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May 18, 2007 11:48 PM   Subscribe

After nine years of waiting, Blizzard has just announced Starcraft II. IGN is liveblogging the announcement from the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in South Korea, where love for the original is so great it brings with it $100,000 tournaments, matches aired on television, and fatalities from over-playing.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (84 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This might just be the first new game I try in nine years...
posted by Jimbob at 11:56 PM on May 18, 2007


Announcement trailer, complete with background sounds of the entire nation of South Korea shitting itself.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:01 AM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Holy String of Expletives!

I cannot wait to play this.
posted by lekvar at 12:15 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


So glad they didn't announce "Universe of Starcraft."
posted by Tenuki at 12:25 AM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gameplay pics at Wow Insider
posted by tracert at 12:26 AM on May 19, 2007


More than 15 million people, or 30% of the population, are registered for online gaming in South Korea.
Holy String of Expletives!
posted by tellurian at 12:28 AM on May 19, 2007


Oh, my bad, those game play pics are just from IGN also. Sorry. It's just... well, you know, all very exciting. Today's a good day.
posted by tracert at 12:31 AM on May 19, 2007


I like IGN's coverage:
Korean text on screen got people very excited
Guess they couldn't afford to send someone who actually spoke Korean, heh.
posted by Potsy at 12:31 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


2:41 - Interviewing a WC3 player. Female MC and size of crowd is making him nervous. Another joke in Korean. Now the female MC is complimenting his smile, he's visibly squirming.
2:40 - One of the MCs just tried to explain the joke in English and failed.


Comedy Gold
posted by tellurian at 12:33 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


There is a rumor that they are shutting down their original Starcraft servers to ensure the sequel is successful. I hope they manage that carefully, or they'll have a Korean riot on their hands.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:44 AM on May 19, 2007


Holy smokes. Now that's a zerg rush. I think Johnny is going to have to go back into therapy.
posted by ssmith at 1:01 AM on May 19, 2007


wankers.
posted by dorian at 1:11 AM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I thought I'd soon have the chance to start a stable life filled with social interaction. You know... get a girlfriend, a job related to my major. Eventually a house, and a family.

Now all of my hopes are crushed.

Only one aspiration remains:


pwning 4||
posted by Mister Cheese at 1:19 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish they'd hurry up and make a Starcraft movie already.
posted by showmethecalvino at 1:49 AM on May 19, 2007


As of sometime in the last 15 minutes the main Blizzard site that has been running a timeline/countdown for several days has now been updated. I thought it was pretty damn funny.

Clicks through to a site for the game that's now up and running too.
posted by Stunt at 1:51 AM on May 19, 2007


That televised korean match was one of the most boring things i've ever watched. But those announcers were dame excited about building a vespene gas extracter.
posted by afu at 1:51 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


And to think I was planning on getting married this year. Never mind, honey.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:52 AM on May 19, 2007


It's sad that this is true of so many things, but:

This is simultaneously exciting and not at all surprising.
posted by thethirdman at 1:53 AM on May 19, 2007


We used to play this after-hours at work across a LAN. Around 30 young men, sitting around, not talking to each other for an hour or two while they built-up their personal empires.

Such fun.

Then Counter-Strike came along and real-life physical violence starting breaking out.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:53 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let me also share my experience of many hours of watching Starcraft on TV in Seoul.

It is exactly as you might expect, since ultimately people just find the lowest cracks and tipping points and simply try to get to them as soon as possible. For each faction, there are only a couple units you'll build, and you'll build them in quantity. From there, it's a different sort of game, simply trying to bait your opponent into making a mistake and then snapping the jaws of your armada shut.

This doesn't stop the announcers from being continuously excited, though. They talk about player's past matches, differences in the maps, and whatever else they can. Picture your favorite sport- and then forget you're interested in it. Does the trivia seem so interesting? It might just be 10 guys running up and down a wood floor, or some guys occasionally throwing a weirdly shaped ball, or maybe men who spend more time spitting than engaging in their play activity. Like anything spent at the high threshold of skill, nuance and small change seem like a huge gap when you know what to look for.

There is always shouting, always yelling, always clipped audio when someone finally wins. Matches almost never end- instead, one player realizes his fault, says "gg" to his opponent, and then resigns with their base and much of their force intact.

When I went outside for food and drinks, the neon and the cellphone stores simply compounded the fact that this is a nation who simply lives in the future; a billboard proclaiming life in the offworld colonies would have seemed more annoyance than surprise. Perhaps they require a higher degree of distraction since twenty thousand artillery pieces lie not so far to the north, ready to end every one of them. I don't know.

