Major League Gaming just wrapped up its Spring Championship this weekend. With four million viewers online and over 20,000 viewers and participants at the venue, it was easily of the biggest video game events to date. It featured three separate StarCraft 2 tournaments: the Battle.net World Championship Series USA National Finals, the MLG Spring Championship, and the KeSPA exposition tournament. On top of the e-sports features there, Blizzard offered game stations with Heart of the Swarm multiplayer and unveiled a lot of Heart of the Swarm information. The beta will be available very soon.
Blizzard produced a nice video demoing the new units and main changes to existing units. It offers a great overview:
In addition, Blizzard continues the “battle reports” that it offered during and after the Wings of Liberty beta test. Day and Rob Simpson cast a couple of Heart of the Swarm games showcasing the new units and strategies:
Zerg versus Protoss:
Terran versus Zerg:
Blizzard released a detailed FAQ for Heart of the Swarm as well, followed by a breakdown of major unit changes.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm FAQ – June 2012
StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™ General
Q: What is StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™?
A: Heart of the Swarm™ is the first expansion set to Blizzard Entertainment’s sci-fi real time strategy game StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™. Heart of the Swarm continues the epic story from Wings of Liberty with an all-new campaign that focuses on Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades. New multiplayer units and maps will also be included in the expansion, as well as new features and upgrades to the Battle.net® online platform.
Q: What features can we expect from the single-player campaign of Heart of the Swarm?
A: Heart of the Swarm’s campaign will include 20 new missions. Players will be able to evolve their swarms with unique, campaign-only units and abilities, and this evolution will happen in an organic manner befitting of the expansion’s zerg theme. As an example, zerglings can evolve into specialized sub-species of zerglings such as the swarmling, a variant that spawns three swarmlings per larva at an almost instantaneous rate instead of the standard two zerglings. The fearsome raptor is another evolutionary offshoot of the zergling that has more health and the ability to leap short distances to quickly close the gap on an enemy.
Another aspect of Heart of the Swarm that sets it apart from Wings of Liberty is that Kerrigan will play a major role in each of the battles as a powerful hero. Over the course of the campaign she gains in strength as well as new capabilities. Players will choose what abilities to enhance and powers to use from mission to mission.
Heart of the Swarm will also include a wider variety of locations, or sets, for players to explore between missions. These sets change dynamically as players complete missions, giving players a sense of an evolving world as Kerrigan makes her presence felt throughout the galaxy. Fully voiced cut scenes will round out the cinematic gaming experience in Heart of the Swarm’s campaign, while a new array of achievements will unlock in-game rewards such as portraits and decals.
Q: Will there be any technical upgrades to the graphics engine?
A: We’ll be making some improvements to the graphics, including upgrades to the look and behavior of zerg creep, as well as some changes that allow our artists to better showcase the new types of planets that Kerrigan will explore in Heart of the Swarm. We still plan to keep the minimum hardware requirements the same for this expansion set as they were in Wings of Liberty.
Q: What approach is the development team taking toward multiplayer in Heart of the Swarm?
A: We’re very pleased with the state of multiplayer in Wings of Liberty. Over the past year, the metagame has evolved as players are continuously developing new strategies and counters, while we’ve tried to make measured changes to game balance through patches. However, we recognize that there are still areas for improvement. Heart of the Swarm gives us an opportunity to address some of those needs through new units and abilities, which we’re typically not willing to make outside of an expansion as they can have a serious effect on current tournaments.
With Heart of the Swarm, we’ve tried to locate the needs of each race and address them with new units and abilities. We’re also trying to maintain — and if possible, enhance — the uniqueness of each race. The goal with everything we create for multiplayer Heart of the Swarm is to add new dimensions of strategy and gameplay to StarCraft, while maintaining balance and avoiding redundancy with existing units.
Q: What are some examples of new units, abilities, and game mechanics in multiplayer Heart of the Swarm?
A: First, it’s important to note that units and abilities are still very much subject to change. What we’re currently showing only represents a snapshot of where multiplayer Heart of the Swarm currently stands, and these are just a few examples of the new units and abilities coming in Heart of the Swarm.
For the zerg, the new Swarm Host will serve as a ground-based siege unit. When burrowed, the Swarm Host will spawn melee units that slowly move in a stream toward enemy units or structures. This will allow the zerg to apply pressure on entrenched enemy positions. We’re also testing a new ability for the Ultralisk, called Burrow Charge, which will allow them to more easily get into the fight on a crowded battlefield. This activated ability will allow an Ultralisk to dive underground, quickly advance underneath units, and pop back up to attack enemies.
