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Several news pieces and events, none of which can be traced back to Blizzard, have surfaced over the weekend. Considering that fact that April fools draws near and that Blizzard’s recent behavior did not suggest any immediate announcements, anything you may encounter in the next 2 days should be taken with a grain of salt.

1) The mysterious email.

Allegedly received by multiple people who have opted-in to the Beta, this email announces the imminent availability of it:

Welcome to the beta test of Starcraft II!

We’re excited to have reached the beta-testing stage for Starcraft II and our upgraded Battle.net service, and we’d be grateful to have you join us during the next few months of fine tuning.

Getting started:
Along with the beta of Starcraft II, we are rolling out our new Battle.net delivery system which will serve as the primary channel for downloading the game and its updates. In order to participate, you will need to use the Battle.net account associated with this email address.

In an effort to test our distribution system in a high load environment, we are giving a few days lead so that a large number of beta testers have the opportunity to read this email first. Our planned activation is Tuesday, March 31st at 6 PM PDT.

To see what time it is in your time zone, please check here:
http://www.timeanddate.com/

After that time, you will be able to login to your Battle.net account at http://us.battle.net and download the “Battle.net Client (Beta)” which adds a host of new features to Battle.net including:

* A global friends list between all Blizzard games
* The ability to quickly join or observe your friends’ games
* Detailed statistics and rankings for each game
* Track the global achievements of you and your friends
* And much, much more!

In addition, it will serve as the launch pad for Starcraft II and will automatically begin downloading your authenticated copy once you run it for the first time. Once the game is installed, you will be able to access the Battle.net Client from within the game or as a standalone desktop application.

Sending us feedback:
In the bottom left corner of the Battle.net Client (CTRL-SHIFT-B from within Starcraft II) there is a button called ‘Feedback’ which will bring up a place for you to report any bugs or suggestions. We also welcome feedback on the official Starcraft II forums at http://forums.battle.net/board.html?forumId=12009&sid=3000

Please retain this email for your records. If you experience any technical issues getting started or while playing, please email support at SC2Support@blizzard.com.

We look forward to seeing you online soon!

The email is highly unlikely to be real. Up until now, every single Blizzard announcement of such magnitude was made through official channels, and certainly not via an email to thousands of random users three days ahead of time.Despite making it to IncGamers, this email is obviously fabricated.

2) The 3 Counters.

The counters can be seen on three StarCraft fansites: SCLegacy, SC2Forums.org and StarCraft.org. Having decompiled all three, it has become obvious that the counters are of the same origin, with SCLegacy standing out due to the additional counter and most significant changes to its site.

While we won’t rule out the possibility of something significant happening, chances are that this is an April fools joke initiated by SCLegacy.

3) Counters redirecting to www.starcraft2.com/beta

Considering the epic trolling history of the person who has started the rumor, we should have known better. However, having decompiled the counters, we can assure you that the .SWF file itself has no such function. The fake code screenshot of the redirect, “released” by Blazur, can be found here:

Fake Beta SWF code

…and here’s a screenshot the actual code, which contains no such redirect:

Real SWF SC2 Counter Code

Blizzard hasn’t shown any sign of an upcoming beta.
The second installment of the Battle Report Series has been announced and is still talked about by Blizzard officials; requests for questions for the official Q&A sessions are still here; competitions with beta keys given as prizes are still ongoing. This isn’t Blizzard’s way of doing things, and even without mentioning our thoughts regarding the state of development, it’s easy to conclude that this is nothing more than an April fools joke.

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The launch of Blizzard’s new Battle.net account system brought with it the option to opt-in to beta eligibility, which grants the chance to participate in the much expected StarCraft 2 Beta. Today, Karune made another major announcement, addressing those who have already secured their participation in the upcoming massive crowdsourced QA.

If you have a BlizzCon key from 2008, you can now register it at http://blizzcon.com/beta

Please note that the key on the back of the BlizzCon card is NOT a StarCraft II ‘key’. When you opt in on the above site, your email will be added to a distribution list for a guaranteed StarCraft II beta key. When time comes, an email containing a StarCraft II beta key will be mailed out to those who registered with their BlizzCon key. At that point, players will be able to enter their StarCraft II beta key at their Battle.net account management page, allowing them the ability to download the StarCraft II beta client.

Starcraft 2 Beta Key Signup for an Email with a Key with a Key for a StarCraft 2 Beta signup

The SC2Blog has decided to exercise their Blizzard-given right and sign up for the beta. The link http://blizzcon.com/beta actually redirects to a WorldofWarcraft.com form page, which, once filled and submitted, rewarded us with a short notification of a signup success.

Beta Key Submission Success

This was indeed followed by a laconic email, which read:

This eMail is to confirm the address entered for the Blizzard Future Beta Sign-Up.
When the chosen beta test begins in the future, we will eMail this address with further instructions. Please keep this eMail active and make sure to check back — you never know when your invitation will appear!

Thank you for your interest in testing our games — we hope to see you soon!

Having gone through the procedure without finding a single concrete hint for the intention of launching the beta in the immediate future, we can’t help but wonder whether this year’s Blizzcon visitors will get to play the released game or settle for the second batch of beta keys.

