Balance Update - August 6, 2020
With the recent celebration of the 10th anniversary of our beloved game, the conclusion of Dreamhack Masters Summer, and the imminent finale of GSL Season 2, we’d like to take this time to update you all on our thoughts on the state of the game since our last balance patch. As we haven’t seen many changes in TvT and ZvZ, we’ll be focusing on talking about the other matchups.
Though we had some concerns regarding the matchup going into the current patch, the changes to Zerg seem to have been offset by changes in the map pool. Currently, we feel TvZ is very diverse and dynamic with possibly the highest number of strategies being employed from both sides in the matchup ever. Specifically, we’d like to call out the rise in popularity of Mech, transitions from Battlecruisers into Bio, and general Lurker play. Overall, we’re excited to see how this matchup develops.
A lot of trends we’ve noticed and much of the feedback we’ve received on this matchup focus on the early game. Early tank pushes have become less powerful and less common due to Battery Overcharge. Widow Mine drops with a fast Armory is a new opening that has popped up with mixed success. Earlier in the patch cycle, Hellion-based openers saw both a rise in popularity and success, which we believe is due to a combination of how commonly Protoss players rely on certain variations of Blink openers and recent changes to the map pool.
Though there’s some contention on this topic, our current belief is that given an even early game, the rest of the game also feels even, and there is a lot both races can do to impact the outcome of the match. Overall, this is another matchup that we think mostly needs some time to breathe and develop.
With the introduction of Battery Overcharge, PvP has seen an extreme shakeup since the last patch. It seems to be developing week-by-week, and no player we reached out to believes they fully understand it yet. However, we’d like to discuss what we’ve been seeing in the matchup recently phase-by-phase.
In the early game, we’ve seen the introduction of brand-new openings such as 1 gate fast expand and Nexus first. While some players find these new openings interesting and exciting to play with, others dislike that the increase of potential viable builds could increase the impact of build order advantages.
As for proxy Robotics, while we’ve seen a decrease in the usage of this strategy, there’s no clear consensus for exactly how much Battery Overcharge helps in defense. While it certainly helps to some degree, the most common feedback we hear is that it’s not really a make-or-break ability for this purpose. Because our original intention was not necessarily to completely stamp out this build entirely and feedback is still developing on this issue, we’re going to keep an eye on it in the future.
Moving onto mid game, we’ve been seeing a lot more Blink builds, which we attribute to the defensiveness that Battery Overcharge can provide on two and three bases. In addition, Battery Overcharge seems to have been very successful in discouraging the three-base Archon/Immortal/Zealot all-ins that we had typically seen ending games in the past.
This brings us to late game. Because of how mid games now typically play out, four-base+ PvP seems to be much more common lately with Stalker/Disruptor, Carriers, Tempests, and Blink Dark Templar all making regular appearances. As a result, we’ve been regularly seeing some of the most epic PvPs ever played, and it really feels this matchup has been blown wide open.
With a few exceptions, the feedback we’ve received on the changes made to the ZvP matchup in the last patch indicate that they have been helpful. That is, the change to Queen range has been noticeable, the energy cost change to Revelation allow it to be an effective creep-clearing tool, and the increased range for Feedback has been significant in late game interactions. In addition, Battery Overcharge has shown to be a powerful defensive tool, especially when it was first released and Zergs were not yet used to its potency.
On the flip side, Revelation’s lower duration, while not a game breaker, does impact its use in late game. We’ve also received mixed feedback from players as to the impact of the Baneling damage changes in the last patch. While many have told us that these changes have gone mostly unnoticed, some players note that they’ve seen an uptick in Stalker/Robo Bay compositions partially due to this change, especially from Korean Protosses.
Ultimately though, the last patch has not produced the lasting impact to ZvP winrates that we had hoped, and most of the feedback we currently receive about this matchup from professional-level Protoss players remains similar to what we had received before, just to a slightly lesser degree. For reference, the majority of this feedback relates to the following:
- The efficiency of the Baneling, both as a combat unit and in a harassment role.
- The inability of clearing Creep without necessitating the presence of the entire Protoss army.
Based on all this feedback, we are led to believe that while we were heading in the right direction with our changes, perhaps we had not gone far enough.
In addition, we’d like to address the community’s current stance on ZvP late game; our perspective is that the community at large currently believes that ZvP is heavily Zerg-favored in late game. On this topic, what we hear from many top Protoss players is that the late game unit interactions between the two races are not inherently lopsided, especially after changes to Feedback. (In fact, there are players from both sides who believe it is Protoss favored.) Rather, there’s an agreement that the primary problem with late game is the difficulty of getting there on equal footing with the Zerg, especially in the face of constant harassment, the power of defensive Banelings on Creep, and general unfettered Creep spread, as Protoss often feel like they have to choose between expanding and pressuring.
