It’s odd to watch the development of a game like StarCraft II. There isn’t a lot like it out there – sure there are more and bigger e-sports now than there were during Wings of Liberty’s development five years ago. There’s tonnes of other RTS games too, some of which heavily borrow the mechanics of StarCraft. But none of them combine the two, and the other competitive games have many more self-righting mechanisms than the RTS. MOBAs have picks and bans, Counter-Strike has few differences between its two sides and all teams play as both anyway, fighting games have huge casts and long histories of only parts of them being viable. StarCraft, as they all also are from each other, is different.
So its interesting to see in the latest patch notes and accompanying community feedback updateBlizzard continue to be non-commital on big changes, reverting the removal of macro mechanics from a couple of weeks back. The talk is of ‘freeing up clicks’ – making it so the attention of pro players can be focused on more interesting decisions rather than reapplying the same buffs to their economy every thirty seconds – but reintroducing the mechanics to avoid the massive balance pass it would require to remove them totally.
There’s also a host of smaller balance changes being made as the beta moves towards its final phase. Release is this year, after all, and we’ll know precisely when by the end of next week. The development team is running out of time, plain and simple. It’s not really Blizzard’s style to hurry a game along, but it certainly feels like the multiplayer team has been told to get a move on when the single-player portion has clearly been finished for some time. Whether that’s messed with their plans to reinvigorate the game or its current status is how they always planned for it to release remains to be seen.
Personally, as is probably clear, I would have preferred much larger changes to the structure of StarCraft. It has proved it can’t currently hold an audience as well as its competitors – which is fine, but it has an opportunity to try to reboot itself. Heart of the Swarm will always be there for those who enjoy it, there’s no need to make Legacy of the Void quite so similar. It still feels like the balance team is worried about treading on the same toes who were ruffled by the addition of multiple building selection in Wings of Liberty, or wrote mile-long forum posts complaining that there were more than 12 units in a control group. Shedding the rest of Brood War’s skin – as much as I think it’s the greatest e-sport of all time and it’s unlikely to be surpassed – can only be a positive step at this point.