Achieving Balance on an Uneven Scale

The statements below are almost indisputably factual, and I am confident that 95% of professional players would agree with them.

Bunker time needs to be increased to at least 40 seconds. Siege tanks should be able to “overkill” units, rather than smart-targeting other units and not wasting shots. Siege tank range should be nerfed by at least 3. Marine build time needs to be increased at least 5 seconds. Colossus need to lose the range upgrade. Forcefield should cost 125 energy per sentry. Protoss should not be able to warp in away from their base.

These statements seem pretty radical, but how else can Zerg possibly win the game? Marine rushes are unstoppable. 4gate is impossible to stop. The game is flawed and unbalanced on so many levels that it makes playing Zerg a joke.


Do these argument seem relatively unreasonable? Not as unreasonable as you may think. In fact, these statements are perfectly reasonable, provided that our map pool is Steppes of War, Kulas Ravine, Delta Quadrant and Lost Temple.

One thing that people seem to forget sometimes when speaking about Starcraft 2 balance is that a lot of the progress we’ve made in arriving at this relatively balanced point in the game has come from a better map pool. Close positions have been stricken from all but blizzard maps. The absurdly small maps no longer find themselves deciding tournaments. Rocky thirds that only hurt Zerg are gone. Open naturals that make it impossible for Protoss to safely expand are unwelcome.

Starcraft 2 can be an entirely different game based upon what the current map pool is. It can be incredibly unforgiving to certain races (Zerg and Protoss are the two that are most affected by the map pool), or it can provide countless entertaining and closely-matched games. Even though people might not talk about it anymore, a lot of people would agree with these points, especially members of the mapmaking community (I’m looking at you, ESV.Diamond).

So why do I bother bringing it up?

Heart of the Swarm is currently being balanced on maps that would be laughed out of the Wings of Liberty community.

Let’s go over just a few of the basic problems with these maps.

Akilon Wastes

This is the only moderately balanced map in the map pool.

Howling Peak

The natural has two entrances. This makes walling off or defending Zerg all-ins as Protoss disproportionately harder than any other map in the pool.

Fractured Glacier

Rocks in front of the natural favors two base play. Chance for close position spawns absolutely ruins some matchups. Gold base favors T in TvZ, and Z in ZvP.

Star Nation

Third base is incredibly exposed, making it very hard for Protoss to defend Z all-ins. Close spawns (horizontally) destroys some matchups.

Korhal City

Internal natural expansion make defending as Protoss and Terran incredibly easy, makes for much greedier play than ordinary. Large ramp makes for boring ZvZs as ling/baneling becomes incredibly powerful (remember ZvZ on Tal’Darim altar?)

Obviously we don’t expect Blizzard to make perfect maps, and we know that once HotS is released the community will be releasing maps that are much more suitable for tournament play, but the main problem is that Blizzard is trying to achieve balance through patching on fundamentally bad maps.

No one wants to play a SC2 where Zerg is strong enough to hold off all-ins in close position, because that would make them absurdly powerful in far positions. If Protoss are able to cover open naturals and open thirds in close positions, imagine the impossibility of destroying them in far positions. The only way to balance races on such broken maps is to essentially make them “too powerful” for more conventional maps.

I really, truly hope that Blizzard doesn’t make any more significant patches to HotS without importing some maps from WoL, or at least inviting members of the mapmaking community to create some new maps for HotS. It’s impossible to know how good Swarm Hosts, Reapers, or the Mothership Core actually are without seeing them on maps that don’t grossly favor certain races in certain positions.


40 Responses

  1. Piggy says:

    Agree 100% with this. I wonder why blizzard isn’t more more accepting of community maps (which generally are a lot better balanced)

  2. vurt says:

    So why are Korean and European Zergs shitting on everything and everyone. Must have something to do with skill.

  3. Shogeki says:

    This is insightful commentary on better balancing the game. I hope it is getting posted or linked to on the HotS beta forums, where balance designers read and comment on player feedback.

  4. yep says:

    100% true, I mean, it’d be like playing BW on blood bath and other really shitty maps.

    This seems like common sense, so why do they, Activision, continue to do stupid shit?

  5. IBeta says:

    Yup. At least you know how to balance the game. Probably should give david kim the boot and give you his job.. if it pays higher than streaming =).

  6. qwert7744 says:

    1.Protoss should not be able to warp in away from their base.
    2.Siege tank range should be nerfed by at least three range
    3.Colossus need to lose the range upgrade.
    –Are you sure 95% of all pros would agree with these 3? As for the forcefield energy, 100 is a lot more reasonable.

  7. Reaper says:

    Not one nerf to zerg mentioned, surprising. Very hard to take you seriously after the first paragraph of changes.

    The maps are bad but that’s why it’s a beta and they’re able to simply remove maps from ladder play.

