(This is part 2 in a series on the multiplayer changes announced for Legacy of the Void at BlizzCon)
Since my initial post, Blizzard put together a blog post summarizing the multiplayer changes in Legacy of the Void (LotV), and they look good. Hopefully it isn’t a surprise for anyone following the LotV news closely, though it is nice to see the numbers. Sadly, I don’t understand the game quite well enough to make anything of them directly.
I’m pretty excited about all of the new units. The Herc, Cyclone, and Ravager were all well-featured in the showmatches. The Lurker is quite the Brood War favorite, and the Disruptor seems like a bigger, badder, Protosser Baneling. The mounds of changes to existing units as well help to re-align the strengths and characteristics of existing units for more dynamic play as well.
What I am most excited for, however, is just having more stuff. I’m not too worried about the details of the changes because those will get figured out. What I would like is a sufficiently complex game that leads to a long series of choices, both within a game and in the meta-game. And the best way to encourage these pivots is diversity of choices.
As a connoisseur of build orders, there is a lot of detail and refine to be had, but if you really think about it, the different matchups aren’t so dynamic. HotS gave Terran new toys for TvZ, but most games still come down to Marine splits versus Muta-Ling-Baneling attacks, even if there are a few mine dodges. Mech still isn’t very popular in TvP. The Immortal-Sentry push still works in PvZ. Of course there are alternatives, but the game doesn’t feel like it has had many dramatic changes or revolutions in strategies.
If you believe it, there are a lot of reasons for it. Perhaps it’s the system of hard counters that StarCraft 2 has. When certain units are intended to counter other units, players don’t really have a choice because there is only 1 optimal response. Maybe it’s a lack of creativity on the part of the players. Or maybe I’m just wrong about the lack of changes in the meta-game.
Or maybe there just isn’t enough stuff in the game. Every new unit significantly increases the complexity of the game as a whole because that unit can interact with every other unit. Overall, the space of possible strategies is much larger. When confronted with some strategy in a game, there are more possible responses. And the meta-game can change more rapidly as we explore the space more.
This does make Blizzard’s job harder in keeping things balanced, but I think their incremental approach is consistent with more complexity as well. Many of their patches fit into 2 approaches. First, they will sometime buff units to give them greater prominence for players. With a more dynamic meta, this shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s not problematic to me. Second, they will nerf units that nullifies other units or otherwise exerts a large influence on the meta. These are also good changes in encouraging diversity in the game.
In that sense, Blizzard isn’t trying to control and carefully craft a set of interactions within StarCraft, nor should they. If Blizzard can design a game to anticipate all possibilities within it, then it’s probably boring because an entire community will quickly master the strategy of the game. That still of course leaves the mechanics, but StarCraft thrives because of its combination of strategic and mechanical talent required. Instead, Blizzard should (and I believe, is) provide the basic constituents of a rich ecosystem for players to explore. They can intercede when something looks or feels wrong, but how the scene develops is unknown.
So I hope Blizzard keeps as much in as possible. If StarCraft is to survive for years to come, it’s going to need to stay fresh, and the best way is to design it beyond our current comprehension. Build in good micro mechanics, but more importantly, provide a lot of them. As a community, we will learn which ones are useful in different circumstances. However, if the changes are few, we can’t use the pieces that aren’t provided. The diversity of options can make StarCraft rich and enduring.
One more thing: here’s maxilicious’s first impressions of LotV. If you’re not reading TerranCraft, you are missing out because it is definitely one of the best StarCraft analysis blogs out there. Don’t waste your time on my ramblings, and go check out his work!