StarCraft II beta to start in "months"

Will feature "basic version" of new Battle.net.

Speaking in yesterday's Activision Blizzard conference call, Blizzard operations chief Paul Sams mentioned that the beta test for StarCraft II will begin "in the months ahead".

That's hardly specific, but it sounds promising - and when it comes to Blizzard and release dates, you take what you can get. More interestingly perhaps, Sams mentioned that the beta would also see the introduction of the new version of Blizzard's Battle.net online gaming service.

"Also coming up in the months ahead will be the StarCraft II beta test," Sams Said. "The beta will be played on a basic version of our new Battle.net architecture, which will give us the opportunity to test the game and the service in a live environment. Over time, we will be adding features to deliver a second-generation Battle.net experience."

The feature set of the new Battle.net is the subject of much speculation among Blizzard watchers, so its arrival will be closely examined, even if it is in cut-down form. We know that Diablo III will also use it - and that both Diablo III and StarCraft II will feature Achievement systems similar to World of Warcraft's that integrate with a central Blizzard Account.

Sams offered no indication on whether we can expect to see the first instalment in the planned StarCraft II trilogy - Terrans: Wings of Liberty - this year. But once again, he did offer a little hope.

"We are aiming to release StarCraft II as soon as possible, but as with all previous Blizzard games; we won't ship it until we feel it is ready," he said.

You can find hands-on impressions and more at the StarCraft II gamepage.

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