qubezz writes: "TorrentFreak reports that on Monday, Blizzard filed a lawsuit in US District court in California against the programmers behind the popular Starcraft II cheat 'ValiantChaos MapHack.' The complaint seeks relief from 'direct copyright infringement,' 'contributory copyright infringement,' 'vicarious copyright infringement,' 'trafficking in circumvention devices,' etc. The suit seeks the identity of the cheat's programmers, as it fishes for names of John Does 1-10, in addition to an injunction against the software (which remains on sale) and punitive damages. Blizzard claims losses from diminished user experiences, and also that 'when users of the Hacks download, install, and use the Hacks, they directly infringe Blizzard's copyright in StarCraft II, including by creating unauthorized derivative works"."
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StarCraft II lead designer Dustin Browder recently spoke with Gamasutra about how designing a real-time strategy game for competition can sometimes be at odds with designing something purely for the sake of fun. "'It took me a year and a half to figure this out,' said Browder, an enthusiastic designer who might also be around the top 10 percent in the world in terms of speed-talking. 'I kept trying to shove stuff in that was fun but wasn't a sport,' he said. 'And everybody would tell me "no," and I wouldn't understand why. And I thought they were all jerks. I didn't know, right? I couldn't figure it out.' ... 'It took me a long time to understand why this sport value is so important,' Browder continued. The development team kept itself in check, nixing units that overlapped with the roles of other units and dumping units that were deemed too complicated. Some of the units cut were fun to use, but just didn't fit with the game's objectives as an eSport. 'It makes it so challenging for designers on the project to come up with new and good ideas,' said Browder. 'We could sit here right now, and come up with 10 great ideas for an RTS. But I almost guarantee you that all of those would get shot down for a sport.'"
Jamie recommends a blog post from software engineer Louis Brandy explaining how using genetic algorithms to evaluate build orders in StarCraft 2 has led to some surprisingly powerful results. Quoting: "One of the reasons build-order optimization is so important is that you can discover openings that 'hard-counter' other openings. If I can get an army of N size into your base when you do opening X, you will always lose. ... a genetic algorithm is a type of optimization algorithm that tries to find optimal solutions using a method analogous to biologic evolution (to be specific: descent with modification & natural selection). Put simply, you take a 'population' of initial build orders, evaluate them for fitness, and modify the population according to each element’s fitness. In other words, have the most successful reproduce. The program’s input is simply the desired game state. In practice, this means 'make N units' to determine some rush build order (but it also allows for other types of builds, like make N workers with some defensive structures and a small army)."
The StarCraft 2 team spent most of Blizzcon talking about the map editor and custom games. We spoke with Alan Dabiri, a Lead Software Engineer for Wings of Liberty who worked on the user interface and helped out on the game's integration with Battle.net. He provided some more details about plans for making the map editor more approachable, the coming updates for Battle.net (including chat channels), and a bit about the development of Heart of the Swarm, the Zerg-themed expansion being worked on now. Read on for our conversation about StarCraft 2.
StarCraft 2 launched in July, and since most of the developers' efforts since then have gone into tweaking balance issues, fixing bugs and further developing Battle.net integration, the second part of the trilogy is still quite a ways off. So, in lieu of announcements about Heart of the Swarm, the devs are using Blizzcon to showcase the map-editing tools and encourage the community to get more involved with custom maps and game types. Using the map editor, they created internally four custom games for StarCraft 2, which they’ll soon be releasing over Battle.net for free alongside three fan creations that won a recent contest. Read on for more details.
Lanxon writes "An architecture and design firm called Choi+Shine has submitted a design for the Icelandic High-Voltage Electrical Pylon International Design Competition which proposes giant human-shaped pylons carrying electricity cables across the country's landscape, reports Wired. The enormous figures would only require slight alterations to existing pylon designs, says the firm, which was awarded an Honorable mention for its design by the competition's judging board. It also won an award from the Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture competition."
An anonymous reader writes "One of the more curious trends emerging from last week's StarCraft II launch is people alleging that the game kills graphics cards.The between-mission scenes onboard Jim Raynor's ship aren't framerate capped. These are fairly static scenes, and don't take much work for the graphics card to display them. Because of this, the card renders the scene as quickly as possible, which then taxes your graphics card as it works to its full potential. As the pipelines within your graphics card work overtime, the card will heat up and if it can't cope with that heat it will crash."
