With the Heart of the Swarm release right around the corner, GHOSTCLAW and I (shindigs) were invited to Blizzard HQ in Irvine, California for a new preview session on the expansion. The preview focused mainly on the single-player campaign elements, with lots changes made new information released since the last preview. We were also able to preview some new features for multiplayer, but it was unclear if they would be patched into Wings of Liberty, or if they would have to wait until the release of Heart of the Swarm.
After making our way past the huge bronze Thrall statue, signing NDAs, and meeting up with other press, we were led in the theater room. We were treated to a viewing of the Heart of the Swarm opening cinematic, and the preview was on its way.
Opening cinematic for Heart of the Swarm
Dustin Browder’s presentation went over some of the new elements of the campaign and multiplayer, though much of it was information that had already been released. In the campaign, Kerrigan is out for revenge against Mengsk, and looks to regain her powers and control over the Zerg swarm. In multiplayer, there was an outline of new features such as global play, multi-language support, resume from replay, and groups/clans. There were still notable tidbits of new information to be gleaned, and a new video demo showcased some features not yet seen in the multiplayer beta.
Campaign and gameplay trailer
Training mode In an effort to assist players in transitioning from the campaign experience to the ladder experience, a series of training missions and tutorials attempt to outline the fundamentals of competitive online play. The training mode includes tips that remind players to utilize their race macro mechanic, build workers, and follow a structured build order.
Tooltips and objectives help guide new ladder players in training mode
“Matchmaking” with AI Playing against AI opponents can be done through an automated ‘matchmaking’ system very similar to ladder, where you will be matched against AI deemed to be near your skill level. Browder elaborated that this feature was to provide a more fulfilling experience for those training with AI, who did not have to experiment with switching between selections such as “medium” or “hard” to determine which computer opponent would best match their skill level. Players can now click a button similar to find match to be immediately matched against an AI that correlates with their skill level.
Skins for units On top of new portraits and in-game logos, skins will be part of the experience and ladder reward system of Heart of the Swarm. The preview that we saw had only a picture of units skinned from campaign (mercenary marines, dark zealots, raptor zergling). The details are still being worked out on how to introduce interesting skins without introducing too much clutter to the competitive aspect of the game.
Customizable observer UI We were treated to a video demo of how a customized observer UI would like in-game. The new UI introduced the ability to have the production tab and an upgrades tab to be on the screen simultaneously, on opposite sides of the screen. The bottom control panel was phased out in favor of more tabs for resource and supply count. Player names and supply were also displayed in a new way at the top of a transparent board. Overall, the demo really drove the idea home that the observer UI can be tweaked to the user’s content.
Physics engine While the new unit physics were announced at Blizzcon 2011 and are present in the current beta, the demo showcased a few new elements in the engine. The physics can be manipulated in the data editor of the Galaxy Editor, giving map makers control over how units can physically interact with the world. The demo video we were shown had two groups of ghosts shooting at one another, with bodies flying extravagantly across the screen.
Other video demos showcased dead units sliding across the terrain, off cliffs and into lakes. Massive units were shown to be able to kick around dead units and debris.
After the presentation, we were lead to demo three missions from the middle of the campaign. Similar to Raynor’s Hyperion, the Leviathan that Kerrigan and her 'crew' resides in acts as the base of operations where you can be briefed on your mission, talk to your advisors, and upgrade your army. Clicking on Kerrigan will reveal the capability to upgrade her abilities that benefit both herself and your army.
Kerrigan's base of operations inside the mouth of a massive Leviathan
Kerrigan fulfills the role as your army’s hero unit and levels up throughout the course of the campaign. The Battle Focus menu has been redone to include an RPG element in which higher levels unlock more abilities for Kerrigan and your army. Kerrigan can reach a maximum of level 60, and gains experience from completing missions and bonus objectives. By the end of our demo, we were only capable of reaching level 17, including bonus mission rewards. Finally, when Kerrigan died in the demo missions, she regenerated after sixty seconds.
Kerrigan's abilities increase with each level, and also buff your army as a whole.
Kerrigan’s abilities can be toggled in between missions, but you have to select between one of two abilities per ‘row’. Note that the cooldown is in-game seconds.
Requires Level 5
Skill Subset 1 (choose between the two)
Crushing Grip Cost: 50 mana. Cooldown: 10 seconds. Enemies in target area are stunned for 3 seconds and take 30 damage over time. (does not stun heroic units).
Chain Reaction Kerrigan's atack deal normal damage to her target then jump to additional nearby enemies. Deals 10 damage to up to four secondary targets (passive ability).
Skill Subset 2
Kinetic Blast Cost: 50 mana. Cooldown: 10 seconds. Kerrigan deals 300 damage to a target unit or structure from long range.
Heroic Fortitutde Kerrigan gains +200 max life. Life-regeneration rate increased by 100% (passive ability).
