Patch 2.1 was released recently bringing a whole slew of new functionality and features to battle.net.
The first set of changes are directed toward clans and groups to make the whole battle.net experience more social and customizable. Leaders of groups and clans will be able to set up events on a given date/time with a description – think facebook events but within battle.net. This feature should allow people to much more easily meet up with their friends which is a huge step forward.
One of the primary issues with battle.net has been its lack of social features. You’re also now able to set a custom uploaded image as your group’s icon, while not particularly note worthy is a nice touch. The other functionality along with this is the ability to set a custom decal in game that will appear next to all your primary structures (hatchery, nexus, command center) which is a nice step toward supporting esports and implementing some of the functionality we’ve seen in the custom melee gameheart maps which have allowed this feature among others for some time now.
Blizzard is taking notice of some of the good work that the custom map community has put forth and selectively put at least some of that into the game while supporting a great deal more of it.
Speaking of support, the most notable and ground breaking change here comes in a one-two punch package. First, arcade is free to all starting in 2.1. That means that anyone with a computer that can run Starcraft II can download, install and go playing a whole slew of custom maps that already exist with many more to come. We can only imagine if this move was inspired by the entire DoTA scenario which perhaps could have assimilated the Warcraft III client all for itself. For those who don’t know, the original DoTA was an arcade map in Warcraft III. We can only guess what would have happened if Warcraft’s arcade had been free…
Either way, this change makes Starcraft II Arcade perhaps the most flexible and hopeful free to play game to date. Suddenly, entire communities can be built around custom maps and bring in players of all different backgrounds and interest. When the only entry cost is a download, it’s hard to say no to trying out a ton of different games and now Arcadians no longer need game alone as they can bring their friends in at no cost as well.
The second part of this package is the addition of extension mods which let map makers create a series of custom rules and apply them to any map. This change allows many custom maps to branch out and experiment with different terrains and features without an excessive amount of porting and other work.
The most exciting part about these two changes is in Starbow which is now a free to play mod of Starcraft II that hopes to combine the best elements of Starcraft I and II into a single game that can now be easily ported to a whole variety of different maps. Already there have been a couple of Starbow tournaments and interest. Only time will tell where Starcraft II Arcade will go, but it looks pretty promising right now.
Oh, there are some other things coming in including being able to listen to remastered Starcraft I music such as:
And there will also be some new decals and portraits for leveling up more with each race provided by Carbot who does some great Starcraft related animations:
Nothing beats the free arcade and the possibilities that abound because of it though. Here’s to Blizzard, Patch 2.1 and a bright future for Starcraft II and its cousin, The Arcade.