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With the release of Blizzard’s 50th StarCraft 2 Q&A batch came the announcement of Battle.net’s first step towards full Blizzard Account integration – the recently announced unified platform for all your games, accounts and achievements across Blizzard’s many Universes.

The Q&A batch opens with a Chat with the Dev section, elaborating on the much anticipated StarCraft 2 replay and observer interface.

Chat with Devs: StarCraft II from its conception has been designed to be an eSport and one of the backbone features to helping players learn more about their own gameplay as well as their opponents is through replays. In our chat with Dustin this week, he highlighted various features that will be available to players while viewing replays. These features are designed both to help players improve in StarCraft II as well as serve as a platform of statistics for eSports commentary.


• How much damage did that Reaper raid do on the enemy economy?
• Does it look like the enemy is going to be able to make a comeback?
• Is that player walking into a losing battle?


These are all questions that are raised in exciting competitive games and replays. With the new replay system, players and eSports casters will be able to follow these games in much more depth, as well as understand the repercussions of players’ major decisions on the battlefield. Players will be able to easily compare statistics of opposing players in real time as well as make their own predictions based on stats comparing army size, resource collection rate, resource allocations, and tech research in progress.

Real-time in-depth game statistics cater not only to eSports casters and fans, but first and foremost to players wishing to improve their game. Learning from mistakes, be it others’ or your own, is essential for improving your game; being able to analyze the impact of a player’s move on the balance of power in real time gives the viewer the perfect tools for understanding the consequences of it.

Resource Box View

1. Overlord can be upgraded to carry units, and spawn creep, and Overseer can detect, spawn changeling, and has a longer line of sight. Why not just have the Overlord upgraded with these abilities, rather than have him transform?


We want each race’s detection ability to be well balanced. We don’t want to see every Overlord with detection after upgrading the ability once at Lair. Separating detection capability into two units creates important choices for Zerg players, to ensure their army has enough support of each type available.

One of StarCraft’s signature approaches is forcing players to make irreversible upgrade choices, like the ones that can be applied to the Terran Command Center or the Protoss Templar Archon “upgrade”. Zerg players will now face the same choice with the Overlord, who is no longer a natural detector. There’s a clear choice between using an Overlord, which can create Creep and transport units StarCraft 1 style, and upgrading to the Overseer, which is now somewhat like an uglier, non-cloaked version of the Protoss Observer. Zerg players are forced to make tactical choices early, or pay dearly for adjustments later on.

2. Any support for stereoscopic play?


Stereoscopic vision can be an interesting feature, as we’ve seen with the recently added support in World of Warcraft and other games. For now however, the team is concentrating on the core aspects of StarCraft II and making sure the core features of the game that will be used by everyone are as good as can be. Later on down the road we can evaluate more features like this and see if they make sense to support in StarCraft II.


3. At previous events with playable StarCraft II stations we often saw players doing classic Brood War build orders and tactics. Taking all the new things into account, how far do you get with playing just like in Brood War? Is it a clear disadvantage or a good way to start?


It will depend on the player’s play type and creativity. The experience and skills from the original StarCraft will definitely help players get familiar with StarCraft II. However, there are a lot more units, abilities, and buildings in StarCraft II than the original StarCraft. Players can always start out playing in the way that they used to play in the original StarCraft. As they grow more comfortable with the game they can begin exploring the new units and abilities and discover lots of new strategies. It’s not a matter of advantage or disadvantage, it depends more on the players’ play styles and preferences.

The above question applies to some extent to any RTS available today. A person who has played multiplayer Real Time Strategy for several years and makes a switch to another game, be it StarCraft 2, WarCraft 3 or Dawn of War, is bound to perform better than someone who had been recently introduced to the genre. The closer the new game mechanics are to the previously played game, the greater is the player’s advantage over a complete chobo.

4. Will it be possible to use characters to colour ingame text like in SC1?


No, currently there is no in-game colored text support. Colored text was a neat trick in the original game, but we wanted to ensure that all in-game communication is clear and easily-readable, so we’re only supporting default text style.


5. In the single player, you said we can choose from the missions and the way we want to go forward. Will it be like we definitely will play all the missions and we can choose the order, or does it mean that probably we will miss some missions?


In most cases, you’ll be able to go back and explore a mission branch that you skipped earlier in the campaign, so you can experience almost all of the missions in a single play-through of the campaign. There may be a couple of rare cases where a choice you make closes off a mission, however.


6. Will campaign decisions in the Terran portion affect campaign outcomes/branches in the Zerg and Protoss portions?


We looked into this possibility, but after some debate, we decided it was most important that each campaign delivers a self-contained, yet epic storyline. Giving each campaign a single start and ending was the best way to ensure a coherent plot.


7. In the original StarCraft, you could make the Lurker (through bug use), while burrowed, hold fire until told to attack, something which led to many exciting situations. Are there any plans to include a “hold fire” command for the Lurker in SC2? In addition, worker units lacked Hold and Patrol commands in SC, will this be the case in SC2 as well?


