Battle.net is an online gaming service provided by Blizzard Entertainment responsible for hosting StarCraft multiplayer games and related services. It was launched in January of 1997 after the release of Blizzard's action-RPG – Diablo, which was released on December 31, 1996. Battle.net was the first online gaming service incorporated directly into the games that make use of it, in contrast to the external interfaces used by the other online services at the time. This feature, along with ease of account creations and the absence of member fees, caused Battle.net to become popular among gamers and became a major selling point for Diablo and subsequent Blizzard games.
Since the successful launch of Battle.net many companies have published online game services mimicking Blizzard's service package and the user interface.
With the release of StarCraft in 1998, usage of the Battle.net service increased significantly in comparison to Blizzard's previous games. Features such as ladder ranking and game filters were added to the service. Battle.net grew even larger after the release of the expansion pack StarCraft: Brood War. Concurrent player counts and games played reached the tens of thousands. This was especially evident in South Korea where StarCraft became a runaway hit and concurrent player counts on Battle.net would often be many times what they were in the United States.
StarCraft also brought with it a new copyright protection scheme using CD keys. Under Diablo, Battle.net would allow anyone who had a copy of the game to connect to the service. This allowed people who pirated the game to play on Battle.net. With StarCraft, only those players who had a valid CD key were allowed onto the service. A StarCraft CD key is a generated 13-digit number that could either be muted (unable to chat), voided (restricted to channel 'The Void'), banned (disabled usage), or usually working (no restrictions). In addition, only one person can be connected to Battle.net service using a specific CD key at a time. Every Blizzard game since StarCraft has required a unique, valid CD key to connect to Battle.net (excluding StarCraft: Brood War). With the release of the Gateway system in Brood War, two players can play at the same time, as long as they are on different gateways, though they cannot play in the same game, chat with each other, etc.
- A new version of battle.net launched on March 19, 2009. A preview page was opened in February 2010. The service became available for StarCraft II beta that month.
- Jay Wilson said the new version of battle.net should come out with StarCraft II. Frank Pearce said they probably won't be able to implement all plans by the time StarCraft II launches, but they can add more features to battle.net "as we go".
- Cross-region play will not be supported at first. Each geographical version of StarCraft II can only be used to play against other players in using the same version. A player could buy a different geographical version to play against people in another region (for instance, an American could buy a Korean version of StarCraft II to play with and against Koreans). Different versions cannot share the same account. Blizzard intends to make this available at some point, but must develop a way of communicating latency issues beforehand. Cross-regional play will become available without purchasing another full version of the game a few months after the release of StarCraft II.
- LAN is not supported. Greg Canessa had said that Blizzard is actively working on a LAN-like solution for battle.net, something which would require maintaining a connection to battle.net but still allowing a peer-to-peer connection. However, Blizzard later abandoned this approach.
- The new battle.net is expected to support all new Blizzard games.
- Battle.net can be used with an authenticator to protect the account. If a player has a WoW account, the same authenticator protects both. Blizzard is offering a dial-in authenticator for traveling players. The dial-in authenticator is a service which will monitor an account and request a toll-free phone call when unusual login attempts are made, such as logging in at a location a player does not usually use. The player would have to provide their PIN and use a unique, single-code security code before the account could be accessed. As of December 2010, Blizzard began selling Raynor versions of the authenticator from their online store.
Accounts and Character Profiles
- A battle.net account is required to play StarCraft II. One of the first things a player does while installing StarCraft II is create a battle.net account. They will see the log-in screen before they play their first game, and can play as a "guest" for the campaign.
- An account contains a single character, in order to ensure better matchmaking and player behavior. Character names will include three digits (a character code), only seen in UI screens, as an additional identifier.
- Characters are intended to be "persistent" and have access to battle.net features such as chatting, achievements and unlockable system rewards. The character profile contains the win/loss record, rewards and friends list, which the player and friends have access to.
- Blizzard intends for gamers to always be online, even when playing single-player.
- Players will be able to create BattleTags, which acts as a nickname across the various games on Battle.net.
- Players of StarCraft II and Diablo III will share "gamer achievements", adding up to a Blizzard Level, in a similar manner to the system in World of Warcraft. They are available in single-player, but only if the player is connected to the internet.
- Achievements will grant rewards such as unlocking portraits. Some achievements (which require more work to acquire) also provide access to decals. Both will be viewable by other members of the community. Achievements and their rewards which are not available will be grayed out.
Battle.net 2.0 features many StarCraft II game types. These include:
- Practice League (features a slower gamespeed and anti-rush maps)
- Co-op skirmish/Random teams
- Co-op versus AI.
- Custom games
- Blizzard Entertainment intends to create a competitive arena for gamers of all skill levels.
- Battle.net features different leagues for higher-skilled players: bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond leagues. There is a Practice League for lower-skilled players. The Master League is for higher-skilled players. A Grand Master League is in the works and is expected to appear in a later patch.
- The game features automated matchmaking, similar to Warcraft III. Players are assigned a skill level after 10 games. This is intended for higher-skilled gamers.
- There are several seasons of play.
- Battle.net 2.0 supports casual-friendly game types, such as the Practice League, challenges, custom games and co-op vs AI.
- Players can form persistent "parties" which enter games together after one player invites others into the party. Parties can engage in custom games as well as cooperative skirmishes. The parties will persist even after they finish games. Parties can participate in the league and ladder system, and will be placed into games by the automated matchmaking system.
- Chatting became available in January 2011 and players have access to both public and private channels. This is available both inside and outside of games. Players can "whisper" to each other.
