Co-op Mission Update - January 17th, 2018

Co-op Missions Discussion
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Hi all! My name is Kevin Dong, and I’m a new game designer on StarCraft II. Some of you may know me from Teamliquid or the Battle.net Co-op forums here. Now that I’m on the development team, I help the multiplayer team when I can, but I’ll mostly be focusing on Commander Design for Co-op.

Anyway, enough about me. We’ve got several topics to discuss, so let’s talk about Co-op!

Part & Parcel

We’ve read all your feedback on Part & Parcel and have identified the following primary concerns:
  • The pick-up mechanic is not as fun as it could be.
  • The bonuses, especially the first bonus, are difficult.
  • The mission often ends abruptly (We’d like to investigate ways to more effectively communicate the objective).
  • There isn’t enough time to complete the mission.
  • It’s not clear what the bosses do.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a closer look at each of these concerns, and we’re already discussing potential solutions to many of these issues.

Major Commander Overhauls

Last November marked the two-year anniversary of StarCraft II Co-op. Over that course of time, we’ve released a total of 14 commanders and 14 maps. Thanks to your support, Co-op has grown to become a huge success. It’s been a long journey, but we think it might be a good time to look back at our previous content and see how we can make it even better. Over time, we’ll be looking at each of the 14 individual commanders we’ve released and tweaking them according to the following goals:
  • Unit Balance Within a Commander: Our primary goal with this revamp is to ensure that units within a given commander all have some utility or specific niche. As of now, some commanders have clear “most powerful” unit compositions in pretty much every situation. If we are successful, commanders will have more choices for unit compositions that are relatively equal in power. Ideally, your choice of unit composition would depend more on the map you’re playing, the enemy unit composition, what mutations you have active, and your individual playstyle. Keep in mind that with these changes, we generally don’t want to skew the playstyles of commanders too much. For example, if Corsair/Dark Templar is currently considered the best build for Vorazun, we want to ensure that it is still a very powerful option after our changes.
  • Commander Balance: Our community is often very vocal about which commanders they feel are underpowered—I should know since I’ve been a part of this very vocal community! We’ll be attempting to make changes to the “underpowered” commanders so that the perceived power level among the commanders is more comparable.
  • Mastery Balance: There are still a few masteries in the game that are underwhelming. We’re going to take a look at each individual mastery and adjust accordingly, attempting to make the choice between the two Mastery options a more interesting decision.
  • Bug Fixes: There are a few bugs in Co-op that unintentionally distort the power level of certain commanders. We’ll be looking to fix these bugs and then reconsider balance if these bug fixes happen to affect balance too much.

Keep in mind that this is a complex process that won’t be completed overnight. In addition, not every commander will receive the same number of changes. Rather, we expect some commanders to receive many more changes than others. That being said, we’d like to start a discussion with the community regarding what they’d like to see changed. Some general guidelines before we begin though:
  • Although we’re not completely against reworking or adding new abilities to units, we generally will lean towards number-related changes if possible. We’ll try to reserve new abilities specifically for units that have issues differentiating themselves from other units in the commander’s arsenal. A prime example is Swann’s Wraith, whose role greatly overlaps with his Goliath, which is often regarded as the superior unit.
  • We’ll probably try to stay away from entire commander mechanic revamps.
  • Again, we’re going to roll out with these changes gradually over time after we receive community feedback. We’ll also try to focus on a few commanders at a time to ensure that community discussion is as focused as possible. If your favorite commander is not picked as one of the commanders we’ll change in the first round, don’t fret! We’ll get to everyone eventually.

With that said, the first round of commanders we’ll be looking at includes Han & Horner, Fenix, and Karax. Here are our thoughts regarding these commanders:

Han & Horner

After we release a commander, we like to take a little time to evaluate our community’s experience with them and then see what we can do to improve it. Our most recent commander has seen a decent amount of time in the sun so far and we’ve noticed the following:
  • Reapers seem like they’re in a good place right now. Most of the other units, on the other hand, seem weaker in comparison. The community has specifically pointed to the Battlecruiser as a problem unit, citing his Mini Yamato upgrade is more of a downgrade.
  • Strike Fighters aren’t seeing as much use as we’d like. We’d like to hear your thoughts on ways that we might change these to make them more appealing


