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StarCraft
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StarCraft

StarCraft is a real-time strategy computer game produced by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998. The game is similar to Blizzard's previous hit Warcraft II, but has a science fiction setting. The main storyline of the game revolves around a war between three galactic species: the Protoss (a race of humanoid religious warriors), the Zerg (insect-like aliens who share a hive mind) and the Terrans (human colonists from Earth). It was initially released for Windows and later for the Macintosh.

StarCraft was the best selling computer game in 1998. In that same year Blizzard released an expansion pack called StarCraft: Brood War.

Table of contents
1 General information
2 Playing StarCraft
3 StarCraft culture
4 External links

General information

Warcraft II, while advanced for its time, featured what many gamers believed to be a weakness in having characters parallel across the two races: each unit had a corresponding unit in the other race and the technology trees were similar. StarCraft improved upon this by incorporating three races, Protoss, Zerg and Terran, instead of two, and by revamping the unit rosters to include unique technologies and units in all three factions.

The game also includes multiplayer gaming on Blizzard's own Internet gaming service Battle.net. One can play against opponents all over the world free of any charge beyond the original purchase of the game and local Internet access fees. Many fans enjoyed playing in groups against the computer in skirmish games -- the advanced AI was considered challenging but fair -- even though fans also enjoyed creating unfair maps, that were extremely hard to beat. A couple of years after the release of the game Blizzard also released several free maps on the "insane" level.

An expansion pack called Brood War was released in 1998. The expansion provides several new units for each race and a whole new set of scenarios which continue where the StarCraft scenarios left off.

Playing StarCraft

The multiplayer game

Usually the game is played by one player against another over the Internet or a LAN. The game is usually won by destroying all of the opponent's buildings, although other, less commonly played game types also exist. Such a game, with reasonably experienced players (played at highest game speed), typically lasts between 8 and 60 minutes, the average being about 15 minutes. Traditionally the game does not end with the utter annihilation of one party. Instead, the losing player, when he does not see any chance of winning, sends the message "gg" (good game) and leaves the game.

Like most computer strategy games, the game is centered around resources. Resources are needed to construct units and buildings and better units require more resources. In order to win, the players need to balance between quickly expanding to the resource locations to gather as many resources as possible, defending those locations against the enemy, and preventing the enemy from gathering them for himself. In StarCraft there are two kinds of resources: minerals (needed for all units) and Vespene gas (needed for some advanced units and upgrades). Minerals appear as blue crystalline formations protruding from the ground and are 'harvested' by drones, SCVs, or probes, while Vespene gas appear as green clouds forming above geysers. Vespene gas, unlike mineral crystals, can only be harvested after a refinery building is constructed over the geyser.

There is a limited amount of resources at each location, and only a limited amount of resources can be gathered in a specific time frame from one location. Depending on what race the players choose, one player might need to expand to considerably more resource locations in order to win the game (while of course also being better suited to do so).

Whether an action is good or not is judged by its cost-effectiveness, meaning the player's own costs/wins compared to those of the opponent. Also, the player cannot create an infinite number of units. Each unit had a "character" rating that adds to a pool. If this amount exceeds 200, the player can no longer create units. Smaller, weaker units count as one character whereas larger ones, like nuclear silos, can be up to eight.

Strategy

Many StarCraft players recognize three skills essential to becoming a good player: micro-management, macro-management and multi-tasking.


A typical game

Even though new tricks and tactics are still being discovered despite the game's age, it is possible to outline what usually happens in a 'one-on-one' between experienced players.

The map and thus the resource locations are known to both players, however they are placed in the map at one of the possible spawn points randomly (if the map is set to have Random Start Locations), not knowing where the enemy started off. Everything out of the sight radius of their units is black, everything that once was but now isn't in the sight radius will be shown grayed out in the last known status. Each player starts with some resource collecting units and the structure to build more of them, right next to a resource location.

The players start collecting resources immediately. The Zerg player, being the only one to start with a movable unit not capable of collecting resources, will most likely start scouting (looking for the enemy) right from the start. The other races will wait a minute or two before sending one of their resource collectors to scout for them, so they won't lose resources in the crucial beginning. Scouting is crucial to keep informed about the enemy's threats and weaknesses.

About the time the player started scouting, he will also start building the structures he needs for his first goals. Those could be defending his base against opponent attacks, preparing for an early attack of chosen units himself and/or expanding his base. Each tactic has its strengths and weaknesses, which is why it's important for the player to act on the information gained through scouting. It's also why the player will try to kill or scare away the scouts of the opponent when he gets the chance. Scouting remains important during the whole game. Players will position cheap, cloaked and/or fast units at crucial positions in the map.

If the player chose to do some early attacks, then he will start doing that after 4 or 5 minutes. There are several known tactics for early attacks and how to best protect yourself against them. When two gosu (skilled players) play against each other, early attacks are not just a huge threat to the defender, but also for the attacker. That's because the attacker wasn't able to use the resources for collecting more of them, and mistakes in the early game matter a lot. Those 8 minute games, mentioned when describing the game duration, usually are the result of a very successful or unsuccessful outcome in an early attack.

