Heart of the Swarm devs on multiplayer: "Nobody is close to figuring the game out yet."

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is still fresh off of the oozing, globular presses, and its community is still in a state of contention over the new units and the metagame still taking shape around them. A lot of the current concern is surrounding the new booster ability for Terran Medivacs, which allowed some relatively unknown players to defeat legendary Zerg players like Leenock in decisive fashion. Many have taken up the cry of "Nerf! Nerf! Nerf!" Blizzard, however, thinks the problem lies in the newness of the expansion more than the Medivac or another unit being overpowered.

In a post on the official forums, dev poster Dayvie laid out a list of the main issues the team sees as affecting the metagame right now:

  • The super aggressive play is turning out to be really fun to watch.
  • Nobody is close to figuring the game out yet.
  • A few players are really changing up their play and having completely different results than what's expected by the majority.
  • Some of the initial balance concerns do seem to be continuing in games whereas the more creative players aren't struggling as much against them.

That last bullet point was illustrated beautifully at this weekend's MLG Winter Championships. In a bracket full of Terran upsets over Zerg and Protoss favorites, Zerg Player Life, of Team StarTale, fought his way to the final match. He was up against KT Rolster's Flash, the "God of Brood War," and probably the most skilled Terran in the tournament. Up against the same "overpowered" strategies that had defeated his swarm brethren, Life beat Flash 4-2, calling into question whether the Terran success early in the tournament was a game balance issue, or mainly one of a metagame that hasn't learned to deal with the expansion's new mechanics yet.

Dayvie concluded with a short outline of where efforts are being directed from here:

  • We'll try our best to not be too quick to make judgments on things that are allowing players to play a much more aggressive game. For example, yes Medivacs look strong but it's forcing even the opponents to play aggressive and the constant action throughout the game is looking to be really fun to watch.
  • We'll continue watching all the pro and community concerns, but keep in mind we'd really like the game to settle before we step in and make a move.

This seems like a good decision to me. In an asymmetrical, competitive game like StarCraft II, the metagame is everything. Reactionary balance patches can quickly lead to a spiral of buffs and nerfs trying to fix what isn't actually broken. Only when one race has a clear advantage that can't be overcome by the kind of creative, exciting play we saw from Life at MLG do big changes need to happen.