I don't get the Starcraft obsession. Do explain!

“Starcraft 2” is coming out and much of the gaming community is going nuts over it.

I picked up “Starcraft” and its expansion and played them out. Tried some multiplayer. I just don’t see what places this game above the RTS competition; it’s not particularly impressive from any standpoint. It’s kind of cartoony, sort of like Warcraft meets X-com, and the gameplay concepts are nothing new or impressive. There are certainly better RTS games.

Why did this particular game capture the imagination of the gaming community?

Like so many other past innovations that just seem played out now, Starcraft was a moderate breakthrough in gaming at the time it was released. The future theme was relatively new, since many RTSes before then had focused on medieval or modern themes.

The main thing, though, was the gameplay. While the mechanics weren’t terribly different from Warcraft, Blizzard introduced 3 possible sides to pick from, all of which had distinctly different playstyles from one another. Before then, there were usually just 2 sides (Horde and Alliance in Warcraft, Allies and Axis in Red Alert, Core and Arm in Total Annihilation, to name a few popular titles), and even then each side tended to have the same style of play, merely different graphics. Starcraft introduced the notion of several different playstyles (fast, cheap units for the Zerg, heavy, expensive units for the Protoss, versatile, mobile units for the Humans) that were still very well balanced.

This has been copied and incorporated into many other games since then, and so Starcraft doesn’t seem particularly special now, but at the time it was quite innovative.

That’s my take, anyway.

Aside from which, the graphics were incredibly cool at the time (and still look pretty good), yet, in keeping with BlizzCo’s mantra, were accessible to almost any computer. Anyone could play it on a 500$ machine. So they did.

As mentioned, there was a good deal of balance from the different sides, despite the unique ways they fought.

Besides that though, the plot was one you could follow and the cut scenes better than other RTS games at the time. Much as I loved the game play in Total Annihilation, IIRC there wasn’t much between levels save your scores.

SC is the closest I’ve ever seen any game come towards sheer perfection. It is sublime. Its multiplayer is fast and furious, easy to learn but impossible to master, with dizzying complexities due to the myriad match ups, unit combos, and the innumerable tricks, and the units are overflowing with character. The single player campaign and background lore is interesting if you like sci-fi – blatantly stolen from Warhammer in some instances, granted, but the storyline is carried on the back of solid characters and superb dialogue performances (e.g. Raynor, Kerrigan and her transformation to Queen of the Zerg, probably the best video game villainess ever).

Hundreds of thousands of people still play it around the world. I still play it every once in awhile, although I watch more often since it is one of the main planks of the current e-sports community, with major tournaments drawing ridiculous audiences. Watching the best SC players in the world is quite the experience, they are just inhuman. They’re treated like celebrities too. Have you ever seen a SC VOD? It’s like a hardcore gamer’s wildest fantasies, with throngs of teenage girls screaming and swooning over each match, carrying huge banners with their favorite player’s picture, invariably surrounded by glitter and hearts. It’s just plain unreal.

So it’s understandable why SC2 will garner so much attention. I don’t think Blizz will be able to pull it off though, the expectations are just impossible to meet. The Blizzcon build did look pretty nice, although a couple design decisions are a little off putting, but it probably won’t be out for years so they’ll have plenty of time to tweak things. Personally, I’ll be satisfied if they just continue the campaign story without doing anything too weird like de-infesting Kerrigan or turning the Xel’Naga into the SC equivalent of the Burning Legion.