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We'll start with an interesting tidbit from the Q&A:
Shack: Can you clear up this whole LAN issue? How is that actually going to work from the end-user's perspective? Are you looking at a pseudo-LAN solution? Is that something that's on the table?
Greg Canessa: Well really the goal with Battle.net is to maintain a high-quality, always-connected experience that Rob [Pardo] and I talked about on stage. We want to eliminate griefing, we want to eliminate smurfing, we want to eliminate all these things. We want to give people that persistent character and the attachment to that character, so they're not going to misbehave. It's about community enforcement, and it's also about piracy and other things.
So the new Battle.net is an always-connected experience. Well, LAN, if you think about it, LAN play underpins--now that you understand our design, and you understand what we're trying to do, hopefully it makes a little more sense--because it kind of undermines what we're trying to do with the always-connected experience.
So we are looking at--we do understand and acknowledge and sympathize with some people's concerns about latency in certain scenarios, in certain regions of the world, location-based tournaments--and we are working on solutions. With regard to things we can do that maintain connectivity to Battle.net in some way, but also provide a great quality connection between players playing.
And then move to the previews at WarCry...
As much as people love superficial stuff like decorations and user icons, Battle.net's about playing the damn games, and this new iteration brings quite a few new features for both competitive and casual players. The Ladder system has been totally overhauled so that it caters to players of all stripes. Now the Ladder is divided into seven different leagues (from "Practice" to "Pro") and within each league you're grouped into a division of 100 people that Battle.net's magic machines guarantee will be on your level of play. "Everyone has a chance to win your division," Pardo said, and if you do happen to win, you'll advance to an inter-division tournament to really prove your mettle and "win the league."
While this system is all new for Blizzard, a lot of it isn't that new to the world. The eagerly-anticipated revamp to the Battle.net system brings with it an achievement system stored online (which promises to be an improvement on the one used in WoW, and using avatars and decals as a reward system), as well as an automatic patching service (much like WoW) and a new cloud storage system that will mean you can pick up your saved games no matter where you are, without transferring files. The new system chat has also changed dramatically and is now much more IM like (looking more like MSN, actually), which should help keeping your conversations separate.
Despite the impending major renovations, Blizzard will not be discarding the basics components that made Battle.net great. While planning on keeping the service free for all to use, there will be the addition of the marketplace. While not specifying whether or not there would be a charge for the content, users will be able to download user-generated content in the form of single scenarios, multiplayer maps, challenges and themes among other things. In an attempt to allay any previous frustrations some gamers discovered while playing competitively, Battle.net will receive a new and improved auto-matchmaking system. Conversely, advanced skill tracking will greatly assist in matching players of even skill. Competitive players never fear, league and ladder systems will also be added to keep the competition clamoring for a new challenge.
...and Ten Ton Hammer:
A major thing that was pointed out is the Real ID. Basically, you have the option of taking it to a social networking level and sharing information with your friends such as your real name and the like. You can also relabel friends on your list to a name you can recognize more, rather than coming back to the game after a month and wondering why the hell this guy is on your friends list. Your friend network will automatically carry over from game to game as well, and you can broadcast at any time to all of your friends regardless of game that you want to run heroics even while you're playing Starcraft 2. Don't panic though; if you don't want to share any information, that option will be there as well.