Review: Legacy of the Void multiplayer

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I have previously briefly discussed about my first impression of the Legacy of the Void. This post focuses on the new multiplayer changes.

Before I begin, I must emphasize that I have not played a single game of the Legacy of the Void, so everything is based on my argument of the information provided by Blizzard so far.

I should start with discussing about how to evaluate the changes, as many have been criticising the new changes from a wrong direction. Based on the comments on various forums and the questions asked on the panel, it seems to me that many do not evaluate the changes based on the game design goals. Blizzard are very open with what they want to accomplish with Legacy of the Void.

  • More action
    • More opportunities to attack at any time, and a decrease in overall passive gameplay.
  • More harassment options
    • One of the core mechanisms through which Legacy of the Void aims to bring consistent action. More harass opportunities should help distinguish players who can manage their units effectively due to its high skill-ceiling and micro requirements.
  • Incentives to go on the offense
    • Spread players out more on the map and incentivize the use of mobile forces that can strike when there are openings (think low-risk Marine/Medivac drops).
  • Micro opportunities on both sides
    • Create more significant counter-micro opportunities and lessen situations where one player’s micro performance is more important than the other.
  • Army vs Army Micro
    • If micro doesn’t matter that much, battles are less interesting. Legacy of the Void aims to make micro much more important throughout a battle so that combat results are less predictable.
  • Differentiate player skill better
    • Legacy of the Void will feature armies for all races that can split and become extremely effective. Armies that remain entirely together will find seriously decreased effectiveness.
  • Improve weaker design units/abilities
    • Units like the Corruptor and Battlecruiser will have more utility overall. Legacy of the Void will seek to make units always be able to contribute to the game in meaningful ways.

Someone asked whether there can be a button to spread the Marines because casual players cannot do it. This is a good example of not evaluating the changes based on the design goals, as this goes against three of the stated goals above. Personally, I agree with these seven design goals and they are consistent with what Blizzard wanted to do with Starcraft 2 right at the beginning. Here is a better example of how to criticise a certain aspect of the game. Way back in the early Wings of Liberty days, the maps were much smaller than they are now. The reason behind this was to have more battles and skirmishes instead of having players doing their own stuff on their sides of the map. I like the idea of encouraging more battles because it is good for spectators, but small maps caused certain early game builds to be overly dominant. Then, perhaps a good change may be changing the map design a little to expand the variability of openings. This is better than saying “Protoss 4 gate wins all, imba!”

Hearthstone is a good example in terms of staying true to the goals of the game. The game aims to be simple enough for casual players to have fun, but at the same time it creates a high enough ceiling for competition. RNG is a welcomed aspect in order to give the weaker players a chance to beat the stronger players, and this is a key design that keeps casual players playing. Personally, I don’t like the fact of losing not due to my own fault, so I never really like Hearthstone as much as I like Starcraft. However, there is no doubt that Hearthstone is well designed based on what it is intended to do.

The changes should be evaluated based on whether they can achieve the goals that the game designers aim to accomplish. This is something I want to put forward before I continue.

Economy changes

  • Resource tweaks
    • In order to encourage aggression, we intend to create more places to attack. To do this, we’re incentivizing faster expansions by decreasing the resources on Mineral Fields and Vespene Geysers by 33%. Combined with our unit changes for each race, this should make mid-game aggression much more potent and viable.
      • Mineral Fields now hold 1,000 Minerals instead of 1,500
      • Vespene Geysers now hold 1,700 Vespene Gas instead of 2,500
  • Starting worker count
    • In order to generally reduce the passive time-periods in the game, we’re increasing the starting worker count from 6 workers to 12 workers. The supply granted by the Command Center, Nexus, and Hatchery are being increased to account for this.

Resource tweaks

No unit change is bigger than the above economy changes. So before we talk about what new units are too imba or what not, let’s talk about these fundamental changes. The goal of these two changes is to discourage turtling, encourage attack and make early game more action packed, and I can appreciate these.  Therefore, it will be good if the incentive to expand constantly and the restriction of turtling are increased. By limiting the amount of resource per base is an incentive for expansion, which leads to more battle since players are more stretched out defensively. In fact, the scarcity of resources is one of the key reasons for war in the human history. So yes, I’m quite fond about the idea of reducing the resource per base. I am not too concerned about the actual number now, as this can be changed as more games are played during beta.

