The new online game service has been available to World of Warcraft players for a while now, but it takes center stage with the release of StarCraft II and all newer Blizzard games going forward. It boasts a bevy of enhanced features including voice chat, cloud file storage, leagues and ladders, achievements, stat-tracking, unlockable rewards, custom mod support, and more. There’s even an extensive help menu and tutorial system that can teach you the basics of the game, as well as a set of challenge missions that will help hone your skills for online competition.
When you activate your copy, you must tie the CD key to your Battle.net account, and if it’s a new one, it’s a Real ID. You have a permanent user name of your choosing, but you are also asked for your real name, which will be a part of your profile. I suppose you could input a fake name since there is no need to use a credit card to pay for a subscription as with World of Warcraft, but that’s not necessary. You decide whether or not you will give people access to your Real ID – it’s possible for you to know them only by screen-name and vice versa. Blizzard recommends you only add people you know as Real ID friends.
However, only by using the Real ID can you gain access to the newest features of Battle.net, such as current cross-game support or whatever else they decide to add in the future. As you can see in the Battle.net Overview video posted here,
friends that you know by Real ID will appear in your friends list whether they are playing StarCraft II or World of Warcraft or other upcoming Blizzard titles. It also shows you what they’re doing, i.e. what mode of SC2 they’re playing or what area of WoW they’re currently in. Using this unified friends list, you can instant message or invite people to join your party, which allows for easy coordination of group matches.
When it comes to StarCraft, online multiplayer is practically an entirely different game. You probably shouldn’t jump into it until after you know what you’re doing because the whole thing blows wide open and can be overwhelming to a newbie. For example, without the meta-upgrades of the campaign, everything has to be researched before you can use them in that particular skirmish. Also, some units (such as Terran medics) were removed from multiplayer to preserve the delicate balance between the races or because they are made redundant by a new unit. Compared to the scripted, leisurely campaign, competitive matches against other people are fast-paced and cut-throat, often concluding in the blink of an eye if you are caught unprepared.
My play style isn’t very conducive to success in the competitive online world, so I generally stay away from playing against strangers. The cooperative skirmishes against AI opponents are more my speed, so that will likely be the extent of my multiplayer experience. I used to play StarCraft matches with a friend of mine, but the whole business of optimizing build order, constantly churning out masses of units, memorizing hotkeys, and micromanaging combat just isn’t how I generally like to enjoy playing a game.