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StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is going live this Tuesday! If you’re serious about being among the first to hit the virtual battlefield, Blizzard will be holding midnight launch events as well as allowing pre-downloaded copies to be insta-activated.

If you intend to buy a digital copy of StarCraft 2, you might end up with a small edge on everyone else, as the full StarCraft 2 client, weighing in at a healthy 7GB, is available for download through your Battle.net account.

  • Who should download StarCraft II in advance?
    If you intend to purchase StarCraft II digitally, downloading the client now will allow you to simply pay and play when digital copies of StarCraft II go on sale.
  • Will digital copies of StarCraft II be available as soon as the game is released in stores?
    No. They’ll go on sale slightly later, on 07/27/2010 10:00 AM PDT in North America and Latin America.

While the game is already available for download, we can safely assume it is fully encrypted. On 07/27/2010 10:00 AM PDT, gamers will be able to run the installer and activate their digital copy via their Battle.net account management console.

Blizzard will be celebrating the launch of StarCraft 2 in multiple select retail stores around the world, hosting midnight parties with StarCraft 2 developers in attendance – signing copies, hosting competitions, having awesome giveaways and just mingling with their most devoted fans.
Midnight parties are expected to take place in:

  • London
  • Berlin
  • Paris
  • Stockholm
  • Moscow
  • Singapore
  • Mexico City
  • São Paulo, Brazil
  • Brisbane, Australia

Throughout its development, StarCraft 2’s regional segregation has been quite an issue for gamers around the world, especially in the eSports community. With just a few days left till launch, Blizzard decided to grant full North American server access to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand!

North American Server Access for Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™ Players FAQ highlights:

Q: Who is eligible to play on the North American servers?


A: All players, including those in the regions of Hong Kong and Macau, who purchase the English Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand Standard or Collector’s Edition of StarCraft® II: Wings of Liberty™ will have the option of playing on the North American Battle.net® servers in addition to the Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand servers if they prefer.


Q: How much will this cost?


A: The option of playing on North American Battle.net servers will come at no additional cost to all players who have purchased the Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand version of StarCraft II.


Q: How will access to the North American servers be granted?


A: Our intention is to ensure that within 60 days after the launch of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, all players with a copy of the Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand version will automatically gain the ability to also access the North American servers — this will be handled through Battle.net account management.

Downloading StarCraft 2

With just 20 days left until the much anticipated StarCraft 2 gold launch and a massive promotion campaign underway, Blizzard faces a mounting barrage of concerns over Battle.net 2.0’s social and regional features. However, in a fashion not entirely typical of a software development company, Blizzard has responded firmly and directly to these concerns, making official statements about the future features of the platform.

Arguably the biggest concern, seen on the Battle.net forums on a day-to-day basis, was the lack of chat channels during the beta and Blizzard’s stance on the issue throughout StarCraft 2’s development. Kapeselus of Blizzard’s Europe RTS community team has recently addressed the issue, and much to the community’s delight, we should be expecting chat channels patched soon after StarCraft 2’s release on July 27.

There will definitely be “chat channels” coming in one of the patches after the release. The system will be based around groups, where you will be able to join public channels that are based around your interests, which can be virtually anything. Also the system will include private chat channels (in plans for release in the first few months after the release), where you will be able to meet with your friends.

Classic Chat Interface

Unique identifiers will be making a return. However, players will no longer be able to select their own .XXXXX suffix – those will be auto-generated by Battle.net upon account creation, making impersonation quite stupid and expensive.

As for identifiers they are returning for the second phase of the beta. The previous system did not work as intended to some degree and based on feedback received the developers decided to implement a variation of this, which is going to attach character codes. These will be three digit numbers added to your nickname and they will be seen in the UI screens. Thanks to this you will be able to add friends manually, just like previously with identifiers. On top of that you can still add friends using all other methods (using the score screen or RealID).

The number will be automatically generated. Please keep in mind that you won’t be able to see this code everywhere, but only on certain screens. (i.e. it won’t get in the way and it won’t ruin the “look” of your nickname, don’t worry! )

The explanations posted were very encompassing and sincere, clarifying the reasons behind Battle.net 2.0’s feature selection. Even gamers who grew up using chat channels could see how modern social-networking setups differ from the long-existing chat-channel based Battle.net interaction and how they may appeal more to mainstream gamers, less accustomed to arranging games and tournaments using IRC and IM chats.

I agree that Facebook integration was something that some players found controversial, but at the same time I disagree that this is something buyers are not looking for.

Even _if_ majority of people don’t have friends to add there are still some who will welcome an opportunity to use this (even here or on teamliquid of all the places :)). I don’t think that looking only on one side of the issue is the right approach, especially when you can make a case that for example majority of buyers don’t care about chat channels.