I can't picture Kim Jong-Il saying "gg".

a tip: if you'd like to be on TV in S. Korea and you are a white person, go to one of these matches- any game you like- and simply sit in the audience. the camera will watch you the whole time
posted by thethirdman at 2:04 AM on May 19, 2007 [18 favorites]


ZERG RUSH KEKEKEKEKE!
posted by darkripper at 2:09 AM on May 19, 2007


NaDa:
de-mo-li-sh

Worth watching. I agree w/ thethirdman.
posted by rider at 2:14 AM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Much like any Civilization game, I'm expecting to completely suck at this game and yet not be able to stop playing it.
posted by Cyrano at 3:12 AM on May 19, 2007


I believe Blizzard owes me a new pair of pants.

Cyrano, Starcraft isn't a civilization game, it's a decivilization game.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:21 AM on May 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


"Starcraft isn't a civilization game, it's a decivilization game."

Citizen Premier FTW.
posted by phyrewerx at 3:36 AM on May 19, 2007


Well, the graphics look better, but that's inevitable. What really matters is if they matched or exceeded the gameplay of SC1.

I do wonder if they're going to make a New Coke mistake with their plan to shut down the SC1 servers, that's going to seriously torque off the Koreans as well as a lot of other people.

I also hope they do a better job with the 3D than they did in Warcraft 3. I mean what, exactly, what the point of making a damn gamn in 3D if they didn't even let the camera rotate around the horizontal axis but simply fixed it in the same bloody isometric view they'd always used?
posted by sotonohito at 3:42 AM on May 19, 2007


I truly believed that Blizzard would never release another RTS. The world just got a little bit brighter.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:24 AM on May 19, 2007


That sound right there? That's South Korea going fucking mental.

And Blizzard CGI has always been top notch. I'm quite looking forward to this now, even though I was suffering from RTS fatigue by the time Starcraft came out and as such never really gave it the chance it deserved.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:41 AM on May 19, 2007


Let me also share my experience of many hours of watching Starcraft on TV in Seoul.

Ho. Le. Shit. Thanks for those links... that's a phenomenon I would never have thought to even Google for. Wow. So, can someone with a better handle on the Korean mind explain a couple of things to me: 1) Why do they wear all that FILA gear when they're just sitting in chairs the whole time? 2) Were those girls in the audience just embarrassed to be on TV, or were they in some kind of Bizarro-World Eastern Idol-Lust mode?

Koreans don't go half-assed on anything, man. They don't just like their video games, they fucking love them. Respect.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 AM on May 19, 2007


Why do they wear all that FILA gear when they're just sitting in chairs the whole time?

Ad space. They're sponsored and they're on TV -- just like ads on racecars. Pro gamers in South Korea make 6 figures IIRC.
posted by spiderwire at 4:52 AM on May 19, 2007


Wow, the concept art is amazing.

Hmm. Naked Kerrigan. Oh my.
posted by spiderwire at 4:59 AM on May 19, 2007


TA and DOW:W40K will stay my favourites. Blizzard games lack deepth and are more like strategy candy.

TA was far ahead of it's time and maybe also it's creator - his latest game hardly shows his former insights / genius. The TA fan scene is still very active and the game runs on almost any machine. And you get a gazillion of maps, extensions and modells for free. And still the game has many functions many of it's later competitors lack.

DOW is an excellent small unit tactical game and has IMHO the right mix of many different layers of tactics a bit strategy (especially in the last expansion kit) and excitement.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:00 AM on May 19, 2007


TA and DOW:W40K will stay my favourites.

Eew, micro RTS.

Blizzard games lack deepth and are more like strategy candy.

I'm not sure whether to just call that wrong or to ask what you mean. Starcraft is pretty much the benchmark for all RTS games before or since in terms of both balance and strategic depth.
posted by spiderwire at 5:41 AM on May 19, 2007


The cinematic trailer is worth a look in high definition.
posted by darkripper at 5:49 AM on May 19, 2007


I feel the strange urge to tear my office apart to search for my old Starcraft box. God I hope they weren't on floppy discs.
posted by sweetwildandmad at 5:53 AM on May 19, 2007


Don't get me wrong, I'm excited, and Starcraft is awesome, but all of these photos make it seem like it's just a graphical update, to me. Anyone see any new units, even? This looks like Starcraft: Source to me.
posted by graventy at 6:07 AM on May 19, 2007


I also prefer Relic's Dawn of War games; of all the modern RTSes, they're the ones I enjoy the most. C&C3 was fun for awhile, but I lost interest fairly quickly... DOW has stayed fun since I picked it up, and I still play it on a regular basis. The biggest advantage it has over the old Starcraft is that there are many more sides; where Starcraft has three, Dawn of War has seven. Combine that with the Dawn of Skirmish mod, and you've got yourself some excellent single player goodness.

