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Creating new mutators

This post looks at additional features present on my maps that emulate StarCraft II Co-op maps. This includes several custom made mutators, feature prototypes, and many useful commands for testing. I would like to thank Terin for modifying and managing custom co-op mod.

New Mutators

Mutators are special modifications that bring additional challenge and variety to existing Co-op missions. Currently, there are 61 mutators. I wanted to try creating some new ones. I took few ideas—some of them inspired by player suggestions in this battlenet thread—improved and implemented them. What I got is 16 mutators working the same way as Blizzard's own.

Creating mutators is fun because it's a combination of game design, programming, art, and QA. They are small enough projects that I can finish in a reasonable time. And they can be combined with other mutators, maps and commanders to provide a huge variety of gameplay scenarios.

 Shapeshifters Shapeshifters spawn with enemy attacks and in enemy bases. These creatures can transform into any unit of yours.
 THE USUAL SUSPECTS Enemy attacks will be led by dark reflections of Heroes in the service of Amon
 Endurance Player and enemy units and structures have 3x more health and shields.
 Bloodlust Enemy units gain increased attack speed, movement speed, acceleration and damage reduction as their health gets lower.
 Level Playing Field All weapons and abilities can hit both air and ground targets.
 Great Wall Enemy begins massive effort to construct defensive structures around the battlefield.
 Infestation Station Damaging any structure can cause infestation.
 Dark Mirror Enemy attack waves will contain player units.
 Supreme Commander Massive units gain 25% life and are bigger, the rest of units have 25% less life and are smaller. All units gain +2 weapon range.
 Matryoshka Enemy units will spawn mini-self upon death. This can trigger several times for larger units.
 Necronomicon Killed player units will rise again at enemy bases.
 Nuclear Mines Nuclear Mines have been placed around the battlefield.
 Rip Field Generators Rip-Field Generators are deployed throughout the map. They will burn any unit that comes into their range.
 Repulsive Field Enemy attacks will push your units away.
 I Collect, I Change When a non-heroic unit kills a hostile unit, it becomes the unit it killed. Units can only evolve into more expensive units.
 Mothership Enemy Mothership roams the map and attacks player units.
 The Mist Mists roll over battlefield while unseen terrors lurk inside. Desperate warriors will fall and rise again.
Custom made mutators
Additional features

My maps include other features apart from mutators. For example with "-bile" command Zagara's Bile Launchers will take advantage of smart-casting. "-unload" command adds a button to Nydus Worms to unload only heroic units. And other UI changes.

Score
Custom after-game statistics
New commander-select screen

BlizzCon 2016 Challenge with mutators being progressively added is recreated and added as well. It can be selected in the commander selection screen from a list of challenges.

30 sec - Purifier Beam
3 min - Power Overwhelming
5 min - Speed Freaks
7 min - Alien Incubation
10 min - Blizzard
13 min - Missile Command
15 min - Avenger
18 min - Void Rifts
21 min - Polarity
24 min - Going Nuclear

BlizzCon 2016 Challenge (Fentanest, Terrazine)
Another feature is improved Tychus' Top Bar that allows for changing the order of Outlaws. Normally hotkeys for Tychus' Outlaw change each game depending on the order in which you purchased outlaws. With this players can change them and play with the hotkey setup they are the most familiar with. This UI becomes available after typing "-tychui" in the chat.

Tychus' UI that allows for changing the order of Outlaws
Tychus' UI in action (-tychui)
How to play
The easiest way is to search for "[MM]" on arcade (now in all regions). Maps are separate for each enemy race – for example "[MM] Mist Opportunities - Terran".

Difficulty

For Brutal difficulty leave settings as they are in the lobby. For lower difficulties lower AI difficulty:

Desired Co-op difficulty Difficulty to set
Brutal Hard (default)
Hard Medium
Normal Easy
Casual Very Easy


Observing

Observing isn't natively supported. However, there is a good workaround for it. You create the game and leave. After that you can use "recover game" function, or "watch replay with others" and "take command". Recovering even few second-long replay will enable observers into the game. All you need is a short replay prepared.

In-game command examples
Additional commands are available in the maps. Writing "-info" in the chat will show all available commands. They can be very useful for various testing or just for messing around. Here are few examples:


Damage & healing logging (-log)
Various graphs (-garmy, -gincome, -gkills, -gapm, -glost)
Visualization of possible Zeratul's Artifact spawns (-artspawn & -cam & -ui)
  Custom score screen with kill graph and damage pie charts (-pie)
Damage & healing numbers (-numbers)
Damage per second counter (-dps)
Dummy for counting total damage per second (-dummy)
Calculating resource and supply cost (-cost)
Spawning units on the battlefield (-spawn)
Hidden game UI, map vision and full camera control (-ui & -vision & -cam)
Hidden game UI, map vision and full camera control (-ui & -vision & -cam)
Memes are of course supported as well (-memes)

All currently available commands are here.

