Stuck in the train coming back from the Cebit in Hannover, I had the opportunity to speak about balance for 2 hours with David Kim, AKA the big boss of Starcraft 2. Yes sir, he is the one in charge of game balancing, with his team, at Blizzard. Note that David Kim, using the name NoobExplosion (in Korean), is Grand Master in all three races. At the bottom of the league, sure, but still, respect! Grubby was participating in the discussion. I insist that this interview does NOT commit Blizzard Entertainment to anything. Amen.
Translator note: The original interview does not specify which server David Kim is GM on.
The game globally balanced, I repeat, the game is globally balanced. The modifications discussed here are minor and will only impact extremely high level of play. The team considers that the game balancing should be rated as a good 9/10.
Widow Mines: The next nerf
The entire development team agrees to say that the Widow Mines are currently too strong. Even Martians were aware of this anyway. Where doubts lingers though, is the the nature of the nerf. David thinks that the players have not yet learned to react efficiently against strategies based around Widow Mines, and does not want to make the unit useless. He is not shocked that a single mine can one shot a Stalker, since the stalker has more range. This is his opinion. The nerf that would make the most sense to him would be to reduce the size of the explosion, without hurting its damage, in order to limit its use against the mineral line or a pack of Zerglings.
Orcales: The eternal dilemma of Grand Masters vs Bronzes
To my big surprise, all the statistics indicate that the Oracle deserve a slight buff at high level. According to David, the choice to open Oracle is very engaging for a Protoss gas wise. With this strategy, no fast +2 from the Forge (it is thus less versatile than the Twilight Counsel way) and is often hard to make profitable at high level. Knowing that, buffing the unit would provoke the anger of player from low division, due to the fact that they do not often know how to defend against the various proxy Oracles cheeses.
Void Ray: The dark side of the force
The team believe that Void Rays are currently slightly too strong. In PvP, all the variations based on VR (sometimes Immortals) have the advantage over compositions based on Colossus. In PvZ, the Void Rays make late game compositions very hard to handle for Zergs, and the VR / HT mixes make minced meat out of Corruptors. But the development team prefers to wait before modifying this unit.
Hellbat: Everything is OK, thank you
In the last patch, the team was not sure of the nerf done to the Battle Hellions (now called Hellbats). Every one agreed to say that the Hellbat drops in early games were too strong. But how to nerf the efficiency of the unit without destroying it? Not wanting to weaken the Bioball + Hellbat compositions, the team decided to keep the Medivac's heal but the increase the size they would have inside them. In the end, the unit seems well balanced.
Ultralisks: The return of the charge?
The removal of the Ultralisk's charge was really a change that brought debates within David's team. Opinions were divided. The problem was the following: seeing the rising of the Terran Mec, there was a need to either, give the ability to Ultralisks to reach the desired targets within the Terran army (Thors, Tanks), or to increase slightly the damage they did to Battle Hellions they met on the way. Unfortunately, the bump made by the charge created mini-bugs, caused by things such as doing a charge while going downhill on a ramp. Also, according to David, the ability was judged too similar to the Stalkers' Blink. These two reasons made Blizzard lean towards the removal of the Charge. But it is still being discussed today.
At the end of the day, David Kim wish to have more transparency regarding the role of the team. All around him is a team of specialists that analyse every tournament and discuss modifications to apply. Each decision is thoroughly made and is never done by one man only.