However, at the same time, I do not want turtling or deathball style to be totally removed as I believe it has a place in the game. I know this is not a popular opinion, but hear me out. What people do not like is the stalemate and long dragged out game, but most are less critical about the deathball style. The resource tweaks could put a clock on a deathball strategy, whereby you have to move out and win before your resources run out. The changes also affect the ability to rebuild the army after the deathball is gone. Sometimes you see a deathball traded fine with the opponent, and the leftover resources in the bank allow the player to re-deathball, which is something I hope is not possible with the resource tweaks.

I also do not think that the resource tweaks prevent the stalemate, because almost all the bases will get occupied anyway. Hence, it is not a matter of encouraging players to expand, but it may improve the situation in another manner. One way to win in a stalemate situation is to trade away opponent’s expensive units again and again, and the player who can trade more cost-efficiently and re-max more effectively wins the game. In line with this thinking, you want to spend the bank on “free units” at that stage of the game,or more specifically, supply efficient units (for example, Swarmhost and Raven). Spamming static defense everywhere is also another way to be supply efficient. Therefore, there is almost always a “trade-rate” during the stalemate stage, whereby the players keep doing the same thing to trade at a constant rate until something drastically changes (e.g., stacking fungal growth). For instance, Tempest attack the Spore and Spine Crawlers again and again. Quite often, the player who is on the losing side of the trade-rate is forced to do something to push the trade-rate in favor of himself or herself. In my opinion, what people don’t like is not the tug war of trade-rate but it is the time dragged out due to the bank and the magnitude of the trade-rate itself.

Let say the trade-rate is in favor of player A at the rate of 100 resource per minute (just give it a random number and combine mineral and gas as “resource”). That is, as the players constantly trade with each other, the resource lost of player B is 100 more than player A after each minute. It can be player A is making a constant trade of 900 resource for 1000 resource of player B. If both players banked up 1000000000 resource to begin with, it will take a long time until player B taps out. Player B will try to stay in the game as long as possible while he or she can keep re-maxing in the hope of overturning the trade-rate. This results in stalemate games. Therefore, by reducing the amount of resources per base can shorten the stalemate time, as the player with a trade-rate deficit is forced to do something sooner than what it is now since the bank is higher. Of course, another way to change this is to increase the trade-rate itself, and this has to do with unit design (Swarmhost’s trade-rate is very low).

Starting worker count

The purpose of increasing the worker count is to make the early game more action packed by reducing the “build up time” at the beginning. I can see where this is going, but it can also result in other problems. When the starting worker count increases by 100% from 6 to 12 while all else remain the same at the early stage, it changes the mineral/gas ratio radically. The amount of mineral gathered in terms of its ratio with gas is much higher with the increased worker count because the Vespene Geyser takes the same amount of time to build and the same number of workers to mine. The rate of resource collection per worker does not change though. When you already have two times the worker at the mineral line at the beginning, you cannot effectively spend the mineral unless you either expand early or take both gases early to balance the mineral+gas expenditure ratio. In the show match, MC/HyuN took two early gases and not expand in all three games against Polt/soO, who also did the same for two games.

The cost of the buildings and units is balanced based on the current HotS mineral/gas ratio. Everything changes with this new mineral/gas ratio in the early game. As of the current understanding, you either take two gases early (because you now have a higher mineral gathering rate in the early game to balance the mineral+gas expenditure ratio) or an early expansion (because that is one of the most effective ways to spend mineral). The new mineral/gas ratio may indirectly force you to be more extreme in your opening, as shown in the figure below.

