StarCraft® II

Reddit AMA Full Transcript

Reddit AMA Full Transcript

To keep the information we shared on /r/IAmA in one handy location, we've put together a full transcript for you. If you'd like to read the full threads in which these answers were provided, you can click the name of each questioner. Threads are sorted under each of the participating developers:

Dustin Browder, Game Director

Q&A Focus: General game design, eSports, versions, campaigns, community

Alan Dabiri, Lead Software Engineer

Q&A Focus: Game systems, UI, Battle.net, Heart of the Swarm launch, player quality of life

David Kim, Game Balance Designer

Q&A Focus: Unit design, race balance, multiplayer


Dustin Browder, Game Director

Archvil3: In a year from now, how far are you into the development of Legacy of The Void, and what else will you be working on? How many people are working in the StarCraft department of Blizzard? While StarCraft 2 was well received in most of the world, the transition from Brood War to StarCraft 2 in Korea was very rough. If you could go back in time to 2010, what would do different in regards to KeSPA and the Korean market?

DB: We have started on Legacy story, scripts and missions.

80+ developers, hundreds of QA + Cinematics + other support personnel. Look at the credits for Wings. All of those people made significant contributions to that game.

We were very happy for KeSPA to support SC2. I was not part of any discussions with them and I don't know the details, sorry.

I get to play David Kim quite a bit when he runs out of real players to play against or when we are not yet in Beta. I barely beat him in a game one day and went over to his desk to celebrate my victory only to find out he had been reading email during the decisive battle.

TheSkunk_21. In Blizzcon 2009 you guys announced plans for the Map Marketplace, where players could "sell premium maps" on the market place. Early 2011 you said that you were "struggling" with making the map market place. Now, nearly 4 years since you announced the Map Marketplace -- Presumable you haven't given up on the idea entirely; how close is it to becoming a reality? Can you share any more details about how it'll work?

2. Several times, Blizzard has mentioned adding support for custom campaigns -- the ability to actually link one map to the other, so when you finish a mission it brings you to the next like Blizzards own campaign. Do you still have plans\ETA to add this?

3. In the HotS FAQ you guys stated "As far as Battle.net improvements, our primary focus will be on further improving the arcade experience around the launch of Heart of the Swarm, following on the heels of the significant overhaul in patch 1.5.0." -- past the 1.5.0 improvements, the Arcade changes have been extremely minor compared to the rest of the Battle.net changes. Can you tell us a little bit about what you where referring to in that statement?

DB: 1. We do not have enough details yet to give you a date or more solid answers. Sorry.

2. This is something we still want to do but it isn't in Swarm. I think Void is the most likely time where we can visit this feature.

3. I agree. We did a ton of changes to the rest of the UI and modifications to Aracade were relative minor relative to the 1.5 patch. I don't think we delivered on the promise in this FAQ.

TheSkunk_2: I guess my question was kind of; do you still have plans to improve the arcade post-release or has it just been indefinitely pushed back?

DB: We will defenitely be doing more work on the Arcade in the future. Very sorry I don't have more details.

Userstupidname: Will you open up the unlockables? More than just skins. Unlockables like: SC1 music, SC1 sounds for each unit, Pro player avatar pictures, Famous team symbols, Avatars for the default/buildings. Will you work on having a calendar on the welcome screen that shows upcoming eSports events? Currently you depend on third part sites to know when eSports events is up and coming, making the millions who only play for the campaign miss the chance of eSports. Will you help Barcrafts in the same way? Will you add systems to support teams better? Will you add an introductionary page for eSports? History and current state; famous players and major events?

DB: Those seem like some interesting ideas. I don't know if we could do pro player pictures. Those guys own their own faces I think?=) There are some memory limitations to how many unlockables we can do but your ideas don't seem out of bounds to me.

We are going to do what we can to promote esports in the client. We won't have a calendar element when we first launch but it's something we can certainly talk about.

We will continue to promote Barcrafts, and we are actively talking with teams and other eSports leaders about how we can help them be successful.

Salty_Ballz: If you could go back to the very beginning of developing SC2 multiplayer and see it in its current state, would you be surprised?

DB: Yes. =) - The map sizes are much bigger than I thought they would ever be.
The meta game has changed so many times it's crazy. I was watching some KeSPA games a few months back and it felt very strange, like I was watching a game from 2010. It felt like an entirely different experience (proxy Barracks, etc.).
I can't believe eSports is as big as it is. It's nuts. We really thought we would have like 50 guys in a room here in the US and in Europe, not thousands gathering for events.

