Motor Rock: The Game That Should Have Never Been

It was the night before Christmas and all through the house.  No one was stirring… not even a Russian developer who was working on a re-imagining of Blizzard’s classic game Rock n Roll Racing.

20 years ago Blizzard made this game and it was… amazing.  It was a classic fighter driver game in which you used various weapons to knock out your opponents.

So someone decided they were going to remake it.  Up until the official launch it was actually called Rock n Roll Racing 3d…. because the game came with a 3d view.  But on the day of the launch they were requested by Blizzard to adopt a different name… they complied.  They called it, Motor Rock.

And after a week they were requested to get rid of the classic Commentator from Blizzard, they quickly put in their own English and Russian commentators which… as you can imagine… sucked.

So now they’ve been taken down because of one thing they just didn’t cover… they weren’t paying licensing fees for the music.  There were only six songs in the game but they were all songs by Ozzy Osbourne being covered by a band…. and of course a recording is protected by copyright for up to 150 years.

So as the devs are off looking for some decent royalty free music it appears this game will be temporarily off Steam.

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Expansion Review: Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

Well it’s back!  After one of the longest eSports seasons in recent history every single eSport has switched over to HoTs or Heart of the Swarm.  This is The Game Guru’s official review of HoTs.

The Brief: Starcraft 2 up to this point

James Raynor is a marshall at Backwater Outpost.  Suddenly creatures start showing up and attacking.  General Edmund Duke responds to the call and informs him to stand down.  Raynor ignores orders and destroys the Zerg in the area.

Duke arrests Raynor.  Kerrigan and Mengsk offer to give Raynor a second chance and to join their rebellion against the Confederacy.  Mengsk finds out he can control where the zerg attack through beacons and sacrifices Kerrigan to the zerg in order to successfully test it.  Mengsk takes over Terran Confederacy and renames it The Terran Dominion.

The Zerg meanwhile are building their perfect being, Kerrigan.  Kerrigan emerges as the only independent Zerg ever created and the most exhaulted of infested Terrans.

The Protoss seek to destroy the Zerg overmind in their long term battle.  They join with the Terrans and the Dark Templar in order to do this.  Dark Templar and Protoss energies (light and dark) combine to create the only thing capable of killing The Overmind.

With the Overmind dead new enemies show up taking advantage of the situation.  The United Earth Directorate come to this outpost to reclaim it for Earth.  Lead by a bunch of Russians this group take over the sector.  A changeling Duras crafts and manipulates every one of their moves.

Duras moves to the side of Kerrigan in which he instructs Kerrigan on how to rebuild the swarm.

In the mean time the dark templars are being hunted down by the protoss and must escape to Shakuras to re-unite with their allies and create a united front against the Protoss Protectorate.

Shadows of the past return in HoTs
Shadows of the past return in HoTs

Kerrigan all the while is rebuilding the former Zerg Empire and taking control of all the zerg’s units and destroying all cerebrates.  She enlists the help of both the United Earth Directorate, The Dark Templars, and James Raynor in order to kill off all of the Cerebrates and regain control of the Zerg.

All the while Duras is off creating zerg-protoss hybrids and has left Kerrigan’s side.  Raynor finds these hybrids and is told there are thousands of these across the solar system.

In a final moment Kerrigan destroys all of her enemies and becomes the single ruling force in the universe.

And then Kerrigan vanishes from the scene for years.  While she is gone Mengsk makes the Terran Dominion the only Terran force in the universe and finishes incorporating any remaining elements of the United Earth Directorate.  The protoss are homeworldless and travel around spending their time eradicating remnant Zerg.

And James Raynor is looking to lead a rebellion against Mengsk.  The Zerg attack roughly around the same time.  In the end Raynor sides with Mengsk’s son Varian and General Warhol (Mengsk’s General) in order to defeat Kerrigan on Char.

Raynor enlists the help of a science institute lead by a man named Sar-ud (Duras backwards?) which is secretly run by Valarian, son of Emperor Mengsk.

MEANWHILE in Xel’Naga land, a dark templar has a vision of the future in which the Zerg and hybrids join forces together to destroy the Protoss, the last people in the galaxy.  In this vision everything is gone except for a few protoss, who valiantly die as well.

In the end Kerrigan is stripped of her Zerg form and transformed into a human.  Kerrigan is stipulated as a person who might have been able to save the future, but did not.

Which brings us to here…

Synopsis

Jim Raynor loves Sarah Kerrigan.  Sarah Kerrigan loves Jim Raynor.  But the two can never seem to get any time to do anything except exchange a single kiss every decade.  After Valarian Mengsk’s research facility is attacked by Emperor Mengsk, Kerrigan retreats with a desier to end Mengsk.  It is this desire that in the end makes her go back to the Zerg and become their Queen once more.

The game has seen dozens of improvements since launch.  So we’ll pretend for a second that anything that has been added was for Heart of the Swarm.

So let’s start with the UI.  The game splits up UMS games now called “The Arcade” and classic games.

The Arcade features thousands of mini-games meaning that without doing anything else, you will immediately get your value.

The multiplayer is excellent and has been balanced over 6-9 months.  It features tones of new units and wiped out a lot of the crap filled units that saw little to no value in the game.  Of course the game isn’t balance and upon launch you are most likely going to want to play as Terran.

