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20 years StarCraft: An IGN Retrospective

Share. The history of the series from the beginning. By Kosta Andreadis In the mid-1990s, the real-time strategy (RTS) genre…


The history of the series from the beginning.

In the mid-1990s, the real-time strategy (RTS) genre was not only popular but everywhere. RTS games of different styles and settings were everywhere, and a company called Blizzard Entertainment was at the forefront. The studio had become a household name with players thanks to &#821

1; mainly – to three titles: 1994 Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, 1995’s Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and an action roleplay released on the last day of 1996 (and developed by Blizzard Norr), Diablo. These games cemented Blizzard as a company that created high-quality movie history-driven experiences that were fun, accessible and endlessly refundable.

With StarCraft, its third real-time strategy, Blizzard would leave the fantasy world of the Warcraft franchise breakout and put its sights in the distant future. It would take players into a science-fiction environment where people and foreign strangers exert isometric high-tech warfare. And the studio should go on its own journey; In the meantime between Warcraft II and StarCraft launched in 1998, the appearance of the game would change drastically – in addition to its story, characters, vehicles and other player-driven devices. This is the story of that development … and the success beyond.

The first prototype

The industry and fans got their first look at StarCraft shortly after development began in 1996 and … it did not go well. It kept the same peak point and a bright color scheme found in Warcraft II – which led to the fact that many called it Warcraft in Space, rather than a whole new Blizzard universe to detect.

Rob McNaughton, leading artist on StarCraft II development team, joined Blizzard in 1996 shortly after the debut. It was a turbulent time – the team reworked the entire project and was looking for a new look. “At that time, there was another sci-fi game that Blizzard had played around with the Shattered Nations,” says Rob. “It had just been interrupted, but it had a much grinier appearance than the previous Warcraft games, and in many ways StarCraft’s new look was born.”

The industry and fans got their first look at StarCraft cards after the development began in 1996, and … it did not work well.

Shattered Nations, a mostly unknown chapter in Blizzard’s long history, was the studio taking on the turn-based strategy story popularized by similar XCOM, its existence was public knowledge, but no playable version ever occurred. This new, grumpy look of StarCraft, born from Shattered Nations’ very different approach to Warcraft’s bright colors, expanded the places where the art and design team inspired. “I would say the biggest influence on me and the film team working on StarCraft, classic 70’s and 80’s and movies,” adds Rob.

It should not be a surprise for those who have starred StarCraft because it contains many direct references to classic sci-fi movies and franchises like Aliens (1986). In terms of influences, Rob also occurs as the appearance of the Terran unit, Goliath. “The Goliath, yes, it was strongly inspired by Robocop and was taken right out of the broken countries.” It’s a pleasure for Blizzard’s long story to use concepts from canceled or incomplete projects to break existing features, as well as to gain inspiration from pop culture.

After finding its new direction, the team at Blizzard would then go in to create a new universe filled with fascinating places, faces and foreign beings.

Cowboys in Space

“Terran was the first and easiest to do,” Rob explains when I discuss the three iconic playable races – Terran, Zerg and Protoss – could be played in both the StarCraft campaign and the multiplayer component . “Marines with armor were not a new concept, and I always thought of them as cheap disposable cans with weapons.”

A sketch of Jim Raynor from 97.

In Design Conditions, Zerg, StarCraft’s Organic Biological Race of Purple Foreigners, would review most of the revisions. Throughout StarCraft’s development, the Blizzard team would hold art prints that would let the artists’ fantasies run wild to find the right look for the creatures. “Zerg was designed quite late in development,” explains Rob. “And I took quite a lot of these buggers. When the first high-resolution Hydralian came out, it was when we decided that Zerg was about to be organic killers. And all its technology would be organic.”

Maybe it was most iconic Zerg death machine, Hydralic, originally designed as a melee unit. However, when defining Zerg’s look and feel, described as “hard chitinous plates and smooth muscular meat with lots of sharp points,” they developed into the backbone we all know when StarCraft began to take shape.

One of the more interesting aspects of the design of StarCraft’s universe and its races was that there were singular units or concepts that would serve as the jumping point to create and crush each race. With Terran, it was the simple navy, wearing light blue armor ready to fire its machine gun on everything that was moving. For Zerg it was organic hydral; Slim, elegant, but still extremely hot. With the space priests and superintelligent Protoss, it was the four-legged robot that would be the Dragon – shoot off blue balls of plasma at a distance.

