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Interview: Blizzard's Greg Canessa on Battle.Net

Kevin Kelly

In recent years, Greg Canessa has bounced from Xbox Live to PopCap Games and now onto Blizzard, where he's heading up the Battle.Net team. Version 2.0 of the service is an ambitious undertaking, and we spoke with Greg during BlizzCon about its pending launch and many of the new features. Head past the break for the full interview!

Gallery: Battle.Net (BlizzCon 2009) | 16 Photos

So, Battle.Net. Blizzard has been teasing us all summer, telling us, "We're going to tell you about Battle.Net!" Then at every event, the tune changes to, "We're not going to tell you about Battle.Net just yet ..."

Sorry about that. We had to wait until we were ready to unveil it.

Were you making changes or was Battle.Net just not there yet. What was the reason for the delay?

We want to make sure that we bring typical Blizzard style. We want to make sure that we are ready to talk about something before we show it, and we want to make sure that we can stand behind it. And it is just like Mike Morhaime said this morning, it is really important that we honor our commitments to the Blizzard community. This is a really complex service as you saw. There are a lot of aspects to it and we want to make sure we get it right before we start talking to people about it. So it took a us a little more item to get our stuff together so that we could have a real concise conversation with you guys about what Battle.Net is all about; the next generation of Battle.Net.

Right. The Battle.Net we've seen here at BlizzCon looks like it's in-game from Starcraft 2. Is there not going to be a standalone Battle.Net client at this point?

We don't have anything to announce around that today. Who knows what the future holds? Right now our goal is to make both a very deeply integrated experience for Starcraft 2 since that is our launch title, but also an online game service for all Blizzard games going forward. And as Rob [Pardo] mentioned, whether it is Diablo 3 or World of Warcraft integration, all our games going forward are going to be Battle.Net enabled. So it is kind of both, right? Certainly from a backend architectural standpoint I can tell you we are building an online game service for the ages that we can scale, and support, and will support multiple titles going forward. But we also, from a consumer standpoint, at least for Starcraft, we want it to be very, very integrated. And for all our games I think it is important that we have a very integrated Battle.Net game experience, because we are Blizzard, right? We are all about the games.

Well, speaking about Battle.Net in the long run, it seems logical that you would expect Battle.Net to continue to evolve and add features. The digital distribution model you guys use now is limited to your website. You can download games from there; but not all of them. It seems like Battle.Net would be an ideal storefront for that content at some point. And then, that would put Blizzard on par to compete with Steam and all other similar services. I'm sure you're going to give me: "Well we are not talking about that. But that is a smart thing, young man! Here's a quarter!" Right?

[Laughs.] I actually don't even need to say anything.

I'll just interview myself then, just nod when I'm hot or cold.

So, when Battle.Net does roll out with Starcraft, given the integration with the
Warcraft friends list, etc., will that functionality be working. Will you be able to see on your friends list? "Oh, McElroy's playing Warcraft right now" -- that kind of thing. Will that work at launch?

If you and I are Real ID buddies and I am on Suramar and you are on Blackrock, now we can talk.

World of Warcraft? Yes. So for ship, we will have cross game integration with World of Warcraft. So we will be patching WoW sometime in the future prior to Starcraft's launch. And then of course when Starcraft comes out, we will have that at the Real ID level. If you choose to participate in Real ID as Rob outlined, you will be able to see your buddies and all their characters, whether they are playing in Starcraft or World of Warcraft characters, and be able to chat in both. And also cross realm, of course, because that is another benefit you get out of this. If you and I are Real ID buddies and I am on Suramar and you are on Blackrock, now we can talk.

Does cross-chat go both ways? From Warcraft to Starcraft, and vice versa?

Yes, absolutely. Both ways. And we are updating the friends list in both areas. You are going to be able to talk and see your friends, your real life friends and your character friends.

We've seen text chat, too. Does that extend to voice chat as well?

Voice chat is ... that is a great question. So right now for ship, voice chat is going to be for parties within Starcraft. Remember that Party system that Rob showed you? So when you are in a party you will have full voice chat. So that is while you are in Battle.Net, while you are in game, while you are on the score screen, while you are in the lobby. All that is voice chat enabled. The cross realm, cross game chat is text chat.

Rob also explained that when you form your party, it's private. You get your own friends in. You get set up, and then you can open it to the public. So you'll get other players coming in at that point?

That's right.

Will cycle out after a game?

That is actually for the lobby. What he was describing was the lobby. You can sort of pre-organize around that party and then you can suck your party into a lobby, and then you can do other stuff in there. The voice chat will be for the party. The party will be kind of still consistent. And then you will be able to add people to the party and stuff. There will be a party leader very, very similar to World of Warcraft. But you can also have people that aren't in your party that are in your game. You see what I am saying? And those people you are not voice chatting with. You can text chat with them, but not voice.

Would your party ever end up on different factions when you are still talking to each other?

No. That is another good question. Basically the way we are doing it is your party will be ... you will maintain party communication. Parties will be allies. So when you go into the game, your voice chat will be all of your allies. So you will all be on the same side.

So, Real ID. What is Real ID? Is it just going to be my full name? Will it be a "gamer tag" that I choose? Is it my email address? How does it work?

Right now your Real ID is your name, and that's it.

Right now your Real ID is your name, and that's it. So it is completely opt in as Rob mentioned. It is a layer on top of a character level. So everyone will have a character. And the default is that your anonymity is preserved. You are going around as your character and everyone can see your character and stuff. If you choose to participate, it is your Real ID and you have that consensual friend relationship. So I send you an invite, you have to accept it, and then we're real life friends, and all we are exposing is our name. There is no email address or anything else right now. Now in the future we may decide to add additional pieces of information, but it will, of course, be completely opt in.

Say someone is searching for me, and they discover there are five Kevin Kellys. Will there be a way for that user to figure out which one is the real me?

Yes. There will be a way to disambiguate from friends. Yes.

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