Battle.net Changes Face

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For our battle.net discussion, Blizzard handed off the baton to Rob Pardo and Greg Canessa, although Pardo did virtually all of the talking.  A lot of topics were touched on such as integration of battle.net into the full interface, custom games and the future, and messaging.  We got a lot of answers, so let's not delay in getting these out to you.

What was good about the old battle.net (circa WC3 to today)

  •     Matchmaking
  •     Random Teams incredibly successful; didn't see this coming
  •     Adding and finding friends is easy
  •     Icon system for certain levels of wins
  •     Outstanding Mod community

So what do we want to change from the bad?

  •     Disorganized Chat
  •     Can't talk to those playing single player.
  •     Ladder only serves the elite that can handle it at that level of play
  •     New players get pwned
  •     Every map on the custom games list is Dota!
To add my own commentary to the above, the matchmaking was only good after the added Trueskill into the account system to handle Smurfing, the fine art of making a new name and bashing newbies for kicks when you're really good at the game.  I personally don't see the appeal of the Icon system, though I admit to hammering out games when I was close to every new dragon as Random.  The chat problems don't bother me at all, but he's right on about the last three of the bad. Being level 30 at this point on the ladder is meaningless and if you're new to the game, the only people still playing it ladder might be 40 levels higher, but you'll still get matched against them because there's no one else searching for a game at the moment.  Dota really is the main game.  More people play custom games than the actual game at this point - a scary evolution of the game.

The new battle.net will always be connected.  As soon as you start the game, you'll be asked to enter your info to start the game.  It's considered both your offline and online profile, and from the main menu, you can even see your friends list and initiate chats/invites before you even access a multiplayer menu or campaign mission.  You'll always have the up to date version, and news on what's upcoming with any of the games you access with your profile.

New to the game are achievements for doing various things, and the unlock graphic resembles WoW quite a bit.  Your friends list will even get a notice for it, and send you congratulations for building 100 marines or whatever.  These are tied to your battle.net account, and there is no creating of multiple names anymore.  Speaking of being tied to the battle.net account, Achievements are also the way you earn specific emblems and decals for your units in game, and avatars for your profile on the service itself.  Now they mean more than ever!  Challenges were the other thing revealed at the same time, and there will be specific scenarios designed to teach you advanced micro and macro strategies to hang with the best in multiplayer, with achievements of their own.  Oh, and to some, this will be the best announcement of all--we can now rewind replays!

Making it an arena for everyone is another major focus.  Matchmaking will be further improved and there will be around 8 league 'levels'.  Typically, you will only be matched within your level or one above or below, and you're rated into a league after a set number of games based on your performance.  For those of you that are really new to the game and having trouble, the Practice League has some different settings such as a slower game speed, and easier maps to defend against rushes on.  Coop skirmish against the AI is a quick and easy game mode, Random Team returns for another iteration in this game.

The party system is new, and after inviting a few people, you'll have a new screen where you can select your desired game type, join a custom game together, host a custom game together, or send yourselves searching for a 2v2 or free for all or more.  After the game is over, you return instantly to the party screen as well.  You can now sort the custom games by genre such as hero defense or tower defense.  In a rather stunningly awesome move personally, they're incorporating a system from the third party program Listchecker for Warcraft 3.  You can now host a game as private, have all of your friends join, and then convert the game to Public with a real game name rather than 'joinchris'.

A major thing that was pointed out is the Real ID.  Basically, you have the option of taking it to a social networking level and sharing information with your friends such as your real name and the like.  You can also relabel friends on your list to a name you can recognize more, rather than coming back to the game after a month and wondering why the hell this guy is on your friends list.  Your friend network will automatically carry over from game to game as well, and you can broadcast at any time to all of your friends regardless of game that you want to run heroics even while you're playing Starcraft 2.  Don't panic though; if you don't want to share any information, that option will be there as well.

The Starcraft 2 editor has been confirmed to be much more potent than that of Warcraft 3, so custom maps are going to be an even bigger part of this game.  Going along with this, if you make a map that you are truly proud of, you can now publish it for everyone to see and download from within the game, no more alt-tabbing to GetDota.com, for instance, to make sure you're up to date before you join a game and get kicked 50 times.  You can search within this list of published maps for genre or specific keywords and download as you see fit from what will eventually be a list of millions of maps I'm sure.  Further into the game's release, the SC2 marketplace will allow you to publish your maps as Premium content and charge a fee for downloading them, which part of it does go directly into your pocket!  But in order to be successful with that, your game must have a powerful following and no real alternatives to convince people to pay for the new version.  It will be a difficult thing, to say the least.  If they charge for Dota, there will be riots in the streets!  Time will tell, as will all things regarding the new battle.net system.  I'm glad to see they're making sound improvements on the ladder and friends systems, and we'll see if that integration proves brilliant or annoying!
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