If you've been holding off on picking up StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (or, for that matter, Wings of Liberty) out of poverty, cheapness or a plain old lack of interest, today may be a good day to reconsider your position.
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Public Test Realm is a great name for a patch preview server. It sounds grand and democratic, like the ornate forum of a philosophically minded republic. It's much better than what I'd have called it: probably Alpha Hovel or Beta Bin. Starcraft 2's own Trial Toilet has been filled with the first drops of the upcoming patch 2.1, giving players an early preview of a reworked custom map system, an event calendar for clans and groups, and a set of classic soundtracks, optionally enabling the tunes of StarCraft and Brood War into non-campaign matches.
Blizzard announced their ambitious plans for the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series yesterday. The scheme involves pulling the world's biggest StarCraft 2 tournaments and leagues into an overarching structure where players are given a global ranking, and compete against each other to be crowned super-mega-planetary-ultra champion. It's an exciting plan - aiming to unify the myriad StarCraft 2 leagues and pull them into a central storyline easy to follow for fans and enticing to new viewers - but it's also a bit confusing. I had the chance to speak to Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime and Executive VP of Global Publishing, Itzik Ben-Bassat to answer a few questions. Click on for WCS 2013 clarifications, and the Blizzard boss's projections for the eSporting future.
If, like the fiery Butcher above, you're a bit vexed at the prolonged absence of PvP within Diablo 3, this spot of news probably won't sate your wrath. During a press conference held at Blizzard's Battle.net World Championship in Shanghai last weekend (via Gaming Blend), CEO Mike Morhaime revealed the studio holds "no plans" to bring the hack-and-crawl RPG into competitive tournament play.
Eurogamer has reported that Heart of the Swarm well be released on March 12th, 2013. The information comes from Eurogamer's Spanish site, who spotted a listing on Battle.net. An official announcement is expected later today.
The Heart of the Swarm beta is about to get a levelling system according to a new post on Battle.net post. Players will be able to level up each race separately to unlock extra portraits and decals. Building units and decimating enemy troops will contribute small doses of XP to a grand match total every time you play. "Build up powerful armies, wreak havoc on the map, fight to the bitter end, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts," say Blizzard.
Blizzard have announced that the grand finale of the Battle.net StarCraft 2 World Championship will take place in China on Novemeber 17-18. Shanghai will host the event, which will also feature the finals of the global World of Warcraft Arena competition and give attendees the chance to sit down for some "hands-on play time with some of the latest Blizzard games."
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime says that Blizzard are "looking forward to seeing the best players in the World Championship Series face each other at the Battle.net World Championship in Shanghai this November," he adds that “the level of StarCraft II and World of Warcraft Arena competition we’ve already seen around the world has been amazing, so we’re anticipating a truly epic finale."
Here they are, the new multiplayer units we'll be getting to grips with in StarCraft 2's first expansion, Heart of the Swarm. They're a tricky bunch to be sure. The zerg have a new breed of burrower that churns out malicious slugs FOREVER. Their snake-like fliers can drag distant units away with their tongues. The Protoss Oracle can encase minerals in a glowing forcefield of denial, and the new Battle Hellions can transform into close combat robots. You can get a closer look at how the Protoss and Zerg units will work in a match context with this battle report video spotted by Evil Avatar, shoutcasted by Day9 and Blizzard's Rob Simpson. Those long-range Protoss Tempest ships look strong.
The Battle.net balance will let players convert cash into Blizzard bucks, which can be used to buy Blizzardy bits like World of Warcraft game time, realm transfers and name changes, or even digital downloads of StarCraft 2 and Diablo 2. A post on the Battle.Net site says that the Battle.Net Balance is now up and running for everyone with a Battle.Net account.
It's also a very important piece of infrastructure that'll prop up Diablo 3's in-game auction house. The system will let you put the profits you've made selling off useless loot towards other Blizzard game services. We can expect to see Battle.Net balance syncing up with the Blizzard Arcade in future. That could let players charge for mods they've made using StarCraft 2's editing tools. That's set to arrive alongside StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm.
The voice actor who plays Kerrigan, Tricia Helfer, has been teasing StarCraft 2 fans on Twitter confiring that voice recording is underway for StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm.
"Voicing some #Starcraft today. Kerrigan/Queen is so fun. Bet some of you wish I'd take a pic of the script : )" she tweeted, before posting a picture of the script, facing away from the camera. Darn.
Heart of the Swarm was playable at last year's Blizzcon, and a finished script suggests that it's pretty far into development. It's set to be released alongside the Blizzard Arcade and some updated StarCraft 2 mod tools. Find out more about the new units and characters that will be added by the expansion in our Blizzcon 2011 coverage.
Meanwhile, here's that picture of the Kerrigan recording sessions, straight from the StarCraft 2 studios. Thanks to Scott for the heads up.
