Have you tried the Starcraft 2 beta?

So, it’s about a week now until the launch of Starcraft 2, which is undoubtedly going to be one of the big gaming events of the year.

I linked yesterday to reports that the game cost more than $100m to develop, and at least one commenter wondered what they had spent it on. (edited to add: this rumour has since been debunked.) One of the interesting comments made by Mike Morhaime in the interview was this:

We’ve brought in a lot of new players in the beta testing who’ve been playing ‘World of Warcraft’ but have never tried Starcraft

So it sounds as though just about every WoW player who opted into the SC2 beta will have had an invite. Players and bloggers have noted that beta testing phases have increasingly been used as marketing tools over the last few years, and here it is in black and white.

Alas, in my case the marketing may have backfired. I did try the game and thought it was fun. But after losing every single match I ever tried, I conclude that I’m just not experienced enough an RTS player to play this thing. And maybe not really motivated enough to spend hours reading guides and watching replays to learn from scratch.

My conclusion from my beta experience: Good game, will make a lot of SC players happy, but not for newbies. This could be completely wrong if the single player game (not part of the beta) actually turns out to have a top notch tutorial. But then again, if you are deliberately trying to get new players to try your beta, perhaps it would be a good idea to include the tutorial parts of the game …

So have you tried the Starcraft 2 beta, and if so, what did you think? Did it look as though it cost $100m? You looking forwards to release?

37 thoughts on “Have you tried the Starcraft 2 beta?

  1. I fear this will cement my reputation as “grumpy old guy” for some people, but here are my experiences.

    I played a bit of the beta when it was multiplayer-centric. I’m one of the odd people who really didn’t get into the original Starcraft for multiplayer, I really enjoyed the single-player missions and storyline. (And, yes, I’m still very disappointed about the way they just abandoned the storyline in the original games.) Anyway, perhaps this isn’t the best way to introduce me to the game.

    Overall, I just couldn’t get into it much. I really wanted to play around with the units more to understand them. But, I had two choices: play against a brain-dead computer that would barely fight back, or play against another player who had likely already been playing a while. The first game I played was with someone who build a few air units and slaughtered me mercilessly because I didn’t build any air defense. It just soured the game for me.

    I’m sure it’ll be a big gaming hit, but it just didn’t stick with me. Given the issues with RealID floating around (remember, it was also SC2 that was going to have that requirement for forum posting), I probably wouldn’t buy the game even if it had excited me.

    We’ll see. I suspect the Earth will keep turning and the sun will continue to rise in the east even if I don’t buy it, so I’m not too worried. 😉

    • I’m glad that it isn’t just me! I never played SC but I liked Warcraft 2 for the single player game and never tried a single multi-player match.

      The other thing that bugs me about battle.net is that the plans are to keep the regions heavily separated (ie. as opposed to D2 where you could select whether you wanted to play on Euro/US East/ US West servers). It just doesn’t fit with encouraging people to import their facebook friends list.

    • Back in these days I really loved Starcraft – as a single player game, just like you.

      I never understood why the Koreans loved it so much and people suddenly played RTS with Warcraft III over the net.

      Yesterday I said on Twitter I don’t care about the game, and quite some older gamers (30+… just like me. In case someone wonders what old is…) felt similar, too much like the old ten years old game or they simply don’t care for RTS anymore.

    • I’ll second this. The only PvP games I’ll play online are first person shooters and even then I play few (basically ETQW and TF2) and do not play them often. Playing against an architected challenge with scarce resources excites me in a way that multiplayer play cannot. And I share Brian’s distaste for the feeling of malaise which arises from an especially uneven match in multiplayer.

      • Interesting! I found strategy games, turn based or real time, online always a bit lacking compared to shooter-style gameplay. So I played shooters online and strategy games offline on my own.

    • Mark me as another StarCraft fan who loved single player and liked the story… but who isn’t all that excited for SC2. I didn’t play the beta, but I don’t mind.

      Oh, and the only multiplayer I ever did was LAN play. With that missing from SC2, there’s just not much for me there.