DJHelium: Hello devs! One of the biggest things that have yet to be even mentioned as a change for Heart of the Swarm is something being done to prevent hacks. Is anything being done to prevent hacks in HotS? If so, what?

Other than that, thank you for an amazing game! SC2 is the best hobby I've ever had :)

DB: I know one of our engineers has some ideas to make Hacks more difficulty but nobody in the room here is an expert on what he is doing and how it will work. So we don't have a more specific answer for you. Also we often lose advantages in protecting against Hacks if we publish how we are preventing them. So even if that engineer was here, I don't think we would give the answer. Sorry.

EnderSword: Do you have plans to hold more tournaments like the WCS this year?

DB: We have not yet finalized our plans for 2013 or beyond. I know our esports team are working really hard on it now and we are talking frequently with esports teams as well as esports organizers.

We do want to do what we can to support the community, but I don't have a really good answer to your question. As soon as we have something solid we will announce it I'm sure.

Markrem: 1) Will there be more skins than revealed in the current client, or more added in the future? 2) What happened to the possibility of a Blizz version of Stronger Team Colours?3) What happened to changing the game clock from Blizzard Time to Real Time? 4) Probably the most requested thing ever is to bring Lurkers back into multiplayer. Why hasn't this happaned, even in beta? Surely that'd be a good time to prove your point of "Look, here's lurkers, they don't work in SC2." 5) Will the custom observer UI revealed in the eSports and Multiplayer as an example be released to public? I thought that looked amazing.

DB: We have some memory limits that prevent us from doing too many skins in the game with raising the minimum hardware requirements. We will try to find ways to add more but we do have some limits. 2) This didn't end up happening. My understanding is that we had some technical challenges that would have hurt lower end systems to have two types of colors in the game. 3) This turned out to be more complicated than we thought. We will get to this down the road. We understand why this is important. 4) We did try lurkers again, and they were not what we hoped they would be in Heart of the Swarm. With all the changes from Broodwar they were not as cool/fun/effective as newer units.
Yes, our example will be patched into the game and released to our community.

Durasc2: Hi Dustin. In an interview with Gamespot in 2011 you spoke of how the Corruptor was a boring unit. Since then, no changes have been made to the corruptor, what changed for you?

DB: This was my belief at the time. The unit does a lot of cool stuff for us and we didn't end up cutting it and replacing it with something else (which was my intention at the time).

As we developed Swarm further we found that it worked better than I knew at the time. It is a simple unit, it's ability to turn into a Broodlord keeps it's AA only rule work. It is different from a lot of other units in the game. It's still not my favorite unit, but I think it works well.

Soulblade64: Will the gap between HotS and Legacy of the Void be as long as the gap between WoL and HotS?

DB: I certainly hope not. But efficient and quick game development is not something we have traditionally been great at. We will certainly do our best to reduce the time between expansions.

Tgunsc2:  How friendly will the Campaign be to speed-running? In the WoL campaign, no balance patches or AI tweaks were made to influence it since the initial iteration - will this be the same throughout the HotS campaign?

DB: We like to not patch the campaign if possible. It is our intention not to do anything to the campaign in terms of balance or patches if possible. If we need to patch, obviously we will.

VikingMop:  I remember Dustin Browder promised in an interview that would be changed from Blizzard Time to Real-Time in HotS back in 2011. That obviously never happened, so what was the reason for that?

DB: I totally said this (and not just in that interview). The amount of engineering effort turned out to be a lot higher than I knew at the time. We know why this is important and it is still on our todo list.

mLalush: Sometime between October 2007 and October 2008, you decided to introduce better worker AI, shorten the time workers spent at minerals and decrease the yield to 5 minerals per trip. What happened during this time period that prompted you to change workers? What was your reasoning behind the changes? What are your thoughts on the cap on economic growth in your game? Do you guys at Blizzard at all view your artificial 3 base economic cap as an issue, or is it rather considered a non-issue?

DB: One of our goals with workers (especially when it comes to the gas changes with 2 geysers) was to make your economy a little bit more expensive and complicated to manage since (at the time) we had a lot of concerns both on the team and in the community that base building was going to be too simple in SC2.

We discussed this some (but I like your insights here) during the beta for Swarm and felt like it was a pretty huge change at this point to alter core economy. We would have had to rebalance the entire game and at that time we were dealing with Oracle, Widowmine, etc. and those changes were absolutely kicking our butts.

