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Old 12-18-2008
 
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Default Thesis to Increase Macro Part 6: Base Defense Buildings

Thesis to Increase Macro
Part 6: Base Defense Buildings



Thesis to Increase Macro Part 1: Mining
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=78498
Thesis to Increase Macro Part 2: Supply
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=78501
Thesis to Increase Macro Part 3: Auxiliary Buildings
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=78657
Thesis to Increase Macro Part 4: Production Buildings
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=79926
Thesis to Increase Macro Part 5: Gas
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=82730
Contact at ArcherofAiur@gmail.com


Here are today’s sections for anyone who feels like tackling them one at a time.
The Meaningful Click
The Basics of Base Defense Buildings
Base as Building vs. Base as Territory
Territorial Influence
Creep Crawling
Creep Casting



The Meaningful Click

I have been trying to get at this idea of the meaningful click and the meaningful key press. These two actions are the only ways that the player can influence what happens in starcraft. Today’s Thesis begins with an examination of what interactions a player considers meaningful. When pressed on the macro issue most players will agree that clicks spent controlling units are more exciting and engaging then clicks spent controlling buildings.
I believe that there are several factors that can help explain why players would be more engaged by directing units then buildings.

Sensory Stimulation
Sensory stimulation, both auditory and visual plays a key role. This can be thought of as task and reward on a very subconscious level. You kill a dragoon and it dissolves into blue goo. You roll your banelings into that Thor and it explodes. The sensory date from these events stimulates basal brain functions. This low level stimulation serves as a continuous reward loop whenever you are observing in-game battles.

Perceived Causation
Perceived causation also plays a role in a player’s engagement. It is very easy for the mind to attribute killing units as hurting the opponent. It is a little harder for the mind to view queuing up a zealot as hurting the opponent.

Narrative Interpretation
Next, we have narrative interpretation. This factor is related to role playing and how the player’s mind interprets in-game events. Let's get one thing straight. Combat in Starcraft is not real combat. Combat in a videogame is a representation of the themes and mechanics of real life conflict. All that is really happening is a computer value is reduced to zero and a death protocol is executed. The player perceives something quite different. That zergling was blown apart by that siege tank. Those marines were impaled by that lurker. Those dragoons were just yanked through the very fabric of space onto your mineral line. This story-type interpretation plays a crucial role in the player's enjoyment.

Strategic Decision-Making
Finally, strategic decision-making contributes to the engagement a player feels. This is an extremely complex element but for now we will define is as the sum total effect of position, range, damage, damage type, hit points, amour, rate of fire, movement speed as well as any attributes and abilities unique to that unit.

I believe the concepts of sensory stimulation, perceived causation, narrative interpretation and strategic decision-making are all crucial for understanding why some clicks mean more then others. There is one type of building that uses these four concepts to enhance their presence on the battlefield. We will now examine just what makes Base Defense Buildings so unique.





The Basics of Base Defense Buildings


When is a Building not a Building?

What is the difference between a Siege Tank and Spine Crawler? Why exactly is the Siege Tank a unit but the Spine Crawler a building? Both are capable of moving, both can attack. Both seek to gain battlefield advantage through position, and both rely on direct player commands to establish this position. Is their method of creation what differentiates them? Perhaps the Spine Crawler is a building because it’s built from a worker? If so was the Thor a building when it was built from a SCV?

We are now beginning to see that the line between unit and building is not as clear or absolute as was initially believed. The truth is “building” is not a definitive term in game design. Rather, it is a composition of criteria that suggest form, feel and function.

Building Material

As a starting point let us define a building is any in-game element that satisfies most or all of the following criteria:
1) Player Controlled
2) Persistent
3) Selectable
4) Destructible
5) Stationary

What then is a unit? Most units satisfy criteria 1, 2, 3 and 4. In essence, they are quasi-buildings. The converse is equally true, buildings can be thought of as quasi-units. Zerg creep satisfies criteria 1, 2 and 4. Therefore, the creep classifies as another type of quasi-building.


Take-Home Point

Base Defense Buildings are unique in that they are buildings that behave like units. Attacking, movement and personality are some of the features and abilities normally reserved for units that base defense buildings dabble in.

