Word spread like wildfire around the community today that StarCraft 2 pre-orders were now available at Gamestop and with them a bonus granting instant access to the beta. For a cost of $5 ($10 for the CE), which is essentially a 100% safe investment since it can be transfered to a different pre-order if you don’t like the game, you can play the game for the next couple of months. It simply does not get any better than this.
The new Battle.net really is a masterpiece. When you enter your beta key for SC2 on the Bnet website there is this animation as the game appears on your list. That’s just the first of many flashy productions of gloss and pizazz that add to the overall experience. Getting the game up and running was smooth and logging into Bnet was just like logging into WoW, even with the authenticator step. The appearance of Bnet’s new frontend is sharp. Right when Graev and I entered our account information we both started talking about how Blizzard products are just ridiculous. This new Bnet is pretty much what I expected it to be: leaps and bounds beyond multiplayer support for any other games.
Aside from the gloss and presentation, the functionality is great. I was able to click the friends list button and bring up the window/friend manager and add Graev by either entering his email address or the name I know him by in-game. If I enter his email, I become a real friend of his which I suppose is differentiated from simply an in-game friend. Once friends, we were able to form a party. The party is where the real action happens because from here we can jump into games together that are either ranked or custom matches. The custom map joiner with a party is going to be fantastic since it will allow people to join the new custom map creations with friends ten times easier.
Battle.net’s ability to begin providing you with the perfect experience right away starts with them asking you a quick question about how good you are at RTS games. They basically ask if you’re a noob, experiences, or a pro. After that, you’re then able to play ~5 games before being placed into a ladder bracket based upon your skill while playing. Battle.net will do its best to match you with people your skill level. Getting into these games, and others, is a lot better than it used to be. Say that you want to join a custom game. You click on it and you begin downloading the map with a slick download interface. If you want to join a ladder match you enter the queue and it pops for you when you’re ready — you’re able to do other stuff while in the queue though.
I’m very pleased with it and I think it’s going to be a huge step forward for Blizzard’s games. I can’t wait to see how Diablo 3 is integrated into it and how it allows Blizzard to improve even further upon their already leading model. If any of you pre-order and want to play, add Keen.keenandgraev and Graev.keenandgraev to your friends list!