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So I have started playing Starcraft 2, and I have to say its as good as the original, if not better in some respects. So far the Gameplay has been smooth, I’ve had less connection issues then I have with WoW and the campaigns and videos are just awesome. Add that to the fact my avatar is a Tauren Marine, and all my units are painted with Horde Symbols and I am one happy camper. This wonderful game won’t take me away from WoW for much though, once I’ve gotten myself throughthe campaign in full and seen the story unwind SC will probably only be a casual game for me.

My one gripe though is the whole Battle.Net server problem. You see even though I play WoW on an Oceanic Server it is based on the US Battlenet, and I will freely admit I hadn’t done any research into what was happening with Battlenet with Starcraft beyond “zomg cool, means I can still play SC2 and keep in touch with guildies for when they need me.” Turns out I was wrong, you see Starcraft 2 is on an SEA Battlenet. Which in one way is great, it means us Oceanic & South East Asian players finally have our own server, and so far the playability in regards to lag has been fairly good (nothing I would complain about), but I can’t talk to all my WoW Friends.

Right now Blizzard knows this is a problem and plans to let players on SEA Battlenet be able to play on SEA or US Battlenet some time in the net 60 odd days, but what that means is that (a) when we change ourselves over 2 the US Battlenet we loose all our ladder rankings, acheivments etc (b) we lose the ability to use a localised regional server and wind back up on a US one, which may for many mean increased ping (c) we can then chat through real id with our WoW Friends.

Overall that Blizzard is already working to fix this is great, even though I am annoyed that it happened in the first place, but there should be more options. Allowing the SEA server players to also access the US server players only means that (a) we can chit chat and play with US friends made (b) the SEA Servers will become very quiet.

Now those that will want the US servers no matter what will be those that have still been playing Starcraft 1 right up until this date, and no other option will change their mind. For others though there is an alternative  – shift all the current “Oceanic WoW Servers” to the SEA Battlenet .. see how brilliant is that! All those players that only play WoW on oceanic realms will be thrilled because they finally get a regional server like they wanted, SC2 players on SEA battlenet can talk to their oceanic Friends and not feel compelled to travel to the US server and that in turn will encourage SC2 only players to remain on the SEA server. Problem Solved, especially IF they still allow SEA servers to choose is they want SEA or US Battlenet.

It’s a pipe dream .. I know. But I would much rather use a local server for both if I could, or failing that play both on 1 server rather than have them split all over the place & causing me communications difficulties.

With Cataclysm now in the Beta and the release to soon follow (hey I can hope), we are bound to be seeing a lot of fun in the foreseeable future. New Quests, New Raids, New Battlegrounds, New Factions to grind .. the list goes on. I found myself wondering though what was the single things people were most looking forward to with the release of Cataclysm, and I bet it would be different for everyone.

While I am looking forward to more non-raid content (I do enjoy questing so shoot me), I realised that that wasn’t exactly why I was looking forward to Cataclysm. Right now when I think about Cataclysm I am not thinking about completing quests or running new dungeons, hell, I’m not even thinking about the new races .. I find myself mostly thinking about the atmosphere the game has in those first few days after an expansion is released.

There are of course a few downsides to the days just after release, soooo many people come back to WoW and of course everyone is trying to play every spare minute they have. This means that queue to get online start developing and you may have a half our que to log on, or it may mean when you start hunting down that one named mob you need you find a line of people waiting for it outside its cave. General is filled with questions, some reasonable, some just too stupid to bear repeating, everything is very very busy.

That though is what makes the start of an expansion so very involving though, especially in the first zone or two. The sheer industry of it all boggles the mind. Thousands of players from both factions are cramming themselves into one or two zones, and unlike Dalaran they are not just hanging around, they are actively exploring, hunting and questing, and as a result NPC’s and Mobs start spawning like crazy. Until in the end there is just so much going on it feels like you really have stepped out of the safe environs of your home town and into the battlefield.

