Finally, the 11 million or so fans of Starcraft have a sign from the heavens. Blizzard Entertainment announced today that it has begun a closed beta test for thousands of players in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.

The sequel has been a bit long in the making. The original Starcraft sci-fi game launched in 1998 and became a sensation in places such as South Korea, where the game is still revered in multiplayer tournament play. Blizzard, the division of Activision Blizzard, has taken its time with the sequel in part because of its focus on quality. It has also taken a long time because of the wild success of World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer online fantasy role-playing game with 11 million paying subscribers.

Still, 12 years is a little long to keep fans waiting. The closed beta will put the game through its paces and test the company’s new online gaming service, which will be more like a social network for gamers. Blizzard is also working on Cataclysm, a major expansion for World of Warcraft, launching this year. With the closed beta test starting, Blizzard appears to be on schedule for its mid-year launch of the game.