This dual nature of base defense buildings illustrates an important point. It is OK to give buildings creative features (like character persona) and engaging abilities (like moving and attacking). Expansion of building identity is a legitimate design tactic provided that you adhere to your game’s core values. For Starcraft 2 our core values center around Engagement, Excitement and Elegance.










Base as Buildings vs. Base as Territory

Systems Theory
Systems theory relies upon the concept of emergent properties to describe a complex identity that arises from the summation of many basic interactions. For those unfamiliar with emergent properties consider water. Few would dispute that water is composed of many molecules of H2O. Yet a molecule of H2O has behaviors and properties entirely foreign to water. It is very hard to say that a single molecule of H2O is water. We can therefore consider water to be an emergent property of interactions between H2O molecules on a macro scale.

Base as Buildings
Base as Buildings defines the “Base” as a collection of Player Controlled, Persistent, Selectable, Destructible and Stationary in game elements. This collective identity is established by map space proximity.
Like water molecules we have difficulty classifying individual buildings as the “Base”. Rather the collective interaction of many proximal buildings establishes the “Base”. However, this is not the only way of defining the base.


Base as Territory
Base as Territory defines the “Base” as an area of map space under the influence of the player. Like the Base as Buildings definition, Base as Territory is an emergent property. The emergent identity is dependant upon the degree of influence in an area.

One important distinction, territorial bases and map control are not the same thing. A Terran who has contained his opponent into a corner has map control over the entire map except his opponent’s corner. However, he only has territorial bases in the immediate vicinity of concentrated in-game elements he controls. This would be his main and expos, siege tank line, spider mine fields and unit rally streams.






Territorial Influence

So what types of territorial influence contribute to the base as territory identity?

Battlefield Intelligence
Every player controlled unit or building offers vision. The more illuminated your mini-map the more prepared you are to react to changes on the battlefield.

Reinforcement Facilitation
Reinforcement Facilitation includes factors that increase the rate at which your forces reach the frontline. As an example consider proxy rushes which work by drastically decreasing the time it takes for your forces to arrive at the enemy’s base.

Resource Availability
This describes how easy it is for the player to expand to another resource node. This includes the distance, accessibility and safety between your main and expos.

Constrain and Containment
Constrain refers to the partial limiting of an opponents maneuvering through map space. This can be accomplished through barriers (barracks on ramp, pylon in mineral field) or choke points (bridges, cliff walls). Containment refers to the complete limiting of an opponents maneuvering through siege.

Tactical Support
Tactical Support is the combat advantage a player gains from stationing troops in a given map space. This can be the supporting fire from having multiple dragons or the no fly zone granted by a missile turret.

Psychological Pressure
Psychological Pressure is the mental advantage a player with superior territorial assets has over his opponent. This influence effects concentration, ingenuity and decisiveness.



Now we can see why base defense buildings are such a dynamic element of Starcraft. Base defense buildings are buildings which use unit related properties in order to give territorial advantage. In similar fashion the creep mechanics we are going to explore in this episode will endow buildings and quasi-buildings with unit related properties to give territorial advantage.

Creep is an ideal candidate for territorial influence mechanics. The creep has strong visual character that clearly defines Zerg controlled map space. Creep biological lore allows for many creative explanations for gameplay mechanics. Also, the ability to destroy overlords and creep tumors gives Zerg enemies a way to reclaim map space.




Creep Crawling


How it Works

Creep crawling is an alternative mechanic in place of the current +30% movement creep mechanic. When a Zerg player has reached hive tech they are able to research creep crawling. All ground units burrowed in creep would be able to move. The movement while burrowed would be 50% faster than their regular movement. Zerg cannot move while burrowed off of creep.

With the nydus worm so high on the tech tree creep crawling affords an early form of transportation. Creep crawling gameplay would resemble shuttle/reaver dynamics with units popping up to fire and then retreating to relative safety. Also, creep crawling gives another reason for enemy commanders to bring detectors when encroaching on creep infested territory. If they choose not to than one word, lurkers.

