While its impact to players may seem subtle, the out-of-game experience in StarCraft II can be just as important as the in-game experience. Our Battle.net statistics show that players spend about a third of their time in StarCraft II using the menus outside of a game. They might be browsing the latest Arcade games, checking out someone’s profile, reviewing the score screen of past games in their match history, or just chatting with some friends. It’s important to us to make this experience as streamlined and usable as possible.
The 1.5 patch we released a couple months ago was a major update that included several changes to the menus and the addition of the new Arcade experience. What you might not know is that many of the changes in 1.5 were actually slated to be a part of the Heart of the Swarm expansion. We felt that several features, including Arcade, would be of immediate benefit to players, and decided to release them earlier in the 1.5 patch. Since we weren’t done with the rest of Heart of the Swarm yet, we had to compromise in some areas of the menus to support these features. We weren’t really happy with how this added additional complexity to the menus.
Since then, we’ve continued to work on Heart of the Swarm, and we’ve made some big changes to improve the overall user experience. With the release of the next major Heart of the Swarm beta patch, we'd like to give you an advance look at those changes. These updates will become available to both Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm players once the expansion is live.
We had several design goals in mind with the changes you’ll see in the Heart of the Swarm beta: simplify navigation, increase consistency, and improve usability. We also added some more functionality along the way. Here are just some of the changes we’ve made:
We simplified basic menu navigation. Now you should be one click away from any major screen in the UI. For example, the Custom Game function is right on the main menu, so you no longer have to first select Multiplayer to get to it. We also tried to eliminate redundant screens and game modes.
We streamlined the look of the UI. This gives us more space to work with and makes it easier for us to make improvements in the future.
We’ve heard your desire for more stats, and we couldn’t agree more. With Heart of the Swarm we are adding more stats to help you track your play.
To start, we have included a racial stats tab so you can view your play stats against each race in ranked games.
There’s also now a map stats tab, so you can see how you perform on your most played maps. The new performance tab on the score screen will display your performance against opponents and Battle.net will track your career averages as you play games throughout the season.
And finally, now that we have added unranked play as an option, we’ve returned full stats (including losses) for all leagues back into the profile summary and ladder pages. Players who play competitively on the ladder can now better track their progress regardless of which league they’re in. And those players that would like to enjoy the benefits of matchmaking, but are not interested in the pressure of being ranked can now use the unranked play mode.
Party functionality has been gathered up into a single party window, and we’ve increased the maximum party size. We hope that this will be helpful with arranging games with your friends. It will be also be particularly useful with Arcade games that allow for larger team sizes.
In 1.5.0, the Arcade dramatically changed the way players find games to play. Now we’re bringing a lot of the same tools that help make finding Arcade games easy to the StarCraft melee map Custom Game section.
For example, you can now find Open Games, Bookmarks, and Recently Played on the left side of the interface, the same way you would in Arcade. You can also sort the maps by Top Played, Top Rated, Up & Coming, and Newest.
Maps in the Custom Game screen will also now have a Game Info dialog like their Arcade counterparts. Mapmakers can add screenshots, include patch notes, and outline details on map strategy, while players will be able to rate and review the maps they play.
Please note: The Game Info dialog for Custom Game maps did not make it in time for the very next major beta patch, but you should see it in a major beta patch in the weeks to come.
Now that we've highlighted some of the changes we’re making, we want to hear what you think. We appreciate how passionate the StarCraft II community is, and always look forward to your feedback. Remember, these are only some of the changes we have coming in Heart of the Swarm. There’s even more to come, so stay tuned for further updates!
Alan Dabiri is a Lead Software Engineer for StarCraft II. He has been measured at over 200 APM in the UI menus.