BlizzCon 2010 was massive – a massive gaming celebration, catering to fans of all three Blizzard Universes – StarCraft, Diablo and WarCraft. During our stay at the the event, Blizzard has provided us with some cool new information about its custom map plans, a few exclusive answers, as well as a wealth of information from panels and great hi-res in-game screenshots.
Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 : Wings of Liberty FAQ for BLizzCon 2010 focuses mostly on the custom maps Blizzard’s designers have been developing, as well as providing us with a few vague statements about its Heart of the Swarm plans. In case some of you haven’t been following – StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm is the much anticiapted first expansion for StarCraft 2 – the second part of the trilogy.
Q: When can the general public play the official StarCraft II custom maps showcased at BlizzCon 2010?
A: The custom maps created by the StarCraft II development team are currently in a preview state, and require additional development time as well as other work such as localization, before we can release them to the public. We plan to release these maps for free over Battle.net, one-by-one, over the coming months.
Blizzard’s StarCraft II Custom Maps and Editor Panel has provided fans and visitors with many answers and was also used to unveil four internally developed custom projects, including an Official, long-term supported, Blizzard DoTA!
Blizzard’s custom map production philosophy is based on the following trinity:
- Find the “fun factor.”
- Make sure the map is easy to learn.
- Actively seek and encourage feedback.
Despite the fact that Blizzard is yet to receive major feedback, it does seem to take the first two statements in the list quite seriously, showcasing original, easy to learn and fun custom scenarious during the panel:
Left 2 Die
This is an evolution of the “Outbreak” Wings of Liberty Campaign mission, where the colonists on Meinhoff were infested by a zerg virus. In this cooperative mission, you and a friend will unlock, purchase, and use new technologies necessary to survive nighttime assaults by unique zerg units, repel their attacks, and purge the infestation.
Blizzard’s take on the WarCraft’s most popular mod and one of the most popular custom scenarios of any game in the world, Defense of the Ancients, looks absolutely awesome. Understanding the potential of integrating professional level DoTA play into Battle.net, it seems Blizzard has decided to take matters in their own hands.
Aiur Chef is perhaps the most peculiar mod Blizzard has even introduced – it’s an 8-player FFA map that focuses on … creating the best possible dish using the ingredients found on each map.
This is a whimsical eight-player free-for-all in which you control a chef and must scour the map for ingredients to create succulent dishes. Each round has a secret theme ingredient and three recipes to complete. Completing recipes grant you different rewards such as points, powers, or items. The chef with the most points at the end of three rounds is named the next Aiur Chef!
StarJeweled combines two distinct game types into a unique 2v2 experience. The right side of the game is a match-three style puzzle game. Matching jewels and clearing them away generates energy. Energy is then used to spawn special units and activate abilities; defeat the enemy base to win.
Next on the menu, Blizzard’s StarCraft II Secrets of the Masters panel revealed many of the semi-hidden Battle.net ranking mechanics – most importantly that the goal of the system is to create 50%:50% W/L records for all players. A gaming eco-system where game are constantly pinned against opponents of similar skill level, until they either graduate to higher levels or drop down a notch.
The Battle.net matchmaker is an adaptive system, which means that the more a player plays, the better the system gets to ‘know’ his or her skill level, with the ultimate goal being for each player to be paired with opponents of equal skill so they win around half of their games. The matchmaker tracks wins and losses and creates a hidden skill rating for a player over time (which is actually a rolling average composed of several different numbers).
Leagues are explained as being simply 20%/20%/20%/20%/20% per-region divisions:
Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond, respectively.
There are 5 leagues (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond), and all StarCraft II players in a region are split into these leagues by 20% increments. So, Diamond league players represent the top 20% of players in their region.
The panel’s biggest announcement was the planned upcoming ladder wipe, and the improvement due to be unveiled in Season 2!
- New UI Profile elements.
- Artwork based on player’s division rank.
- Historical season performance records.
- Top players get more detailed profiles and featured replays.
- A single placement match to reclaim your division placement.
- Masters League.
- Grandmaster League.
On top of all these new features, two new leagues will be introduced to highlight the top players in each region: the Master League, which places roughly the top 5% of Diamond players in their own league, and the Grandmaster League, a very special, elite league which is comprised of the top 200 players in each gameplay region, which will be visible to other players
During Secret of the Masters panel, Blizzard has also revealed the following :
- The hidden player rating consists of several parameters, and is not planned to be revealed.
- Will consider introducing a per-race player rating in the future
- Replay sharing feature will become available in 2011
- Chat channels are due to be re-introduced before the end of 2010
Dustin Browder, StarCraft 2’s lead designer, was kind enough to answer a few quick questions exclusively for SC2Blog:
1) Can you disclose what % of gamers venture into multiplayer/battle.net without playing the Single player campaign and vise versa – how many players finish the campaign and don’t both with multiplayer at all?
I don’t know the exact numbers but it’s about fifty percent. About forty to 50 percent finish the campaign and a good number more than that play the first couple of campaign levels, and fewer as the campaign advances to the final level. Building the campaign was important in creating the multiplayer, and a lot of people still get involved in the storyline. Some argue that with how many people play Starcraft, campaign is not important, but we still want to keep bringing in more new players. There are always new players to be brought in.
2) The race win % gaps between the leagues can get significant – meaning it would be very tough to balance the game to fit all levels. What’s Blizzard’s most realistic goal on this? Is one level of play more important than another?
We start fixing at the Diamond level. Diamond is the most important. It doesn’t interfere with the lower leagues… well, maybe it interferes with bronze but it only matters if it the game cheeses up a lot at that level. It’s really as long as they’re having fun. There are usually 4 or 5 ways to deal with things like speed, range.. except in a couple of cases where it’s kind of tight. But we usually find a way to usually it doesn’t interfere with any of the other leagues.
Dustin’s own recent blog post on Battle.net has indeed shown that Diamond level gameplay is the most balanced of all leagues. But there are some big balance gaps in other leagues, sometimes opposite to the balance state in Diamond!
With Blizzard revealing most of their short-mid term StarCraft 2 plans, the only missing piece of the puzzle is Heart of the Swarm, which was virtually absent from all StarCraft 2 panels and events.
Q: Why didn’t you showcase Heart of the Swarm at BlizzCon 2010?
A: The development team is already hard at work on Heart of the Swarm, but we’re still in a relatively early stage of development on the first StarCraft II expansion set. We look forward to showing off the game in the coming months.
Q: When will you release Heart of the Swarm?
A: We know that players are eager to find out what happens to Jim Raynor and Kerrigan next in the epic StarCraft II saga, but it’s too early to share a release date at this time.
Q: Will there be a Heart of the Swarm beta test? When?
A: We’ll announce more information about potential beta testing as we draw further into development on Heart of the Swarm.
BlizzCon 2010 itself was an awesome celebration for fans, gamers and Blizzard staff – check out to following gallery for pictures from the many panels, contests , concerts and tournaments that took place during the event.
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