Hard modes are now unlocked on US servers and will be available shortly in Europe, it probably won't take long before we see the top guilds competiting for the first kills of the Lich King in Heroic Mode.
An extensive preview of the new Battle.net is now available on Starcraft2.com. Even if it's not completely WoW related, it will probably give you a small idea of what to expect on World of Warcraft in the future.
Fully integrated, user-friendly, and fast, the all-new Battle.net makes it easy to find and play games, opening the world of online gaming to generations of players. In the 14 years since the original Battle.nets launch, the service has seen tremendous growth both in terms of features and active players. Currently, there are more than 12 million active accounts on Battle.net worldwide.
This raises an interesting question. If the original Battle.net was so successful, why change it? Updating a service like Battle.net is a hugely complex undertaking. Are there really that many new features that Blizzard Entertainment could offer that would deliver a world-class online gaming experience to its community?
In one word: Yes.
The list of past innovations integrated into the legacy Battle.net service is long and varied — the introduction of competitive ladders, server-hosted games, online-stored characters, automated matchmaking, and more. But with the release of StarCraft II, Battle.net will evolve into an even more powerful and advanced online game service that will power all Blizzard Entertainment titles moving forward.
The final metamorphosis has only just begun….
The Always-Connected Experience
In the past, Battle.net was presented as a multiplayer option off to the side, off of the main menu of Blizzard Entertainment titles. That is all changing. With the new Battle.net experience, the service and the game are now interwoven into one experience. Whether you are in single-player or multiplayer StarCraft II, you are always connected, and enjoy a bevy of new and enhanced functionality.
Battle.net and StarCraft II are designed to be seamlessly connected. That means even if you're playing solo you will still view the latest news, receive game and content updates, and be able to see your friends' status and chat with them. But this new interconnectivity between the game and the service goes even deeper than that. Now, each player will create a StarCraft II Battle.net character. This character serves as your single persistent identity across the service. Everything you do in the game — win/loss record, achievements, unlockable rewards, friends list, and more — will be saved to your character profile for you and your friends to see. Even your save game progress in the campaign can be synched to Battle.net. Say you upgrade your computer and re-install the game; once you connect to Battle.net, you can continue the campaign right where you left off. This is especially useful if you play on more than one computer, because all your data will be carried over for you via Battle.net.
Competitive Arena For Everyone
One of the biggest improvements that the new Battle.net service brings to StarCraft II is smarter and more accurate matchmaking. While the legacy Battle.net service had good matchmaking, the standard experience for new players was usually a series of crushing defeats against seasoned Battle.net veterans until they either left or developed the skills necessary to thrive in Battle.net's competitive environment.
The new Battle.net matchmaking service will measure player skill more accurately than ever before, making online competitive play more accessible for a wider audience. Whats more, we are introducing an all-new Battle.net Leagues and Ladders System to the service. After using the auto-matchmaking system a few times, Battle.net will automatically slot you into a league and division that best suits your skill level. Our goal here is to encourage local competition by finding you a neighborhood of 100 players of equal skill against whom you will be ranked. This will make ranked online play much more enjoyable and give everyone a realistic chance to win their division.
Beyond ranked matches, Battle.net will also make it much easier to compete by offering a number of other game modes. Custom games will of course make their return, but there will also be a slew of new, casual-friendly game modes such as the Practice League, Co-op Versus AI (players versus the computer), Challenges, and more.
Connecting The Blizzard Community
Battle.net's social networking and communication capabilities will be some of the service's biggest new features. This new social backbone for the entire service will seamlessly integrate friends lists, matchmaking, messaging, and more. Text and voice chat are now seamlessly interwoven into and out of the game, enabling communication whether you are in Battle.net or in-game playing StarCraft II. And as is the case with previous Blizzard Entertainment titles, you can form friendships with other characters on Battle.net while preserving your anonymity.
With the new Battle.net, were also introducing an entirely new concept called Real ID. With the Real ID feature, you are able to send invites and form friendships on Battle.net with your real-life friends and family. Real ID friends are mutual, which means that both sides need to agree to the friend request. Forming Real ID friends comes with its benefits. You will see your Real ID friends by their real name, along with any character they are logged in as. You will also be able to get rich presence information about what they are doing, send broadcast messages, and communicate cross-game between StarCraft II, Battle.net, and World of Warcraft.
And of course, Real ID is totally optional. By enabling this, you can set up your Blizzard Entertainment social network, communicate and play games, and best of all, carry your network forward to future Blizzard Entertainment titles.
Mods and Community-Created Content
With a community as dedicated and as creative as that of our players, the abundance of exceptional community-created mods is no surprise. When the legacy Battle.net service introduced support for user-created mods such as DotA, Tower Defense, and many others, these user-created game types became immensely popular. But while Battle.net supported mods at a basic level, integration with tools and the mod community wasnt where it needed to be for a game releasing in 2010.
The new Battle.net service will see some major improvements in this area. StarCraft II will include a full-featured content-creation toolkit — the same tools used by the StarCraft II design team to create the single-player campaign. To fully harness the community's mapmaking prowess, Battle.net will introduce a feature called Map Publishing. Map Publishing will let users upload their maps to the service and share them with the rest of the community immediately on the service. This also ties in with the goal of making Battle.net an always-connected experience — you can publish, browse, and download maps directly via the Battle.net client. Finding games based on specific mods will also be much easier with our all-new custom game system, placing the full breadth of the modding community's efforts at your fingertips.
Sometime after the release of StarCraft II, modders will have access to an even more advanced means of sharing their work via Battle.net with the StarCraft II Marketplace. With the StarCraft II Marketplace, players will be able to browse, download, rate, comment on, and even buy mods if their creators choose to put a price tag on their work. We strongly believe that providing content creators with the option of being compensated for their work will lead to some truly amazing projects; having a budget will give modders much more freedom to explore and fully realize all their ideas. This in turn will lead to a bigger selection of mods and a greater variety of content on Battle.net.