12 May 2010

Free StarCraft 2 Beta Key! -Update

it's gone, don't try.

... it's already gone.

08 May 2010



07 May 2010

Got A StarCraft II Beta Key!

I've had the chance of playing the StarCraft II beta for some time now, due to friend of mine kind enough to share his Key. But finally a stranger handed me out a Key he had no use for to use for my own pleasure. Now I feel confident enough to post about my experience with the game many of us have been waiting for for over a decade.

My impressions on the beta so far (after playing more than a hundred games):
Graphics - 7/10
They capture the feel of the classic StarCraft well enough, wrapping it nicely into 3D. It's not state-of-the-art graphics but the animations and unique and distinguishable unit and building models make up for it. On the downside, it does feel a little bit like plastic. The terran could be dirtier, the protoss could be shinier, the zerg are fine (even though their units are sometimes hard to distinguish in the heat of battle). Sadly the maps feel really, really empty. I hope they add many more objects to each map.

Gameplay - 8/10

It all depends on what you expect. it's the classic melee, super fast when it comes to base management and unit micro, and you have to be extra careful not to be overrun by your enemy because you built the wrong forces. To me, it's a little dissapointing, having hoped for a new race, more new units or some RPG-features. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want WarCraft 3 heroes, but couldn't the terran units have some sort of rank system that makes them better with each kill, or unlocking upgrades? I guess they really saved it all for the single-player campaign. Although, neither did I want the game to become slower than any of these features might have made it.

So far I've mostly played random. Each race feels very different from one another. Protoss have few but powerful high tech units, Zerg are massing, not giving a shit about a single zergling being killed, and terran are just the dirty old bastards that keep on bunkering in their base.

I really like the new economy features. The Zerg Queen to spawn larvae, expand your creep, heal, the Terran Command Center to scan, cal down extra supplies or MULEs and the speed buff for Protoss units you warp in and upgrades you research. It's the little choices you face each time (what do I spent my energy on?) that makes it so much funnier than the old order-worker-to-mineral-field stuff in StarCraft 1 that felt like work.

The new mobility features in the game are cool. Nydus worm used more freely, without creep, Protoss Collosi and Stalkers, also Reapers traversing cliffs. Hell, I got owned by those Reapers today. I also like how they added features like watch towers, blockades and high yield mineral fields to each map.

What I don't like is how each map feels the same. You are in a secluded base with one exit (maybe two ramps when the second one is blocked by obstacles you need to destroy first) with a ramp leading down to an expansion which everyone passes if they want to enter your main base. I also don't like how a couple of units feel. The Marauder is a pain in the ass. It does extra damage to your armored units, but it also has an upgrade which can slow units down with each attack. It means they deal extra damage to your ranged units but also slow down your light melee units, which are supposed to pick them down, but not able to because they never reach them. Also the Roach feels a bit strong. I wish Blizzard had focused more on it's regeneration capabilities instead of it's damage output and range, to make it more like a hit and run unit. But I guess that might have overlapped roles with the zergling too much. On protoss side I don't like the Immortal. It feels like a do-it-or-don't-unit. It's superior to any armored unit but gets its ass whooped by any small unit. I just thing that the contrast is too strong. I could go on about likes and dislikes of other units but I'll spare you that now.

Battle.net 2.0 - 7/10
Ever noticed how Blizzard never used the '2.0' themselves? They call it 'The new Battle.net experience'. Yes it's new, but it's nothing groundbreaking. The matchmaking feels superior to even the one in WarCraft 3. I rarely feel like I get opponents too strong or too weak. Navigation is also good enough once you get used to it. The party system is nice. Achievements are nice, but... NO CHAT ROOMS? SERIOUSLY? How is this 'new experience' goign to bring people closer together when all we can do is fight each other? If anything, it's going to part people.

