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All of Blizzard’s marketing campaign surrounding Starcraft II has been toting the fact that “The wait is finally over”, and with good reason. Starcraft II is a game that has been awaited for 11 years. For comparison, Too Human, a game by Silicon Knights, was hyped up for the fact that it was in development for 9 years. Starcraft has become a televised sport in South Korea, and many fans are still playing the original Starcraft online to this day (until Starcraft II comes, of course). Starcraft wasn’t always this titan of an RTS franchise, though.
Starcraft began development in 1995 after Warcraft II, which was the same time that the Blizzard classic Diablo started development. Starcraft debuted at E3 1996, where it received poor critical response. Critics referred to Starcraft as “Warcraft in space.” In response, Blizzard overhauled the entire project to make it more unique and focused on three different species that played differently. A new version of Starcraft was unveiled in early 1997, where it received much more praise.
An alpha build of Starcraft.
Despite all of the critic attention and fans, Starcraft was a slow game to come out. There were continual delays to testing, game engine retooling, professional voicework and music, and a new isometric perspective. Due to all of these delays, a group of Starcraft fans on the forums named themselves “Operation: Can’t Wait Any Longer.” This group wrote an array of fictional stories involving members of Operation CWAL attempting to retrieve a beta version of Starcraft from Blizzard’s headquarters. Blizzard acknowledged these fans by making a cheat code by the same name to speed up unit production, and thanked them in the credits.
When Starcraft was finally released in 1999, it received several game of the year awards, and even spawned a Nintendo 64 version of the RTS in 2000. Several expansions were released for the game as well, including Starcraft: Insurrection, Starcraft: Retribution, and Starcraft: Brood War. Over the course of a decade, the game sold over 9.5 million copies, and after the initial release of Starcraft, Blizzard’s Battle.net service grew by 800%.
The effects of Starcraft’s gameplay evolutions are still felt today. The three-species gameplay is credited for revolutionizing the RTS genre, and it’s popularity in South Korea helped establish that there could be “professional” gamers. Starcraft is still one of the most praised games of all time, and it’s the only game where an astronaut brought a copy of it with him on a space shuttle mission. Starcraft was also part of the US Air Force’s Aerospace Basic Course, which was used to teach trainees about operating under stress and joint teamwork.
So will Starcraft II have the same kind of impact on the gaming industry? Of course not, it would be unrealistic to think so. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a great game. Hopefully, Starcraft II will be a great looking, better playing, and amazing sequel to Starcraft. Fingers crossed!