Like I said in an earlier post, I like your thinking here. I think it's interesting. We will discuss this internally and with SC2 casters and pros and gather some more intelligence on this subject. Is that sufficient?

HeavenResign: What was your favorite single player mission in Wings of Liberty? How is working on StarCraft compared to working on your past RTS games, such as Red Alert II? Thanks for making the only game I've consistently played for the last three years!

DB: Outbreak is my favorite mission. I think it's a great balance between defending and attacking and I feel a huge amount of pressure in both modes.

StarCraft II is the most rewarding project I have ever had the chance to work on. The universe is very cool, the team is amazingly talented and the community really knows their stuff. Also, eSports. Amazing.

Red Alert II was awesome but in very different ways. The team was generally younger and less experienced. We didn't know what would and wouldn't work so we tried lots of stuff and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. We had more enthusiasm than experience.=)

FakeReDeYe: How important is it to Blizzard that SC2 grows or stay popular as an eSport, and how much do you consider the eSports side when designing/balancing the game? Some changes seems to have been made to make the game more friendly for viewers (observer UI, notable color differences for Infested Terran eggs etc).

DB: eSports is a big, big part of our development process. I did a GDC talk on this and I think esport ulimately ends up impacting most of the game. We think think it is a really cool part of the StarCraft II experience for ourselves and for our fans.

Cloud-cover: Do you have favorite pro players? Do you guys get together and watch tournaments? Is there a special trick to balancing a game that you can't play at the highest level? Thanks guys! Love the game.

DB: I used to watch a ton of TLO back in beta for Wings. I love watching Grubby and White-Ra stream. MLG/GSL events are something I watch whenever I can. Marine King is one of my favorite players to watch micro and Nestea still has my "favorite play" in Sc2 to date.

We often go to tournaments together as a team and we love going to BarCrafts. I have been to a few here in Irvine.

TheSkunk_2: 1. Where there any people, posts, or topics that were especially helpful feedback for you during the beta? (Even if you didn’t get the chance to act on it yet)

2. Have you considering implementing some sort of survey or poll into Battle.net itself to gather feedback directly from all of the playerbase?

3. During the beta, you guys had a "eSports Beta Feedback" forum for professional players and casters. Was this helpful, and do you plan to keep it open after HotS releases and continue to expand access to it? Post in it yourselves more frequently?

DB: I think we got a lot of good feedback early on about the Oracle that caused us to change the way the unit worked completely. There were tons of other helpful posts of course but that issue stands out because we basically undid our entire direction for the unit based on community feedback that we thought was really accurate.

We can do some polls, but they will never represent the entire community since so few people relative to the size of our player base actually visits the forums. =(

The esports forum was useful but not in the way we thought. Most pro players are extremely biased towards their own race (as they should be) and it was hard for us to get good feedback from them directly. But David did manage to find some pro players and casters who were more balanced in their views on the game and we have formed relationships with them directly to gather feedback.

Avicenna970:  Looking at pictures of the new skins, some could easily be confused with particular upgrades such as zergling speed or marine combat shields. How will skins work in HotS? Will only you see the skins or will your opponent see whichever skins you've chosen to equip? Or do you not believe this will pose any sort of significant issue in competitive play?

DB: Everybody will see the skins. But for esports the players in an esports setting can choose which skins they want to display. So if an esports tournament feels like the skins are not a problem, they can use them. If they feel like they are a problem, they can have their players set their skins to the defaults that are in the game currently.

Agmcleod: Hey developers. Im currently a web dev by profession, messing around with games a bit in my spare time. I'm wondering if you guys see a potential in tablets for RTS games. Keyboard and mouse makes a lot of sense for multi controls, and precision, but i think their could be some potential controlling units and so forth with multiple fingers at once. Any thoughts on that?

DB: I think having your fingers in the way of the action is a problem. Tablet games involve your hand being between your eyes and the screen. I think you can certainly design an RTS that will work on the tablet but it doesn't seem like it would play with the same pace as SC2.

Megabuster: Are more people working on Blizzard All-Stars than SC2? I'm curious about the expenditure of resources after the SC2 delays, and the submergence of All-Stars as a project.

DB: We have only had a few designers working on All-Stars. Almost the entire team has been working on Swarm. We have some artists who worked on Swarm now transition over to All-Stars while our campaign team starts work on Legacy of the Void.

Avicenna970: As an avid fan of everything StarCraft from the campaign to lore to ladder to the professional scene what should my expectations be for the next two and a half years? Will it again be a span of minor changes and implementations before massive movements with LotV? If so, that is absolutely fine, just knowing the intention of the team, their timeline, and business model would be greatly appreciated.

