As mentioned in a previous post, Blizzard had its annual earnings call with Activision on Feb 10, 2010 and, as expected, there was a minor tidbit of Starcraft 2 news.
Nothing major, really – just Mike Morhaime of Blizzard announcing that the Starcraft 2 beta will begin by the end of the month.
We say again: Starcraft 2 beta by the end of the month.
Of February. 2010.
It has been a looong time in coming, but Blizzard at least took the opportunity when it presented itself to release a very important piece of information to its fans. This is a smart move. There is still no firm release date for SCII, of course, but they maintain it will be the “first half of 2010”.
There are a few interesting things of note along with the beta announcement as well. The first is that the beta will now be a global release, according to a Blizzard thread or “blue post”, as it is known, in the general discussion forum for Battle.net. This is different from previous information which indicated that the Beta would be a phased release, beginning in North America and then fanning out from there.
Clearly, due to the delays the release date of the game has suffered, Blizzard has made the choice to do a global Beta (excepting China), which is the best way to handle things at this point. A phased release after all of this time would not only alienate fans in other countries further, but would also speak to weaknesses in Battle.net, which will be the most significant global structure that Blizzard needs to have in place for Starcraft 2 to really shine.
Even after the November 2009 conversion of all WoW accounts to Battle.net accounts, the game servers still experience fantastically terrible lag and log-in issues periodically, which frustrates fans to no end. If you want to know how much, go to the WoW forums and take a look at any of the server-specific threads. These people don’t fool around. Give them their WoW.
Rabid Starcraft fans will be the same way. The game needs to function, and function well, right out of the box. Doing a world-wide Beta release will give Blizz a chance to stress-test the new Battle.net, which can only benefit the game as a whole.
Another interesting tidbit mentioned both in the blue post on the forums and in a previous post here, “The New Battle.net Experience: Part 1”, is the fact that any time Starcraft 2 is running, the player needs to be logged into Battle.net.
This is an…interesting choice. During the Beta, this makes complete sense. Even for the single-player game, Blizzard will want to be able to take advantage of real-time data and bug reports. This is a sensible way to run things.
Once the game comes out in stores, forcing players to be logged into Battle.net even when playing the single player campaign may not be the best choice. Oh, it seems innocent enough, but what happens if a player has an Internet failure, or simply minor connection issues? Will the game no longer function? What if Battle.net is down?
If the Wow forums were full of angry players when the server that they needed to play a multiplayer game was down, can you imagine the outcry if the Battle.net servers going down prevented a player from using the game at all?
We’re fairly sure they would destroy the Internet.
It’s never a good idea to tell gamers what they can and can’t do, especially with products they’ve purchased. If a player owns a copy of Starcraft 2, they should be able to play it on a laptop in the boonies with no Internet connection. They paid for it. Forcing them to always be connected can go south really quickly.
But, potential drawbacks aside, the important information we’ve all been waiting for has finally been disclosed. The Beta is coming, and coming soon. This means the game must, inevitably, follow. It’s 11:59:50, people. The ball is dropping. Let’s just hope it doesn’t slide off the tower and leave and swath of destruction through the streets of this metaphor when it hits midnight.