Sunday, May 20

Hell, It's About Time

I want to apologize for the lack of updates as of late. I've had finals these past two weeks and couldn't take time to post with all of my other obligations. But now, I'm free as a bird. I will be working a full time job all summer, so most posts will come at night.

Anyway, back to game design. Yay!

You may have noticed that Starcraft II was announced saturday. The originial Starcraft is my favorite RTS and I really couldn't be more excited for the sequel. Blizzard is approaching the design of Starcraft II cautiously, knowing full well the popularity of its prequel. Their goal is two-fold: retain the significance and uniqueness of Starcraft's play style while also improving upon and adding to the game's design. What this means specifically is that Blizzard is not making Warcraft III with a Starcraft skin. There are several primary differences between Blizzard's more recent RTS and their 1998 space-opus. As this GameSpot report points out, Warcraft III is focused on micro-managing big battles whereas Starcraft was more about economic build-up and mass-army control. Blizzard wants to bring this RTS design into Starcraft II. Additionally, they are apparently very focused on creating a counter system, where each unit has another unit, unit-type or ability they are specifically weak against. I think its fantastic that Blizzard isn't just making Warcraft IV in disguise. They are trying to create a genuine sequel that sticks to the greatness of the original Starcraft.However, they are bringing in several new features that have been developed since Starcraft. One in particular I would like to bring to your attention is a newfound revolution around elevation and unit movement. Blizzard has only shown a very small slice of the inevitable mass that is Starcraft II. But we can already see some common threads woven through out the game's design. The environment is now a much bigger factor in than it was in Starcraft. First, units are no long revealed when attacking from without fog of war. In the original Starcraft, enemy units would be shown, and therefore vulnerable, when attacking from a higher position. Now, units may attack from a height above their foe, and remain hidden while doing so, while also mainting advantages in both attack and defense. Almost every revealed unit thus far takes advantage of this adjustment.
I highly recommend checking out SonsOfTheStorm

The Colossus is a new Protoss unit that looks very similar to the alien ships in the newest War of the Worlds. The unit walks on four legs and shoots laser beams on enemies far below its bird's nest. Starcraft has multiple levels of terrain that are normally connected by ramps. Of course, there are also walls and platforms. The Colossus is easily able to walk over terrain dips and rises, thanks to its long legs. While this is only speculation, the unit may also be able to walk across smaller buildings, like bunkers or photon cannons. Anoter Protoss unit, the Stalker, has been given the blink ability seen with the warden form Warcraft III. The Stalker is a newer, dark templar version of the dragoon from the original Starcraft. Blink allows the Stalker to instantly teleport anywhere within its range of vision, including over walls and valleys. Last, the Reaper is a new Marine-light unit for the Terran. The unit wields dual-pistols and sports a jetpack. This allows it to hop over and down walls with ease, much like a grasshopper.
Ah....the Zerg Rush. Classic.

Of course there are and are bound to be many units that cannot simply jump across levels of terrain. This gives those that can a distinct advantage, at least in terms of mobility. But what these units have in movement skill they may lack in other areas, such as defense. Its interesting. Blizzard has presented themselves with something, elevation levels, and then created a solution, units that can overcome the elevation difference. Were these two facets designed to complement one another? Elevation is very important in Starcraft, and obviously is so in Starcraft II as well. I think that Blizzard wanted to create solutions for players to get across terrain easily. This seemingly small change is going to destroy so many strategies from the original game, while also opening many new ones. I like what Blizzard is doing with Starcraft II, what do you think?

Zerg Rush It
Do you think that Blizzard's focus on elevation is a mistake? Why or why not?
Do you think their should be a focus on micro-manegement as opposed to mass army control?

this public service announcement brought to you in part by free time.