Starcraft, released in 1998, is one of the most successful strategy games in the history of gaming. It and its expansion pack, Brood Wars, have sold more than 9 million copies worldwide.
Starcraft contains a offline campaign, and online multi-player support. Its campaign, and the subsequent campaign in Brood Wars, follow the games’ three races; Terran (Humans, prisoners from earth, and finally, the earth government), Zerg (Buglike biological creatures), and Protoss (humananoid creatures utilizing psychic power). Players must manage resources (Crystals and Vespane gas), while also managing their military might (building everything from Zerglings to Battlecruisers), in a manner similar to many other popular real-time-strategy (RTS) games. Through a series of interesting twists, the offline campaign teaches the player some of the basics of gameplay, yet it’s nothing compared to the online, multi-player portion of Starcraft.
Multi-player is where Starcraft really shines. Blizzard, the company behind Starcraft, implemented Battle.net as a free, online service for Starcraft (along with Warcraft and Diablo). Here, players can login at any time, through a streamlined browser, and chat, join, or create games at will. Players can take part in online games against virtually anyone from anywhere in the world, and it’s not uncommon to see players from Asia battling against American and European opponents. Blizzard has streamlined Battle.net to the point where it’s very easy for most people to get online and take part in a friendly game. Blizzard has said that roughly 22 million games have been played through its Battle.net service, making it one of the most popular online gaming services.
It’s probably safe to say that had Starcraft lacked good multiplayer support, it wouldn’t be played any more. Indeed, thanks to it’s multiplayer capabilities, games are still being played, and the game is still selling. South Korea and several other countries have pro Starcraft tournament circuits, and matches are televised over South Korean TV. Players from all over the world take part in Stracraft games during the World Cyber Games (WCG), and matches from this have been broadcast internationally.
Personally, it took a while to get used to Starcraft. The pace of play is very, very specific to certain starting builds, and players have to truly understand the ‘rock-paper-scissors’ or ‘counters’ concept to truly appreciate the game. Starcraft is very well balanced, and this has resulted in many unique styles of styles of play later in game, as players must seek to counter whatever units the enemy has. Thus, each player attempts to build a army that will effectively counter the enemies army, and at the same time manage the needed resources to do so.
It’s quite a thrill to do, especially when you get it down, and your Marines smash through the enemy defense, and destroy their infrastructure, thereby ending the game. Every battle I’ve played has been different than previous games, and I’ve learned something new each time. Starcraft blends a mix of thinking and speed, planning and quickness. It’s really an enthralling experience, and one that keeps me coming back for more.
Starcrafts’ popularity is undeniable. It has proved a compelling force in the world of RTS games, as most games in this genre are built around a similar setup, even now. Starcraft, and its incredible replay value, has kept players coming back for years, and probably for many more years. It’s here to stay, at least until Blizzard makes Starcraft 2.