Fenix

Oh boy. Fenix has historically been the most-changed commander in all of Co-op by a wide margin. Despite all the changes, we’re still receiving feedback that he’s maybe a bit too weak. Here’s a list of Fenix’s issues we’ve identified:
  • Fenix’s ramp-up time still feels a bit too long. While we’ve made efforts to address these issues in the past—notably, cutting most of his research costs by half—but we still feel like he might need a bit more of a bump.
  • Carriers are still commonly considered Fenix’s best unit composition. While we’ve tried to curb the strength of Carriers in the past, we now want to take the opposite approach. First, we’re thinking about reverting the cost change to Interceptors made in the past from 15 to 0. Second, we want to take a good look at the rest of Fenix’s army and see how we can push those units and their respective champions to the next level.
  • Fenix’s army lacks survivability. First, we believe that whatever buffs we make to Fenix’s army (even offensive ones) will improve his units’ survivability (Amon’s units don’t deal damage when they’re dead). Additionally, we’re looking into what we can do about the Conservator, a unit whose designated purpose is to help retain units.
  • Avenging Protocol still doesn’t feel as strong as we’d like. We’ll be looking to make major changes to Avenging Protocol so that it’ll feel quite a bit more impactful in battle.


Karax

Karax is a popular commander in mutations and frequently gets voted as the “Commander of the Week” in mutation posts. We decided to focus on Karax as one of the commanders for the next patch since some of the plans we have for Fenix also seem like decent changes for Karax (Colossus and Carrier changes in particular). Karax is an example of a commander that we feel doesn’t require many changes (and we don’t want to set the expectation that every single commander gets sweeping changes).
  • As with Fenix, we’re planning on reverting the Carrier Interceptor change.
  • We feel the Colossus costs slightly too much for what it does, especially because it’s a fairly niche unit.


Community Feedback

For each of these commanders, we’d like feedback from the community on the following:
  • What feedback do you have regarding the commander as a whole?
  • How does the commander’s power level feel relative to other commanders?
  • Which of the commander’s units do you feel are underperforming or don’t have a clear role?
  • Which of the commander’s Mastery choices do you think are underpowered? Is every Mastery choice an interesting one?
  • What feedback do you have regarding the issues we’ve identified? What suggestions do you have to address those issues?

We hope this is a good starting point for discussion. Every piece of feedback helps and we read every post on the forums, so please keep them coming!

Kevin Dong
Co-op Commander Designer
Welcome to the team Kevin!
Good Job on the game. I'm not the best player but I do have some opinions on Han and Horner.

I tried at various points to make use of Hellion units, but to me they seem to only be good to die off and give buffs to reapers. Which is sad and not very meaningful. The mines are ok, but cost supply and can be overrun on harder missions for me. Furthermore, reapers+air have a lot of synergy as you can deal with ground only units such as tanks and have the same pathing.

I quite liked the mini yamato. I didn't know if it was an upgrade or downgrade. It was just cool.

Strike fighters are very interesting but they're too slow to use in the middle of a fight, and too weak to use before a fight. By the time you unlock it, it's only good to take out turrets or tanks. You might get more use if you had means to get vision on the final area or something. So you could whittle it down while you're in the second to last zone for instance. But this requires radar sweeps or some throwaway units. It's too much effort for what it gives back. The supply cost is also a problem. So if I make them I just make one and use it to give vision to use my own top bar on some far away base.

It's very interesting to use it in order to give vision for your Nova teammate or someone else's top bar, but that is more of a party play concept.
Great update.
What, no abby nerf? Monk, you promised meeeeeeeeeeeee

Okay, addressing weaker commanders first is perfectly fine.
For Han and Horner:

One major issue with widow mines: the burrow command in queued commands many times doesn't work, this is a major headache.

Maybe Strike Fighters would be more useful if they would just attack an area instead of 1 particular unit. There were simular units in the command and conquer series. Something like a mini-'Call in the Fleet' or like the Harrier of Red Alert 2.
Part and Parcel is one of the harder maps right now.

It's odd that the Hp bar on the unit is different from his true hp bar.

When our boss unit is on the map, it feels like an escort mission and that we should protect it. The truth is that it spends a lot of time walking around without enemies, and it's better to just push in to areas where we can collect even more scrap.