Another early Chris Metzen sketch.

“Working from Dragonen, we began to describe Protoss robot units as if they were metallic copies of organic animals,” explains Rob. “But we finally found that Dragon’s yellow and orange metal was too restrictive as a color palette for the entire Protoss race, so when I started working with the Protoss buildings, I added blue crystals and stones to the architecture to give them an interesting contrast. In all the races I would say that Protoss is the most unique and unlike any other specific sci-fi feature. “

Following the lukewarm reception of StarCraft’s first debut, an important design choice was made to switch perspectives from top to bottom isometric. This move created a separate set of technical challenges, but it was not the perceived complete redesign that many thought it was. “The isometric view is really just a visual trick,” Rob explains. “It does not differ from how units were made in Warcraft I or II. However, it changed the buildings and structures.”

Isometric terrain was tricky.

It would also significantly change the action and the strategic game. “Buildings were now squished and no longer squared. We had to put a lot of work into how the buildings were placed on the ground and how units went around them. This made some buildings and units more powerful in a group when they attacked from the side verse over or behind, because of their footprint and how close they were together. “

” The real artistic challenge with isometric view was the terrain and the rocks, “adds Rob. “We had to invent a new and unique terrain and clipping that worked at 30 degree angles.”

Country Music in the Year 3000

“Cowboys in Space!”, Announces Senior Composer at Blizzard Entertainment Glenn Stafford when he was asked what StarCraft defines in terms of sound. “At least for Terran was this thought, but [it was] also has a big influence over the head, in the main menus and in movies. What would country and rock music sound like in the future after people had conquered interstellar travels?”

Really Iconic games can often be recognized instantly by music or audio signals, and StarCraft is certainly one of them. From the reverb-heavy music that permeates the main menu and the open Terran campaign, to the sound of a saturation tank transformed into an artillery animal, and the fleshy lump sounds of a new series of Zergling hatching and then scrapes the road to an enemy’s base. For Glenn and the sound team working on StarCraft, collaboration and iteration have taken place throughout the development.

In fact, the process is not as different as what it is right now, except in scale and scale, Glenn explains that there was less division between departments or roles, with most teams working within the arms of each other . “We tested constantly and played early versions of the game, got the chance to listen to audio and music over time, while receiving regular feedback from design and film teams. Our budget and audio resources were very limited by today’s standards.”

“For the development of the other two races, Protoss was sound deep, powerful and cerebral with influences from various sci-fi stories and movies,” Glenn explains. “For Zerg, the approach was both future and retro at the same time. Earthly and organic, yet laced with the strange and other worldly – draw on evolution and advanced biotechnology.” This foundation set the tone for each breed, not just musical but also when it came to sound design.

” One of the chilling Zergling sounds is that I just take my cheeks and pat them open and close quickly. Processed with pitch and other effects afterwards. “- Glenn Stafford.

Compared with the progress made in digital recording technology available today, the sound and music of StarCraft used the team a range of external synthesizers and outboard hardware, using more traditional recording techniques.” Early versions of some of the sounds was quite cringeworthy, “acknowledges Glenn.” Some devices demanded more experiments to get something unique and special. The first version of Hydralian was simply stupid until we were thinking of how to make them speak without words. “This experiment tation led to some interesting sources for what many consider to be some of the best sound effects for an RTS at any time.

” Lots of devices in the game started with voice as origin; our voices, “reveals Glenn.” Although most are tweaked beyond recognition. We also used voice for sound effects, such as Marines walkie talkie static. Voice and mood sounds like whispers, lifts and breathing were a major contributor to creating source material that could be treated to various strange effects, sweeteners, environments and even in the music. One of the chilling Zergling sounds is just that I take my cheeks and pop them open and close quickly. Processed with pitch and other effects afterwards. “

The general philosophy behind Blizzard’s attitude to sound and music, like art and design, has not changed since the early days of the studio.” Based on the tools and technologies we have at our disposal, Glenn says, “we are using completely simply everything we can to make it sound good for our ears. Both sound and music must be effective, memorable, yet playable. It’s the frost on top and it’s been better to be delicious. “

StarCraft II and The First Esport

StarCraft was released in 1998 and continued to be the high-selling PC game for the year, while it received an excellent expansion in the form of StarCraft: Brood War, which introduced some new devices along with new missions that continued the critically acclaimed and multilateral history found in the original. “After that, we just went back to work and started making Warcraft III,” Rob explains, confirming the typical development approach before gaming became a service, where a studio sends a title, then starts working on the next. After releasing StarCraft, the Blizzard team would move its sights back to Warcraft’s fantasy empire with an ambitious plan to create an RTS game without sprites or 2D assets, one that would contain full 3D art and images.

