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BlizzCon 2016

Discussion in 'StarCraft I & II' started by Razosh, Nov 5, 2016.

  1. Razosh

    Razosh

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    StarCraft II Foundation of the Future:
    In this panel the developers started out by saying that their main focus for the future of StarCraft II was to upgrade the existing features they had such as the user generated content. Their main goal was to increase the user experience by bringing back events and adding things like new and better rewards as to fill up the collection, it is unspoken exactly what this collection is though my guess would be towards achievements, portraits and some skins.
    Warchest:

    The biggest thing Blizzard wanted to bring up regarding the future of StarCraft II was the warchest for those of you wondering what this is, it is a chest you will be able to buy for real money and it is an in-game item that provides you with tasks to complete, once you have complete several or all of these challenges in something called a virtual treasure map and you will have to collect them all until the treasure season is over. (Note that this season is not tied to the ladder season at all but will be an individual event.) Through this map you will unlock new rewards such as skins like these that were shown of at this panel:
    [​IMG]

    Another thing about the battle chest is that Blizzard said that this is how they plan to move the story of StarCraft forward from here on with comics being a part of every warchest. They are going to establish what is happening and has happened to all the three races after the events of Legacy of the void in comics such as Nova: the Keep. the Keep is going to star Nova and will be set after Legacy of the Void and after Covert-Ops. We can expect to see these warchests make their first appearance during the first quarter of 2017 and the money obtained from these warchests Blizzard will use in order to support competitive e-sports. If you want more info regarding the release of warchests, dates and session lengths it will all eventually be posted on the Blizzard Entertainments official StarCraft II website.

    Nova: Covert-Ops Campaign:

    One big question that remains is when will the final instalment of the Nova mini-campaign finish? When this comic is going to be released is still unknown, what we do know is that we will finally find out the truth about who is behind the organization known as Defenders of Man. Blizzard is also planning on adding new environments and new terrain as well as new units to increase diversity and make this feel like a campaign of its own, this content will all be accessible in the Galaxy editor so if you are a map maker yourself you can look forward to some new toys to play around with.

    In addition we can expect some more build up regarding this plot in a comic labelled Shadow Wars which is scheduled to come out in December and will follow Nova during the early reign of Valerian Mengsk which means prior to Covert-Ops but after Legacy of the Void. Unlike the other comics this is said to be an individual story that isn't tied to the warchest and you will be able to read it directly in the game. Whether or not you need to buy the Nova campaign to access the comic or it's going to be free has sadly not been touched upon.

    Co-op Adventure:

    As for the popular co-op maps we have been promised both a new map by the name of Minor Evacuation which is said to have you support a Kalmorian guild-master by the name of Debra Green on a Terran colony where your goal is to safely escort the refugees to safety. The colony has lately been overrun by a legion of infested Terrans trying to destroy your escape shuttles. When enough shuttles have been filled with Terran refugees and safeguarded away from the planet you will have won the map, alternatively if the infested destroy enough of the shuttles you will have lost. Another map which the community has requested a lot that was widely popular on the arcade was Left2Die, renamed "Dead of Night" which will be changed a bit to fit and will hopefully see a release in early 2017 while for Minor Evacuation we haven't received any date though it is scheduled to come out prior to Dead of Night.

    The biggest co-op new however is the new commander Alexei Stukov who will serve as a Terran-Zerg hybrid, who is going to have building such as the infested bunker they displayed several BlizzCons ago which was a bunker that could burrow up and move around like a vehicle. He would also have several abilities such as the ability to control infested rather than having them simply wander around aimlessly and infest buildings. A date for this commander has yet to be announced so hopefully we'll have him soon.

    Two final small feature we have been promised regarding co-op is the co-op leader board which will allow players to see what the records for each map is, if some composition is far superior to the others and further enjoy the map mode. The second feature is the Rock the Cabinet contest which will this time around allow mapmakers to compete to see who can make the best co-op map and the winner might very well see his or hers map make it into the actual co-op roaster of maps.

    Q&A:

    Q: Is Stukov going to be a hero that you can move around on the field like Kerrigan?
    A: No, he will instead have abilities at the top of the screen that he can use much like Raynor or Artanis.

    Q: Are you leaning more towards making heroes that are active on the map or are you leaning towards making heroes that have an indirect role through abilities?
    A: We want to make there be a variety so for characters like Kerrigan or Nova it was obvious to have them on the ground while others don't have that feel and we want to make every commander justice and make them feel and function the way they'd logically function on the battlefield.

    Q: Are you planning on adding a option to turn of skins on multiplayer maps?
    A: That is not something we've discussed previously but if that is something our player base wants to see we'll definitely have a look at it.

