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Archive for May, 2010

Starcraft II Basics: Scouting

May 30, 2010 1 comment

Scouting is one of the most important things to do during a Starcraft II map. If you do not know what your opponent is making, it will inevitably leading to nasty surprises. This article will cover several of the basics, including timing. Protection against scouting will be dealt with in another post.

Scouting is sending one of your units over to the opponent’s base / point of interest (like expansion spots) to find out what kind of units and buildings your opponents currently has and to get an idea of what he is planning. If you do not know where your opponent’s main base is, then that is the first priority of scouting. The distance between bases both on the ground and through the air is often an important factor of what will be built.

Timing

When to scout remains one of the most difficult things to learn for beginning players. Looking at your opponent’s base all the time may seem like a good idea, but by doing that, you are actually wasting resources. E.g. a Terran player using all energy of the Orbital Command to scout is not gaining minerals through M.U.L.Es.

The question to ask yourself is: Will information about my opponent impact the decision I am about to make?

For example: If your plan is to always build two Barracks and get one Extractor first whatever you opponent is doing, then you do not need any information from him up to that point.

For example: If your plan is to go all-in then you will probably not have to resources to do extensive scouting (you do need to know where your opponent is located), so scouting at this point will actually delay your attack.

For example: Can I safely expand now? depends on if your opponent has strike force ready to attack you.

For example: (As Protoss vs Terran) should I sacrifice economy to build a fast Stalker? depends on if your opponent is making fast Reapers.

There are many, many decisions to be made during an SCII match, so it is important to get as much information during a single scouting run to cover more than one decision. Learning that is a matter of experience.

Race specific

Every race has its own scouting methods. Basic workers are a good choice in many cases, although specialized units can be much more effective at it. However, scouting with those will automatically give your opponent a clue about some of your tech: e.g. do not scout with a Banshee if you are planning on using it to do a mineral line attack.

Terran

SCV’s make excellent scouts during the early game. Once the Orbital Command is up, it can be used for 50 energy. Note, however, that 50 energy could also be used on gaining minerals through M.U.L.Es. Fast air units like the Viking and Banshees (with and without) cloak are excellent choices as well. Personally, I like scouting with a Raven, because it can do some pretty safe harass with autoturrets as well. Reapers make fast and mobile scouts that can do massive damage to workers as well.

Protoss

Probes are good scouts, but the Observer is the true scout of the Protoss. It is difficult to stop as it is permanently cloaked. Phoenixes work as well. If you are investing in Sentries, the hallucination of a Phoenix can also be used as a cost-free scout.

Zerg

Zerg drones are good scouts, but they are soon overtaken by the cheaper Zerglings Speedlings can run through the smallest openings to get a total view of a base. They can also be buried at expansions to see if your opponent is building there. The Overlords make good early game scouts, but they are very slow without speed upgrade and thus vulnerable to early ranged units. A single Marine can take out a badly positioned Overlord and that will invariably lead to a supply problems. Later in the game speedy Overlords can do suicide flights. Overseers make excellent scouts as well. They can also drop the Changeling, but that will often be spotted.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: , , ,

Starcraft II: Surviving Patch 13

Patch 13 harshly reminded everyone that Starcraft II is still beta. Previously, the game seemed to be running as if live with some unit rebalancing in the works. The stability of Battlenet is very much down now. I did not get my placement matches done and not for lack of trying, I simply keep getting dropped. While there can always be unexpected problems because of patches, I am surprised that patch 13 was deployed right before the Pentecost weekend. I would expect that many people, like myself, were planning on playing during the holiday. The show matches from Asia vs Europe were suffering as well. Nevertheless, most games could be finished and they were both entertaining and awesome to watch.

There were not many changes in this patch, the most interesting ones probably for the Zerg. A bit of foreshadowing: Ultralisks are still useless.

Terran

Marine&Marauder(&Medivac) has been a strong and dominant combination through the whole beta. While mech play with tanks and Vikings is getting more popular, it remains strong. Now it has become even better the reduced cost for Combat Shields and Stim Packs.

Protoss

The Sentry and the Void Ray are the two units most hated by people fighting Protoss. I like both, because they are specialized units that require good control to work well (Sentry more than Ray). Both could tuned down a little bit. The Sentry’s Force Fields can now be destroyed by Massive units walking over them. This means that Collossi, Thors and Ultralisks can make a path.

Void Ray range was reduced from 7 to 6. It was possible on several maps to attack under the right angle and be as good as untouchable. This is no longer the case and completely fair in my opinion.

Zerg

The Zerg caster units reshuffled their abilities and even gains some new ones.

The Infestor lost the Infested Terran (seldom used, energy was necessary for Fungal Growth and Neural Parasite), but gained the Frenzy spell: for 25 energy a single biological unit gains a damage buff of 25% and becomes immune to all sorts of crowd control for 30 seconds. This is probably meant to be used for Ultralisks, but it also works on useful units.

