Woooooooooo! WOOOOOOOOOOO! Yours truly is finally in one of the most hyped betas in recent memory, and I couldn't be more excited. But, being the giving soul that I am, I was curious as to how I could share this joy with you all, the faithful Nitrobeard readers! No, you can't have my key, so stay back, or I'll go all Gandalf on you, with the 'You shall not pass' and robes and everything.
For fans of the 'Moogle Stole My Bike' set of features, you'll all know that I'm a fan of regularly updated miniseries' on Nitrobeard, and I'm proud to say that our Starcraft 2 Beta Coverage has officially become part of that mold. Not only will I be posting basic strategies, nerdrage, and overall impressions of the beta thus far, I'll be showcasing video content of games, which may or may not include audio commentary by yours truly! I'll be using our newly-polished and always amazing Nitrobeard Livestream Official Site for the coverage, so set your bookmarks now! Also, if you follow me on Twitter, I'll be announcing when I do live broadcasts, and links to the Archive after they're published!
I've played my fair share of RTS games throughout the years (as my Steam list will show), but as good as I became at Command and Conquer or Company of Heroes, there was always a sense of awe when people mentioned Starcraft. I've been a fan of Blizzard since Warcraft 2 (and more to the point, when Diablo II stole away my summer in 2000), and I'm an even BIGGER fan of their franchises, but I was always too intimidated to play Starcraft. I've heard how well the playerbase had gotten, I witnessed the wild following in Korea, and I was blown away by realizing that there were actual television networks dedicated only to Starcraft. It was bigger than RTS, it was bigger than a majority of videogames...Hell, it was big enough to become an official sport for an entire nation of people. This was the big leagues, and I simply wasn't brave enough to tread in.
Something has changed. My tastes have expanded, and where I once shied away from competition, I'm starting to really thrive off of it. Cough it up to my recent Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2, and World of Warcraft Battlegrounds playtime, but I'm slowly coming to realize that there's no rush quite the same as winning in a multiplayer experience. I've also come to know, however, that there's nothing quite as humiliating or embarrasing as a loss. With Starcraft, ramp those emotions up tenfold.
There are many things that Starcraft 2 is doing that makes me very happy: The first and foremost, though, is their ranking system. Multiplayer matchmaking and ranking in Starcraft 2 is based upon a 'tier' structure, based entirely on skill level. If you're new to the game (aka: me), you'll fit right at home in the Copper and Bronze areas. They're the lowest tier, but they're also a fantastic way to learn build orders and maximizing your micro/macro skills at a beginner's pace. "Wait, so you mean these things with the missles can actually shoot those aircrafts out of the sky?" Essentially, welcome to High School. Time for awkward clothing choices, changes in your voice, and those really annoying school dances with nasty stale popcorn. Every once and a while, though, you'll make out with that hot girl from Geography, and it makes it all worthwhile. This is learning time, young padawan, and that's half the fun.
For the more seasoned players, there's the Silver and Gold tiers. These ladders are home to the players who have a very solid understanding of the base mechanics, counters, managing micro/macro, and can watch replays constructively, and have solid discussions on message boards, while visualizing what they're speaking of. Going with the education metaphor, this ladder has graduated, and is right in the thick of college: You know where the free food is, you know how late you can stay up before cramming for your midterm, and you know (or are quickly learning) your limit when it comes to 'beverage consumption'.
Now, there's the Platinum tier. This isn't fun and games anymore. You're seeing the best of the best here: Blizzard employees, pro gamers, and people with alot to prove, who will take no prisoners. Trust me, if someone is in the Platinum tier at anytime in their Starcraft 2 lifecycle, they're the real mccoy. They have a mastery of their unit selections, can counter you at the drop of a hat, and have such a phenomenal understanding of the metagame, they're literally finding ways to shave half-seconds from build orders. Let's put it this way: there are people in the Platinum tier that make their living playing Starcraft. If we still want to use the metaphor, these players are going for their Masters degree. Their third Masters.
Overall, I've played a few skirmish games against the AI, as I have no understanding of the game's structure. I don't know what does what, or why this item is a good counter against that one, or what-have-you. I mean, I'm all for being the sacrificial lamb for the greater good, but if I don't learn anything from my losses, I wont get better. The game feels fantastic, and the responsive units mixed with the very meaty sound effects (giant gattling guns, massive explosions, even units mouthing off during menial tasks) go so far above and beyond my expectations, especially for a beta.
In the coming weeks, you'll see quite a bit of video content of 1v1, and 2v2 gameplay. I'll also start my ranking matches on the official Blizzard ladder, so we'll see where your old pal Wes falls into the greater scheme of things (hint: No doubt I'll be in the Copper league). If you have any general questions about the beta, whether it be graphical performance, play strategies, or something I'm completely missing, be sure to comment on this article, and I'll do my best to answer. If it's something I don't know, I have no shame, and will ask anyone and everyone I need to in order to get a proper response.
Welcome to the Nitrobeard Starcraft 2 Beta Coverage, guys! I'll do my best to make this a very cool experience for you all, whether it entails an underdog story or triumph and overcoming adversity, or a laugh-riot of the worst RTS gameplay footage you've ever seen, it's sure to be entertaining! LET'S DO THIS!