One of the things I really dislike about the 90s-era RTSes is that the resources run out. I find this very annoying, because I like setting things up and then forgetting about them; I don't find it very interesting to go chasing after mineral nodes all over the map. Yes, it forces people to move, but that's really not much of a problem in modern games anyway.

I really prefer the DOW method; the more strategic points you hold, the more resources you get per second. You're trading off units versus tech advancement versus resource gains. At its most fundamental level, DOW's resource is time: what do you spend time doing? That's a much more interesting play mechanic, IMO, than chasing after rocks that run out. You don't end up crippled because you're out of rocks. If you're crippled, it's because the enemy took your resource points away from you.

DOW has a lot of depth, and when you combine that with seven different, extremely well-balanced sides, and a nearly infinite number of opposing strategies, it stays remarkably fresh. Once you get good with one race, you can start learning another.

Starcraft is very good, and remains highly playable; I just prefer DoW. I think the design is fundamentally better. Starcraft 2 will undoubtedly be an extension of the older style of resource management, exactly as C&C3 is. I'll probably buy it and play it, as Blizzard does presentation better than any company in the business, but I strongly doubt I'll stick with it. It's going to be a 1995 design with 2007(2008?) graphics. They can't do anything else, because their fans will hunt them down and kill them if they try. (particularly if they shut down the existing Starcraft servers.)

I find Relic's more modern design to be a lot more fun. There have been three games, each of which offered different units. Unless you can get the old games really cheap(Dawn of War, Dawn of War: Winter Assault, and Dawn of War: Dark Crusade), I'd suggest buying the new Platinum pack that will ship on the 22nd. It's all three games, in one box, for $40.
posted by Malor at 6:17 AM on May 19, 2007


am I an ass for thinking that starcraft's fantastic success had a lot to do with being fun, pretty, reasonable in hardware requirements, and ability to run well via dial-up internet?

hooray for notching up the excitement, though.
PC gaming needed this.
posted by Busithoth at 6:17 AM on May 19, 2007


TA and DOW:W40K will stay my favourites.

TA was and still is my fav. Mostly because there were so many different units and such huge maps that the games could be really monstrous and there was room for lots of different strategies rather than just the one or two like in starcraft. I also liked how you got progressively more advanced units and that you could build large scale long term projects and strategic maneuvers .

I was hugely disappointed by TA: Kingdoms and I lack the system juice for Supreme Commander but I will try it as soon as I upgrade and hope. The shift in focus to shiny graphics has really hurt game play IMHO. I didn't much like Warcraft III either so I am not expecting TA level chaos from Starcaft.

I love RTS but I haven't really really enjoyed any games since TA.
posted by srboisvert at 6:32 AM on May 19, 2007


@spiderwire: malor already made many of my points (thanks!).

Points I like to add.

The Warhammer Universe is much older and more complex - I remember buying the first tabletop warhammer rulebook in the 80's which was written on a typewriter.

DOW really brought in some new game mechanics to bring more strategy into the gameplay - it's less settling & building and more about time and movement. StarCraft (which I played a lot) feels much more static then any DOW session.

One aspect of DOW is that movement and the indirect tactical approach really work (think Rommel) instead building a huge army and crush your opponent.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:38 AM on May 19, 2007


@srboisvert: Yeah, those giant TA maps were/are cool. I remember almost endless epic multiplayer battles over several hours (up to twelve) on ONE map - with the battle lines ranging back and forth. Escpecially pure metal world were very cool!

*sigh*
posted by homodigitalis at 6:41 AM on May 19, 2007


Then Counter-Strike came along and real-life physical violence starting breaking out.

Yeah, it was really too bad we didn't stop CS from inventing violence.
posted by baphomet at 7:08 AM on May 19, 2007


Once some white guys and I were fooling around with a little Starcraft in a computer lab. Korean kid comes in and he actually gets angry that we don't have our build orders memorized, we have too many minerals in the bank, and shit like that. He's not even playing, but he's still angry.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:21 AM on May 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


Oh boy. There's probably no way I can engage in this conversation without coming off as either an RTS snob or a Starcraft homer. Preemptive apologies.