Kerrigan's hero customization can be changed at any time
Kerrigan’s hero customization can be changed at any time

The campaign is really the focus of this review.  If you’re coming here to learn about The Arcade or multiplayer, you’re in the wrong place.  Anyone who is unaware of these two things will either discover them after reading this review… or are just looking for someone to talk smack about it.

The campaign features Sarah Kerrigan as the only hero unit, she is featured fondly in most campaign missions.  Kerrigan will get a tech tree of her own and level on her own.  The tech tree can slot in abilities (passive and active) or effect production in some manner.

This tree will expand at some point from having two options per tier to three.  A major difference from WoL (Wings of Liberty) is that you can swap around these choices before every mission, that is… it’s not a locked in permanent thing.

The same is true of the individual unit upgrades.  Each unit gets one added perk or bonus.  Each of these perks or bonuses can be swapped around at your convenience.  These are often minor upgrades with some having three insanely potent upgrades.  Each of them however are about equal value and are completely situational.

The permanent upgrades come from evolution missions in which you have to choose between one of two super powerful upgrades.  An example from the earliest one is to be able to spawn three zerglings (instead of 2) with faster spawn times, or spawn more powerful zerglings that can leap over ledges.  Each is very potent upgrade and each seemingly overpowered.  I went with the extra ling option but after playing through the campaign I just saw so many scenarios in which a ledge leaping zergling would have paid off so much better.

This was a permanent choice however.

One of the weaknesses of the first two attempts at Zerg storytelling was that because there was a hive mind it was basically a person talking to themselves… which of course sounds kinda coo coo.  In this world most of the Zerg are separate and there is no hive mind.  On top of that all of the Zerg have evolved into being far more intelligent than what they originally were.

Kerrigan is joined by an ensemble cast of heroes who seemingly don’t do anything ever.  They do however voice their opinions including an infested terran from the past, a Brood Mother, some sort of naga looking thing, and some mystery guests!

Starcraft has had a history of bad Zerg campaigns that lack depth.  One of the key challenges has been that campaigns are almost entirely designed to make you feel like a hero.  Previous Zerg campaigns however made it very clear that you are a bad guy meaning you will lose.  This has also meant that Zerg campaigns have always had somewhat of an identity crisis.  You go in knowing full well that the Zerg being the bad guys can’t win and you go through some story that could have otherwise been skipped.

The Leviathan Pilot is a borrowed graphic from Warcraft, a naga
The Leviathan Pilot is a borrowed graphic from Warcraft, a naga

In this series Kerrigan is portrayed as an anti-hero similar to Sin City in which, despite being at war with so many good guys, she has pure motives and possibly, a common enemy.

So beyond this campaign there honestly isn’t too much added into the game.

If you are buying the expansion for the campaign it is well worth it.  A lot of the obnoxious features of the previous game have been played around with.

Unfortunately this expansion kind of plays hostage with your multi-player as you won’t be able to access to the vast majority of players from Wings of Liberty anymore.  This is a common business practice and one few enjoy.

As well as another negative they’ve added in a DRM system that just seems obvious.  Every now and then while loading “streaming information” will send information from your computer to their servers… and they are quite large.  These happen at loading screens and are giant pieces of information.

Other than that though it is a solid investment and well worth the purchase.

Blizzard Getting Sued (Yay)

I never did just the Authenticator.  I understand the concept and how it is supposed to work but to me any game with an authenticator on it is just so poorly designed for security that they’re trying to tag on that added expense as per design.

And that’s exactly what a group of plaintiffs are arguing in a class action law suit against Blizzard Entertainment.

The plaintiffs in this case argue that the authenticators do not work because of a massive hacking and cracking that happened to the authenticators last year.  The authenticators were cracked and people were losing personal information to Chinese farmers left and right.  It was suggested over 1,000,000 accounts were hacked and that 90% of them had authenticators on it.

This go by and large to how Blizzard has setup their network.

Back in a day before Battle.net (and I mean the WoW version launched a few years ago) World of Warcraft required a username and password.  Usernames and passwords are by and large the most secure login method because it created a 5-16 letter code (your username) that only you know.

And of course at some point Blizzard created Battle.net and made everyone log in with their E-MAIL.  Emails are one of the more publicly available identifiers in the world.  If I know for example that your email address is snappyprincess2012@hotmail.com all I have to do now is hack your Hotmail account (which is easier) and I’ll see that you in fact have a World of Warcraft account that I will freely be able to hack as well.

It was too much of their security being tied into personal information that is easily obtainable.  It is like when someone steals your wallet with your picture identification card, call your phone provider and verify using your name and address…. information that is available in a PHONE BOOK.

So the authenticator was rolled out to deal with this, a $6.50 purchase (plus shipping) that would authenticate your account and provide maximum security.  And of course as the story goes…. it failed.

So the case is arguing what we sort of have known for all of time.  Blizzard Entertainment has crappy security.  They sell the authenticator to people and make a profit off of it knowing full well that their security sucks.  The case argues that there is a conflict of interest here in which Blizzard’s handling of personal and private information that is law regulated conflicts with their selling authenticators at a profit.