Creep Crawling was originally inspired by Nisco’s suggestion that burrowed Zerg units can move in creep. (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/view...topic_id=80317)


Marco Benefits

Like worker management or production building management, creep management is a macro oriented activity that involves multitasking and decision making. The player can gain an advantage by focusing on spewing creep from overlords or creating more creep tumors. He does this at the expense of microing units. Creep crawling raises this level of Zerg macromanagement by providing additional benefits for spreading creep.

Creep crawling also gives the player territorial advantages for returning attention to the base. It does this through two techniques. The first is drone crawling. Let’s say drone burrowing is set at a sufficiently fast speed. By burrowing, crawling and unburrowing drones can travel back and forth between minerals faster. This increases resource accessibility by granting a slight mineral and gas bonus to players who manually direct their drones.

The second technique grants the Zerg player resource facilitation. Instead of relying on rally points, good Zerg players can spawn their units at the hatchery and crawl them down creep highways. This allows the units to reach the front lines in a fraction of the time.

This is similar to the macro advantage granted by Warp-In. Good Protoss players can get units to the front line faster by making units on pylon space in there base (Warp-In production is quicker then regular production). Good Zerg players can get units to the front line faster by burrowing and crawling them.


The Element of Surprise

In the alpha version of Starcraft 1 the Zerg were called the Xenomorphs. They were heavily influenced off of the movie Alien. The movie Alien exemplifies horror in a sci fi setting. It does this through fear of the unknown and ever present danger. In the movie the Xenomorph seems to be everywhere at once. Any dark shadow or crawl space is a potential ambush waiting to happen. Creep crawling tries to give this same air of suspense to a Zerg base. When trespassing on creep you should be afraid. Who knows what might be crawling deep beneath your feet?



Flavor

Visual clarity is a key concern for a mechanic like this. Players and spectators must be able to quickly identify what Zerg units are burrowed. I can envision two possible flavors for this mechanic.

The first possible flavor would be tunneling. This is where Blizzards emphasis on strong silhouettes and exaggerated proportions really comes in handy. When burrowed Zerg units would have an underground shadow that the owner (and players with detection) can see. The transparent shadow would be unique to each unit. Lore would explain that the Zerg are skittering through tunnels deep underneath the creep surface.

The secong possible flavor would have Zerg “swimming” in the creep. The goal would be to give the creep a swamp feeling. Lore would have the Zerg units pumped through vesicles in the creep. This is possible through a combination of the Zergs own locomotion as well as muscular contractions by the creep itself. The creep would only liquefy when zerg units above wanted to submerge. At all other times it would be slimy but solid. When underground the players would see only the units head poking out of the creep. This is similar to what is currently being shown in SC2. Every head should have a distinct look for quick identification. When moving the Zerg would appear to be slithering through the creep. It would look like the Diablo 3 dune thresher animation. http://www.blizzard.com/diablo3/worl...nethresher.xml

To paint a better picture, imagine several zealots closing in on a small pack of zerglings. The zerglings dive into a nearby patch of creep with a splash. The zealots halt and peer through the misty creep in search of their prey. They venture onto the creep which is rock hard under their feet. Suddenly, the zerglings leap out of the creep beneath them. Like crocodiles they latch onto the zealots and thrash them into submission.


Balance

When a new idea is proposed on these forums there is usually at least one person who cries out “Imbalanced!” For anyone who has never made a game I will let you in on a secret. Balance comes after you have actually put the mechanic into the game. You do not and can not balance a mechanic in the conceptualization stage. Only after playing with it and observing how it interacts with the game as a whole can you make the necessary tweaks. However, for the purpose of this discussion I would like to point out a few of the factors that can be adjusted to balance creep crawling.

First, you can adjust the time it takes individual units to burrow. The current +30% creep mechanic excludes the drone. It does this to avoid granting a mineral bonus. With the current creep crawling mechanic you do not have to worry about this. If you did not want the drone to harvest faster than you can make the burrow and unborruw times sufficiently long. This way regular mining is faster then submerging, crawling and emerging at the mineral line.

Second, you can adjust the speed that individual units travel underground. Perhaps, the ultralisk is too deadly at +50% movement. In that case we can scale it back to +25% speed. If zerglings are truly awesome at high speed we can bump them up to +60%.

