Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Flashback: Starcraft

I’m still not in the Starcraft II beta, so to satisfy my need I installed the original Starcraft again and played through the three classic campaigns on the weekend. The game is still fantastic. In fact, I have spent more time playing the old Starcraft again than I spent in total on Dawn of War II which I bought on release for full price?

Speaking of full price, how is it that Starcraft + Broodwar still cost €15 at the Blizzard store? I couldn’t find my Starcraft CD so I thought I’d quickly buy the game online for €5 or something – but no dice. Wouldn’t it be a good promotion for part II if they made the first game available for free or at least cheap?

I can't post about Starcraft without an image of Kerrigan now, can I?

Alas, the price might be justified in so far as the game really still is very good. Sure, the graphics are terrible and everyone who tells you that Starcraft II looks just like the original is a filthy liar.  For some reason though, the graphics don’t put me off as much as they tend to do when I play other old games. Maybe it is the genre and graphics just aren’t all that important to me in a strategy game.

It is no accident that Starcraft is still played professionally over in Asia; the strategy part can still be compared favourably to current generation games. Each of the three very balanced factions has an interesting selection of units and even the expensive high-end units can well be countered if you build the right answers. I played a mission with the Protoss and build a couple of their huge endgame units, the carriers.  They did their job decently well until I hit a pocket of light enemy scout aircraft that completely annihilated my expensive carriers. Apparently their air-to-air missiles are quite effective against my almost immobile carriers while the damage that my fighters did top their shields was negligible.

Playing the missions, this is less relevant than when playing against other players – or even computer players in skirmish mode. This is actually one of the biggest issues I have with campaigns in real-time strategy games: Unlike normal one-on-ones, the computer starts out with a huge advantage over the player but is artificially limited in using that advantage. Where one-on-ones are often about small resource advantages and correct timing of attacks and surprises, campaign battles are usually about surviving until you can afford a huge army that simply annihilates the enemy. The aforementioned countering of carriers with scouts is all fine and dandy, but I simply finished that map by building more carriers and overrunning the scouts while the computer players didn’t use their advantage to simply finish me off. (Or at least build more scouts to shoot my carriers down.)

A well balanced Protoss force.

On the other hand, the missions in Starcraft have some awesome story going on. I remember thinking that one could easily make a trilogy of movies from the story of Starcraft alone. I would watch that. Too bad that we will get a World of Warcraft movie instead, which I can’t imagine being close to as interesting.

So if you haven’t played Starcraft yet, go out and get it, even if you have to spend €15 at the Blizzard store. Play the campaign, cheat through it if you can’t be bothered with the unbalanced matches, and then either skirmish the AI or get online and beat up some humans. Yes there are still matches to be found for this 12 year old game, what other game can claim that?

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