- There will be a "report abuse" tool. There was one in the beta as of March 2010 but wasn't working properly then.
- Characters can receive news, game and content updates, broadcasts and system notifications through battle.net.
- Cross-game communication with WoW players will be available.
- Friends (except those using Real ID) are anonymous, knowing each other only through online identities. They can be manually added.
- Friends can locate each other on Battle.net using BattleTags.
- Real ID is an optional layer of identity. It includes the name the player registered their account under and their email address. To use this feature, a player sends out invites to real-life family and friends' battle.net accounts (their email addresses). The other friend must accept before the relationship is accepted. If the recipient does not accept, the sender is not notified of this. At any point, a Real ID friend may be removed.
- Friends have multiple levels of communication security: only allow friends to send invites, only allow friends to send chat messages, and set status to busy when playing a game.
- Real ID gives access to "Rich Presence". This gives additional information about what a friend is doing at the time, such as which game they're playing and which mode they're using.
- Using Real ID, players can chat with friends who are playing another game (such as World of Warcraft).
- Friends can send "broadcasts" to each other, which appears on their "Recent Broadcasts" feed.
- Friends gain access to each others' friends lists, and can invite "friends of friends".
- Players will not have friends across regions, although Blizzard may address this later.
- Battle.net lists all available maps.
- The custom map UI lists maps by popularity, type, genre and map name. For instance, Blizzard All-Stars might be listed as "featured" popularity, pick heroes or random heroes type, and hero defense genre. However, the only way to search for a game is through popularity.
- Players can be invited into custom games using the party system.
- Players cannot give specific names to custom games. They are only organized by category and map name.
- Players cannot host private games, which would enable them to exclude some of their friends while inviting others.
- Map publishing allows people to host maps, even if they haven't downloaded a map yet.
- There is no local hosting of multiplayer maps. As of September 2010, a player can host 10 multiplayer maps. There is a 50 MB global limit for the maps,.
- StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm will include an "arcade" to make it easier to find, sell and rate custom games. The arcade will be accessible to players of Wings of Liberty and the Starter Edition as well.
- Cloud storage
- A player can log into more than one game at a time (for instance, playing the StarCraft II campaign while waiting for a World of Warcraft raid).
- Blizzard intends to make the new version of battle.net secure from hacks and cheats using lessons learned from World of Warcraft. For example, there will be a security token to add an extra layer of protection from account fraud, and the online platform will require a valid and unique CD key.
- Battle.net 2.0 will fully support community-created mods even as they evolve. Some will be available for pay.
- Some special maps will be available for sale in the marketplace. The marketplace will be launched after the release of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. The arcade is being created in preparation for this.
Following a BlizzCon Diablo III interview in which Activision Blizzard employee Julian Wilson mentioned "monetizing" battle.net, Rob Pardo clarified that only some extra features may carry a charge.
- Blizzard will add tournament functionality in a post-release patch.
- "Groups" will become available in a post-launch patch or Heart of the Swarm. They can be used to create entities like map-making communities or a zerg strategy group where members can chat with each other.
- A "Do Not Disturb" option, which will block incoming messages and toasts, is planned for the future.
Blizzard claims "millions of active users" on Battle.net, and that they are the leaders of online gaming, noting that even Xbox Live doesn't even come close. By November 1997 they had 22 million games played, 1.25 million different users, and that they averaged 3,500 new users each day. By April 1999, it was reported that Battle.net had 2.3 million active users, and more than 50,000 concurrent users.
By September 2004, their active user count was up to nearly 12 million, spending more than 2.1 million hours online each day, and they had an average of 200,000 concurrent users, with a peak concurrent user count of 400,000. By 2009 it had 12 million subscribers, just over World of Warcraft's 11.5 million.
The following Blizzard games are currently supported on Battle.net:
- StarCraft series: StarCraft • StarCraft: Brood War • StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
- Warcraft series: Warcraft II: Battle.net Edition • Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos • Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne • World of Warcraft • World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King • World of Warcraft: Cataclysm • World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria • World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor • World of Warcraft: Legion • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
- Diablo series: Diablo • Diablo II • Diablo II: Lord of Destruction • Diablo III • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
- Heroes of the Storm series: Heroes of the Storm
- Overwatch series: Overwatch
The following older Blizzard games do not support Battle.net:
- Warcraft series: Warcraft: Orcs & Humans • Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness • Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal
- Diablo series: Diablo: Hellfire
On October 8th, 2008, Blizzard Entertainment opened the new battle.net forums. The StarCraft II forum is located here.
A community of developers has arisen around the original Battle.net. Many unofficial clients are available for Battle.net, and most of the protocol used by Battle.net-enabled games has been reverse-engineered and published by volunteers. Several server emulator programs exist; the original one, bnetd, lost a lawsuit filed by Blizzard. Newer ones have appeared, such as PvPGN, a derivative project of the original bnetd.
Also, several communication tools have been made, like a "whisper" tool, so that a player could talk to their friends even if they were in a game.
Battle.net 2.0 offered a StarCraft II beta opt-in and as of May 6, 2009 the beta opt-in page had been updated. Beta candidates could download a program which would scan their system and determine if it was capable of dealing with StarCraft II beta. This new account was not compatible with StarCraft battle.net accounts or those of older games, but coiuld be merged with World of Warcraft accounts. North American gamers could download a program to scan their system to determine if it qualified for the StarCraft II beta on May 6th, 2009. European gamers gained access to the new battle.net on May 27th, 2009.