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On March 26th, Blizzard released a trailer for a remastered version of the first StarCraft game. The original classic hit stores in 1998. Its release became a hit among strategy gamers and became an immortal pioneer of the growing competitive sphere. Many common terms and precedents were set by Korean gamers that have since become celebrities in their own right. Even in the modern day, with a three-part sequel released, the original StarCraft maintains a worldwide presence in gaming tournaments.
As seen, the trailer demonstrates upgraded graphics while retaining the controls of the game as they originally existed. Presumably, hotkeys and general design principles remain the same; only 12 units can be controlled at a time, and build orders and other conventional strategies will persist in the remastered version.
Blizzard adopts the same ideology as most remasters: update the graphics and maintain the gameplay. This makes classic games compatible with modern operating systems, and revives its appeal to a wider audience.
Blizzard’s presence in the competitive community is not a new one. Most recently, their smash hit Overwatch enjoys a large and growing competitive following. Even modern game genres currently popular with the competitive gaming community originated from Blizzard’s games. League of Legends, a popular MOBA game, draws heavy influence from DOTA, which in of itself started as a mod for Warcraft III. DOTA itself now exists as a popular competitive tournament game after rights to a standalone sequel was acquired by Valve.
It remains to be seen whether StarCraft remastered can make a strong return to competitive RTS gaming.
StarCraft II’s premiere enjoyed a brief surge of popularity in the genre among competitive gaming and tournaments, but later faded into relative obscurity in favor of MOBAs. Even outside of tournament gaming (though the trend is especially prevalent here), RTS games appeal less and less to players that increasingly favor consoles, shooters, and mobile games. Currently, competitive games seem to favor the shooters and MOBAs. Personally, I see StarCraft remastered appealing to players familiar with the classic, but not so much to prospective new players. I attribute this mostly to the steep learning curve of professional StarCraft play and the ruthless environment of competitive gaming.
Part of the reason why I think MOBAs take precedence over strategy games comes from the learning curve. MOBAs by concept are easy to grasp and difficult to master. RTS games are difficult to both grasp and master. Whereas in MOBAs, players focus on a single hero character, StarCraft requires players to micromanage their economic and military units. Additionally, MOBAs feature two teams of five. In StarCraft, the maximum amount of players facing each other is 2 vs 2. At first glance, this eliminates the need for team cohesion, but the stakes for making mistakes also rises drastically. Thus, cooperation between players in StarCraft becomes saddled with other concerns and tasks that also take concentration. To their credit, MOBAs do require high APM and map awareness, but strategy games add resource management, build orders, and army micromanagement into the mix.
Real time strategy games, more than any other genre, requires multitasking over a variety of competing priorities. Critical thinking also plays a crucial factor; knowing when to focus on what often swings the balance of a RTS match towards one side or the other. In shooters, some map awareness and player locations factor into victory and defeat. MOBAs add item builds, K/D ratios, and certain ability buffs to the mix. RTS games step even further, including resource management, infrastructure, and combined arms as factors for consideration.
Widespread tournaments usually focus on the metagame that often manifest during competitive play. Such examples include memorizing CS:GO’s weapon recoil pattern, maximizing minion CS in LoL, or item build orders in DOTA 2.Currently, shooters and MOBAs dominate the tournament setting, whereas strategy titles take a back seat.
Though all three genres feature some level of metagame, shooters and MOBAs utilize technical metagame tools, usually a sleight of hand or a rapid succession of keystrokes of certain hotkeys.
For aspiring players, these metagame concepts are simple to grasp, but difficult to master. When it comes to StarCraft, more difficult tasks such as build orders, counterstrategies, map awareness, and resource control determine success, and encompass a broad array of skills and reflexes that take time to understand and utilize for their full potential. To players familiar with StarCraft, these are standard tools of the trade. To prospective competitors, it’s a wall that must be surmounted before they have a chance at the big leagues. For this reason, I am skeptical of StarCraft Remastered’s success in the competitive community.