It’s no secret that I like my strategy games, and Starcraft II is no exception. Unfortunately, since I currently only have the Starter Edition of SC2 (the free version, with limited but fair features--for the time being) , I’ve only experienced a small sample of what the game has to offer. If I want to experience more of the game’s online play, like it’s Arcade library, I’ll have to either buy the full version or get a friend who has the full version to invite me to a gamemode I’m otherwise unable to access.
Considering there are several different gamemodes to try out in Arcade, my curiosity was understandably piqued when I heard that SC2’s upcoming Patch 2.1 update would give Starter Edition players full access to the game’s Arcade library. Not only will SE players like myself get full access to the Arcade, but we’ll also get full access to custom games too. So, from one novice SC2 player to another, allow me to give you a quick rundown of what SC2’s developer Blizzard has in store with Patch 2.1 for SE and full version players alike.
As was touched on during the Starcraft II Update Panel at last year’s BlizzCon, the Patch 2.1 update will add a fair few new features to improve the gameplay, administration and customization experience of SC2, like the Clan and Group Event Calendar, the option to create and submit custom decals, a new tool feature that helps when developing mods and the addition of versions of the original Starcraft and Brood War soundtracks, and multiplayer balances too. Each of the topics mentioned eventually got their own specific preview article or were detailed in an overview alongside other things.
For those of you who run a clan or a group, or are indeed part of one, you may be happy to hear about the new improvements that’ll come your way as part of Patch 2.1. Detailed in its own preview article, group / clan owners and officers will now be able to organize events and occasions more fluidly with the addition of the “Create Event” feature. With this feature, you’ll be able to set a time and date for an event you wish to happen, as well as the event’s duration or any details you wish to include in its description. The planned events will stack chronologically, so the closest event will stack at the top and the furthest away event will be stacked at the bottom.
A maximum of five events will be on display in the new Events section of the SC2 home screen at any given time, but that doesn't mean you can’t have more than five events planned, and all will be visible to anyone within the clan / group the events are organized for. Further more, any event that takes place on the day it’s scheduled will have its respective mini-calendar icon highlighted yellow, isolating it from the other events and signalling the clan / group members that an event’s happening on that day.
What’s more, new customization options will available to you, such as being able upload a custom image for your clan’s / group’s icon, as well its own decal too if you wish. Using a square .jpg or .png image with a maximum resolution of 255 x 255, you can upload an icon via the Info tab from your clan / group window by selecting Edit. When Patch 2.1 drops, a new “Change Icon” option will have been added, and from there you’re able to upload your icon via SC2’s newly added “ImageUploads” folder ("Documents\StarCraft II\ImageUploads" for Windows users, or “~/Library/Application Support/Blizzard/StarCraft II/ImageUploads” for Mac users). Uploading a decal follows a similar procedure, and it allows for clan members specifically to show off their clan’s colors to others in-game during matches. Due to recent concerns raised by those who’re taking part in SC2’s Public Test Realm regarding players using images of units (such as Banelings or Widow Mines) to mislead and distract opponents during a match, Blizzard has opted to change how the decals are displayed in-game back to how they were originally during the Update Panel, so that they appear more like what is pictured below rather than what it may have been.
As for SC2’s modding scene, modders may be happy to know that a new feature named “Extension Mods” will be added to help you in developing your mods. Designed to streamline the modding process, I believe, Extension Mods will allow you to to develop a mod by utilizing a set of parameters that can be published to Battle.net (Blizzard’s online hub) and then applied to any SC2 melee by any player. Instead of setting up each map you want to mod and publishing a unique version of that map, Extension Mods will instead take on board your mods and apply them to the maps you have them set to. So, whenever a player wants to play with a mod on a certain map, all they’d have to do is browse the maps available via Custom Games and there will be respective Extension Mods visible for each map, once Patch 2.1 drops. Then all the player would have to do is select the mod of the map in which they would like to play, and the map will load with the modder’s modded version of that map.
What’s more, the level cap for each race will be increased from level 30 to level 35, and achieving level 35 for each race will unlock special rewards relating to each race. Due to the immense enthusiasm and support for the animated “StarCrafts” series by Carbot Animations, there have been many requests to have the creator, Jonathan Burton’s work added to SC. So Blizzard asked him to produce a new portrait and a new decal for each of the races, which will be unlocked upon achieving levels 32 and 35 with Terran, Zerg and Protoss respectively. At level 32 for each of the three races you will unlock the the new decal for each race, and at level 35 for each of the three races you will unlock the new portrait for each race. All you’ll have to do is play a few matches and gain XP. Additionally, along with the new portraits and decals, when Patch 2.1 drops the First Win of the Day bonus will be increased to 100,000 XP, which will apply for each race. Win for the first time in the day once with each of three races and you’ll be rewarded with 100,000 bonus XP.
Patch 2.1 will also fix circumstantial issues regarding Lobby Hosts being absent from the game, thus being unable to initiate the match they’re hosting, making everyone else wait. Blizzard will be implementing a system that will process and automatically boot any inactive players from Arcade and Custom Game lobbies, regardless if said inactive player just so happens to be the the host. If it is the host that happens to be booted, another host will be selected automatically from players within the waiting lobby. Players in public game lobbies will now be prompted to respond if they remain inactive for a short period of time when Patch 2.1 drops. If they don’t respond to the prompt they will be booted from the lobby, allowing for the other players to carry on with their game without having to wait for the host to initiate the match--or maybe not if they’re adamant on waiting anyway.
Lastly, the original Starcraft and Brood War soundtracks will be remastered and added to Starcraft II’s jukebox with the release of Patch 2.1. After hearing feedback from fans who believe the soundtracks from these two games will make great additions to SC2, Blizzard has decided to satisfy the requests of nostalgia and will allow players to listen to tracks that gave fans something to rock to as they plowed through their enemies back in the day. Only available outside the campaign, you can access the remastered version of the soundtracks by navigating to the “Soundtrack” dropdown menu in the game’s settings. There you will able to select if you want Starcraft / Brood War tracks to play only, or Starcraft II music to play, or the tracks from all three if you so desire.
If you’re interested in helping Blizzard out with Patch 2.1, you can opt to join in Starcraft II’s Public Test Realm. To do this, you’ll first need to download Blizzard’s Battle.net Desktop App and select Starcraft II from the list of games in order to get started. You’ll then need to choose “PTR: Heart of the Swarm” from the dropdown menu located above the big blue “Install” button. After that option is selected, hit Install, and once it’s complete hit “Play” (which will replace Install) to launch the PTR. Please take note that you’ll need Starcraft II’s latest expansion, Heart of the Swarm, in order to access the Realm. To play SC2 normally, simply go through the same procedure, except this time select the region that’s relative to you and you’ll be to access SC2 again. Attempting to access the Realm via alternative means will no longer grant you entry to it; it can only be accessed through the Desktop App.
A specific release date for Patch 2.1 has yet to be announced from Blizzard, and a lot of players appear to be getting impatient on the matter. Hopefully it’ll be soon, though I’m not complaining if it takes X amount of time--the more time spent on it the more finished it’ll be, as obvious as it sounds. Still, I can’t wait to be able to play more of the Arcade games when the patch drops, that’ll be a very fun day indeed. For more information or a chance to discuss the upcoming patch, you can check out Blizzard’s dedicated PTR Discussion forum here.