It's not clear if collecting scrap while our boss is already up will contribute to the next boss timer, though I assume it's so.

If our boss can die and we don't fail the misison, why do we fail if we don't collect enough scrap in time?
For Han and Horner:

(1) I agree with SniperJoe that hellion is only useful when they die and give the buff. That is a bit weird when you thinking about it. You basically spend 100 mineral to buy a speed buff, which is only granted when the hellion die. Why don't you change it to a speed buff only when the hellion is alive? That way we have at least incentive to build more hellions and keep them alive. Of course the numbers need to be adjusted a bit downward.

(2) Hellbat is frankly quite useless. Their death ability even more so. It'd be great if the death ability has a small AOE.

(3) Strike fighter is probably only on par if not superior to army build on DoN. It is also useful on mutations with void rifts. On any other map I feel this choice is dominated by Horner's air units. I would think the biggest obstacle for people to use it effectively is the time delay. Very often it doesn't hit anything, or the enemy unit has already died when the fighter arrives. I don't know how to address this issue, but I would guess if the time delay is much smaller then striker fighter would be more popular.

Another way to get more people to start using it: you start with a one platform at the beginning of the game, or when the tech lab finishes (to allow time to build supply depot). People like free stuff.
Strike Fighters aren’t seeing as much use as we’d like. We’d like to hear your thoughts on ways that we might change these to make them more appealing

There are a ton of things that make Strike Fighters unappealing:

  • Can't hit air units
  • Takes a long time to reach target if target is far across map
  • High cost, compared to relative usefulness
  • Can Die (Is this really necessary?)

  • As far as cost, if I'm trying to go for Horner's units (plus the cost of upgrades) the gas cost isn't worth it. (If Horner's other units were actually good) If I'm going pure Mira, the supply is too high to be worth the equivalent supply in say, mass Reapers.

    However, in specific, niche situations Strike Fighters are actually already pretty good -- any time you are fighting immobile, easy to strike targets like vs the trains on Oblivion Express or buildings on Dead of Night. I'd save cost reductions (1 less supply or 50 less gas) for a future patch if Strike Fighters are still not useful after other changes. For now, I'd focus on making them more generally useful instead of so specifically useful.

    What forces them to be so niche is mainly their incapability of hitting air units (making them useless vs flying hybrids or any air comp) and the fact that it takes an incredibly long time for them to reach units all of the way across the map, meaning they can really only hit buildings, and buildings aren't really threatening. Make them capable of damaging air units. Making them have a set fly time so they take just as long to fire at something on the other side of the map as it takes to hit something close, and adjust that number until they are useful vs more than stationary targets.

    Finally, allowing the strike fighters to die sounds like a cool idea in theory, but in practice, it's a hard thing to factor into your usage of the ability so it doesn't add much to the game-play, and seems like sort of an unnecessary weakness to something that isn't very good.

    Also, if you ever decide to remove or change one of H&H's less desirable masteries, I would love a Strike Fighter platform mastery! It would be incredibly cool if I could commit to Strike Fighters even further by dumping mastery points into them. I'd like it 10x times more then the Mag Mine mastery, I already seem to have plenty of Mag Mines when I play.

    (Edit: This is TheSkunk, DomesticCow is my SEA account which got transferred to NA with the merge, forums didn't let me switch characters)
    First, congrats Monk!

    I'll just say, about Fenix (alas, what I feel is contradicted with the line about hard-numbers :-) )
    To me, I think one of the issue is the lack of "feedback" from his champions mechanism.
    Yes, they are better, beefier units than their regular counterparts...but they don't "feel" that way.
    ie - look at Abathur. In a sense, his units have the same mechanism. You've got a regular unit, you gobble up biomass, they either flat out transform into another super-unit, or visually get bigger.
    For Fenix.... a regular unit that becomes a champion basically just have a name attached to his head. And a very slightly different skin, that is hard to spot on the battlefield
    Yes, they will hit harder, and die less often....but the issue is not about numbers, it's about feel: it's not "rewarding", there is no "good feedback" for the player (at least, not for me)
    I play Coop for fun - I don't mind playing a Under-powered Commander if they are fun to play. It's just simply not the case with Fenix for the most part
    hey gratz to your new job!

    i want to use this opportunity and ask if there are/were any measures taken agains players that hit ascension 1000 through bugs. will their level be reset? do you mind this abuse(as it is abuse after all).

