply attack-move towards the enemy base. Units have slightly different properties from a standard StarCraft II game.

Zealots
Point Cost: 50
Life armor of 3 instead of 1.
Life starting amount of 70 instead of 100.
15 attack priority instead of 20.
+2 attack Bonus to Biological targets.
No shields.
Hydralisks
Point Cost: 100
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Damage of 8 instead of 12.
Mutalisks
Point Cost: 200
Damage of 30/20/10 instead of 9/3/1.
Siege Tanks
Point Cost: 300
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Life starting amount of 130 instead of 150
Collosi
Point Cost: 500
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Life armor of 3 instead of 1.
Life starting amount of 400 instead of 200.
No shields.
+25 extra damage against Light.
Roaches
Point Cost: 75
+6 damage against Light.
15 attack priority instead of 20.
Ghosts
Point Cost: 100
15 attack priority instead of 20.
8 attack damage instead of 10.
+12 extra damage against Light instead of 10.
Banshees
Point Cost: 250
Life armor of 1 instead of 0.
Life starting amount of 125 instead of 140.
15 attack damage instead of 12.
+15 extra damage against Light instead of 0.
Immortals:
Point Cost: 300
35 attack damage instead of 20.
No bonus damage against Armored.
+40 bonus damage against Structure.
Life armor of 3 instead of 1.
Life starting amount of 250 instead of 200.
No shields.
Ultralisks
Point Cost: 500
16 attack damage instead of 15.
+52 bonus damage against Armored.
Marine
Point Cost: None
Life starting amount of 30 instead of 45.
15 attack priority instead of 20.
4 attack damage instead of 6.

In addition to units players can opt to spend their energy in spells:

Reset Board (15 second cooldown)
Point Cost: None
Reset the gem board.

Warp Cell
Point Cost: 150
Disables the target unit for 15 seconds. Target may not attack move or use abilities.

Time Bomb
Point Cost: 200
Creates a force bubble at the target area. Any units in the bubble suffer 50% penalty to their movement and attack speed. Lasts for 12 seconds.

Healing Wave
Point Cost: 250
Creates a wave of energy that heals a target and bounces to nearby friendly summoned units. Each bounce heals less damage. Initially heals 400 damage bounces up to 4 times.

Psionic Storm
Point Cost: 300
Creates a storm of psionic energy that causes up to 100 damage to all units in the target area. Lasts 4 seconds.

Gameplay Analysis

Positive Aspects

The User-Interface (UI) of the jewels is clean and fits very well even on small resolutions. Purchasable units as well as spell have their own hotkeys and this definitely makes things easier as players can dedicate the right hand almost exclusively to jewel swapping and the left hand for using hotkeys. The leaderboard is useful as it can provide players with information on who is doing well and who is still learning. Smart players could check the leaderboard to identify the strong players on the opposing team and purchase units that counter that opponent’s unit selections. The map has its own score dialog which gives more detailed information about the match.

Even in beta this map is fairly well balanced. Some unit relationships have been altered to address some balance concerns. Shields were taken out to make units slightly more vulnerable in the long run. For instance if a player decides to purchase Collosi and they survived a particular battle then their regenerated shields could make it harder for the losing players to make a comeback. The reason that attack priorities were changed should be evident if one notices that more priority is given to air units. Without this consideration air units will have an additional advantage besides their natural counters of which there are few they would also benefit from being targeted last making units that do not attack air vulnerable.

Negative Aspects

While this map offers many game modes the gameplay perhaps could have been extended to allow more players. Reducing the spawn rate of Marines might allow space for more units to prevent units clumping together.

There is a big random element in the map with regard to the jewels. Starting grids are random but that doesn’t mean they all start at the same difficulty. Sometimes players can quickly identify a lot of possible moves if given an easy grid. This inequity is effectively reduced in the long run since players will likely reset the grid at some point. However this does not prevent scenarios in which players get easy grids that an potentially result in very large pushes thanks to the fact that Marines are produced after each successful combination. The issue is even more glaring when you consider that sometimes complete combos can drop without requiring the player’s input. A possible fix to mitigate this issue would be to change the Marines’ spawn trigger to automatically spawn only after obtaining a pre-set amount of energy.

In the current testing build the match is best of five rounds. Sadly some players get discouraged after losing the first round and leave the game. Perhaps one single but longer game might create a better gameplay experience. Additionally purchasable defenses could be added to slow the pace of the game.

It is relatively hard for a losing team to make a comeback. Any unit that survives its initial confrontation is a slight advantage. However as more units survive the advantage increases. This advantage is compounded until only seasoned players have the knowledge necessary to deal with it. Perhaps a one-time nuke spell could allow more interesting matchups especially for those just learning the map.

Strategy & Tactics

To master this map players need to understand puzzle games and unit relationships. General tactics commonly used for Bejeweled do apply here. For instance when you first see the board try to identify possible four gem swaps instead of just quickly going for three gem swaps. If players ignore this they have a chance of denying themselves the higher point values of four-in-a-row combos. Additionally four gem combinations serve to clear more space on the grid. For basic similar tactics check the Bejeweled Strategy Guide. Experienced and hardcore players should try to look for patterns that can enable them to eliminate more jewels such as the ones presented here.