    Q: With the recent decrease in Multiplayer activity and competitive play would you consider the pro-league scene to be dying of?[/SIZE]
    A: No, we've seen recently much competition not only on the Korean scene but also in the western world with two Europeans and one American making it to the top 8. We also have plans to extend the competitive scene in the future.

    Q: With Stukov being a hybrid between Zerg and Terran will we see other hybrid commanders such as someone who utilizes the strength of both Protoss and Terran?
    A: (No actual answer was ever really given to this question but the developers seemed to try to dodge it.)

    Q: Are you planning on adding any new game modes for the future considering the success of the Co-Op missions success?
    A: Not really at this point but we're open to the idea.

    Q: Will you add a game mode where one side has the objective to assault a base or objective and the other team fight to defend it?
    A: Not at this point in time.

    Q: StarCraft II has changed a lot since the early days of Wings of Liberty and it feels like you haven't been doing an amazing job when it comes to marketing the game as of late, many people I've asked to retry the game have had a far more positive experience than they had at the launch of Wings of Liberty?
    A: We are definitely discussing how to reach more people and we're trying many things and will continue to try many things that might help and having people like you bring people back is a huge help.

    Q: Have you planned on adding commanders to the co-op scene that utilize aspects like primal zergs and purifiers?
    A: Sounds like a cool idea but not as of now we haven't had any plans for it.

    Q: Will you keep adding new units to the game after 2017?
    A: We might, we're definitely open to the idea.

    Q: How are you planning on proceeding in balancing the different co-op commanders so that none become overpowered?
    A: We'll definitely try to keep up with feedback from the fans on the forum to try to make as great of a experience as possible with as few balance issues as possible.



    StarCraft II Multiplayer:

    [​IMG]

    The most impactful changes currently in the patch arguably apply to Terran. The entire Mechanical tech-branch is being redesigned to function differently. The pre-patch Mech is often a disadvantageous tech choice in the higher skill-levels of Multiplayer. Improvements to units such as the Siege Tank and the Cyclone aim to change that.

    The panel focused on those two units, since they’re meant to serve as a central part of what ‘New Mech’ is all about.


    Blizzard Entertainments next topic was the balance changes made to StarCraft II, the development teams goal was to make a game with the same amount of balance changes that you'd see in an expansion even though no new expansion is coming out, this is designed to keep the game interesting for players to keep playing.

    Mech: The Siege Tank and Cyclone

    If you’ve ever tried to hold a specific area as Mech, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a perilous endeavor. The mobility of Mech, through Cyclone-kiting, Hellions, and Medivac-lifted Siege Tanks, was a tool that was required to be leveraged if Mech was to be used to its full potential. As such, Mechanical armies did not always stay in one place for too long.

    Scipione emphasized the importance of zone control to the Mech composition, and went on to display video clips of units that will be adjusted accordingly. The Siege Tank, for example, was shown without the ability to be transported while Sieged (via Medivacs). Similarly, the Cyclone has become less of a kiting unit and more of a front-line fighter. And while these changes might seem like net losses for the units’ performance, both saw massive boosts to their damage output.

    [​IMG]

    The Cyclone, for instance, will now function as a rapid-fire anti-armor damage dealer with general higher damage than before, while the Siege Tank will see its damage while sieged drastically increased. These damage increases versus armored units are meant, in part, to make Mech a viable composition against Protoss.

    General Changes:

    In addition to the dramatic redesigns of the Siege Tank and Cyclone, numerous other Terran changes were discussed. The team reviewed the new Battlecruiser, which now relies on cooldowns (rather than energy) to cast its abilities, and also mentioned that the Thor will be more powerful versus air units due to upcoming changes to those units.

    [​IMG]

    The discussion then moved on to the Protoss as a battle between a Terran Mech army and several Tempests was shown on-screen. The Tempests had a drastically reduced anti-ground range, but were equipped with a new ability that paralyzed units in small areas, allowing the rest of the Protoss army to move in and eliminate the Terran forces.

    [​IMG]

    A slide then appeared up on the screens flanking the sides of the stage: “GATEWAY UNITS,” “HARASSMENT UNITS,” and “AIR UNITS.” These were the focus areas for Protoss in the major patch. To give an example of the changes in action, the panel played a video of the Dark Templar. Despite seeing substantial play in the early game, the Dark Templar unit largely falls off in usefulness as a game carries on. The team explained that they’re hoping to bring balance to Protoss harassment options by nerfing Adepts and Warp Prisms, while giving more late-game utility to the Dark Templar through the addition of ‘Shadow Stride,’ a short-range teleport ability similar to Blink. This ability requires an expensive research upgrade, however, so it’s not expected to heavily impact ‘Dark Templar Rush’ strategies.