That is to say, the worst their security gets, the more side profits they will make off of these authenticators.

I really hope they win this law suit.  In reality we all know it’ll just settle out of court for some insanely low amount.  But hey it’s the first step in tackling these demon developers.

Why Diablo 3 Will Fall Flat

Diablo 3 is one of the most anticipated games in the last decade.  The last Diablo game (Diablo 2) was a stellar hit and saw multi-team players for the first time crawling through dungeons full of demons, ghouls, and skeletons.  Players went through 8-9 different zones and beat back the land itself.  Whereas Diablo 1 was a single player only game involving a single randomly created dungeon into hell (YES HELL), Diablo 2 was all of that and much more.

Before I go any further I am not saying Diablo 3 is a bad game.  I am not saying it will not sell very well.  Modern Warfare 3 sold insanely well and for all intensive purposes it is the same game as Modern Warfare 2 (they even went as far to force any private MW2 servers down so everyone would have to buy MW3).  In this article I will discuss the things that will make Diablo 3 fall flat.

1: The Disconnected Development Team

In 2000 Diablo 2 was completed and was a stellar success.  A year later an expansion came out for it.  Following this massive expansion to the game Blizzard Entertainment, then owned by Vivendi sent funding to the Blizzard North studio to make a Diablo 3.

As early as 2003 it seemed obvious there was a disconnect between the Blizzard North team and other departments of Blizzard.  Blizzard Entertainment stalled the production of Diablo 3 in favor of re-assigning large chunks of the team to work on some dungeons for their new flagship title “World of Warcraft.”  Starcraft 2 was also stalled as that team was re-assigned to balancing PvP (on a spreadsheet).

In 2004 the Diablo 3 team was sent back to work on their project but Blizzard Entertainment was constantly drawing resources from the studio to complete their MMO.  The team now called “ArenaNet” left Blizzard after developing the patching and Battle.net systems.  Blizzard North… was not far away.

Blizzard North’s director asked Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Morhaime for permission to make Diablo 3 into an MMO instead of as an isometric 2.5d release.  Mike Morhaime said no.  It was felt that there could only be one MMO since the MMO market was so ‘tiny.’  Mike Morhaime of course underestimated the power of his own product as World of Warcraft in only a few years was drawing in millions of subscribers.

The team of Blizzard North disgruntled left Blizzard Entertainment (well about half of them) to form a new company, Flagship Studios.  Flagship Studios started working on a very different sort of MMO.  Any ranged would have to aim their attacks.  Melee would have to time their attacks.  It was an MMO designed for the skill oriented players that Diablo had attrtacted.

When “Hellgate London” launched it was very familiar to Diablo, even the bags and space limitations were carbon copies.  The studio ran out of funding after a month… and after a month they liquidated their assets, including selling off Hellgate: London to a Chinese holding company.

The remaining Blizzard North team was given new leadership and forced to continue making Diablo 3.  In 2007 Blizzard Entertainment did not like the product that was being made.  As a response Blizzard closed down the Blizzard North studio and gave the Diablo 3 project to a more central team.

This new team took what was the code for Diablo 3 and tinkered with it, improved it.. and destroyed it.  They put in completely new classes, new leveling systems, removed core Diablo features, and integrated the game into the vast Battle.net system.

The game is fractured and it will become very clear what parts of the game were worked on by Blizzard North… and which were worked on by Blizzard Entertainment.

This is similar to Duke Nukem Forever which although not bad… was nothing amazing for a game 17 years in development.  Duke Nukem also had a split development process in which 3D Realms went bankrupt and Gearbox Software finished it.

If Duke Nukem is any sign of what happens when two studios with completely different visions of the game work on a project… Diablo 3 doesn’t have a chance.

2: Isometric iz Dead

Isometric top down dungeon crawling was really cool in the 90s because this is really all we had.  Assassin’s Creed had not yet come out and shown us those crisp clear DirectX graphics nor had the physics engine really grown into popular use.  Today Unreal Engine which was once amazing is now generic and bland.

So if Unreal Engine 3 is generic and bland…. what is an isometric game?  A free game.

Think about all of the games that have really cheap looking retro 90s graphics.  They are either free (League of Legends/Puzzle Fighter/Maple Story) or really cheap (Terraria/Minecraft).

Diablo 3 is supposed to be a AAA release that matches the graphical quality of something that others are giving for free.

That just doesn’t sit well.

Let’s put it this way… if they were to make a Doom 4 we would expect it to have the graphical fidelity of of a modern title.

Diablo 3 on the other hand has had a “Blizzardification” of graphics.  They take the same crappy graphical style of the old game and just update them with a cartoonish WoW-lke texturing.

Starcraft 2 had a similar treatment.

Here is Starcraft 1:

For the time this was an attempt at realistic qualities.  You will notice the marines are roughly semetrical, the tank is roughly 30 times the size of a marine (as it should be) and the zerg creates and buildings actually look horrifying.

Let’s fast forward 10 years later:

So now you can see all of the buildings look like they were space pods instead of actual buildings.  As well now the zerg characters look like cartoons, not quite all that scary.