(BTW, y'all have a somewhat warped view of Starcraft and what makes it good -- can I ask: how much does "played a lot" mean?)

While I wouldn't disparage anyone for playing a game for the sheer fun-factor, I don't think that's especially unique. Lots of RTS games are fun. Starcraft is the chess of the RTS world -- it seems stripped-down in some respects, but its overall strategic depth is unparalleled. (There's a reason why the other RTS games haven't been picked up by pro gaming leagues.)

The difference between Starcraft and the games just discussed is essentially the thing that differentiates chess from (e.g.) Warhammer. There's simply no way that you can multiply the number of units/races and expect an RTS game to remain balanced; at a high level of play, those designs create predictable strategies and tactical minmaxing that make the game boring and predictable. Think about how every single one of your late-stage Civ games ends up.

(Incidentally, there's no benefit mentioned in the above comments that isn't captured in decent Starcraft play, be it indirect strategy, tech tradeoffs, unit diversity, etc. Again, the chess analogy applies: most of the subtleties aren't as readily apparent at lower levels of play, but they nevertheless exist.)

(Also, if your Starcraft strategy is constrained by resources, it's probably safe to say that you're doing something wrong.)

Now, again, that doesn't diminish the fun factor of some other games. If tabletop Warhammer's more your thing than chess, that's legitimate. But there's really nothing out there that substitutes for Starcraft at the things it does well. That's why this announcement is so exciting. :)
posted by spiderwire at 7:32 AM on May 19, 2007


He's not even playing, but he's still angry.

I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I have done the exact same thing on a few occasions. It's difficult to describe how frustrating it is to watch, especially if the player's unnecessarily losing to another human being who's just slightly less unskilled.
posted by spiderwire at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2007


This kicks so much ass. Although, a small part of me is disappointed that Diablo III wasn't announced instead.

Time to go dig out my old StarCraft cds...
posted by threetoed at 7:42 AM on May 19, 2007


spider, you're right, in that starcraft cuts to the core of what's fun in a RTS. I was consistently bested by maniacal players online, who achieved tech/resource accumulation far faster than I'd thought possible. but yes, simple is not equal to boring.

and while it's [kind of] in a different class, only Rome: Total War got me back into RTS after starcraft. [WC3 was big disappointment]

DOW is gorgeous, and some fun. I haven't played the expansion, and the main game seemed ridiculously short.
posted by Busithoth at 7:47 AM on May 19, 2007


sotonohito ,
From the Blizzard FAQ

[Q:] Will we still be able to play the original StarCraft on Battle.net after StarCraft II is released?

[A:] Yes, you will.

Is there more to this I haven't read?
posted by Richard Daly at 7:52 AM on May 19, 2007


@spiderwire:

There's a reason why the other RTS games haven't been picked up by pro gaming leagues.

The main reasons: it's well known, sold well, easy to play and watch. So it was picked up, because it's mainstream, not because it's 'the best'.

There's simply no way that you can multiply the number of units/races and expect an RTS game to remain balanced; at a high level of play, those designs create predictable strategies and tactical minmaxing that make the game boring and predictable.

Rubbish.

ALL games are predictable, because they are all operating within a fixed set of rules. That is why wargames are not real 'simulations' of war. Apart from TA meteorite showers are hardly know of any RTS that includes a random element that can fuck up your strategy. There are hardly any 'surprises' in any of these games ... especially StarCraft is extremly limited in it's framework / mindset.

The buzzword 'real time strategy' and the overall game mechanics are anything but real. You don't produce a tank with a click in 20 secs, nor is a power infrastructure generated by building a few whacky buildings. We are talking abstraction, simplification and game mechanix here.

Also the whole 'balance' thing is only there to 'satisfy' consumers and make the game 'consumeable'. In real life / war there is no balance: a nuke is pretty unfair against people with sticks, bow and arrow. Innovations like the crossbow, repeating rifles, tanks, airplanes, etc. were pretty 'unfair' for those who didn't have them at first.
posted by homodigitalis at 7:53 AM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


spider, you're right, in that starcraft cuts to the core of what's fun in a RTS. I was consistently bested by maniacal players online, who achieved tech/resource accumulation far faster than I'd thought possible. but yes, simple is not equal to boring.

Far better than how I managed to put it.

As far as out-of-the-box entertainment, there are many good games out there. It's really just a matter of what you're looking to get out of it. (Personally, I suck at chess...) It's hard to describe what it is that makes Starcraft special, but it's definitely a unique game.