    After the Dark Templar, the panel moved on to the Carrier. Scipione highlighted how the Carrier is a very interesting unit when it is given micro attention. Some changes are being made to incentivize players to micro Carriers more often as a result. The “set and forget” ability ‘Release Interceptors’ is being removed, and in its place, Interceptors are being cut to a fifth of their current cost (5 minerals vs. 25 minerals) and will be initially set to auto-cast for the Carrier. The aim here is to provide a greater reward for players who are skilled at keeping Carriers alive.

    [​IMG]

    After a swarm of Interceptors finished killing a Zerg base on-screen, a massive Hydralisk stood before the audience. Various unit names were displayed on stage (Baneling, Infestor, Swarm Host), but “Hydralisk” was followed by the phrase “as a core unit.”

    [​IMG]

    In preparation for joining the other “core Zerg units,” the Hydralisk is getting a massive buff. First, the unit is receiving a flat +1 increase to its range, increasing its combat capability dramatically. And when a player completes the Hydralisk’s unique ‘Muscular Augments’ upgrade, the unit will receive a 10% greater speed boost on creep, giving it much more defensive utility versus drops and harassment. The intent behind these changes is to make the Hydralisk as viable of a tech commitment as the more common options like Mutalisks or Roach/Ravager.

    After the Hydralisk, Scipione displayed the new Infestor and its burrow-casting capabilities, which will serve to make mobile detection a more important component to have versus Zerg. The new Swarm Host was also displayed. Its cost is greatly decreased, and its Locusts will have greater Swoop range. The Locusts’ damage is decreasing as well, but the newer less-expensive Swarm Host should now be a more viable harassment tool overall.

    [​IMG]

    Exploratory Changes Discussed:

    After covering each of the changes that would be coming to the game, Kirkpatrick briefly covered the topic of adding new units. This was something the team explored in great depth but ultimately rejected for the time being.

    The team strongly considered adding the Goliath to competitive multiplayer, for instance, and iterated on multiple versions of the unit. Mech does have some areas of weakness in its current state, which would make adding the Goliath seem like a viable option. But the tech-path already has underused units that are being adjusted to fill in these gaps. As such, it was determined that we couldn’t come up with a version of the Goliath that didn’t overlap significantly with other units or take away from the new zone control approach we are taking to the composition.

    To show an example of how new units are considered, Aron talked about a Zerg unit which was considered by the design team. In their considerations, the design team ended up referencing an old ideology which had guided them in the original days of StarCraft II’s development: The so called “15 Unit Max” rule.

    [​IMG]

    While the quantity here ended up becoming more of a symbol than a specific number, this “rule” was established to encourage the design team to keep the unit count to a minimum and instead focus on adding depth and complexity in other ways. Due to the existing quantity and diversity of Zerg units, the team found that it was difficult to come up with a new unit that wouldn’t overlap with the functions of existing units. As such, they felt it was best to leave the game’s unit-count as-is—unless there’s ever a significant reason to change it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
  2. Razosh

    Razosh

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    DeepMind:

    Walking into this panel the first thing that was touched on was the most essential part of this new feature, what is its goal going to be? The goal for DeepMind was going to create an AI that could compete with the top ranking StarCraft II players to actually be a worthy opponent for any player who wants to prove their skill. But how would this be achieved? The first mission of the developers was to solve intelligence and then let the intellect of the AI fix the rest, which the developers admitted sounded vague and in fact this is far more than a two step project. But the goal is pretty straight forward, create an intelligent AI, what is then intellect? According to the programmers "Intelligence is the ability to learn to perform well over a wide range of environments." By learning they stated that the AI had to be capable learn, not through programming but through observing, that way it could be ever changing, adapt to new techniques not yet thought of and any exploits against the AI mindset it would learn to deal with. The main idea was to set the AI down, let it watch a replay and come out richer for the experience, this to be able to take advantage of something we humans use called mimic learning. When we start out on our StarCraft II ladder what is the swiftest way to get better, to watch tutorials, to look up a build that works competitively and try to use it ourselves. If an AI does not try to mimic what it sees then in order to progress in skill it would have to attempt every single different possibility which would be rather time consuming and make us have to wait years for it to even be able to compete with a new human player.

    Problems:

    What then are some of the issues the AI is going to run into? Something new that the AI developers never before has had to deal with is the fog of war, not being able to see all of the map is a huge issue for the AI, how is it going to think not only having to deal with such a huge area but also not knowing what the opponent is doing. In addition the game has three advanced races who all functions in unique ways that way it is not only going to have to deal with playing the game effectively but also playing effectively while not knowing in advance what race it's going to play as. Another part of the puzzle that the software developers have never toyed with before is the actual length of the games as a match in StarCraft II can stretch over more than 30 minutes. You may not think of how many steps there are to actually just building a Mutalisk and if you want to build one you don't think so much of all you need to go through. But to actually build a mutalisk you must first harvest minerals, harvest gas, build a spawn pool, upgrade the Hatchery, build a spire and then finally build a mutalisk. For us sure it doesn't sound that difficult but humans are born with the ability to connect those dots, it is in our nature but a AI does not have this basic understanding and hence a program must be forged as to make the AI understand this process and not just this one but every build sequence, research benefits and how it helps the AI win a game. This is what the head of the presentation defined as the largest challenge in store for the AI developers.