DB: We do try to update the game as often as we can. We did do a major patch to our Arcade system in our 1.5 patch in 2012. That took a lot of effort from our online/UI team. Once they got done with that they were able to focus on these upgrades that you are seeing in Swarm.

I don't know yet what the schedule looks like for the coming year and when we will do updates. The Online/UI team is working a bunch of over-time to get Swarm out the door so we haven't really had time to make solid plans for what we want to do between now and Void.

Avicenna970: Do you believe your current line of products and the time frame by which they've been released has encouraged brand deposits? Did you support the release dates of WoL and HotS or adamantly would've supported more time? If you did want more time what specifics factors caused the alternative?

DB: We do think our games are good, or we would not release them. So we do believe that we are making "deposits" with most of our fans. We know they aren't perfect so we always seek to improve them. There are always things we can do better.

I actually wanted to release Wings earlier, and Mike Morhaime was one of the smarter guys who stopped and said "you need more time." After working on a game for 5 years I guess you lose perspective.

Fazer2: Gabe Newell said on the DICE conference that a free-to-play business model can increase your audience 10 times and your gross revenue 3 times. Do you have any plans to move StarCraft franchise in that direction?

DB: We have no plans to go free-to-play in the traditional sense. We do have a trial version that allows players to check out the game but it isn't like Team Fortress 2. Valve did make a lot of changes to Team Fortress 2 to make that game work for free-to-play. We have not yet found design choices for StarCraft II that we would be happy with to make it free-to-play, so we aren't going to do it.

Zornslemming: What reaction has surprised you the most since the release of the beta?

DB: The reaction to our Battle.Net changes was surprising. I thought it would help, but people were way more excited than I thought they would be.

Sap_: Why do you feel that the HotS multiplayer is better than Wings of Liberty, in terms of professional level game balance, and not considering the new battle.net features?

DB: I think PvP and PvZ had some problems that we were not able to really address because of our unit mixes in Wings. I think we have better units in Swarm that will allow us to make a more interesting game to watch and play.

Horseflaps: Do you know yet how the story will end in the third instalment, or is it all up in the air? Approximately how many man-hours were spent making HotS? How many people working on it?

DB: We have some ideas that we are talking about now. But we don't have a final answer yet.

I have no idea how many hours people worked on the game. 2.5 years, 80+ developers, 100s of Quality Assurance people, 80+ Cinematics artists, directors, etc. Sound guys, patching guys, marketing guys. I can't calculate it.

I believe (I am biased of course) that video games are the most complicated form of entertainment yet built by humans.

Optimuminimum: Does the StarCraft II team feel that DotA, while different, pose a threat to the future of StarCraft?

DB: We have not seen a decline as a result of the rise of "DOTA Games." We don't see any "threat." They are very different games with very different types of players who want to play them.


Alan Dabiri, Lead Software Engineer

SammyTBags: How can you reassure everyone that the Heart of the Swarm launch will go smoothly?

AD: We've learned a lot from our previous launches, including the Wings of Liberty launch, and we're doing everything we can to make sure this launch goes as smoothly as possible. We have the advantage that we've been building on an existing platform that's been evolving for several years.

Lordofsoup: How many users are you expecting online within the first 5 minutes of launch?

AD: Over 9000.

Full_on_robot_chubby: Have you ever thought about putting in pro players build orders and play styles as AI to play against? Like having an option to have the computer do Parting's 2 base Immortal Sentry all-in, Flash's drop harass, or Stephano's fast Roach max?

AD: We've actually added a bunch of AI build types in the 2.0 patch and Heart of the Swarm. Some of those might even be recognizable as some builds popularized by pros. :) We'd love to continue to do this more in the future.

Stlbadger: Thanks for doing this AMA! Are there future plans for better organization and sharing of replays? It would be nice to send a replay in-game to an inbox of a friend who is offline or online.

It would also be a nice feature to organize replays by race, time, game version, etc. Thoughts?

AD: Yes, definitely! We have been talking a lot lately about improving both the replay screen itself and how players can view and share those replays. Can't promise a timeline for when those improvement will make it into the game, but it's definitely on our mind.

Eirenarch: Do you think in the future you can provide some kind of API to Battle.net or release the specification for the replay format. This could facilitate software ecosystem around the game (for example mobile battle.net chat apps, apps to track your stats, replay parsers for websites, etc.)?

