The Shokz Guide, Starcraft 2 Guide

Starcraft II Arcade Beta (1.5) Review

Starcraft II Arcade Beta (1.5)
Thoughts by Your Average Gamer.

This is not a unit review or a bug list or a wish list, this is my immediate first impression of the UI features and changes, the Arcade beta and its importance to the community.

Introduction

As I begin, let me state my Starcraft 2 experience. I am a high Gold player who, before these last couple of months, played ladder quite a lot on the EU server, having risen from bronze since Season 1 (I’m also a Diamond player on US). I’ve played the game since a month after release pretty much. It is my favorite game. I’m just a student who wanted to give his two cents worth.

However, because of finals and it being my first year of Computer Science in University, the Starcraft was toned down except to release stress. This led to me playing quite a lot of custom games, both private games with friends to keep my mechanics up and plenty of custom game modes to release stress. Many evenings were spent on the custom games, so upon hearing of this beta incoming, I of course was very intrigued with the title being the ‘Arcade` beta, having spent the months before finals playing customs.
Not to sound corny or anything, I owe the custom games quite a lot for relieving stress. Anyone who had finals would probably agree with me saying that relaxed game modes aided with your mental stability during exams, allowing us a break every once in awhile. Because of this, I decided to put my own initial thoughts online for others to read. Perhaps some would agree, perhaps others will not. But I feel that if anyone finds this helpful, perhaps those who are unable to download the beta or don’t have the time to give it a go, then this review was worth every minute of the time spent.
Of course the patch notes are out there (linked below) and they are all good and well, but for those that don’t want to read a dull formatted, textual mess that was copy and pasted into the forums with no imagination or emotion put into it, then this review can be a little more personal and human to read instead. No offense to the colorful character that does release the patch notes. I personally love the paragraph before them explaining the epicness of the patch changes, before revealing that MULES still repair, Spines still take 3 billion !@#$ing years to burrow and I can still get my Zealots out so fast, that they have time to bronco ride a Queen before taking out a Zerg Hatchery and leaving behind a puddle of what can be described as a metaphorical representation of the Zerg’s hopes and dreams.

This review will be lengthy and perhaps slightly unprofessional. But please remember, I’m just a gamer. This is how I feel first time around after playing around with the new features. I’m in Ireland, where it is currently 1:12AM in the morning. I am currently jetlagged so this seems the perfect way to spend my time. This shall be written in one go so that it can be posted as soon as possible.
The most important thing I want to clarify is everything here is first impressions. That being, when this introduction was written the beta was still downloading and I have seen nothing but a couple of screenshots. Each section written after this is after an hour or so taking apart each new feature, its functionality, aesthetic appeal and the change it makes, whether it is an improvement or retrogression overall.
Remember that this review will purely focus on the UI changes and features and the Arcade. It shall not place any emphasis on any unit changes proposed. That shall be left for the pros of course. I suggest one of the many professional podcasts out there. I recommend Inside the Game or the Starcast! 

This review will analyze the beta features under a number of headings;

•    Steam Launcher
•    New User Interface (UI): General Overview
•    Homepage
•    Starcraft Section
•    Arcade Section
•    In-game Interface
•    Slash Commands
•    Summary/Final Thoughts
•    Links to screenshots


Stream Launcher

The First thing everyone will notice is the fact that you have the ability to launch the beta after only downloading 557MBs of the beta! This is not unique to the beta. In fact, Blizzard plan on implementing this into all future patch release and hotfixes. Thus, any future patch shall only require a certain amount to be downloaded initially before the player can access their game. The status can be checked in game. This is a strong start for the Beta showcase. This is going to cut the time to get into game in half.
So if you’re a casual buff who just wants to get into Single Player, or a competitive player who wants to just login to analyze a replay, most features are going be available to go as long as the update doesn’t directly include what you yourself are looking for. Of course for unit changes the respective download will have to finish but if there’s one thing all companies, whether they’re developers, publishers or any commercial branded company, they NEED to make things as comfortable and appealing to the target customers. Small things like cutting wait times are an excellent example. Irish queues are %^-*ing horrible! Nothing we hate more! The fact I don’t have to wait as long to just login is a fantastic feeling. And once in game, if you wish to use something that is being patched but hasn’t been download yet, the game will update as the map/mode loads, prioritizing the download so that everything required for you to play is updated once your game starts. Very efficient.
SIDE NOTE TO BETA TESTERS: All graphical/audio/gameplay settings and controls are defaulted. You should guess that straight away from entering a new BattleTag. This is the beta. Make sure to change graphics and controls to suit yourself before delving into any of the gameplay.


