Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 09:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, starcraft, lotv, legacy of the void, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard
Blizzard has been reconsidering what constitutes "a game sale" with StarCraft for quite some time now. They have been slowly carving out its mod platform, StarCraft Arcade, into a standalone, free product. They allow playing multiplayer with limitations, such as forcing free players to choose Terran (except for certain promotions). A few years in to StarCraft II's release, they even added "Spawning" to allow Starter and Wings of Liberty users to play locked content as long as a party member has purchased it, although Starter users are still locked to Terran.
Today's announcement is a little more conventional -- Legacy of the Void will be a standalone expansion. You can purchase it without owning any earlier content. If you do own Wings of Liberty and/or Heart of the Swarm, then it will behave like an expansion, however.
The game itself will change significantly, too. At the competitive level, you often have a bit of a boring early game, unless one player decides to be a bit cheesy with their tactics. A lot of this is due to how long it takes to get from your initial six workers to being supply blocked. In Legacy of the Void, you start with 12 workers, twice as many as before. Also, each mineral patch has 33% less minerals, requiring bases to be taken more frequently and discouraging a maxed-out army from sitting on a handful of expansions to build a bank.
Many units were added and changed as well. Terran and Protoss are being pushed toward dropping units. The Warp Prism has its pickup range increased, to allow it to grab and reposition units from anywhere within a relatively large army ball, without needing to put the transport unit in danger. On the other hand, Terrans are able to pick up Seige Tanks while they are in Siege Mode. This allows a Terran player, who is paying close attention, to drop a tank for a quick, high-damage, and splashing shot, and then pick it up before it can be attacked. Siege Tanks have large range, slow rate of fire, and a relatively low health. If they are never shot at, though, while they're reloading their main cannon, then that nullifies their weakness, as long as you can keep the Medivac alive, too.
One thing that Blizzard disliked, however, seems to be Swarm Hosts. In Heart of the Swarm, competitions went on for hours, literally hours, as one component turtled in a corner of the map (or surrounded an opponent into a corner of the map) with free units. This was particularly problematic for Protoss, that has a highly efficient, ball-based army, and Zerg, which could counter with their own Swarm Hosts. Battles was commonly wave-after-wave of free units doing zero (or minimal) damage, ad-infinitum.
In Legacy of the Void, they do not spawn Locusts (free units) fast enough to pin someone down, or keep someone out, and these Locusts need to be spawned manually. Instead, they are intended as more of a sieging unit, capable of dropping free units into a base and walking away. They also do not burrow, unless that upgrade is acquired, which will make them easier to attack. On the other hand, the Locusts can fly to their target, where they must land to attack, as normal. The Swarm Hosts do not need to be in a dangerous location, just a potentially dangerous range. Whether Swarm Hosts, if they are upgraded with Burrow, can release Locusts while hidden is unclear. It is not something that I have seen yet. That said, the borrowed, space-control unit is now the Lurker, a Brood War alumnus.
Many other changes have been announced, but it always comes down to user testing.
As usual for a Blizzard title, no official release date has been given. A private beta will be "coming soon" to selected participants. It was also available to play at Blizzcon.
Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 02:39 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, WCS, blizzard, blizzcon, esports
The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.
The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.
The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.
WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.
Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2014 - 03:22 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, esports
Movie studios are beginning to take video game tournaments seriously. MLG secured an ad deal with Relativity to promote their movies across its channels. Lionsgate, a more scrappy company known mostly for Michael Moore films until they took a risk on The Hunger Games, decided to one-up them and sponsor a whole tournament.
Actually, about three tournaments.
The first tournament will be run by Twitch and commentated by Nathanias and by NASL's RotterdaM and MrBitter (NASL is the company responsible for broadcasting WCS America since Season 2, 2013). It will have a $7,000 prize pool to be split among its 16 competitors. The tournament will be called, "Twitch Ender's Game on Blu-ray Tournament". Catchy.
Just a couple of days later, MLG will host the aptly titled, "MLG GameOn Ender's Game on Blu-ray Tournament". Its casters will be Team ROOT's Destiny and Catz, which is quite odd because both are competitors in the first tournament run by Twitch. Its prize pool is not yet announced. Other notable players include Scarlett, MajOr, MaSa, and Hitman.
The third "tournament" is actually a showmatch between the winners of each previous tournament. The two contestants will play a series against one another for a 70/30 split of $10,000 dollars.
It makes sense. The cost of running a StarCraft II tournament, including the prize pool, is probably significantly lower than most other ad campaigns. It just takes a company to think outside the box enough to actually do it. Lionsgate, of all the major film studios, is essentially the underdog as we alluded to earlier. Let's see how effective it is.
