HotS Beta Update + Guild Wars 2 Socialization

Heart of the Swarm beta update:

A few more weeks and many beta patches have gone by, and I thought it was time for me to once again share my thoughts on the beta for the next Starcraft II expansion.

Official logo for Starcraft II: Heart of the SwarmIt’s been a roller-coaster couple of weeks for us Protoss players, as every one of our new units has received significant changes. This is most true of the oracle, which must be the bane of the balance team’s existence at this point.

Not only has the oracle lost every single ability it was first previewed with, it has also lost several abilities it had received since then. Its current abilities are pulsar beam (a channeled attack that does very high damage to buildings), time warp (an AoE slow), and revelation (which grants vision of enemy units).

I didn’t mind the old abilities as much as most, and I am little concerned about time warp overlapping with force field, but I’m inclined to see these as positive changes. They make the oracle more versatile and skill-intensive, and it’s still a unique form of harassment.

My main complaint is that it lost its detection. Protoss desperately needs mobile detection from something other than observers if we’re ever going to see significant build diversity in the early game. The mothership core has received a detection ability, but I’m not sure that’s enough.

The new mothership core unit from Starcraft II: Heart of the SwarmSpeaking of the ol’ mommaship core, it has also been heavily redesigned multiple times. Long story short, it’s lost its economic abilities and been untethered from the nexus, and is now intended to be viable as a core spellcaster in armies.

I don’t know how to feel about this. I really liked the original design of the mothership core, but I also appreciate the new opportunities it now provides, such as early harassment. My main concern is that it’s too fragile to be a front line caster, especially since you can only have one at a time.

Finally, the tempest has been buffed, mainly through cost reduction and the loss of its fleet beacon requirement. I’m not sure this goes far enough, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The tempest did not work as an endgame capitol ship. It makes more sense as early-mid game harassment.

The new tempest unit from Starcraft II: Heart of the SwarmOn the Terran front, the main news is that the widow mine was redesigned. No longer a suicide unit, it is now a burrowed rocket launcher with a lengthy cooldown between shots.

The general consensus among non-Terran players is that widow mines are stupidly overpowered right now, and the popularity of the “get as many mines as you can as fast as you can” strategy seems to support this.

To be fair, though, I have seen many cases of Terrans going heavy widow mines and still losing, so maybe it’s not as bad as we think. Its ability to hit cloaked units even without detection needs to die in a fire, though. That’s just ridiculous.

The only other significant Terran news is that battle hellions have been renamed “hellbats,” which may be a tacit admission that they’re just firebats 2.0.

The new Hellbat unit from Starcraft II: Heart of the SwarmZerg hasn’t gotten any significant changes in recent times. I really don’t get Zerg, so any of my thoughts on them should be taken with a grain of salt, but I’d be inclined to say this is because Zerg doesn’t need big changes. Their new units and mechanics all worked pretty well from the outset.

There is some concern that the viper isn’t particularly useful, and it is true that I haven’t seen many players use it in the matches I’ve watched, but I kind of wonder if people just haven’t learned to incorporate it well yet. Abduct still seems quite devastating when used properly.

Overall, I think all these changes are largely positive. Even if widow mines are ridiculous right now, at least they’re an interesting design. The warhound was overpowered, but it was also incredibly dull and uninspired. The widow mine is a completely new mechanic in Starcraft.

There have also been a number of UI updates, social improvements, and other peripheral changes to the beta in recent times, including the long-awaited clan support and a new leveling system.

Concept art of Sarah Kerrigan and an ultralisk in Starcraft II: Heart of the SwarmStarcraft II devs are best devs:

I’d also like to just take a moment to praise the developers and their interactions with the community during this beta. Dustin Browder and David Kim (Rock and Dayvie on the forums) have been incredibly open and accessible, explaining in detail the reasoning behind all of their decisions.

They often offer insight into the testing processes that have led them to their conclusions, and they still encourage players to do their own testing and share their findings. Sometimes, they’ll respond to a thread just to thank players for some especially detailed feedback.

Meanwhile, Brian Kindregan, lead writer for Heart of the Swarm, has been answering questions from the Starcraft II Ask CDev Q & A and has shown remarkable humility and honesty in owning up to the failures of Wings of Liberty’s storyline, earning praise from even the most embittered QQer.

I generally hold pretty high opinions of most of Blizzard’s developers (yes, even Jay Wilson), but clearly, Starcraft II devs are best devs. Their honesty, humility, and accessibility are unmatched in my experience.

Socialization in Guild Wars 2:

My warrior socializes in Lion's Arch during Guild Wars 2's Halloween eventAs promised, my thoughts on the social interactions in Guild Wars 2 have been posted at WhatMMO. It’s odd that what is probably the most social-friendly MMO in history can also feel very lonely at times.

But is this is really an issue, or do we have no one to blame but ourselves?

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