I’m brownbear. Today’s piece follows up on my review of the 2017 StarCraft II Design Patch.
In my review, I raised some concerns about the Shredder Missile. The Shredder Missile is a new area-of-effect ability on the Raven that reduces the armor of targeted and nearby units by 3. Now that I’ve had some time to test this change, I continue to be concerned by it. Furthermore, the developers’ decision to buff it in the latest update makes me think it’s likely to go into the production game. I’d like to explain my concerns in detail.
Terran Marines and Cyclones have very high damage-per-second. Both units feature the same design trade-off: they have a very high rate of fire and relatively low damage per hit. This means they are significantly affected by opposing units’ armor. Below I’ve provided a GIF comparing the Cyclone’s damage output with and without Guardian Shield (+2 armor):
Terran benefits substantially from low-armored enemies due to the presence of Marines in virtually every bio composition for virtually the entire game.
The Shredder Missile reduces the armor of targeted and nearby units by 3. As you might expect, this is really good for Marines. Below, I’ve provided a GIF:
This is only one example, and it features poor micro (though not kiting and/or focus firing made the no-shredder-missile scenario worse for me). Nonetheless, I think it’s a good demonstration of the Shredder Missile’s power. It enables marines to take a cost-efficient trade against a composition that would otherwise win easily.
StarCraft II is balanced around a high skill ceiling. Players are expected to improve their way out of bad situations rather than expect a balance patch from the designer. This is a good thing.
The power of the Shredder Missile will incentivize high-level players to use it in every late-game engagement. Eventually they’ll get very good at this; in combination with the strength of the ability, this will have a non-trivial effect on TvZ and TvP.
If we assume TvZ and TvP are already more-or-less balanced in the late-game, this buff to Terran will force the designers to buff Protoss and Zerg to compensate – either directly through stat adjustments or indirectly by adding new, complementary abilities. This will restore balance to the meta-game.
But I’d argue this introduces a design flaw. Late-game TvZ in 2016 was balanced around a similar concept, in that case proper control of Ghosts and Liberators. Many Terran players – as well as quite a few professionals – found this overwhelming, and instead viewed the match-up as being on a timer. The designers eventually relented and nerfed Ultralisk armor.
The new Shredder Missile works in a similar way; a finicky ability on a fragile, high-tech unit that is nonetheless game-changing and needs to be treated as a substantial force multiplier on the Terran army. I have no doubt it will eventually be balanced, but I don’t think it will be a positive change for the Terran gameplay experience.
- The Shredder Missile is a powerful ability.
- Late-game TvZ and TvP will eventually need to be balanced around its power.
- This is not a good thing for the player experience as evidenced by the dislike of the Ghost approach to balancing late-game TvZ.
I’d recommend removing it from the game. This would also be consistent with the design patch’s vision for smoothing out overall army control.
This is inherently a very subjective discussion, so I’d love to hear how other players feel as well. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you followed me on Twitter and Facebook and checked out my game-design focused YouTube and Twitch channels. All the best and see you next time.