[WC3 was [a] big disappointment]

Ugh. Don't even want to talk about it. Heh.
posted by spiderwire at 7:55 AM on May 19, 2007


On the topic of a simple, but fascinating strategy game: try Go.
posted by homodigitalis at 7:56 AM on May 19, 2007


Story should be tagged with Mac as well, since Bllizzard is notoriously awesome at releasing all it's games with mac versions simultaneously since Diablo II, and there's no doubt this will be any different.

And MAN does this ever rock hard.
posted by patr1ck at 7:59 AM on May 19, 2007


homodigitalis: You are missing the point, but I'm afraid that I might not be able to explain it to you. Formal balance in RTS games speaks to counterstrategies, not realism.

Starcraft's design is elegant, not limited. It's a fair platform. The fact that it would allow me to beat you 100% of the time (for example) is why it's been chosen as the benchmark, not its playability or its marketing. If the latter were the case, WC3 would be the gold standard in South Korea -- but it's not.

Suffice it to say, I do know that of which I speak here.
posted by spiderwire at 8:05 AM on May 19, 2007


try Go.

I enjoy Go. But I'm good at Starcraft.
posted by spiderwire at 8:05 AM on May 19, 2007


since WCII, you mean. (even though seeing that game in action is what prompted me to buy my first new-gen PC...)
posted by Busithoth at 8:06 AM on May 19, 2007


I do wonder if they're going to make a New Coke mistake with their plan to shut down the SC1 servers, that's going to seriously torque off the Koreans as well as a lot of other people.

Dude, they still run Warcraft II on Battle.net. Don't be worried that Blizzard will stop offering online play. Worry that they'll start charging for it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:38 AM on May 19, 2007


Eh, why does their cinema video require downloading an executable?
posted by aerotive at 8:39 AM on May 19, 2007


Eh, why does their cinema video require downloading an executable?

In the past the executables have run custom BitTorrent clients -- otherwise they couldn't handle the bandwidth.
posted by spiderwire at 8:46 AM on May 19, 2007


Richard Daly Apparently I misread something. I thought the IGN story mentioned shutting down the SC1 part of battlenet to "help promote" SC2. Apparently either I halucinated that, or it was just a rumor that IGN has now deleted.
posted by sotonohito at 8:47 AM on May 19, 2007


Fantastic.
posted by WPW at 9:49 AM on May 19, 2007


I use to play Starcraft in high school, before I was able to drive. When I got some keys, it's like why would I dick around playing a game? It's such a big world, it seems sort of a waste to let it slip away indoors, as I write sitting inside, typing away.

It's like Emily Dickinson, realized in polygons.
posted by four panels at 9:51 AM on May 19, 2007


Considering the cost of gas nowadays? Playing StarCraft is far cheaper than going out there and wasting your life and your finances outdoors.

I can drive now, Four Panels. Color me inside.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:06 AM on May 19, 2007


Just echoing Civil_Disobedient a bit here, but, seriously, what is going on with the girls in the audience in this video? Every time they realize the camera is on them they cover their faces and hide. Why the heck are they even there? Unless they're paid or something...?
posted by the other side at 10:58 AM on May 19, 2007


before I was able to drive. When I got some keys, it's like why would I dick around playing a game?

Declaring that you prefer being one of the cars in frogger to playing an RTS makes you the winner of this posts ludd out compitition.
posted by srboisvert at 11:09 AM on May 19, 2007


I'm so very happy this isn't an MMO like what was predicted by some. I'm super excited about this game, hoping it lives up to the fun factor of the first.
posted by gemmy at 11:29 AM on May 19, 2007


Does this mean there's still hope for Duke Nukem Forever?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:36 AM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Still catch myself playing DoW:DC a lot. Both solo, and with one of my housemates. As a team, we can stomp, with a variety of troop combos.

C&C3? Well, I'd imagine I would enjoy it if it would keep running more than 5 minutes at a time. I am so completely disappointed with that game, I'd have a hard time expressing it in polite company. Of course, my opinion is that things would have gone much better had they stuck with some of the Westwood team, rather than passing it of to the LoTR team.

SupCom? Quite fun, but I seem to have a hard time losing. Mind you, I spent WAY to much of my life in TA, so I suspect I grok Chris Taylor's mindset way too much in it's fullness. Of course, there is a place in my heart for giant spider-walkers with beam cannons, so...

StarCraft II? I might pick it up, or maybe not. I've had some fun with SC in the past, especially when a friend and I would spend time building elaborate situational maps to test out how the AI thinks. Of course, once we started catching the CPU cheating regularly so it could focus purely on the human players, I put it back on the shelf.

