Blizzard Goes All-In with a Fast, Free Expand Starcraft II Patch 2.1

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Geekery

When I first started playing Starcraft, a long time ago, in a version far, far away, there was a very distinct division between Arcade games, PC games and home systems. One of those distinctions was that most PC games were not multi-player. Real-time strategy games were often slow, clumsy and lacked even the most remote sense of game balance. PC games had a lot of competition with actual arcades for play time by their users and multi-player games were few and far between. Consoles dominated the multi-player space and when your friends came over, you played the console.

Then came Starcraft with it’s peer-to-peer (cough) modem connections and it’s LAN mode which let you connect up to eight players at once. What made it, in my opinion, deserving of the popularity it received was it’s Spawning Mode which allowed players to install the full game on any number of computers and play with up to eight people on a local network. The sheer number of LAN parties that this game created was astounding. The most ingenious rigs were devised to house, transport and connect eight bulky desktops and the room heaters we used to call monitors. Needless to say Spawning mode was what made sharing this unique little game with your friends as easy as it could have been in those days.

When Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty came on the scene, I was excited to play it and like before, to share it with friends. Because as we all know, there’s no greater gamer pleasure than actually being able to see the look on your friends face after mass zerging them or dodging the flying corn-dogs across the room because of your cannon rush cheese. Ultimately however, I was extremely disappointed to find out that this all important feature of one of the most successful games in PC history had been left in the past like the Cathode Ray Tube monitors we used to play them on. No spawning, no free game, no LAN party. I logged in, played online, told my friends on Battle.net that they should try it out, played with the few that bothered getting the game and sulked in a silent satisfaction for my enjoyment of this game.

Blizzard however had it’s own expansion in mind and eventually, as if to honor the loving memory fans had of this former feature, they launched Spawning Mode. Yes, you could give a Starcraft II: Starter Edition to your friends but it wasn’t like it was before. It was an extremely limited edition of the game with access to only one race, maps and ultimately the user experience just seemed to be stopped just short of victory like a Zealot thwarted by a Supply Depot.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty has a fantastic campaign mode and a great expansion (Heart of the Swarm) and it’s definitely worth paying for. It even comes with an arcade of thousands of mod games developed by the community that didn’t exist in the original Starcraft. Problem was, that stupid Supply Depot block that kept players at bay, helplessly running in circles looking for something to attack but being unable to actually get beyond that wall. All those great features that nobody knows about because unlike the early days, there’s a lot more competition in the market and a lot more easier places to get your game on for free.

That’s all about to change because Blizzard finally had the sense to go all-in on the free multi-player aspects of the game like they did before. So that Supply Depot gets lowered and Blizzard announces not only are they opening the Starcraft II: Starter Edition to include all three races for multi-player games for free, they opened the arcade for free as well. It seems somebody at Blizzard missed the spawning mode like I did, so much so that they have even re-released the infamous Big Game Hunters money map along with a whole new set of modding tools to make modding maps, custom arcade games so powerful that it’s potential as a game architecture itself is, well, like a maxed out army running across the map for a base race.

So if you, like me, used to play Starcraft and you have stayed away, try checking out the latest fast, free expansion, Starcraft II: Starter Edition, invite your friends over for an old-school LAN party and warm up those corn-dogs because somebody’s gonna get rushed. For more info on the recent changes, all the new free features and the actually amazing release of the Art Tools (more on that later) for game developers check out http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/ or watch the video below.

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