Our thoughts on this feedback is two-fold: First, the most impactful changes we attempt to make in this matchup should focus on mid game. And second, while there might be room to adjust a few things in late game, we should do so with a focus on improving how typical late games play out. From a design standpoint, while we’re sure we can increase Protoss winrates by granting Protoss additional strict, raw late game power, we don’t think this would lead to particularly desirable gameplay as it might further encourage the stalemates and turtling that we’ve historically seen in the matchup. Rather, the direction we’d like to take is to grant Protoss additional tools that encourage interactivity from both sides.
Without further ado, here are some changes we’ll be featuring in the next Balance Test Mod.
- Weapon damage changed from 18(+17 vs light) to 15(+20 vs light).
In our last patch, we made an adjustment to base Baneling damage, moving it from 20(+15 vs light) to 18(+17 vs light), but erred on the cautious side in terms of magnitude because we didn't want to too heavily impact TvZ. However, because we believe in the direction of this change, and we've received feedback that it has gone mostly unnoticed in all matchups, we feel more comfortable going a bit further. After this change, +2 Banelings will take 4 more shots to kill Archons and Immortals and 2 more shots to kill Stalkers compared to the original 20(+15 vs light) damage.
- Revelation duration increased from 15 seconds to 20 seconds.
Our aim with this change is to increase Revelation’s endgame usability without making it too easy to continuously tag enemy armies in mid game. We considered a few options to accomplish this, but in the end, found this tweak the cleanest solution.
- Cost decreased from 250/150 to 200/150.
- Void Ray build time decreased from 43 to 37 seconds.
- Movement speed increased from 3.5 to 3.85.
As the Void Ray is one of the least commonly used units in our game, we thought now would be a great time to grant it a niche that lines up with what Protoss struggles with at the moment. The niche we had in mind in PvZ was that of a multipurpose mid game unit with the ability to clear Overlords, zone out and/or clear creep, and deter Baneling drops. As the primary feedback we get about the Void Ray is that it’s simply not efficient, our first step was to lower both its resource and build time costs. In addition, we believe it needs a slight mobility boost in order to fulfill this role, so we’ll be increasing its movement speed to match that of a Viking or Banshee. As two Oracles plus a third Stargate unit is very common off of Stargate openers in PvZ, we imagine it could easily be slotted in as the third unit in lieu of a Phoenix or third Oracle.
As for implications in other matchups, in PvT, Void Rays would notably gain the ability to chase down Banshees. And in PvP, we've heard feedback that this new Void Ray could potentially be useful in proxy Robotics defense.
- Flux Vanes movement speed increased from 4.65 to 5.11.
End game compositions that produce interesting dynamic games are often characterized by armies that consist of a combination of two types of units. First, there’s the slow, solid backbone, which often comes in the form of Siege Tanks, Liberators, Lurkers, Brood Lords, Colossi, or Carriers. Then you have the more mobile force that often acts as the arms to this backbone. This force generally has the ability to poke and prod at key enemy fortifications but is still potent when fighting in combination with the backbone. Typically, these mobile arms consist of Bio, Hellions, Cyclones, Zerglings, Banelings, Zealots, and Dark Templar.
Of all the races in non-mirror matchups, we believe the race/matchup combo that has the least potent “arm” is Protoss in the PvZ matchup, and we’d like to push the Void Ray in this direction as we believe it is close to fulfilling this role. The speed increase we’ve proposed here aims to do this, and we see it somewhat separate from the changes proposed in the previous section, which have a different goal. For a reference point, this newly granted speed will be just under that of a Hyperflight Roters-upgraded Banshee.
- Interceptors belonging to a Carrier that has been Neural Parasited will no longer draw aggression from units belonging to the Carrier’s original owner.
Though this interaction isn’t as commonly seen these days, we’d like to bring it in line with what we believe is more congruent with how Neural Parasite interacts with other units in our game.
- New upgrade found on the Fleet Beacon: Tectonic Destabilizers
- Effect: Improves the Tempest's Resonance Coil to deal +40 damage vs structures.
- Cost: 150/150.
- Research time: 100 seconds.
This change has the goal of granting Protoss players a tool with which they can break Spore Crawler “forests” in late game, which we believe will discourage stalemates. This improvement to the Tempest comes in the form of an upgrade instead of a base bonus in order to temper the power of proxy Tempests in PvT.
When this post goes live, the Balance Test Mod will have been updated with these changes. As always, these adjustments are subject to change based on feedback when they eventually hit the live game.