Monday, March 11, 2013

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Tomorrow marks the launch of the first expansion for StarCraft II. I haven't actually played StarCraft II in over a year and haven't really paid any attention to news about the expansion. Robb's been trying to hype me up for it, and over the weekend he sent a line about how SCII is adding support for clans to the game in this expansion. Now, that piqued my interest. Maybe not so much because I want a guild system in SCII itself, but because I really want one in Diablo III and this may well be a step in the right direction.

I just had to go look up more details about it, and also looked into what else they're adding in for the expansion. It sounds like the following things...

  • A new single player campaign focused on Kerrigan and the Zerg. Similar to the first campaign but with a different leveling system than spending money/research on upgrades. Something about mutations and experience or something. I didn't dig into it at all because I want to be a little surprised. The first campaign was awesome and I have high hopes for this one.
  • Clans and groups. These seem to be essentially the same thing except you can only be in one clan, you get a tag in your name for the clan, and a clan can only have 50 people. Groups you can be in 20 of them and they can have infinite people. In both cases you get a chat room for just the clan/group. This is all I want for Diablo III! Come on, Blizzard. Make it so!
  • A pointless leveling system. Play ladder games and earn experience toward the race you're playing. It doesn't sound like leveling this up does anything except give you a bigger number and achievements. Wait, I like bigger numbers and achievements...
  • Apparently they're adding in unit skins and dances that you earn by leveling up.
  • The ability to watch replays with other people in the same game with one person controlling the replay. Interesting for getting better I guess.
  • The ability to tag into a replay! Even one you weren't initially part of! This has huge potential for teaching people to play better. It also lets you play the 'what would have happened if...' game. Let's pretend I scouted your incoming drop and see if that would be good enough to win.
  • This also lets them resume tournament matches by having the players load the replay of the crashed game and tagging in when the problems started. This has to be better than a remake in a lot of situations.
  • You can build a custom UI for observer mode. I won't be using this but I am interested to see what someone like Day[9] or the MLG observers do with this.
  • New stats are being tracked for ladder games breaking things down for you by matchup and map. I like stats!
  • New units and maps for the ladder.
  • Upgrades to the map editor to make for even cooler 'use map settings' games. It sounded like they were also making infrastructure upgrades to potentially allow for selling maps made in the map editor? I didn't look too far into it since I haven't used the map editor.
  • 'Players Near You' is a feature that has the server suggest other people who are playing SC2 on your local network. The examples they gave were people at the same University or in the same internet cafe. I wonder if it will go further and include people in Toronto with Rogers as their ISP or whatnot. This seems like it has some real potential for helping to meet other nerds.
  • You can play on any server now with one account. So if you really wanted to play on the Korea servers you don't need to buy a new copy of the game.
  • New training missions that break down step by step how to play the game against an easy AI opponent. This seems like a great way to help newer players to the genre figure out what they should be doing. 
I watched a few preview videos for the new stuff and for each item they explained why they were adding it and what it would do. I was never left thinking that a feature was a bad idea, or wouldn't be great for at least some people. Some of the stuff is really groundbreaking, too. Those replay features in particular are things that other games are going to feel required to graft into their systems. Getting the ability to redo a team fight in League of Legends with it fresh in everyone's mind that they shouldn't just blindly chase Nidalee and leave some of us to die would be fantastic!

I already bought the game, and it claims to have downloaded all the content just by starting up the old StarCraft II client. The official launch is super early tomorrow morning (midnight PST) so I won't actually be able to play the new campaign until after work tomorrow. Oh well!

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