New User Interface (UI)

Let’s start new look. If I were to describe the new look, there is only one word I can use to characterize the new UI; ‘Slick`. We’re talking futuristic, sharp, SLICK borders. So sick am I of what I would call the ‘Apple craze` where everything is pretty and round. We’re SCII players! We want hardcore, sharp and SLICK. We’re here to crush nerds in the most social and friendly way. We may all love each other here, but when we hit find match, we want to crush nerd’s faces! And for me, this new graphical UI is tough and honed for battle. Take a step back to a more futuristic Windows 98 interface. Edgy and cool. They may only be borders, but man I like them.
From login, everything is there to see. You have your standard login and whatnot. A new loading bar has been added to actually show the time before login. Unnecessary for the vast majority of players but I suppose if you’re running on a Pentium II and your load time was always a bit of a mystery, you can see how long you have, put the kettle on and watch a stream until you’re in.


Homepage

Putting aside the new look for a moment; it’s your old homepage again, without Jim Raynor’s face and a few obvious changes. Starting at the top left, we can see two new buttons in place of your standard Single Player and Multi Player options. We now have Starcraft and the Arcade. Let’s state the obvious. Starcraft will take you to the single/multiplayer options whilst the Arcade will take you to the….ARCADE!
Another change that is also quite clear is the ‘Join General Chat` button. I’m not sure whether this is just for the beta so ourselves can discuss the beta amongst us in game or whether it will actually be aimed at new players to join their first time in game, to help them connect with other players. Most people I know use custom channels so, yeah. It’s there if you a user of General Chat. I suppose out of the millions playing, a few people are still there. Still, during beta it’ll be useful to talk amongst ourselves in game. I wouldn’t mind if it was gone after the beta though.
Then we have the quick nav. This allows the use of the Function keys to quickly get into your game mode of choice. It’s completely customizable so you can get be in a 1v1 with a quick push of F1. Get the APM going straight away. Sweet feature to be fair. Login and F1. Boom, game.
Aside from those changes, they removed some of the small, useless, shortcut buttons that NO ONE used. I’m going gamble and say that I’m not wrong. If you’re the one player that used the in game links to the battle.net news that would minimize the game to show you what you could have found on Reddit that would have taken half the time, well, yeah…
Friend list also seems like HD update. Nice res to it. Same with the chat channel menu. Also chat channels can be resized to near full screen. Small change. Don’t really care myself but hey, nothing wrong with it sure. If you like it, great stuff!
In regards to the Profile, Achievements, Ladder and Replay tabs, small changes have been made that seem harmless and only give more detail without taking away from the appeal of the new aesthetics.
On the profile page, you will see a new tab called arcade reviews. I had no options when I got in. What I imagine this does is quite obvious. It allows reviews of recently played arcade customs that have been created, a step away from the original (broken as !@#$) popularity rating. This is the most exciting thing I’ve seen so far. I adore anything that gives us more personal input. The front page of the arcade will be decided by our reviews alone. And now when viewing a friend’s (or foe’s) profile, you can see what they’ve been playing and what they thought. I cannot see anything but solid social applications on Blizzards part. I Love This.
Another subtle change is organizing your Match History by game type. From 1v1 to FFA, simple application that could have been added at launch. Makes life easier for sure if you want to see your 4v4 losing streak for sure.

The achievements page is the exact same as before. No obvious changes. As for the ladder page, the season tabs will now include season info and personal statistics, stating the season start date, the ladder lock and when Grandmaster begins and match data. If I can see my W/L then I’m happy. Also like that the ladder information is included. Small things like that will make this update all the more appealing.
The replay page has no changes really.


Starcraft Section

AH! So how has this been organized? I’ll say this, it’s easy. You got two columns; Single Player and Multiplayer and tutorials in the top right corner. What more do you need? Single Player holds graphical options to start up the Campaign, Challenges or Versus AI. Multiplayer holds the options for Co-op, Quick match (Matchmaking) and…..Custom games?

