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Blizzard, keeping up with its promise from two and a half months ago, will be providing StarCraft 2 players with one free Battle.net account name change. The recently announced one-time perk will be automatically credited to players’ accounts. Blizzard advises that you use it wisely – the next ones will not be free.

All StarCraft II accounts have been granted one free name change. If you’d like to change your character name, log in to Account Management and choose your StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty game license. On your game license screen a “Character Name Change” button at the bottom will initiate the request. After confirming that you’d like to change your character name, simply log in to StarCraft II and you’ll be prompted to select a new one. Please be sure to use this name change wisely.

In other news, Blizzard’s Official StarCraft YouTube channel has been updated with 3 new videos, providing lengthy introductions to each of StarCraft 2’s three playable races.

The Zerg:

The Protoss:

The Terran:

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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.

Kerrigan Welcomes You

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!

DoTA - Defence of the Ancients, Blizzard Style

Blizzard’s custom map production philosophy is based on the following trinity:

  1. Find the “fun factor.”
  2. Make sure the map is easy to learn.
  3. Actively seek and encourage feedback.
Blizzard's Custom Map Goals

Courtesy of SCL

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

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.

Left 2 Die is a cooperative map where players hold out against hordes of zombies

Left 2 Die is a cooperative map where players hold out against hordes of zombies

Special infected are larger, more powerful enemies with special abilities

Special infected are larger, more powerful enemies with special abilities

The base can be easily overwhelmed if players don't work together

The base can be easily overwhelmed if players don't work together

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.

Towers can pack a punch

Towers can pack a punch

The final objective - destroy the enemy base's center

The final objective - destroy the enemy base's center

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.

Aiur Chef

Aiur Chef
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!

Explore the map for ingredients

Explore the map for ingredients

Collect ingredients and return them to kitchen stadium to cook

Collect ingredients and return them to kitchen stadium to cook

Compete against opponents for points over three rounds

Compete against opponents for points over three rounds

StarJeweled
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.

Starjeweled is a 2v2 game that combines match-3 puzzle gameplay with tug-of-war style combat

Starjeweled is a 2v2 game that combines match-3 puzzle gameplay with tug-of-war style combat

Marines constantly spawn from each side to attack the enemy

Marines constantly spawn from each side to attack the enemy

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
.

BlizzCon Rocks!

BlizzCon Rocks!

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

Battle Net Interface In its current state

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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BlizzCon 2010, Blizzard’s massive annual event – the celebration of all things Blizzard –  is a bit more than two months away, scheduled for October 22nd. During the wait, Blizzard is offering a few opportunities for its fans to win good money by putting their creative side to use – offering big prizes in Fan Art, Movie and Music contests.

The Fan Art contest, undoubtedly the most popular and easiest contest to participate in, offers the following prizes:

  • First Place:
    Wacom Cintiq 21UX and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Second Place:
    NVIDIA video card, one copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Third Place:
    One copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5 and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online

You can see what the Cintiq 21UX is about in the following video:

The virtual BlizzCon ticket is worth $40, and includes the following:

  • Expanded live coverage over four Internet channels offering 50+ hours of HD BlizzCon programming
  • BlizzCon 2010-exclusive World of Warcraft in-game item
  • Access to exclusive BlizzCon merchandise
  • Complete coverage of panel discussions, tournaments, and game-related announcements, plus exclusive interviews and epic closing ceremonies
  • Enhanced video on demand and DVR functionality

The Music contest offers even more lucrative prizes, with the entries having to meet simple criteria:

To enter, simply submit your song before September 27. Entries must be no longer than two minutes in length, in MP3 format, and meet the requirements listed in the official rules in order to be eligible to win.

  • First Place:
    $2,000, one Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment boxed set signed by Blizzard Entertainment composers, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Second Place:
    $1,000, one Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment boxed set signed by Blizzard Entertainment composers, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online
  • Third Place:
    $500, one Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment boxed set signed by Blizzard Entertainment composers, and one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online

Blizzard Echoes Of War

Blizzard’s BlizzCon 2010 Movie contest offers $11,000  in cash prizes alone.

To enter, create an original movie (up to three minutes in length) using footage from Blizzard Entertainment games, and submit it before September 27.

  • Grand Prize:
    $5,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue
  • First Place:
    $3,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue
  • Second Place:
    $2,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue
  • Third Place:
    $1,000, one BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the event live online, and an “Oswald” award statue

Blizzard Oswald Award

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Join the Dominion was a Blizzard media campaign that included fan participation – submitting propaganda posters as well as taking a Terran military entrance exam. The campaign’s focus was the gradually unlocked StarCraft-related media content in the form of inspirational posters, StarCraft 2 story trailer videos, music from the game, and various propaganda items. We’re going to go over all the unlockables in this post, summarizing the entire campaign for your viewing pleasure!

To start, go ahead and get a good feel of the campaign by taking the entrance exam, which will assign you to your duty in the service of the Terran Dominion. Are you a skilled Viking pilot or more of a suicidal Firebat? Better find out before StarCraft 2 is released!

After finding out about your future role in the Terran military, check out this awesome gallery of StarCraft 2 posters:

Download some StarCraft 2 ringtones and SMS alerts:

Check out the fan-submitted propaganda poster gallery here, and vote for the one you like by “liking” them with your facebook account.

Lastly, brace yourself for three amazing StarCraft 2 videos. The first two detail the story so far: the Terrans’ arrival at the Koprulu sector, the Protoss’ attempt to eradicate the Zerg, Kerrigan’s transformation into the Queen of Blades, and the events leading up to the beginning of StarCraft 2.

The last video is also the newest trailer for StarCraft 2 we’ve posted recently, combining stunning pre-rendered animation with in-game scenes seamlessly to create one of the best hype trailers ever, just in time for StarCraft 2’s imminent release!

In just a few hours, the wait will be over. Some may have needed the hype machine, but they had most of us at “StarCraft 2”.

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