Editor - 10/10
I've spent very little time with the Editor myself. Just a bit with the terrain and the triggers, but nothing fancy. I lack the time. In it's core it is an advanced WC3 editor, but it feels a bit complicated, but every editor does when inexperienced. Those '10/10' come from looking at other custom maps. Hell, it's only been a couple of weeks and I'Ve already played Side-Scroll-shooters, 3D-shooters, Resident Evil, Pacman, Tetris, Racing games, Adventures, tested new abilites and some other crazy shite. So forget DotA (or AoS as it should be called in SC2), get ready for totally different games.

Overall - 32/40
The first two weeks I played nothing else, after that less and less, and only today, when I got my own Key, I picked up some multiplayer games. This had many reasons. One was the repetitive gameplay I've experienced, it's especially frustrating when losing (What the Fuck? Marauderrushed again?), andd it's quite impossible to maintain a certain skill level in playing random when playing to rarely. It was also because the Editor was released, so I played aroudn with that for some time. But also becasue I got my hands on Settlers 7 and Asssassin's Creed 2. The former (which I did design levels for, if anyone cares) I put to rest a week ago. I also had lots of studying to do.

Oh, 32/40 doesn't mean it is a dissapointment, it means it is a Beta without Single-Player and enough time. I'm really looking forward to the full game release on July 27th, but I am not yet sure if I'll buy it right then. A-level tests will be in September/October and plan on doing some summer preparation. But I already know it's going to be my most played game of the year.

05 May 2010

Creating a Campaign

Hey. I sometimes get asked what my 'strategy' is when making campaign. I got asked again yesterday and this time I wanted to share some of my insight on my blog.

[QUOTE=[Name removed]]Hello OutsiderXE,

I recently finished your Lord of the Clans campaign, which I thought was spectacular apart from the occasional bug.

Anyways, I've recently started working on a campaign detailing [text removed], and I was wondering if you would be able to give me some advice on how to make my campaign as interesting and elaborate as your ones.

Hope to hear from you soon,
[Name removed][/QUOTE]

Now of course the big difference is that my campaigns are based on books, preexisting stories. So I have the advantage of having a plot lined out for me since the beginning and my job is to add plausible missions to it. It often means that story has to be cut, added on or changed to work with my gameplay ideas.

I have to admit that, especially Lord of the Clans (being my first campaign), is somewhat of a mess. I usually start making a testmap, which is more or less becomes the first mission of any campaign, where I try to nail the 'feeling' that's going to accompany the full project. In LotC it was having a single hero with basic skills and the behaviour of his environment. The first mission was (supposed to be) a stealth mission. The second mission was also supposed to be stealthy but turned out 'fighty' instead with spare stealth ideas. At that time I barely planned maps ahead (I still don't do it too much but I get better) so each mission idea was developed as it was created. I sincerely believe that the more detailed you plan out your campaign before you first start up the editor, the better it gets. So, anyway. After making 2-3 missions I kinda (thought) I got the hang of it, but I was still exploring the possibilities of the editor. That's probably why there are many mini-games at mission 4, 5 and 6. But here I gotta say that I 'borrowed' many ideas from established maps. I actually stole the terrain from one of the AoS maps and changed it to my liking. I still feel ashamed about it.

At some point I thought I could divide the eight maps of the campaign into three gameplay chapters. 1,2,3 is where you control a single hero in mixes of stealth and fight maps. 4 and 5 is wher the minigames are at, 6 and 7 is where mass unit production and base building comes into play. And number 8 is supposed to be a comeback to stealth and fight.

It took me 2,5 years to finish this first campaign. The big reason is, when you first create a project of that size, you never know how long it's going to take you so you don't take it too seriously. You work on it every now and then. Other reasons are that I just started getting to know the editor, and The Frozen Throne was released inbetween so some features were only included a long time later (Runes for example).

I consider overlong cinematics, bad terrain graphics and lack of special skills the weak points of the campaign. Overlong cinematics because I mostly didn't cut dialogues enough to make them more crips. Terrain graphics simply becasue I was a newbie, and I still just not am that visual guy. Special skills because only the Frozen hrone allowed an easy implementation of such and LotC was already too far in development to allow them.

I hope this kind of helped. If you want to read more I can tell you about my experience I gathered by creating my second campaign, Day of the Dragon.