You just don’t have the data and there are definitely a lot of people out there who just want to log in and play (I know a few myself). Does this mean that implementing chat channels is a mistake, as there are more pressing features that need to be there? Certainly not and I am sure you will agree with me. I am also not comparing the magnitude of both these features, just a hypothetical situation, especially given Facebook integration definitely didn’t take priority over chat channels and wasn’t hard to implement, as it is a very simple option.

The community’s second-biggest concern, a social, eSports and pricing issue all in one, is the localization of StarCraft 2 accounts and built-in measures for preventing cross-regional play, as was disclosed in the Russian StarCraft 2 pricing announcement.

….the game will be fully localized and playable only on Russian Battle.net servers, and players will be required to pay an additional fee to play on international European servers.

Kapeselus addressed the issue again, stating Blizzard’s intention to patch additional features and infrastructure improvements in after StarCraft 2’s official release.

We are aware of players’ concerns about the cross-region play and they are being addressed. As stated previously out long term plan with Battle.net is to allow players to play together. This unfortunately cannot be achieved at this point, due to various challenges and issues connected to it, making it more difficult to implement than in the past.

On the other hand we are looking into solutions which will allow interested players to get access to different regions without buying another full copy of the game. There will be support for this on the Account Management site in the first few months after the release.

During the beta, it was not uncommon for tournament participants to use alternative accounts, burrowed from friends, in order to compete against opponents from across the sea. Blizzard, obviously acknowledging the fact that such a common situation must not force players into an awkward workaround, has set a goal for enabling cross-region play.

We are looking into ways of letting you switch between servers, no matter whether you buy a European or American version of the game. As for the second question you won’t be able to play in the same game using different servers, as we have never had global servers for our games. It is our goal for the future, but won’t be there for release.

Benzen of Blizzard’s forum community team posted a lengthy reply to pricing concerns, which were mounting as Blizzard revealed its multiple region and subscription based pricing plans for Russia and Brazil.

How is the cost of the limited version reasoned? The money has to be used to support Brazilian datacenters?
One of the main goals was to make our game accessible to a wide array of players (novice to veterans), this also applies to pricing options that we have.

As a scenario, if you know you’re going to play StarCraft II and are expecting to play for a while, you have the option to purchase and download the unlimited version online, directly from us. However, if you’re a new player or, if you’re unsure about how long you’re going to play for, you also have the option to purchase the limited version of the game at a reduced price. Then if you decide you want to play more, you have subscription options readily available for you.

Nothing has really changed in terms of being able to purchase the full version of the game. We’ve simply added additional purchasing options so that the game is accessible to a wider audience.

I wish to elaborate on this as there seems to be quite a bit of confusion surrounding this. Currently, there are no plans to allow upgrading from limited to unlimited. However, it is something we’re looking into.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the scenario where you know you’re definitely going to play the game (and for a while at that), you have the option to purchase the unlimited version. We want to make this game very accessible to everyone and we feel that having diversified payment options will help facilitate this.

Collector's Edition - 99 Dollars, Limited Availability

While the reasoning behind the pricing structure is sound and clear, the flipside is a bit harsh on regular gamers in Brazil. The unlimited version costs twice as much, almost $60, while the 6-month limited version is priced at $27. With no way of upgrading between the two after making a purchase, gamers on a budget will have quite a pricey decision to face when StarCraft 2 hits the stores.

With the nearing StarCraft 2 release and the second phase of the beta hitting any day now, updates will soon return in full gear. Get ready for the summer of StarCraft 2!

Phase one of the StarCraft 2 beta test is coming to an end for all regions at the end of this month, Monday the 31st. Here’s the official word from Xordiah, Blizzard’s RTS community manager:

We’d like to let all of our StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty beta test participants know that the first phase of the beta test will be coming to an end in all regions on Monday, May 31. The beta test will be unavailable for several weeks while we make some hardware and software configuration changes in preparation for the final phase of the beta test and the release of the game. We plan to bring the beta test back online for a couple of weeks prior to the game’s launch to complete our testing. We’ll have more details to share about when this final beta-testing phase will begin at a later date.

With the game launching on the 27th of July and phase two of the beta only commencing a couple of weeks prior to that, StarCraft 2 addicts are going to face a harsh withdrawal for more than a month. Fortunately, replays will still be available and the map editor will be fully functional, though no game of any sort will be playable since Battle.net servers will be down.

Final StarCraft 2 Beta Key Contest

If you’re aching to play some StarCraft 2 for the little time left in the beta, we invite you to participate in our third and last beta key contest! This time, we ask you to create StarCraft-related demotivational posters.