And, no, Steven, no hope for DNF. You should know that by now (Especially after S.T.A.L.K.E.R.)...
posted by Samizdata at 11:54 AM on May 19, 2007


Ummm, way too much, even.
posted by Samizdata at 11:55 AM on May 19, 2007


In some of our hearts, Duke Nukem Forever is still just over the horizon.

And Starcraft 2 might actually be enough to pull me back into PC gaming.
posted by quin at 12:00 PM on May 19, 2007


After seeing the first screenies, I also worried that this was a graphical-update-cash-in. That being said, after reading over the Protoss units revealed thus far, I have a feeling that there will be quite a bit of depth to complement the eye-candy.
posted by uri at 12:18 PM on May 19, 2007


The best RTSes in recent memory are (in rough order of awesomeness) Kohan: Ahriman's Gift, the original Ground Control (which is totally free, provided you slog through Fileplanet), and (maaybe) Homeworld: Cataclysm. I do not believe they have been exceeded, certainly not by their actual sequels (alas!)

Malor, the resources-over-time system you describe in Dawn of War works almost exactly the same way in Kohan (you capture resource points to fuel buildings and support units, else you have buy those resources on the free market and lose gold, which is the only stockpiled resource), but the pace -- ah, the pace -- is so much more measured and relaxed.

It has fairly poor voice acting and an unrealized (but promising) campaign world, but the play's the thing and Kohan's interface is unmatched. Having played DoW for a while, being able to choose the composition of a force (hero leader or not, four identical main units, two optional support) and simply wait for it to recruit (provided the squad is in supply -- or, if I want to, sending the squad out incomplete and forming it up later) beats the pants off of manually constructing and upgrading every squad.

The way cities work is also deliciously streamlined -- every city, at a given level, is abstracted down to a single building (yay no base-building!) with anywhere from two to six slots. Each slot can become a structure, each structure can be upgraded once for various purposes. For example, one might build a quarry to pay for a unit of engineers, and later on might opt to upgrade that quarry to a building that auto-repairs the city, or one that, instead of contributing 10 ore to your side, might reduce your overall positive ore flow and produce gold. It's really quite ingenious.

It's ridiculously moddable, and as such has been rebalanced often by enterprising folks. If I could nab copies for everyone, I probably would.

GC was great.

- totally tactical from the beginning of each mission on, except for at very infrequent reinforcement points
- upgradeable, persistent units (like Kohan, come to think of it)
- FLANKING (I don't think any modern RTS does this to any significant degree, short of the Total War series) -- different armor values for different sides of a unit is just great to see in action.

I mention Homeworld: Cataclysm in mostly because of its sense of scale. I've heard Supreme Commander has this going on, so it's not totally unique -- but it's fairly exciting to field fighters, medium ships, and capital ships with the different tactics and rhythms each require.
posted by lumensimus at 1:11 PM on May 19, 2007


Between Spore, Diablo III, and now this...I am SO totally going to be a bad parent and husband.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:19 PM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


There's simply no way that you can multiply the number of units/races and expect an RTS game to remain balanced; at a high level of play, those designs create predictable strategies and tactical minmaxing that make the game boring and predictable.

I fail to see your logic here. Adding sides does not automatically create simplicity, any more than removing units would automatically add complexity.
posted by Malor at 1:41 PM on May 19, 2007


After nine years of waiting, Blizzard has just announced Starcraft II

Nine years of waiting? No wonder they took so long.
Undangle thy participles.
posted by dhartung at 1:43 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Malor writes "Adding sides does not automatically create simplicity, any more than removing units would automatically add complexity."

He's not saying it's automatic, and he's not talking about simplicity; he's talking about inbalance, in the majority of cases. The more you have, the harder it is to have balance. Without balance, strategy becomes simpler: the side which is stronger is...stronger. If you have two equally skilled players, and one side has the unbalanced advantage, he will win.

Now, you can add more sides and maintain balance. It's just harder, so it seldom happens.
posted by Bugbread at 7:35 PM on May 19, 2007


Hmm. No one's posted clips of the new Protoss units?

Part I

Part II

Looks like some interesting changes to units and physics, and (from the "Hell, it's about time" trailer) the usual justly misanthropic thematics. I can't wait!
posted by washburn at 11:06 PM on May 19, 2007


What bugbread said. The basis of RTS balance is rock-paper-scissors; as the number of factions and unit diversity increases, the permutations of counterstrategies become overwhelming.

Considering the cost of gas nowadays?