Requires Level 10
Zergling Reconstruction Cooldown: 30 seconds. Killed zerglings respawn from primary hatchery at no cost. Respawns up to 10 zerglings every 30 seconds until all zerglings have returned to life (passive).
Improved Overlords Overlords morph instantly and provide 50% more supply (passive ability).
Requires Level 20
Wild Mutation Cost: 50 mana. Cooldown: 25 seconds. Friendly Zerg units in the target area gain +200 maximum life and 100% increased attack speed for 10 seconds (does not affect heroic units).
Spawn Banelings Cost: 50 mana. Cooldown: 30 seconds. Kerrigan spawns six banelings with timed life.
Requires Level 35
Twin Drones Drones Morph in groups of two at no additional mineral or supply cost (passive ability).
Malignant Creep Your units and structures gain increased life regeneration and 30% increased attack speed on creep. Creep tumors spread creep faster and farther (passive ability).
Requires Level 50
Infest Broodlings Enemies damaged by Kerrigan become infested and spawn two broodings with timed life if killed quickly. (Passive ability)
Fury Each attack temporarily increases Kerrigan’s attack speed by 15%. Can stack up to 75% increased attack speed. (passive ability)
Requires level 60
Drop Pods Cost: 100 mana Cooldown: 300 seconds (This ability starts on cooldown) Delivers Zerg with timed life to the battlefield. Drop-pods contain 40 Zerglings, 5 Roaches, and 5 Hydralisks.
Spawn Leviathan Cost: 100 mana Cooldown: 300 seconds (This ability starts a cooldown.) Summons a mighty flying Leviathan with timed life. Deals massive damage and has energy based abilities. Can attack ground and air units.
The Evolution Chamber is where you apply persistent mutations and evolutions to your units
The evolution chamber is similar to the armory in which you can add persistent upgrades to your units that can be used during missions. How your units can evolve are divided into evolution strains (subspecies) and mutations.
You can toggle between mutation upgrades in between missions.
Mutations are toggled skills and upgrades for your units. You choose one of three mutation options that can be changed at any time in between missions.
Select between two baneling subspecies. Choose banelings that leap up cliffs, or banelings that split into more banelings.
Alongside mutations, you can drastically change the look and capabilities of your units through evolution strains that create a subspecies of units. However, you can only choose one of two competing evolution strains. The evolution process has undergone a number of changes since the last preview, including the ability to preview each evolution in game.
Selecting an evolution strain for your unit begins two "mini-missions", which allow you to harvest 'essence' of native critters that will be applied to your units. The missions conclude when you overrun a small opposing force with your newly evolved units, giving you a quick preview of how they will work in game.
Mini-missions for evolution strains give you the ability to play with your newly upgraded subspecies - raptorlings can leap up and down cliffs.
Hardened Carapace: Gain an additional 10 HP.
Adrenal Overload: +50% attack speed.
Metabolic Boost: +60% movement speed.
Raptorling: Gains the ability to leap up and down cliffs and over other units.
Swarmling: Swarmlings spawn at 3 units per egg, and their spawn speed is drastically decreased (near instant).
Corrosive Acid: Increase damage to primary target by 100%
Rupture: increase Splash damage area of effect by 50%.
Regenerative Acid : Heals nearby friendly units and structure
Splitter Baneling: Banelings split into smaller banelings upon detonation, each smaller baneling does 5 damage.
Hunter Baneling: Banelings gain the ability to jump up and down cliffs, as well as leap toward opponents.
Hydriodic Bile: Gain +8 damage vs. light units.
Adaptive Plating: Gain +3 armor when life falls below 50%
Tunneling Claws: Move at full speed when burrowed, and gain 100% life regen rate.
Evolutions None available in preview.
Frenzy: Gain 50% attack speed for 15 seconds, with 30 second cooldown.
Ancillary Carapace: Gain +20 HP.
Grooved Spines: Gain +1 attack range.
Evolutions None available in preview.
Campaign Queen The campaign introduces the lore of there being a variety of queen species. In our missions, the traditional multiplayer queen was replaced with a Swarm Queen, which has had its model previewed in previous battle reports. Swarm Queens exhibit a number of variations from their counterparts.
Swarm Queens cost 150 minerals and 50 gas.
Swarm Queen speed off creep is faster than Wings of Liberty queens, but they are still faster on creep.
Swarm Queens do not have larvae inject ability, but Hatcheries can spawn over 3 larvae.
The Swarm Queen also has unique abilities:
Rapid Transfuse Cost: 10 Mana. Cooldown: 3 seconds. Heals 25 HP over time (auto cast).
Creep Tumors Cooldown: 3 seconds. Lays down a creep tumor to expand creep.
Our preview included three, core campaign missions that had to be completed in linear fashion, as opposed to the branching missions in WoL. In our interview with Dustin Browder at the end of our preview, he noted that Heart of the Swarm mission selection will be more linear than its predecessor's campaign.
Preview mission 1: Harvest of Screams - Reclaim Nafash's Brood
Flash freeze holds all your units and buildings in stasis.