“It was not until 2000 when we began to hear that [competitive StarCraft] in Korea exploded,” says Rob. “It was the moment we realized it was an esport, something new with a competitive game at a level that has never seen before.” Although it was not the first competition game, StarCraft’s popularity in Korea was outstanding. It played an important role in the government investing in network infrastructure, with StarCraft tournaments broadcast live on television to a significant audience. The rise of this side of the RTS experience, which was characterized by StarCraft’s popularity in South Korea, was gradually due to the fact that it took time for the rest of the world to catch up.

” StarCraft really offered opportunities for skilled players to explore their personal skill and only showcase their competencies in competition. “- Tim Morten.

” Where Warcraft III took things in more of an RPG-driven direction, StarCraft really offered opportunities for skilled players to explore their personal skill and only showcase their opportunities in competition. “Producion Director of StarCraft II- team, tells Tim Morten to me. “The asymmetrical race design is such a characteristic feature of StarCraft and there is such a distinctive style for each of the races, and it feels unique and unlike anything else.”

Design wise RTS understood as an esport not “t-factor in the design of Warcraft III, but StarCraft II would be different. Its design was strongly influenced by the rise of esport and competitive play. In fact, its multiplayer component was running, in rudimentary and prototype form, long before the actual design work began in the campaign.

“With StarCraft, we initially made all devices and everything else in 3D and then made them look like sprites,” explains Rob. “When we started working on the sequel we already had a lot of 3D models. And unbelievably, while we stop working with Warcraft III, we put each StarCraft unit into the Warcraft III engine. And when we notified StarCraft II [in 2007] where multiplayer up and running. “Although the story was on the cards, StarCraft II began to develop as a remake of the original’s popular multiplayer in 3D. New technology was created to support the larger number of 3D devices on the screen, enabling artists and other designers to update vehicles, buildings and parts of the landscape, bit by piece.

An Epic Sci-Fi Count in Three Parts [19659007] Looking at the stall of RTS campaigns created by Blizzard, the structure followed mostly a defined path where a series of quests would lead through all playable breeds in sequence to tell the story . Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s VP for Creative Development during the early stages of developing StarCraft II, saw the sequel as an opportunity to expand the size and extent of its narrative ambition.

“Chris Metzen and the team became very interested in creating so much great story,” says Rob. “When we look at Warcraft III, where you only got eight Night Elf missions to tell the whole story – that just was not enough . “The decision to split StarCraft II into three and effectively create a trilogy of releases that would contain campaigns focusing on Terran, Zerg and Protoss was not the immediate choice.

Concept art for a StarCraft II device called Protoss Defender.

Concept art for a StarCraft II device called Protoss Defender. 19659018] This should see StarCraft II’s development as a trilogy may become the most ambitious company in the history of genres. The core multiplayer component would then remain true and build on the original, in the light of an ever-growing film universe. “The core of StarCraf t – three races with unique abilities and technical trees, the rich legitimate story between Raynor and Kerrigan – they have passed all the time, “adds Tim. “But there were many changes that came with StarCraft II. The technology changed, the mechanics developed, simplified some aspects of both macro and micro while adding new challenges. And the story became more grandiose with each input.”

One of the The main technical challenges came from the expanding story and to tell the story of the post with a quality that was more than just zooming in to any units on the battlefield. “In Warcraft III, when we switched to a movie, we actually moved the camera and moved it close to the game and it looked quite blocky,” adds Rob. “With StarCraft II, we decided early that we wanted high quality biographical assets and high-quality game assets. We called the history mode, where you will break out of the game and switch to high-quality historical mode characters.”

