The remastered version of the original StarCraft/StarCraft: Brood Wars went live last week. For $14.95 you can have an updated version of the original 1998 title.
Splash Screen Remastered as Well
I picked up a copy just to see what a Blizzard remaster felt like.
This is a true remaster, in the same sense that something like Dark Side of the Moon was remastered. There is nothing new to be found in the game, everything that ever was there is still there, from the slow AI to menus that you have to click and hold on in order to select from. It plays exactly the same and you have as much of a view of the world on your screen, even if it now displays in 1600×1200 detail [for me, your resolution may vary] versus the 640×480 limit of the original. Everything just looks and sounds much better. We went from this:
Build order? What is build order?
To something more like this:
Still screwing up my build order at the opposite end of the same map
Graphics were updated, some colors changed, but Blizzard did not mess with game play. It is, so far as I can tell after a couple of quick run, completely true to the individual and all of your favorite maps still work, even the one where you have all those minerals so you can turtle up and never bother expanding. So the remaster is just that, in probably the purest sense of the word.
What is perhaps more interesting to me is that StarCraft also suddenly has a spot on the Blizzard launcher. Older Blizzard games that they still sell… Warcraft III, Diablo II, and, until last week, StarCraft… have been stand-alone affairs, as they were before Blizzard had a unified launcher/sales platform.
Now however, there is StarCraft on the launcher, right down the list from its successor StarCraft II. What does this mean?
Also here, Activision
It could be simple enough. It might be that Blizzard now considers StarCraft, in its remastered format, to be worth promoting again. They have invested in it, so they no doubt want to sell some copies since it now looks more like a title from this century.
But it is hard not to at least consider this a bit of a rebuke to StarCraft II.
StarCraft II occupies an uneasy position. Nobody wants to be the sequel to one of the best selling games ever. But even though StarCraft II has sold well enough to be considered a success on its own, moving 6 million copies, that still puts it just over half way to the 11 million copies the original sold.
StarCraft II suffered a bit from Blizzard’s conservatism in that they wanted to make a sequel to StarCraft that was different enough to sell, but not so different that it wasn’t StarCraft. So it changes things up a bit, has a few new features, and looks better than the original, but when you play it you still know it is StarCraft. But original StarCraft wasn’t that bad, so why make the move unless you really want another online-only title from Blizzard.
And, of course, StarCraft II never became the cultural phenomenon in South Korea that the original did. Instead, when it comes to esports StarCraft II has to live in the shadows of both the fame of its predecessor and the new wave of MOBAs, such as League of Legends, which are the darlings of esports now.
So part of me wonders if this is a half-hearted attempt by Blizzard to turn the clock back and get the original StarCraft back in front of people so as to reclaim some of its past glory and a bit more of the esports spotlight.
But the original StarCraft, along with the essential StarCraft: Brood War expansion, those are now available to play without giving Blizzard any money at all. You too can play the 19 year old classic game that pretty much became the national sport of South Korea and which pretty much made esports a thing in all of its 1998 technical glory.
Build order? What is a build order?
That screen shot is a full size grab of the actual resolution supported by the game; 640×480. In 2017 the full StarCraft screen fits in a window within a window on your monitor.
Yes, the game will scale up to your monitor, but even back in 1998 I had a 19″ multi-sync CRT monitor that supported double that resolution and remained crisp and readable (at least to my 1998 eyes), so jumping to the smaller resolution made everything… big. Likewise, playing it on my now twelve year old 20″ LCD monitor, which supports 1600×1200 as its native resolution, makes everything seem very big as the game scales up to 2.5x to fill the screen.
And I have an archaic old monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio. I am not sure what happens if you try it at the now more common 16:9 ratio.
But at least it was fast. It is all sprites, with no 3D rendering required, and doesn’t need to move that many pixels around, which is one of the reasons it became an after hours game of choice at the office back when most of us still had 200MHz Pentium Pro processor based machines with basic Matrox or S3 graphics cards. The game ran like a champ with those specs, even with a mass of units on screen.
Blizzard even threw in a few fixes and updates according to the 1.1.8 patch notes. Links to download the game are in the patch notes as well.
I don’t really need to download the game as I have the CDs sitting around somewhere… probably two sets… but it is likely easier. The installer is tiny.
In the mean time, Blizzard has been showing off what the art for the upcoming 4K remastered version… which, again, you will have to buy separately… will look like. It is sort of like everything is coming into focus. I am still waiting to see what the price will be for the remastered version and whether or not it will be accepted by the still thriving StarCraft community and whether or not having the classic units and game play in high definition… along with LAN support… will scavenge players from StarCraft II.
