Considering how much I’ve written about Starcraft and Starcraft 2 in the past, it should be a little bit surprising that I haven’t brought it up in the last few months since the official release date has been announced (7/27/10) and the beta has been ongoing since February. Well, honestly I haven’t written about it lately because I’ve been in the beta since early March and have been having the time of my life with it. Even better, in mid-April they released the map editor as well and tons of my free time over the last few weeks has been devoted to working on a custom map which I am very excited for. However, now that Blizzard has announced the beta will be closing on May 31st for launch preparations and changes, I am beginning to believe the game really will be coming out at the end of July (maybe…) and that it feels like it’s finally time for me to talk about the game once again.
You may not remember, but back in early 2006 Blizzard officially put the game Starcraft: Ghost on indefinite hold and I wrote a ranting editorial (as I so often did back in the early days of Critical Hits). My rant was fueled by the indefinite delay (read: cancellation) of SC: Ghost along with people online posting how they were excited at news of Blizzard North going into a hiring phase – Blizzard North is the part of the company that traditionally works on the Diablo games. These people were talking about how much they yearned for Diablo 3 and that set me off, as I point out in my rant the first Starcraft game came out in the year 1998, a full 12 years ago now. Diablo fans only had to wait 4 years for their first sequel and Warcraft fans a whopping 7 years (95-2002) for Warcraft 3 to come out. It’s still a ridiculous concept to me even now that they act even the slightest bit entitled to a new Diablo game.
Thankfully fate is kind and we stand here in 2010 looking forward to not only Starcraft 2‘s imminent release but also Diablo 3 forthcoming in the next few years. It was almost exactly three years ago that Blizzard began a countdown to their next big announcement, at the time causing me to go so far as calling in divine intervention to make sure that it was Starcraft 2 (I was very needy back then, I admit it now that I have my sweet…sweet fix). The Blizzard announcement also kicked what is still one of my favorite spoof posts for their next big game – CowboyCraft – with the hilarious release date of 2008 stapled on it. Like Blizzard could do a Cowboy RTS justice in such short time, hah! This was followed shortly after the announcement and the first wave of information was released by a post espousing why you should be excited for Starcraft 2. Though the main thesis of that post is still very much true, some of my early predictions were way off base such as hoping that the Zerg would have some form of infested dragoons in their ranks or other protoss inspired units (akin to the Infested Terran unit which is still in the game). However I will not be surprised if some of these aspects do show up in the single player games (that’s right, there are three different single players game for SC2).
All this post really needs to say is that I’m still very much excited for the game to finally be released, and I am eternally grateful to my friend Emil for his generosity in giving me a beta key without even considering having me do the things I said I would to get it. That’s probably a good thing for everyone, really. However, I would like to add in some reassurances for those who have heard various things about the game that make them worry. I’ve heard from several different people that the rumor is SC2 has removed much of the micro aspects of the original game; I can assure you there is still a hell of a lot of micro in the game but it may be a bit different than what you’re used to from the original. Something that surprised me at first is that, unlike the original game, micro game play has actually been integrated into the essential mechanics of each race. For those of you who don’t know or are not entirely sure what micro is – micro is the term for managing a small number of units in an organized and efficient way, using efficient movements or abilities and typically beating a larger / more powerful force of units due to that specialized management.
Micro has been built into each race in the form of a unique ability present from very early in the game. The Terran Command Centers can now upgrade to have the Calldown: MULE ability that boosts mineral gathering (or repairing) but has a timed life of 1 and a half minutes. The Zerg can build Queen units that can spawn an additional four larva on each hatchery, but this must be manually recast every 40 seconds for maximum output. The Protoss Nexus buildings now have the Chrono Boost ability that doubles the production on a building/unit for 20 seconds. Each of these abilities requires a certain amount of attention and micro to use, but if done properly can allow a good player to easily out pace someone that doesn’t use these abilities. Besides these specific examples, there is still arguably the same amount of micro present in any given encounter as there was in the original with some notable exceptions when it comes to tactics that were developed around exploiting flaws in the original game’s programming. I’m very confident that a whole new set of micro tactics will be developed around the mechanics and programming of SC2, but I am definitely a big fan of the many improvements that have been made over not just the original Starcraft but also over SC2’s closer predecessor Warcraft 3. The ability to select and group an incredibly large number of units at once is quite welcome, as is the ability to set main buildings to direct workers to auto-gather resources.
No matter what it really should be no surprise that I’m extremely excited for the game, and I’m 100% certain that the single player game will be amazing from the things that I’ve seen in the map editor and in the multiplayer game. For starters I’ve already seen videos of people using the map editor to create first person shooter mods and even an extremely ambitious World of Starcraft mod that is being developed. My biggest concern now, blissfully, is with the amount of time that will separate the first game titled Wings of Liberty, which contains only the Terran portion of the single player campaign, and the following Zerg and Protoss parts of the game. Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years before we see the next Starcraft game!