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StarCraft 2 – The Year of 2009: Milestones, First Award Given

With they year 2009 coming to an end, marking two and half years since StarCraft 2’s unveiling in Korea, it’s time to summarize this year of continuous teasing; feature annoucements, previews, battle reports and recurring mentions of the upcoming beta.

The first thing we covered on January 2009 is, ironically, 1UP’s post of the 25 most anticipated games of 2009, topped with the obvious reservation to curb the readers’ enthusiasm..

… both Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2 appear in 1Up’s  “25 of the Most Anticipated Video Games of 2009“, Thierry Nguyen (1Up’s writer) seems to have a very realistic view on Blizzard’s schedule, reminding everyone of its famous “when it’s done” mantra.

The first unit to receive a major adjustment in 2009 was the Dark Templar, which now comes in two flavors following the results of a poll Blizzard conducted to decide between two, equally worthy models.

On January 20, a Blizzard official – Xordiah, Blizzard’s European RTS Community Manager, made a bold public statement concerning the StarCraft 2 Beta – Blizzard has set a fixed date for the public StarCraft 2 Beta, but is keeping it a secret.
Xordiah also mentions two things which are later discovered to be key macro mechanics:

  • The Dark Pylon
  • Terran Mule – the “bigger SCV”

StarCraft 2 Screenshot of Terran being overrun

Even February 2009 started with a StarCraft 2 Beta Hoax – a fake captcha image produced by one of Battle.net forum dwellers, as well as a rumor of a leaked StarCraft 2 build. Both turned out to be completely false, with neither beta nor playable build becoming available throughout 2009.

StarCraft 2 Captcha

Towards the end of February 2009, Blizzard annouced its annual BlizzCon event and Dustin Browder posted what we’ve considered at the time a clear indication that StarCraft 2 Beta won’t be happening in 2009.

Question: “Why hasn’t Blizzard released the Beta?” or “WTF have they been working on, I played it at Blizzcon last year and I thought it was done!”

Answer: Solo campaign is under heavy construction as is Battlenet. When these things have enough work done that we know when our release date is going to be with strong confidence we will announce the Beta. Unless something crazy happens, the Beta is going to happen this year.

The above statement, coming from a senior member of the development team, should effectively put an end to any speculation that puts the StarCraft 2 beta release date before June 2009. Considering the fact that game development usually has a 60% chance of “something crazy happens”, we might be reading a similar FAQ a year from now.

Despite the gloomy predictions, nobody was under the impression that Blizzard was stalling or getting lazy – the development and art teams shelled out a massive update, drastically changing model graphics and introducing revolutionary macromanagement mechanics for all three races.

StarCraft 2 Drone

In March 2009, Beta Teasing reached new heights with the announcment (and implementation) of Blizzard’s unified Battle.net Platform, enabling StarCraft 2 Beta key owners to register via http://blizzcon.com/beta. Users could also opt-in for being randomly selected to take part in Blizzard’s various beta tests – meaning that even users without StarCraft 2 Beta keys could take part in the beta if they have set up their accounts to receive invitations.

All this teasing and beta talk was quickly taken advantage of by several trolls in order to send the community into a speculation frenzy over multiple fake “beta announcement” emails.

Blizzard Beta Opt-in

April and May 2009 were the Months of Clarifications.  Featuring multiple massive Q&A sessions, a Battle Report and lengthy Karunology posts, Blizzard’s community and Dev teams went out of their way to inform us about major changes made to StarCraft 2 in a recent overhaul. The development of StarCraft 2 is extremely well documented, and it will be interesting to come and re-visit these posts in a few years when StarCraft 2 matures.

Further, the aspects to be included in the beta have gradually been revealed during that time to be

  • Multiplayer via Battle.net 2.0
  • Replay viewer
  • Map Editor
  • No Campaign
  • Player versus AI

In May 2009, Blizzard focused on revealing even more StarCraft 2 gameplay considerations and started preparing its fans for BlizzCon. In a lengthy 11 Q&A session for SC2Pod, Dustin also revealed what is, at this time, the only hardware- based edge gamers can acquire – a widescreen montior.

1. How will StarCraft II handle widescreen monitors? If the screen isn’t going to be stretched, either widescreen or traditional format will have the advantage of seeing more of the battlefield, have you decided which one?

[Dustin Browder] Widescreen monitors will be able to see slightly more of the battlefield, but the extra visual real estate players will be getting will be quite small. Nonetheless, for competitive gaming, there will be a small visual advantage to having a widescreen.

