StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void brought with it the most significant overhaul to Multiplayer we’ve seen in StarCraft II’s history. With this overhaul came many improvements; additional depth for those looking to master the game, and games now play out in incredibly unique ways regardless of what may happen in the first few minutes.
Nevertheless, we believe we can make StarCraft II an even more enjoyable and competitive game experience and would like to explore a series of major changes to bring about these improvements. We intend for these changes to receive significantly more testing than the ‘Test Maps’ which we’ve done in the past, both because of the significance of the changes themselves, and also due to improvements we are making which we will discuss in greater detail below.
In order to provide ample time for a comprehensive period of testing, feedback, and revision, we would like to release these changes at the conclusion of this year’s tournament season in November. In the sections below, we’ve outlined the changes we are excited to explore in detail and provided the motivating factors behind them.
For Terran, our primary focus is on improving the viability of Factory unit armies—popularly known as ‘Mech’ compositions. While the resource changes in Legacy of the Void have been working great overall, they did have a unique effect on the effectiveness of Mech play. Outside of very specific maps (such as Dusk Towers) it has been challenging for players to go Mech due to the difficulty in securing additional expansions. Because the resource changes have had such positive effects outside of Mech play, we wanted to make some changes to Mech to improve it across the different types of StarCraft II maps.
We are planning to explore a complete redesign of the Cyclone to make it a core unit with a powerful anti-armored attack against ground units. The unit will remain fragile for its cost, but will have a fast movement speed. This way, the Cyclone can combo well with the Hellion early-on in order to defend additional bases or to keep the opponent contained while playing a more aggressive style.
- Anti-ground weapon heavily changed.
- Damage changed to 3 (+3 vs armored) damage, attacks once per .07 seconds, range increased from 5 to 6.
- Weapon upgrade amount changed from 2 to 1 to account for the new damage value.
- Changed weapon name to Tornado Blaster.
- No Anti-air weapon.
- Movement speed decreased from 4.72 to 4.13
- Lock On can now target air units only. Range is unchanged, and the ability now deals 160 damage over 14 seconds.
- Removed auto-cast for the Lock On ability.
- Supply cost decreased from 4 to 3.
- Increased health from 120 to 180.
- No longer requires a tech lab to build. The Cyclone can now be built with a reactor.
- The Cyclone auto-attack missile art is now smaller to avoid causing visual clutter. The missiles fired from the Lock-on ability are unchanged.
- Removed the Cyclone Lock On Damage upgrade from the Factory Tech Lab.
Before and After:
The Siege Tank
This iconic unit is a critical part of the Mech composition. After numerous discussions with players, a key understanding has surfaced: the added mobility granted by Medivac pickup in Legacy of the Void also brought about the loss of one of the Siege Tank’s most enjoyable aspects: incredibly effective area control. Yet, constructing Medivacs (a unit which heals only biological units) is often not the right choice for Mech players, and so these players are not able to take full advantage of the Siege Tank’s strengths.
However, if we decrease the mobility of Siege Tanks by removing Medivac pickup, we can justify a large increase to its damage and reinvigorate the Siege Tank’s ability to assert dominance over specific areas of the map. Doing so will also decrease the unit’s overlap with the Widow Mine, which serves as a more mobile burst damage option (similar to the current Siege Tank with Medivac pickup).
Siege Tank Changes:
- Sieged Siege Tank damage increased from 35 (+15 vs armored) to 40 (+30 vs armored).
- Sieged Siege Tanks can no longer be picked up by Medivacs.
The Liberator and the Thor
Since it’s addition to the game, the Liberator has seen much use. We hear and agree with the feedback stating that they are currently too strong “all-around.” Therefore, we wanted to remove the +light damage on their Anti-air attack so that they still serve as the early game anti-ground harassment option as well as late game zone control option, but they will require a greater commitment to be effective against large numbers of smaller air units.
To compensate for this change, we would like to focus on amplifying the Anti-air capabilities of the Thor. We’d like to explore increasing the splash radius on their splash damage Javelin Missiles, and we’re also experimenting with changes to the Tempest and Brood Lord to make the Thor a more capable counter to these units.
- Remove the +light damage for the Anti-air attack.
- Anti-air splash for the Javelin Missile Launchers radius increased from 0.5 to 0.6.
- Thor High Impact Payload Mode: The Anti-air weapon, 250mm Punisher Cannons, will now be prioritized before the Anti-ground weapon, Thor's Hammer.
Banshees are a unit we’d like to bring into the spotlight. To do this, we’d like to first test having no requirement for the Banshee speed upgrade. We know that Banshees may end up being too strong with this change, and if that happens we can lower the amount of speed the upgrade grants. Our goal is to give just the right amount of speed buff so that Banshees are used more often than now, and to make their relationship with their counters less one-sided.