This is kind of the feeling you get with Diablo 3.  Diablo 2 was terrifying and you felt intense fear when certain demons and creates came upon you.  Diablo 3 on the other hand is crappy and cartoony.

Blizzard has gone on a new policy in which everything must have crappy cartoony graphics to make the game “timeless.”  They take the same old game, strip it of its life and cartoonize it.

I should note the Korean scene has been reluctant to jump into Starcraft 2 because the gameplay is simply not as good as Starcraft 1.  This might cause people to just run back to Diablo 2 instead of playing Diablo 3.

3: DoTa

I think above all else people played Diablo 2 in droves and continued playing with max level characters on hardcore you die servers because it was really all there was.  Two years after Diablo 2 came out Warcraft 3 released.  Although people did not switch over from D2 to WC3 a new community of people like those who played D2 formed.

Defense of the Ancients was a huge step forward compared to Diablo 2.  In Diablo 2 you gathered weapons and items by cave crawling and then you would use these items to help you fight stronger… against other players who would gank you as soon as they spot you.

In Defense of the Ancients you would kill the other players to earn money to buy items to beat the other player with.  DoTa came with a massive attraction to the PvP element… which is what D2 nerds stayed around for.

Today we have a SC2 version of DoTa, still have the WC3 community alive and kicking… and we have League of Legends.  LoL has a community of over 10,000,000 gamers…. and it is free.

Why oh why might people decide to switch from a successful balanced and fun game to one that will cost them $50-60 and also have an ingame cash shop to further elevate the price of the game.

There is no reason.

There may be some who want to play through the story of Diablo 3 and see where it goes.  But honestly, who played Diablo for the story?

In Diablo 1 the story is you are a hero who goes into a church and fights your way to hell to kill Satan.

In Diablo 2 the town of Tristan is slain and you fight your way into a whole bunch of hells to kill off a bunch of Satans.

So now Diablo 3’s plot will no doubt just be…. you kill a bunch of Satans… again.

The game really does not have a draw value that hasn’t already been satisfied by the market.  The only thing that’ll make people buy this is the nostalgia factor.  But hoenstly the nostalgia factor of a game that has been pissed on by a large group of money grubbing executives is more likely to anger people than please them.

Much like Duke Nukem Forever it has simply been too long since the last Diablo game came out.

When Starcraft 2 released there was no real RTS’s on the market.. and the ones that there were, were either not very good or not popular.  Starcraft 2 refreshed the RTS genre.

However.

There are tones of dungeon crawler games out there.  The isometric genre because of how simply it is to make these games blossomed into an industry.  Diablo 3 might come out as the best of these games (in sales) but it definitely will find itself in a sea of unwant.

4: The Skyrim Effect

Diablo 3 at its heart is an RPG.  However with all of the neutering that has been done to it it will have problems standing up against other RPGs.

I think one of the big awesome things about Diablo 2 was customization.  When you played through the game that first time you felt like you could play it again a different way using a different class.  After using all of the classes you feel like running it again just so you can build up your classes in a different way.

With Diablo 3 you get five classes.  This means you might play through it five different times.  However since there is no customization you might not want to even play it through the second time.

Customization is a really really big sell for RPGs.  It is the main reason why people are still chosoing RPGs over MMORPGs.

People recommend Two Worlds 2 just for the magic customization feature which allows you to invent very visually retarded spells.

Skyrim has become the industry standard for RPGs.  It is one of the only RPGs to come out in recent years that has lasted more than a month.  Much like Minecraft there are thousands of YouTube channels of people playing Skyrim.

The reason for this is Skyrim is the most customizable game ever made.  In the core gameplay you can customize your character in 20 different categories with ten different traits per category to create over 40,000 types of heroes.

On top of that Skyrim has an open source modding tool that allows you to modify the game in any way you choose.  This has lead to some insane mods, my favorite of course is the Warhammer 40K Space Marine mod… that allows you to dress up like a space marine and fire W40K weapons.

Diablo was never and will never be opened up for people to mod it.  This means that there is not going to be a modding community keeping the game fresh.

I wouldn’t feel bad buying GTA4 for the PC right now just because of how many mods are available to play with.  Diablo 3 is going t o be a very closed game.

5: But It Will Sell Well

This article discusses largely why this game will be a blip on the radar.  It will be something that will gain attention for a couple of weeks… and then go away.

Blizzard Entertainment has had a reputation of building franchises that not only sell but become a cultural phenomenon.  Starcraft 2 is pretty much the only game in esports (okay to be fair there is also Halo 3, Battlefield 3, League of Legends, Smash Bros Brawl, and Street Fighter X Tekken).  Starcraft 2 is a real sport in Korea and in North America it is a million dollar industry.

World of Warcraft became such a phenom that people often referred to people who play this game as “WoW zombies.”  The web series “The Guild” became enormously popular and the actors in it have done very well for themselves.  Other web personalities like The YogsCast, TotalBiscuit, and Jesse (OMFGCata) became insanely popular from showing beta gameplay for World of Warcraft expansions.

Blizzard Entertainment games have become so big that a sub-industry of people making money from recording and showing the game has formed.

You will not see any of this with Diablo 3.  There is simply no competitive or unique side of the game.  Everything is uniform and everyone is likely to have the same experience.

