I made it into the Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty beta! My email came in last night at an AGONIZING 10:20PM. For anyone who expects to get in or is very very hopeful I’d recommend going to www.fileshack.com and just downloading the beta client and letting it sit on your computer so when you finally get in you don’t have to wait for the download.

My in game name is Shock.wave if you get in and want to add me.

I played a few skirmish matches against a friend of mine who is a novice and really wants to learn the ins and outs of the game. I am however very bad at teaching people how to play Starcraft. Lately I’ve been thinking very hard about how a person can only really understand how good they are at any one thing if they’re able to teach what and how they do things. For Starcraft I’m a total failure as anyone I teach usually doesn’t end up too much better. In other disciplines I’m very effective.

As a recap I’m a dedicated Protoss player. You start with 6 probes now. Also the hotkey for probe production is now E. This frustrates me incredibly. I played SC1 for over 1000 games and it’s well ingrained in my being, my soul, that making probes should be P so this is going to be very hard to learn. Additionally, making Pylons is also E incidentally. There’s a lot of hotkey stuff I now have to relearn. This was my first stumble.

So back to the skirmishes, I played a few and mostly they were to reacquaint myself with the pace, the build order, the hotkeys, and the units. I was a horrible mess. In the first place 1v1’s are typically not my thing. In the second, I’m simply very rusty in a game that at high levels of play require an incredible amount of physical dexterity or actions per minute (APM). I didn’t lose any of these matches and for some of them, they had some slightly hilarious outcomes.

My first match was on a battle report map Blistering Sands where I was top right and my friend was bottom left. Instead of the usual frontal assault to test the waters, I simply took my first four zealots and went to his secondary ramp, destroyed the rocks, and made my attack from the rear. It was over at that point. There’s a level of diversity in building defense now on maps since many offer a ramp or choke and it seems clear that blocking the ramp is sensible but in my days of SC1, I found that building a tight defense around the base was ultimately better than putting all my eggs in the front defense. I typically walked around those kinds of defense but in SC2 it’s easier to build much more tightly since you have a building grid now as you place buildings.

We played a second match on the same map where I was again on top right and he was bottom left. This time instead of moving too fast I took my time pouring over how they’ve moved things, getting used to where unit upgrades were (I had forgotten which building researches zealot speed and stalker blink for some reason). We both took our natural expansions then I attempted to take high yield several times in the bottom right. I kept trying to take it and eventually expanded in the top center. I kept my opponent distracted enough to think that I only wanted high yield and expanded elsewhere while not letting him expand any more. I tried to play colossus but he flipped to air, vikings specifically. I changed up to dark templar and eventually won by attrition.

In general I looked over those games and they were simply horrible. There’s a new statistic in the score screen that says how many minerals you have saved up (lower is better meaning you’re spending as fast as you can instead of saving up for a rainy day). It’s a depressing stat but so is my APM counter (only viewable in replays). I need to work on speed and consistency. Also when I teach people to play I tend to play defensively which is not an optimal way to win and can certainly lead to surprise losses as you don’t have the right tech to deal with what the opponent throws at you.

Eventually my War3 3v3 partner shows up and we go on to play 7-1 in team games. Our one loss was because the map we played on is a shared base map with one wide ramp entrance. We blocked it off and I thought it would be great to tech to air. Well we were rushed and I had no units so I completely ruined us. We played the exact same team afterwards on Lost Temple and we completely annihilated them. They even started out with a gg (HATE THAT SO MUCH) since they beat us so handily the prior game. It was a sweet victory, also we played them again as our final match that night and I completely destroyed them with an army of colossi units. Overall it’s taking me a bit to get my stride back but also every time a match starts I’m having to look at and examine the map very carefully to see my entrances, roadblocks, expansions. Once I know the maps I’ll be more confident, but right now I have a lot to work on.

Starcraft 2 runs great on my system generally speaking once in a game. It’s maxed out on ultra settings at 1600×1200 in 32bits. What might be very interesting is that the frontend for the game (the Battle.net interface) is written in Flash so it runs kind of horribly. For comparison, Warcraft 3 while idling in b.net chat only takes up less than 20% CPU, possibly much less. SC2 on the other hand is upwards of 70% just idling.

On the topic of the frontend, it’s kind of a disaster to me. It’s too many clicks to get some things done. I want to start a party, that’s easy. I want to do a multiplayer game, it’s not so bad, click the template type and race and hit go. I want to start a custom game, it’s like completely and utterly ridiculous. It’s also possible that because it’s beta some options are disabled so if they were actually enabled it might be easier and less frustrating. I’ll have to remember why it was a headache later.

The fact that the frontend is flash is strange to me. They’re almost trying to mimic the look of the incredibly gorgeous looking website, but it kind of falls flat. In 1600×1200 I feel like I’m looking at something scaled for 800×600 stretched out which looks annoying. It is slightly hard to describe but it feels like everything is overly large. The artwork falls flat for some reason and it doesn’t pull off the website look very well unfortunately. The stat summary screen I was expecting too much from, but the stats are practically basic. I’ll post a screenshot later probably, if you have any requests just comment and I’ll see what I can do.

The lack of chat in battle.net is mildly irritating. On the one hand, I never talked to people when I joined War3 b.net. I’d go into a private channel or the clan channel. It was cool though to show off your icons in chat and now the only place to show that off is on the loading screen of the game which is all too brief. Icons though don’t matter much at the moment since many of them are unlocked for you and there’s no statistical knowledge behind them. In War3 your icon was your volume of win prestige. In SC2 currently your icon is meaningless. If/when they add clans (which would SUCK if they didn’t) I hope to have clan chat.

Some weird/interesting info. Replays and such are stored in the My Documents folder outside of the game directory. Also the beta client evidently does not come with maps. What happens is when you select your template, you download the maps from battle.net. I foresee the intention of this in the future but at the moment it feels a bit silly that every time I want to play I have to get some new map. Also there are multiple variations on the same map. You can get beginner level versions of maps which have destructible rocks blocking you in so you can live a life worry free of rushes, but hilariously it because a vicious game of backdoor dropping.

The game itself is as I remembered it from Blizzcon. I feel like faster may not be as fast as I remember it though. Maybe they toned it down or maybe after playing consecutively I’m now familiar with it. SC2 is the heir to SC1. To me it’s very familiar. The main difference right now is speed. The pacing of the game is much faster and more intense. My games last night ranged from 8-22 minutes or something. I don’t remember games ending in 8 minutes unless we did like a 4 zealot rush and the opponent literally had nothing in SC1. In SC2 after 8 minutes you can have some good tier 1 and tier 2 mixes of units. So far I’m enjoying it, however we haven’t qualified for 2v2 ladder yet (2 games to play) and we’ve primarily only won despite my one silly mistake.  More to come later.