    So what is Blizzard trying to do in order to help out with these problems? Well they have promised that if anything can be added to the game that will allow the AI to learn faster then they'll do so. One example we got is these new vision modes Blizzard have added that are more on par with how a program would see things:
    [​IMG]

    On the right you'll see a vision field made for humans versus the four on the left that displays how the AI is planned to see the game.

    Past Products:

    The big question now is how can we trust DeepMind to give us an AI worthy of its name? What we need to keep in mind is that what this company is trying to do is push the current limit of what Artificial Intelligence is capable of, no minor feat but they have done it before. In the past they have created AI that was able to visually see several Atari games and through failure and repeated attempts were able to reach super human levels of skill in some of them. So they have done this before but only with immensely more simplistic games so what they're asked to do is the same thing that they've done before but this time with 20 times as many new variables. In the past they've made AI's that have mastered games such as pong which is in scope nothing compared to the complexity of StarCraft II. So can they pull it of, only time will tell.

    What to come:


    You may think to yourself, "stupid Razosh you only talk of basics and don't give any solid content." I wish I could give more but sadly there's no video displaying the skill of the AI nor any good answer to where the AI progression is at currently. But, what they did tell us though is encouraging and hopefully true. The first version of this AI is scheduled for public testing on the first quarter of 2017. And the developers urge us that even those of us who are not programmers or Grand-Master ranked in SCII can all help in the development of these AI's even today, all you need to do is play as much as you can in the ranked bracket and increase the roaster of replays the AI's have to work with, that way the AI will learn directly from watching you play. So go out there and let the AI learn from watching you get demolished on the field of valour.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2016
  3. Is "DeepMind and StarCraft II Deep Learning" shown to plebs? If not, could you write about it as well?
     
  4. Razosh

    Razosh

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    That is going to be touched on tonight, and you can bet you sweet behind I'll give you a report of the panel. ;) I know it was mentioned during the introduction to BlizzCon but I'm saving that topic until we see the full panel where they go into depth on the topic.
     
  5. Did they elaborate how? Like, the API is given to us or we can fight against it? Or is it really just having the server give replay to it lol.
     
  6. Razosh

    Razosh

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    You are supposed to be able to test this guy out though the actual quality of the AI isn't guaranteed, you're also able to watch the advanced AI play against itself and against the old-school AI.

    It is a program you'll be able to download and somehow implement into your SCII experience.
     
  7. Chaosy

    Chaosy

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    So you pay to play for potential rewards? they are not even guaranteed?
     
  8. Razosh

    Razosh

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    Yes they are guaranteed if you finish the challenges, sorry if I was unclear.
     
  9. Chaosy

    Chaosy

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    Don't know if I want to take such a risk.
    Unless the gameplay is funnier somehow.
     
  10. Kyrbi0

    Kyrbi0

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    What the heck. Subbing to post.
     
  11. Razosh

    Razosh

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    Thank you, I love it when people like my posts. ^^

    Just wanted to tell you that the first post has been updated with the second SCII panel. (I also want to say that this is the first one I did not write myself, I wrote one myself but seeing as all I've played lately is co-op I noticed rather swiftly that I wasn't always on par with the competitive multiplayer scene as of right now and hence didn't do it justice. Therefore I found it better to let someone who understood it better explain stuff, if you want the original post which I used it's here:) http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/blog/20351521/blizzcon-recap-starcraft-ii-multiplayer-11-4-2016
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
  12. Eagle XI

    Eagle XI

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    That Cyclone surely has the "woah!" factor, and probably can become the 'marine support unit'(*cough*Goliath*cough*) that every terran is vying for, yet im unsure if such an rapid rate of fire would be wise as it may cause an terran army to have virtually no firing delay's inbetween shots, effectively causing them to be the only faction that can have constant damage output in an firefight.

    Non Feedback'able Bc's doesnt sound wise either.

    Oh look, it took them only 2 expansions to upgrade Siege Tank's damage to Bw levels of useful, to put Hydra's upgrade back in, and to put 'Cloud' back for Protoss.

    That 'Dark Protoss' carrier skin looks sick AF though.
     
  13. Kyrbi0

    Kyrbi0

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    ^The Cyclone is not new AFAIK; came out with LotV, right?
     
  14. Spellbound

    Spellbound

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    Did they mention if the change to Cyclones is going to affect Swan's Cyclones in the co-op as well? Because I'd like that.