Of course, some minor irony clings to this remaster effort. While the World of Warcraft team says they can’t do a classic server and that it would be bad and that nobody would want one anyway, other parts of Blizzard are actively mining the power of nostalgia.
I was hoping to hear something about this at BlizzCon back in November, but everything takes longer than you think it will, and at Blizzard you have to dial that up by another half again. So while the word first leaked almost a year and a half ago, Blizzard has finally announced the remastered version of StarCraft.
About damn time indeed
The StarCraft site has the current details. Sort of… And there is a trailer.
The key bullet points for the remaster are:
Revised Dialogue and Audio
Blizzard Friends and Matchmaking
Classic StarCraft Gameplay
The graphics will be 4K HD, which is quite a step up from the 640×480 the game has run on for the last 19 years. The whole thing will still be 2D perspective, it will just finally look good on your widescreen monitor.
The revised dialog and audio… well, I guess if you are in there and changing stuff, higher quality audio might be something you want to change, but I worry a bit about that one. A lot of StarCraft to me is the way it sounds. If the marines don’t say, “Jacked up and good to go!” it might be an issue for me.
Blizzard “friends” and matchmaking are fine as far as it goes. But the important/traditional aspect of the game, the LAN connection, remains which seems to indicate that it won’t be converted into another Blizzard game that requires and internet connection in order to play. For a stretch back in the day StarCraft was our after hours game at the office thanks to LAN play.
And then there is “classic” StarCraft game play. This is, after all, the game that was an esport before people were talking about esports, the game that pretty much became the national video game of South Korea. So while remastering is good, I do wonder how it will impact game play with more data on screen and the whole “zoom out” view. Part of the challenge of StarCraft was dealing with limited view of the terrain that you were given. If you didn’t have scouts out and your eyes on the mini-map, your foe could surprise you.
The target date for the release of StarCraft Remastered is this summer.
As part of this, the original standard definition version of the game is getting an update and will be free, which certainly implies that the remastered version will cost you something. I wonder what a price tag will do to enthusiasm for the project. Of course, I was happy enough to shell out for Age of Empires II: Age of Kings when the HD remaster of that came out, so maybe that won’t be a barrier.
Of course, the other question that springs to mind is what does this mean for StarCraft II? I haven’t heard anything bad about the successor title aside from the gripe that, in an effort to not screw up a good thing, Blizzard did not stray very far from the original, so that it did not stand out on its own. But at least it had up-to-date graphics and supported modern screen resolutions.
What happens to StarCraft II now that the original is coming back in a remastered format that should “fix” the key barriers to playing it?
And, finally, I wonder where things stand on the other two remaster projects, Warcraft III and Diablo II? The trio being remastered represent the greats of the pre-World of Warcraft era for Blizzard. What happens when they return fit to be played on modern machines?
I must admit that this year’s BlizzCon doesn’t have much going for it in my book.
The only game of theirs that I have played in the last six months is World of Warcraft, and that got an expansion just about two months back, so there didn’t seem to be much in it for me. I wasn’t going to actually GO to BlizzCon or anything, which would be a totally different experience, if only because I just got back from EVE Vegas… and, also, tickets to BlizzCon sell out in seven seconds.
So I was tempted to simply ignore the whole thing and ready about it in the funny papers next week.
Then Blizzard went and announced that “Weird Al” Yankovic was going to be the closing musical guest and I decided I kind of wanted to see that. I mean, he isn’t Permaband, but he does have more than five songs. With my daughter keen to see the costume contest and my wife always amused by the dance contest, I subscribed to the pay per view version of the event.
So there we are.
And if I am paying for the event, I am certainly going to pay attention to it and get at least two blog posts out of it, so here we go with the first one. As with previous years, my mostly uninformed preview of the event will include what I want to see and what I actually expect to see.
World of Warcraft
As I noted above, WoW just released an expansion, so the options are limited. It likely won’t be a WoW year on the main stage.
expect to see:
How great the Legion expansion is doing
Some hint about the next content drop
WoW in other media (film, TV, graphic novels, etc.)
want to see:
Details about the plan for 7.2, 7.3, and, one would hope, 7.4
When we will get flying in the Broken Isles
Something about retro/nostalgia/legacy servers – Yes, I know, the have already explicitly said they will NOT talk about this, but a man can dream right?
