Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's not just a spaceship, it's a transformer!

Versatile Viking
Predator and bird of prey
Transform and roll out

The Terran race in Starcraft seems to have a theme of versatility, and of being able to specialize things in multiple ways. The siege tank is the epitome of this mentality, being able to take the form of a standard tank, a static defensive turret, and a offensive siege weapon. But the theme is present in many ways: command centers can become orbital commands or planetary fortresses, orbital commands can call in either extra supplies or reconnaissance or minerals or repairing, and all production buildings can specialize in making lots of basic units, or the more advanced units.

And of course this theme shows up in the Viking. In the air, a potent air superiority fighter, with huge range and good speed. On the ground, a... ground unit, that can... walk around, shoot things occasionally, and blow up spectacularly. Okay, so the theme is not shown very well here. I understand that Blizzard wanted to give Terrans some much-needed anti-air, but make it not too good against ground (a role the Banshee fills very well). I just think they made it a little TOO not-good on the ground. As cool as a transforming mecha spaceship robot is, the motto of any Viking pilot should be, "If you need to land this bird, you've already lost." Sad, but true!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bring down the hammer

Great Thor, siege-walker
Bringer of thunder and storm
Who can oppose it?

Okay, I may or may not have just been steamrolled by a player that turtled up and made a ton of Thors. I may or may not have been half asleep at the time. That's not the point.

The point is, Thors are stinking huge! They have about a million hit points, and they do some pretty decent damage! True, I should have seen them coming, I mean they are as big as a command center, you can hear their footsteps from another planet, but that's besides the point. They're huge, is what I'm saying!

I suppose this is appropriate given their namesake. But still. Huge.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The little Blink-Stalker that couldn't

A Blink-Stalker can't be beat, so you'd think
But when this one heard the call "Zerglings inc!"
It was his nerves I suppose,
When he saw them he froze:
He went blank when he should have went blink

Did you ever think about the Blink ability? Sure, it would be awesome to be able to blink from place to place. Blink across the street, blink upstairs to avoid the elevator, blink through walls for all sorts of interesting reasons...

But what happens if you get confused, or disoriented, or panicked? It's easy enough to get turned around in everyday life, let alone when you are zapping through the ether! And now imagine doing that in a combat situation!

So I figure there must be an extensive Blink Training Program in Protoss boot camp. And it must be pretty funny to watch!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

There's no eye to this storm

Astride vortices
Invisible Banshees strike
Like a thunderstorm

The banshee is a powerful unit, well suited to its primary task: covert strikes. It rises on twin twisters, driven by dual turbines. It cloaks itself, becoming as incorporeal as the wind itself. It approaches the enemy silently, unseen. And then it blows the snot out of that mineral line!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Impregnable tower

Oh Missile Turret
With upgraded range, armor
Why can't you aim down?

I know, I know, missile turrets are meant to be static anti-air defenses. But they are really really good in Starcraft 2!

They start out pretty decent, giving good AA coverage and detection for just 100 minerals. But then you upgrade them at the Engineering Bay, giving them more range and +2 armor, and they are awesome!

Alas, if only there was an upgrade that would let them aim down and shoot ground units. Perhaps Neosteel Actuation Servos? Hi-res Infrared Tracking? Oh well, we'll have to rely on Planetary Fortresses I guess.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does the flapping help?

Pack of Mutalisks
Flying swiftly on bat-wings
How's that work in space?

Starcraft, being science fiction, and a video game, has to take a few liberties with technical details. For example all the flying units kind of just float there by default, and move across the map at maybe 2x or 3x walking speed when you order them around. This is because the game would be less fun and balanced if your marines and tanks could be suddenly obliterated by enemy Banshees screaming by at Mach 6.

In game, we can try to explain it with some technobabble. Perhaps anti-gravity devices exist, but only work at slow speeds? Of course, this doesn't work for Mutalisks. They actually flap their wings to stay airborne and move around. The great blog Science of Starcraft tries to explain the wings as solar sails, but in the end the math doesn't work out. They conclude that the explanation for flying Mutalisks is: magic. I don't know about that... surely there must be a way they can fly, maybe it has to do with neutrinos?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time is relative. Relatively speaking...

When boosting your chrono timeline,
Make sure it's not set to 'Rewind':
You'll go backwards in time,
Past the start of this rhyme,
And you'll mix up your ahead and behind!

A tribute to the Chronoboost, and to the good old Arbiter of SC1. "Do you seek knowledge of time travel?"

Of course, one wonders why, if the Protoss have such incredible technology that they can bend spacetime to warp in units and accelerate the flow of time, why they don't just freeze time for the enemy while they warp in their whole fleet. I guess the smarter you are, the more you miss the obvious things!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

They check in, but they don't check out

Nasty little roach
As loathsome as its namesake
And as hard to kill

My first thought when I saw this unit was called the "roach" was, that's a weird name for a Zerg unit! Most Zerg names are original names that have that alien feel. I mean we have Queen and Drone and Overlord, but at least those are reminiscent of the hive mentality. "Roach" sounds immersion-breaking.

But "Roach" is still an insectoid name, and it certainly does fit this Zerg unit! Roaches are scary, next to impossible to kill, and I don't know about you but I always hate seeing them. Unlike in the game, though, I do not recommend dealing with cockroaches with machine guns or flamethrowers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The bigger they are...

Mighty Colossi
Like the towering redwoods
But with more lasers

I think Colossi are one of the cooler new units in SC2. A lot of the units are just repeats from SC1 with slight upgrades, or re-imaginings of prior units. For example, Hellions and Reapers are very similar to Vultures, and Vikings fill a lot of the same roles that Wraiths did.