Kill the Ursadon Matriarchs to prevent flash freeze.
Reward: +2 Kerrigan Levels.
The mission begins as Kerrigan and her group of zerglings and roaches land upon an ice planet that exhibits "flash freezes" - quick snow storms that hold your units in stasis until they past. Kerrigan is told by Abathar that she needs to harvest 'essence' from Ursadon Matriarchs, which are hostile yeti-like creatures that have resistance to the flash freeze.
Upon killing the Ursadon Matriarch's, you re-encounter a frozen Zerg base which you immediately take control over. Local Protoss forces in the vicinity are notified that the Queen of Blades has returned, and you must make your way around the map while building up your forces to destroy 3 Protoss Psi Spires to cut off communications of the local Protoss encampment, who still fall victim to flash freeze. You are also presented with a bonus objective to kill more Ursadon Matriarchs in order to level up Kerrigan's abilities.
Preview mission 2: Shoot the Messenger - Intercept Protoss Shuttles
Prevent Protoss shuttles from warping off the planet.
Intercept Protoss Shuttles (none can escape).
Reward: +5 Kerrigan Levels.
Destroy 3 Protoss protoss psi spires.
Reward: +2 Kerrigan Levels.
Warp in Peace – Don’t let a Protoss shuttle begin warping out in the “Shoot the Messenger” mission.
Shoot the messenger – Complete the “Shoot the Messenger” mission in the Heart of the swarm campaign.
Extreme Nexism – Destroy 2 protoss nexuses in Shoot the Messenger mission on Normal Difficulty.
The defeated Protoss forces attempt to board transport shuttles and warp off the planet in order to overcome the loss of the psi spires and call in reinforcements. The mission objective is to intercept the Protoss shuttles before they are able to reach the structure to warp off the planet.
Kerrigan proves to be a powerful and valuable unit capable of sniping shuttles extremely quickly. The trajectory of the shuttles change during each departure so we couldn't camp one spot to snipe all of them. This mission felt very similar in design to The Great Train Robbery in the Wings of Liberty campaign.
As the final shuttle fell, we went back to the Leviathan where we were greeted by a new presence - a captive Protoss.
Preview mission 3: Enemy Within - Infest the Protoss Vessel
Zerg infestation inside a Protoss ship
Infest the Protoss Vessel.
Reward: Unlock Roach evolutions.
Infest the Urasadon.
Reward: +2 Kerrigan levels.
Biomass effect – collect 450 biomass in the enemy within the mission.
Enemy Within – Complete the “Enemy Within” mission in the Heart of the Swarm campaign.
Failure to Launch – Don’t let an Escape Pod reach less than 20 seconds in "enemy within" mission on normal.
The mission begins on the Leviathan, where Kerrigan is interrogating the new Protoss captive to learn more about their occupation of the planet. Before the Protoss captive is warped back to the rest of her crew, Kerrigan infests her with a parasitic larvae. As the captive warps back to her shuttle, her body explodes releasing the parasitic larva - the first unit you control in this mission.
The parasitic larva is a unique unit that can infest critters found on the Protoss ship - the first of which was a Ursadon that came with its own unique abilities. As you stealthily make your way across the Protoss ship, infesting and kill creatures of all shapes and sizes, you eventually earn the capability to evolve your parasitic larva into a spell casting queen. After liberating a number of Zerg forces located across the ship, you rampage across the corridors, destroying the main reactors and slaughtering all of the Protoss crew.
At the end of the mission, your forces fully infest the planet and set up a base of operations as you await more orders.
Bonus: Brutal campaign
We had time left to play the campaign on brutal difficulty up to the second mission, which is where we got stuck. The new difficulty brought even more fierce Protoss waves with more unit abilities such as charge. What was most surprising, was that Ursadons gained the ability to leap over cliffs and were also aggressive toward the Zerg forces and bases.
Dustin Browder & Image Gallery
After all of that was done, Dustin Browder sat down with us for yet another TeamLiquid interview. Considering that the last time he agreed to such an interview the parody video became almost as popular as the actual interview, we had to give him props for obliging us again.
Apologies for looking down at the phone frequently, was trying to prevent nervously forgetting the next question.
Dustin answered a variety of questions, including but not limited to:
The linearity of the single player experience.
The pathing/clumping behavior of units in StarCraft II and the decision to keep it as is.
On January 22 2013 17:08 TeamLiquid ESPORTS wrote: Skins for units On top of new portraits and in-game logos, skins will be part of the experience and ladder reward system of Heart of the Swarm. The preview that we saw had only a picture of units skinned from campaign (mercenary marines, dark zealots, raptor zergling). The details are still being worked out on how to introduce interesting skins without introducing too much clutter to the competitive aspect of the game.
Now there needs to be a option to turn it off from the player's perspective.
Check out "Shadow of the Eternals" on Kickstarter
Disengaged United States. January 22 2013 17:31. Posts 2168