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Battle.net is about to undergo the greatest update in its long and storied history as one of the world’s most successful online gaming services.

Welcome to the SC2 Beta!

These are the opening words on the new Battle.net preview page, launched just a couple of hours ago. The preview site has all the information about the new Battle.net features, screenshots of the service, and a short video interview with Greg Canessa, project director for Battle.net.

Since information about the new Battle.net hasn’t been scarce, the page itself doesn’t reveal much that isn’t already known. It serves as an aggregate of information about the service, officially showcasing it to the world. Indeed, the gaming industry should take note of this new service, as it is sure to capture the attention of many gamers who will become more loyal to Blizzard and their games than ever before.

Login screen

Here’s a rundown of the information presented on the page and in the interview:

The new Battle.net will be completely integrated into the game.

  • Saved games will be associated with the player’s Battle.net account and will be stored online.
  • Each player will create a StarCraft 2 Battle.net character, which will serve as his persistent identity, keeping records, achievements, unlockable rewards, friends lists, and so on.
  • Each player can select his own avatar and customize it to some degree; some of the avatars available and the customizations will only be available after being unlocked.

Player screen

As mentioned before, the new Battle.net is not just about the games anymore – it provides a fully-featured social experience that stretches beyond the battlefield. Seamlessly integrated friends lists, status updates, messaging options and other social networking features abound. All of Blizzard’s online games will be represented, each with their own characteristic style. As well, a new “Real ID” feature will be implemented, allowing players to form friendships that transcend characters and come into the real world, creating a bond that will follow them through any Blizzard game or player avatar. Real ID will place the emphasis on real names and identities and provide a richer social infrastructure.

At this point, Real ID is strictly optional, and players will be able to rely completely on their anonymous avatars.

Social networking

The information about Battle.net’s marketplace and matchmaking services have already been fleshed out before.

Another interesting change further complicates the ladder process by dividing it into separate leagues and divisions.
Seven Leagues will be created:

  • Pro
  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Practice

In short, matchmaking will be more friendly to newcomers and pro-gamers alike, featuring leagues that players will automatically be assigned to after playing a few games. Blizzard wants to encourage “local competition” by putting you in your “skill neighborhood” in order to facilitate fun and competitive games. As well, the fan-favorite and often neglected (in other RTS games) arranged-team feature will be available, allowing friends to team up and find a match together in the same team.

Boxer on the Platinum league

The new custom game service will include a feature called Map Publishing that will let map designers publish their maps online, distributing their creations immediately. Likewise, players will be able to browse the service and look for specific map and game types. Later, Blizzard will introduce a more advanced version of this service – the StarCraft 2 Marketplace – allowing players to rate, comment on, and even buy mods if their creators choose to put a price tag on them. Blizzard has previously assured us that only mods that they approve and that they deem worthy will be allowed this privilege.

Custom games listed by popularity. No Big Game Hunters?

Lastly, check out this picture of the game launch screen, featuring a new 4v4 map – Extinction!

Extinction

    

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