Cradle of Death feedback

Co-op Missions Discussion
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So now that Cradle of Death has been out for a while, do you guys feel like there are some simple changes that could improve it a lot?

When I first learned that Blizzard would be adapting my mission, Cradle of Death, I had ambitions of writing a deep analysis of their take, but I don't really have time to do that. Still, I thought it would be fun to briefly write about it.

When the post first went up and I saw my beautiful forest replaced with a bleak gray station and these strange constructs that had to be disabled, I was worried it wouldn't even be recognizably inspired by my version. As soon as loaded into the map, my worries dissipated. It was immediately obvious how close Blizzard had stuck to the original map layout: https://i.imgur.com/93jHHi5.jpg (Although they did make some common-sense improvements, opening up a few areas.) This surprised me since I considered the layout the weakest aspect of Cradle of Death.

Of course, the design has significant changes. When I designed Cradle of Death, I thought back of feedback I wrote on the Co-op game mode back in 2016: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/sc2/topic/20749115966
Thinking back to my criticisms of the mode at the time and how I would address them purely through may design, I decided to focus on Player Agency, Variety, and Rewarding Player Creativity, Skill, and Exploration: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/sc2/topic/20753526445
For the most part, they stripped all of the elements that supported these goals, such as removing the variety of hybrids and payload upgrades while putting in the construct system that really limits pretty much all of those aspects.

However, it did capture the feeling and spirit of the original mission. They doubled down on the player-controlled payloads rather than simplifying them as I feared. They also kept the chaotic pacing and constant counter-attacks. While simplified and cleaned up, it still definitively inspired by my version and it is, in my opinion, a very fun and unique mission. Let’s take a closer look at their design decisions, the good, the bad, and now I think it can be improved.

The Good

The construct system is both the good and the bad of Blizzard’s implementation.
A trouble I had with Cradle of Death is that players had trouble keeping track of their payloads. The construct system serves as a series of way-points for your payloads which help you keep track of them. By requiring the payload to disarm constructs, players are organically reminded to keep moving their payload forward. If players lose track of their payload, they can just check the location of the last construct they fought and it’ll probably be there.

In my version I gave players the option to leave their payload at home and pre-clear areas. (You still had to protect payloads from attacks triggered by the payload’s forward progress) However, if you considered the ability to leave the payload at home a problem, Blizzard’s solution is elegant. The construct system in combination with eliminating the loss condition for losing too many payloads made babysitting payloads less stressful and frustrating for lower level players.

They also improved the layout and enemy attack waves. Opening up the bottom of the base so players can return home to defend attacks easily combined with eliminating enemy attacks to your expansion allowed them to keep frequent base assaults without making the mission too difficult for lower level players.

Overall, I think that sums up what Blizzard did well: they cut the fat and made the mission easier to follow for lower level players.
The Bad

On the other hand, they made the mission worse for higher-level players and also didn't fix some of the issues in my version.

One of the things I fought hard to do when making Cradle of Death is to make sure players never felt held back by the payloads and that they never lost simply because the payload was physically moving too slow to reach the detonation point before the timer expired.

To this end, players could rally the payload production facility and if the timer was low, payloads would respawn with a boot powerup active. Furthermore, the payload would move slower with no allies nearby but move faster the more allied troops were present. (Explained as a “fear” system, justified by the meek personality of the elderly gentlemen piloting my payloads) This meant that better players would be able to make the payload physically move faster by having a larger supply army near it.

In contrast, players can be held back by their payloads in Blizzards version: not only because they don’t have these catch-up mechanics (or the power of payload upgrades) but because constructs literally require the payload, which can only be in so many places at once. While it’s in the nature of co-op missions to railroad you towards specific objectives, Cradle of Death is the only mission where you’ll run into invulnerable death machines if you stray from the objective. In my version, you escorted the payloads. In Blizzard’s version, the payloads escort you and can bottleneck player skill.

