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Leveling coming to StarCraft II - will this bring the Casual crowd back?

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Screenshot - 1125378

StarCraft II has seen its share of drama this past week, most of it stemming from the fallout within the competitive community after seeing how successful the League of Legends Season 2 Championships were. One of the biggest things to come out of the ensuing discussions was that StarCraft II does not have nearly as big a casual audience as League of Legends. Issues stemmed from Ladder anxiety, where people would be nervous about playing single player as it would affect their spot on the ladder, to being Free to play, and finally, to having a reason to keep playing, even if you are losing. Blizzard seems to have solved that issue: they are adding leveling to StarCraft II, granting experience for buildings and units killed.

Here's the full scoop, courtesy of Battle.net:

Our next major patch of the Heart of the Swarm beta is coming very soon, and with this update, beta players are going to be able to join us in testing a new feature for StarCraft II. Leveling introduces a progression system to the game that offers rewards to players of all skill levels.
The basics
In the Heart of the Swarm leveling system, players earn experience while playing Blizzard matchmaking  modes and custom games on Blizzard maps. You’ll earn XP for the race you’re playing with each unit you build or destroy. Experience is awarded at the end of the match, and accumulates as you level up from 1 to a maximum level of 20 for each race.

Getting into the game and playing as much as possible will earn you XP and rewards. Build up powerful armies, wreak havoc on the map, fight to the bitter end, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts! There will also be ways to earn bonus experience points for a match. We’re already working on concepts like “bonus XP for your first win of the day” and “extra XP when you play in a party with a Battletag or Real-ID friend”. We’re considering “bonus XP weekends” and other sorts of activities, which will be tested in the beta.
The rewards
The Leveling system is how you will earn most portraits and decals in Heart of the Swarm.  We’re creating a multitude of new images for players to collect and display. Your cumulative (Protoss+Terran+Zerg) level will also be displayed right next to your player portrait, so others will be able to easily see how far you’ve gone in mastering the races of StarCraft II.
 
Each level you earn awards either a decal or a portrait for the race that you’re playing. These rewards get more and more epic as you progress in a race. The rewards will be different for each race, so truly dedicated players can push themselves to great heights for each of the three races.

The question is, are decals and portraits enough to keep people playing? I know folks love to fill up experience bars, so we'll have to see what comes of this. I'm personally still waiting for eSports team logos as decals, like League of Legends and DotA2 have done.

Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Editor! Follow him on Twitter @GZSteiner and check out Video Gaming Hard Corps, where he is a local tournament organizer for the S. FL. Fighting Game Community.

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Dustin Steiner I'm GameZone's eSports Correspondent and resident fighting game guru. I'm also Event Coordinator for Video Gaming Hard Corps, where we host online and local tournaments in addition to have general fellowship among gamers. Check us out! http://www.videogaminghardcorps.com
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