In the end Diablo 3 is Blizzard’s red headed step child.  They know they have to release it and they know it will hurt their reputation.

Starcraft Season 3 Soon

I’ve been playing a lot of Starcraft 2 as of late and just as Season 2 begins for me it comes to an end.  Available on the PTR are four new 1v1 maps.  I’m not entirely sure what maps they will replace but the ones they do have are… interesting.

Unnamed Map #1

So this first map titled “Normal” is semi-close rush distance maps.  It’s a little hard to see but past the natural there are quite a few destructible rocks which make this a very easy map for terrans and protosses to expand with without losing to rushes.  The middle is also a little interesting as there are four high ground areas where players can put sieging units.  In TvT this will mean taking the middle will be impossible and instead you will attempt to control as much of the high ground points as possible and slowly push your opponent back.

For zergs this means that overlords will be doing most of the scouting and doing ling run bys will be next to impossible.

This maps offers tones of excellent places for otsses to lay down pylons and proxies to hit you with.

Unnamed Map #2

This map is oddly labeled “Rush.”  It’s odd because it’s not clear exactly how you can rush this map.  It’s pretty big and the natural expansions are shelteredp retty well by destructible rocks.  This map will probably favor zergs pretty heavily as the map is LOADED with destructible rocks which will open new paths of attack and harass.

The interesting position is side by side.  You can see in the south there is nothing but a small strip of land separating two expansions.  This could eventually be a good place for some colossus poking, siege tank dropping, or some high ground turrets/bunkers or cannons.

Unnamed Map #3

So this map has four very different starting locations.  The ramps for the southern starters point south and the ramps for the northern starts point north.  I’m assuming you will only be able to spawn cross position or laterally because spawning longitudinally (North-South) would be heavily imbalanced for siege tank and banshee play.

Having said that cross positions is INSANELY long rush distance.  I can see everyone taking a fast expansion on this map and going for some powerful tech units.  The third expansion is located on low ground which means it’ll be very easily susceptible to harassment.  This willl largely favor an extended 2-base play until a battle occurs.  Even zergs will not be able to hold this position if they attempt to expand without macro hatching.

Unnamed Map #4

This map is designated as a “macro” map.  This is because it has ridiculously larger numbers of minerals than your usual maps.  This map is somewhat unique from anything we’ve seen before because your first two expansions are in pretty safe locations.  All hell breaks lose over the central gold expansions.  Getting a fourth base will be a challenge on this map as the other possible spawn points are quite far away and the gold is very open and so far away from your base.

This map will very heavily favor mutalisk play and any form of toss or terran harassment style.

There is on Xel”naga Watch Tower and it’s in the middle on high ground.  This makes it insanely important as the game goes on longer since that tower will help you in denying your enemy of any of the gold minerals.

Review of Starcraft 2

Introduction

Starcrat 2: The Wings of Liberty is set four years after Kerrigan has successfully taken control of the zerg and kicked the butts of the a combined Protoss Enclave, Terran Dominion, and United Earth Directorate.  Kerrigan and the zerg have actually vanished and allowed the terrans be.  While the Overmind was more interested in expansionism it seems Kerrigan wants to be left be.  Without a zerg presence the Dominion has expanded and Emperor Mengsk has successfully conquered the entire quadrant in the name of humanity.  James Raynor was labeled a traitor and a terrorist and has been leading a resistance force to try and overthrow the corrupted and tyrannical Arcturist Mengsk.

The story begins as you being James Raynor, yes you are James Raynor so very few hero missions for you.  You are starting your rebellion by giving an entire planet access to weapons to fight against the Dominion.  After you successfully liberate this planet from the Dominion you find a surprise, the zerg are re-emerging.  The Dominion abandons it’s outer colonies and focuses it’s massive fleet on it’s core worlds… this gives you room for your rebellion.  The Zerg and the Protoss are back in a big way though and income will be needed to fight a three-front war.  You run into an old combat friend who offers you contracts to make some money to help bring your military force back to what is was during the Brood Wars.

The Zerg invades the very planet (Mar Sara) where you are doing an opp for your friend.   They are attracted to a relic that you stole from a Protoss cult.  The colonies are over-run however help comes just in time.  It turns out James Raynor and his friend Matt stole the Hyperion from Emperor Mengsk and it is now the flag ship of the rebel’s one ship fleet.  The story begins here.  Your missions involve getting research points to enhance your units, unlocking new units/buildings and the ability to hire mercenaries.  From here I won’t spoil anything but the story is very slow and very jarring much like the original Starcraft.

Game Play Rundown

The game play is very weird if you played the old Starcraft.  In Starcraft:Brood Wars carriers ruled the skies, zerg were all hydralisks and terrans amassed marines and medics.  The game is balanced in such a way that if someone masses one unit you can just mass a different unit back.  My favorite match to date is one where on my side is three protoss and on their side is two terrans and a protoss.  We are massing the most annoying unit in the game, the void ray.  The catch of the warp ray is that they are fast moving ships than can do stupid amounts of damage.  Their damage starts off being very tiny but it spins up and eventually does so much damage that buildings are instantly dying.  We use them on enemy builders (probes/drones/SCVs) and the primary hope of this tactic is to disrupt your production so much that there are huge imbalances in troops.  This tactic makes it so that people cannot mass up troops to take on our annoying void rays.  Best part is it’s all hit and run tactics so they’ll never kill one.

