Straight from the bridge of the Hyperion we bring you the latest situation report for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. In this edition, we'll be discussing some of the most notable changes in the recently released patch 1.3.3 and shedding some more light on our design philosophy and the thinking behind this update.
- Now a massive unit.
- Range increased from 2 to 3.
After receiving and reviewing a lot of solid feedback about the archon from the StarCraft II community, we came to the agreement that having archons break Force Fields would increase strategic variety in protoss-vs.-protoss matchups. We were slightly worried that strategies such as mass Charge zealots plus archons would be too difficult to stop with only ground units, but in testing this on the PTR, we found that the relationship between the zealot- and archon-based strategies vs. the more standard robo-tech builds were proving to be fun.
Archons have generally been a slightly weak unit for their cost. This was a conscious design decision that we made since we wanted Morph to Archon to be a "recycle" ability. However, due to the size of the archon, we felt an increase in attack range was necessary so that the unit can get attacks in more easily, especially on the defensive.
- Cybernetics Core
- Research Warp Gate time increased from 140 to 160.
- Sentry train time decreased from 42 to 37.
- Warp Gate unit train times remain unchanged.
- Pylon power radius has been decreased from 7.5 to 6.5.
These three changes were made specifically to address the 4-gateway issue. The slight increase in Warp Gate research time should only really affect early-game strategies such as the 4-gate all-in. It was a challenge to find a research time high enough to achieve this goal without affecting other, non-early game strategies, but we eventually settled on 160. Regarding the sentry, it's the only tier-1 unit that's rarely used on the offensive in PvP 4-gate all-ins. However, they're almost always used on the defensive, so buffing this unit was the way to go in order to make defending easier.
The pylon power radius reduction will help the defending player take them out easier from above ramps, as well as make it so there are limited spots below cliffs where the opponent can build them in order to offensively warp in above. On the flip side, because protoss bases generally have plenty of pylon power, we’re not too worried about this affecting the defensive side too much -- though players might need to pay more attention to their base layouts.
On top of these changes, we're also looking into slightly changing how vision works on ramps so that if you use Force Field on your ramp just right, the opposing protoss player will not be able to spawn above your ramp or Blink stalkers up past a perfectly positioned Force Field. We will continue to monitor how the changes we made in 1.3.3 are working out before making the final call.
We hope these changes will resolve the 4-gate issue in PvP.
- Salvage resource return reduced from 100% to 75%.
This change was one of the most frequently requested by the community, and players made a lot of valid arguments as to why this change was necessary. We've seen too many bunker rushes vs. zerg, and we felt that adjusting the salvage return rate would be a positive change. Players will also have to think about mineral loss before constructing multiple bunkers on the defensive, which also feels right.
- Cost changed from 150/150 to 200/100
This cost change was a strategic, high-level change. We wanted ghosts to have a place in as many of the existing unit compositions out there as possible. For example: we wanted at least a few ghosts to come into play with the standard armies we currently see in each matchup. We feel ghost EMP is a vital tool at the highest skill levels, and we didn’t like how players had to choose between ghosts or something else. Therefore, we decided to keep the total costs the same while decreasing the gas cost so that they can more easily be added to whichever army terran players are currently using.
We realize having to manage so many units (including the ghost) can be difficult for many players, but at the same time we felt ghosts are only really vital at the highest skill levels because their counter-units are also micro-intensive.
- Thor now has 200 max energy, and starts with 50 energy.
- 250mm Strike Cannons now cost 150 energy to use (cooldown removed).
We generally haven’t reverted changes in the past, but at the same time, we’re not afraid to revert changes when we feel that we’ve made a mistake. Some rare strategies involve mass numbers of Thors using 250mm Strike Cannons to lock down protoss, leaving them with few options for response. While these situations are rare, and the strategies aren’t necessarily overpowered, there were still a few things we didn’t like.
First, we definitely don’t like seeing Thors en masse. Due to the visual size of the unit, as well as a small pathing radius, Thors can obscure the other units in your army too easily. This can be problematic because it's important to know roughly how many units an opponent has when scouting. We want the Thor to be the type of unit that you add to your main army, and we definitely don’t want them to be the core of your army to the point where you strive to build as many as possible.
Second, we felt counter relationships were turning too heavily. The nature of lockdown abilities in general is that they have the potential to heavily turn the tide of battle against armies that would otherwise counter your units. Most of these abilities, especially for an ability as strong as this one, have to be fairly difficult to bring out and easier to counter. We feel that having the additional counters of EMP/Feedback to the Strike Cannons ability is better so that we don’t get into degenerating situations where the opponent is stuck without recourse.
- Speed decreased from 2.5 to 2.25.
We like how infestors have been functioning across the board since the last patch. We feel the previous infestor buffs heavily contributed to making matchups solid, especially at the higher skill levels.
However, it was slightly problematic in some scenarios where infestors were getting away too easily. Even when it was off of creep, the infestor was slightly faster than normal units -- and on creep, it was considerably faster. We decided to give infestors normal movement speed off of creep to make it easier to catch up to them and kill them.
- Spore Crawler
- Root time decreased from 12 to 6.
Air-based strategies vs. zerg are common due to zerg anti-air units coming out later than other races. Because of this, it actually makes sense for spore crawlers to be more flexible than other races' anti-air structures. If a zerg player is totally unprepared, we don't mind them just outright losing the game. However, what we didn't like was when zerg players still suffered considerable damage from void rays, phoenixes, and banshees, despite being prepared with spore crawlers that were slightly out of position. We decided to make this change so that it's somewhat easier to fend off these attacks, especially when you already have some spore crawlers in play.
As a side note, we don't feel the same way about spine crawlers, as there are being plenty of other anti-ground units zerg players can use along with the spine crawlers from the beginning of the game.
As always, we will continue to listen to players' discussions, and we welcome your constructive feedback. As with any balance-related change, we've made these with a lot of care and consideration to ensure a great game experience for players of all skill levels.
* David Kim is a game balance designer for StarCraft II and enjoys long sun-scorched walks on Char.