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Building Battle.net

November 5, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

You believe it's really important [for the service team] to be integrated, working closely with the game design team. Did that you think that caused the delay in launch?

GC: Oh no.

But it certainly didn't help things, as far as the timeliness of the game?

GC: It was one of many factors. There were a lot of risk factors, a lot of complexity. There was a lot of engineering complexity. There was a lot of risk related to the WoW integration, risk related to being able to staff up a team, risk related to being able to deeply integrate -- certainly design and coordination with the game team. [Figuring out] what the meta-social Battle.net experience will be around StarCraft was a challenge for us. It was a contributor.

I wouldn't say it was a primary driver, but it definitely was kind of more of a cautionary note for everyone to realize that there's a lot of complexity there when you're working with two different teams and you're working on a unified experience that's supposed to be deeply integrated.

It's a very complex thing to do and to pull off really effectively. It's one implication of the deeply integrated approach, right. If it's a platform -- like Xbox Live, right? It's a platform, there's a dashboard, and then there are games that sit on top of it. Those two don't really interact with each other that much. There's the heads-up display where you can access your friends list and such, but that's kind of an overlay.

Bungie can do whatever they want underneath with Halo: Reach, and this is kind of an overlay. That's not the approach we took. Battle.net is not an overlay on top of a StarCraft experience that would be, "Those guys would own that. We would own this." No, it's a meeting of the minds.

Why does Blizzard need this platform? Why not just use something like Steamworks?

GC: It might make sense [for other companies]. It really depends on the platform and the opportunity. If you're in the console space, you really don't have a lot of choice. You really have to use one of the game services. They do a really good job, right? If you're in the PC space, there are a number of different solutions for you. If you're looking out there and you want to deeply integrate with a game service, there's Steam and Steamworks.

Battle.net is very focused on Blizzard titles today -- but who knows, in the future? There are other services out there like Games for Windows Live. There are a few players.

In the iPhone space, that was really kind of what I was thinking about. There is more opportunity to innovate, I think... You have Game Center. This has come along recently, but you've got OpenFeint and [Ngmoco's] Plus+. Those guys are willing to work with individual game developers, even small developers, on some really unique integrated scenarios that I think are more akin to the Battle.net integration that I was talking to.


StarCraft II

[Activision Blizzard CEO] Bobby Kotick is always talking about using Blizzard's knowhow and technology. Would it be feasible to put Activision games on Battle.net? Or would it just be something more like, for example, a Call of Duty team using the service framework that you guys developed in for their own games?

GC: Well, I'll tell you this. Bobby Kotick and all the folks at Activision are very, very supportive of Battle.net and what we're doing. They've listed this as one of the top strategic initiatives -- I mean, to the shareholders. They've said that Battle.net is one of the top five strategic initiatives going on at Activision Blizzard.

Having said that, as you know, Blizzard and Activision are really two separate entities, and we really do our own thing. For Blizzard, I think back to what Mike Morhaime said at Blizzcon [2009], which is that Blizzard is all about focus, and we have so many things going on right now.

We have this vibrant World of Warcraft business. We have the StarCraft II business and eSports. We've got Diablo III and what's going on there, and that's going to be a huge phenomenon for us. We've got so many opportunities in front of us, I think the mistake that we could make as a company, and I don't think we are making it because we're aware of it, is to get spread too thin and go in too many directions.

There are huge opportunities in front of us with new games, with licensing opportunities, with movies, and other things we have going on, and the risk is that we get distracted off of what we're really good at, which is making kick-ass entertainment experience.

And so, for us, by extension, for Battle.net, what does that mean for me as the guy driving Battle.net? That focus is what I am looking for. So, for today, it's Blizzard games. It's making sure that Diablo III has a kick-ass online experience. It's making sure that we evolve and add features to StarCraft II. It's making sure WoW kicks ass for Cataclysm and beyond. Those are the focal points for my group going forward and the foreseeable future.

Some day, maybe we add other titles in there. Who knows? When we really feel like we've really delivered that kick-ass set of experiences for Blizzard games, and we feel like we've grown the team -- and you've heard some of my challenges growing the team and finding the talent -- when I've got that sustainability, when we really feel like we've got that dialed in and nailed down, you know, who knows what the future holds.


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Comments


Ian Livingston
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I've personally really enjoyed my experience with the new battle.net system, and Blizzard has shown that they are willing to put the same care and consideration into their support systems that is seen in their games.



The only negative experience that I've had so far has been with the RealID system. When the social system first came out I eagerly added all my real life friends to my list, and happily chatted away in World of Warcraft. However, after about a week I found that I was playing less and less. I'd log in, look at my characters, decided to play an alt (of which I have many), but then decide against connecting. I found that I didn't feel like chatting to anyone. The anonymity offered by my alts was lost, I could no longer play privately - or as Nicolas Ducheneaut et al. put's it "Alone together."



Obviously RealID is an optional service, so I decided to stop using it. I deleted all my contacts, and blissfully lost myself in my private play. However, I quickly began to miss the connection to my friends. I had a stark choice: I could not use the system and have my private play, or I could use the system and communicate with my friends. The choice seemed unnecessary, why can't I have both?



