For this weeks #ThrowbackThursday I wanted to include a game that not only shaped me as a gamer personally but something that really defined its genre and was a groundbreaking release at the time.
This game was StarCraft, developed by Blizzard before they tackled the MMORPG market with such success, and some of my first memories of gaming were directing intergalactic battles between opposing races, whilst managing resources and attempting to upgrade an extensive base.
Before the pull of console gaming became too strong for me to ignore and FPS games started to dominate my gaming library real-time strategy games were pretty much all I played, and this early obssession was owed in large parts to StarCraft.
Whilst the storyline gained much praise from critics at the time and this aspect did impress me, many of the missions were hugely enjoyable, it was the different species available and the vast tactical difference when controlling each of the races that I found especially engrossing.
Released in 1998 the real-time strategy genre was really starting to take off, with Command & Conquer setting a high bar with its impressive release in 1995, however Blizzard are credited with really advancing the genre with StarCraft due to its inclusion of three unique playable species.
Each species had individual and exclusive units, as well as different building and base options, but most impressive was the vast amount of tactical difference between the species.
The storyline revolves initially around the human race available on the game, the Terrans, who were exiled from Earth due to its overpopulation and their undesirable nature. Sent to colonise far reaches of the galaxy the Terrans find themselves caught up in a long standing war between the two alien species, the Zerg and the Protoss.
The Zerg were an alien species in the vein of insects on steriods, think Alien or Starship Troopers, their goal was to reach genetic perfection and their tactical advantage was low cost of troops, they were quick and cheap to produce which enabled large numbers to desend on the enemy, the sheer volume of attackers balancing out the relative weakness of each unit that comes from their low production cost.
In a bid to stop the spread of the Zerg the Protoss made it their goal to irradicate them, this goal was driven through self-interest and the Protoss were aiming to secure their strict ideological ideals and physical future as a race from the consumption of the Zerg.
The Protoss, a humanoid race, possessed all the cool tech and gadgets one can expect from a sci-fi humanoid race, lasers, psionic abilities and vortexs were all at the disposal of this technological advanced species. This led to strong and powerful units, but with a inflated cost and a long build time.
Somewhere in the middle of these, both in terms of storyline and tactical disposal, are the Terrans. They feature standard human military technology, ranging from assault rifle toting infantry, to tanks, all the way up to nuclear warfare. In terms of cost and strength they are firmly placed in between the Zerg and the Protoss.
As an impatient youngster I favoured the Zerg and the Terrans over the Protoss however I was handed a beating by players online who appreciated and utilised the Protoss properly, however the genius of the game was that there was no obviously superior race, no one had a distinct advantage over the other, it was all down to tactics, as a good RTS should be.
It all depended on tactical match ups and even the most expensive piece of Protoss equipment could be destroyed if the right amount and type of other units were utilised against them.
The online features were another stand out point of this game, early in the days of Blizzard’s Battle.net eight player online battles were hosted. There were a variety of game modes, which provided a refreshing change to the standard large scale warfare of who can destroy who first that is the main fortay of RTS games.
It’s these online features that gained StarCraft such acclaim worldwide, in fact it is still played as a competitive sport, with sponsorship deals and TV rights, in South Korea and is still seen as a national phenomenon over there.
A final note on StarCraft that both frustrated and inticed me was the building aspect of the game, when playing as the Zerg or the Protoss you couldn’t just place buildings anywhere, as the Zerg you had to build upon biomass, known as ‘creep,’ which increased as more buildings were created, and Protoss buildings had to be connected to a power grid within the base.
This base construction format was intereesting as it added another challenging aspect to the game, but also because there was something somewhat satisfying about watching your central base expand and grow under these restrictions.
So there you have it, StarCraft was one of the earliest games that really ate away the hours of my day, it was hailed as revolutionary for the RTS genre and until I was turned towards FPS games in my late teens influenced my early gaming experiences, putting me on a road of RTS games, such as the Age of Empires and Command & Conquer games that came after StarCraft, throughout my early gaming years.
The original StarCraft, along with expansion pack Brood War, is available for digital purchase and download from the Blizzard store for £9.99
Images all copyright of Blizzard Entertainment.