Design Review: Create a Starcraft Unit

15 Jul

“Starcraft” is not a word to be thrown around lightly.  As the number of insightful comments we received this week clearly shows, mentioning Starcraft is like a rallying cry for both Blizzard fans and game designers alike.

For those of you just tuning in, every week starting on Tuesday we announce a design exercise and review the top three designs submitted on the following Monday.

So lets dig into the comments and see what we’ve got.

Vanadoss suggests a new Protoss land transport unit called the Behemoth: It’s built from the Robotics Facility, costs both minerals and gas, begins with no shield, and has no attack but rather relies on an energy-based area of effect attack.

Minerals: 125
Gas: 100
Produced: Robotics Facility, no additional requirements.
Population: 2

2 unit Transport -When destroyed occupants survive (different to shuttles and similar within which the units will die).
“Shock” – Ranged AoE ability,[edit:energy cost of 50] deals 25 damage in a small AoE (about 3 tiles) over 5 seconds
Has no other attack.

Health: 200
Shields: None, but +100 shields can be researched at the Shield Battery.
Energy: 100 max, starts with 50.
Armor: base 1, can increase through upgrades.
Shield upgrades do not affect this unit.

Speed: Similar but slower than the Dragoons.
Size: Similar to a Reaver

PROS: At first I was inclined to think that this unit infringed upon the usefulness of the Protoss Shuttle, but after some deliberation I believe it is quite situational.  The Shuttle is one of the fastest units in the game and has a 60 energy shield from the outset — while compared to the Behemoth it is an easy choice in most situations: Take the faster, hardier of the two.

However, the Behemoth is not vulnerable to enemy air defense, meaning that it can act as an efficient transport in most situations and when controlled by a skilled micromanager.  While a Behemoth can be maneuvered away from enemy ground forces, the Shuttle is susceptible to lock-on anti-air defenses, which deliver 20 damage a hit before armour mitigation.  Under the best circumstances this means that the Behemoth can deliver its troops and provide fire support with its AOE, attracting enemy units to attack it unless micromanaged and giving the disembarking troops a slight advantage.  The opponent has no real hard counter against this unit, although a small group of light air units could make short work of it as they can against the Shuttle — enemy players can safely build a small group capable of defending against both the Shuttle and the Behemoth.  Although the Behemoth has another plus: Should it be destroyed, the units inside still have a chance at survival.

CONS: Unless a player is building for it, the Robotics facility is a later game building  — even with the benefits the Behemoth has over the Shuttle, most players would probably need to conserve that 100 gas for more Dragoons or air units, while the Shuttle is less risky costing 200 minerals.  This doesn’t mean the unit is not viable though, implemented as is it just would not be particularly popular to produce, especially as it can’t be used for proper Reaver drops.

Next up is Ameen’s Zerg Creep Molter, a unit that sacrifices itself in order to lay down a carpet of creep large enough to support a Hatchery.

Zerg Creep Molter

Tech Tree requirements: Queen’s Nest
Cost: 100 mineral 250 vespene gas
Type: Ground Unit
HP: 150
Energy: 0
Armor: 1
Size: medium
Build Time: 50

Can it attack?
No. The Creep Molter cannot due it being able to create a new creep patch.

What are the Creep Molter powers?
Spawn Creep- Creates an area of Creep that is large enough to place one Hatchery.
Spawn Creep glands (research) – This increases the size of the Spawn Creep by 25%
Burrow (Research) – Allows the Creep Molter to burrow.

PROS: As a Hatchery does not require any creep to build, I assume it is just being used as a rough size guide.  This unit would excel at tagging along with some Drones to sneak behind enemy lines, place a patch of creep, and build some Sunken Colonies.  As it requires the Queen’s Nest to build, we can safely assume that this patch of creep produced will not affect Zerg rushing strategies (if the Creep Molter could be accessed early game, imagine Zerg players building Sunken Colonies outside your base, no matter the race) and is concerned only with late game strategy.  This does mean that it would be possible for the Zerg to set up a forward base, or fill a chokepoint full of Sunken or Spore Colonies far away from their bases.  While it has no attack it can use Burrow — so if your covert group of Drones gets ambushed, you can save your Creep Molter.

