The multiplayer community for StarCraft 2 has stayed active since the game’s release in 2010, and it seems like Blizzard has been listening to their opinions on how to improve the Battle.net service. The upcoming Heart of the Swarm expansion pack will be releasing alongside a series of much-requested multiplayer updates, like unranked matchmaking and non-region locked accounts.
StarCraft 2 Production Director Chris Sigaty updated fans about the new multiplayer additions yesterday, and while the gameplay itself isn’t being affected, the features of Battle.net will be seeing plenty of long-awaited changes.
Sigaty was keen to point out that 2012 may be the biggest eSports year of all time, so it should come as no surprise that Blizzard has worked hard on improving the Battle.net experience for both players and casters. Those keeping track of the StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm changes already know they have a few new units to master, and you can bet the professional players have been studying them closely. Since both Battle.net and the eSports scene are so important to the longevity of StarCraft (especially if the first game is any indiciation), these changes are a clear effort to keep players — both professional and amateur — interested in the online environment.
Without further ado, here’s the shortlist of new multiplayer features for StarCraft 2:
- Multiplayer resume from replay
- Global Play
- Multilanguage support
- Clan/group system
- Unranked matchmaking
- Multiplayer replay viewing
Global Play is perhaps the biggest change. Players have been region-locked until now, meaning they’ve only been able to play against others from their home region in ladder matches. Blizzard is tight-lipped about further details here, but if it’s anything like the recently announced Diablo 3 Global Play feature, players will be able to create different “personas” which they can use in each region.
Unranked Matchmaking is a feature fans have been requesting since the beta. Previously, playing random strangers always counted towards ladder points, meaning players could never take a game lightly if they cared about their online ranking. For those who just wanted to sit back and enjoy some harmless competition, there was no real option. Unranked matches will allow players of differing skill levels to battle it out, though Sigaty says the ability to automatically face off against opponents of a similar skill level will be available.
The eSports crowd will be extremely happy to hear about the resume multiplayer function. Thought it may sound like a simple feature change — which it is — it will resonate across each individual StarCraft 2 tournament as a much-needed improvement. The ability to resume play from a replay means that if a game ends prematurely — like, say, from players lagging out due a disruption with Battle.net — the match can be picked up from where it left off. It’s easy to see why this would be extremely important for tournaments, where outcomes and prize money are on the line.
The rest of the updates simply streamline the Battle.Net experience. Improving multilanguage support really is an issue Blizzard should have fixed long ago, and the ability for more than one player to watch a replay at once is handy for a bunch of friends having a laugh at previous matches, or a clan who wants to look back and devise strategies. It’s good to see Blizzard focusing on support for clans in general, though we won’t see exactly how the system works until Heart of the Swarm is closer to release.
While the most-requested multiplayer feature has been ignored again (the ability to play over a LAN), these updates should keep members of the online community, and those of the eSports realm, quite satisfied for now.
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm doesn’t have a release date yet, but we’ll keep you posted as more news “creeps” out.
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