Heart of the Swarm comes on March 12th with changes both superficial and super-official. Or deep. That’s a better word. Those changes range from a sweeping case of the UI switcheroos to the ability to play with anybody, anywhere in the world – ping willing. And Blizzard have explained how all that’s going to work.
Blizzard had three aims in developing their new UI: to simplify navigation, increase consistency, and improve usability. The result is an Apple-esque interface in which you’re only ever “one click away” from any major screen.
“As an example, access to the Custom Games menu can now be found directly on the home screen, no longer requiring you to select Multiplayer to access it,” explained community manager Kevin Johnson.
“With this new full-screen, landscape format, we’ve streamlined the look and feel, giving us more space to make future improvements.”
Convenience updates don’t end there. The StarCraft dev team have also brought forward recommended and regularly-frequented chat channels to the home screen. They’ve also forefronted a ‘Featured Groups’ tab, which allows easy access to the new Clans and Groups systems from the main menu.
Clans and Groups will be functionally similar at launch, but are intended for very different purposes. Clans are designed to be small, invitation-only affairs for competitive teams, whereas Groups will be larger, interest-driven, and centred around “pretty much anything”.
“Going forward, our development focus on the Clans feature will be to add more competitive features, whereas Groups will always remain focused on fostering more casual interactions,” said Johnson.
Both will come with private chat channels, a news and info interface, and a membership roster.
Blizzard have taken a further step into the role of social enabler with a feature they’re calling ‘Players Near You’ – a system for connecting up players on the same local network, for instance on a university network or in an internet cafe. If you’d rather keep your head down and ignore your neighbours, though, you can turn off this latest innovation in the options menu.
Finally, Blizzard have been talking about Global Play – a “relatively intuitive” way to access servers in non-native regions from within the game.
“Each time you log into the game you have the option to choose the server region you would like to play on,” said Johnson. “With this option, you can now compete against players from all corners of the world, at any moment.”
“If you happen to be a custom map developer, you’ll also be able to upload your creations to other regions. Keep in mind, though, that the responsiveness of the game will be affected by the distance between your home location and the server you are playing on.”
That’s a lot of new – and we’ve only touched on the peripheral stuff. Which bits do you best like the sound of?