- Removed the Fusion Core requirement for the Hyperflight Rotors upgrade.
We want to make the Viking’s ability to transform a situationally useful thing, but we definitely don’t want players to build Vikings for the ground mode when there are no air threats in the game. This change should help achieve that.
- Ground mode auto-attack now deals +8 mechanical damage.
Changing the Battlecruiser’s abilities to be on separate cooldowns rather than relying on energy opens up the Battlecruiser for more strategic plays. Using these abilities at the right times will make all the difference between playing better or worse with the unit and we hope that it brings the Battlecruiser more into favor.
- Energy bar removed.
- Yamato Cannon and Tactical Jump no longer require energy to cast. Instead, each has a separate cooldown.
- Yamato Cannon cooldown is 71 seconds.
- Tactical Jump Cooldown is 71 seconds.
- Removed the Behemoth Reactor upgrade (energy upgrade).
We’d like to bring the Raven more into favor while not enabling the unit to cause stalemate games again. Since Terran has so many worker harassment options already, we wanted to increase the strength of the Raven in battles. Due to the short duration, low health, and immobility of auto-turrets, an increase to their damage should give Ravens a bit more firepower in combat, while not adding too much to their ability to harass worker lines.
- Auto Turret damage increased from 16 to 24.
Protoss has seen significant changes and improvements in Legacy of the Void, and with this update we have a few things we want to improve even further. For one, we’re aiming to make the race’s interactions with Terran Mech more interesting. We’d also like to increase the power of the Zealot in certain areas compared to Adepts or Stalkers, and also make some generally cool unit improvements.
In Legacy of the Void, we made changes to the Immortal and other units to make Mech a more viable route for Terrans facing off versus Protoss players. However, it quickly became apparent that late-game Terran Mech really struggled versus Tempests. Due to the Tempest’s incredible siege range against ground and air units, and the unit’s efficient supply to cost ratio, massing Tempests was an easy answer against Terran Mech.
In response, we’d like to increase the supply of the unit to better match the cost and effectiveness of the unit, as well as reduce the range of its anti-ground attack. These two nerfs are counterbalanced by a new ability which aims to create interesting interactions against Siege Tank lines.
Due to the drastically increased effectiveness of the Siege Tank, we’ve added a new ability for the Tempest called ‘Disruption Sphere’. This ability launches a ball at the ground that acts a zoning tool, forcing units (especially Siege Tanks) in that location to pack up and move elsewhere. We hope to see some diverse gameplay around this interaction based on the positioning and the composition of each side’s armies.
- Increase supply count from 4 to 6.
- Anti-ground damage increased from 30 to 35, but no change to Anti-air damage.
- Anti-ground weapon range from 15 to 6.
- New ability: Disruption Sphere
- Immediately launches ball of energy and fires at target ground.
- Damages ground units and buildings in that location
- Deals 450 damage over a 32 second duration.
- 43 second cooldown.
- Area of Effect radius set to 1.95.
- 13 cast range.
- No friendly fire damage.
In Legacy of the Void, Adepts and Stalkers have become the favored core gateway units. We’d like to increase Zealot movement speed with the Charge upgrade researched. This would aim to significantly improve its performance versus kiting units, such as Terran bio or the new Hydralisks on Creep. This change could allow the Zealot to sometimes be a core option, whereas in certain situations, such as when Lurkers are involved, the relationship can change back to favoring Adepts or Stalkers. Also for warp-in harassment cases, this change could often make it situationally appropriate to warp in Zealots over Adepts.
- The "Research Charge" upgrade will now increase the Zealot's movement speed from 3.85 to 4.13.
For the Carrier, we believe the addition of the “Release Interceptors” ability had a negative effect on the game. In most cases, this ability became a test of simply clicking the ability before the Carrier dies. Therefore, we would like to go in a different direction by making Interceptors cheaper, thereby making the role of the Carrier clearer while also giving the unit a significant buff.
If Interceptors are cheaper, players will need to focus more on targeting down the Carriers than they do currently. This change, in combination with changes we previously made to Carrier/Interceptor controls (to behave more like they did in Brood War), should enable advanced Carrier micro and allow for the unit to perform in a way that reflects the skill of the controlling player.
- Remove the Release Interceptor ability.
- Interceptor cost reduced from 25 minerals to 5 minerals, and autobuild is enabled from the start.
The Dark Templar
We first want to mention that this is a highly experimental change, and we admittedly have a low degree of confidence of it making it into the live game. We also want to point out that we clearly don’t want to buff Dark Templars at the stage which they first enter the game, so we’re introducing an upgrade that will come into play after a Dark Templar Shrine has been completed for some time.