If both players survive the first 10 minutes, the players start the battle for space. The players generally will try to get as many resource locations as possible to 'out-resource' the opponent, and 'starve' him by trying to prevent him from doing the same. The players start this quest with the handicap or the advantage of the early game. During this part of the game, the players will stock up their army and try to weaken their enemy by smaller and bigger attacks on resource locations, tech-buildings (structures required for updates and advanced units) and buildings necessary to build more units.

During the rest of the game both players will try to get resource domination. A considerable resource control advantage can still be broken by finding weaknesses in the opponent's strategy, doing a 'come-back'. A simple example of this is to build a lot of air units, when the opponent has little anti-air defense, because he concentrated on building a lot of anti-ground. Sooner or later one player will start dominating the game, winning more and more ground. There's an upper limit to the time it takes, because there is a limited amount of resources on the map - long games are rare as small advantages tend to increase over time.

Games typically end with the stronger player rushing towards the other player's main base while the losing player tries to delay the attacker in order to collect his troops for defense. The attacker will push the defender to the outskirt of the base, still with enough troops to defeat the enemy on his own ground. The defender, having almost no troops left and the opponent's army at his main base, surrenders. However often players surrender before a huge attack happens, because they realize they won't be able to get a resource advantage anymore.

StarCraft culture

Popularity

In the early 2000s, the game received an explosive popularity among South Korean online gamers, to the point of being referred as the national sport of South Korea by some avid gamers.

Even as of 2004, StarCraft is probably still the most popular online game in the world, as shown by the German multigaming clan pro-Gaming (in German). However, as of 2004, most active StarCraft players come from South Korea.

The game itself has its own culture, similar to Slashdot's and other Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) communities. Its most popular expression among the gaming community is the "Zerg rush", referring to usually suicidal attacks using massive numbers of expendable units to destroy particular high value targets.

In South Korea, StarCraft professional gamers are celebrities: Their games are broadcast over several television channels. While a select few have become fairly wealthy through this, most earn a decent to good living from TV-contracts, sponsoring and tournament prizes. Some but not all pro gamers play StarCraft pretty much every waking hour. Superior StarCraft and Warcraft III players are called gosu in the community. South Korea seems to be an example of how e-sports can have a similar central position as physical sports in a society.

Novels and eBooks

StarCraft even became an inspiration for the creation of official novels and eBooks, such as:

and many others written by fans.

Custom scenarios

The game comes with a campaign/map editor (practiaclly a Game Creation System in itself) called StarEdit. StarEdit has many features, including a trigger system that allows one to make radical changes to the way that map works, readily giving gamers the ability to create map scenarios allows for the gamers to become creators. Literally hundreds of custom scenarios are created everyday, giving the game an incredibly refreshing variety. The StarCraft map-making community has also constructed additional editors or functionalities that grant the user (free of charge!) even more power to modify the game. Scenarios are created with entirely different sets of rules, objectives, and units. More popular user created scenarios include Turret Defense, Sunken Defense, Nightmare RPG, and the ubiquitous Tower Defense. Many real-world events, including World War I, World War II and the American Civil War, have also been used as a base for StarCraft maps. It is estimated that the popularity of special scenario Starcraft maps (or "custom" maps) among the general worldwide populace often exceeds that of the regular game, especially during peak traffic hours. This phenonmenon is a testament to the power of users, once given the right tools, to create their own entertainment. For many, the longetivity of StarCraft on their desktop's is due in part to the versatility of StarEdit. Lately, however, many people have been modifying maps very little and adding their own names to them, which is, well, plagiarism. Map makers have attempted to counteract this by "locking" maps with special programs that corrupt the map's data so that the map is playable in StarCraft but not able to be viewed in StarEdit.

Replays, RWAs, and VODs

StarCraft enables the player to record a game and save it as a replay, which can then be viewed with any other copy of StarCraft, displaying the entire course of the game. As of 2004, there are many websites that host replays of players with different skill levels, including the best players in the world.

The RWAtools are a set of freeware tools that create valid replay files, additionally containing an Ogg audio stream. They allow gamers to comment their own games while they play them and comment replays of other players. During replay the commentary is kept in sync with StarCraft. This can be particularly interesting for people new to the game, who can learn from more experienced players pointing out things about a replay they would not have seen on their own. Also, those replays can be quite fun to watch, if the commentator did a good job.

Lasgo's Observer Pack contains, beside other things, a tool that allows you to see the results of the recorded player's actions as if you played yourself (except the mouse pointer and the selection boxes).

VODs ("Videos on Demand") are videos that show the screen of a player during the game. They are (legally or not) available from a variety of websites, and seem to be ripped from Korean television. They usually come in the ASF video file format for Windows Media Player, which plays them with seeking disabled. Because they are compressed with an MPEG-4 codec and the file size needs to be small, there is a significant quality loss in comparison to watching a replay.

External links

Official sites

Strategies