INDEED! Custom games are not under the Arcade. Seriously smart organization here. Blizzards aren’t completely hopeless. They have gotten rid of the horrific search parameters set in the old version, which searched both maps and fun customs. The search function is better organized, with preset parameters. Miscellaneous includes your Arcade-ish customs. When I opened it, it listed Peep mode and team play customs. My impression is that solo customs will be kept strictly in the Arcade section but I don’t understand why the team play games are here and not purely in the Arcade. Obviously in create game, you should have the ability to pick out any game mode to create privately or publically, but why not just search for one in the Arcade? Odd choice Blizzard.
Trainer is also there. Suppose it’s the right place for it. As for monobattles, same beef as the team play customs. Belongs in Arcade I think. The only time we should see customs such as these (which I enjoy. I’m not hating) is when creating games yourself. Just my thoughts.

You may also notice the `discuss strategy’ option. This is a quick link to open up the Strat channel below. I suppose between this and the general chat; we can see Blizzard aiming to help out the newcomers I suppose. Won’t be used by the mass majority of us, but I can’t give a non-selfish reason to hate on it besides, I don’t like them myself. But for people that do openly use the chat channels, it’s like Quick Nav. Nothing more I can say.

Moving onto Quick match, the race options now include some badass graphics on them instead of the changing background. Another chat option, for those looking for teams, is in the top right hand corner. Other than that, it’s the same old matchmaking screen, down to the map preferences. (Hats off to the artist behind those race graphics. Spectacular stuff)

In terms of the Single Player options and the Co-op page, nothing has really changed. All look fine, no changes and no observations.


Arcade Section

So now the namesake of the entire beta, ‘The Arcade`.
(Initial Thoughts on Idea)
The goal of the Arcade is, to me, to develop an immersive custom gaming experience with game modes created by the community (for the most part). This allows otherwise unknown Map Editors, talented or otherwise, to show what they can do a larger scale in a more appealing and downright more professional manner.

This opens up a wave of opportunities for Editors out there. Off topic, if we look at the map pool, we have custom competitive maps making their way into the ladder, developed by community members, thanks to community sites, like TeamLiquid.net and /r/Starcraft. These lads, talented and dedicated, have broken down the forth wall between the developer and consumer.
Companies such as Valve are known for promoting game modifications and even hiring because of it. Blizzard, following along the same lines, is giving these maps the exposure they deserve, stating, “We deem these maps at a high enough standard to be played on a competitive level through are ranking system.” Sure Blizzard can’t make a map worth %^-* (had to be said <3) but they have the decency to say, “Right, this is damned good, let’s get in contact and get people playing it.” These maps, which began on a thread on a community website, are now being played by thousands of players on a daily basis.
This is just another step, moving towards the more casual gamer. These gamers are looking for fun. That’s it. So why shouldn’t it be easier to expose the Editors who create fun games. Maybe they’re not the highest of quality, but if it gets you two laughs and a fond memory, what else matters?
This is the beauty of ‘The Arcade. ` The everyday man gets his chance.

Right, let’s take a look at the interface.
The Arcade is split up into multiple tabs:
•    Spotlight
•    Browse
•    Open Games
•    Fun or not…
So let’s go through each tab first.

Spotlight: Shows the most popular games being played at the time. They can be arranged by Top Rated and Top Played.
Browse: Will show popular games based upon Top Played, Top Rated, Up and Coming and Newest. You can also filter games by genre (See Below)
Open Games: This tab will show games in progress based upon your genre filter. I believe this is the first ever inclusion of being able to join a game in progress!
Fun or Not: YUP it’s back. Its beta is over and the full version is here, in the beta… Still, it’s your basic; randomly select a fun game blah blah. Whilst I never used it previously, if I ever felt like writing and giving a review, it makes sense now. You can find something new perhaps and with the inevitable incoming of new games when the Arcade passes beta, it may actually be used regularly by the critics. Who would have thought?

So that’s the basic rundown. Let’s talk about how it works:

The games currently in the Arcade were made specifically for the Arcade, according to Blizzard. The games are divided into a number of genres which include:
•    Action
•    Arena
•    Hero Battle
•    Puzzle
•    Role Playing Games
•    Strategy
•    Survival
•    Tower Defense
•    Tug of War
•    Other

Upon selecting a game, you are taking to the games page, which include an overview of the gameplay, instructions, patch notes and reviews already posted. This pre game screen also allows you to enter a specific chat for this game and anyone playing will be here. This is the one time I see myself using chat other then custom channels. And you can create a private game directly from this screen.
There it is again, it’s easy and comfortable to use.
The bookmark and recently played tabs return with a lot of new features.