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Obviously, this is not drawn to scale, but it is just a graphical way to express what I am saying. Try to think of any build except extreme cheese (e.g., 6 Pool) to fall a long a continuum of having tech-focused and economy focused on the opposite end. For example, a Command Centre first is on the economy-focused end, while a gas first build is on tech-focused end. Currently, the builds can be ranged from tech-focused to economy-focused, and there is also a range of middle of the road builds. This means that there is a healthy diversity in terms of builds in general as you have more options in opening. In contrast, the new mineral/gas ratio encourages you to be more extreme in your build. This is more diverse in terms of the distance of the extremity. In the current ratio, you will squeeze out the 400 mineral to expand as you tech up by getting one gas. In the new ratio, you will definitely have mineral overflowing if you do that, after you expanded (earlier than now with more mineral), as you try to spend the gas at the same time since the mineral+gas expenditure ratio does not change. What do you do with this additional mineral? Remember that the build time for units and buildings remains the same as the current system, so the only way to spend the mineral is to build more buildings. Since it is the mineral mining rate that increases (more workers mining at the same time) while the gas mining rate is the same (you cannot put more workers into the Geyser even if you have more workers now), you will build buildings that cost only mineral. It is not that effective to just put down another Barracks to spend the mineral in comparison to build a Command Centre.Therefore, you will probably do some form of quick expand and then take two gases to balance the mineral/ratio for subsequent production, or just take two gases and tech up immediately.

When you can take two gases so early on, you have a much quicker access to tech than you do now. You can go straight into say Banshee or Dark Templar quickly and there is less time for opponent to scout and prepare. This may further polarise the opening you choose. Assuming the new mineral/gas ratio is applied to the current HotS game, the tech-favored opening match up will be even more tech-favored. For example, in TvT now, it is about how quick you want to get to 1-1-1 and at what time do you want to squeeze out that 400 mineral to expand. With the new mineral/gas ratio, the tendency to tech up quickly with 1-1-1 is even stronger as you need to match each other’s quicker tech than now. Conversely, you may go for even quicker expand build in a economy-focused match up, such as TvZ.

The early game scouting will also change drastically along with the decrease in the “passive build up time”. I foresee players sending out a scout much earlier than we do now because of the starting worker count. If a worker is sent out right at the beginning now, the simple mining opportunity cost without considering the incremental rate is 1/6 (-16.67%). The scouting information does not justify this resource deficit because there really is not much to see since the build up time is longer. In contrast, the mining opportunity cost in the new system is 1/12 (-8.33%), which is lower than what it is now, and there is much more to see in opponent’s base because of the decreased build up time. This changes the dynamics of the game.

The starting worker count also changes the strength of the extreme early game cheese, for example, Six Pool and Proxy 2 Rax. Like I’ve mentioned, the building time of the buildings and units remain the same. Let say you build the earliest Spawning Pool possible (resemble 6 Pool) and try to do a cheese. You will probably bank up more minerals than you need to produce Zerglings when the Spawning Pool is down. The same applies for Proxy 2 Rax, whereby you may even have enough minerals to build more than two Barracks before the first Marine is produced. The number of defending workers will also be more than what it is now, and that makes it easier to defend. If such extreme cheeses become less effective with the new change, they may actually die out totally. Then, this pushes builds to be more polarised in terms of either being greedy with tech or economy, since you don’t have to worry about such early game cheese.

New units and current unit changes

I don’t want to read too much into the current proposed new units and other unit specific changes, as they are far from the final product. So I won’t say what should be changed.

However, if both of the above economy changes go through, then some changes may be required on the current units to balance the game. May be some of the specific tech units should be even more gas heavy.

Another thing that I want to see in improvement of unit design is the interaction of the units. Most units basically just A-move with different stats, and that should be changed. For example, Void Ray, Corrupter, Immortal and Battlecruiser. They may have some additional active abilities, but still you just activate them and A forward. I believe a bit can be done in this direction. This is consistent with the goals mentioned above.

Conclusion

Again, I must stress that I have not played the Legacy of the Void. Thus, the discussion and argument I put forth above may be completely wrong.

To sum it up, I like the resource tweaks as it achieves the goal of encouraging players to expand. However, I am not very fond of the starting worker count. Although it decreases the “passive build up time”, it also affects the early game balance and dynamics.