We require more... petroleum gas.
posted by spiderwire at 11:06 PM on May 19, 2007


Rock/paper/scissors is incredibly boring. That's not strategy; strategy is taking units that aren't quite suited for what you need and making them work anyway. (well, more precisely, that's tactics, not strategy.)

The rock-paper-scissors approach, where spearmen always beat bows, bows always beat swords, swords always beat spears... that's boring. Blech. Stupid. That's not tactics; that's either you happen to have the correct unit on hand or you lose.

The DoW balance has been excellent for a long time, but they just pushed out some fairly major changes, which has caused a serious rejiggering of strategies... it's not quite as tightly balanced as it was, and will need some more tweaking, I think. Orks are a little too strong right now. I'm still not sure why they made such major changes so late in the game's cycle; if I was going to really criticize anything, it would be that. It means they have to retweak everything again for awhile. I'm sure the Starcraft crowd would be horrified, but the nature of DoW is flexibility and creativity in dealing with different situations, so this kind of thing doesn't piss off this community in quite the same way.

Before this last patch, the overall stats on all the races were remarkably close, within a couple percent of each other. I'm hopeful that they can get the balance dialed back in properly, as it's really a very good game indeed.
posted by Malor at 3:26 AM on May 20, 2007


Rock/paper/scissors is incredibly boring. That's not strategy

Thanks for the insight there, Sun Tzu.

The analogy doesn't hold for any of the games we've discussed, and certainly not Starcraft -- obviously, no one would play a game that boring. Starcraft is interesting in that the counter balance isn't absolute -- for example, in Tier 1 the counter triangles tend to run from race-to-race, and the Tier 1.5 units provide the counters to the corresponding Tier 1 units. And it's not absolute, of course -- after the first tier, most units have multiple counters. (Not coincidentally, 3 factions is really the magic number for this sort of setup.)

After a long time playing SC, you start to notice the subtle elegance of Blizzard's balance -- for example, the zergling/dragoon balance is determined largely by unit dimensions and by the dragoon's somewhat unforgiving pathing. The Achilles Heel for Mutalisks is their miserable acceleration/topspeed ratio. The tactical usage of Firebats is largely dictated by the design of their splash damage action.

At any rate, the unit balance in Starcraft is anything but mechanical -- on the contrary, it's designed to counteract that sort of playstyle, and reward skill rather than luck.

strategy is taking units that aren't quite suited for what you need and making them work anyway

See, I would call the situation where one unit has an advantage over more than one of its natural counters to be imbalanced. It's also no fun, because it discourages creative play -- that's the sort of thing that leads every novice RTS player to tech straight to carriers and arbiters, or the equivalent.

There are more appropriate ways to deal with this:
(1) Upgrade paths. For example, in SC most of the Tier 1 units get Tier 3 speed upgrades that make them competitive in late-game.
(2) Group complements. Most well-designed counter triangles reward mixed unit groups. SC is, again, a superlative example of how to implement this sort of design without falling into the trap of cliched balancing. For example, the Zerg (true to form) used a fairly straightforward ranged/melee mix in Tier 1 (zerglings/hydralisks), whereas the Terrans have a more micro-intensive version (marines/hopping siege tanks) that generally requires supplementary support (firebats or vultures). Despite the distinct faction flavors, the balance is still superb.
(3) Rewarding micromanagement. See above. (Of course, this is also enriched by the liberal use of unit speed and dimensions for differentiation.)

Needless to say, Starcraft adopts all of these approaches, among others.

That's not tactics; that's either you happen to have the correct unit on hand or you lose.

Hence the value of scouting and subterfuge. That's pretty standard for any RTS. Regardless, your criticism certainly doesn't apply to Starcraft.

Before this last patch, the overall stats on all the races were remarkably close, within a couple percent of each other.

In terms of what? Online win percentages? I must be confused about DoW -- you say seven races, but I don't remember that many (and a quick check on the Wikipedia page suggests only 4?). Regardless, the fact that major imbalancing doesn't happen in Starcraft is a testament to its design, not a sign of purism (see below).

I'm hopeful that they can get the balance dialed back in properly, as it's really a very good game indeed.

This seems to corroborate the argument that faction balance is critical to all else in a good RTS -- and you seem to acknowledge that Starcraft really does this best (which is true), and that much of the reason it's valued (and so popular, and viable as a pro game) is for this reason. There'd be no way to fairly match pro gamers on most other platforms; the game is pointless if the outcome is determined by faction choice rather than strategy.