It is of upmost importance to choose your purchased units wisely. Always keep an eye on what the opponents is producing and try to counter it. You can expect the same unit relationships regarding unit counters as in vanilla multiplayer match-ups. However keep in mind that since units have different stats than their traditional multiplayer counterparts the unit relationships are slightly tweaked. Furthermore despite not being able to micro units players can control the spawn of units. When a player is severely outnumbered purchasing 5 Mutalisks in the same moment will generally have a much greater impact than purchasing each individually as soon as the player gathers 200 points. However in a close battle doing the opposite might result in a much better outcome for the player. As always strategies evolve and a player must develop and employ their game sense and experience to achieve victory.

Last but not least players should not underestimate the usefulness of spells. If an opponent player has four clumped up Ghosts or Hydralisks a player should consider using the Psionic Storm spell. The player will be investing 300 points to destroy an army of 400 points. However this can be countered by players using Healing Wave in the Psionic Storm area.

Ultralisks are in most situations the most powerful purchasable unit. Smart players will wait until the Ultralisk is in cannon range and use Warp Cell on them. This is a powerful tactic since the Warp Cell only requires 150 points to immobilize the Ultralisk compared to the Ultralisk which requires 500 points. Using the correct spell at the right time can significantly change the outcome of the skirmish. Players who practice often and learn how to multi-task and react to their opponent appropriately will be very successful in this game.

Resetting the board is also a very useful feature. The map by default will alert players when there are no more possible moves but this doesn't mean players should wait until they receive this message. If players are unable to find any gem swaps quickly resetting might be the best option.

Level Design Review

StarJeweled Gameplay


The terrain is simple and small (92 x 92); it’s a simple north to south path with a relatively small doodad count of 97. Most of the data edits are around modifications to unit basic statistics such as hit points and damage and a few other effects related to spells. There are no significant imported files other than the loading screen and a small imported layout to replace the existing UI. All the triggers are in Graphic User Interface (GUI) mode to allow further customization by the community. In terms of Galaxy code the triggers sum up to 8988 lines. The reason for such a large number of lines can be attributed to a large amount of dialog based triggers: the jewel board the leaderboard scoreboard and all the life and energy bars and all other UI modifications. The jewel board is responsible for more than two-thirds of all the triggers in the map.

The position of the jewels is based on an X and Y coordinate which facilitates any modifications with the use of variable arrays. Moreover dialog design can be quite a tedious task especially with external tools to help in dialog design. One good guideline for dialog design is to have local variables for modification of the X and Y coordinates of the dialogs themselves. This can be helpful if there are multiple dialogs sharing the same X or Y axis position.

In Closing

This map is another sucessful example of mixing cooperative gameplay and decision-making. Additionally one of the most important and interesting features of the map is the hybrid gameplay. Players have little control of the battlefield but are responsible for every move in the jewel board. This concept can be applied to maps attempting to create similar conditions which is the idea of having a game within a game.

Overall Thoughts

A SCLegacy/Teamliquid poll found that StarJeweled is currently the community’s favorite Blizzard beta mod and Aiur Chef is the least favorite. While the sample size was relatively small the results do seem to provide a representational snapshot of what gameplay players seem to prefer most.

StarJeweled Gameplay

Aiur Chef is perhaps the map that needs the most work. It's not a matter of finishing the NYI triggers but a matter of properly addressing the current gameplay concerns that make the map much less interesting than the other two. Adding more dynamics and giving players the option to skip the cinematics can be considered small improvements to the map's gameplay. However players can make a big deal out of these little details. These little details are by far the most important; if left unresolved a player simply loses interest in playing the map and instead will explore others.

Left 2 Die got an unusually low tally. This is most likely attributed to the fact that in the current beta testing stage this map was commonly played on Normal instead of the Hard and Brutal difficulties. The Night to Die mode could also benefit from a victory condition even if it is very hard to obtain. Adding the ability to have more players in the map in a later version could also boost its overall popularity.

StarJeweled definitely presents new interesting gameplay and more options to StarCraft II players. The UI is pleasant to look and the fact that it allows friends to play together and against each other adds a fun dimension. On the downside the map needs more modes for more players; more options could potentially make this map a true diamond in the rough. The number rounds currently set to five is excessive for some players which has resulted in a number of losing players leaving the game early. While the map is still in its public beta stage it has potential to become quite successful.

All together these beta maps have been a concentrated effort by level designers to demonstrate the capabilities of the Galaxy Editor. While many of the features introduced in these maps are new and innovative the success of these maps depends entirely on the community. Their current success may only be attributed to being featured at the top of the custom map options. Without additional Battle.net enhancements for custom games these maps once released in their final form will be forced to compete for popularity with a new wave of maps inspired by Blizzard maps created by the community.

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