Feel free to discuss, but refrain from making an argument based on BroodWar comparison.

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9 thoughts on “Review: Legacy of the Void multiplayer

  1. I think the 6 extra workers can be thought as almost 2 minutes that people don’t have to play at the beginning of every games.

    If current 1 base timing is 6.30 – 7 minutes, the new 1 base timing will be 4.30 – 5 minutes (5 minutes immortal, 3 minutes DT, etc)

    I don’t see how this will affect the “tech vs econ” chart. Everything should be the same except things are 2 minutes earlier than before.

    The reduced gas and minerals mean bases will be mined out 5 minutes faster than before; so if the latest 4th base was previously 15 minutes, now it must be made in 10th minutes. However since each base contains significant amount of resource (1000 x8 = 8000 minerals, 1500 x 8 = 12000 minerals) and the cost of the base is small (300-400); I don’t think it is big difference in term of balance of minerals to gas.

    Obviously it means people will be spread out much earlier and defending vast area is much harder.

    1. The change is not a simple “fast forward” because of the mineral/gas ratio. Also, when everything else (building time and cost) remains the same, things won’t change in a linear fashion.

      1. What I don’t understand is how would the mineral/gas ratio change? They are still 8:2 (although most people over saturate the gas with 3 workers, and not the minerals). And as Kevin mentioned below, no build take gas less than 12 supply anyway.

        It will feel like “you have too much mineral” because you hit the supply target earlier, but if you expand at 15 supply, it makes no difference if the 15 supply happens at the usual 3:45 or at 1:45.

        1. Let the amount of mineral mined per worker per minute be m, and the amount of gas mined per worker per minute be g. m and g do not change in legacy of the void.

          However, in the new system, you’re mining at 12m per minute instead of 6m at the beginning. Next, assume that you spend at the same rate, you will have 6m more in lotv than what you have now per minute (ignoring the accumulative value). The amount of gas mined will remain the same because you cannot have more than 3 workers mining gas no matter how many workers you have. Thus, the difference is only the mineral, and this changes the mineral/gas ratio.

              1. Yes, the difference will become smaller as more workers are produced. it’s like the difference between 8/10 and 10/10 versus 18/20 and 20/20.

                Also, they will mine equally when saturation is reached since the individual worker mining rate remains the same.

  2. Great post. Your thoughts on the resource changes are very interesting, and I would probably need to think more deeply on it, but here’s what I got off the bat.

    Just to check if I understand your argument about decreased resources, I’m going to try to restate your thesis: the change is intended to encourage more bases, and although this can’t prevent stalemates from occurring, it will decrease the total stalemate duration. Furthermore, we shouldn’t entirely remove the turtle-deathball strategy.

    I think the tagged-on caution about removing the deathball is worth noting. I think it’s easy to get a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality to game design and push hard for radical changes. Even so, we do want to maintain the variety in options, so although we may want to decrease the usage of deathballs, it shouldn’t completely stop it.

    With regard to the starting workers, I agree with a lot of your points: cheese is different, scouting is different, and gas timings change. I played around with the economy extension mod, and we all noted, “woah, we have way too many minerals”, which allowed me to crank out 6 Zerglings and an expo relatively painlessly.

    Of course the popularity of different styles and builds will change as well, but I’m not certain whether it’s necessarily so dire in diminishing the spectrum. This is obviously a gloss, but no standard build order gets gas earlier than 12, so I don’t think it has necessarily broken any timings there. We will have to tweak gas timings, but I think that we will develop those to accommodate the strategic choices that we would like to make, and we’re not overly constrained by that.

    1. Yes, you sum it up better than I do.

      I’ve yet to play any game on the mod myself. When I first read up about the change, the first impression I have is that everyone is given a free expansion at the beginning due to the mineral. The show match also showed me that you can also take two quick gases to have the right mineral/gas balance for unit production. So the whole scenario changes.

      I’m alright with the build order changes, if the new worker count actually improves the game. But I’m not sure if it truly improves the early game that much. The trade off between having a shorter build time and some of the plausible problems I mentioned doesn’t seem to rest well with me.

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