Concept: Warcraft Co-op
Starting as one of Blizzard flagship IPs and games, Starcraft series lost player interest over time due to a number of reasons (I actually started writing but realized it’d require a whole new article) and ended up being a niche. During this “fall”, the Starcraft team came up with an interesting idea: Coop Mode. The idea I guess was to attract players who like Starcraft, but not necessarily want to invest in the multiplayer experience, which is hardcore by nature. After many updates and additions, coop mode today allows two players to pick a commander between 18 different options and play on one of the 15 maps that mimic the gimmicks of some SC2 campaign maps (such as Dead of Night, where you attack the infested by day and defend against them by night) with 4 main difficulties, plus “mutations” that bring added surprise challenges (such as enemies reviving once after they are killed, or random nukes falling down on the map constantly) that can crank the difficulty up by additional 6 levels. The commanders are the most interesting part. Some are pretty traditional, like Raynor, who feels more or less like playing the WoL campaign while Tychus has literally no army: He leads the Heaven’s Devils and you pick 5 mercs out of 8 options each game. You can learn more about SC2 Coop here, but I’d just recommend playing it.
With that background information for those unfamiliar with it, I guess you see where I’m going for this. I asked myself why we don’t have a Warcraft version of this and if we did, how it would be. I’m going to share a series of articles on this and I hope Blizzard does it. Funnily enough, while I’ve been working on these on the side the last few weeks just this week some data miners said they found an overlay that talks about Grommash as a commander. Is it a tease? Is it a cancelled event? Is it about adding warcraft commanders to SC2 coop? Is it a new Warcraft mode? I mean, we do have Warcraft models in SC2, but then again W3 Reforged was released recently as well. I don’t know the answer to that, so without further ado, I’ll just share my own musings with you.
There are two main questions to answer for Warcraft Coop. Gameplay concept and Story concept. I guess Blizzard needs to think about monetization as well, but we won’t do that now (do what you did with Sc2 but add non-chest boosts and skins, Blizz.)
Let’s start with the gameplay. The premise of co-op overall would stay: Pick a commander/faction, you have a bunch of maps with gimmicks and you can face one of the races with different unit setups. However, the actual gameplay needs to be discussed as Warcraft 3 is very different from Starcraft 2.
In SC2 you have big armies, 200 supply limit with a lot of 1 or 2 supply units (even half in some cases) and a big focus on macro. This macro focus is also important since you lose units very easily: A marine or zergling will die in one or two hits from almost anything and majority of units will be destroyed in seconds when they meet their counters. SC2CO keeps the supply limit and army sizes along with unit squishy-ness but it introduces different supply sizes and more importantly, macro is made easier. There is 1 Exp per map, that’s all and while there are attacks on your base, you mostly spend your time outside. Once you finish the initial setup, you only come back for building units and upgrades. Most of the time you defend base attacks before they make it in. Another important difference are the special units. Several commanders can deploy themselves or others on the field, serving as “hero units”, some of which can handle the job of multiple units while others are as strong as an army themselves.
Warcraft 3 itself was already different. It had 100 supply limit with almost no units at 1 supply. More importantly, you hit upkeep limits at 40 and 80, meaning you gain reduced resources after 40 limit and severely reduced resources after 80 limit which you don’t want to stay for long periods. This means that you are commanding probably around one-quarter of units compared to Sc2. Another major difference is that Warcraft units almost never died fast. With some super squishy exceptions like the night elven archer, the units were tough enough to survive for a while, even longer when not countered properly, which also gave them time to use their abilities and spells. I saved the most important to the last: Warcraft 3 had heroes that had powerful abilities and even more powerful ultimates, carried items and gained experience to level up. Oh, I almost forgot something very important: Creeps. W3 maps had passive monsters that you could start fights with to gain experience and items.
So when we move to W3CO, what do we keep? What do we change? Here is what I think:
- Heroes should exist, but without any standards: One commander might have a single, very strong hero while the other one have 5 heroes that are less powerful and maybe they don’t carry items! There might be a commander without them too, but that should be part of their gimmick.
- Items should exist, but we don’t want to see a random weapon or armour in the hands of a hero with iconic items, such as the Doomhammer for Thrall or the Frostmourne and Lich King’s armour for Arthas. To that extent, I think 8 slots in total might be good: 2 for weapon(s) and shield, 2 for armour, 2 for accessory and 2 for consumables (We can’t have a fantasy setting without potions and scrolls)
- That said, I’m not sure about an elaborate item system. We shouldn’t spend too much time on this while we play the game.
- Smaller army sizes should exist both with higher supply units and also lower supply cap.
- Upkeep is a question mark. I think it should exist, but the exact limits can change. There could be commanders that provide flexibility for themselves and their allies and maybe one that completely ignores it.
- When I asked a Starcraft 2 dev if we’ll ever see coop maps for 3–4 people, he told me that there was a technical limit regarding how many units were on the screen. With the reduced amount of units per player, this should also be considered. I found 2-person limit to be the reason why I don’t play the game many times since we had others in our “play crew” waiting to play games.
- Tougher units and more micro focus should be a thing, but it should still allow auto-casts like SC2CO. Manual micro would be one of the skills that allow you to go up the difficulty levels.
- Creeps and Creeping should exist. However, I think WCO can learn a few lessons from Heroes of the Storm, where the “jungle” camps join you instead of dying and respawn after a while. I don’t think all jungle should work like this, but there might be good opportunities to apply this. Maybe a particular type of creep can respawn. Maybe a map has respawning creeps. Maybe a commander can “take over” camps and respawn them. Something to consider.
- Warcraft 3 resources were gold and lumber. While gold mines were static locations, trees actually disappeared and you had to build lumber mills to increase efficiency. I don’t think this mechanic fits coop well. Maybe trees should never fall or stay up for longer periods.
So this summarizes my overall take on Warcraft Coop. In the next article, I’ll talk about the story aspect and list a bunch of concepts, which then will be followed by articles where I share my concepts for some commanders. You can read it here.
What do you think? Would you play a Warcraft Coop? How would you handle it?