Every race has something that can do this.  Most terrifying are the terrans who send in these high damage jet pack squads that can be gained very early in a match.  The zerg have broodlings which are very cheap and very efficient… and can also burrow.  If you don’t like that you can always go with a classic mutalisk.

The game fixed protoss and terrans but forever broke zerg in my opinion.  The thing that plagued protoss and terrans so much was the air-to-air only vehicles that no one used.  They were very powerful and very useful but in the end no one made them because it risked your opponent not building air to air fighters.  The new air-to-air fighters on protoss side can lift ground troops into the air to attack.  The terran version look very similar to something you may have seen in Command and Conquer 4 where they sort of transform into ground troops on command.

Most units also have 2-3 use moves.  The basic troops don’t but as you move up in the tech tree you start seeing more and more impressive stuff.  The units are balanced so that there are plenty of air only, air to ground, ground to air, and ground only units.  Upgrades are seemingly less important than they were before.  In the old Starcraft un-upgraded units got slaughtered.  In this one the values make it so that the only benefit to upgrades is going to be a 1v1 battle.  So upgrades go out IF you have surplus resources (something that plagued Starcraft hugely).

As well with your surplus resources you can buy MERCENARIES (in campaign).  Mercenaries are terran hero units and as you unlock more vehicles you have the option of burning your campaign credits on these maniacs.  They come with nearly double stats… but at five times the cost.  As an added benefit they are deployed instantly, very useful on a lot of missions where the game throws in random surprise attacks.

The campaign is far easier than that of the original Starcraft, it favors casuals.  The difficulty levels go Casual, Normal, Advanced and Brutal.  I did the whole thing through on Brutal and will be doing it against next time on Hard to do all the achievements I missed.   The old Starcraft was plagued by a lack of direction or instruction.  You were following the story but you never really knew what exactly to do.  In this game they tell you specific tactics to use to defeat your opponents and what units are strong against what units.  This way when a gang of marauders shows up at your door you know to send a legion of flame bats against him.  Obviously as you up difficulty you are going to need to do a little more.  I was in vent talking to a friend who was on Normal difficulty and I’m describing a level to him, he does it later and half the stuff I said just didn’t exist.  They’ve scaled up the campaigns so you’re using the same basic tactics to win but you’ll need more resources, more units and more production to take the cake.

Think of this like an intro to the game play, I’ll go over most of these individually.

The Campaign

First off when you purchase Starcraft 2 you’re not actually purchasing Starcraft 2.  What you are purchasing is Starcraft 2 The Wings of Liberty.  Starcraft 2 is split into three different campaigns and each campaign is it’s own game.  The main campaign in this game gives you brief looks at zerg and protoss units but nothing game-breaking.  In the end you are going to be very terran driven in PvP until you can figure out some zerg/protoss tactics that work.  The main campaign as stated focusing around the renegade James Raynor’s attempt at creating a newer and better tomorrow.  There have been many drafts for exactly who and what characters are in this.  Originally the character Matt was supposed to be a Prince who offered Jim a ship to travel across the universe in.

The campaign is fluidic and neat.  You will have your base of operations on the Hyperions.  Here you will have access to a number of personalities and get to hear their stories over time.  As well you have four zones to travel through each with it’s own sort of game enhancements.  In your missions you will earn credits, zerg research points and protoss research points.  Credits can be spent on either hiring amped up mercenaries or giving your troops regular moves.  Your army starts off kind of retarded.  All of the equipment is out of date.  So as an example you can gain the ability to have your Viking (the new Wraith/Valkrie) shoot a barrage of missiles instead of just one.  This way it acts more like the old Valkries and less like the Wraith.  Of course Vikings have barrage attacks anyway (in multiplayer) so you’re really just normalizing it.  Similarly goliaths can be upgraded to attack air and ground at the same time, which of course is silly because it’s replacement thor can do that anyway.

The zerg and protoss research is odd.  The idea is you are modifying your equipment to include zerg parts and protoss technology.  In the ship is a zerg sample and protoss energy sample.  As you discover more protoss and zerg samples these two ship samples are going to evolve into something cool.  Every stage of the evolution your science officer is going to explain to you the two possible upgrades that this change is going to offer you.  I clicked on it once and it told me you’re crazy if you think of infesting your own troops to create bonus energy…. but self-regenerating tanks and buildings seems fine.  You always get two options one is more riskee than the other in the eyes of your science dude.  You select one of the two and once that’s done you’ve burned that tier of science.  You cannot go back and choose the other.  This is a way of making the campaign seem unique and have replay value.  You may remember something similar to Warhammer 40k Dawn of War 2 (long title) where you had optional paths for upgrading each unit and once you did it your path was set in stone.   Honestly between the two options I always felt one was lame sauce, so maybe I’l play again and see how non-lamesauce it could be (but it probably still sucks).