Over the next three days, we’ll be giving out 15 StarCraft 2 Beta keys to readers who create the best, most creative and most entertaining demotivational posters.

Instructions:

1) Create a demotivational poster. Poster generators are allowed.
2) Post the picture or link to it in the comments or post on our Facebook page, along with your email address.

By Saturday, May 22nd, we’ll select the top submissions and send out the keys!

The 11th StarCraft 2 beta patch, a gameplay-focused update, introduces some interesting balance changes all across the board. Unlike any previous patch, Blizzard has decided to clarify the rationale behind the adjustments in an extensive Situation Report post. The result is a nice insight into the balancing process and the Blizzard’s goals with the new changes to the game.

We’ll combine the patch notes with relevant info from the situation report in order to present the full picture.

Balance Changes

TERRAN

Battlecruiser


The build time has been decreased from 110 to 90.


Situation Report:

We are trying to make this ship a little more useful. In reality this unit is easily countered by Corruptor, Void Ray, or Viking which may already be in play by the time it arrives, but we think it might see a little more play if it’s just easier to build.


Fusion Core


The build time has been decreased from 80 to 65.


Hellion


The range has been increased from 5 to 6.


Situation Report:


This is not an actual change to the area effect of the weapon. The weapon was always range 6, but it would only acquire targets at range 5 so it would get a little bit of splash that would hit enemies behind its initial target. By making the weapon range 6 it is easier to shoot and run from enemy units. It does make the splash a little less useful if you are just using the “attack move” command.


The Hellion’s range adjustment is in line with Blizzard’s recent statements about its plans to increase the responsiveness and micro-oriented benefits for certain StarCraft 2 units, Hellions being mentioned specifically.

Planetary Fortress


The splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


Splash



We have changed how splash works for several units across the game to make it always hit the dead center of the target unit. Previously splash was centered on the front of the target unit. This makes splash generally more effective, though against certain large targets (buildings, Thors, Ultralisks) you will now not get any splash damage since the splash radius will be contained entirely within the radius of the large target.


Raven


Seeker Missile range has been decreased from 9 to 6.

Seeker Missile splash radius has been decreased from 2.4 to 2.

Seeker Missile upgrade no longer requires Fusion Core.


Situation Report:


We are hoping to see some more Seeker missiles without unbalancing the unit. At the same time we want to reduce the effectiveness of Seeker missile in 2v2 games where mass Ravens have (on occasion) been a problem.

Siege Tank


Life increased from 150 to 160.

Siege Mode splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


Siege Tanks are seeing good use in several match-ups but we still think they could be a little tougher so they can maybe get in one more shot during big fights.

The Tank’s hit point increase comes to address the simple and obvious truth – for a tank, the Terran Siege Tank is a mighty fragile unit. Ironically, tanks can’t tank at all, and more often than not, a Terran Bio-ball is used for tanking damage while the tanks deliver their AoE blows.

Thor


Ground damage decreased from 45 to 30.

Ground rate of fire improved from 1.93 to 1.28.

Air damage changed from 8 (+4 Light) to 6 (+6 Light).

250mm Strike Cannons are now an upgrade at the Factory Tech Lab.

250mm Strike Cannons research now costs 150/150 and 110 seconds.

250mm Strike Cannons energy cost increased from 100 to 150.

Anti-Air splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


The damage change reduces the Thor’s opening burst, which will mean that some units will be able to shoot a little longer before being destroyed. The increase in rate of fire means the damage-per-second remains the same, but it does change a few relationships. Thors are no longer as effective against Roaches (for example) without fire support from Marauders.

The Thor Strike Cannons have become an upgrade to try to help out the Ultralisk, who is countered so hard by this attack that we see very few Ultralisks in Terran vs. Zerg. This is (of course) not enough to really change that relationship, but we have some more plans for the Ultralisk in the next patch.
The anti-air changes make Thors a little more clear in their role as an anti-light AA weapon which gives more value to Vikings and Marines.

All three Massive ground units – the Terran Thor, Protoss Colossus and Zerg Ultralisk have received significant adjustments to their damage output. The Thor, being a mega-hard counter to the Ultralisk due to the stun and focused heavy damage effect of its Strike Cannons ability, has gone the way of the Marauder, and now requires a research to match its pre-patch state. It’s worthwhile to note that with this change, the Thor will no longer one-shot Hydralisks.


PROTOSS


Archon


The splash radius has been increased from 0.8 to 1.

Splash damage now originates from the center of the target, rather than the impact location near the unit in order to maintain more reliable splash damage.