A byproduct of sharing StarCraft II up was for all purposes any new mail could be considered a brand new game. From a design, art, music and technology perspective, learning and growing became more ambitious with time, with improved technology and higher credibility. “With the Legacy of the Void team, they had reached a point where they were such champions on the tools that they had to work with and the engine they had to work with,” explains Tim. “They really had a chance to think outside the box and be creative with the levels. “A blend of trust, skill and understanding meant that Blizzard’s knowledge of StarCraft grew so did the quality of the experience. Legacy of the Void also introduced a new way of playing – co-op.

“Looking at StarCraft II sent 2011 against where StarCraft II is today 2018, it improves on every shoulder,” adds Tim. “In every part of the game, from the interface to the multiplayer balance, the introduction of co-op, cinema. There is a sense of constant development.”

As a chess but chess 3000

“Balanced strategic battle between asymmetric races lies in the heart of StarCraft – I think it’s the asymmetry that really puts StarCraft away, “Tim said when asked to summarize StarCraft in a single sentence. StarCraft is of course many things; a large space opera, a place for creators to flex their development and design knowledge in the new arcades and a highly competitive esport that is as exciting to see now as almost 20 years ago. But the most important word to remove from this brief description is “balance”.

” Balanced strategic battle between asymmetric races lies in the heart of StarCraft – I think it’s the asymmetry that really sets StarCraft apart. “- Tim Morten.

Balancing and changing the game was an ongoing process. When StarCraft reached its peak popularity as the new millennium rolled around, the arrival of a new patch felt like a new revised edition of StarCraft’s registry. The patches would be poured over to see how this complex and intricate game was fine-tuned, sometimes change the experience in unexpected ways.

Since StarCraft as an esport has risen, the team not only watched matches between highly qualified players but used this knowledge to help shape multiplayer side of StarCraft. “Over time, it has become a process where we request feedback from pro players around the world,” explains Tim. “Of course, Korea has some of the best players in the world, so we try to pay special attention to the. We also look at the backend data we get about how race balance works across levels, but also across regions. It is important that we do not make changes that undermine the experience of less experienced players. “

For a series and franchise celebrating the 20th anniversary, this process of updating, fine tuning and balancing has become an art that could sit next to any update in the realm of visual, sound and music. It also helps with a game that loved and understood as StarCraft, there is a lively community that the team can interact with. “We’re also trying to really pay attention to what people say on the forum,” adds Tim. “Whether it’s forums or other sources. What people say are important. And over time, we have become used to doing regular feedback efforts, where we let people know what we see, what we hear and just our thoughts about what we can change next. It is always fluid. “


Last year, Blizzard released a remastered version of StarCraft last year, and outside of new visual and animations, the core experience was unchanged. The team had actually flirted with the idea of ​​making changes or improvements based on everything it learned to create StarCraft II, but the decision not to touch what many see as a classic led to a greater appreciation of its original design.

“The team was very careful to make sure they did not bother the elements of games that were important for those who loved StarCraft, “explains Tim.” All of us here have these wonderful memories of playing StarCraft. And there were many opportunities to run in different directions, when it comes to trying to update the game in ways that could have affected games. The balance contained in that game is not just the numerical values. That’s how the game engine itself works. In the end, they managed to keep true to the original vision. “

In many ways, StarCraft’s history has been one of two halves in the last 20 years. On one side there is a rich sci-fi universe where players can enjoy an epic story with many twists and a multiplayer- component. A deep skill-based strategy game full of action and quick thinking. And more importantly, an experience where one’s skills can always be improved in meaningful ways.

” To me, StarCraft is like playing a good instrument. a pleasure to stumble, but it always motivates me to continue to improve as a player. “- Tim Morten.

“What took me to StarCraft was the combination of great storytelling and the campaign’s strategic challenge,” Tim Morten tells me. “I started playing Blizzard games with Warcraft II, and it allowed me to invest in RTS as a genre. When the first StarCraft teaser film came out, the quality was incredible. But this idea of ​​narrative in a sci-fi environment about real-time strategy. Only later came I to appreciate the incredible skill involved in the competition game and the esport scene that continues to define StarCraft today. “

” For me, StarCraft is like playing a good instrument, “concludes Tim. “It’s a pleasure to stumble, but it always motivates me to keep improving as a player.”

Kosta Andreadis is a freelance writer and music producer based in Melbourne Australia. Check out his new album here and be sure to read his epic Diablo 20th anniversary feature. He is also on Twitter .

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