Every level is also unique.  The objectives of Starcraft were kind of boring.  The game relied heavily on a storyline to explain why your mission was eliminate enemy X.  Yes there are some missions where you have to eliminate enemy X but there are tones involving destroying specific structures, defending waves of enemies, saving/using structures, destroying specific enemy units (sup train robbery?), and mining certain resources.  My second favorite mission involves you mining 10,000 crystals where the path to the crystals fills with lava every 4 minutes and you have to move around and gather those crystals elsewhere in the lava (while killing the zerg force present).  My FAVORITE mission is a protoss dream where you are defending until the last protoss lives.  Your goal is to kill 2,000 zerg before you get overwhelmed but with a good defense (sup carriers and doom beams) you are going to sit there for hours defending.

Overall the campaign is an A-plus.  Of course not all units you see in the campaign are actually in the multiplayer, so don’t get used to seeing vultures around.

Controls/HUD

There is no customization present in the game.  Having said that blizzard has made space for player addons to mod the game and change that stuff. I haven’t seen anyone developing addons for this yet, but then again they’re all probably playing the game.  The HUD looks mostly the same with some minor, yet important changes.

Remember when you went Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2, Ctrl+3 and you had this weird mixture of two types of units to mass with.  Well you really couldn’t remember who was 1, 2 or 3 so you sent them all and half of those units got raped because you sent valkries in with no fighters so they just got torpedoed by turrets… yeah don’t lie it’s happened.  Now on the HUD is a small graphic on the bottom left side of the screen indicating who is in what groups.  The graphic will show the pre-dominant type in your grouping so basically they want you to macro different types into different groups… which we don’t obviously.  If you play off a big screen TV like me then you’ll also probably notice that they have a very small graphic of the pre-dominant unit.  It’s pretty small and hard to see, obviously designed with people running around with 27 inch flat screen monitors.

Another important upgrade is in how upgrade structures work.  Construction buildings no longer contain upgrades directly.  For terrans every building will have an attachment you can build with them.  For Protoss they’ve been moved to other structures.  For zerg, well zerg never mattered in this regard.  This means you are always free to produce and can upgrade away without any worries.  Although stat boosts aren’t that big ability boosts are.  I was playing against an old schooler who was defending with his massive robots and devestating my hydralisks.  I borrowed them and he patted back pretty far.  As soon as he was gone BAM back to attacking.  Classic tactics are still going to work in this game.

Another important change is in how moving your troops work.  Before your only real options were move and patrol.  Patrol gave the added benefit that if they saw troops they’d attack them, but then once they reach their mark they’ll move back to their original spot.  Players used this to move troops so that they’re not caught off guard by other patrolling players.  The new tactic comes by hitting A (for attack) and then selecting the area you want your troops to go to.  Your troops will go there and attack anything along the way.  Don’t do this while your troops are running away or people will be left behind.

Another interesting new feature is escorting.  If you right click your troops on a unit they’ll follow them.  They will try and stay as close to them as possible and will attack and run.  This is very useful for diamond backs who actually have an attack on the run.  If you are looking to defend something important that is moving this is definitely the command to use.  Cause let’s be honest, zerglings don’t kill things battlecruisers do.

If you scroll your mousewheel in, you get a nice zoom of your troops and all the mini-operations things do you’re probably missing, just blizzard showing off Direct-X 9 implementation.

Everything else is pretty much the same.

PvPness

The zerg may need some work, or a campaign I'm undecided
It is extremely difficult to gage the PvP in this game, mainly because of the zerg.  It’s not to say I haven’t won matches as zerg but more so that I don’t entirely understand them yet.  You may remember from Starcraft Brood Wars that Mutalisks could evolve into two types of units, one primarily air superiority fighter and one primarily ground tank nuker.  Well now more troops have secondary evolution forms meaning that the production chart for a zerg has become somewhat more complicated.
The biggest issue right now with learning zerg is you just don’t want to risk anything you have gained.  Right now I’m in the silver league and advancing my way to the gold league.. and every loss puts me further from that.  What if in a match I find out that the evolved form of a broodling is actually amazing?  The biggest problem here is that I really have no idea what they’re for.  In the end whenever I’m playin zerg I just build a tone of mutalisks and hydralisks and deploy a classic strategy.  It works so I’m happy for now but at some point I”ll want to figure out who does what.
It feels like to me the zerg have had nothing but quality of life fixes.  The main problem with the zerg was that they were too one-dimensional.  Their name has been used in every game since Starcraft (of every genre) to describe massing up a large force and just blitzing to the enemy.  Since zerg were always about high production output with low costs it meant that if you have enough resources and hatcheries you were going to win.  Now it seems like they’re pushing more complicated evolution lines so that you have to deploy groupings of different evolutions of different units…. interesting just not all that useful without a campaign.
And my last note on the zerg, ultralisks can burrow now, fuck yeah.
Alright.  The PvP in this game is actually pretty balanced.  The main tactic right now is SCV poaching.  The maps that blizzard released have this weird design.  The spots behind every single mineral either has a ledge that you can jump in from or dead space that ranged units can’t hit from.  This means that jumper units are extremely powerful on certain maps.  These are odd units blizzard put in that have the ability to bypass high and low ground as well as small gaps.  These are units that are very fast with high mobility and very fast rate of attack, means your SCVs are dead fast.  As well flyers can sit over SCVs and destroy them pretty much untouched until someone builds some air superiority fighters.
Other than that the team combat is based around everyone constructing a different unit class.  This way when an enemy invades with all hydralisks there’s all tanks or collosi nuking them down.  This also means that you’re not going to lose most of your invasion force defending and your counter attack will be doublety strong.
The game does have a competitive edge with four brackets of ladders, 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4.  Your first 50 matches you play (or you can skip these) are tutorial matches that will allow you to learn how to use your units since blizzard didn’t add protoss and zerg campaigns.  I tried a couple of these but everyone I played against played terran… and as we know terran slightly out do protoss so it wasn’t really fair.  After that you have 5 placement matches that will decide where you belong in the Ladder.  The bottom if bronze top is gold middle is silver.  Once placed you have to earn your way up through the ranks.  I’m assuming blizz will have events for the gold bracket to make it even more competitive (money ladder tourneys).
Finale
Think this is where I’ll end my review, overall A+ but I have to go back and play the game.  Later gents and enjoy Starcraft 2.

