Tony Hsu, Kevin Johnson, David Kim, and Kim Phan from the StarCraft II, Community development, and eSports teams took the opportunity to talk about what the near future holds for StarCraft II with the impending Patch 2.1, multiplayer gameplay and balance, as well as reviewed the World Championship Series thus far. Below, we've gathered a few highlights from the panel for those of you who might have missed it:
Features & Patches
Senior Game Producer Tony Hsu kicked off the panel with a look at some of the features that have been added to StarCraft II during 2013, including Spawning and Custom Observer Interfaces, as well as all of the new maps that the talented StarCraft II community has developed for use in matchmaking and custom games.
Tony then jumped into a preview of Patch 2.1 and filled everyone in on some of the additions coming to StarCraft II in the near future.
Clan and Group Event Calendar
Groups and Clans will have the ability to set up meetings at specific dates and times using the new Events Calendar, which will make organizing a practice session much easier.
Custom Clan Decals
Clans will also be able to create and upload custom decal art, which members of that clan can display in-game to show off their team pride.
Extension Mods will allow you to easily apply the parameters of the mods you develop to any map without having to recreate them every time you want to see how they play on a new map.
- The browser interface will be streamlined. All players will need to do to is select a map, apply the mod of their choice, and get back to gaming.
- As an example, we’ve worked on an Extension Mod version of Big Game Hunters and will be providing it along with Patch 2.1.
Level Cap Increase and New Rewards
Level caps in StarCraft II will be raised from 30 to 35 with Patch 2.1, and with along with this, we're adding new "StarCrafts" themed portraits and decals, created by Jonathan Burton of Carbot Animations, as leveling rewards.
No More AFK Game Hosts
After a period of inactivity in a game lobby, hosts will be reminded that they will be removed from the game if they do not respond soon. If a lobby host is removed this way, another player from the lobby will be promoted to host automatically. This way, players can get the game started without getting stuck waiting on game hosts who step away from their computers.
Classic StarCraft Music in StarCraft II
Delight your ear drums in-game with the classic StarCraft and Brood War soundtracks, which have been remastered, and will be available for play in StarCraft II following the patch.
Warcraft III Orc Heroes
The Far Seer, Shadow Hunter, Blademaster, and Tauren Chieftain Orc heroes from Warcraft III have all been remodeled and will be available for use by map developers in the StarCraft II Editor some time in 2014.
Starter Edition Additions
Senior Manager of Community Development Kevin Johnson took the stage and gave an overview of the StarCraft II Starter Edition and revealed a number of improvements coming with StarCraft II Patch 2.1.
With the advent of Patch 2.1, we're blowing the doors off the Arcade and Custom Game modes by making them completely free to all players. We'll also be unlocking all three races in Starter Edition to offer new players a more comprehensive experience with StarCraft II. You'll be able to introduce your friends to StarCraft II like never before, and map developer community will be able to grow and flourish with an influx of new players.
Multiplayer Gameplay and Balance
Senior Game Designer David Kim took over the mic to cover StarCraft II multiplayer by reviewing the current state of the game, the development team's internal processes, collaborative processes, and future goals.
The state of StarCraft II multiplayer is examined by three groups: the Design Team, Game Analysis Team, and Balance Team.
- The Design Team digs in to big picture things like matchup excitement, race performance, and analyzes the big picture of StarCraft II multiplayer
- The Game Analysis Team analyzes specific games and does individual research. They then come together to engage in group discussions.
- The Balance Team tests changes internally, and consists of the best StarCraft II players across multiple departments at Blizzard Headquarters.
What We're Looking At
- We found that Widow Mines are quite prevalent in Terran matchups. Going forward, we'll be trying to determine how we can work the Siege Tank into these armies.
- Players are generally finding two ways to use Swarm Hosts: aggressively and passively. If passive Swarm Host playstyles continue, we'll likely be looking at the Swarm Host in the future.
We frequently turn to the StarCraft II community to collect feedback before we make final balance decisions. Throughout 2013, we upped the amount of forum posts, situation reports, and balance test maps we made in order to do just that. Furthermore, getting to work with community map developers to create new maps for competitive play is important to us, and also helps us push toward our goal of diversity in the ladder pool.
Additionally, players sometimes solve problems without our intervention. For example, pro player Lee 'Life' Seung Hyun's incredible prowess with Zerglings and Banelings offered an alternative when Roach and Hydralisk compositions were a common choice when dealing with Widow Mine armies.
State of the Game
We're constantly checking in on 1v1 balance and we're currently finding that matchup balance is looking pretty solid at the very highest levels of play, as well as across all skill levels, and even among major tournament winners.
Here are some of the goals we'll be pushing for with StarCraft II multiplayer moving forward:
- More excitement and windows of opportunity for players in each matchup.
- Up the action in each game.
- Increase diversity from game to game by making each matchup feel more unique.
- Offer players the chance to show off their skill in more visible ways.
What's the team planning for StarCraft II multiplayer in the near future?
- A balance patch following BlizzCon, sometime in the next week or two.
- We'll continue looking at Swarm Host usage across all regions.
- We're working on the map pool for the 2014 World Championship Series.
- Two new team maps for each new ladder season.
eSports and the World Championship Series
Senior eSports Manager Kim Phan talked everyone through Blizzard's involvement with StarCraft II eSports, and our goals with past and present iterations of the World Championship Series.
- We LOVE eSports and the World Championship Series is our passion project.
- We want to continue building the community that StarCraft II eSports was founded on.
- Additionally, we want to continue to support StarCraft II and its lively community for years to come.
Glancing Back to 2012
With the World Championship Series in 2012 we wanted to build a grass-roots, Olympic-style tournament featuring local heroes.
- Offered opportunities to local players through national competition.
- Piqued the interest of local and national audiences.
- StarCraft II has a global eSports audience, and many viewers weren't following local events.
- As a result of the focus on local and national competition, there were too many story lines to follow.
- The Global Finals featured competitors of varying skill levels.
A New Direction for 2013
When we planned the 2013 World Championship Series, we moved in the opposite direction from 2012 by focusing on the world's most talented players and a consistent storyline.
- Consistent content across three major time zones.
- Introduced the global ranking system.
- Limited time for feedback from the community.
- Diminished opportunities for players at the national and local level.
- The tournament format was confusing and difficult to follow.
Looking Ahead to 2014
We've learned a lot over the past two years, and we want to do right by the community, the players, and our partners. Though we'll have more details on the 2014 WCS following BlizzCon, here's a look at some of our high-level goals for next year:
- We've been working closely with our partners for months and we're very close to finalizing our plan for 2014.
- Allow more time for feedback from our players, partners, teams, and community.
- We'll be working to steadily evolve the WCS through fine-tuning, rather than making a complete overhaul.
- The 2014 WCS will still highlight the best players and feature a rebalancing of the WCS point system.
- We want to provide realistic opportunities for all WCS participants.
Head over to StarCraft2.com and the WCS Portal to stay on top of all the latest news and announcements for StarCraft II Patch 2.1, multiplayer updates, and the 2014 World Championship Series coming your way in the near future.