Third, you can alter the cost of the upgrade or the level at which it is upgraded. At hatchery tech we have regular burrow like in the original starcraft. At lair tech zerg can upgrade underground movement on creep. At hive tech they can upgrade the +50% speed when moving underground.








Creep Casting

Conceiving the Mechanic
The Creep Casting mechanic began with the observation that the Zerg playstyle centers on manipulating huge numbers of units. If you want to affect many units at once it makes sense to use area of effect spells. To increase the significance of base management these spells should be linked to Zerg buildings. From this the goal was to make the creep a gigantic living support structure. It would function like a pseudo-hero able to cast powerful spells on the battlefield. The creep would derive its powers from the Zerg buildings on it.

How It Works
A player can click on a Zerg building and activate a Creep Casting spell. The player’s cursor would then turn into a circle. This is the paintbrush tool. With the paintbrush tool the player can paint over creep to endow it with special properties. Every spell has a specific paint brush diameter and a set amount of creep that can be painted over. Spells would disappear after a time period. Most creep spells would require the player to start the painting at the building and drag the paint where they want it.


Creep Casting encourages players to strategically place Zerg buildings on creep patches throughout the battlefield. Spew some creep with an overlord and throw down a creep tumor. Now build a building with a creep spell to cast that spell. Creep Casting also scales from the early to late game. The player gains access to more powerful spells as he moves up the tech tree. Additionally, as the game progresses the Zerg can cover more and more of the battlefield with creep. This adds to effectiveness of his creep spells.






Rapid Regeneration Spell
Visual Appearance: The creep pulses with green veins.

Paintbrush Parameters: Player activates the ability at an Evolution Chamber building and gets a medium paintbrush. He can drag this paintbrush from the Evolution chamber and over creep for a medium distance.

Effect on Creep: Zerg units and buildings get enhanced regeneration on painted creep.



Extend Creep Spell
Visual Appearance: Creep would move forward to cover land by latching out with more and more tendrils of creep. It would look like the symbiote (venom) in spiderman 3 when it was crawling around and enveloping people.

Paintbrush Parameters: Player activates the ability at a creep tumor and gets a large paintbrush. By dragging this off the creep tumor and over uncreeped land the player could spread creep for a medium distance.

Effect on Creep: New creep would function the same as regular creep. Creep would disappear after a while unless secured with creep tumors or hatcheries. Note that with the extend creep ability you can easily create a creep highway into an opponents base. This allows you to creep crawl your troops right to his front door. Additionally, it creates an avenue of creep to cast your creep spells down.



Sticky Creep Spell
Visual Appearance: Painted creep becomes brown like mud or quicksand.

Paintbrush Parameters: Player activates this ability at the Deep Warren and gets a small paintbrush. By dragging this off the Deep Warren they can paint creep a medium distance.

Effect on Creep: Enemy units on affected creep have slowed movement.



Darkswarm Spell
Visual Appearance: Millions of orange insects crawl out of the creep and swarm over the affected creep.

Paintbrush Parameters: Player activates this ability at the Infestor Pit and gets a medium paintbrush. By dragging this off the Infestor Pit they can paint creep for a medium distance.

Effect on Creep: Units in the Darkswarm take no damage from ranged attacks.



Boiling Creep Spell
Visual Appearance: Painted creep becomes red and inflamed. It begins to boil with heat waves rising up.

Paintbrush Parameters: Player activates this ability at the Ultralisk Cavern and gets a small paintbrush. By dragging this off the Ulralisk Cavern they can paint creep a small distance.

Effect on Creep: Enemy units on affected creep take damage over time.



Nydus Suction Spell
Visual Appearance: The creep would reach up and envelop zerg units. After completely enveloping them the creep would pull them directly into the ground. (Who remembers that bed sheet scene from The Grudge where she looks down and the thing grabs her and pulls her into the sheets. And then the sheets fall to the bed flat. Yah, just like that)

Paintbrush Parameters: Player activates the ability at a Nydus Network building and gets a large paintbrush. Player can paint creep over a large distance so they can select their whole army if desired.

Effect on Creep: Zerg units standing on painted creep would be pulled into the ground. The units would now appear in your nydus network. The player then clicks on any creep and the zerg units burst out of the creep at that location.