    01/17/2018 01:03 PMPosted by monk
    Reapers seem like they’re in a good place right now. Most of the other units, on the other hand, seem weaker in comparison. The community has specifically pointed to the Battlecruiser as a problem unit, citing his Mini Yamato upgrade is more of a downgrade.

    maybe make the mini yamato a new passive, ie giving the bc a second attack and both are used at the same time(similar to the goliath).

    01/17/2018 01:03 PMPosted by monk
    Fenix

    i still feel like his zealots while strong are not strong enough to qualify the cost.
    also in general i feel like his units die a bit fast. i like to make adept or scout based armies but they melt really fast. >.>

    01/17/2018 01:03 PMPosted by monk
    We feel the Colossus costs slightly too much for what it does, especially because it’s a fairly niche unit.

    imo all of karax units cost too much and bring so little. even with full mastery they are slightly more expensive than normal toss units(iirc).
    H&H: The mini-yamato cannon is actually a very nice upgrade, however it needs to be used correctly. H&H BCs are tanky and you can send them in first to snipe spellcasters and other AOE units that are very troublesome to reapers. The reason that mini-yamato is more useful than the base lasers at this is because the standard spellcasters will run away from the BC for each hit, and this drastically reduces the DPS and increases the time it takes for the BC to focus down units. Increasing the sight and attack range will help focus BCs into a sniper unit for high priority targets.
    Strike fighters can also fill this role, however, it needs vision for specific snipes, and have a relatively slow time to actually fly to the target, making them much less useful to counter problematic attack waves such as infestors from zerg mutaling, and high templar from toss, or thor tank (one aoe air and one aoe ground) vs terran mech. Giving them a speed upgrade, or an aoe range increase might help against these problems.

    Their power level seems slightly below average, since the replenishment abiltiy of reapers once you lose them is much slower than a similar low cost high dps unit like raynor's marine. Widow mines die very easily as soon as they shoot off a missile, and I dont use hellions or hellbats.

    The life regeneration mastery seems much less useful, since damage is not evenly spread across all of the air units. Additionally, the life regen does not affect flying galleons, which further increases the importance of bringing SCVs to repair all of their mech units. Significant other bonuses is hard to count as fully useful, as decent amount of reaper damage comes from bombs and death bombs, while when reapers die, all of Han's units lose their hp bonus, making the tiny bit of extra just as useless. The double salvage helps with losing Han's ground units, as you get money back to replace the giant pile of dead reapers.

    Fenix: One very underused utility from Fenix is his Arbiter's stasis ability. This is ability allows for setups to aoe down sets of units. However, his best combo with the stasis is disruptors, which do not have a hero unit, and do not hit air. It is also very easy to run out of energy on the arbiter if you recall + cloak + multiple stasis, and when there are multiple attack waves, you tend to run out of energy. While dragoon suit can help with the other attack waves, many longer range enemy comps makes it much more useless.

    His power level is also below average, as his core concept is having multiple champions(preferably all of them) on the field, yet most of his champions' units have a higher mineral cost (legionnaire, adept, immortal, scout) and are much softer than his gas based champions, making replenishing and initially making them much more mineral heavy (between no cost buildings, cost of pylons, and number of units needed for maximum tactical data web). I think that instead of removing gas costs on buildings, reducing their overall costs would work better.

    For Fenix' masteries, I tend to prefer energy regen on most commanders (kerrigan, zagara, nova) however, the 15% it gives doesnt make me feel like it does very much, while the 30% attackspeed helps with clearing waves and enemies. Champion AI attack speed helps kaldalis clear rocks faster, which gives a huge boost to Fenix' economy. The life and shields seems very counterintuitive as it feels like a nerf to avenging protocol, which seems like it should be a core mechanic of his champions. Im ok with the 3rd mastery set, though I only get a few points in supply to smooth out the early game (not be supply blocked for first pylon and while building kaldalis).

