Greetings, citizens of the Koprulu sector! It’s been some time since we last submitted a situation report for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, but with patch 1.3, we felt that it was a good time to address some of the changes we implemented and our thoughts on them. We’ve pulled out some of the most notable patch notes to explain our design philosophy and the thinking behind this update.
- Players can no longer hide units by setting them in a close proximity patrol (ex: Viking flower).
There was a core problem with the Viking flower strategy in that there was no way to know how many Vikings were patrolling a specific area. In StarCraft II, scouting armies is already a difficult and important aspect of play, and it was definitely not our intention to make it possible for air units to use this patrol method to disguise their numbers. We consider this case more of a bug fix than a balance change.
- Units leaving the Mothership’s Vortex are now un-targetable and immune to damage for 1.5 seconds.
This was another case that we viewed as more of a bug fix than a balance change. The original concept of Vortex was that it was more than just a stasis or a lockdown. In addition to having the protoss player lock down a part of his or her opponent’s army, the spell was supposed to also be about creating situations for enemy interaction with the Vortex.
For example: If I’m playing zerg and half of my army was Vortexed, I may decide to put the remaining half into the Vortex. Conversely, I could choose to simply sacrifice half of my units instead and run with the rest if greatly outnumbered by the protoss opponent. However, there was a bug in which splash units instantly killed everything coming out of a Vortex, preventing the different types of interactions we originally intended.
- Khaydarin Amulet upgrade (+25 starting energy) has been removed.
This is perhaps the 1.3 patch change that was most discussed by the community and we wanted to take some to time to explain the rationale behind it. Ultimately, there were two reasons we wanted to remove this item.
- We felt this upgrade reduced strategic choice. When combined with stalker or charge zealot warp-ins, this upgrade made it nearly impossible to do any sort of harassment attack anywhere there was a pylon. We didn’t like the reduction in strategic options, as the opponent could only fight major battles with protoss in the late game.
- We felt late game protoss splash damage was slightly overpowered. This applies both to high templars and colossi. We felt that if we were to nerf both of these units protoss may end up too weak in the late game. Therefore, we decided to adjust high templars first and see how the game plays out. As we’ve mentioned many times before, we feel it’s safer to take small steps in making balance changes than making drastic changes to an entire race.
- Charging Zealots will now hit fleeing targets at least once.
Even after researching Charge, there are times when zealots aren’t able to hit the opponent even once and just end up getting kited to death. Although this change will not suddenly flip the relationship in those cases, we wanted to improve it a bit. We want Charge zealots to perform better than normal zealots in as many scenarios as possible.
- Battlecruiser movement speed increased from 1.406 to 1.875.
Although we don’t want to see battlecruisers used in every terran late game, we noticed they’re hardly ever used at all. To encourage their use in more games, we decided to buff their biggest weakness, movement speed.
- Bunker build time increased from 35 to 40 seconds.
The focus of this change was strictly on reducing the effectiveness of offensive bunkering. With the build time increased, we noticed that there wasn’t as much of a change to defensive bunkers, whereas offensive bunkering is a lot more difficult to pull off.
- EMP now drains up to 100 energy instead of all available energy. The effect on protoss shields remains unchanged.
We had three main reasons for implementing this change:
- We wanted ghost EMP to be less effective vs. infestors in the ZvT matchup. Infestors are fairly slow moving and have high costs. We felt that one EMP shutting down multiple Infestors was too much.
- After the high templar change, we noticed the ghost vs. high templar relationship was a bit too much in the ghost’s favor.
- Early/mid game sentries are almost a requirement vs. terran. However, there were scenarios at different skill levels where one EMP would manage to luck out and hit every single sentry, making it so that protoss had no chance to stop the mass Stimpack terran army.
- Stimpack upgrade research time increased from 140 to 170 seconds.
It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard that there were concerns from players about the use of Stimpacks and there’s a reason why; Stimpack timing pushes by terran players can be extremely difficult for opponents to stop without employing effective scouting. We wanted these types of pushes to come slightly later in order to provide more time for opponents to prepare for these attacks and to potentially get scouting units together to effectively scout for these types of pushes.
- Fungal Growth stun duration decreased from 8 to 4 seconds.
- Fungal Growth damage increased by +30% vs. armored units.
Both of the Fungal Growth changes were mainly made to address a ZvZ issue with mutalisk vs. infestor, and to make infestors more useful vs. protoss. For mutalisks, we found they were just not useful enough in ZvZ due to the Fungal Growth stun duration being too long. So, the duration was reduced to make them a bit more viable in the ZvZ matchup. This reduction in stun duration means the damage goes in faster. However, we realized that mutalisks suffer mostly due to stuns combined with hydralisks shooting from below. As for infestors themselves, we found they weren’t that useful vs. protoss. We wanted to solve both of these issues while keeping infestors as powerful as they are vs. terran. Fungal Growth’s damage itself wasn’t as big of a problem as the stun, so we decided to go with this change so that the stun duration reduction is somewhat countered by the damage buff.
The +30% armored damage change was more strictly targeted towards stalker-based protoss armies, as well as marauder-based terran armies. We wanted infestors to be more of a core unit in the ZvP matchup while keeping them just as useful vs. terran. The stun duration reduction change by itself didn’t allow these two things, so we had to make this damage change as well in order to arrive at the right place for the infestor.
We’ve made every effort to weigh these types of changes very carefully and will continue to do so in the future. We understand the impact they have on gameplay and want to make sure that when we make a change, it’s for the betterment of the game as a whole. The metagame is always changing, and that can make balancing the game a challenge, but we are dedicated to constantly evolving StarCraft II and committed to providing the kind of epic gameplay experience the community expects.
* David Kim is a Game Balance Designer for StarCraft II. He plays random against himself– and wins.