Blizzard’s solution to previous years’ BlizzCon ticket purchasing troubles was the introduction of a strange ticket purchase queue system, which later proved itself surprisingly justifiable and had actually managed to handle the massive  burst of fans that overwhelmed Blizzard’s virtual ticket booth.

How long do I have to finalize my purchase?

Once you reach the front of the queue, you will have 15 minutes to finalize your purchase. To help speed up the process, we recommend you have a valid Battle.net account (create one now!) with up-to-date payment information ready to go, as this will be required to make a purchase from the Blizzard Store.

Towards the end of May, Blizzard also revealed that it has reversed some of its earlier gameplay decisions – such as making the Thor transportable and returning the Ghost its EMP ability.

Thors are as big as Barracks

June 2009 had one great thing about it. Battle Report 3, made entirely of pure awesome, was released (after being leaked a bit early). If, for any reason, you missed it and want to see a broad array of StarCraft 2 mechanics, weapons and abilities abused to the max, do go forth watch it now.

Still at awe by the delivery of Battle Report 3, early July 2009 we’ve been hit with another blast.  The amount of gameplay information, new videos, images and detailed Tech Trees was so vast and its release so well orchestrated, that we’ve dubbed the update  “Pre-Beta Press Event: Tech Trees, Screenshots, Impressions“. Check it out: Full of screenshots, gameplay videos, interviews and StarCraft 2 build updates, it was one of the most singificant posts of 2009. Here are just a few items from the massive blob of info:

  • StarCraft 2 will include an online Casual Gaming League that will feature “anti-rush” map designs, a normal (slower) game speed and other care-bear perks.
  • Blizzard will push for mainstream adoption of E-Sports and public broadcast/televised StarCraft 2 matches.
  • Banelings can explode while burrowed.
  • Ultralisks are no longer a late-game screw-you unit, but hands down the most powerful and effective physical ground unit in the game.

August 2009 was the first time Blizzard openly stated that StarCraft 2 is planned for 2010. The anticipated released date range, slated for the first half of 2010 – as divulged in Activision-Blizzard’s Financial Results paper -  is highly unrealistic,  as the beta is very unlikely to be over prior to May 2010. Indeed, Dustin and co have stated that the beta will quite likely last between four to six months, if not more.

Just prior to the Battle.net and Galaxy Editor storm that was BlizzCon, Blizzard approved the release of the single player infromation pack, including pretty much everything a person considering the purchase of StarCraft 2 for its campaign value would like to know.

The Bridge

For fans following StarCraft Universe lore and eagerly anticipating the epic single player campaign, it’s a must read, but it also includes a statement we’ve been waiting for Blizzard to make for quite some time: No paid subscription for StarCraft 2.

Battle.net 2.0: “Will it require a subscription?”

We are certainly not doing that for Starcraft 2.

BlizzCon complimented the single player information batch well, covering the other two major aspects of StarCraft 2 : Battle.net 2.0 and the Galaxy Editor. While Battle.net 2.0 met the expectations of being designed to be a massive unified social gaming platform, referring to the tool presented at the convention merely an editor is a gross understatement. The StarCraft 2 Galaxy Editor was revealed to be a full-blown IDE, capable of producing games that look and function nothing like StarCraft 2.

One of Battle.net 2.0’s most innovative and somewhat controversial features is the introduction of the Premium Content Marketplace – built to provide StarCraft 2 content developers with a platform for selling their goods directly to gamers. This tool, which may later become key to the selection of games you see on Battle.net, has not received the attention it deserves -yet-. Be sure to check out the poll we’ve run on this issue since September.

October’s most interesting news piece is without a doubt the epic Battle Report 4, which featured massive clashes of Thors and Colossi, only to be abruptly aborted by a barrage of five consecutive nukes by David Kim.

Clash of Thors and Colossi

No one was suprised when, in November 2009, Chris Sigaty, StarCraft 2’s Lead Producer, stated that StarCraft 2 beta will be released no earlier than 2010.

December came and went without a lot of action as well. The only notable item was a long interview with Dustin Browder, where he revealed his game-making soul to the fans. The interview showed how dedicated Dustin – who had doubts cast on him when development began – really is to making StarCraft 2 the Best Thing Ever.

We are trying to make this game complete – like if nobody buys any other product, this game needs to be awesome. Like if Blizzard gets hit by a meteor tomorrow and we all die, at least StarCraft II was awesome – that’s what it needs to be.

It better be, after topping the respectable Wired 2009 Vaporware list.


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