    Sorry the game isn’t easy-mode for your race – enjoy the queendralisks and stfu.

    • m says:

      The reading comprehension from some of you guys is appalling. :(

      • Reaper says:

        I read the whole arcticle.

        As I stated they would balance the maps out eventually, rendering such drastic and game breaking changes useless.

        You’re simply reading what you want to read, which says what about your “reading comprehension”?

        • Slightlyoff says:

          You’re comprehension is still terrible apparently.

          He’s not suggesting any of these changes happen. THEY ARE EXAMPLES.

          He’s saying that you can’t balance the new units and races properly by using unbalanced maps.

          Maps affect balance. This is FACT. You can’t argue with this. By making balance changes in the beta on maps that are imbalanced, you are asking for problems when you release them on balanced maps because certain things will be weak or strong.

          The only thing he suggests genuinely in the post is to add WoL maps that are generally accepted as balanced maps for the testing.

        • VEGETABLE says:

          LOL you must be fucking retarded, I see no other excuse for arguing that “they would balance the maps out eventually” when the entire point of the article is that there’s no point trying to balance a game on maps that don’t work.

          Please, just stay off the internet, you can’t handle it apparently.

    • Slightlyoff says:

      @Reaper and Qwert

      Did you guys even read the post below the line?

      If you did you might have understood that these were extreme changes that were suggested for the game when it was in WoL beta and the maps sucked.

      He was using these as an example to then talk about the maps in HotS and why it’s dumb to balance around the current map pool.

  8. Sandejj says:

    Very good point. Balancing on unbalanced maps is pointless. HotS won’t really be tournament ready for atleast 6 months after release (when real maps begin to get on the ladder and become standard). Oh and damn, some of the comments here are really retarded o_O

  9. Stormraught says:

    Honestly steven has brought up the most important point. The balancing that is happening is going according to maps that mirror terrible maps we saw at the start of wings of liberty. If blizzard wants to make a great attempt at judging unit balance they should be using league accepted maps. I know its a shame that ye ol’ snow tiles wont be seen, but its for the greater good.

  10. Rippou says:

    Why do people feel obliged to comment on things that they didn’t read thoroughly?

  11. Superman says:

    The fact that so many of you idiots commenting can’t read actually hurts my brain. Fucking stop it.

    @Destiny, agreed. In some respect I think Blizzard realises this aswell. Why else would they wait so long to fix OL-scouting and other things?

    I wish Blizz would be more like Riot, maybe then we could have a ladder map pool completely made up of community made maps all the time.

    Surely David Kim must simply let his 9 year-old make them in his spare time? Idk.

  12. John says:

    Those nerfs would make it impossible for Protoss to even play the game lol.

    If warp ins away from base are changed… then are they switching the gates to open to close the whole game? so they can build out of them or can they do both all the time?

    That would mean lower build times cause it would be..once again… impossible if they are the same.

    Zerg and Terran have consistently had an edge on Protoss so why are there ANY nerfs going that way?

    Colossus might need fixed, but not nerfed. Protoss is broken cause there is only one way to play them.

    • …. why is it, that reading, something that is litterally (some might argue) a gift from the GODS, a proof of human intelligence, go unnoticed in an RTS forum? (real time strategy, you cant be dumb and play these games well, apparently) but OH how wrong am I … some of you STILL boast about the IMBALANCED and RIDDICULOUS CHANGES TO HOTS THAT DESTINY SUGGESTS

      and that is where you stop, you do not bother to read the following paragraph :Do these argument seem relatively unreasonable? Not as unreasonable as you may think. In fact, these statements are perfectly reasonable, provided that our map pool is Steppes of War, Kulas Ravine, Delta Quadrant and Lost Temple. I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE TERRIBLE SCHOOLS, AMERICA, BUT COME ON.


  13. David says:

    I generally agree with this, however, I must make a point that is missing. Having a map pool that allows for different kinds of play to emerge makes for a very interesting game. Having all the maps act the exact same way makes for a game that becomes stagnant very quickly. What if the only map we could play on in WoL was daybreak? Would the game still be balanced? Sure it would, but it would be very boring. The same logic could be applied to HOTS as well. Should all the maps behave like WoL? In my opinion, they shouldn’t. We should have different maps that force players to create different strategies and that can create a different experience than WoL.

  14. Torrasque says:

    My only problem with this, is your intro paragraph. When considering your whole post, it is perfect. But when I read it, I wanted to stop reading right away and say “ok, clearly Destiny has no idea what the fuck he is talking about”. What made me keep reading, is the fact that I knew you had a point to all of this, a point to starting off with such ridiculous statements, and that you actually tend to know what you are talking about.

