Throughout my gaming career I’ve taken part in 20 different beta tests. Many have been of the open sort, quite a few were closed, and none were for a Blizzard game. I don’t know if it was simply bad luck or if I failed to meet some sort of arcane requirement, but I could never get into any of the World of Warcraft betas. I also didn’t get invited to the beta test of Starcraft II, which started a few days ago. That is, until a member of our Avault community contacted me and offered me his spot. Because of the generosity of a man known as OmegaBob on our forums, I am now participating in my 21st beta test. This is the first of a series of articles in which I intend to share my impressions as the beta progresses forward and we get close to retail release.
Today I want to focus on installation and the newly redesigned battle.net, which is going to be a major part of the entire Starcraft II experience. Let’s start from the beginning. I got my beta key via an email from Blizzard on Monday, Feb 22. I logged in to battle.net and added the game to my account. Then I started the download. The 1.64 GB beta download includes no movies and no single-player campaign. It used the same kind of peer-to-peer downloader as World of Warcraft patches do, so the download was rather slow; it took me more than an hour to download the game, and of course it used my bandwidth to seed it to other players as well.
Once acquired, installation was a breeze. It unpacked the files into a directory of my choice and that was that. I was ready to play right there and then, but being the disciplined man that I am, first I finished writing my forensic anthropology paper on the topic of skullbashery. At 10:15 pm I finally fired up the game and was treated to a battle.net login screen. You need to have a battle.net account to partake in the multiplayer aspect of Starcraft II, since there is no LAN option. This has caused some controversy, and personally I don’t think it’s a good idea, but to me it isn’t one of those issues that would prevent me from buying it. Of course, if battle.net is required for single-player, it will be a deal-breaker, but I’ve heard noting to that effect so far.
After logging in (don’t lose your authenticator), I was prompted to create a player profile, which I named Alaric, and something that appeared to be a subgroup of that profile. It is not clear what the purpose of the sub-profile is, since the screen informs you that most other players will only see your main profile name. Once in, you see the main screen. From here you can view replays of your past games, information on leagues and ladders you are in, and your profile. If you click on the profile, you notice that many of the tabs are disabled for the beta, but you can still view your statistics as well as change your portrait. I liked the default Marine, so I left it at that.
Having looked around enough to familiarize myself with the interface, I was ready to being playing. As a newbie I was given an opportunity to enter the practice league first. These games are unrated and do not affect your overall standing. The idea behind this is to give new players a chance to get their feet wet without having to stress over rank. It is possible to opt out of this, however. Only five games in the practice league are allowed before having to move on to the real deal. Of course, if you need more practice you can play as many games as you want against AI opponents, but so far only the “Very Easy” difficulty is available. Private games against players are possible as well, and are likewise unrated.
There is a number of 1v1 and 2v2 maps available. Each map comes with a short description and an ability to block the map, so you don’t end up playing one you hate. You also get to select the race you want to join, and then battle.net takes over. Following a short delay when the maps are downloaded to your computer, you are matched with another player and the battle begins. My first game was Terran vs. Terran on a 1v1 map called Desert Oasis.
Keep an eye out for the next installment of my Starcraft Diaries, in which I will talk about my first match in more detail. Also, feel free to ask questions, which I will try to answer as best I can. Until then, over and out!
To be continued…