    Karax: He's fine, however his leveling curve is absolutely terrible. The unit cost increase and lack of instant warp in makes both his buildings and units very weak, and he completely relies on his ally until he gets instant warp, at which point his best option is to cannon rush. His major problem, however, is that he does not have a good ground based anti air unit, which makes his best thing against air either phoenixes, which die easily without the upgrade, or carriers, which are very expensive and slow.

    His power level is very strong on defensive maps, however if any offense is required, he is much much weaker.

    As for masteries, structure life and shield is only useful if you are making no units at all. Healing rate is OK, but as his better unit is the carrier, which gets repair drones, it is mostly used early or when theres no units being made. Energy regen is relatively small because of his energy regen upgrades from the forge, so I put points into repair for a bit better early game. For chrono vs energy, having a large energy pool is very useful his best early game and anti attack wave is from the energy, also it allows very fast expanding. The chrono increase is not very necessary because of his passive and chrono wave.
    H&H
    The cooldown/rebuild time on strike fighters makes them unfun to use. Napalm burn doesn't last long enough to let you create fire fields for the enemy to walk across. It's also hard getting vision of incoming enemy waves to lock fighters on. Silent mode ravens sort of work but all it does is cloak; vision is still on the low side since you want the raven to be out of detector range.

    Fenix
    I would say that Fenix's long ramp up time is because he's forced to macro, tech, and produce units simultaneously without any significant shortcuts outside of gassless structures. Personally, I feel like my early game build order for Fenix is way more elaborate than any other commander's while being less strong overall.

    His hero AIs are also the weakest group of heroic units when compared to other commanders. If his early AIs were more reliable, it would not only improve his ramping but also his survivability.

    Karax
    If collossi are too expensive, I think reducing the cost of fire lance would be good. When going mass robo, I always found collossi to be somewhat unnecessary given the strength of orbital strike.
    How about getting a thread for each topic?
    Are you against crossing over campaign upgrades between commanders? Repair drones on Fenix's carriers would be a massive buff in his unit durability. Granted considering how much cheaper his Carriers are then Karax's even with max cost reduction, maybe just limit Fenix's repair drone access to Colarian. It wouldn't help much in battle like with Karax or Swann support but it would allow for patch ups during down time.

    If you're willing to go down that road, there would be lots of stuff Fenix could take from Artanis or Karax like improved immortal barriers or thermal lances but I'd be wary about that as it runs the risk of turning Fenix into Artanis but better when Artanis already feels underpowered.
    In my opinion, Felix' Carriers seem stronger than other units because they have the highest survivability thanks to Interceptors tanking for them; while other units can die easily without anything to patch them up.

    Carriers don't have high firepower, but they can be slowly by steadily assembled, and snowball hugely in late game. They may not be the strongest comp, but definitely the easiest one to play with.

    So, giving Fenix a way to sustain his army won't help Carriers much, but it will be a big help for other units. It will be a good balance. Something like letting Conservators to restore shield just like the Aiur Sentry in LotV campaign.
    01/17/2018 01:03 PMPosted by monk

    Community Feedback

    For each of these commanders, we’d like feedback from the community on the following:
    • What feedback do you have regarding the commander as a whole?
    • How does the commander’s power level feel relative to other commanders?
    • Which of the commander’s units do you feel are underperforming or don’t have a clear role?
    • Which of the commander’s Mastery choices do you think are underpowered? Is every Mastery choice an interesting one?
    • What feedback do you have regarding the issues we’ve identified? What suggestions do you have to address those issues?

    Alright, time to get stuck in! I'll go point by point with each of the three commanders listed:

