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December 23, 2019

Brutal+ revisited

Brutal+ Revisited

This is an update for my previous Brutal+ Analysis as patch 4.11.3 rescaled Brutal+ difficulty. New parameters are in the following table. Experience rewards and Brutal+6 difficulty haven't changed.

Difficulty +XP% Max XP Min Points Max Points Mutators
Brutal     +100% 49.5k
Brutal+1 +175%
66.0k
4
6
2 – 3
Brutal+2 +200%
71.5k
7
8
2 – 3
Brutal+3 +225%
77.0k
9
10
2 – 3
Brutal+4 +250%
82.5k
11
12
2 – 3
Brutal+5 +275%
88.0k
15
16
2 – 4
Brutal+6 +300%
93.5k
19
20
2 – 4
(*Max XP calculated with a random map bonus and bonus objectives completed. No warchest, holiday or stimpack bonus.)


Now let's look at the chances of seeing an individual mutator or a particular number of mutators in each game. I generated half a million mutations for each difficulty this time.

There is a big change here, previously most Brutal+1 games had 4 mutators, now we have an equal number of mutators (2 or 3). And we can no longer see any mutators past Kill Bots since the difficulty is lower.

On Brutal+5 we begin to see four mutators. Void Rifts and Heroes from the Storm mutators start to be heavily favored.

Brutal+6 continues the same trend, we see more four-mutator games. Chances to get Void Rifts and Heroes from the Storm increased from 25% to 28.6% compared to the previous patch 4.11.2.

Commentary

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Brutal+1 is now accessible to more players, which is something I asked for. For more experienced players there are always additional difficulties.

The distribution of mutators for Brutal+1 is pretty uneven, and mutators on the same tier as Avenger have only ~0.9% chance of appearing, which is 10x less than the lowest tier of mutators. This could be improved with targeting more two-mutator games. That would lead to more even distribution and lower complexity (see my argument in the previous analysis).

If we compare Brutal+ to weekly mutations, now even easier mutations can be classified as Brutal+ games. Previously bottom third of mutations were too easy to be on Brutal+ scale.


It's shame that no rewards were added. I've created some nice concepts. However, this takes a lot more work from both artists and coders than just tweaking few numbers. So perhaps we will see this in the future. The same thing holds true for distinguishing Brutal+ on loading screens and in the match history.

~ ~ ~

Now, I thought it might be interesting to look at individual mutators and divide them into few categories. This is a bit subjective, everyone will have their own favorite and disliked mutators, but I tried to group them as it makes sense from the design perspective. After that, I will suggest few changes that could improve some of the mutators.

Good Mutators

These generally spawn move enemies or improve them. That enhances the basic structure and experience of playing Co-op. Some mutators like Eminent Domain add new mechanics.

  • Alien Incubation
  • Photon Overload
  • Eminent Domain
  • Evasive Maneuvers
  • Life Leech
  • Barrier
  • Darkness
  • Hardened Will
  • Scorched Earth
  • Inspiration
  • Speed Freaks
  • Long Range
  • Walking Infested
  • Aggressive Deployment   
  • Outbreak
  • Self Destruction
  • We Move Unseen
  • Magnificent
  • Avenger
  • Mutually Assured Destruction
  • Void Reanimators
  • Just Die!
  • Transmutation
  • Heroes from the Storm (despite bugs and inconsistent difficulty)
  • Void Rifts (even if it could be better with some tweaks)

Ok mutators

These do work, even if dynamics and experiences (aesthetics) they create aren't always the most interesting or enjoyable.

  • Purifier Beam
  • Laser Drill
  • Lava Burst
  • Diffusion
  • Missile Command
  • Double-edged
  • Orbital Strike
  • Minesweeper (some number tuning would help)
  • Propagators (very binary outcomes)
  • Moment of Silence (debuff but preventable with micro, and you don't lose all control)
  • Polarity (can be annoying or impossible with a random partner)
  • Power Overwhelming (too many spells that limits your control over your units)
  • Mineral Shields (annoying, but encourages and rewards good multitasking)
  • Going Nuclear (requires a lot of attention, and one mistake can lose you your army)


These two are almost in the next category:

  • Shortsighted
  • Slim Pickings (it's more on the annoying side because of how much multitasking it requires and how not enjoyable those tasks are).

Annoying mutators

Following mutators often limit your control over units. Most of them don't add a whole lot the game. Those that completely prevent or punish control over your units (Fatal Attraction or Micro Transaction) undermine the core experience of playing StarCraft.

