What we want from Legacy of the Void

In November Blizzcon is coming and many Starcraft players are hoping we’ll see a reveal of Legacy of the Void, the third part of Starcraft 2. Warlords of Draenor will nearly be out, it’s too soon for a new Diablo and while the full release of Heroes of the Storm might be announced, it’s unlikely to take a headline slot. So what do we want to see from Legacy of the Void? Very precious has been confirmed, we know there’ll be new units (as a previous statement that there won’t be any was refuted by higher-ups at Blizz), we know the campaign will focus on the Protoss and we know that the main antagonist will be Amon, an immensely powerful shadowy (literally) figure who might be closely related to the return of the Xel’Naga. Part of the focus of the campaign will apparently involve uniting the different Protoss tribes (assumedly the Dark and High Templars). There’s also been mention of less powerful hero units like Kerrigan (although Zeratul might end up becoming more powerful and be used as a similar way in missions). Everything from here on out is pure speculation and wishful thinking on our part.

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The Campaign

We’re hoping the campaign will give us a chance to see what the Protoss are really capable of. Starcraft campaigns have previously given us hilariously overpowered units (like banelings that split into more banelings) that could never be used in multiplayer. I want towering Colossi that have void ray lasers to take care of airborne threats. I want dark templars with storms. I want carriers that launch more carriers. The protoss have always been on the sidelines in the Starcraft campaigns, rarely appearing en masse and never in cut scenes. This time we can see what a real Protoss fleet looks like in action, especially in the CGI scenes.

We also want a strong story. Many campaign missions focus on some kind of gimmick to make the game more interesting and that can occasionally come at the cost of the story that is being told. Wings of Liberty did this better in our opinion and the early missions of Heart of the Swarm had some strong moments like the escape from the labs. We know telling a story in RTS format can be difficult, but we hope that it is a real priority for Blizzard.

Finally we want campaign objectives that help prepare people for multiplayer. Why not have a mission where you have to defend against a cannon rush, or a 10 pool, or a bunker rush? Have a mission where an opposing Protoss tribe that owns the shipyards goes mass void ray, teach players the counters for these strategies by letting them work it out for themselves in a repeatable and predictable mission. Learning Starcraft can be difficult and the campaign is a great way to introduce new players to concepts that will serve them well. As it stands they are basically two completely different games.

The Units

It’s insanely difficult to think up new units for Starcraft 2 as every type has been covered in some way or another. Nearly every role is filled so we’re left with looking for alternatives that could change things up. We thought we’d try for one bio, one armoured and one flying unit for each race.

Protoss

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Bio: Warp Zealot – Protoss have some of the most interesting bio in the game and we’d like to provide an alternative method of base infiltration with a warp zealot. The warp zealot would forgo a shield in place of a blink generator like the upgraded Stalkers. It would make them slow (slightly slower than a regular zealot) due to it’s weight, but it would give them the ability to blink like Stalkers with a reduced cooldown, maybe five seconds. This would create a micro-heavy unit that would need to do some damage then blink out again before it gets overwhelmed. With poor control they would be destroyed before they could really do anything, even by workers, but in the right hands they could create an effective little hit squad to disrupt enemy lines and take down siege tanks/colossi.

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Armour: Voidwelder – Due to their shield regeneration Protoss haven’t had a healing unit but we think this could produce some interesting tactics. The Voidwelder would be a spider-like robot like the Dragoon from Brood War. At its centre there would be a warp pylon that it carries about. The Voildwelder would be able to repair the armour of Protoss units and as a bonus it could plant itself in the ground (like a siege tank) and provide a pylon for warp-ins. It would be much less mobile than a warp prism, but also much less fragile. As an upgrade it could be given an ability that makes it provide an increased energy regen rate for units in the vicinity. High Templars, sentries and a Void Welder would become very, very scary.

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Air: Deconstructor – I’ve always imagine the motherships has the craft out of Independence Day and this would make that a reality. Travelling at roughly the same speed as a warp prism, this unit would shoot only directly down with a beam that would be exceptionally powerful. When firing it would move incredibly slowly and would have no defences against air attacks and no ranged attack at all so it would require constant support. The unique aspect to the deconstructor would be that any damage caused by its beam would be turned into mineral and vespene. So if it destroyed a zealot, it would gain 100 minerals for its owner. In longer games where minerals are becoming scarce it could even be turned on your own units to cannibalise them.

Terran

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Bio: Engineer - The medic is gone and we don’t think it’s coming back. What we want instead is a new support infantry unit for Terran. The Engineer would be equipped with a shotgun (The engineer’s weapon of choice countless years of gaming would have me believe) which is effective against bio at a short range (so might stop a baneling, it could also have knockback which we’ll talk about later). The main functions of the engineer would be to repair mech units (less flimsy than an SCV and more versatile in combat) and also to deploy the Raven’s turrets. They would be an early-game unit helping Terrans to control the battlefield and set up little forward operations bases which seems like a very Terran thing to do.