    Han & Horner
    • Han & Horner as a whole feel fairly potent and fun to play, but they definitely have some niggling weirdness that make me less inclined to play as them relative to other commanders. For example, I'm not a fan of Horner's units switching skins when upgraded, as that makes the entirety of the army feel like MIra's units rather than a mix of the two. I hate mag mines and would much rather just have the option to build standard base defenses - even just an auto turret would be nice. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't hate them as much if their arming and charge times were cut in half - and for that matter, if their projectile speeds were increased. As it is, they miss more often than they hit, which just feels terrible to experience.
    • Relative to other commanders... I have to admit, they fall pretty squarely in the middle for me, if not perhaps a bit below-average. The metric I usually go by is how many minerals I'm floating by the end of a match, and I'm definitely pretty low on minerals by the end of most matches, so I guess they're not that strong,
      but at the same time, Horner's units have such great staying power that I can't really complain that much.
    • You pretty much hit the nail on the head. Everything that isn't mass Reapers feels rather underwhelming. Wraiths are okay, if not pretty good, but vikings are annoying to field, especially in their ground assault mode, where they take up a TON of space and often get stuck behind Han's units. (I maintain that Raynor's vikings are superior thanks to their greater range and AoE anti-air attack). Battlecruisers are only good as meat shields currently. Try fielding a battlecruiser instead of upgrading your galleons - you'll regret it.
    • I find the first mastery set rather one-sided as the increase in health regen is hardly noticeable, especially since I usually resort to repairing with SCVs anyway (which is a necessity thanks to galleons not having health regen - btw, maybe this is something you should look at?), hence I'll always stick with the greater death chance.
      I find the entirety of the second set completely underwhelming - 15% more of 15%-ish attack speed is an incredibly tiny number, and likewise, a small chance (30%) of double salvage when salvage only returns 20% of a unit's cost is equally unimpressive. The former would need to reach something like +60% for me to care, and the latter 100% (frankly, I would need it to be more than double salvage).
      The last mastery set is also one-sided, as mag mines are currently the single most annoying calldown to try to make use of and the mastery does not address the biggest issue of mag mines, that being the charge time before they actually fly.
    • Strike fighters need a gas cost reduction. The supply I'm waffling on, since it's easy supply for Significant Other's bonus, but the gas cost really makes trying to field them feel more painful than it should. Hell, I wouldn't be against a 150/75 cost, as long as that gas cost goes down. The snap targeting feels inconsistent at best, and yes, the fact that they have no effect on air does not help them at all. I feel they should have some kind of airburst upgrade that gives them at least some air damage, even if it's much lower than their ground damage, and they should prioritize snapping to individual targets above the free targeting (and especially prioritize snapping to armored and structure tagged targets).


    I'll address Fenix in my next post.
    I have some ideas regarding Fenix and Karax:

    Fenix

    As I loved both the Brood War campaign and extra campaigns as a kid, I was disappointed to find Warbringer, the epic quick-trigger reaver, in a Colossus. I think I'd be awesome if he could be a Disruptor hero, which is a much more similar unit to the reaver. Some other personality could take his place as Colossus hero. Some spotting mechanic (especially to attack highground) would be nice for Disrupter use and in general. Maybe a hero observer with radar, larger vision radius and health could be added?

    I also agree that the conservator is underpowered. Longer base duration on the Protective Field with the upgrade making it permanent and some other defensive ability, like Force Field or shield recharging (maybe even repairing) could be added. Also a supply reduction to one would be appreciated, given that Fenix' units add up to max supply quickly.

    Fenix' Masteries aren't as crazily imbalanced as some other commanders', but pretty weak especially outside early game. All would still not be overpowered if numerically doubled (literally).

    Karax

    I agree that the Colossus is of little use and definitely doesn't befit its role as strong ground tech option. I have a proposal in that regard: Since Karax is a master phase-smith, he might have the idea to adapt the three-legged platform of the Colossus to more flexible use: Have the Robo produce an unarmed walker platform that allows to equip two (three with upgrade) of a variety of armament options simultaneously:

    • Standard anti-ground Thermal Lance (combined range+Fire Lance upgrade at RBay)
    • an anti-air option (since Shadow cannon has a long cooldown)
    • the option to house an energizer, inheriting it's abilities and giving it much needed survivability

    The ability to re-equip these units as needed (imagine stacking a few full of energizers with long range tickle beams going in all directions!) would add variety in army composition and would really emphasis Karax' masterful engineering.
    Hi all! My name is Kevin Dong, and I’m a new game designer on StarCraft II. Some of you may know me from Teamliquid or the Battle.net Co-op forums here. Now that I’m on the development team, I help the multiplayer team when I can, but I’ll mostly be focusing on Commander Design for Co-op.

    Anyway, enough about me. We’ve got several topics to discuss, so let’s talk about Co-op!

    Kevin Dong
    Co-op Commander Designer


    Monk, I have a request relating to Co-op.

    Make destroying enemy bases and structures worth it. If you destroy those bases it should matter.

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