Posted by thehailo on 2010-02-18
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Beta – Day One

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Beta – Day One

Well, I am one of the lucky few (I haven’t seen Battle.net break 1,500 players yet) who got into the StarCraft II beta yesterday. I figure it’s the right thing to do to brag (haha!), share my experience, and of course put up some beautiful screenshots.

Obtaining the Beta

First off, how in the world did I get into the beta? The short is answer is I don’t know and luck. The long answer is more interesting.

To start, I have a long history with Blizzard. I doubt this came into play at all, but who knows? I was in the Diablo II and World of Warcraft betas among others, and retain active accounts on a number of Blizzard games. I don’t know what records Blizzard keeps or for how long, but I’m sure this didn’t hurt me.

This history idea also extends to the new Battle.net service, which unifies all Blizzard’s games. I got an account incredibly early to gain access to the Blizzard Authenticator (then the physical token and now the iPhone app), so I’ve had an account for some two years now, long before many other players were forced to by the mandatory WoW account merger. With my Battle.net account creation I connected it to my WoW account and, here’s the important part, opted-in to all future Blizzard betas. So, since at least the summer of 2008 I have been waiting for the SCII beta. The fact I have the Blizzard Authenticator may also play a role, as support is built into the beta client.

I’m also sure my computer doesn’t hurt things. While Blizzard is sure to get a few super low and high-end systems, the majority of the systems they want will be “average,” and I fall right into that category. My system was high-end maybe four years ago, but by today’s standard it’s just so-so. It’s important to realize that, at least from a beta perspective, having a super high-end system can work against you since you represent such a small percentage of gaming rigs out there. So again, I say haha to you!

Beta Installation

As far as installing the beta, it was very mixed. Getting it from my Battle.net account was simple and quick. Unfortunately, it uses the same flawed Blizzard Downloader that WoW does. The downloader defaults to enabling Peer to Peer transferring, which had me locked at about 30K/s download, with an ETA of nearly 10-12 hours. Additionally, since the Blizzard Downloader has no functionality to let me throttle its upload, it saturated my upload connection to the point where I could barely load a webpage. Out of sheer frustration I disabled the P2P functionality, and to my amazement, my download went to over 300K/s and my ETA dropped to under an hour. Lesson learned: disable the Blizzard Downloader’s P2P functionality.

The beta only weighs in around 1.64GB so it was a quick download after resolving the downloader issue. Installation was equally quick, taking only around 5-7 minutes with minimal prompts. After that I launched the beta and in all its glory, led to my first game. The installer obtained a fully patched copy, so I was able to jump right in.

Finding My First Game

Logging in at first is simple, but caught me off-guard because I forgot my Battle.net ID is no longer my username, but my email address. After getting past my temporary stupidity I was pleasantly surprised with how clean the games interface is. Everything is easy to reach from the main page (which is very well animated also), logically placed, and there is no need to mess with any settings right off the bat because they actually have fairly good defaults.

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I jumped straight in to a Quick Match, and found my first issue. Some files were being transfers, I assume maps, and the status indicator for this was completely all over the place. The status bar was useless, the percentage print out jumped to 6,000%, and it sat at 0 of 10 for awhile before jumping to 4 of 10 and completing. The whole process took under five minutes, but it is annoying to have no accurate feedback during the download. Of course, this is early beta, so I expect minor issues like this.

My First Game

Despite the minor hiccups downloading and getting into my first match, my first match was technically flawless. I was dropped into a two versus two match where the other side was favored, apparently for good reasons.

I chose Protoss where my partner chose Terran, and the other team was Zerg and Terran. I quickly learned while having original StarCraft knowledge is a good thing, this is a whole new game and you need to learn its ways.

I quickly got up mining and pumped out 12 zealots. I then covered the only entrance into my base with six cannons and started upgrading my zealots and pumping more out. At this point a combined attack of zerglings and marines hit my partner. I rushed my zealots to him, but by the time they reached him his base, which had been defenseless in favor or manufacturing, was gone. I turned my zealots around after knocking out some zerglings and came home.

I won’t bore you with details, but suddenly it was two versus me, and it went about as well as you’d imagine.

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First Impressions

After it’s all said and done, I am very impressed with the state of StarCraft II. Normally I take release date announcements from Blizzard with a grain of salt, but I believe they can easily have it out this year. With a few games now under my belt, I still haven’t found a single issue except that download status issue mentioned above. They certainly have room to improve optimization and balancing, but the core of the game is excellent already. It’s easy to get into, hard to master, and fun all around. I’ll be playing plenty this weekend and get more gameplay shots posted as quick as I can. Until then, enjoy the screenshots I have so far using the Flash slideshow below.

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