What I Expect from Starcraft 2

I am finally going to say that I was in the Starcraft 2 Beta.  I didn’t do any stupid pre-ordering thing but I will say I did get my beta key through a perfectly legal way.  Regardless the beta was entirely player vs. player.  I tested out the new match making system and the pvp game play.  Starcraft is a PvP game so getting that balance right is important.  The campaign was unavailable to beta players as those things are not even trusted to blizzard’s most trusted friends and family.  This is similar to how raids were not beta tested in Wrath beta.

So what I know about the game is that blizzard has renamed some units and adjusted some abilities, but all-in-all it’s the exact same game as Starcraft… with newer graphics.  The renaming messed with me.  It was weird to freak out about there being no Arbiters then to find out they’ve been renamed and relocated as Mother Ships.  There’s still a lot of gay things in the game, like Carrier stacking is still a viable tactic as Protoss, marines and medics still works as Terrans, and Hydras and Mutas still works as Zerg.  One small distinction however, now you can create units that seriously counter all of these tactics (the new firebat will wreck a hydra rush).

So what do I expect from the Starcraft 2 campaign that I’ve been itching to play?  Well:

  1. A brain dead tutorial.  The original Starcraft tutorial was simple but not really.  The tutorial involved one or two levels per race and you built a few buildings and a few units.  But then after that tactics is hard to discover alone and what units are good for is almost impossible to tell.  Anyone remember the second level of the Zerg campaign where mutas are introduced and you’re expected to learn on your own that mutalisks counter terran tanks?  Yeah…. that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.  Originally that map took me 3 hours to figure out because my hydralisks kept getting one-shot by tanks.
  2. There has to be some sort of achievement system implemented.  Let’s face it the gaming industry gave away it’s soul to achievements.  Every single game has created a reward/medal system that grants you bonus features or points for achieving the most moronic tasks.  I expect Starcraft 2 to be no different.  What will be funner than wiping out Purple team then everyone seeing the achievement: Defeat 1,000 Players.
  3. A very slow paced storyline.  If anyone recalls the original storyline for Starcraft things didn’t just happen.  It took 4-5 missions for Arturisk Mengsk to double cross James Raynor.  It took nearly the entire campaign to figure out what the Overminds plan was.  Starcraft’s storyline played like a game of chess.  All of the pre-emptive stories were setting up for the big finale where all of forces driving the game culminate into one giant epic unbeatable battle.
  4. James Raynor kicking some ass.  I know the Backwater Marshall is now a 40-year-old man and has been running from the Zerg and Dominion for some time.  But the original Trailer for this game was called “Starcraft 2 Ghosts of the Past” and in it we get introduced to many new characters (including a Prince who competes against Emperor Mengsk for power).  Raynor is seen leading a group of marines onto planet Char, home of Kerrigan and the Zerg.
  5. Having said that, I expect there to be new power players.   The United Earth Directorate is dead and in the final cinematic we watch the flag ship being defeated by Zerg forces attempting to escape.  The Conclave is pretty much dead and replaced by a unique union of Dark and Light Templar.  This leaves the possible enemies you will face to a tyrannical Emperor Mengsk, a re-emerging Queen Kerrigan, and a noble group of templar who hide from human-hunters.  I expect there to be new rebel terran factions and at least some sort of Protoss government.
  6. Optional co-operative campaign.  I’m sorry it just should happen, every game has it. I think there should be bonus missions you can unlock in single player that require you to go on Battle.net and complete with 2-3 people.
  7. TOOL TIPS ON SPELLS.  This was my biggest pet peeve with Starcraft original.  This ties into the tutorial.  It was not always self-evident what spells did and you were supposed to ‘discover’ them through trial and error.  Dark swam is a move that casts a cloud on an area and the units within that area cannot be hit by ranged attacks.  Do you know how hard it is to win a map focused around air units and hydralisks if you don’t know that?

Starcraft 2 Trailers:

2010 E3 Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty Debut Trailer

Starcraft 2 Ghosts of the Past Trailer

Starcraft 2 Return of the Zerg Cinematic from Blizzcon 2008

Possible Campaign Video

Blizzard’s Sneak Peak into New Protoss Units that Got Scraped from Game Dev