The protoss will field an interesting new unit called the Oracle. This unit is a psionic warship, built from a Stargate, that uses unique abilities to raid and harass the enemy. The first is Entomb, which can temporarily block mineral fields from being harvested. Another ability, Preordain, grants detection and vision around a targeted building, allowing the protoss to see which units or technologies are being researched. The tempest is a new capital ship that can fire at both ground and air targets from long range, doing additional damage to massive units. A further range upgrade can be researched to give the Tempest the ability to fire from incredible distances.
The terrans will have some new tricks as well. The Hellion will be given a new ability to transform into a walking battle mech. In this alternate form, Hellions will move slower, but gain health and deal higher damage in a shorter spray of flame. Battlecruisers will get a short cooldown-based speed-boost ability (Redline Reactor). This speed boost will help with positioning these terran capital ships and engaging in late-game battles. The Warhound has also been introduced: an anti-vehicle mech unit.
We’re also testing a new gameplay mechanic for maps: destructible rock pillars that can create a blockade at a choke point. This mechanic will allow players to close off pathways, block themselves into expansion bases, or protect scouts holding position on an elevated Xel’Naga watch tower.
Q: What changes will come to Battle.net with Heart of the Swarm?
A: We’re already beta testing Arcade, which upgrades our custom map functionality on Battle.net. The mapmaking and modding community around StarCraft II has published tens of thousands of custom maps using the StarCraft II editor. The Arcade allows us to better showcase this wide variety of great new maps and mods to players who are looking for fun new gaming experiences. We want players to be able to more easily find, rate, and sort through all the great custom maps that have been created.
For map creators, we’re adding even more tools for them to create compelling custom games. These tools will include a cinematics editor for players to create their own cut scenes, and a 3D model importing tool which will allow artists to bring their own models into the game for use in custom maps. These are just a couple of the improvements and new features we’re developing to better support the mapmaking and machinima community in their quest to create fun and compelling content.
Other features we have planned for around the time of launch include a groups and clans system; multilanguage support; Global Play, to allow players to play on different regional servers; and unranked matchmaking, so players can try playing different races or test new strategies without impacting their ladder ranking. Multiplayer replay viewing and the ability to resume a multiplayer game from replay will also be included. We’ll have more details on these and other Battle.net updates at a later date.
Q: Will Heart of the Swarm require players to own Wings of Liberty?
A: For the regions that have a standard box business model such as North America and Europe, yes, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty will be required in order to play the Heart of the Swarm expansion. For other regions that have alternative access models, we’ll provide details at a later date.
Q: How much will Heart of the Swarm cost?
A: We typically don’t provide details about pricing until the game is closer to release. We do view Heart of the Swarm as an expansion set, so for the regions that have a standard box business model such as North America and Europe, we will price accordingly. For other regions that have alternative business models, we’ll provide details at a later date.
Q: Will there be a console version of Heart of the Swarm?
A: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is being developed for Windows and Mac. We currently have no plans to bring StarCraft II to any console platform.
Q: When is Heart of the Swarm coming out?
A: It’s too early to talk about a specific release date at this point in time. As with all Blizzard games, our ultimate goal is to provide the best possible experience for our players, and we will take as much time as is needed to ensure that Heart of the Swarm meets the expectations of our players, as well as our own high standards.
Q: Will there be a beta test? When will it start?
A: Yes, we do intend to run a beta test for Heart of the Swarm multiplayer, and we expect it to start sometime in the summer of 2012.
StarCraft II Heart of the Swarm Units and Abilities – June 2012
This document lists the new units and abilities in the MLG Spring Championship preview build of StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm™. Please keep in mind that Heart of the Swarm is still in development, and all of the units and abilities you see described below are subject to change. It’s even possible that some of these units and abilities will be discarded and new ones will be created to replace them as we continue to iterate on the game design. What we’ve listed below is just a snapshot of where we currently stand on multiplayer Heart of the Swarm.
Upon analyzing data from their most recent battles, the protoss have identified a few areas of improvement that would help them maximize effectiveness against their enemies. Based on their findings, the protoss have augmented their arsenal with an extremely long-range attacker, additional psionic units, and a new form of enemy harassment.