  2. If you played the original starcraft you might recognize the single player game as an extended tutorial for the multiplayer game. If SCII is anything like the original you will be lead through the rudiments of army formation and deployment with each race before you complete the campaign. That said, you will still get your face pwned by seasoned RTS players in multiplayer. Unless there is some exceptional ranking and matchmaking system going on the kind of avid multiplayer gamers you will face are already hard at work scheming over fastest builds, most efficient use of minerals and best scouting tactics. Playing with your friends is still possible, but there is no spawn disc (a free slave copy of the game you could lend to a friend for lan play) and, well, no lan play. Obviously broadband is good enough to let you play over battle.net, but the incentive to bring a laptop/desktop over and have a party is diminished.

    As for the price tag, I can believe it. Blizzard has learned a great deal about infrastructure demands on launch days, because each patch day for WoW is basically a mini-platform launch. With the removal of lan play battle.net will be serving all games over the network meaning that hardware has to be in place on day one to deal with the demand. I’m still predicting that they spend some of the day with the servers down, but rest assured that a decent fraction of that 100 million has gone to long term support. Second, one thing you will see in the single player is high quality rendered cutscenes. Those chew through dollars pretty fast. Lastly, polish costs money and no one does polish like Blizzard. Texture artists cost money, copywriters cost money (I don’t want to imagine how many people they had writing dialogue for WoW), etc.

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  4. Even though I liked SC1 very much, I won’t buy SC2. One reason for that is that I am generally not a sucker for sequels that don’t change much. There has to be a reason, some fresh idea to create a new game and just “It looks better” is no reason to me. In addition the game comes with some bitter pills. No LAN Play? Hell most of the fun I ever had with Starcraft was with 8 friends in a tiny room without an internet connection. And it costs 60€? Something in the back of my brain keeps telling me that 60 is about 10 more than usual. Plus they split the game in three parts, meaning it will cost 180€ in the end. Chances are that every part will just ship with one campaign and about the amount of additions that comes usually with an Addon. Considering the usual price for addons Blizzard is trying to cheat us out of 60 additional Euros.
    I don’t know, everything around this game just sounds fishy..

    • What is it with people thinking SC2 won’t have LAN play?

      It will, and does.

      it simply lacks the “Spawn” feature that the original Starcraft had, where you could play with as many people as you wanted with just one copy of the game. In Starcraft 2, each person will need their own Battle.net account with their own copy of SC2 registered to it. You’ll need to sign into Battle.net to begin a LAN game, but once you do, you’ll be running on your local server, not Battle.net.

      • “You’ll need to sign into Battle.net”

        That’s the rub. It’s idiotic to require signing into an internet service to play on a local network. Functionally, it’s not really LAN play if you’re checking in with the mothership.

      • Err, cite? My strong understanding was that this is not the case, everything is over Bnet, period.

      • Well, why do you actually want LAN? Is it for the seamless latency? You’ll get that, its not on Battle.net servers.

        If you’re actually hurf-blurfing about having to sign onto Battle.net, I don’t know what to tell you. Its not that big a deal. Get over it, perhaps?

  5. Meh, I’ll buy SC2 for the single player aspect. I liked SC1 and even though this will be done in 3 parts, I’ll pick all of them up because even though I don’t support Blizzard as an MMO developer, I love their single / multiplayer games (Warcraft RTS, Diablo and Starcraft).

  6. Played some of the Beta, and enjoyed it a lot. Even a newbie like me could start to win a little after the 10 tutorial+placement matches, and there are lots of vids around which start a new player off on getting better in the game.

    However, I’ll be waiting for a while before buying it. So far as I’m aware no-one has really had a chance to play through the single-player campaign, and as this part of the game is my primary reason for getting it I’m unwilling to throw down the cash before I’ve read some reviews. If it’s a <20 hour campaign then forget about it until the price comes down. The game is also £10 more RRP than other recent PC games, and I'm not willing to be an early adopter for a game and splash out more for the privilege.

    It goes without saying that RealID also leaves me a trifle leery.

  7. I’ve been playing the beta since it first launched and I absolutely love it. The beta is completely centered around the multiplayer and competitive gaming experience. Most of the beta players have played RTS games (and most likely SC1) before, so the experience level of players you were going up against in the beta isn’t the same as it will be once the game launches.

