Last week, I received my Closed Beta invitation to StarCraft II and immediately I downloaded the client – which took me 16 hours – and installed the game. I was very excited of course, more than a decade of waiting for the greatest Real-Time Strategy game history.

Join me as I show you what’s inside and what to expect with StarCraft II!

(Buy/Reserve StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Regular Edition (DVD-ROM) (PC CD-ROM) or Collector’s Edition (DVD-ROM) (PC CD-ROM))

Before we proceed, for the record, the Non-Disclosure was lifted on February 18, 2010 herein quoted:

Regarding StarCraft II Beta Confidentiality

We’re pleased to announce that we have decided to lift the confidential nature of the StarCraft II Beta Test. This means that beta testers are free to show and discuss the game with your friends, as well as take screenshots, record gameplay videos, etc. So feel free to share that amazing game you just played. Enjoy!

Launching StarCraft II

The first time that you launch StarCraft II you will be asked to login to your Battle.net v2.0 account. (If you have not created one, just visit: Battle.net.) The next thing you will need to do is to create your new SC2 character.

Creating Your New StarCraft II Character

There are two parts in our Bnet2 character names: NAME.identifier. When you are first asked to create a new character, the first window will ask you for your character’s name. In my case I chose: Yarso.

After clicking the “confirm” button, the system will ask you to create provide an identifier, this is the second part of our Bnet2 character names. I chose: starcraft. Now I have my SC2 character named: Yarso.starcraft.

NAME.identifier, what?

At this point in time there are no other information as to how the NAME.identifier format is being used other than “to keep characters unique”. No one knows if the “NAME” is unique or not. No one is sure if the “identifier” is unique or not.

But if we are going to go back and read the plans they have for Bnet2, we can guess that the NAME.identifier format is on a per Bnet2-account basis. Meaning, if I have a World of Warcraft character by the name of “Yarso”, the system will know which “Yarso” it is supposed to update.

If that is correct, then we will have something like this in the near future (using my own format):

  • Yarso.starcraft
  • Yarso.wowussuramar
  • Yarso.diablowarrior
  • Yarso.wowustvc
  • and so on

Does this mean then someone can have the same “NAME” as you do? I think so, yes. Again, that is where the “identifier” comes in, it keeps the system and us, the players, informed as to who’s who. If you see Yarso.starcraft in SC2 then that’s me. If you see Yarso.starcraft1 then that isn’t me because currently, we can only have one (1) character per account on SC2.

However, that raises some confusion and invites impersonation. But then, if we will only have one (1) character per Bnet2 account then how many are willing to buy a new SC2 just to impersonate someone they don’t like?

The Interface

Going back, once you are in the Bnet2 interface “home”, you will see the current headlines from Blizzard and a little statistic that tells you the number of online players and the number of running games. There is also the “Support” button that leads to the support website, and “Leave Feedback” which is currently set to the SC2beta forums.

If you look on the upper-left corner of the interface you will see the “Single-Player” and “Multi-Player” buttons. Below it are the: “Home”, “Replay”, “Ladders”, “Social”, “Achievements”, “Profile”, and the “Help” buttons.

On the upper-right corner, your currently selected portrait, your “NAME”, your active “Achievement Title”, and the “Leave” and “Invite” buttons. The leave button is for when you are in a “party” or in SC2 terminology, pre-made team and you want to leave (obviously). The invite button is for inviting or forming a pre-made team.

At the bottom of the screen, there is the “Menu” button, the “chat bar” (probably for the planned chat feature), the “Friends” button which also shows how many of your friends are online, the “Mic” button, and your system time.

you should probably know

If you haven’t noticed it, the Single-Player button shows up only after you login to Battle.net v2.0. In other words, you can not play any single-player missions/campaigns unless you are online in Bnet2, which in itself requires an Internet connection.

This is the first thing that I noticed, and I understood then that they did it this way for the Achievements feature. After all, how are they going to keep track of your achievements if you are not connected to Bnet2, right? This also explains why they removed the “LAN” option – if you are already connected to Bnet2 which in itself is a form of “LAN” (fyi: the Internet is also called WAN, or the Wide Area Network), then the “LAN” feature is useless and redundant.

I can think of more reasons why they chose this path and we can definitely put aside piracy here. Example, the growing number of third-party LAN/WAN networks. This third-party network was first made possible by the folks of FSGS or the Free Starcraft Game Server (later renamed to: Free Standard Game Server). It looks exactly like the classic Battle.net. (Trivia: The largest implementation of FSGS in the Philippines was Tri-Isys‘s FSGS.)

After FSGS there came bnetd, and the rest is history. Many of the earlier implementations were successfuly stopped by Blizzard but as time moved-on (and developers got wiser and found another way around laws governing proprietary/trade secrets), the community of third-party game servers simply exploded.

Now, with this new system, everyone will be forced to buy a CD-Key (at least), add that CD-Key to their Bnet2 accounts, then they can login and play SC2 in any terminal with StarCraft II installed. Neat eh?

Oh, there’s confirmation already, that was the first thing I asked in the SC2 Twitter dev chat earlier today. This is their answer:

Is logging-in to Battle.net version 2.0 mandatory even for Single-Player Games?