AD: We've actually been looking into this, and hopefully we can eventually get something out to you guys.

Markrem:  What happened to changing the game clock from Blizzard Time to Real Time? Will the custom observer UI revealed in the eSports and Multiplayer as an example be released to public? I thought that looked amazing.

AD: It is something we want to do. Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to get this in for Swarm launch. It turned out to actually be more complex than you might imagine. It's still coming!

Yes! We are going to release that custom observer UI in a future patch so that you can use it yourselves. It is also a great example of how to make your own.

Fluffet: I am very interested in learning what league all of you are in, on your private/anonymous accounts! Also, do you have in-office competitions for who buys lunch and so on?

AD: Yeah, we have in-house Blizzard tournaments fairly often. There are a lot of SC2 players across the company.

Personally, I am Grand Master on the Korean ladder. You might have seen my name, it's |||||||||||||||.

Markrem:  Wow you have a lot of accounts! ;) In all seriousness, is there any plans to try and resolve this barcode issue or are you guys fine with it?

AD: Yeah, actually, we are not too happy with the way that has turned out. The goal of the Grand Master league was so that you could follow the best players in SC2 for that region. If everyone hides behind the same masked character name, it kind of defeats the purpose.

We've been discussing ways to improve this, but it is a delicate balancing act between providing some amount of privacy to high-level players while still allowing everyone else in the SC2 community the ability to track the success of the best players.

We're going to address this at some point in the future.

Cloud-cover: Do you have favorite pro players? Do you guys get together and watch tournaments? Is there a special trick to balancing a game that you can't play at the highest level?

Thanks guys! Love the game.

AD: We watch tournaments together all the time. We've been to GSLs, MLGs, IPLs, NASL, and plenty others together. And we get together at local BarCrafts pretty often as well.

I have a lot of favorite pros, but I have a special place in my heart for Boxer and July.

Applesaws: What do you think about technologies like the GameHeart Overlay? The features seem to extend beyond what we've been shown of the new HotS overlay stuff, do you intend to try to incorporate more viewing features in the future?

AD: GameHeart is very cool. We were all really impressed with the latest video they released.

Yeah, our custom observer UI feature was initially designed simply to allow tournaments and streamers the ability to customize the UI (on any map) in any way they want. It doesn't actually allow you to do scripting. We've got some cool ideas about this for the future. Some of those ideas will actually end up helping out projects like GameHeart as well.

Zornslemming: What reaction has surprised you the most since the release of the beta?

AD: For me personally, the response to the custom observer UI was a little surprising. We knew it would be a really cool thing for tournaments, but the reaction to the video where we showcased it was awesome. So I'm glad you guys are excited even for all the smaller features we are throwing into Swarm.


David Kim, Game Balance Designer

Agiantsmurf: When HotS multiplayer was first announced and the oracle was introduced, you stated that you wanted to move towards more "worker friendly" raids and harass as there was currently too much focus on who can kill more of who's workers. Since then we've seen changes to units including the oracle, the widow mine, the hellbat, and the mutalisk. All them have gained great potential to clear out mineral lines very quickly. What has changed in how you wanted harassment to work?

DK: Our main goal was to have variation in how you harass your opponent. Worker friendly raid was something we tried on the Oracle but it didn't work out.

Although we haven't succeeded in creating that specific difference, we think the new options are still unique.

Oracles kill really fast while having an energy limitation. Widow Mines fire very infrequently that you can still mine with workers even after they hit. Hellbat is different dropping other units in that they lack the movement speed vs. their damage is much greater.

DJHelium: Is anything being done to prevent hacks in HotS? If so, what?

DK: Our hacks team has always been working hard to eliminate maphackers from the ladder.

On our end, we think the maphackers that cause the biggest problems by far are the players who use it to climb the ladders quickly and disrupt pros, streamers, and just the highest level ladder players.

We think our community actually does a really good job of alerting us to these players, and we will continue doing our best to keep looped in in order to act on the maphackers as quickly as possible.

Goji_Sc2: Hello, thanks a lot for answering our questions. I hope everything is clear, as you may realise, English is not my native langage :D

What is the most important thing that you have learn during the balancing process of Wings of Liberty? Are you going to approach balance issue differently in Heart of the Swarm now that you have more experiences? How are you going to manage the map pool of the ladder in Heart of the Swarm? Are you going to add and remove more maps, more frequently than you have did in Wings of Liberty? Do you think it's part of blizzard's job to encourage tournaments to renew more frequently their maps pools by adding new maps to the ladder's map pool?