The constructs (as well as the mission’s pacing) also have the unfortunate effect of making the mission too difficult for some people but too easy for others. Player’s who don’t understand the mission or lack skill will lose units to the construct’s powerful attacks, but players who disable the constructs with payloads will find the mission too easy. This could be solved if the constructs were not invulnerable by default and the Payloads only weakened them rather than nullifying them completely – making the challenge a little less binary, so the mission isn't either too difficult or too easy.

The bonus objective also presents some problems. While initially I liked the idea of the bonus objective utilizing the payload, I've begun to agree with others that it’s too similar to the main objective and further holds back better players, making the mission more boring by introducing a waiting period where you’re sitting around waiting for your payload to re-spawn. Considering how many players I've seen remiss at the removal of payload upgrades, I’d love to see the bonus objective upgrade the payload in some minor way rather than consume it and adjust the terrain to allow the payload to reach the main objective constructs faster so the bonus objective doesn't cause such a long period of inactivity.

Another issue (which my version had) is a lot of players are not ever moving their payloads. Even weeks after the mission’s release, I hear people complaining about allies never moving their payloads at all or moving them but not placing them in the detonation zone even with plenty of time to do so. In a way it feels like the construct mechanic teaches players this: their allies payload can single-handedly disable constructs, so they don’t ever need to control theirs. Perhaps more pointed dialog from Stone would also help. This is never an issue I totally solved, but I got around it to an extent by sharing control of your allies’ payload if they don’t move it.

In my version there were a limited number of payloads, but since in Blizzard’s version payloads are infinite, it makes sense to solve this problem by simply giving players another payload after they deploy one. If their ally doesn't deploy theirs, you can deliver a second one yourself. If they do, you simply have your payload for the next objective a little earlier.

Another solution Ive heard is allowing players to build as many additional payloads as they want (at a cost) in addition to the one given for free. This would help speed-runners and higher-skilled players not be bottlenecked by the single slow payload as well as solve the afk (or incompetent) ally problems.
There are a few other things I would suggest:

Players often seem confused about the payloads disabling attack. I think it would be good if it was an ability on the command card players can read a tool-tip description of. Additionally, it would help if it had a range indicator. It would also help if when players click on a construct, the construct would cast the disabling beam from maximum range rather than moving right up to the construct. Lastly, it confuses players when their Payload doesn’t disable a construct when their allies does: maybe it would make more sense to have both constructs fire disabling beams to a construct rather than just the first construct to arrive.

When playing Karax with Dehaka, I found it was far too easy for Karax to block Dehaka’s hatcheries from walking to the expansion area by placing cannons at the ramps. This is more a problem of his hatcheries having a massive collision radius, but the choke towards the expansions could also be widened.
There actually is a tooltip on the trucks to explain the disable mechanic.

It also changes colour when the truck is actively disabling something, which I find helpful because it means that as long as the truck is in its own control group I can select it and tell if it is busy atm or if I can push it in deeper.
07/08/2018 03:55 PMPosted by WireBender
There actually is a tooltip on the trucks to explain the disable mechanic.

It also changes colour when the truck is actively disabling something, which I find helpful because it means that as long as the truck is in its own control group I can select it and tell if it is busy atm or if I can push it in deeper.

Interesting, I'll have to check for that again. When it first came out someone complained about this and I specifically checked for it because of that, but I guess I missed it.
The original version was incredibly fun and made me cackle like a maniac. (So much fun that it reminded me of a certain crazy Arch Wizard. Was this perhaps what inspired you?)

The new co-op version, however, I find extremely underwhelming, almost dull.

07/08/2018 02:48 PMPosted by TheSkunk
When playing Karax with Dehaka, I found it was far too easy for Karax to block Dehaka’s hatcheries from walking to the expansion area by placing cannons at the ramps. This is more a problem of his hatcheries having a massive collision radius, but the choke towards the expansions could also be widened.