Complexity and challenge
Blizzard's design direction regarding mutators has been that each mutator has to provide additional challenge for players. There are only few exceptions—holiday mutators and occasionally Slim Pickings or Eminent Domain. It's a good rule. Each mutator adds additional complexity to the game. Complexity is a cost of implementing things into the game and should be minimized—as opposed to depth which desirable. Too many mutators that don't add challenge and missions will become confusing and hard to make sense of without actually being challenging.
I have few mutators that don't increase difficulty, and so these mutators have to be paired with ones that do. This limits the number of possible combinations for mutations, but it's not a big issue as long as there are not too many of them. With mutators like Level Playing Field, players can discover new strategies and feel good about it. After all, changing the way the game is played is the most important role of mutators.

Endurance is another mutator that is not strictly in Amon's favor. However, in some timed missions longer fights can be to player's detriment. And on maps like Oblivion Express it could prove to be extremely challenging. Change in gameplay comes from more focus on sustained damage and less on burst and spells. Players also have to take into consideration more time spent in combat when planning army movements. Combat engagements take on a different feel and provide more options for micromanagement.
Level Playing Field – Do Zerglings counter Carriers?

More comments on mutators
Infestation Station makes pushing harder and makes commanders' static defense worse. It has good synergy with mutators like Transmutation, Avenger, Barrier and Great Wall.
I see Nuclear Mines as a good alternative to Going Nuclear. It demands micromanagement and careful progress through the map, however, it's not as punishing as Going Nuclear and doesn't require constant attention. The advantage of Going Nuclear is that it's a lot more impactful on maps like Oblivion Express. Some maps just don't synergize with certain mutators. A good example is Temple of the Past and many environmental mutators that don't really do anything on it.
There is a small delay before explosion which gives players a room to micro units back. The main synergy is with mutators like Shortsighted or Darkness.
Nuclear Mines
Necronomicon (killed player units spawn for enemy) and Dark Mirror (enemy attack waves contain player units) are particularly interesting as players can fight against units similar to their own. Necronomicon additionally encourages losing fewer units.
Creating the Dark Mirror mutator was the hardest part since it completely replaces standard attack waves. As I mentioned in my post about modularity, having all attack waves easily accessible in the same way for each map would help a lot. I had to hunt down all the ways attack waves are spawned and workarounds are not always elegant.
Dark Mirror – Highlord vs Highlord
Supreme Commander (adds range and changes unit health and sizes) is an interesting mutator, but I don't think it fully captures the fantasy of its namesake. Ideally, it would double the number of produced units, however, StarCraft 2 engine is already at its limits with current numbers.
Supreme Commander
Great Wall (enemy builds a lot of static defenses) encourages using long-ranged units and focus on more sustained damage. Careful and methodical progress through the map is preferred. This mutator might be one of the best. It fulfills what players desire—additional challenge that's fair and such that they can fight on their own term.
Rip-Field Generators encourage more strategic planning and player cooperation. They are significantly more effective against small units. This mutator has good synergy with Great Wall, Fear or Concussive Attacks.
Rip-Field Generators & Great Wall
With Repulsive Field (player units are pushed away by enemy attacks), I went through several iterations—both attacker and target switching places, attacker pulling the target or being pulled itself. Eventually, I decided on this version. It mostly leaves control over units to players. I didn't want it to be like Fatal Attraction which takes control from players without good options to prevent it.
I Collect, I Change (any unit will evolve into a unit it killed if it's better) is a very funny mutator. It's also very hard to balance right. Currently, it strongly favors commander players over Amon. That's not ideal, and I hope to improve it in the future.


Mothership — Time Bomb
Mothership is one of the last custom-made mutators. It's similar to Purifier Beam—Mothership roams the map and targets players units and structures. Additional Motherships spawn later in the game. Mothership has several abilities—Time Bomb, Vortex and Planet Cracker. If a Mothership is critically damaged, it will teleport back and heal. This provides the choice whether to fight it or avoid it.


Mothership — Vortex & Time Bomb & Planet Cracker
The Mist is the most recent addition among mutators. It's meant to be slightly horror-themed. Mists are randomly placed around the battlefield. Units inside mists have reduced vision, and a Shadow Terror occasionally spawns inside—just to disappear shortly afterwards. Player units that died inside mists will be brought back with reduced health and will fight for the enemy.
Encroaching Mist
This mutator encourages careful positioning and choosing where to take engagements. But it doesn't require constant attention and micro-management as Going Nuclear or Blizzard mutators.


Engaging into the Mist
Contact me if you encounter any bugs, there will still be many of them. Special thanks to Terin for making Co-op maps work on arcade, Comfr and Aommaster for playtesting and of course to Blizzard's StarCraft team.

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