Do you think that some balance issues could be fix by adding new maps who could encourage player to find a new way to approach the game? "Situation report" has been a great tool for the community to know what was going on developper's minds during the beta of Heart of the Swarm. Are you going tu pursue them in the future? Who are you favorites players and why? What have been your favorite's tournaments to watch?

DK: The most important thing we realized was feedback we get both from ourselves and from pros need to be weighted depending on skill. For example, I personally have a hard time playing Terran compared to the other two races. And back then because I was one of the players who was playing at the highest level, I took this personal experience as a bit too much of an important factor. In the hots Beta, I was also struggling the most as Terran, but this seemed correct for the balance of the game. And sure enough, all the major tournaments that happened so far, all three races balance is looking solid, many Koreans are also saying Terran is the strongest, and overall just gauging my skill level vs. how the game should be more correctly this time around is working out much better.

Maps on the ladder are something we felt could use a huge improvement. We are planning on trying our best to change up the map pool at least once every couple ladder seasons. Right now, our rough initial plan for future season is: two 1v1 maps and two 2v2 maps for Season 2, two 3v3 maps and two 4v4 maps for Season 3, and we will try our best to continue this sort of process all throughout HotS.

Our current plan is to work more closely with tournaments in 1v1 maps. This not only means we will be using more tournament maps on the ladder in HotS, but also the maps we create will have significant tournament input as well. For example, the two new 1v1 maps we have planned for season 2, we're working closely with multiple major tournament organizations to improve and fix before releasing them.

Balance issues can definitely be fixed with new maps but not overdoing it is important. In Wings, one of the things we learned was that because all the maps were so similar (not just ladder maps but tournament maps as well), there was 1 best way to play per matchup. We're hoping to have much more diversity in map pools in HotS in order to get around this problem. This is why we have super rush friendly maps like Korhal City, really expand friendly maps like Aklion Wastes, or more standard maps like Daybreak on the ladder for season 1.

We will definitely continue doing Situation Reports. Things we talk about in the Sit reps are not always what some people want to hear, but we try to be as honest as possible in our current thinking of the game.

Personally, HotS beta has taught me something really interesting about our players. Most of the top pros clearly showed that they are mostly focused on mechanics to be successful and it's up to other players to teach them the good strats that they could mechanically master. So players who can think for themselves AND are also mechanically awesome are my favorite players. Current favorites are Marineking, Violet, TLO, Whitera, and Parting.

There hasn't been a lot of tournaments in HotS so far, but IEM this week has been awesome, GSTL was really cool, and MLG has been as amazing as ever.

Static989: Do you plan on making any changes with the corruptor at all? Are there going to be more unit skins/dances then the ones we could see in the hots beta?

DK: We've tried a few different abilities on the Corruptor. But the problem was that whenever we put in an ability that's not effective, even if the idea is creative or cool people just see it as a nerf. Therefore, for now we decided to keep the ability because even though it's not one of the most exiciting abilities to use or watch, it works and it is a a strong/effective damage buff ability.

Nerak33: As a professional RTS player and designer, what games beside the Starcraft franchise do you think were paragons of balance or imbalance? Do you feel your job as a "RTS balance specialist" is very specific, or do draw inspiration from people and projects that came before you, be it in the gaming industry or somewhere else? What does it feel like to beat your boss in his game?

DK: It's hard to compare a competitive eSport like Starcraft with most other games in the world. For example, World of Warcraft does an excellent job of balancing the game for what it is. Whenever I go on a raid, it feels like whoever has the better gear/skill is more favorable than a specific class.

Surprisingly, I work on all parts of multiplayer of Starcraft and am a general Game Designer for it.

One of the most important things we stress on our design team is to not take wins or losses so seriously but focus more so on what we need to get a good grasp on. So beating my boss in the game doesn't make me feel that great compared to if those games we played somehow contributes to making the game cooler, that's when we feel the most excited.

Agiantsmurf: The Carrier was considered for removal at the end of WoL. Why do you think it fits now more than before, and why have you been so hesitant to buff it? And what types of changes would you make if you felt in the future it wasnt being used enough? (We’ve seen voidray and phoenix buffs, but never carriers.)

DK: Our stance on the Carrier or similar units like BCs/Mothership we feel has become a bit more solid after seeing how units turned out in Wings.

Carrier is similar to the Mothership in that it's a very attack move friendly unit that really has little difference in who uses (pro vs. casual) it. These types of capital ship units we think are cool if they're seen rarely, but not always.