The Twitch tournament is currently on now and will run until February 9th. The MLG half will begin on the 11th. The Championship showmatch will be streamed by Twitch on February 22nd.
Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2013 - 12:43 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, esports, bitcoin
Update: The main series prize pool was increased to 14 BTC in addition to 1 BTC for the intro match.
So Bitcoins are becoming popular and a legitimate currency. TotalBiscuit decided to create a StarCraft 2 tournament where they are the prize. At the time of the announcement, the 12 Bitcoin prize was valued at about $10,000. Currently, after a little issue in China, it is worth about $7000 to $8000 USD. The English casters are TotalBiscuit and IdrA with several other languages provided including Portuguese and Vietnamese.
The headlining act is Scarlett versus NaNiwa in a best of 7 matchup. Also, they just announced an opening act for a single Bitcoin prize: iNcontroL versus Destiny in a best of 3. The latter pairing are two very comedic personalities. iNcontroL was a prominent player in the Starcraft: Brood War era while Destiny got popular in the StarCraft 2 Beta through Wings of Liberty.
Still no MULEs to mine Bitcoins though.
The stream is running now at TotalBiscuit's Twitch account.
Read on after the teaser break for spoilers as we update throughout the event. Update: The match is now over. The full article contains summaries of each game.
Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2013 - 04:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, HoTS, bitcoin
Bitcoin Starcraft Challenge is a show match between Scarlett, the Zerg player from Canada, and NaNiwa, the Protoss player from Sweden. These are two of the best 25 players in the world and, with TLO, the only top-25 players from outside of South Korea (although they each spent substantial time training there at some point).
Of course the interesting part is that they are playing for Bitcoins, 12 of them, which has a value of roughly $10,000 USD. Thankfully there is no Terrans to drop MULEs otherwise the whole economy would collapse (I troll, they are balanced all things considered).
TotalBiscuit and other (currently TBD) announcers will commentate the event, this Saturday, at noon EST. The event will be best of 7 and streamed by TotalBiscuit on Twitch; the VoDs will be later available on his Youtube page. It should be a very interesting event.
This will probably be the most efficient way to acquire Bitcoins with your GPU for quite some time.
Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2013 - 02:31 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: WCS, Starcraft II, Blizzcon 2013
The last match to decide the 16 StarCraft II players competing at Blizzcon is starting just about right now. This match-up, a best-of-five series between NaNiwa and Revival, was not an expected event. Over the whole of 2013, both players accumulated 3200 "WCS Points" which puts them in a tie for 16th place. As far as I can tell, Blizzard is hosting the event.
A little retro...
The WCS Global Finals have a prize pool of $250,000 USD. Whoever wins will be able to compete for up to $100,000 and, of course, the title of "Best StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Player in the World, 2013". Just attending the competition guarantees you at least $5000. All of this is on top of whatever else the player won over the last 10-or-so months.
You can check out the tie-breaker series, if you go quickly, by checking out their website. Blizzcon is taking place this weekend, Friday and Saturday, and is usually where Blizzard announces new titles. Hopefully it will be a big event to make up for the last year's hiatus.
Update 1: NaNiwa goes up 1-0 after crushing Revival with a quick push. Really quick. On to game 2. ((I will continue to update as the series goes on.))
Update 2: NaNiwa got a little greedy in getting a third base and Revival punished him for it. His third base got wrecked and his attack upgrade got denied. Revival, with a big lead, spent a lot of resources getting workers to increase his lead. NaNiwa, with very few options besides a 2-base push, massed up a bunch of blink stalkers.
As it turns out, Revival spent too much resources on workers and not enough on units to defend. NaNiwa is up 2-0. Revival now needs to win 3-in-a-row or he's out of Blizzcon contention. On to game 3!
Update 3: Revival pushed NaNiwa at both the second an third base with a large swell of zerglings and roaches. Eventually he broke NaNiwa's third. The attacking force could not leave though. NaNiwa used his forcefields to block their exit and kill them off. He then massed 2-attack blink stalkers and crushed Revival. 3-0 for NaNiwa with three straight 2-base blink stalker crushes.