This is the reason why so much of the community was on-edge about the possibility that Blizzard might take Starcraft the route of WC3 (shudder), and why it's heartening that they seem to understand that the gameplay is the heart of what makes the game great. It appears right now that Starcraft II is going to retain the straightforward isometric layout (which is by itself awesome) and focus on the gameplay.

If nothing else, I'm sure we can all agree that the continued viability of games like Starcraft, Total Annihilation, Ground Control, and Dawn of War (among others) demonstrates that it's not flashy new graphics or deformable terrain or perfect mimicry of "real" war that makes for a great strategy game -- on the contrary, all of those games retain a very simple design philosophy that allows subtle and interesting play to flourish based on the skill of the players (again, much like chess, or Go). I find it thrilling that one company out there still seems to get that: Blizzard very easily could have gone a different direction here, either with the WC3 route (again, shudder), or (as many feared), the WoW route (quadruple shudder). But rather than flashiness or cash, they've apparently decided to focus on what made Starcraft great in the first place, and that's a wonderful thing.

That said, there's still plenty of time between now and release, so it may be to early to tell whether my optimism will pan out, but given that they've been developing this game since right after Frozen Throne shipped, and what they've done so far, I'm hopeful that we might be able to place another game in the canon of great RTSes, because (to my mind) it's long overdue for a new addition.
posted by spiderwire at 8:33 AM on May 20, 2007


Malor Much as I agree that there's a certain boredom involved in the rock paper sissors approach, there's also a degree of realism. Weapon systems are designed specifically to counter other systems, or as a result of those counters.

Personally, I'd dislike a game that went for a total RPS style, but a degree of RPS-ism seems like a good thing to me.

To take a real world example, one side has cruise missiles you either need a point defense system of some sort (phalanx cannons or the like) or you get hit. There really isn't a third option. Yes, fighters or helicoptor gunships can try to shoot down incoming cruise missiles, and they might even get lucky and nail a few, but it isn't likely.

Or take carrier launched fighters and battleships as happened in WWII. That development called for either a specialized defense (destroyers configured for anti-fighter work), or fighters in a defensive role. If one side had fighters and the other side didn't have the necessary counter then they were pretty much toast. Yeah, battleships could fire AA rounds from their cannon, but it wasn't what you'd call effective.

As I said, there is definately something a bit boring about a true rock paper sissors setup, but without a degree of rock paper scissor-ism why bother having different units? The differences in weaponry and other capibilities add an unavoidable, and in my opinion not entirely undesireable, RPS element. As in so many game design decisions degree and balance are key.
posted by sotonohito at 8:40 AM on May 20, 2007


spiderwire:

With the additions of the Dark Crusade and Winter Assault expansion packs, the total numbers of factions reach seven:

Space Marines - Not particularly good at anything, but not particularly bad either...

Chaos - Perverted Marine troops. Strength lies in demonic units.

Eldar - Fast movement around map. Strong in area of effect attacks and cloaked structures.

Orks - Strength in numbers. Buildings self-repair and self-defend. Primary strength (IMO) is strong infantry.

Imperial Guard - Strength in numbers. Cheap,weak foot troops. Very strong with vehicles late game.

Necron - Exclusively dependent on one of the two resources. Embodies the phrase "Slow and steady wins the race..."

Tau - Generally very fast movement. Not much fortification. Strength lies predominately in powerful, long range attacks. Weak in melee.

That's just a quick and dirty unofficial rundown. DoW (with expansions) seems stable, highly moddable, and a reasonably paced game.

I must say though, without some RPSism, you get absurd situations like those in the early Civ games where you would have bow equipped troops being able to attack and sink ironclad or better ships, for example.

The downside I've seen to DoW is that it seems to me that most of the "balance" changes seem driven by Relic's apparent need to pander to whiny forumfolk. "Waaaaaah! Hammerheads are too tough!" So, next patch we see damage reduced, or health reduced. Now, if we could just get the same results in real life. Something like "IED unit cap reduced to 6..."

(Wow. That was long!)

(Oh, and C&C3's stability still stinks on ice.)
posted by Samizdata at 1:01 PM on May 20, 2007


W. TF. PRINGLES.
posted by dreamsign at 4:48 PM on May 20, 2007


Evil Avatar has some clean video links to the entire presentation. They also link to Blizzard's English versions.
posted by NationalKato at 8:02 AM on May 21, 2007


Between this and Team Fortress 2, I'm going to have to remind myself that I graduated from college years ago when I wake up late from a long night of gaming. Otherwise, there'll be some confused looking undergrads that day!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:02 AM on May 21, 2007


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