    That said, Blizzard is including difficulty settings for the single player campaign so that everyone can enjoy it. If you like RTS games and want an interesting story then StarCraft 2 might still be for you.

    It will be really interesting to compare beta players skill level to the skill level of players after the game actually releases. Hopefully you won’t be matched against people with a ton of experience and you can enjoy the multiplayer experience. I’d really like to see your impressions once the game releases.

    • I am really tempted to snag a copy and document how I get on (aka how badly I get schooled). But that price tag combined with Blizzard’s total failure to convince me via pre-sales advertising that it is aimed at people like me is making it a hard sell.

      I don’t doubt that Blizzard are capable of blowing me away, but I’ll wait until the reviews come in. Pref some from non hardcore RTS nuts.

  8. Being 30+ i also consider myself a “grumpy old guy” in the sens that my gaming taste as changed in the last 10 years.

    Late on week night, i usually prefer to chill behind an MMO and not stress my eyes out with a quick reaction game like some shooters.

    SC2 is worst than a shooter, if you want to win, you have to be quicker than your opponent. Lazy will kill you. In a shooter like BFBC2, you can also play a sniper and chill in the back.

    I will NOT be buying SC2. I would prolly play it for a week then jump to something else.

    Civ V is coming out soon, now THAT i will buy for sure 😛

  9. Meh. Never been a huge fan of RTS (well OK Dune II was cool). I prefer turn based and hex grids if I can get ’em. RT seems to take the S out of the equation for me.

    So No. The attempt to market to me was in vain.

  10. I loved the first Warcraft and Starcraft games, played them all.

    But I won’t be touching SC2 with a 10 meter Cattle Prod.

    Reason 1: It’s multiplayer centric. Sorry, being mercilessly obliterated by some 18 year old OCD patient amped up on Pepsi isn’t my idea of fun.

    Reason 2: See reason 1.

    Reason 3: RealID.

  11. “Players and bloggers have noted that beta testing phases have increasingly been used as marketing tools over the last few years, and here it is in black and white.”

    While I admit this was part of the beta it was definitely not the main focus. This beta was created and used to test multiplayer and get feed back from the community.

    Take a look at the patch note:

    The lower the number the more radical the change. This indicates to me that it was all about tweaking the multiplayer balance, not marketing(though, I reiterate, there is always some marketing with any beta).

    “I did try the game and thought it was fun. But after losing every single match I ever tried, I conclude that I’m just not experienced enough an RTS player to play this thing.”

    I understand how frustrating this is. I’ve had those losing streaks where you just can’t win a game and you DON’T KNOW WHY. Talk about a fun killer.

    If you liked the game, if you liked the original Starcraft single play, if you liked Warcraft 3 custom games, then I urge you to get this game.

    Now I sound like a marketing guy. *sigh* I digress.

    If you pick up the game, do the single player to get the hang of the controls. When you’re done with that, move on to Co-op vs AI. There’s many difficulties and it’s team games with help from other people to beat the computer. That should help hone your skill and let you get the joys of winning.

    After that, try 1v1 with a computer. This will help you understand 1v1s better.

    But here’s the big one. My main point that I honestly should have said sooner. The current multiplayer pool is small, and this small pool is filled with players that are good at this game. After release, this should change. The pool will grow and newbies should flood into it.

    I can tell you from my run in with the matchmaking system that is does a great job, if there’s people OF YOUR SKILL. That’s where it’s lacking right now. When release happens that should change.

    So, if you pick up Starcraft 2 in retail, try again, I bet you that you’ll have a better experience.

  12. The matchmaking system in Starcraft 2, even in beta, was top-notch. It sometimes took a little while for the system to place you in the correct league (my first time through I got put in Platinum, which was way too high for me and I had a win rate of maybe 10%. This time around I’m in Silver, and doing much better), but once you were in the correct league, you had a good selection of matches, where you were being matched against mostly equally skilled people. However bad at the game you think you are, there is no shortage of people who are equally as bad or worse and you will most likely be matched up against them, not the min-maxer elite gamers.

    Even in the beta with a small player pool (relative to release), the matchmaking system did “fairly” well at matching you against appropriate players.

