Interview: Blizzard's Chris Sigaty on the future of Starcraft II

Rich McCormick: How did you come to the conclusion that units like Reapers needed altering in the patch?

Chris Sigaty: A lot of play, a lot of listening and discussions with high level players. We did get detailed data and numbers, but honestly on this first patch a lot of it was old school methodologies. We played a lot and tried to understand if those were complaints were real. People get very emotional about their particular race, you can see that coming through. People will make wild accusations and we just have to play to investigate. “Is the siege tank truly a problem? Yeah, it looks like it is - it's not horrible, it's just slightly off, so let's make these slight tweaks”. It depends on what our internal play experiences are like after we make those changes, and then finally zeroing in on what we want.

We have two extremely good players on the team and they play hundreds of matches and then relay various trends that seem to be forming. Every week you could watch and say “oh this is overpowered or underbalanced!”, and then the next week that was shifting to something else. So, making sure we weren't just jumping on the newest bandwagon, and investigating it, and then allowing those guys to get a true sense of it, discussing it with Dustin (Browder, lead designer and top player), and then working out how we can change it and not overreact.

Rich McCormick: What's the response been to the first patch?

Chris Sigaty: It's very early. Talking with the balance designers, they don't feel like there's any major emergency right now in the balance. But I know there's going to be additional changes that are going to become obvious for us internally over the next few weeks. They'll be included either in the next major patch - which will be 1.20. Even prior to that there will be balance tweaks.

Rich McCormick: What's your multiplayer team's focus now?

Chris Sigaty: Making sure we understand what's going on because there's a lot of noise. One example: we shared the top 200 players with the public recently, and because they weren't a lot of Zerg players in there. The immediate reaction was “Zerg are totally underpowered”. That's actually not the case based on what we see. As far as skill levels, there are differences in the balance numbers and percentages, but a lot of that is that we have fewer Zerg players overall. As a player, I avoid playing Zerg as much as possible, because I find them to be just more complex in general. Larvae management is harder for me to deal with, so I don't enjoy playing them as much that way. It's just a higher concept, I guess.

We're just making sure we're really paying close attention to noise, and working on our internal numbers and making sure that we're getting the right information back daily. It actually took us a while - when we first rolled out, we weren't able to keep up as fast as we were getting data. We've made some changes to the system now and are now able to see game information very accurately internally. The balance team is just concentrating on ensuring that they truly understand what's going on, then playing lots and lots of games.

Rich McCormick: Is there an ETA on the next major patch?

Chris Sigaty: No. I think internally we'd like something out before the end of the year, but I don't know that I can commit to that yet.

Rich McCormick: Have you seen any tactics that really surprised you?

Chris Sigaty: Constantly there's all sorts of very cool, really creative thinking going on. Once players get to the level where they're not thinking “how do I control that?”, or the basics of “how do I get my economy working properly?”, it really is phenomenal to watch. I just watched last night a game between two players that were at a high skill level. It was a Terran/Terran mirror match and one of the players went with an all Raven strategy. It was totally unexpected, but he gambled, he captured his natural and then he was able to protect any base we wanted by throwing down tons of turrets. Have you seen the match?

Rich McCormick: I haven't. I've read stuff about massing Ravens but besides using point defence drones a lot, I've never used them properly.

Chris Sigaty: He basically put no defences down. There were some arguments about how it could have been countered reasonably easily but both players were certainly very skilled. His opponent was was probably caught off guard and unable to critically think fast enough to counter, but it was a pretty long game - almost 30 minutes.

Rich McCormick: I saw a game the other day with a Zerg player that just pumped out Queens and Zerglings, covered most of the map with creep and Spine Crawlers, and penned in a Protoss force.

Chris Sigaty: I saw the same one! and it was actually really fun too because the Protoss player was turtling and he just said “screw that” and busted out. The Zerg used a tactic that the community can't decide is abuse or not - we're well aware of it - you can place a Hatchery down and cancel the Hatchery to gain creep expansion. It was an amazing game.