At the time I considered how other similar systems worked, systems like Steam. There where two fundamental differences that I found, one in the way I use the system, and the other in the functionality the system offered. First, when I use Steam, unlike battle.net, I leave myself logged in. I realized that to other I must always appear to be online, even when I'm not. I didn't use battle.net in a similar manner, I logged in to play and then logged out. When a friend saw me online in battle.net it was easy to assume that I was actually there, instantly available for communication. Second, and perhaps a more importantly, Steam offered the functionality to appear offline (even when you're not). A feature I use rarely, but I do use it.



It's interesting to hear Canessa talk about Steam in this article, especially since I personally view the two services very differently. I'm very curious about where battle.net will be in 10 years.

Jan Stephan Pontzen
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The matchmaking system for Starcraft2 really is awesome. It matches you up with players in a way that you will roughly have a 50-50 win-loss ratio. This is really encouraging for you as a player, as you are almost always up against players that you have an actual chance to win against (the opposite was usually the case for Warcraft3 battle.net matches).



I'd be very interested to see if Blizzard can find a similar way of matchmaking for Diablo3 co-op pick-up groups in accordance to the users' playstyles.

Boto Gatas
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It's a very exciting time for gaming.

Victor Soliz Kuncar
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The matchmaking works great and so far my experience with it has been positive.



RealId seems unnecessary. I am yet to try it because the normal friends system works just fine. Facebook integration sounds similar.



My major point of concern about BNET 2.0 is the current implementation of map publishing. It has turned very discouraging for map makers due to various issues. Let me explain. In order for you to play a map you first need to download it from bnet. BNET makes it so that any map not in the 'popular' list is very hard to find and it is also very difficult to know what the map is by just reading a description. Popularity is completely broken because it only takes into consideration the number of downloads and there is no way to give feedback to bnet about how much did you like the map. Worse, once downloaded, you need to invite people to your party to play it, and the lack of chat channels makes it much harder.



Compare it with wc3's method, it just showed a list of custom games available for you to join, so it was easy to find what the most played game was and it was easy to find an active custom game. It was not perfect but many people in the map making community think it at least worked.



The current system so far has become discouraging for map makers. The answer from Blizzard about it during Blizzcon was disappointing. And there is no mention of it in this interview which is discouraging. It is difficult to perceive how the market place will work. If map makers don't really have a way to get their maps to be known, how is blizzard going to be able to pick those that could do premium maps? If the system discourages people from developing maps it is also very difficult to find people willing to make the premium maps.

Victor Lara
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I think the problem's not with the popularity system, as a matter of fact I think it's a good idea to rank maps by their frequency of play.

The real problem is with map filter and search options. Players can only see maps arranged from "most popular" to "least popular".

Players should be able to search maps by name, # of player slots, game type (Melee, Free for all, Custom, etc.) and popularity. And they should be able to reorganize the results by any of those criteria.

The system works, they just need to work on how they're presenting the maps to the players.

Bisse Mayrakoira
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If Blizzard just wanted to offer a great custom game browser and marketplace, they could have made maps work exactly the same as they worked in SC, WC3 and most non-Blizzard games out there - maps are local and players freely choose what maps to host/join - and then added their "better" solution when it's done. And if it really was better, people would flock to it. Instead they shortchanged map builders and players alike, caused themselves the extra expense of managing and censoring every map released, and quite possibly opened themselves to legal action when they fail to censor something. For the life of me I can't imagine why they would take on such a task when it results in no additional money in their pocket.

Victor Soliz Kuncar
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Another outstanding issue is the lack of LAN play. For people that think this is not relevant. Notice that Starcraft is supposedly an e-sport. Earlier this Sunday, there was a BNET crash during a tournament's finals. Although the reason for the crash are not clear (Some people are rumoring a DDoS attack) it does show that internet play is an unnecessary, unreliable layer that causes both gameplay to become slower than it could and also these risks.



There was quite clearly some backlash at Blizzard forums regarding this. Unfortunately, the treatment was to delete those threads and -as it seems- ban the people that bring the subject from the forums.

Jose Resines
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This. Blizzard has completely lost its way.



Before, customers were the priority. Post-Kotick, only money matters.



A sad end of affairs to 'our' relationship.

Bisse Mayrakoira
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Yep, Canessa can name-drop "e-sports" all he wants, but the lack of LAN play is a clear indication of their *actual* level of commitment to supporting serious tournament play. As any software developer understands, omitting it is strictly a control thing - they could offer LAN play next week if they wanted to.

Gregory Kinneman
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LAN play is not supported because then piracy becomes a bigger problem. For a game the size of SC2, a 1% change in piracy rate means over 20,000 in sales to date, or about a quarter million in revenue (not exactly, I'm skipping a lot of the math). If you feel that Blizzard should make a 500,000 commitment, then they should ask to the hardcore e-sports community to foot their own bill, since most casual players don't really care. Don't talk about how only money matters because the developers at Blizzard need to get paid for the work they do.


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