The Overseer gained the Infested Terran. Creating units is much more useful for flying units than for the slow-moving Infestor. The Overseer also learned the Contaminate spell which was previously cast by the Corruptor. It prevents unit production/research for 30 seconds on an enemy building. This sounds like a great ability to use while scouting the enemy base.

The Ultralisk actually lost 150 health (from 600 to 450) and gained damage versus armored units at the cost of damage versus non-armored: 25 to 15 (+25 Armored).  This makes it actually more difficult to get to the armored units, since most of those are ranged, while melee is not armored. So it takes the Ultralisk longer to plow through the opponent’s melee to get to the tanks. Meanwhile, it still gets stuck on your own Zerglings. It did gain a true buff: damage versus buildings went up from 60 to 75. The Brood Lord is still doing everything the Ultralisk is supposed to do cheaper and more effectively.

Conclusion

Terran as a whole got buffed. Bio, but also Mech, since Marines are normal supporting units for Mech.

Protoss got a slight nerf, but nothing that will impact play style.

Zerg got a bit more interesting with the buffed caster units. The Ultralisk remains worthless as long as it has to compete with the Brood Lord.

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Starcraft II: Surviving patch 12

Another week of not playing too much, but watching a lot of Shoutcraft and Day9 commentaries. Focusing purely on Protoss has improved my win/loss ratio, but I think I shall go back to Random once the game goes live, if I have enough time to become decent with all three races.

Patch 12 came pretty fast after patch 11. It is a small patch, but it has serious impact on the Zerg.

Terran

The Thor had to lose some weight. It was simply too big to move around effectively. A pity, visually, but understandable.

Protoss

The Forge takes longer to build and has less hitpoints. This was done to prevent Cannon rushes. Protoss players can build Pylons and then Photon Cannons in their opponent’s base. Once a few cannons are up, the base is pretty much doomed. This does not work against Terran, because marines can shoot the probe that’s building the Cannons/Pylons and because Terrans can simply lift off their main buildings and move to another location. Protoss and Zerg have a harder time catching the mobile Probe with their basic melee units.

Actually, it still works as I had just had it executed against me in a PvP game. I had never encountered it while playing Protoss myself, so I had no idea how many probes are necessary to kill the spawning cannons (it’s about 4) and I tried to kill his base with a few Zealots instead of containing the rush. Cannon rushing is probably going to stay a problem against lower skill players, but people will learn to deal with it.

There was apparently a problem with Motherships and Force Fields, so Vortex now removes all Force Fields in its range.

Zerg

And now for the big one:  Roaches have gone from one to two supply. This makes massing them much slower, because extra Overlords have to be built. While the Roach is powerful, it already received some serious nerfs. The reasoningwas that it was simply too powerful at 200 supply. However, how many times does a game reach 200 supply? I would not be surprised if they got a small buff next patch.

Conclusions

The Roach nerf may or may not be too much, but it is definitely going to make games involving Zerg more interesting, especially ZvZ, which always seemed to degrade into more Roaches between competent players. However, Terran is still going to mass Marauders since that unit remains strong, while the Immortal remains a solid choice for Protoss. I do expect that Protoss players will move towards more Warp gate units or that they do get the Robotics Bay but immediately skip to Colossus against Zerg.

Ultralisks are still pretty much worthless, of course.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: ,

Starcraft II: Surviving patch 11

Many hours this week have gone to Starcraft II, but I not played that much myself. I really want to play, but I am so afraid of burning myself out before retail begins (the date has been set: July 27 2010 according to the shop where I preordered). Anyway, watching Shoutcraft and Day[9] video’s is great entertainment and even better instruction. Actually, I have been playing a bit too irregularly which has hurt my Random race selection, so instead I have decided to stick to Protoss for now.

This patch seems to be intended to increase the use of high tech units like Battlecruisers and Ultralisks, though I have some doubts as if that will work out. As a general change, all splash damage now originates from the center of the target instead of from the impact location to make it easier to predict where it will occur. What I do not like about this patch is that several specialist units were nerfed. More specialised units will make, in my opinion, the game more fun.

Terran

Battlecruisers, in a mixed force, are already potent units and now it is easier to get them out quicker, because both the build time of Battlecruiser itself and the Fusion Core has been decreased. However, the Fusion Core itself is now only useful for Battlecruiser, because the Raven’s Seeker Missile has been moved to the Starport’s Tech lab. Unfortunately, the range and area of the Seeker Missile have been reduced.

Previous patches have increased the effectiveness of the Terran mechanical units and this patch continues that with a small (10) health increase for Siege Tanks and a range increase for Hellions (already a great harassing tool against mineral lines). The Thor was rebalanced a bit: ground damage was reduced, but the rate of fire was increased. DPS remains the same. The Thor could already one-shot units with low hitpoints, so I do not expect this will matter much. Air damage was changed from 8(+4light) to 6(+6light), which increases its usefulness against armored units. There’s a real nerf here as well: the 250mm Strike Cannons were turned into an upgrade that has to be researched. I guess this is to discourage Thor drops against expansions (drop two Thors with Medivacs, strike cannons on the main building will all but destroy it).

