Tag Archives: starcraft

20 Years of StarCraft

Kosta Andreadis, writing for IGN:

In the mid-to-late 1990s, the real-time strategy (RTS) genre was not only popular but ubiquitous. RTS games of various styles and settings were everywhere, and a company named Blizzard Entertainment was at the forefront. The studio had become a household name with gamers thanks – primarily – to three titles: 1994’s Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, 1995’s Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and an action role-playing game released on the final day of 1996 (and developed by Blizzard North), Diablo. These games cemented Blizzard as a company that made high quality cinematic story-driven experiences that were fun, accessible, and infinitely repayable.

With StarCraft, its third real-time strategy game, Blizzard would leave behind the fantasy world of the breakout Warcraft franchise and set its sights on the distant future. It would take players to a science-fiction setting where humans and strange alien races engaged in isometric high-tech warfare. And the studio would go on a journey of its own; in the time between Warcraft II and StarCraft’s launch in 1998 the look and feel of the game would change drastically – alongside its story, characters, vehicles and other player-controlled units. This is the story of that evolution… and the success beyond.

I remember seeing the original StarCraft trailer for the first time. If memory serves, the trailer was included in the WarCraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal expansion set CD-ROM. At the time, the trailer felt like something out of a Ridley Scott film, only grander. Comedic space goons alarmed and destroyed by a large, brooding, mysterious craft. I was bewildered.

Andreadis has put together a tight, well-written retrospective of StarCraft. If you enjoyed the original in the late ‘90s, there are lots of great bits of development insight in here.

The following might be my favorite bit:

Compared to the advances made in digital recording technology available today, to create the sounds and music for StarCraft the team made use of a suite of external synthesizers and outboard hardware, utilising more traditional recording techniques. “Early versions of some of the sounds were pretty cringeworthy,” Glenn admits. “Certain units required more experimentation to get something really unique and special. The first version of the Hydralisk was just plain silly until we figured out how to make them ‘talk’ without words.” This experimentation led to some interesting sources for what many consider to be some of the best sound effects for an RTS of any era.

“Lots of units in the game started with voice as the origin; our voices,” Glenn reveals. “Though most are tweaked beyond recognition. We also used voice for sound effects, such as the Marines’ walkie talkie static. Voice and mouth sounds, like whispers, hisses, and breathing were a big contributor to creating source material to be processed into various strange effects, sweeteners, ambiences and even in the music. One of the chittering Zergling sounds is just me grabbing my cheeks and flapping them open and closed quickly. Processed with pitch and other effects afterwards.”

Unfortunately, no details on the Nintendo 64 port.

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Well played: On multiplayer behavior, discipline, and new interactions

Patrick Stafford, The Atlantic:

That’s why Wiseman and Burch say game makers should feel obligated, as creators of the most popular entertainment medium for boys, to inject some emotional nuance into their work.

Making cooperation a part of gameplay is an easy way to do that. Many games already require players to use teamwork to win, but Burch and Wiseman say more can be done. Football matches require players to shake hand after every match—what if there was a digital equivalent?

In middle-school, I sent a recruitment request email to a Quake clan leader (there has to be a better term for this) full of overly aggressive sentiment and profanity from my friend’s computer. What I did not realize was that his father was able to track all outbound communication from the machine. I was later disciplined for my vulgarity by my parents and was forced to apologize to my friend’s parents. Full of embarrassment, I learned that the type of dialog I had engaged in was not appropriate. I also learned that even seemingly “anonymous” communication could be tracked.

I also recall seeing the term “gg” for the first time after a Starcraft match. After learning that the acronym stood for “good game,” I was taken aback. This may have been the first time I had seen resolute, positive communication in an online multiplayer setting. Sending “gg” at the end of each match became a ritual. This ritual can now be seen in Hearthstone. There has been much praise for Hearthstone’s use of limited speech commands, with a majority of matches ending in, “Well played.”

Fast forward a few years where I was called out by an openly gay high school classmate for being a “dick.” I am uncertain as to exact circumstance but I do recall being deserved of this title. At that moment, I had become acutely aware of my thoughts, actions, and communication toward others.

Not only does removing abusive communication from a game create an uninhibited environment for play and experience, I would bet that it has a lasting impact on real-world perspective and interaction. As long as slanderous behavior is met with positive reinforcement from in-game peers, the cancer will grow. Those shrouded in anonymity may be wise not to display this behavior in public but will continue to bank harmful viewpoints in private until disciplined by peers, companies, or guardians. Here’s to hoping Donald Sterling opened some eyes.

Discipline is necessary. I fear that those children continuing to engage in lewd behavior are not being disciplined or monitored. What is worse are the adults who continue to engage in such behavior that may never be disciplined or monitored.

One additional bit on innovative interaction in multiplayer games:

John Siracusa on Journey’s use of multiplayer interaction in “Strange Game”:

Though players can’t harm each other, they can help each other. Touching another player recharges the power used to leap and (eventually) fly. In cold weather, touching warms both players, fighting back the encroaching frost. More experienced players can guide new players to secret areas and help them through difficult parts of the game.

Journey players are not better people than Call of Duty players or Halo players. In fact, they’re often the same people. The difference is in the design of the game itself. By so thoroughly eliminating all forms of negative interaction, all that remains is the positive.

Players do want to interact; real people are much more interesting than computerized entities. In Journey, players inevitably find themselves having positive interactions with others. And, as it turns out, many people find these positive, cooperative interactions even more rewarding than their usual adversarial gaming experiences.

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Welcoming to new players

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

In most games of this genre you earn currency which is used to buy items, potions and buffs that make your character more powerful. Picking the right items at the right time for your character is a huge part of both League of Legends and Dota 2.

They were discussing the idea of removing the item shop altogether, and one of the game’s designers was becoming, as Browder put it “emotionally distressed” at the idea of removing an aspect of the game that’s a key part of the genre.

There were people on the team against the idea of an item shop and a gold system, as they just allowed those in the lead to remain in the lead and crush the other side. It added a layer of complexity that may not be welcoming to new players.

Worked well for Hearthstone.

I’ve been dreaming of a cross-over title since the original Warcraft III teaser, initially mistaking the rain of the Burning Legion as Zerg.

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StarCraft 2 player receives the sport’s first US athlete visa

StarCraft 2 player receives the sport’s first US athlete visa
Polygon

Professional StarCraft 2 player from South Korea Kim “ViOLet” Dong Hwan recently became the first person from the eSport to obtain a P-1A visa from the American government, his representatives at Cyber Solutions Agency announced.

– Tracey Lien, Polygon

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