The perfect example of this is if you remember back in the early stages of Wings, every time Mothership came into play it was awesome, and the viewers loved it. And if you remember the last tournaments of Wings, Motherships came into play in every late game PvZ, and was the one of the most complained about units.

So our goal for the Carrier is to have it come into play here and there but just for it to never be a core unit like Marines or Stalkers. If the buff we did in the beta isn't enough, we'd be willing to do more but this is probably not one of our biggest balance concerns at the moment.

Doompriest: Do you follow /r/starcraft closely for balance issues? If so, does it simplify or complicate your work as a balance designer?

DK: We think the strength of reddit is because of the point system the most popular issues always surface to the top. We try our best to follow gameplay feedback in all the forums, but reddit actually seems to be one of the easiest for us to get feedback from.

KingstonReformedST83: Do you guys regret the Queen buff patch?

DK: This is one of the things we're actually most confident on. But we also hear this a lot especially with regards to the early Hellion harasses and contains.

Hellion contains are still just as viable and perhaps the most core way to play the matchup still in Wings.

For harasses:

Before the Queen range buff, we were seeing a high number of games where Hellions run in and all Drones are dead and game ends right there. These were not exciting to watch.

After the Queen range change, we're still seeing games where Hellions run by and kill 5~20 workers and the games go on. There seems to be a lot more variation now because with a runby, Terran can come out ahead, Zerg can come out ahead, and the situation can be fairly even. We're also not seeing a lot of games where the game is completely over due to the runby. So overall, we think this is actually one of the best changes we've made.

StarVeTL: The fundamental issue creating stagnant late games lies in the economic system of SC2 that has always capped economic growth beyond 3 mining bases. The result of this is that late game economies in SC2 are always more or less equal. The late game then becomes a question of who has the most cost efficient army (and it is this that makes the games boring).

Where in BW you would have asymmetrical economies that forced a passive player with an "imbalanced army" and fewer bases into action, in SC2 the economies just conform and become equal. None of the players has any incentive to be aggressive or to try make the game interesting. All that matters once both players are at 3 bases or above is who is best at preserving their army value.

DK: At the highest levels of play this isn't what we're seeing. Sure there are strats that revolve around maximizing on only 3 bases and doing a push that kind of loses you the game if the one engagement goes badly for you. But for the most part all the pro tournament games we're seeing players want to take as many expansions as possible, and the players who are on more than 3 bases generally has the advantage (with the exception of specific strats mentioned above).

We do see, however, on the ladder players prefer 3 base play more so than pros. This issue is definitely something that we continue to talk about internally like Dustin points out, but we think this isn't as major as people think at the moment due to our experiences in watching pro play.

Tsubbi: I understand that many ideas in the process of the beta have to be scrapped, but two things i was really looking forward to going into HotS have not been commented on afaik and i would like to know what is the current stance on them, the two being: changes to the corrupter and overseer to make them more exciting, and new nydus worms to give zerg more harass potential.

DK: Our goal going into the beta was to try more things than less then cutting back towards the end to make the game reasonable. That's probably why you are seeing ideas being scrapped more so than not.

Corruptor/Overseers we tried a few different things but in short, Corruptor ability was a strong ability that works was why we had trouble changing it, and the Overseer has the issue of players being able to build an infinite number of them that they can't easily gain a strong utility spell (and definitely can't gain a power spell).

Nydus worms we were exploring for a while, but we realized the various changes to existing units as well as the new unit adds could potentially add a bit too much variaty in HotS. Right now in tier 1 we see every single unit in various games, Tier 2 has the options of Hydras, Mutas, Swarm Hosts, and Infestors all of which we're seeing so far in Hots, and tier 3 also looks very diverse with Ultralisks, Broodlords, and Vipers being viable options.

StarkHarrow: re you still considering working on Mech on a more BW-Tank Based fashion ? Or are you willing to stick to a core of Hellbat/Thor DeathBall play we could see in the end of the beta ?

DK: We want Mech to be viable but not replace bio. Marine based play has advantages over mech like constant action throughout the whole game.

In HotS games so far, we're seeing a fairly high number of mech games ranging from almos all tank based (example is the MLG game MVP played on Ohana) play, hellbat/thor, ground + air mech, or mostly mech mixed with some bio.

We're currently thinking because mech vs. bio advantages/disadvantages are heavily tied to maps, we can continue getting a good mix of both types of strategies by adjusting our map pool accordingly throughout HotS.