    In addition, we rarely went more than a few weeks in beta without a ladder reset, which meant people were constantly coming in and doing their 5 placement matches, and when they’re doing those the system has no way to rank their skill. Once the game is released and we’re a few months down the track, all the people who bought the game on release will be solidly in their correct leagues, slowly moving up and down as appropriate as they or their opponents improve their skills. All of the crazy good Starcraft players will be in the Diamond and Platinum leagues bashing on each other, the reasonably skilled RTS players will be in their Gold and Silver leagues, and those who enjoy Starcraft but haven’t really got the drive to be too crazy about it can play with other like-minded players in the Bronze league.

    Not to mention Co-Op vs AI games, solo vs AI games (The AI in beta was retarded to begin with because it was on Very Easy, but there are a lot more difficulties than that now and some of them are actually pretty good at the game), AND there is the hugely powerful Galaxy Editor, which is even more versatile than the Warcraft 3 Map Editor, which produced such games as Pudge Wars, DotA (of course) and many other varied custom games. Even in the beta there is a couple highly imaginative maps (not to mention the hordes of Tower Defense games , which while not particularly original or imaginative, are still a good bit of fun if properly designed).

    Basically, Starcraft 2 will have something for everyone, and while multiplayer is certainly the majority of the game, it does not always need to be competitive multiplayer and it certainly isn’t the entirety of the game.

  13. Also, its probably worth pointing out that it is pointless “waiting for the price to come down” when it comes to Blizzard games. It just doesn’t happen, or if it does, it happens after a LONG time.

    Hell, the Diablo II Battle Chest is still $50 on Blizzard’s website.

    Blizzard games just don’t drop their prices very much.

  14. I didn’t get to try the beta. I wanted to, but not enough to pay for a key. Lucky me, I got my official beta invite yesterday. Yes, the day the beta closed. I think that’s Blizzard’s way of saying “screw you”. Or maybe they just wanted to make sure every last WoW subscriber got one without putting extra stress on the beta servers.

    I had planned to buy it next Tuesday. At one point I even thought about driving the hour to a midnight release of it, although I wasn’t too seriously considering it. This experience though has really soured me on the game. Add to that the fact that it costs $10 more than nearly every other PC game (and $10 more than I’ve ever paid for one) and it’s not likely I’ll get it next week at all. I’ve got plenty of other games to play, maybe I’ll just put it off until it’s bundled with the “expansions” that we all know are going to cost another pile of money.

  15. I really don’t think this game cost $100m. I have played WoW which was good but I love single player games more than this. So I will not be preferring it.

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  17. Everyone keeps saying they don’t like SC2 because of how MP-centric it is, but the original SC was just as MP-centric. There’s new devices, like the improved Battle.net for SC2, but it WILL have a single player campaign! 3 of them … actually. And if they do it right, each one should be as long as all 3 of the original campaigns, if not longer (they better be for splitting it up across 3 releases :P).

    The beta is completely MP because … well, really that’s what they need to test. For SP they know how they want the game to function and flow and the logistical issues of the game will sort themselves out through the MP beta.

    They didn’t want to let people beta the SP because it’d give the story away 😛 It’s not that there isn’t one.

  18. I played beta for about 3 months. I like SC1 better. Sc2 is sc1 with better graphics. I also dont like some of the micro management on the new units.

    Remember for your $59 you are getting the Terran campaign only. You’re making a $180 commitment to Blizzard get all the campaigns. I realize alot of polish in in there but not $59 for a third of the game. I pretty sure this is Bobby Kotick’s idea.

    I won’t be buying SC2 because it costs too much, no lan play (requires battle.net), too much micro in multiplayer, and Real ID integration.

    Hopefully, the single player play for free version will show up in torrents a few days after July 27.

    • “Remember for your $59 you are getting the Terran campaign only.”

      You’re being dumb. Sure, you’re only getting the Terran campaign, but the campaigns are not going to be the length of the original campaigns. I’m expecting more like a Terran campaign as long as all three previous campaigns put together, then each race gets their own similar length campaign with the next two games.

  19. You should check out the latest trailer, it’s all about the story in the single player campaign. Looks pretty epic. If the multiplayer didn’t turn you away from the game too much the story trailer might suck you back in.

  20. Pingback: Why I’m not playing SC2 « Welcome to Spinksville!

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