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Dustin Browder, David Kim, and Josh Menke came on stage for the StarCraft II Multiplayer Panel, discussing the balance between race matchups as well as plans for balance in the upcoming expansion, Heart of the Swarm. After some introductions, Dustin Browder shows what the current balance is for various race matchups in StarCraft II multiplayer.

Global Balance
- Terran vs. Zerg: Even
- Protoss vs. Zerg: Even
- Terran vs. Protoss: Even

Across all leagues and all divisions around the world, all of the races are doing evenly well against each other. Dustin Browder notes that since this includes players from every league including bronze, it’s a good idea to look at Masters level players to observe balance in a highly competitive setting.

Masters Level
- Terran vs. Zerg: Even
- Protoss vs. Zerg: Zerg dominance in Europe (10%)
- Terran vs. Protoss: Terran dominance in Korea (10-12%)

Something that’s concerning is that, while race dominance is generally even across the world, there is a notable Zerg dominance over Protoss specifically in Europe, statistically putting a Zerg player about ten percent above any Protoss player. Similarly, Terran are displaying strength over Protoss in Korea by ten to twelve percent. For these two matchups, they are only seeing notable imbalance in these two respective regions, which is why Blizzard is keeping a close eye on how to proceed with region-specific balance issues.

After the overview of race balance is done, the focus turns to major tournaments and the balance issues that become apparent through professional play. David Kim proceeds to explain that Blizzard tries to observe all the major StarCraft II tournaments and how tournaments are taken very seriously from a balance perspective. Taking a look at as many tournaments as possible, evidence is gathered on what races have what balance issues.

GSL Code S
- Terran is overpowered
GSL Code A
- Even
IEM Guangzhou
- Even
IEM New York
- Zerg is more powerful
- Protoss is weak
- Even

Having looked at the results from major tournaments, each of the race matchups must be further analyzed. For the Protoss versus Terran matchup pre-1.4, problems only arose in Europe and Korea judging from adjusted player ratings. Looking at community feedback, many players were saying Protoss were weak against Terran, whereas pros were commenting on how it is impossible to win as Protoss, especially against the Terran 1/1/1 strategy involving building one Barracks, one Factory, and one Starport, amassing units until a key point when the player pushes out with their units along with a large number of their workers in an all-in push.

After saying that they concluded that 1/1/1 and EMP are too strong and needed changes, David Kim added that Immortals could use a buff. For EMP, it was difficult to guage its lategame potential due to the prevalence of the 1/1/1 strategy and therefore difficult to change, and for Immortals, the range is planned to be increased from 5 to 6. For all the changes they planned, they didn’t want to flip the matchup too much, thus the careful changes.

After the 1.4 changes, the feedback from both community members and pros significantly improved, and that 1/1/1 wasn’t a problem any more. Tournament results were also improved, with Protoss players placing higher in major tournaments. The adjusted ratings, however, didn’t provide a definitive answer due to the fact that ratings tend to fluctuate after patches and take a while to settle.

Currently, Blizzard is looking at reducing the radius of EMP to offset the high raw damage it deals. It’s the strongest burst damage spell in the game. Other than EMP, they’re also looking at giving Protoss a general buff that will allow Protoss players to play more evenly against the other races.

Dustin Browder takes the mic again, this time talking about the development concepts behind Wings of Liberty and what they learned from Wings of Liberty that will carry on to making Heart of the Swarm. He notes that there are core race weaknesses, that stale matchups such as Zerg versus Zerg exists, and missed opportunities in Wings of Liberty. Continuing on, the plans for Heart of the Swarm is to fix the core weaknesses, fix matchups, and fix or replace units.

As the discussion continues, the focus turns to the new units in development for Heart of the Swarm.

New units and abilities

  • New "battle mode" for hellion - transforms like a viking
    • Battle mode hellion has more hit points, moves more slowly
    • Shorter, wider arc on flame attack, and stronger
    • Gives terran a beefy front-line fighter in the late game

  • Warhound
    • Smaller, more nimble version of Thor
    • Effective anti-mech ground weapon to help break siege tank lines
    • Anti-air attack with splash damage

  • Shredder
    • Robot that emits channeled, area of effect damage when immobilized
    • Damage automatically shuts off when an ally moves into range
    • Gives terran cheap zone control, but can't be used near main army
    • Is still very work-in-progress

  • Thor
    • Moved to late game, more hit points and damage
    • Can only have one, like mothership from Wings of Liberty

  • Ultralisk
    • Existing version is bulky and has difficulties engaging in battle
    • New burrow charge ability lets it dive underground and get into the fight easily

  • Viper
    • New caster unit with detection -- replaces overseer
    • Has abilities like blinding cloud to help break entrenched positions
    • Abduct ability allows it to pull units to itself -- pull siege tanks or colossus out of death balls

  • Swarm host
    • Zerg artillery for map control and siege
    • Burrows into the ground, and continuously generates small creatures to attack
    • Feels very zerg-y

  • Tempest
    • New protoss capital ship, replaces carrier
    • Anti-air splash damage for mutalisks and other aircraft
    • Has direct air-to-ground attack as well that isn't splash

  • Replicant
    • Special unit that can clone itself into any non-massive unit
    • Allows protoss to also take siege tanks or infestors from enemies
    • Is very expensive
    • Still very much a work-in-progress, not-final unit

  • Oracle
    • Caster unit used for raiding and harassment
    • Can disable enemy structures, or prevent miningwith its abilities
    • Doesn't actually kill or damage anything
    • Mothership is cut in favor of this unit






There are also a number of smaller changes that are being worked on, “smaller” meaning more minute in scale but nevertheless able to drastically impact gameplay.

Other Stuff
  • Ghost Cloak cost
    • Fixed cost for a fixed duration
  • Reaper health regeneration out of combat
  • Battlecruiser speed boost ability
    • has a cooldown
  • Baneling burrow move
    • Hive upgrade
  • Hydra Speed Upgrade
    • Hive upgrade
  • Corruptor Siphon ability
    • attaches to a building and gathers resources
  • Nexus defensive ability
    • turn any building into a Photon Cannon temporarily
  • Nexus Recall ability


That was the end of the discussion section of the panel. The Q&A is being worked on, and will be posted in this article soon.

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