We elevate the Total War games beyond simply being good strategy games because we believe they’re story-engines: that not only do they offer deep and difficult decisions about how to paint the map your colour, but they also entertain you with your own genius.
It wasn't only the GSL finals that took place at Blizzcon 2011 this weekend. Blizzard threw a separate tournament with a $50,000 prize pot to take advantage of the wealth of top StarCraft 2 talent in California. It was a dramatic and close fought contest that resulted in one of the most spectacular StarCraft 2 finals ever. VG247 have spotted a video of that final game online. You'll find it embedded below. If you don't want to know who the finalists are, then read no further. If you want to see an incredible StarCraft 2 game played in front of thousands of rapt fans then you're in for a treat.
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm won't just mean a massive shake-up for the StarCraft 2 esports scene, we'll be getting the Blizzard Arcade as well, a hub designed to show off the very best creations from the StarCraft 2 modding community. Blizzard plan to give modders more power with a suite of updates to the mod tools supplied with StarCraft 2.
Blizzard will release the full suite of art tools which will let designers export custom 3D models from popular 3D modelling software, 3DS Max. This will give modders the scope to create new buildings, units and tilesets, opening the doors to total conversions, and giving modders far more scope to create entirely new games within the StarCraft 2 engine.
Kerrigan's lost the extra appendages and, apart from some weird hair, looks relatively human now. According to the Heart of the Swarm lore panel at Blizzcon 2011, she doesn't remember her time as leader of the Zerg swarm well, but has a good idea of the destruction that the swarm caused during her reign. Her thirst for consuming worlds has been replaced by a less megolamanic lust for revenge. She'll be at the centre of the StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm single player campaign. See her in action on the Blizzcon StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm preview trailer above.
The Blizzard Arcade will arrive alongside the release of the StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard have just announced at a Blizzcon panel. The Arcade will act as a hub for user-made mods and games created using StarCraft 2's extensive mod tools. The Arcade will be available to everyone who owns StarCraft 2, not just Heart of the Swarm players.
Games available in the Blizzard Arcade will be free to begin with, but Blizzard plan to let mod makers charge for their games in future. The Arcade will be available from the front page, and take players to a central screen showing the most popular mods of the moment. A five star rating system and user reviews will help the best games rise to the top, and "what's hot" sections will give players quick access to the most popular games on the service. The mods will use StarCraft 2's matchmaking system to put players together.
The editor will also be improved, with debugging improvements, a cutscene editor, and custom UI editing tools.
As promised, Blizzard have released another silhouette for a new StarCraft 2 unit to be added with Heart of the Swarm. The last one was some sort of OP Terran shape. This time it's a Zerg unit, but WHAT IS IT?
Facebook commenters are torn. "infested stalker," says one. "It's obviously a flyer," says another. "Its kind a like extra-armored evolved roach. Whatever that is," says another. We turned to resident StarCraft 2 nerd, Rich for DEFINITIVE ANSWERS.
"A weird Ultralisk or a Lurker," he said. See the full image below and decide for yourself.
Ever wanted to stride down to the local store while listening to World of Warcraft soundtrack, turning your sortie for sundries into a grandiose quest to obtain milk because you suspect the milk you have has gone off and you're not sure but screw it you can never have enough milk anyway? Well then you'll be delighted to discover that Blizzard have opened up a music store, selling soundtracks to World of Warcraft, StarCraft 2, Diablo 2 and even a bit of music from Diablo 3.
Each individual track costs $0.99 and albums cost $9.99. Stick the StarCraft 2 music on in the background while preparing dinner this evening, and use your skyrocketing actions per minute ratio to make a feast fit for a Zerg brood.
Gamespot bring us some news from the Citi Technology conference, where Activision Blizzard COO Thomas Tippl has said that Blizzard will be producing six "proven property" games/expansions over the next three years.
The announcement reveals plans for two more World of Warcraft expansions over the three years. Could one of these be the Mists of Pandaren expansion we've previously heard rumours of? In addition, the first expansion to Diablo 3 will be expected by the end of 2014. The two planned Starcaft 2 expansions, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, are expected in the same period.
By choosing to refer only to 'proven properties' Blizzard have left the door open for a new 'unproven property' to be released in that same period, such as the long rumoured Project Titan.
If you missed last weekend's live stream of the MLG Raleigh pro gaming tournaments then we've got some good news. MLG's new video player provides access to on-demand streams of all the key games from last weekend's contests. Simply head over to the Major League Gaming TV page and select the tournament you want to watch from the selection across the top. Here's your chance to watch some of the best StarCraft 2 and League of Legends teams in the world fight for glory, cash prizes, and your entertainment.
Blizzard senior game designer Jonny Ebbert has been talking to Eurogamer about the current state of Blizzard's version of DOTA. It's being developed as a StarCraft 2 mod, but has been changed drastically since its showing at last year's Blizzcon. "We've completely flattened it since then," said Ebbert, "and completely rebooted it because we just thought, there's more we can question on this."