They're still working on the basic look and feel of the individual units, and whether all the units they've currently created should even stay in the game. Blizzard won't hand a final unit list over even as I'm playing the pre-beta version. The problem? Everything is subject to change, from the damage from a single Protoss Stalker to the speed at which that same walker can move and rotate its cannon.
As Dustin puts it, "we don't even know if we can balance the game right now. We'll only find out if it's possible once we get into beta, and we see the really hardcore gamers hammering on it for weeks." Right now they can play the game themselves, and they can run simulations of units fighting each other, tweaking every variable until stuff works, but that's nothing. What they need is the data only gamers provide: detailed recordings of matches, win-loss ratios for each of the sides, angry forum posts declaring balance problems the end of the world. And they need a lot of it.
But that's fine. Because as I test this early version of the game, I start to get a feel for how StarCraft II will play in the real world. And if you want the one-line description, try this. It's like StarCraft, but with a two on the end. Those expecting a radical reinvention of the real-time strategy genre should look away now. Those expecting a radical reinvention of StarCraft should look away, too.
The basics are identical. The three races must all gather blue minerals and vespene gas, and convert them into a trickle, then a steady stream, and eventually a flood of units. Success in the multiplayer game is about expansion - leaving your starting zone and claiming new mineral nodes, then efficiently placing new units on the field. Outside of your base, the other skill to be tested is your micromanagement: isolating enemy targets by boxing them in or blocking their path with your own units, or dancing your own troops around an enemy's lumbering turning circle. In StarCraft II, there are units that seem designed specifically to cause chaos like this: Zerglings swarm around the larger units, trapping them in place.
There appears to be no end to the ways in which you can be pwned. In the day I spent playing, I found dozens. Try a Terran marine rush: build two barracks and attach a reactor to each. A reactor is a modular add-on that doubles the production capacity, but limits the type of troops you can make. With two barracks and an attached reactor you can churn out four marines every 20 seconds - the perfect rush force. Upgrade them with armour, health and stim-packs, and they'll simply refuse to die.
Or try some stealth dickery. Protoss units are expensive and take a long, long time to warp into the battlefield. And you're going to need lots to break through an organised defence. So don't. Build Dark Templars - vicious melee warriors armed with a Darth Maul lightsaber staff. They have a neat trick: they're invisible. The only way to spot them is to have detector units or buildings in your army.
Sneak a few Dark Templars into the rear of an unprepared base and let them ravage supply lines and support structures. Game over.
Or try some Zerg molestation. Take, first, the Corruptor. This flying squid has a neat way of causing a unique headache - if it kills an enemy, that unit becomes a stationary anti-air turret. Pair the Corruptor with an Infestor: it burrows underneath an enemy base, ready to cause chaos. Ability one: infect and then explode any enemy unit. The splash damage is devastating. Ability two: take complete control of any surviving enemy unit for ten seconds. Make it something big and angry.
Ability three: release five infected marines from egg-sacs on its back. The resulting chaos might not win the match, but it will significantly dent any economy and distract your enemy. The first moments playing StarCraft II are overwhelming, and not just because of the mechanics. When you start playing you're hit by a wave of nostalgia. The sounds and music have the same feel as of old. The same laconic guitar themes, the same sarcastic responses from your foot-soldiers.