Sounds to me like the explosion needs to be bigger!
The only thing I hate about it is it's a forced coop mechanic. Similar to why I hate Lock and Load and Chain of Ascension. If your ally isn't helping with the objective, you cannot win. Whereas, with missions where you just need to kill the objective, you don't need your ally. It helps but it's doable without them.
Very good write up and analysis.

07/08/2018 02:46 PMPosted by TheSkunk
Another issue (which my version had) is a lot of players are not ever moving their payloads. Even weeks after the mission’s release, I hear people complaining about allies never moving their payloads at all or moving them but not placing them in the detonation zone even with plenty of time to do so. In a way it feels like the construct mechanic teaches players this: their allies payload can single-handedly disable constructs, so they don’t ever need to control theirs. Perhaps more pointed dialog from Stone would also help. This is never an issue I totally solved, but I got around it to an extent by sharing control of your allies’ payload if they don’t move it.
One way that could help, particularly those unfamiliar with the truck placement, is to use visual "arrow paths" that lead from the truck to their designated detonation zone. These are used in certain maps in the campaign. They could appear when the constructs for that zone are cleared.

07/08/2018 02:48 PMPosted by TheSkunk
When playing Karax with Dehaka, I found it was far too easy for Karax to block Dehaka’s hatcheries from walking to the expansion area by placing cannons at the ramps. This is more a problem of his hatcheries having a massive collision radius, but the choke towards the expansions could also be widened.
This extends to Stukov as well. For most games I've played on this map with Stukov as partner, they tend to build bunkers near the top exit ramps thus blocking the way for the trucks to move out therefore forcing them to head south. Though Stukov can move his bunkers around, it can take a while depending on how many there are.
Accurate, though it should also be noted how much care went into setting up preplaced enemies on this map compared to others.

Each enemy camp's unit comp is thematically strong and requires a different approach. The two potential last bases are especially so, featuring diverse and specialised threats like reaver tempest, mass ultra, or mass carrier. The fact that the last objective is scoutable by checking which gate is guarded by constructs further increases the skill ceiling of the map by rewarding player knowledge and providing opportunities to counter ahead of time.

On other maps, enemy camps are generally a mishmash of mainline units and not particularly distinct from each other.
one things that i really don't like is your position in the start. [middle of map]

1]hard to defend without a good partner [many waves from all directions].
2]much easy to block the truck passages

is a nice map after all. you need to be carefull making the objective, but nothing insanely hard...
The thing I like least about Cradle of Death is the weird multi-racial attack waves, they're much weaker than normal attack waves (maybe by design since they're more frequent and in-addition to the normal ones?) but the fact they're multi-racial is so inconsequential because it's always just (worst version of the normal attack wave) + (like, one medic/scout/three roaches) and the unit from the second race always spawns after the initial wave so it's nearly universally spawn-killed without doing anything.

I just don't really get the point of it when the unit from the other race that they send doesn't come at the same time as the units from the first race, and doesn't synergize with the first wave at all in any way.

I think the map would work a lot better If the multi-racial truck attack waves were improved to make them... actually meaningful, but the map would feel a lot better if it was like scythe of Amon where each distinct quadrant had a random race controlling it, rather than the entire map being on enemy type. The multi-racial waves and distinct quadrants nature of the map make it feel like its screaming for that
07/08/2018 06:52 PMPosted by Togetic
I just don't really get the point of it when the unit from the other race that they send doesn't come at the same time as the units from the first race, and doesn't synergize with the first wave at all in any way.


The only point of the attack waves is to make sure you don't leave your truck alone in the middle of nowhere. They don't need to actually be able to fight your army.
07/08/2018 07:31 PMPosted by Kelthar

The only point of the attack waves is to make sure you don't leave your truck alone in the middle of nowhere. They don't need to actually be able to fight your army.