Ashe Tyrael writes "Earlier this week, Blizzard announced that they were going to be implementing changes in their official forums (for StarCraft II when it launched, and for WoW prior to Cataclysm) that would require users to post under their real names, as part of the Real ID system. After perusing nearly 14,000 European and 50,000 US forum posts, the majority of which decried this move with various levels of vehemence, it looks like Blizzard has given in to the pressure. From the official statement: 'We've been constantly monitoring the feedback you've given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.' Not that this doesn't leave room for them to re-implement this at a later date, but that's a pretty definite 'no.' It was clear they were going to take criticism, but the size of the backlash was impressive. It seems likely Blizzard simply wasn't expecting that level of antipathy toward their new policy.
Blizzard announced today that StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the first game in a series of three, will be released on July 27. The game will contain the Terran campaign (29 missions), the full multiplayer experience, and "several challenge-mode mini-games," with "focused goals designed to ease players into the basics of multiplayer strategies." It will launch alongside the revamped Battle.net, which we've previously discussed. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said, "We've been looking forward to revisiting the StarCraft universe for many years, and we're excited that the time for that is almost here. Thanks to our beta testers, we're making great progress on the final stages of development, and we'll be ready to welcome players all over the world to StarCraft II and the new Battle.net in just a few months."
An anonymous reader writes "Blizzard has released the Mac client of the StarCraft II multiplayer beta. If you already have an invite for the PC beta, the Mac client is available under your Battle.net account." A recent patch also added a map editor to the StarCraft II beta, which has already led to some interesting projects.
Blizzard announced today that the multiplayer beta test for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is now underway. The client downloader is available through Battle.net for people who have received invites, and the system requirements have been posted as well. A list of known issues is up on the official forums. StarCraft II and the revamped Battle.net are planned for release "in the first half of 2010."
mrxak writes "It's official; Activision Blizzard's much-anticipated sequel to 12-year-old StarCraft is going to enter closed beta 'this month,' according to company President Mike Morhaime during an investor conference call. This comes in the wake of the SC2 beta forums showing up briefly on Battle.net. If you've got a Battle.net account, it's probably not too late to opt-in for upcoming Blizzard beta tests."
Blizzard updated the official StarCraft II site today with a preview of how the revamped Battle.net will function. They emphasize the social features, competitive matchmaking system, and the ease of sharing mods and maps. Quoting: "When the legacy Battle.net service introduced support for user-created mods such as DotA, Tower Defense, and many others, these user-created game types became immensely popular. But while Battle.net supported mods at a basic level, integration with tools and the mod community wasn't where it needed to be for a game releasing in 2010. The new Battle.net service will see some major improvements in this area. StarCraft II will include a full-featured content-creation toolkit — the same tools used by the StarCraft II design team to create the single-player campaign. To fully harness the community's mapmaking prowess, Battle.net will introduce a feature called Map Publishing. Map Publishing will let users upload their maps to the service and share them with the rest of the community immediately on the service. This also ties in with the goal of making Battle.net an always-connected experience — you can publish, browse, and download maps directly via the Battle.net client. Finding games based on specific mods will also be much easier with our all-new custom game system, placing the full breadth of the modding community's efforts at your fingertips."
BlizzCon kicked off this morning with a keynote address that brought some major announcements for some of their games. First, World of Warcraft's third expansion, Cataclysm, was officially revealed. It differs from the previous expansions in that they will not be creating an entirely new continent for players to explore. Instead, the two huge continents from the original game will be going through a literal cataclysm, causing some zones to be destroyed, new ones to become available, and existing ones to be entirely revamped. Big news came for Diablo III as well, with the announcement of the Monk class and a trailer showing how it plays. More details for both games as well as StarCraft II will undoubtedly become available over the next few days, but read on for more about what we already know. If you have any questions, don't forget to post them here.
Well, Blizzcon 2009 is about to get underway (look for the big news from the keynote in a few hours) and given how fast it sold out I'm sure there are still many rabid fans interested in what Blizzard might have to say that don't want to shell out the $40 for Pay-Per-View access. So, to that end we have interviews scheduled tomorrow with the teams from Starcraft2, Diablo III, World of Warcraft, and Battle.net. If there is anything you wish to know about the progress or juicy details from any of these teams please leave it in the comments below. We'll try to parse through for the best questions and get you answers during our interview slots tomorrow. The usual Slashdot interview rules apply.