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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!

    

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