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January 13, 2020

Survival mode

Survival mode

The purpose of this mode is to demonstrate how a survival mode could be implemented in the standard Co-op missions. In this mode, players have the option to continue playing Temple of the Past map after the regular part of the map is completed. Additional attack waves will spawn and provide increasingly difficult challenge until commanders inevitably fall. This is very much like the original campaign mission Last Stand where you have to lure as many hybrids on Shakuras as possible before overloading the Temple.

This mode is made to be optional, and to respect the standard mission flow and targeted 15–25 minute mission length. It's entirely up to players whether they want to continue playing this scenario, and so it wouldn't split playerbase by adding another matchmaking queue. The goal is for it to be fun for both casual and experienced players.

All enemy waves contain familiar units


  • Let players experience StarCraft II Co-op in a new way
  • Challenge players of all skill levels
  • Provide metrics that allow players to compare their performance
Enemy Motherships recalling offensively


  • Completely optional. The mission ends either when players choose to overload the Temple, or when the Temple sustains critical damage.
  • Additional waves spawn after the temple is successfully defended. Attack waves scale in power and eventually in frequency.
  • Stats of normal units don't scale up, instead the number of enemy heroic units is increased. Later enemy heroic units will spawn as their more powerful shadow variants.
  • Between each wave enemy race is randomized together with AI compositions, enemy heroic unit types and attack wave patterns.
  • Bonus objective for 2000 kills.
  • Solarite upgrades provide additional rewards as the game goes on.
  • Added "Fast Start" option that skips the regular part of the mission. With it, you can try out just the new survival part.
  • Statistics tracked between games:
    • Number of survived waves for each used commander
    • Total number of units killed
  • For solo play improved how resources are shared. Added UI to show ally's supply.
Temple Defense


As the game goes on, you will find that solarite crystals spawn around the map. By collecting them or completing bonus objectives you gain powerful solarite upgrades. Each time you can choose one from three available upgrades. There are eight different upgrades in total.

Why add solarite upgrades?

  • Encourages moving out on the map and engaging outside defenses.
  • Provides some sense of progression in the lategame, where many commanders are maxed and can't easily increase their power.
Collecting solarite
Choosing a solarite upgrade

How to play

Search for "[MM] Temple of the Past" on arcade. In the lobby leave settings as they are or change the difficulty (Brutal is default). After the map is loaded, select "Survival Mode" on the commander selection screen. Choose your commander and masteries.

In-game options - turning Survival Mode / Fast Start ON

Intended gameplay is to play regular mission first and then proceed to hold out as long as possible. "Fast Start" is an alternative mode where you skip the regular part of the mission. Players are given plenty of resources and temporary fast-build cheat to set up defenses quickly. Enemy waves start in 7 minutes. Abathur and Dehaka will also get a stockpile of Biomass and Essence. Mengsk will get additional experience he would have missed on otherwise.

The challenge is targeted for two players with maxed armies. There will be a lot of enemies.

Brutalisks attacking
Friendly units are being teleported off Shakuras as the temple is overloaded
The temple is overloaded and exploding

Going forward

I have chosen Temple of the Past mission because it thematically fits very well with the endless mode, but I also had to add some UI which is not ideal. Ideally, there would be some mechanic like delivering crystals on The Vermillion Problem. This would let players delay the end without any additional UI. However, in the case of Vermillion Problem, it doesn't make any sense to delay delivering crystals. An ideal map would be one with both theme and mechanics that make for a seamless transition between the regular part and the survival.

To spice up gameplay more, there could be additional activities encouraging players pushing forward and out of the safety of their own defenses (e.g. Nydus worms, more bonus objectives).

~ ~ ~

If this was in actual Co-op mode, it could provide some experience for staying alive. But the rate should be lower than for finishing another mission in the same amount of time. The highest number of waves survived could be added to leaderboards.

Mission score

Few more comments

What was done to keep decent performance?

  • Waves have a similar number of units as the last attack on the Temple of the Past.
    Additional difficulty is increased through heroic units and clearly visible buffs.
  • All unnecessary units that aren't part of attack waves or don't guard Solarite are despawned.
  • Straight paths between wave spawns and your defenses. There is no unnecessary complicated pathing similar to that on Dead of Night. However, paths could be wider.
  • Turned off unnecessary triggers, and further improved performance of my mod (mainly my bad scripting).
  • Prevented some strange behaviors of the game (progressively degrading performance from some static defenses).

Why no stat scaling for normal enemy units?

  • It's so units behave and interact in the same way. I don't want Zerglings with the same stats as Ultralisks. If something is dangerous, it should look dangerous.

Why use heroic units to scale difficulty?

  • Less performance hit
  • Tough units aren't completely negated by area-of-effect damage
  • More epic and visually clear
Shadow variants of enemy heroic units

Why only Co-op units?

  • Simplicity and keeping the same theme

Is the mode balanced?

  • No. Commanders have different strengths in the lategame. However, progress is tracked for each commander separately, and so you can try your best with the commander you choose.

Some afterthoughts


  • There should be some incentives for players to move outside of defenses. These can be either of negative consequences (Enemy Nydus Worms, Thrashers) or positive consequences (Solarite upgrades, etc.). A combination of both can work as well.
  • There should be meaningful choices made during the game. There shouldn't be an optimal build that you will just follow.
    • Choosing one out of few randomly presented Solarite upgrades accomplishes that well albeit a bit gamey
    • Some randomized events that change the situation long-term can work well (if players can react to them ← long enough scale, and if it's optimal for players to react to them)
  • The goal experience for players is for them to go into the match without knowing how it will turn out and what choices they will make.
    • In-game they are making tactical (short-term) and strategic decisions (long-term)
    • Gameplay is centered about building defenses, microing around those, and pushing into the enemy territory and falling back
    • Just watching battles can work, but it shouldn't be optimal way to play the game.

Wrap Up

I think this concept works pretty well. I could see it as an addition to some Co-op maps. With some more work it could be a good way to experience Co-op for players of any skill – players that look for a challenge or just want to see armies clash together.


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