Protoss

Archons are units that are basically only created when High Templars are out of energy and if they have no time to recharge. I doubt that increasing their splash damage area from 0.8 to 1 is going to change that. The Colossus, like the Thor, increased a rebalancing of damage/attack rate: it attacks faster but with the same dps. The Sentry’s damage was reduced a bit, but its main purpose is and remains placing Force Fields and Guardian Shield.

The big change, however, is that Phoenixes can now attack while moving. This is huge. It allows the Phoenix to chase down basically any air unit. Anyone doubting the power of Phoenixes should watch Day[9]’s show about Nony’s Phoenixes.

Zerg

The Brood Lord is a very powerful highly specialized unit. It flies, but only attacks ground and it does this in the highly unique fashion of throwing Broodlings (sort of Zerglings with limited lifespan) down. The attack does damage and then the Brood Lords go to work. The Brood Lord counters just about any ground force. It is quite sturdy as well. On the downside, it requires a Greater Spire, which means a Spire, a Hive and it is morphed from Corruptors (which only attack air and is most effective against massive units) and it is expensive as well. Still, it is apparently too strong so life and armor were reduced. However, the Corruptor was buffed, especially against massive units. The Corruption ability used to shut down production at buildings for a time, but it now increases the damage done to a single non-building target. This gives the Corruptor a use even if the opponent is not building air units.

The Ultralisk is the ground equivalent of the Brood Lord. While it is powerful if upgraded, it suffers from being a massive ground unit that gets stuck on everything. The Colossus can walk over units, the Thor has ranged attacks, the Ultralisk gets stuck on Zerglings. Even a damage increase from 18 to 25 is not going to make the Ultralisk a better choice than Brood Lords.

The Infestor used to be able to control any unit with Neural Parasite, but this was deemed too powerful. It is back now, but the cost is high: the ability has to be researched and the cost was doubled from 50 to 100 energy. I would call this a pretty serious nerf. Infestors used to be good support units against both swarms and large units. Now the attack against large units will be a choice.

Zerg players were able to gain map control by spreading creep and offensively sending Spine Crawlers forward. This was apparently not intended, because the root time was increased from 6 to 12 seconds. While it is still possible to take control, moving them during an attack is less viable.

Conclusion

Mech units for Terran have become more viable, but the M&M(&M) ball is still as powerful as ever, as are Banshees. Terran players should not have to do much adjusting in their builds.

Protoss can deal pretty well with Mutalisk harass now. Still, their main power remains on the ground.

Zerg early game has not changed. It is more viable to add Corruptors to a force now mid-game and this will make a late game transition to Brood Lords easier, which are still a potent unit. Zerg swarms still have to worry about Seeker Missiles, but less so. The Ultralisk is still of less use than a wet paper towel.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: ,

Collecting emotions

My first collector’s edition was Warcraft III. A friend had gone through some effort to get both of us a copy. The box looked so great compared to a normal game’s packaging and it was just filled with goodies, most I admired once and then stuffed away. I got the World of Warcraft collector’s edition as well, but I failed to get the Burning Crusades’ one; it was sold out quickly, and I did not even bother with the Wrath one. By that time I was viewing collector’s editions as overpriced pieces of merchandise that did not add anything to the game at all. Even in-game items were mostly fun for once or cosmetic (as they should be, because power in-game should be earned, not bought, but that is another discussion).

And I still ordered the Starcraft II CE.

It contains, quoting from the press release:

  • The Art of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, a 176-page book featuring artwork from the game
  • An exclusive 2GB USB flash drive replica of Jim Raynor’s dog tag, which comes preloaded with the original StarCraft and the StarCraft: Brood War® expansion set
  • A behind-the-scenes DVD containing over an hour of developer interviews, cinematics with director’s commentary, and more
  • The official StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty soundtrack CD, containing 14 epic tracks from the game along with exclusive bonus tracks
  • StarCraft comic book issue #0, a prequel to the comic series
  • A World of Warcraft® mini Thor in-game pet that can be applied to all World of Warcraft characters on a single Battle.net account
  • Exclusive Battle.net downloadable content, including special portraits for your Battle.net profile, decals to customize your units in-game, and a visually unique version of the terran Thor unit

The art book is probably the thing I will value most, but having the music on CD is definitely nice as well. I cannot really care for the USB drive, because I already own Starcraft I and Brood War, like (probably) everyone who’s liking SCII enough to buy a collector’s edition. The comic and behind the scenes DVD I will peruse about once. What I really do not like is the WoW pet since it has nothing to do with Starcraft. I quit WoW, I’m happy I quit WoW and no pet is going to get me to play again. Still, if Cataclysm turns out to be awesome, I shall play it followed by a baby Thor…

Again, there’s nothing in there that’s going to make me game more enjoyable, but that’s not point. I want to get the feeling of unpacking it like an early birthday, because finding all those goodies is a nice emotion and I am willing to pay for it.