QuixoticNeutral: An immense round of thanks, first of all, for developing and supporting my favourite sport in the world and for your pattern of listening to the concerns of the community. A few questions:

A lot of players have expressed that the Hellbat, while progressing towards a more balanced state, has become a needlessly convoluted and counterintuitive unit that is the exception to too many rules. It's mechanical but Medivacs heal it; it transforms from two spaces of cargo to four spaces of cargo; it doesn't benefit from the blue flame upgrade; the transformation requires an upgrade but building the unit straight out of the Factory doesn't. Will future balance changes be made with a mind toward streamlining the nest of rules governing how the unit behaves?

One of your best-received decisions over the course of Wings of Liberty was the decision to shift the 1v1 ladder map pool toward selecting tournament-viable maps, including maps designed for the GSL or the TeamLiquid map contest. There seems to be a house rule at Blizzard, though, that every map with an official stamp must have homogeneous resource deposits (eight mineral patches, two gas geysers). Given that competitive maps are breathing life into the game with innovations like mixed blue/gold bases (Icarus) or neutral creep blocking fast thirds (Arkanoid), will we ever see some variation in resource nodes to match the dynamism of the tournament game?

DK: The hellbat was a good learning experience for us in that it's very difficult to make a unit that has 2 distinct modes that are both useful. Nothing in the game is like this, so they didn't suffer from it before. As for the specifics, We dont think cargo spaces being different is that weird (take a look at cargo space of lings vs. baneglings), and 2 modes can have 2 different weapons (look at siege tank) meaning they could also have different weapons, but we do agree the Bio flag is a bit weird. However, some breaking the rule in some places is necessary sometimes for balance. Banelings for example have no Light or Armored flag. While we try our best to not make exceptions like this or the Hellbat, sometimes we feel it's needed.

We don't agree. Good example is the maps that broke those resource rules in the past that we've fixed, really don't play different at all. Daybreak for example is just as awesome without that weird rule to the point that even the creator of the map, GSL, uses the fixed version. So far, we haven't seen a scenario where we just went standard rules with resources making the map play worse. We feel this just causes confusion for players on the ladder.

However, one thing that is interesting that we're seeing tournaments is because pro players build orders are so fine tuned, some are struggling and we see more variety in their play on maps like Icarus. While we think maybe this is cool for pro level play, we're seeing plenty of build order variety across different skill levels on the ladder that this confusing rule doesn't need to be forced.

Ivellina: In Starcraft 1 air maps were played on a very high competitive level for many years. Do you think you could work on the balance for air maps and eventually introduce an air map in the ladder pool may be for the Legacy of the Void?

Do you think special cases in unit mechanics and visual effects that do not represet skills in a straightforward way (Tempest having a single attack animation as if it does splash for two different actual attacks that do not do splash, Battlecruiser two attacks, Hellbat/Hellion differences and etc.) are a problem for new players and viewer and if yes how do you plan to fix it?

DK: We tried various air maps as well as semi air maps in SC2. It was very difficult to get these to work well because scouting for various tech options in SC2 are so important compared to in SC1 strats and tech choices were almost same game to game (yeah timings varied a lot but at least you knew his army composition even without scouting).

That combined with the fact that right now our direction for 1v1 ladder is to align with tournaments as much as possible, so we reasonably can't try things like that at the moment. For team maps, it might be kind of interesting to have more variety in that area, we will definitely create and test out some air maps for teams in order to figure out if they can work on the ladder.

We do try our best to make those clear. We think most units are in a good place right now. For example, Tempest we tweaked a lot when we made the change from splash damage to single target and Hellbats/Hellion yeah they both shoot fire but the way they shoot we think clearly shows how they work. If this isn't the case, we are definitely willing to make corrections as needed.

Archvil3: Tell us a funny/embarasing story that happened durring the developement of Heart of The Swarm!

DK: A few weeks ago, our multiplayer design group was just having a casual meeting at my desk about something while I was just working on something else. Unintentially, I wasn't really listening and I wanted to talk about what I was working on so i said "Yeah I know, but what do you think about this?" And everyone started laughing so hard.

Supposedly, what one of our tech designers said right before I started talking was something along the lines of "Well I completely suck at this game and will never improve."

It was pretty embarassing, but we know each other so well that he knew exactly what happened.


Thank you all very much for joining us and making this AMA awesome! We had a blast, and we look forward to seeing you next week as we launch StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm!

Many thanks to the /r/StarCraft reddit community and the amazing administrators over there. Follow them on Twitter at: http://Twitter.com/RedditStarCraft.

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