Description: The tempest is a new capital ship that can fire at both ground and air targets from long range, doing additional damage to massive units. A further range upgrade can be researched to give the Tempest the ability to fire from incredible distances.
Description: The Oracle is a psionic warship, built from a Stargate, that uses several unique abilities to raid and harass the enemy. The first is Entomb, which can temporarily block mineral fields from being harvested. Another ability, Preordain, grants detection and vision around a targeted building, allowing the protoss to see which units or technologies are being researched. Rounding out its kit is Cloak Field, which temporarily cloaks everything around the Oracle.
Description: The Mothership Core is unique in more ways than one. Only a single one can exist in your army at once and it’s also immobile, attaching itself to a nexus. There are four abilities available from the Mothership Core. Teleport allows you to move the Mothership Core to any of your other nexuses. Energize tops off the energy stores of any target unit or structure. Purify is a defensive ability that temporarily grants the Mothership Core a powerful, long range attack. Finally, Mass Recall allows players to quickly recall units back to the Mothership Core.
Description: It’s not really a new unit in Heart of the Swarm, but the Mothership abilities are slightly different from Wings of Liberty. The passive cloaking field is gone, with the cloak now available as an activated ability on the Oracle. The Mothership retains its Recall ability, and the Vortex spell from Wings of Liberty now affects ground units only. A new ability called Stasis is available, which puts the mothership and all air units around it into stasis for about 20 seconds. The Mothership is now created by upgrading the Mothership Core after a Fleet Beacon is constructed.
**In the current multiplayer build of Heart of the Swarm, the protoss are not able to deploy Carriers. However, we have not yet made a final determination on the Carrier’s status..
The resourceful terrans have also been improving their technology to better survive their battles in the Koprulu sector.
Description: The Widow Mine is a new suicide unit built from the Factory that allows the terran player to control areas of the battlefield. The Widow Mine moves into position and sets to stationary mode, which burrows and activates it. When an enemy air or ground unit moves into range, the Widow Mine briefly flashes before moving and attaching itself to that unit. After several seconds, the mine detonates, dealing 200 damage to the unit and a smaller amount of damage to units in the surrounding area.
Description: The Warhound is a walking ground mech that is specialized as an anti-mechanical weapon. Smaller and more nimble than a Thor, the Warhound has a standard weapon to hit ground. Its true strength is an additional ability that fires powerful missiles at ground-based mechanical units, making it particularly well suited to taking out enemy siege lines and many protoss ground units.
The Hellion has been upgraded to a transforming unit similar to the Viking. When constructed from the factory, the Hellion spawns in its new battle mode, which gives it additional hit points and a stronger flame attack that covers a short forward-facing arc. This makes the Hellion more effective in late-game fights against large clusters of light units such as Zealots. The player can opt to transform the Hellion into its original, more mobile form as well.
In Heart of the Swarm, the Battlecruiser gains a cooldown-based speed-boost ability called Redline Reactor. Finally, the Reaper no longer has a special building attack. Instead, it gains a passive health-regeneration upgrade that allows it to recharge hit points quickly when out of combat.
The zerg continue to evolve and adapt to changing environments, particularly the dangers they face on the battlefield. New creatures will help the zerg stage more effective sieges and add unique enemy-manipulating abilities to their arsenal.
Description: The Viper is a new flying unit with three unique abilities. Blinding Cloud temporarily reduces the attack range of biological ground units inside the cloud to melee range. Abduct allows the Viper to physically pull a unit to the Viper’s location. Finally, the Viper can use Consume, a channeled ability that allows it to gain some energy back at the expense of damage to your own zerg building.
Description: The Swarm Host is a slow-moving ground unit that has no standard attack. When burrowed, the Swarm Host spawns a continuous stream of slow-moving units called Locusts that can be used to lay siege and pressure entrenched enemy positions.
Ultralisks have a new Burrow Charge skill that lets them dive underground and quickly surface at a target, allowing them to initiate the fight faster on a crowded battlefield. However, its “frenzy” passive from Wings of Liberty has been removed, meaning the Ultralisk can now be snared by abilities like Fungal Growth. The Overseer has been retained from Wings of Liberty, and changelings can now be spawned from siege range. Finally, the Hydralisk has a new upgrade that allows them to move faster while not on creep.
We can’t wait to see the new strategies that develop with these new changes and units!