But the Colossus is really something new. A massive Protoss unit, a unit that can climb walls, a ground unit that gives air sight and can be shot by air-only units, a unit with a splash attack in a horizontal line, these are all new traits. And as much as I like homages to classic SC gameplay, I think it's vital to throw new things into the mix, so the game remains vibrant and interesting.

I'm sure we'll see even more originality in SC2's upcoming expansions. And, if Blizzard follows tradition, perhaps we will see Dark Colossi, which are like... cloaked... or something. Sure, that'd be balanced!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tanks... you're welcome!

Crucio Siege Tank
Cannon blasts like thunderbolts
Zerglings? What Zerglings?

There's just something about Siege Tanks. They're a simple unit conceptually, I guess... just a basic armored tank that can get extra firepower in exchange for becoming stationary. But in practice, nothing beats a well-executed siege mode. Those powerful cannons firing off, their drum beat marking the last few moments of your enemies' lives... just beautiful. Where before there was a whole field of Hydralisks, now there is just a fine red mist.

With how powerful Siege Tanks are, both for defense and for laying siege to enemy fronts, it's no wonder so much Terran play is colored by their use. Vikings are often described as air-superiority fighters, and I would submit that tanks are your basic ground-superiority units. Tanks do have weaknesses, including of course air units and fast melee surrounds, but when they get a chance to play to their strength, they're the epitome of Terran firepower.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Don't fear the Reaper

Don't fear the reaper
And fear not the death he brings
At least since his nerf

I mean since his build time and upgrades were nerfed, what does this guy reap anymore? Is his scythe made of plastic now? Is his pale horse actually a motor scooter now?

Seriously though, isn't it interesting how buffs and nerfs in Starcraft patches have affected play styles? I remember that before Zealot training time was increased a few seconds, I saw a lot of early Zealot rushes. Now not so much, Protoss players seem to wait for warpgates to launch their attack (or more likely, the people who did 4-Zealot rushes are now doing 6-pool ling rushes!).

And so with the poor Reaper. Since the patch that nerfed them went live, I didn't even see a single Reaper for dozens of games. Whereas before, it felt like 1 in 3 Terran players opened with them. Granted, this is all flavored by the lower leagues I play in, but it's amazing to me how subtle changes (some in game balance numbers, and some mere in perception) can affect the whole metagame and play experience!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This is Jimmy

Raise your glass to our boy Jimmy Ray
Of us all he has cause for dismay
When Mengst sent him offworld
The Zerg got to his girl
And they made her their own Queen of Blades!

But now Jimmy was no mere abider
And he hated the Zerg genes inside her
So with a last-minute scheme
And a deus-ex-machine
He caught her and de-zergified her!

Enough haiku, time for some limericks! This one comes in two parts, conveniently reducing the storylines of SC1/Broodwar and SC2 into one stanza each. Efficient, no?

The character of Jimmy Raynor has changed a lot in Starcraft 2. It's set years later, and much has changed in the universe, and with good old Jimmy. (Not to mention a bit of ret-conning, but hey, it's science fiction, we're lucky Jimmy isn't a half-Protoss cyborg vampire-hunter by now).

But when it all comes down to it, he's still good old Jim Raynor. Rough and tumble, scruffy rascal on the outside, heart of gold inside. I think we all have fond memories of hearing our boy answer our calls with "This is Jimmy."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

They are coming

Incoming Zerglings!
A seething mass of creatures
Each with teeth and claws

The third race of Starcraft, and the most unique. Zerg play very differently from Terran and Protoss, and from just about any other RTS faction. It's interesting how unique they are: All Zerg units come from the same building, and they train in parallel, not in a queue. Their supply mechanic doubles as scouting, infrastructure, and transport. They can only build on creep, yet they want to take over most of a map. None of their buildings do anything, just unlock unit types. And their "ultimate" unit is a big ground guy who can't hit air or range.

And the humble Zergling embodies this race, just as the Marine and Zealot do theirs. Zerglings are cheap, but numerous. They are weak alone, but vicious in numbers. They are lightning-fast, and excel at hit-and-run and surrounding the enemy. They can take over the map early on, and enforce that control later.

The Zerg really are unique. Their influence is felt throughout gaming in the concept of the "zerg rush" or just "zerging." And we have the little Zergling to thank for that!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Can't touch this

Zealots are fearless
But then, I'd be fearless too
With my own forcefield

As marines do with Terrans, Zealots share many characteristics with their race in general. They are expensive, but powerful. Good at hit-and-run, but no slouch in a tow-to-toe fight. They are good right out of the gate, and once they get their upgrades going, watch out! Isn't it interesting how much you can learn about an entire faction just from its tier-1 unit?

And on a related note, how cool would it be to have a personal forcefield?

When all you have is a hammer

My Terran motto:
Any problem can be solved
With enough Marines

Let's start out this blog with a haiku for each race of Starcraft. We start, as Blizzard always does, with the Terrans.

The Marine is the prototypical unit of the Terran race in Starcraft, but also in almost all science fiction. They are good at everything even if they're not great at any one thing. They are potent, but flexible and adaptable. Their opponents may have overwhelming numbers or jaw-dropping technology, but they never give up.

And there's no situation that cannot be resolved with sufficient Terran ingenuity and adaptability. I mean, with sufficient quantities of Marines to throw at it.


As Spring follows Fall
So Starcraft 2 follows 1
Only took 12 years

With this quick verse, welcome to a new blog. One dedicated to two worlds from opposite ends of the spectrum, and which possibly should never have been combined: Starcraft II and poetry.

I use the term "poetry" loosely though; mostly I hope to post humorous little blurbs related to SC2 and gaming, in haiku and limerick. If I happen to post anything though-provoking or genuinely interesting, it will be an accident and I will apologize profusely afterwards.