by Ryan Phillip Hardesty
previewed on PC
Rank and File
After my first five practice matches I was faced with five ‘placement matches’ to determine what league I would be competing in. After playing those with, once again, a mixed-bag of outcomes, I found myself put in the Bronze league, one of the five main leagues you can place in. From weakest to strongest they are: Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, with a Pro league currently being a hypothetical invite-only group for the future. This system has been designed with fairness as the main component. Generally you will only face people from your own league, assuring (most likely) an even match against that mysterious person miles away. These leagues will be chained to what type of match you decide to play, such as 1v1 or 2v2, so you could be excellent at soloing a match and be placed in the Gold league but at the same time be awful with a partner and forced to duke it out in Copper.
Each league itself consists of numerous divisions (or ‘ladders’ in the multiplayer world) made up of around a hundred players. I was placed in Bronze league Division 14 with the division number being completely random. I saw I was at 63rd place and won my next match to move up to 57th. After logging out at 57th I logged in about two hours later to find I had fallen to 69th. I then won my next match against a heavy favorite (thus increasing my winning points even more) and rocketed to 36th.
This kind of fluctuation will be constantly present, even when you’re not online. It’s hard to imagine a balanced system letting a good player struggle upward after falling to last place due to some inactivity but, fortunately, Blizzard has that covered. While online or not, you’ll accrue Bonus Points, points that will match your winning ones in your next successful game. It’s essentially a catch-up mechanic, designed much in the same way as rest in World of Warcraft. With all these checks in place, Blizzard has laid down a steady and understandable path for multiplayer warriors to traverse. Exactly how you progress and why is, at first, a bit hazy but ultimately all you can really do is enter a match and simply try to win.
The Battle.net revamp is a major component being tested by Blizzard right now and that, unfortunately, has shown its ugly side. Envisioned as a hub to watch and play online competitions, as well as including a superior matchmaking system, an achievement system with rewards to help personify your profile and (eventually) a marketplace to purchase maps, the revamped Battle.net has been the most wearisome aspect of my time in the beta (besides those damn Zergling Rushes).
Connection and profile issues have been shaky at best and frustrating at worst. Since my first foray into the beta, about a week ago as of this article, Battle.net has been down at least twice for several hours. I’ve lost my profile data, along with all my progression, two different times. One time I even logged in to find stats that weren’t mine along with a profile picture I hadn’t obtained yet. The problems are a pain, yes, but then again, this is the beta, a form of the game meant for discovering and squashing these issues, a practice Blizzard will most assuredly have a better handle on come the release date.
The Thrill of the Kill
So what exactly can I take away from my time in the digital meat-factory that is Starcraft 2 multiplayer? If anything, it is this: if you are going to win, if you are going to claw your way up and have a good time, you have to be ruthless. Conniving. Heartless. The epitome of unforgiving. It’s truly the only way you’ll progress. After all, what else is there to do but win?
But should all this cutthroat, coldblooded competition intimidate the RTS players who’ve never strayed into multiplayer, or even those who have played online but have never faced such serious and dedicated opposition? No, it shouldn’t, because Starcraft 2’s multiplayer has been far and away the biggest rush I’ve ever received in gaming. I was intimidated, wearisome of the stories I’d heard, unsure if the experience would be worth all that sickening anxiety. But it was worth it. It was a mind-blowing blast. It’s stressful but only in the sense the best games out there convey. An easy game isn’t really a game. Some of the best games lay down that monumental task and simply dare you. They take work and multiple executions to get down right. They’re chessboards of a hundred pieces with a thousand squares but ultimately they’re worth it.
Whether the buildup of twelve years, though, is worth it remains to be seen. With so much nostalgia to reflect on, so many hopes to live up to, the folks at Blizzard are treading in a maelstrom of aspiration, at risk of being plunged under by the fans should the sequel elicit even the faintest sense of inadequacy. For twelve years all the wishes and predictions and expectations have dwindled down to what will be coming in the next few months, and when it does, I’ll be ready, anticipating all the challenges that amount of time can bring with it.