Patch 2.0.4 works like a beta on Wings of Liberty for Heart of the Swarm new user interface.
After a busy week, I finally get mine patched and I must say I only have positive feedback.
There are several key changes apart from mere user interface appearance. Each of these new features shapes up to provide better overall gaming experience for wide range of players. Generally, the community can be categorized into four main groups of players.
- Professional gamers
- Casual gamers (High involvement)
- Casual gamers (Low involvement)
- Community figures
Professional gamers refer to those who play the game for a living. E.g. ESF and KESPA players
Casual gamers can be divided into two main groups, albeit it is more appropriate to conceptualize it as a continuum of two extreme ends of involvement. Players who just play the campaign and probably play custom games against AI are considered as low involvement players. In contrast, players who constantly keep up with the most updated info of the progaming scene and “compete” on ladder could be referred as high involvement players.
Community figures are those who enjoy public recognition from the community, and could fall into any of the above three categories. E.g. Day9 and Tastosis.
Starcraft as an esport game is built on the foundation of competitiveness, which relies on asymmetrical racial balance. The races have to be diverse in their mechanics and play style. At the same time, the racial balance has to be maintained for the game to be competitive. The balance of the game is a concern for all players, but more specifically, only players who have achieved a certain level of skill (mainly professional gamers and high involvement casual gamers) can truly appreciate the differences of each balance patch. The second most important issue of an esport game is the entertainment aspect of the game, that is, it has to be a spectator game. Everyone benefits from it. Professional gamers gain monetary benefit from sponsors for the very reason that there are spectators. While others simply enjoy watching the epic games of the professional players. Clearly, this UI patch does not address any balance issue but emphasizes on gaming experience outside of game balance. As shown in the video below, the new patch certainly improves the spectator aspect of starcraft II.
- Watch replay together
- Take command
- Recover game
I believe the new replay features will be utilized by tournament observers and casters. Imagine, in MLG, Tastosis review a game by watching the replay together. Then, they take command of the game and explain how the outcome could be different if certain things are being done differently. That certainly can help spectators to enjoy and appreciate the competition better, especially the low involvement players. However, I can foresee epic fail moments when the casters do not have the technical skill to operationalize the ideal situations.
Personally, I have tried to use the take command feature by myself. It does not work. The victory screen pops up once I take command. That is because there isn’t any player who takes control of the other party. Thus, there’s only one player in game and the game ends.
Do you still remember the GSTL final of Prime vs. Startale between MKP and PartinG? The ability to recover game is meant for such situation. I do not believe LAN is the right answer, since I’m not a fan of 3rd party gaming platform. I’m impressed with the additional feature to suggest recommended recovery time based on the disturbed connection time frame.
The clan feature is as expected. I will be really surprised if Blizzard do not bring it to Heart of the Swarm. Sadly, I’m a lonely gamer whose friends move to League of Legends. Lol indeed.
The new matchmaking feature is awesome (explained in above video). The four-stage matchmaking system eases the learning barrier for low involvement players to get more involved in the game. Ladder anxiety is perhaps the biggest reason for players to quit Starcraft. The four-stage matchmaking system provides a gradual learning platform for players of different levels and needs to enjoy the game. I expect many of my friends will spend most of their time on the unranked feature when they return in Heart of the Swarm.
Many including myself have been begging for the unranked ladder matchmaking system. Although it’s “unranked”, the result still counts. The unranked matchmaking still evaluate the players’ skill and match them to suitable players. However, the rating is undisclosed and is independent from ranked ladder system. That is, you can screw up in unranked and your official ladder ranking will not be affected.
The unranked feature encourages players to explore strategies and not worry about ladder ranking. For players like me, who do not spend much time playing the game per se, can use the unranked system to brush up my mechanics to where I was before going back to the brutal ranked ladder.
Furthermore, there is a small change in the border of player portraits in game loading screen. The color of the border is identified by the league ranking of the players. No one is going to ask me in game “league?”.
The improved result screen has various shortcuts.
- One click away to the next matchmaking game.
- One click away to watch the replay.
- One click away to save the replay.
- Map info seems redundant to me.
After every game, the stats of the current game is compared to the season average. It seems that majority of the players notice that their APM increased based on the new performance gauge screen. My APM has increased to >250. If my memory serves me right, I should be in the range of 150-200 in the past. Hopefully someone figures out the calculation behind it.
In sum, the new patch improves the overall gaming experience. Especially the new unranked feature.