There is no hold fire command for Lurker in the current build. However we will look into every possibility that encourages more tactical, exciting gameplay and keeps the game balanced.

The aforementioned “Hold Fire” command is brought up for discussion during development for virtually every RTS, and it is beyond our comprehension why it is not present for every single unit and defensive building in all of them.

The Hold Your Fire command is as basic as Move, Stop, and Attack, and opens the door to many strategies, while closing the door on others. Adding the Hold Fire command will have a vast impact on tactics, especially on splash-damage dealing, cloaked, burrowed and long range units, and would be a welcome new mechanic for StarCraft 2.

Karune also took the time to finally address StarCraft 2’s longest standing question:

Why do Zerglings have wings?

Karune : When Zerglings get their speed upgrade, they will visually be added with wings.

Pay attention to the crisp, high level detail of models and portraits in this batch’s screenshots, as well as to the clearly noticeable unpolished effects as they appear in the Unit Summary image. The game’s graphics and mechanics have come a long way since StarCraft 2’s unveiling. However, considering the fact that Blizzard is still heavily modifying the game, its release (or a public beta) aren’t expected any time soon.

Speaking of the StarCraft 2 Beta:  be sure to log in to Blizzard’s new Battle.net account management system and check the Blizzard Beta Opt-in check box, and you will have a chance to be invited whenever Blizzard decides to randomly issue StarCraft 2 Beta keys.


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Karune and Cydra, Blizzard’s RTS community managers, have been quite active on the official battle.net forums, answering various StarCraft 2 related questions and revealing a lot of new information relevant to gameplay. However, it’s Dustin “Cavez” Browder, Blizzard’s lead game designer, who provides the skinny on the current status of the Protoss Mothership.

Mothership moves slowly, can teleport to any Protoss building, can do huge damage to a single target with Vortex and cloaks everything nearby on the ground (including buildings). Mothership is build-limit-one.

The Mothership now has the role that once belonged to the Zerg Queen – that of the ultimate base defender. Being able to instantly teleport to any Protoss building, it can be anywhere it’s needed without delay, making immediate use of its abilities. Cloaking everything around it, including buildings, makes for an amazing defensive benefit – providing the Protoss player can negate enemy detection – and grants extra time for other defenders to arrive at the scene or for Phase Cannons to do some damage. If that’s not enough, the newly introduced Dark Pylon can enhance the Mothership even further:

You can cloak your Mothership with your Dark Pylon’s Null Shield.
In this case, the enemy can’t see anything in your base without a Detecting unit.

Since Dark Pylons are going to become quite ubiquitous in all Protoss bases (assuming they make it to the final game), this will provide total protection from detector-less attacks on Protoss expansions and Dark proxy Pylons.

Dark Pylon

The Mothership hasn’t lost too much of its offensive capacity, though. It can utilize the Vortex ability, which has been transformed from the uber-powered kill-everything AoE ability into a more direct offensive spell, not unlike the Terran Battlecruiser’s Yamato Cannon. It also possesses quite a lot of hit points and shields – perfect for advancing into defended enemy territory while safeguarding the rest of the Protoss army under its veil of cloak.

Next, we learn that Phoenixes, who recently gained the Anti-Grav ability, can no longer attack while using it – making Anti-Grav a channeled ability. Here’s the word from Karune:

The Phoenix in the latest build uses energy (4 per second) when casting anti-gravity, thus the same Phoenix is not able to attack the target it is lifting with anti-gravity.

Since a large group of Phoenixes were probably able to nullify entire ground armies in combat by destroying them as they helplessly hovered in mid-air, the developers decided to tone this ability down somewhat. Protoss players will now need double the amount of Phoenixes to achieve the same devastating goal – or just use them to temporarily remove key units from the battle.

Phoenixes

Next, a few updates regarding the Nydus Worm, which has recently lost its unique status as the Zerg’s sole transport. Cydra has made a few posts on the subject, contributing some new data about this unit/building combo. Here’s what we know about it:

  • A Lair is required to build the prerequisite building, the Nydus Network, which costs 150 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas.
  • From the Network, multiple Nydus Worms can be summoned to any place on creep.
  • Summoning does not require the presence or an Overseer anymore.
  • Each Worm costs 100 minerals and takes 10 seconds to be built, during which it is vulnerable to enemy attack.
  • The “tunnels” created are permanent and interconnected – units can enter and exit from any Nydus Worm or Network.
  • Units emerge one at a time and at the same order they entered the network in.

Nydus Network

The major change to the Worms is the fact that they now require resources to be built. Previously, Nydus Worms were summoned by Overseers, a process which only required energy. While 100 Minerals is not a high price to pay for such a powerful ability, it imposes a cap on something which would otherwise be too easy to abuse. The Overseer’s predecessor, the Overlord, will still be required in many cases thanks to his Generate Creep ability – laying the necessary foundation for the Worm. Of course, now that Overlords are transporters themselves, this step might not be necessary for some Zerg invasions.

With Blizzard just recently announcing significant macro adjustments for all three races and completely changing Zerg transportation and the Mothership’s role as per recent comments, it’s obvious that Gamestop’s release date might be just a bit off.

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