  • Fatal Attraction
  • Fear
  • Concussive Attacks
  • Blizzard
  • Twister
  • Temporal Field
  • Time Warp


Possibly remove from Brutal+:

  • Black Death
  • Kill Bots

    Both of these mutators have a similar problem. Some commanders have no answers to them while other commanders don't care much. They also don't add anything interesting apart from players adjusting their initial strategy. After that, dealing with for example Kill Bots is just busywork.


Remove from Brutal+:

  • Micro Transactions

    This mutator can be interesting strategically, but even then, playing it once is often enough. It might be better to leave it for weekly mutations with curated challenge, one-time rewards and ability to select commanders. The same argument could be made for Black Death and Kill Bots, as those are more strategically interesting mutators as well, and don't bring much to the game itself.

Mutator tweaks

1. Fatal Attraction
Not disabling abilities and not making affected units uncommandable would improve this mutator significantly. It breaks all active and queued orders, so one enemy unit can stop your whole mineral line from mining. With this change you also no longer have to spam commands, hoping that one will go through, and the unit will use the ability you want. (I recommend using rapid-fire hotkey setup for the current version.)


    <CBehaviorBuff id="MutatorDeathPullModifySpeed">
        <Modification>
            <ModifyFlags index="DisableAbils" value="0"/>
            <StateFlags index="Uncommandable" value="0"/>
        </Modification>
    </CBehaviorBuff>


Reduce Fatal Attraction search radius 9 → 6. This adds some counterplay with long-range units.

    <CEffectEnumArea id="MutatorDeathPullSearch">
        <AreaArray index="0" Radius="6" Effect="MutatorDeathPullSet"/>
    </CEffectEnumArea>
    <CEffectEnumArea id="MutatorDeathPullSearchStrong">
        <AreaArray index="0" Radius="6" Effect="MutatorDeathPullSetStrong"/>
    </CEffectEnumArea>
    <CEffectEnumArea id="MutatorDeathPullSearchWeak">
        <AreaArray index="0" Radius="6" Effect="MutatorDeathPullSetWeak"/>
    </CEffectEnumArea>


2. Concussive Attacks
Reduce duration of the debuff from 60s to 20s. Slow during battles is fine, but crawling between fights isn't fun.

3. Minesweeper
Enemy mines dealing less damage would make it less punishing and consistent. Currently, all mines deal roughly twice the damage than ladder counterparts, and have twice as much life (info).

4. Power Overwhelming
There are a bit too many spells that reduce control over your units (Graviton Beam, Vortex, Fungal Growth and Time Warp). Some could be replaced with other spells – Spawn Aberration (Blightbringer), Spawn Autoturret (Raven, Sirius), Anti-Armor Missile (Raven), Infest Structure (Stukov), Destruction Wave (Alarak), etc.

5. Void Rifts
They could hit a bit later, perhaps 3:30 instead of 2:20. This gives commanders more time to prepare and reduce randomness. There could be a cap on the maximum number of rifts that increases as the game goes on. This is to prevent the game from spiraling out of control easily.

6. Propagators
I already wrote about the design of this mutator more than 2 years ago. One idea is that they would have a normal attack and could close the distance to your units more easily. Their propagate ability would have a significant cooldown and coolup, so the outcome is less binary (did they get close or not?). Alternatively, they could be stunned for a few seconds after they propagate with again some buff to compensate.

7. Slim Pickings
There likely exist a better ways of doing this – less but more rich collectible resources, or very rich but guarded resources.

8. Kill Bots
Elyssaen has suggested a rework in which Kill Bots gain more points from kills of units that have higher HP, supply or cost (e.g., Kill Bots can kill either 10 marines or ~4 marauders). That would make it more balanced between commanders. The way they target units could be also improved.

Bugs

There are some bugs that could be fixed. These are the main ones for me.

  • Heroes from the Storm doesn't work at all on some maps (Miner Evacuation, Scythe of Amon), or appear in only some waves (Vermillion Problem, Part and Parcel). This is tied to air waves or waves spawned in transports.
  • Void Rift icons can still behave strangely (you can find them in many colors and shapes: red, white, small, medium, big, huge). (image credit to Kaitou HAX)

  • Temple on Temple of the Past map could use safe zones around it - video
  • Going Nuclear still hits workers on some maps (e.g., Oblivion Express top main base).


If you got all the way here, thank you for reading. Brutal+ can be a lot of fun, but there are always small things to improve.

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