The idea of a Zerg creature that exudes creep upon its own voluntary death is an interesting one, and would probably make for a horrifying creature design!

CONS: Everything about the unit is fairly conservative — which in this case is a good thing.  There are no glaring imbalances, although playtesting would surely expose some flaws, as well as ways to improve the unit.

Pieter has suggested a Protoss ground unit called the Interloper: A kamikaze drone that inflicts some heavy splash damage upon death.

Minerals: 150
Vespene Gas: 250
Build Time: 40
Supplies: 3
Hit Points: 1
Armor: 0
Shields: 40
Type:ground; robotic; small

Weapon: Concussion blast
Damage: 400 concussion splash
Cooldown: n/a
Range: 0

Sight: 6
Upgrades: n/a
Prerequisites: Robotics Facility
Abilities: n/a

PROS: So first of all, this unit is pretty much a Protoss adaption of the Zerg Baneling unit announced for Starcraft II.  But that said, it has still been appropriately balanced for use by the Protoss and will have an effect on Protoss tactics.  While the Baneling will equal the cost of a Zergling plus a few more resources, the Interloper is significantly more expensive (as with most Protoss units).  The Interloper could be used for an attack on enemy resource gatherers, as a way for Protoss to take down buildings faster with the added burst damage, or perhaps less successfully as an assault unit.

CONS: The problem with the Protoss having access to a unit such as this is that in order to be especially useful it would have to be more sturdy to match the added expense, or much cheaper and deal less damage.  Blizzard is giving the Baneling unit to the Zerg in Starcraft II because it accommodates their general playstyle by being cheap enough to mass produce from Zerglings — their low hp problem is mitigated by the fact that so many can be produced, thus increasing the chance that a few get through.

A unit such as the Interloper, however, could not really be used in the same way.  Unless the enemy was simply not paying attention, or the Interlopers were dropped off by a transport and approached from behind, it would be easy enough for an enemy unit or units to focus fire for a second and destroy it.

Used as a utility unit though, it makes sense.  If a group of Zealots and Dragoons have just finished mopping up enemy units defending a base, the Interlopers can roll in and make short work of the buildings and allow the other units to massacre the resource gatherers — or vice versa, allowing the normal units to burn down the buildings with the Interlopers blowing up resource gatherers.

And that’s about it.  All in all, a very impressive turnout this week — all of the entries were viable and inventive, and it was tough to choose a top three.  Everyone seemed to grasp the idea of creating a single, balanced unit with its own purpose, while not relying on the other side having a tailored counter.

Keep on the lookout for the next challenge tomorrow!


4 Responses to “Design Review: Create a Starcraft Unit”

  1. Vanadoss July 15, 2008 at 5:51 am #

    Thanks for the mention guys!

  2. Johan December 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm #

    More On the Zerg Creep Molter :

    Will also give Zerg another powerfull advantage (in addition to sunkun colonies point mentioned) because you can literally go and create creep at the expansion points (where Nexus, CC’s and other Hatcheries) will be build. As far as I know, you cant build on a Zerg player’s creep?

    This has the potential to create quite an imbalance because expansions are very important in SC. Add on top of this the fact that Zerg can expand really well and quickly…

    I do agree that this unit sounds supercool and allows for really interesting strategies to develop. However, you’ll need to think about how to deal with the above issues. Some very quick and rough ideas :

    * Will the creep created by this unit be allowed to exist forever? It should not. Perhaps a good solution is to allow the creep to exist for x minutes and if a building was not build on the creep within this time, then it disappears?

    * The other thing is offcourse, once you add a unit like this, you’ll need to give the other team something cool as well.

    Last comment : Really cool strategy with this unit would be too use Overlord to transport once such unit and a drone to back of enemy’s back. It can create creep and spawn one of those Zerg Canals! You can then rush all your units through the Canal to the back of the enemy’s. Nice surprise.

  3. wxdf8 August 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    creep molter would be nice for a nydus…though maybe a bit unfair?

    there is not much a toss player can do if a creep molter gets a nydus in the back of their main and cracklings come swarming out

  4. Starly Jackson December 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

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