    You are of course 100% right, the map pool needs to be changed. The problems facing the HotS beta right now is two-fold. Players are getting used to new units and new strategies, as well as getting used to new maps. Ask any pro (something I am not), it takes many many plays on a new map to get a feel for it, and many more to get comfortable with it and make builds for it. Because of this, it is damn near impossible to find a balance for new units. The existing map pool is a collection of scales that have been tried and tested thousands upon thousands of times, but these HotS maps are a mysterious motley of strange scales that are hard to figure out.

    Since Blizzard aims to balance the units, and not new maps, they should test HotS on existing maps that players already know.

    • Torrasque says:

      Oh, and I forgot to add:

      Maybe adding a few maps that people are used to, would make things better. That, or adding a few of the new maps to the existing map pool.
      I still think it would be better for Blizzard to test new units on old maps, but its up to them /shrug

  15. LOLTHESEGUYS says:

    I find it funny that pretty much everyone who failed to read the entire post or simply failed to understand it, plays protoss haha

    Destiny, you make a very good point. I’m really surprised that blizzard hasn’t considered this, seeing as they seem to be stuck for ideas right now. Maybe they think their maps are balanced??

  16. destiny sucks cock says:

    cry more rager, everybody knows ur a piece of shit, stop playing ur overpowered race and acting like u actual have a clue about balance fukn scrub

  17. Wolk says:

    I don’t think you should nerf map control units (Siege tanks, sentries, etc..)
    The problem lies in maps. The maps are way too small and the view is too close to the ground. I think maps should be more opened (also a bit larger) and have less chokes, like in bw, and with that you’d also have small fights all over the map all of the time, i’d be way more fun and you couldn’t turtle in like you do now (which is fucking boring, you wait 20 minutes, then mash two giant armies and then the game is over).

    Agree? yes?

  18. hiamacow says:

    Broodlords need to be 8 supply and mutas should have their damage reduced by 4.

    Roaches need their damage reduced by 2.

    i can play that game too.

    • Roland says:

      Is reading really so hard? “In fact, these statements are perfectly reasonable, provided that our map pool is Steppes of War, Kulas Ravine, Delta Quadrant and Lost Temple.” In the current WoL map pool these changes would make Zerg WAY overpowered, but on those maps it would make the game pretty balanced. The idea is that you cannot balance the game based on bad maps. Those changes listed in the first paragraph are changes that would be needed on bad maps.

  19. Niaz says:

    “Gold base favors T in TvZ, and Z in ZvP.”

    Im pretty sure mules mine the same amount on blue and gold minerals so shouldnt it be the same for all races?

    • Jim says:

      Its not an issue of mining rate, its an issue of mineral usage. Terrans have the best mineral-heavy units (hello M&M), followed by Zerg (ling roach). Protoss, meanwhile, has zealots which are nearly useless in a lot of mid to late game situations, and certainly are not as effective as M&M or ling roach.

      For this reason, you do not see pro Protosses jumping on tough to defend gold bases nearly as often as Terrans or Zergs.

  20. KrK says:

    I don’t see how anyone can disagree with this.

    Part of the beta should be critiquing the map pool.

    Thumbs Up.

  21. DestinyFan says:

    I never thought about the maps when it comes to balancing issues. Now that I think of it and after the read I found how important it is that the map is balanced too.

    Maps that give advantage to a certain race, then bitching about the unit that is best suited for taking advantage of the issue will eventually get that unit nerfed, only so that when maps that make sense from a balance standpoint come out from the community the units turn out to be shit and useless.

  22. MADSAF says:

    While your approach to this article was clever, it actually got me going, “what, are you serious?” in the opener. Your approach caters to clever readers, yet it leaves us doing a double take from the beginning.

    Your points are all rock solid, Steve, but you need to be less inflammatory. I’m sure you can see that half your readers just couldn’t follow.

  23. Billiam says:

    This really sounds more like a Zerg QQ thread, get good, learn to scout pylons, and grow a pair ya’ big bitch, if we can’t warp away, your supply needs to be rooted, your macro method of injects should then match every other race, zerg shouldn’t be able to spread creeps, brood lords need not to exist, anymore questions? No?
    Okay good, go practice children.

  24. RarelyComments says:

    For those of you that don’t understand what he wrote:

    His point was never, nerf terran here and protoss there and thus the game will be balanced for zerg.

    It was:

    You can’t balance the game around a bad playing field and then CHANGE the playing field to a more appropriate one suddenly to realize your new rules don’t apply anymore.

    It’s like playing football on a field with a hill in the middle and rocks at both sides of it.

    That shit ain’t gonna fly.

    But before you make that logical jump you already balanced football so it works with a hill in it that’s surrounded by rocks.

    This is something that might happen to HOTS if they don’t change the map pool.

    Was this really so hard to understand?

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