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Situation Report: June 11, 2013

Situation Report: June 11, 2013

With the awesome conclusion of the global finals of the first season of this year’s World Championship Series, we thought this was as good a time as any to offer a detailed update on our current thought processes and how we’re approaching balance going forward.

More Action throughout the Game

We strongly believe that this is the main direction the game should go. More action means more diversity, which makes the game more challenging to play and more fun to watch.  

Back when Medivac drops were easy to stop, PvT was often a long macro buildup with little action, and a few large battles determined the winner. Nowadays, there are more drops happening, and every game plays out very differently. Different games range from the Protoss player perfectly stopping everything to the Terran player pulling off awesome drops to both players taking it to the late game, and everything in-between.

We feel that this diversity of outcomes makes for a better late game. Sure, sometimes a Protoss player amasses a large army of High Templar, Colossi, and Tempests, and against a well-defended opponent there are few options for harassment. But action-filled games are less predictable and reach the max-army endgame less often. When there is a huge maxed-out push, it’s the culmination of all the harassment and skirmishes that came before it.

Change the Game to Promote Skill

The Warp Prism change we tested last week is a good example of a tweak that benefits players who are amazing at multitasking, while having little effect on the game below the pro level. For an eSport game like SC2, we want more things in the game that separate out the very best from the average, not less.

We can look to INnoVation as a case where what we’re talking about is currently working quite well. His strategies are not very different from those of most other Terran players, but his Widow Mine usage is incomparably better. When we watch his TvZ games, we see a crystal clear difference between the usefulness of the unit and the skill of the player.

Units Currently Being Discussed

Some units will always be more central to specific strategies and/or matchups than others, so we’d rather those units be fun to watch and challenging to use.

We’re currently seeing a lot of discussion about:

  • Void Ray
    • We’re seeing a lot of Void Ray play in PvZ, but Protoss is still not statistically overpowered.
    • Zerg all-ins aren’t the only counter, as we see many PvZ matches last into the mid- and late-game, ending in a Zerg victory, despite the usage of Void Rays.
    • Void Rays are much better than they used to be, but we don’t think this is a bad thing.
    • Stargate used to be almost unusable, and now it’s quite important. We also see a lot of Robo and Templar play.
    • All tech options are viable now throughout the course of the game.
    • We don’t currently have any plans to nerf Void Rays.
  • Widow Mine
    • Widow Mines are currently overshadowing units such as Siege Tanks and Thors, but their use doesn’t correlate distinctly with wins over Protoss or Zerg opponents.
    • So our question here becomes “is this a good thing that Widow Mines have replaced Siege Tanks as the primary splash damage units?”
    • We believe the answer is yes.
      • When you see an army of Marines and tanks clash with a Zerg army, you pretty much know who will come out ahead, even before the battle.
      • When you see an army of Marines and Widow Mines, it comes down to the skill of the players in that specific battle.
      • The current design of Widow Mines rewards both players who are skilled at using them and opposing players who are skilled at defeating them.
    • It doesn’t look like Siege Tanks have disappeared. They’re critical in TvT, and in TvZ they’re key to playing a safe early/mid game. Additionally, Terran Mech also has potential.
    • As long as Widow Mines reward skilled players and Terran can’t legitimately be said to be better than the other races, we don’t plan to adjust this unit.

Casual observers often take a new or unexpected tactic or strategy that gains widespread use and just label it “OP”. In addition to Void Rays and Widow Mines, PartinG’s Immortal Sentry all-in got this treatment. Because it was a new strategy and it was working for PartinG, it was dismissed as OP. At the time, even other Protoss players at the highest level weren’t having as much success with the Immortal Sentry all-in after Zerg players had seen it for a week or two. We prefer to analyze a new strategy and ask:

  • Is this actually making the game more fun?
  • What would happen if we nerfed this powerful unit?
  • Would a proposed change make the game more or less stale?

Balance Testing Plan

We have two main goals for testing. First is making sure that we are dealing with units/strategies that are making gameplay stale. For example, we’re looking carefully at Swarm Host + mass defenses play. Our second goal is locating a race that is playing weaker than the other two, and improving it in ways that are fun for the game.

It’s important to note that we like trying out changes in balance test maps that are more aggressive than we might intend to implement in the live game. This is better than theorycrafting and gathering theorycrafted feedback. The more we experiment in real gameplay, the more we learn. We’re constantly reaching out to as many pro players and casters as we can, and we’re willing to try out changes that sound cool in testing.

As always, we believe everything can be improved. We’re very thankful that you share your thoughts with us.

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