Yes. StarCraft II does require an online connection and you must login the first time you play. We are in the middle of adding an “Offline” feature which allows you to play the Campaign offline if you, for example, are traveling and want to play on a laptop. Playing while connected allows your progress in the campaign to be saved online to your account. This means if you switch to a different computer to play you can pick up from where you were.

(Buy/Reserve StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Regular Edition (DVD-ROM) (PC CD-ROM) or Collector’s Edition (DVD-ROM) (PC CD-ROM))

Multiplayer Placement

Now the juice. The first time that you click the Multi-player button, a window will pop-up called “Multiplayer placement”. You have three options: “New Player”, “Experienced”, “Veteran”. The New Player option is for the newbies into the RTS or Real-Time Strategy genre. The Experienced and Veteran, that’s self-explanatory.

If you choose the “New Player” option, you will be given five (5) “Practice” Matches per game mode. The game modes are:

  • 1v1
  • 2v2
  • 3v3
  • 4v4

Currently, only 1v1 and 2v2 are activated during this phase of the closed beta. You get 5 practice matches for 1v1 and another 5 practice matches for 2v2. After that, you will be entered to the ladder system.

These practice matches are also not just “practice” matches. The system will use the data it gathers in determining which Ladder League you will best fit. There are five (5) Leagues currently available:

  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Copper

If you are a newbie in RTS games, you will probably end up in the Bronze or Copper Leagues (unless you can quickly grasp and learn how to win in an RTS game). Each league also have Divisions with each division having up to 100 players only. Each division have their own “Top 8” qualifiers which will in the future, move on to the (for example) semi-finals and compete with the other divisions of the same league.

Confused? I hope not. Let me help you:

  • Leagues: This is based on your skill. The Bnet2 system has a complex algorithm that can determine if you should belong to the Platinum division or the Copper division.
  • Divisions: This is the grouping (of 100 players), with their own Top 8 qualifiers per season. In a controlled competition, this is equivalent to the “Left Bracket” and the “Right Bracket”.

So what happens if a player improves and becomes too good for his/her current League? The Bnet2 system promotes him/her to the appropriate League, and vice versa, you can get demoted. How the system works, no one knows yet (or if Blizzard will ever release that info).

Ranking

There are a total of seven (7) Ladder Rankings in the game as of this phase of the beta. These are:

  • 1v1
  • 2v2 (Pre-Made Teams)
  • 2v2 Random (in MMORPG terminology: PUG or Pick-Up Group)
  • 3v3
  • 3v3 Random
  • 4v4
  • 4v4 Random

Gameplay

Finally the gameplay. At first you would think (and feel) that it is still the original StarCraft, but as you play more and more matches you will come to realize that this is indeed StarCraft II, there are more differences than similarities.

Do not expect your SC tactics and strategies will work this time. Do not expect that because you win a lot using the same tactic and/or strategy that it is your winning formula. In StarCraft that may have worked for you but in StarCraft II you are in for a surprise!

The units are well diversified and made more specific in terms of functions, as well as strengths and weaknesses. If in StarCraft you can just go create countless of Protoss Carriers and dominate the map, do not be so sure in StarCraft II – there are units in all three races that can wipe out your Carrier fleet.

If in StarCraft all you did was swarm your enemies with Zerglings and Hydralisks, good luck repeating that in StarCraft II. If before all you did was to strategized, start training yourself with doing a lot of micro-ing.

This is what StarCraft II is for me. I have to learn most of the game, I have to learn and develop new strategies, I have to really go deeper and beyond what I used to do in StarCraft: Brood War.

Is StarCraft II hard? Nah, it is easy. But what makes me come back even though it is only a beta is the fun of it. There is always something new to learn and something to new to try. Not to mention, we get to play with all the Leagues from Platinum to Copper because the match-making was adjusted temporarily to prioritize finding a game than finding a balance match. That means I have a growing database of replays that I can study.

That’s all for now! Thanks for tuning in!!

(Buy/Reserve StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Regular Edition (DVD-ROM) (PC CD-ROM) or Collector’s Edition (DVD-ROM) (PC CD-ROM))

Is a self-confessed bibliophile and technophile other than being an early adopter, an avid gamer, a geek, nerd, role-player, anime otaku, and trekker.

His first online project was in 1998 when he launched the unofficial website for Ansalon MUD (a text-based, telnet online game) and his own community forums Laibcoms.Community. By 2003 he created his work blog GM-Yukino which grew into gameshogun™, Snoworld™, and techmagus™ over the years.

Yuki’s latest project is Verses.Space™, a Free Culture / Creative Commons, collaborative, and shared-world, worldbuilding and writing project.

His hubsite is Tomes of Knowledge™. He also runs YourOnly.One™, One Way Faith™, Adorable & Beautiful™, Clean Real Food™, and other online properties.

You can confirm his identity from his Keybase profile and learn more by reading his central bio.

Summary
Playing StarCraft II Beta: My Thoughts and Experience
Article Name
Playing StarCraft II Beta: My Thoughts and Experience
Description
My review of the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty invitational beta now that the NDA has been lifted.
Author
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gameshogun™

CC BY-SA 4.0 Playing StarCraft II Beta: My Thoughts and Experience by gameshogun™ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.

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