Lets think back to the launch of Wrath, now that was something pretty spectacular, I mean everyone was rushing to the new zones, because the Horde and the Alliance had started the fight against the Lich King. From My perspective as a Horde Player it was incredible. First you find yourself with dozens of others crowded at a Zepplin dock in Orgrimmar, then after a short loading screen you get your first glimpses of the Borean Tundra and then Warsong Hold comes into view. Then as you disembark you already have new trainers there to get the goods at, more there are important Lore figures (Saurfang and Garrosh) arguing with each other while they are barking out orders to every mercenary and hero arriving in their fortress. You haven’t even left the main staging point from the zone and already things are bustling.

Almost immediately you are asked to go and help clear out nerubians who are attacking from the quarry surrounding the hold .. and that folks is where it really started. With half of the Horde players just arriving these quests were what everyone is doing .. so you had dozens and dozens of players running around these trenches killing nerubians, bashing eggs, blowing up stuff and fighting off arial attacks. As a result so many mobs were spawning you could almost stand in one spot continually spamming wrath to get 20 kills .. So you have arrived in Northrend and stepped out into a real live battlefield. The good thing was this continued across the whole first zone as you battled Kvaldir at Kaskala and ships were continually arriving and disgorging your enemies, or as you tackled the blue dragonflight at Coldarra.

It was immensely immersive, and for the first week or two lasted past that initial zone right through to the endzone, Icecrown, where although there were fewer players questing at that time, there was still enough to make it almost feel as good as it did on that first day.

Yes, it has its downsides, but what I am most looking forward to is those first few heady days when everyone is crowded together fighting their way through new content, because those are the days the game feels most alive. Having recently had an alt pass through Borean Tundra I can tell you with so few people actively questing there the feel of the entire zone has changed .. and to me it no longer feels as epic.

So there you have it, that, at least initially is what I am looking forward to the most in Cataclysm .. what is it that you are looking forward to?

OK I will admit that I wasn’t bothered by the whole Real ID situation in-game. My only gripe was that “friends of friends” could see my name but overall considering I am in a social guild the whole Real ID thing is more of a boon then a bane. Yesterday though Blizzard stated that they wanted to bring Real ID to the forums, here though I do have a problem.

You see there are very few people in the world with my name and while that doesn’t bother me too much the fact is that my real name is heavily associated with my business, so when people are searching for my name now the chances are that in the top 100 results there will be a 70 – 80% chance that most pages will come up with my current contact details for them.

As I am a fairly regular forum browser though this could change with the new Real ID system if it becomes live. When people look up my name they will no longer be finding my business (which I want them to do) but will find themselves looking at a mass of Warcraft posts .. which doesn’t help them either. For me Real ID on the forums is bad because it interferes with my business .. for others it could get much worse, just look at the ruckus caused by people finding out a Blues Real ID.

Frankly in Game Real ID is all voluntary .. the forums though are where the community go to voice their concerns and problems, and while I understand that Blizzard is concerned about trolls, some people need a certain anonymity to be able to speak up or to retain their privacy. By rote most people register with their real names, now what will happen if there is a celebrity playing who registered under their real name? or a rape victim who plays wow and all of a sudden everyone can see they play and now have a new target to harass? or what if the poster was a former criminal who doesn’t want everyone know that he was?

Anonymity has its place with the Forums because it still allows people to say what they want without getting overly personal over topics .. or being biased about topics. Having said that my suggestion would be for Blizzard to implement and Account Name. So for example you register the product (real name is used), for all your Blizzard Accounts a 2 part Account Name is then used for communication purposes such as the forums (for example lets say Jodrath.Stormhoof woudl be an Account Name example), and then there are all the individual toon/character/avatar names that are only viewable in game.

I’m not sure how hard it would be for Blizzard to implement that but surely it would calm the fears of those against Real ID and would still have some effect on controlling trolling.

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