With that said, we’d like to add an ability with the goal of seeing if player skill using Dark Templars can be emphasized, even after the point when detection becomes more widely available.
Dark Templar Change:
New Ability: Shadow Stride
- Allows the Dark Templar to teleport a short distance.
- Research from Dark Shrine.
- 150/150 cost.
- 121 research time.
- Cooldown of 21 seconds.
- Creates a visible smoke-effect upon being cast.
Zerg has had numerous new strategies since the launch of Legacy of the Void, yet there are definitely areas of potential improvement available. We want to take this opportunity to experiment with a heavy rebalance of the Swarm Host, a redesign on the Infestor and its abilities, and a rebalancing of the strength of different Zerg tech paths. This means there are changes to units in different tech options, as well as an adjustment to the Ravager that feels necessary, especially given the changes that we intend to make to the Siege Tank.
The Swarm Host
The new role of the Swarm Host in Legacy of the Void seems to be good, but unit balance has made it impossible to confirm this. The next few months give us an opportunity to test whether the role is indeed good, so we would like to significantly reduce the cost of the unit so that players are incentivized to use it. Depending on the results of this test, we can determine how to best make further moves accordingly.
Swarm Host Change:
- Swarm Host cost reduced from 150/100 to 100/75.
- Increased Locust Swoop range from 4 to 6.
With the addition of the Ravager in Legacy of the Void, Roach-Ravager compositions became used quite heavily across multiple matchups. To achieve better diversity, we want to take a pass at three units: the Ravager, Hydralisk, and Baneling. For the Ravager, we want to add an armored flag to the unit. While this change is a response to the Siege Tank changes, it will also have a massive effect in Zerg versus Protoss. In order to compensate, we’d like to add additional tech options by making a couple changes to the Hydralisk.
- Add +Armored flag.
We have two changes in mind for the Hydralisk, and both are aimed at making the Hydralisk a core unit in the Zerg arsenal. First, we’d like to change how the speed upgrade works so that Hydralisks behave the same way as other Zerg units on and off Creep. This change would be accompanied by enabling Evolve Muscular Augments to buff the overall movement speed of Hydralisks (instead of just their speed off Creep).
A second area of change to the Hydralisk is a bit more of an experiment, but we wonder if Hydralisks could be more of a core unit if their range is increased by 1. We’ll watch these changes carefully however, as the first change alone might already make Hydralisks a core option (especially if Zerg players spread Creep well), so we’ll need to test these changes thoroughly to ensure we make the best decision for this unit.
- Hydralisk attack range increased from 5 to 6.
- The "Evolve Muscular Augments" will continue to give +1 range to the Hydralisk, as well as a base movement speed bonus of 25%.
- Changed the Hydralisk movement speed to be affected the same as other units while on Creep. Muscular Augments now gives a 25% speed boost both on and off of Creep.
The Baneling is the third core unit we want to address. In order to incentivize players to opt for this tech option, we want to make Banelings stronger without seriously impacting how players should micro when splitting against them. Increasing the health of the unit felt like a solid option that hits both of our goals.
- Health increased from 30 to 40.
The Infestor deserves some love, and we’ve seen this sentiment echoed by our players. With that in mind, we have some more experimental changes to test on this front (similar to the Dark Templar ‘Shadow Stride’ changes). These changes certainly push the boundaries, but we’re curious to see if something more extreme would be cool for the Infestor.
We’d like to explore adding a new ability, ‘Deep Tunnel,’ that allows Infestors to tunnel to anywhere which they have vision for an energy cost. Second, we’d like to allow Infestors to cast all spells while burrowed. To make the unit easier to find and target, we’ve also added a small collision radius to the Infestor that exists even while its burrowed so that players can more easily target the unit with attacks or spells (like Feedback).
- Has a collision radius while burrowed (but smaller than normal).
- Can cast all abilities while burrowed.
- New Ability: Deep Tunnel
- 50 mana cost.
- Can cast anywhere on the map with vision.
- Provides an audible warning to the enemy when Deep Tunnel begins.
The Brood Lord
With the changes to Terran, we want to ensure that the Thor has the potential to help counter the Brood Lords. Therefore, we’ve reduced the Brood Lord’s range to match the Thor's Anti-air attack range.
- Range reduced from to 11 to 10.
Remember, this is an early preview and things may look considerably different once the changes go live following the November tournament season. That being said, we’re very excited about the potential these changes have for improving the StarCraft II Multiplayer experience. Look forward to the first balance test map being released this week, and please let us know what you think in the comments below!