Actually no changes at all. Shocker.


In game Interface

Right, so as far as I was aware before I looked at the notes, the Arcade and the UI changes were the only big things. Well, I discovered whilst testing out the stream download during an AI game, that the graphics have been completely updated. You can imagine my surprise.

I’m one of these guys that generally play on low graphic settings. No reason other than, it’s easy on the eyes (and personally I spot cloaked units easier on low). Straight away I noticed how AWFUL low graphics were so for a laugh I switched to the extreme.

You know what they say; a picture speaks a thousand words. Here’s a PvZ vs. the AI to give an example of the new graphical changes. The colors seem vibrant and find it easier to actually look at. The subtle changes make all the difference. Blizzard said it right, “refreshed with a new look and feel.” Whether you like it or not, well, to each their own. I myself like it but will still play on low graphics.


Slash Commands

Well, for the Brood War players out there, rejoice. You got something you wanted. Slash commands! Enough to make a difference anyway. Now you can block mid game to stop that spam. Not a lot to be said. Should have been there from launch. We had ‘/r` like, why not the rest?
Full list:
/help – displays available /slash commands
/close – closes the focused chat window
/min – minimizes the focused chat window
/max – maximizes the focused chat window
/restore – returns the focused chat window to default position and size
/afk – puts the player into AFK status
/dnd – puts the players into DND status
/partyinvite – invites the targeted player to a party
/partykick – removes the targeted player from party
/block – blocks the targeted player
/unblock – unblocks the targeted player
/addfriend – adds the targeted player as a character friend
/removefriend – removes the targeted player as a friend
/profile – opens the profile page for targeted player
/report – opens the Report Player dialog for targeted player
/friendnote – opens the Friend Note dialog for targeted player


Summary/Final Thoughts

It’s 4.47AM. I began at 2.10AM. Before I go on, again, can I emphasize that this isn’t a bug list or a wish list. I’m merely giving my first impressions so people have an idea what this beta is aiming for, even if it is just my opinion.
With that said, I find this new UI to be very appealing, aesthetically and functionally. The new layout and details added do nothing but make small improvements. Some features may not be used by the majority but I understand their application, even if I don’t necessarily appreciate them like I should (Most of the chat shortcuts).
I will say that some of these features are very long overdue. I have not gone by the patch notes here, only using them for a sense of what to expect but reading over them now, some of these feature should just be hot fixed in now.
My favorite change? The fact that when you go into a custom lobby, it won’t put me as Terran straight away but my last played race. That has been pissing me off since launch. It’s the small things that matter sure.
Adding the commands adds a new functionality to chat that will take away that hollow feeling chat always had. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but chat commands are a basic functionality that exist in any IRC and should be in this game and should have been in this game for the past 2 years.
The stream launcher has worked smoothly so far. I have no complaints. It’s downloaded before I go into a game within 5 minutes. Great addition.
The Arcade itself is not only a breath of fresh air in terms of its layout, but it also gives the community another method of involving oneself with this game. Perhaps you’re not the best player competitively, but you enjoy casual gaming. This features inclusion broadens what this game, this important game, has to offer. And it gives people the chance to get their ideas out to us, because they want OUR criticism. Anything that helps this community grow together and allows more communication and input from us to Blizzard and vice versa should be well received.
So those are my thoughts. If anyone has another opinion, please share it with us. If there is any community I trust to take what others say into consideration, it’s this one 

All I got to say. I hope people enjoy the Arcade beta.
Source; BashfulBen

Leave a Reply

Your Name *

Your Email *

Website

Your Comments

Starcraft 2 Screenshot Starcraft 2 Screenshot Starcraft 2 Screenshot Starcraft 2 Screenshot Starcraft 2 Screenshot Starcraft 2 Screenshot Starcraft 2 Screenshot

This site and the products and services offered on this site are not associated, affiliated, endorsed, or sponsored by Blizzard, nor have they been reviewed tested or certified by Blizzard.