Situation Report:


This minor buff to the Archon makes it a little bit more useful but doesn’t really change a lot of its core relationships. We still view the Archon as a recycle for a High Templar who is out of mana and not a core unit that you will build unless you are facing very specific opposition (like mass Mutalisks for example).


Colossus


The damage has been decreased from 20 to 15.

The rate of fire has been improved from 2.2 to 1.65.


Situation Report:


The changes to the Colossus damage and rate of fire are similar to the changes to the Thor. They reduce the burst damage from the Colossus so fewer units will die in the initial blast and get to shoot a little bit longer before they are hit by more blasts. The damage is lower, but the damage per second is DPS is the same.


Phoenix


Can now attack while moving.


Situation Report:


This is a huge change that allows a Phoenix to dance around Mutalisks and other air units and attack them while moving. Phoenix always did hard-counter Mutalisks, but now even a very small number of Phoenix can challenge a very large number of Mutalisks so long as they are willing to attack and move away. Use your Phoenix to keep out of the Mutalisk attack range while firing yourself and you can do a lot of damage to a pack of Mutalisks.

Sentry


The damage has been decreased from 8 to 6.


Situation Report:


We are seeing a lot of Force Fields which we really, really like. We don’t want to see fewer Force Fields, but we do want to see a higher cost for those Force Fields. By reducing Sentry damage we believe that Protoss players will have to be more careful about the number of Sentry they make.

The Sentry damage reduction is reminiscent of the Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos caster nerf several years ago. Before the nerf, it was common to mass casters because of the relatively high damage output coupled with bonus ability spam such builds enabled. With a 25% damage nerf, the Sentry’s damage per cost is significantly reduced, forcing Protoss players to not rely on them as much as they did before. While the Sentry was previously an important anti-Mutalisk unit for the Protoss, the Phoenix buff will certainly help balance this change.

ZERG

Brood Lord


Life has been decreased from 275 to 225.

Armor has been decreased from 2 to 1.


Situation Report:


Broodlords are awesome. They needed to be a little weaker. They should still be pretty scary.


Corruptor


Corruptor damage changed from 12 (+10 Massive) to 14 (+6 Massive).

Corruptor speed increased from 2.75 to 2.9531

Corruption ability redesigned:

Single target.

Increases damage taken by 20%.

Lasts 30 seconds.

Costs 100 energy.

Range 6.

Cannot target structures.


Situation Report:


All of these changes are a buff to the Corruptor. You will pay less gas for a similar level of Corruptor fire power. The Corruptor is faster and more able to keep up with your Mutalisks. In addition its special ability has changed. You no longer use Corruptors just to stun important enemy buildings but you can weaken important enemy units on the battlefield to make them more vulnerable to attack by both your air and ground units.


Infestor


Neural Parasite is now an upgrade at the Infestation Pit.

Neural Parasite research costs 150/150 and 110 seconds.

Neural Parasite can now target Air units.

Neural Parasite energy cost increased from 50 to 100.


Situation Report:


The changes to Neural Parasite are there to try to protect the Ultralisk from being mind controlled too easily. It is also consistent with what we think the power level of the ability is against Thor and other units. We have also buffed the ability to allow it to target air units so you can use it as a defense against Void Rays.


Spine Crawler


The root time has been increased from 6 to 12.


Situation Report:


At some levels of play we are seeing spine crawlers used to protect a Zerg player until he can advance to some dangerous technology (like Mutalisks). In these cases players are using Spine Crawlers almost exclusively to defend themselves and the ability to move the Crawler as a way to protect not only their base but their expansion as well. We want there to be a higher cost to this strategy and more risk associated with choosing to go “Only Spine Crawler.”


Spore Crawler


The root time has been increased from 6 to 12.


Ultralisk


Damage has been increased from 18 to 25.


Situation Report:


We are buffing the Ultralisk, but we don’t think this buff is sufficient. Expect more changes to the Ultralisk in the next patch.

As a concept, the Ultralisk is awesome. It warms our heart to see Ultralisks used in high-level gameplay. Few effects can match a giant, 600 HP-strong, über-armored biological monster dishing melee splash damage. However, the Ultralisk’s cost and its front-line battle position (unlike the Terran Thor and Protoss Colossus) make it a prime target for strong single-target effects like Neural Parasite and the stunning/damaging Strike Cannons – both being nerfed in the recent patch.

The patch also brings numerous minor bug fixes, hotkey swaps and leftie key layout changes – all found here.

All in all, this patch feels like an attempt to refine the game, pushing players from all races to diversify their builds and incorporate different units into their army. It will be interesting to see whether Blizzard succeeds in doing this and what other changes are in store, especially for the Ultralisk!

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