Nothing whatsoever about Mark Kern, who is still trying to inject himself into the legacy server thing so he can disrupt BlizzCon with it
Tom Chilton saying something he shouldn’t about WoW just one more time
Unlike WoW, the world of Diablo is prime for something new. Diablo III is going to turn five next May and even the expansion will be three in March. Presumably, with more than 30 million copies sole, Blizzard isn’t going to let there be another decade gap between releases. Plus, the 20th anniversary of the original Diablo is coming up. They have to do something.
expect to see:
Positive but vague words about how popular the game remains
The Diablo 20th anniversary plan
MEUs MAUs and China
Something new coming for Diablo III seasons
want to see:
Diablo IV announced… Reaper of Souls setup the next game
A new expansion for Diablo III announced… if not a new game, at least this
Something about that remastered version of Diablo II they were talking about a year ago
The original Diablo either remastered or on iOS and Android… I would throw money at the screen for a good remaster of the original
The StarCraft franchise is in an awkward place as Blizz has sort of finished up what they initially planned to do for StarCraft II. Last year the big news was DLC missions to come after Legacy of the Void shipped. We got a three part module in this year in the form of Nova Covert Ops. The first two parts have been released and the third is promised for December 1.
General “Woo, StarCraft!” stuff
Reassurance about the third part of Nova Covert Ops shipping
A DLC pack for 2017
Remastered original StarCraft because, honestly, I would much rather play the old version if it wasn’t locked into 640×480 resolution (because this)
I don’t play the other Blizzard titles so I will lump them under a single heading to hide the paucity of entries about individual games while condensing the cynicism into a single, bitter pill.
Everything is Awesome playing on continuous loop, at least metaphorically
New hero and/or map for Overwatch
Positive Overwatch play time stats
A new card pack for Hearthstone that will make all previous packs obsolete
Some over the top stats for how many games of Hearthstone have been played
Some new play mode for Heroes of the Storm to try and make it at least visible in the market after League of Legends and DOTA2
Tournament plans or some such that make it sound like a lot of people play Heroes of the Storm
A mobile game from Candy Crush Saga division using Blizzard IP; Manic Murloc Melodrama or some such
Overwatch on MacOS so my daughter will stop complaining about Blizzard betraying her
Any mention of the original Warcraft RTS games being remastered
Report on how that Cho’gall plan from last year turned out for Heroes of the Storm
A “Weird Al” song about any Blizzard product
And that is about it. I hope it will be a big year at BlizzCon for Diablo, give the 20th anniversary and all, but I have been disappointed on the Diablo front so many times in the past that wouldn’t bet on it.
What else should I expect to see… and what do you want to see at BlizzCon?
I played a lot of StarCraft back when it was new… which was back in early 1998. My friends and I played it after work at the office and at home via Battle.net. As so many have said, it was a very well balanced RTS with three distinctly different factions to learn. Our interest in it kept going right through the Brood War expansion. (Though when I look at the dates, Brood War came out eight months after the main game, which might be some sort of Blizzard record for shipping an expansion.)
Anyway, I have written a bit about StarCraft before and it has come up now and again for our group as a possible game to go back to. The primary arguments against it tend to be the fact that it runs at 640×480 resolution and that none of us are really into RTS games much any more. It was a game from a specific point in my timeline, and that time may have passed.
But I still have strong memories of it. Even my wife remembers the game. Back when it was current my then wife-to-be and I shared an office in her condo so when I played video games I either had to put on headphones or share the audio experience with her, and the audio StarCraft left its mark. To this day she will, every so often, as if I ever play “Jacked up and good to go!” any more, that being one of the more memorable Terran Marine quotes.
Since then StarCraft II has (finally) shown up, but while I have written about it a bit… mostly in the context of Blizzard as a whole… I have never gotten around to buying the game. I have thought about it, but since I play MMOs now, and since those tend to consume all available gaming time, I am not sure when I would play. Plus, for me, it was always a group game, so buying it myself would seem… odd. The campaigns were never the high point, it was always about playing with friends. (Though with playing at work a thing of the past due to IT policy, I am not sure I would miss LAN play.)
So I was a bit surprise/amused/happy to get a note from Blizzard letting me know I had been given access to the closed beta for the upcoming Legacy of the Void expansion for StarCraft II.
Blizzard had some details out about this back at BlizzCon last year, but it seems like things are really in motion if they are already sending invites to random opt-ins like me. They want feedback early according to the details.