But, again, what's the point of making it multi-racial at all if the single unit from the second race doesn't do anything anyway, and spawns in such a way that it pretty much can't do anything
07/08/2018 07:35 PMPosted by Togetic
07/08/2018 07:31 PMPosted by Kelthar

The only point of the attack waves is to make sure you don't leave your truck alone in the middle of nowhere. They don't need to actually be able to fight your army.


But, again, what's the point of making it multi-racial at all if the single unit from the second race doesn't do anything anyway, and spawns in such a way that it pretty much can't do anything
I've always felt they should spawn simultaneously with combinations that actually feel threatening. Not sure exactly which combinations would be the hardest to deal with, but something like Vipers and High Templar at the same time could be interesting.

I also agree that the bonus feels too similar to the main objective. It always feels like "Wait, I need to blow up ANOTHER truck?!" The whole map just turns into a game of 'grab a truck, blow up a few constructs, ditch the truck, rinse and repeat'.
Who was the voice actor for the second version? I liked him a lot. Not Nathanias the other guy.
07/08/2018 07:35 PMPosted by Togetic
07/08/2018 07:31 PMPosted by Kelthar

The only point of the attack waves is to make sure you don't leave your truck alone in the middle of nowhere. They don't need to actually be able to fight your army.


But, again, what's the point of making it multi-racial at all if the single unit from the second race doesn't do anything anyway, and spawns in such a way that it pretty much can't do anything

I wonder if that second spawn of another races’ units is actually a bug, not intentional.
So I just played this map for the first time. Why win the game when there's a big area at the bottom of the map still undiscovered? Why not clear the entire map to win?
07/08/2018 07:31 PMPosted by Kelthar
07/08/2018 06:52 PMPosted by Togetic
I just don't really get the point of it when the unit from the other race that they send doesn't come at the same time as the units from the first race, and doesn't synergize with the first wave at all in any way.


The only point of the attack waves is to make sure you don't leave your truck alone in the middle of nowhere. They don't need to actually be able to fight your army.

I feel like this doesn't make that much sense in the context of Blizzard version where the truck has infinite lives. At best, losing the truck is just annoying.

Plus, I haven't found these attack waves to really be effective at threatening the truck, either. They spawn fairly far from your trucks and often get distracted on other things, and the constructs usually do a good job of keeping your truck active anyway.

I don't mind these attack waves, but they do seem a bit odd.

07/08/2018 07:54 PMPosted by Potato
Who was the voice actor for the second version? I liked him a lot. Not Nathanias the other guy.

Pr0nogo, who offered free voice acting services to anyone participating in the contest.

07/08/2018 10:58 PMPosted by CruelAngel
So I just played this map for the first time. Why win the game when there's a big area at the bottom of the map still undiscovered? Why not clear the entire map to win?

I guess this is just an artifact of my version, where all of the map was used. But they cut down on the objective count. Now they keep the map big and just change up the objective positions for "variety"; another throwback to my version where the variety had more impact than just a different spawn location for objectives. I don't mind it, but it did catch me off guard the first few times I played their version -- I was expecting another objective!
07/09/2018 04:21 AMPosted by TheSkunk
07/08/2018 10:58 PMPosted by CruelAngel
So I just played this map for the first time. Why win the game when there's a big area at the bottom of the map still undiscovered? Why not clear the entire map to win?

I guess this is just an artifact of my version, where all of the map was used. But they cut down on the objective count. Now they keep the map big and just change up the objective positions for "variety"; another throwback to my version where the variety had more impact than just a different spawn location for objectives. I don't mind it, but it did catch me off guard the first few times I played their version -- I was expecting another objective!


Actually, it can provide good killing-time objectives for those who are waiting on the trucks and/or their ally. Just full-clear the map while your ally is trying to slowly advance his/her truck.
Ok, so far I've found only one problem with the map: due to central positioning of your base there's like 15 seconds delay between the attack wave announcement and enemies knocking on your base's doors and it's kinda anoying, especially when you're in the middle of doing bonus or pushing enemy base.

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