Blizzard has finally thrown up a "preview" of Battle.Net 2.0 over on the official StarCraft II website, a possible sign that the multiplayer beta of Blizzard's upcoming sci-fi themed RTS may be soon on the way. As we reported months ago, the PC game was pushed back in part because of the Battle.Net overhaul, and how it functions within the game. Based on the new preview, that hurdle seems to be overcome.
Unfortunately, the preview doesn't offer anything significantly new--there's nothing we can download and taste for ourselves. Battle.Net will provide an "always on" experience whether you're playing a single-player campaign or battling opponents online. The upgraded service promises better matchmaking with an integrated friends list, reminiscent of Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network where other players can send messages, chat in real time, view your achievements, and more.
Along with the matchamking and social features, Blizzard will introduce Real ID with the revamped service. "Real ID friends are mutual, which means that both sides need to agree to the friend request," the preview states. "Forming Real ID friends comes with its benefits. You will see your Real ID friends by their real name, along with any character they are logged in as. You will also be able to get rich presence information about what they are doing, send broadcast messages, and communicate cross-game between StarCraft II, Battle.net, and World of Warcraft."
Blizzard also covers the mods and community-created content feature, explaining that the new Battle.Net will see major improvements in that area. Blizzard reminded gamers that a content-creation toolkit --the same one used by the game developers--will be available in StarCraft II when released. The new Map Publishing feature in Battle.Net will allow users to upload and share their RTS masterpieces.
UPDATE: Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said on Wednesday during Activision Blizzard's financial call that the closed multiplayer beta test for StarCraft II will launch later this month. The beta will be available to download from the upgraded Battle.Net service on an as-yet unspecified date. The actual full version is planned to hit store shelves sometime mid-2010. Stay tuned for more.