For this reason, we decided to start the beta sooner than we normally would have in the past, providing ample time for feedback and iteration.
Though I gather from the Beta FAQ that my purchase of a virtual ticket to BlizzCon 2014 put me on the list.
I mentioned that I got the invite to my wife and she said the line, “Jacked up and good to go!” and told me I had to play… and that I had to have the audio run through my speakers so she could hear what the units were saying. So it had to be done.
I downloaded the beta, though I first tried to do it through the “Download Now” button in the email, which only succeeded in downloading the StarCraft II starter edition. Not that that was a bad thing. I got that going and ran through the tutorial mission just to make sure I still knew the basics. I slaughtered the CPU guided foe with ease following the tutorial instructions along with some vague memories of how to play from back in the day.
After that I went back to the Battle.net launcher and downloaded the Legacy of the Void beta directly and got that up and running.
That was what I wanted to see
I got in there and looked at what options I had. They were limited to 1v1 multiplayer games over Battle.net, which was to be expected given the blurb in the invite.
This phase of the Legacy of the Void closed beta test focuses on the multiplayer aspects of the game, including the new cooperative Archon mode, so ramp up your APM and dive into the battle.
So multiplayer it was the option. How bad could it be, right?
Actually, the more accurate question was, “How bad could I be?”
I played three games in quick succession… and they were quick because I ended up surrendering after being wrecked much earlier than expected. I am not just bad at StarCraft II at this point, but I am apparently so much worse than the average player in the beta… who are much more likely to be self-selected individuals who are really into StarCraft II as opposed to happy memory dilettantes like myself… that after the third humiliation I closed down the game and went back to Azeroth to work on my second druid (mentioned last week) healing for random Dungeon Finder groups. At least there when things are going bad I can at least tell why.
Hitting level 90! Another garrison soon
It just isn’t worth my time simply because I do not care enough about StarCraft II to put in the effort to be more than a very small speed-bump on somebody’s road to victory. Those days are gone.
And the most disappointing bit in the whole thing… the Terran Marine units don’t even say, “Jacked up and good to go!” any more. I had to check the list of quotes to be sure, and it isn’t there.
Our game of Civilization V goes on. I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday. Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become. I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.
Remember Chuck Hestonia!
But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!” A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through. But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.
We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale. While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing. So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here. Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation. And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.
But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.
First, this is not the MMO group. MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)
The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening. Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.
And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient. Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock. So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.
With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)
Total War: Rome II
Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option. I know people who like the game. Gaff has played through it. I have played a couple of the past games in the series. If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything. I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four. Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take. But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.
Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale
Company of Heroes 2
I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II. I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else. As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match. Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing. And Gaff likes it.
Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other. Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other. The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not. Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.
Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well. Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key. And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink. But are we ready for a shooter? And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?
Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.
Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies. This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it. This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously. Alcohol might be required.
Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?
Ticket to Ride
I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list. This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board. It is one of my favorite games on the iPad. But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage. While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience. So it has that going for it. But are we up for board games?
As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II. While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing. It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.
Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it. The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine. And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons. The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.
StarCraft II comes out next Tuesday, and it is almost assured to be a best seller from day one.
I mean, it is a Blizzard product, right?
Or is it really the first Activision-Blizzard product? Hrmm…
Anyway, it is coming out in a few days and I am trying to decide if I should buy it.
Part of me, the part that really enjoyed StarCraft when it came out in 1999, the part of me that wants to shout, “Jacked up and good to go!,” that part wants to go out and buy it on day one.
But then there is the part of me that is annoyed by the absence of direct LAN play features in the game and the fact that you will have to log into Battle.net even for solo play. And then there is the whole Facebook integration and the Real ID question, which has been shelved for the moment, but which I am sure will return.
And finally, there is the part of me that played in the beta. Whee, I got in the beta! Okay, I got into it roughly 6 weeks before it ended, but I was there. That experience left me with a few impressions:
The game looks really nice
The game play and controls are as crisp and as sure as expected
They took almost no risks with the game, so if you’ve played StarCraft, you know what you are getting
I suck at it
The last came from me getting smoked regularly in matches. I’ve lost my build order and unit control skills over the years. And since single player wasn’t available to me in the beta, I have no idea if that is at all worth the price of admission.
So I am on the fence about buying the game. Nostalgia and the fact that Blizzard does make good games is pressing me forward. But the Battle.net requirement and the fact that it is the same game most of us have played already makes me want to pass, at least until I hear how the single player campaign play.