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Armour: APC – One mainstay of RTS games has been sorely missing from Starcraft – the APC. The basic troop transporting function has been mostly covered by the medivac but it’d be nice to give Terrans some options as well as to force them to diversify to create an effective fighting force. The APC would carry the same number of troops as the medivac (although I think the medivac should be reduced to four marines or one larger unit) but would be purely ground based. Like a bunker, troops would be able to fire out of an APC, but only two would be firing at a time. The final bonus to the APC would be a slightly defensive bonus to troops nearby. This would hopefully lead to Terrans attacking with a force comprised of Marines, Marauders, Medivacs, Engineers and APCs, all providing something to the effort.

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Air: Suppression drone - Aesthetically this would be similar to the science vessel, but much smaller. It would float above the battlefield and without any weapons of its own, it would stop units from being able to use any of their castable abilities. Like the deconstructor it would require air support to survive, but it would completely turn the tides against high templars, infestors, vipers, even swarm hosts. Ideally it’d be cheap and weak, with Terrans sometimes fielding groups of them to try and prevent them from getting shot down.

Zerg

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Bio: Slug - The slug would be a disgusting blob that slowly crawled across the battlefield, spreading creep behind it. It would not be permanent creep, without tumours it would fade back like any other, but if you had this in your vanguard it would at least provide a path for reinforcements to run up. The Slug would also slowly heal any zerg units in the vicinity. It would not have any attacks of its own but there would bean upgrade that would create three banelings upon its death. The slug would be expensive and a pain to use but would make a stationary zerg army much, much stronger. The slow speed could be avoided by using overlords or a nydus worm to transport it into an enemy base where it would need to be carefully dealt with before it helped to support an insurmountable invasion.

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Armour: Spitter  – The spitter would solve one of the problems I’ve consistently faced with the Zerg, they have no effective ranged AoE. The spitter would be around the size of a queen and would hurl blobs of the Roaches’ acid at enemies, firing in an arc. This would allow it to fire up cliffs if there was vision, but due to the arc being like a catapult, there would be flight time, making it inappropriate for fast moving targets. This would stop them from being as effective as a siege tank as hellions or stimmed marines could simply move laterally to avoid the hits if they were microed well. A bonus ability would be to be able to burrow and increase their armour significantly while still being able to shoot.

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Air: Drones – This might be a bit of a cop out but I strongly believe that Zerg need some kind of effective early air defence. Queens are valuable and slow to build and spore crawlers are equally slow to build and are fairly easy to destroy. My solution (to avoid Zerg being able to launch early air attacks) would be to make an early upgrade available at the hatchery for 100/100 to enable drones to fly and to make their attacks slow enemies. This would make the zerg a much more mobile race in terms of expansion, avoiding attempts to block them in a little, and it would allow them some defence against early air attacks as the drones could swarm them and trap them around a spore crawler or queen.

 

The Features

The only significant gameplay feature I would like to see added to Starcraft II is physics based attacks. I’m not talking about gravity-gun style uses of the environment, but crowd control and knockbacks. Imagine if Ultralisks had a charge that could break apart an enemy line, or if Colossi could step on enemies and kill them, perhaps Siege Tanks could have concussive shells to scatter tightly grouped enemies. The effect would be based on the weight of the unit so where zerglings might go flying, roaches could perhaps stand their ground. I think this could lead to some much more interesting (and visually impressive) battles, but of course the balancing would make the game even more complicated and open up the possibility of some some game-breaking exploits. The biggest problem might be the increased demand on the CPU, meaning people couldn’t play with less powerful hardware, but I’m never convinced that that’s a good reason to compromise on what could be an exciting gameplay feature.

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Another feature we’d like to see added is in-client spectating for tournaments. I’d like to be able to watch WCS with a commentary, but in my own client so I can look at whatever I want. Maybe a button would allow me to follow a professional but choice is important. When I watch Zerg players I want to watch their opening build, or their scouting, or how they spread creep, and often the professional casters have different focuses. I’d be happy to pay for this feature like players do on DOTA and with the feature being incorporated into the engine behind Heroes of the Storm I think this is a very likely addition.

The final feature I’d like to see added is hugely expanded stats tracking. I want to be able to see which units I use most cost effectively in different match ups and across my career in general. I want to see what timings I defend against and which ones I struggle against, I want to see heat maps to realise where I lose battles badly and where my attacks are successful. All of these stats must be possible to record and in a game like Starcraft II they could be incredibly useful tools. Especially if they were exported to a page accessible on browsers so you could share links and have people identify your areas of weakness. There could even be leaderboards for things like the most units taken down by infestors’ neural parasites per game, or the most average Hatcheries created. Of course this’d be open to exploits but if you split it up by ladders it could give people new goals to aim for. I might not get to Diamond but at least I could be the master of Zerglings.

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Author: Thomas Souter

I'm Tom Souter, a full time English and Philosophy teacher who has been playing games as long as I can remember. I started off with a tape-loading BBC (I still remember getting our first mouse!) and moved on to playing NES games at my friends' houses. My first console was a SNES, and I became a Nintendo fanboy through my formative years. This all changed with the arrival of the Xbox, and now I've overcome my fanboyism to the point of owning every current console, and a gaming PC. I've never really had a favourite genre, but am painfully shallow when it comes to fancy graphics and art styles. All-time favourite game? Rollercoaster Tycoon 2.

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