StarCraft II launches tomorrow, but we're still hearing lots of questions and uncertainty about the game and Blizzard's new Battle.net mutliplayer service. We're here to tackle those questions head-on. Read on to find the answers to every question on your mind, from LAN play to Real ID to custom maps and more.
“What's so great about Battle.net 2.0? I heard it's not as good as the old one.”
Yes, Battle.net is great. But Battle.net 2.0 is taking a new approach in an effort to make it even better. The new matchmaking system worked very well in the beta, setting people up with other players of approximately the same skill level. Blizzard says that connecting to games, both custom and match-made, will be speedier than ever thanks to some behind-the-scenes upgrades. Plus, with the new Real ID system you'll be able to keep in touch with friends across Blizzard games, allowing you to chat with your WoW-playing friends from inside StarCraft II.
What has some folks up in arms is the removal of some of the old Battle.net's features. The big one is the lack of LAN play—I'll cover that in a moment—but Blizzard's also axed chat rooms. At launch, you'll only be able to create chats with people on your friends list, rather than jumping into a public chat where Blizzard says spammers were becoming too much of a problem. However, it looks like beta feedback has changed the Blizzard hive-mind on this point, and there are now plans to add private chat rooms in a patch sometime after release.
Finally, you won't be able to play against friends in other regions—such as a US versus UK match—without buying a second $60 copy of the game that's keyed for the foreign region.
So depending on how much you care about the features that the new Battle.net leaves out, it's either better or worse.
“I heard I can't play on a LAN. What's the deal with that?”
Unfortunately, this is completely true—StarCraft II won't have any LAN capabilities. You'll still be able to play against a guy sitting next to you on your home network, but you'll both have to have active internet connections to Battle.net. Most people won't know the difference, but competitive players are concerned about server downtime and the possibility of lag.
So, why did Blizzard hamstring one of the greatest competitive multiplayer games of all time? In the name of fighting piracy, of course! Blizzard's official line from PR Manager Bob Colayco states, "While this was a difficult decision for us, we felt that moving away from LAN play and directing players to our upgraded Battle.net service was the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience with StarCraft II and safeguard against piracy." Yar, that be most disappoint'n, Bob.
[MPU] “What's this Real ID stuff? Will everyone I play with know my real name?”
Short answer? No.
Long answer? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
Real ID is an optional feature of Battle.net 2.0 which will allow you to add friends you know personally to your elite list of pals using the email address that they have registered as their Battle.net account. Once this happens, you'll be able to track your friends game to game, and server to server. There's no other way for someone to see your real name through Battle.net.
“I heard StarCraft II will integrate with Facebook. Will it be spamming all my friends every time I play?”
Yes, StarCraft II will integrate with Facebook. The spam part though? That's an untruth. Put simply: integrating StarCraft II with Facebook will let you find your StarCraft-playing friends easier, and that's it.
“Why did Blizzard break the game up into three parts? Are they trying to charge me three times for one game?”
Well, yes and no. Blizzard definitely does want you to buy all three parts, and there's certainly a lot of money in it for them if you do, but the question of whether or not they're going to make it worth every penny you give them is up for debate.
The full StarCraft II saga will consist of tomorrow's main game, Wings of Liberty, which includes a 30-ish mission Terran campaign (with a couple of Protoss missions mixed in) followed two expansions based around the Zerg and the Protoss that Blizzard says will come out at roughly 18-month intervals.
The amount of single-player content in Wings of Liberty is approximately the same as you got in StarCraft 1, so it's difficult to say that you're not getting a full game's worth for your money. What Blizzard's done here is basically the same thing as was done with the Lord of the Rings movies: they've said up front that you're not getting the full story in the first piece, and you'll have to come back two more times to get the complete experience. So if you feel ripped off by movie trilogies, you may feel ripped off by StarCraft II.
How much will those expansions cost? Blizzard claims that, as usual, they'll charge what they feel is an "appropriate price for the content received." As for what that actually means? Nobody knows for sure.
On the next page: Battle.net authenticators, custom maps for sale
"What is an authenticator, and do I need one if I'm only playing StarCraft II?"
An authenticator is an optional security device that comes either as a dongle, ( which can be purchased for $6.50 off of Blizzard's online store, ) or a free app for your Apple iOS- or Android-powered device. Once you link the authenticator to your account, you'll need to enter a randomly generated set of numbers, along with your password, in order to log in. Due to the rampant hacking of World of Warcraft accounts, they've become commonplace in Azeroth. You might not have the same level of investment in your StarCraft II profile as you do in a WoW character, but security is always a good thing, and it's easy to get your hands on.
"How will custom maps work? Will I have to open any additional ports on my router to get them?"
Not a single port will have to be opened, no. The new Battle.net completely removes that obstacle by having all the maps hosted on Blizzard's servers! If you want to play a game, choose it, download it, and let Battle.net do the rest.
“I heard that Blizzard is going to charge me to download custom maps. That seems really uncool.”
Not exactly true. At launch, there will be no content store in Battle.net, so all custom maps will be free to download. According to Lead Producer Chris Sigaty, roughly a year down the road they'll add a store where custom map makers can charge for their content if they want, much like Apple's App store. The idea here is not to make Blizzard a bunch of money from map sales (though they'll probably take a piece of that pie, like Apple does) but rather to promote StarCraft II as a platform for developers. If a mod team sees that they can make money modding StarCraft II or mod StarCraft 1 out of the goodness of their hearts, Blizzard's hope is they'll jump to StarCraft II and make high-quality mods that are worth paying for. In the long run, it could be a great thing for StarCraft II players.
“I have a question you haven't covered!”
Good thing we've got a comments section on this very thread! Leave us a question, and we (or our very helpful PCGamer.com readers) will do our best to answer it for you.