Pax
 

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Old 12-18-2008
 
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Lengthy but worthy :P

Looking at the Creep, these are some great ideas to make it a resource as in Blizzard's wish (and ours). In comparison of Creep Crawling to Creep Painting, the latter is unlikely to become implemented, not unless a caster unit is readily available for the task. I remember a similar idea of creep crawling, which worked exactly the same (except for speed) as Creep Crawling.

Out of curiosity, will making the Creep Tumor able to morph into the Nydus Worm increase Macro, even slightly? The Creep is capable of extending far beneath the ground and into the planet's crust, given enough time and sustenance. Why can't a creature be grown in that magnitude?


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Old 12-18-2008
 
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United States Nicol Bolas
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Quote:
With the nydus worm so high on the tech tree creep crawling affords an early form of transportation.
Except that the Nydus Network is a requirement for a Hive, which means that you will have had this long before you research "Creep Crawling".

Quote:
By burrowing, crawling and unburrowing drones can travel back and forth between minerals faster. This increases resource accessibility by granting a slight mineral and gas bonus to players who manually direct their drones.
Wow, that is easily the most ridiculous macro suggestion I've ever heard. You want people to micro their workers for each mineral/gas? I mean, do I have to point out how unfathomably stupid this is?

Quote:
Good Zerg players can get units to the front line faster by burrowing and crawling them.
Or just Nydus them over. Or use Overlords and drop some Mutant Larva, and build stuff anywhere on the map.

Quote:
Creep Casting encourages players to strategically place Zerg buildings on creep patches throughout the battlefield.
Which is easily the most stupid thing a player could ever do. Offensive Spawning Pools are far, far too big of a risk. The phrase "critical tech buildings" involves the word "critical" because that's what they are: critical! There is no advantage worth the likelihood of losing your Spire or Hydralisk Den.
 

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Old 12-19-2008
 
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Wow. Some pretty good ideas you got goin here. Big fan of creep abilities myself. The idea of zerg moving faster while burrowed on creep is pretty interesting gameplay wise, though awkward to imagine lorewise. I think it would be awesome if you had both faster movement on creep and creep crawling implemented in-game, but they were different tech options and you could only choose one of the two for the duration of that game. Then the player can sort of customize his playing style. Could make for some interesting match-ups. I am also of the mind that the Hive may be best suited to casting creep affects, given that it is the largest living organ in the zerg base and potentially the most powerful. It is also likely to be the most heavily protected. And it looks way to cool to not have some active ability IMO.
 

Last edited by Engage; 12-19-2008 at 01:30 AM.
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Old 12-19-2008
 
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Very good read; your essay definitely provides some excellent food for thought.

I'm really digging the Creep Crawling ability. It is awesome, and would really lend to the Zerg's frightening nature. I can't see Creep Casting being implemented for a couple reasons:
  • The paintbrush aspect takes longer for a user to use than a simple, targeted AoE spell.
  • A similar effect can be achieved with any AoE spell that can be chained via a unit's action queue.
  • It is doubtful that this mechanic alone validates implementing the brush system. Similar effects are probably best produced using the existing spell system.

I always enjoy reading your articles for their objective approach.
 
 

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Old 12-19-2008
 
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Lol
Nicol Bolas since when have you ever liked any of my ideas :-P


Hmmm creep tumor->nydus worm
You already have a bunch of creep tumors whereever you have creep so oh man thats actually a really good idea. It increases decision making and multitasking for tumor laying so yah it does increase macro!
 

Last edited by Archerofaiur; 12-19-2008 at 11:19 AM.

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Old 12-19-2008
 
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Disclaimer: I did not read anything but Nicol's post.

Yeah, the microing of the drones to gain minerals faster seems pretty ridiculously bulldonkulous.
 
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Old 12-19-2008
 
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Wow, man! Learn to resume!

I think that burrowed movement while on Creep is interesting, but probably not too usefull.

Painting the Creep doesn't look fun. I think it would be better to just make it like any AoE spell.

Nydus Suction is game-breaking. You can insta-teleport all your army there with it, and Creep cannot be destroyed fast.
 
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