The Round of 16 matchups for Blizzcon are:
- Soulkey (Z) vs NaNiwa (P)
- Bomber (T) vs MMA (T)
- Hero (P) vs sOs (P)
- Polt (T) vs Alive (T)
- Dear (P) vs Taeja (T)
- Jaedong (Z) vs MVP (T)
- Maru (T) vs MC (P)
- INnoVation (T) vs duckdeok (P)
Not Computex 2013: StarCraft II is changing. Free to play (with friends) and potential new Steam-like Battle.net
Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2013 - 02:40 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, HoTS
Big news for fans of Blizzard titles, as if we did not have enough news items. While the majority of this news pertains to fans of StarCraft II, Diablo and Warcraft players should pay attention. You have more to digest than the crumbs Kerrigan let fall to the ground.
The first news is most relevant if you have not yet played StarCraft II yet have a friend or friends who keeps nagging you to play with him, her, or them. A new feature, called "Spawning", allows Battle.net accounts to piggyback on the expansion level of party members. Actually, they even encourage it with XP boosts and a custom CarBot-illustrated achievement. This will also upgrade the free StarCraft: Starter Edition in a party with a Wings of Liberty or Heart of the Swarm owner to whatever expansion level is highest in the party. Starter can be promoted to Wings of Liberty or Heart of the Swarm, and Wings of Liberty can be promoted to Heart of the Swarm until the party breaks up.
The only restriction that I feel is worth mentioning: you, still, are only able to select the Starter Edition race (currently Terran) if you only have a Starter Edition account.
Of course there are other restrictions. You are unable to play the campaign, for instance. But, for the most part, the rest seem quite logical. This might also have some indirect relevance beyond Starcraft. If successful, I can see Blizzard implementing Spawning into their other franchises such as Diablo. Of course, this is just speculation of what might be at this point.
The other story comes from mmo-champion who posted screenshots of a unified Battle.net launcher. I was immediately suspicious, but after checking out the linked Battle.net Support Pages I am more convinced. The launcher looks quite a bit like Steam and that is really the only way to describe it. Each page is laid over a faded background image and players can choose from one of over a hundred avatars.
We then of course enter into the question, "Why would Blizzard spend so much effort for their handful of games?"
Who knows... yet, at least.
Subject: General Tech | February 3, 2013 - 11:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Heart of the Swarm, Starcraft II
So March is looking like a packed month for us PC gamers: SimCity, Bioshock Infinite, maybe some Tomb Raider are all vying for our time. Even looking past the number of games being launched, most of these games are massive time commitments. If that is not enough, also on its way is Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm.
The folks down at PC Gamer were given a preview of the campaign. Check out their teaser below.
I must say that the campaign looks to be quite interesting in the story direction. Kerrigan clearly has kept some ties with the Zerg, although that has been obvious, and I wonder how Raynor will get tied up in that. The trailers kept it quite ambiguous how opposed or allied the two will be despite both having a common enemy.
While I wonder about the details of the campaign, I also wonder how Legacy of the Void will follow. There is still a very real threat of Hybrids which somewhat fell silent except snippets of Wings of Liberty. Without potentially spoiling the experience through speculation, there is quite a lot of room for Kerrigan, the Protoss, and Raynor in terms of the end of premonition quest-line of Wings of Liberty.
Who knows? For that matter, who even knows when Legacy of the Void will come out?
Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2012 - 09:19 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Too cool for E3, Starcraft II
Blizzard has released a new video to get us all excited about the upcoming expansion pack for Starcraft 2. Most of the changes announced at Blizzcon have been once again altered -- and the video more closely reflects what we should see when the game is launched.
Blizzard is one of the companies known for leaving nothing sacred from a patch.
Can you guess what their pre-release changelog is like?
Several months ago at Blizzcon we were introduced to the proposed Heart of the Swarm changes. A development blog post from Dustin Browder in mid-April discussed removing the shredder, changing the warhound, as well as bringing back the mothership and overseer and otherwise sweeping changes through everything.
Nothing is sacred except the marine… trollololololololol.
The mothership in and around the Beta had several abilities unique to the Starcraft universe such as the wormhole transit, temporal rift, and planet cracker. By game’s release the mothership was a big and slow arbiter from Brood War -- at least if you consider vortex and stasis field to be the same spell. At the start of the changes it looked as though Blizzard would once again return to what they have done in the past. Thankfully they still seem to be trying new and unusual things.
For all of you who loved the Mothership and Carrier tech... the Mothership is back!
Were your carri-ears burning? Sorry for that... poor Mr. Lonely.
Also released is the first Battle Report which gives us our first casted look at the game as it currently stands. Sean (Day) Plott and Rob Simpson cast two Blizzard employees playing on the new expansion pack. My first reaction is that Protoss might be a little too harassment focused and that Zerg might be a little too powerful in straight-up battles.
But I know as well as anyone that it will take time to see what works and Blizzard will change what does not without any form of hesitation.