Then and Now: Twelve Years of StarCraft

By Yaris Gutierrez

August 3, 2010

I woke up rubbing away the sleep from my tired eyes, with the annoying sounds of New York City pigeons coo’ing away outside my window as they shuffled into the comfort zone that is the ledge. At any given day, I’d yell at the top of my lungs, shoo them away, and go right back to my forlorn pillow to grace it with dreams. This day, however, was different. Rather than screaming at pigeons, I cheerfully walked toward my window and greeted the gray parasites in song and dance. Due to their nature, my song and dance didn’t bring them any sort of enjoyment. Like previous days, they frantically flapped their wings in despair and flew into the morning sky. I laughed, and took a deep breath. My fourteen year old lungs welcomed the fresh Spring air, and I was up and about gleefully rejoicing at the day’s highlight: StarCraft released that day.

I approached my local game store early that morning to purchase my copy of Blizzard’s newly released title. Circling around half the block was a crowd of people idly waiting for their chance to walk away with a copy of the internationally praised RTS. The smell of nerd lingered in the air, as booger picking, comic reading teens and adults lined up, feverishly engaging in conversation on previous Blizzard titles like Diablo and Warcraft II. I sighed in disappointment as I approached the lengthy line convoluted with geeky testosterone (if even such a thing exists).

Right before I approached the store, the manager – who I’ve known for years – quickly unlocked the door, let a handful of the waiting people inside, and whispered my name. I looked toward his direction and saw bewildered looks glancing at his face and mine repeatedly, as if trying to identify an advertised serial killer. Mr. Lee, the store’s manager, hurried me in, and the angry mob outside began to yell curse words and other obscenities that included my mother fellating farm animals and prostituting in Time Square for bus fare. I feared for my life.

Mr. Lee stepped behind the countertop as I thanked him. The store wasn’t big at all. Comparing it to a trailer would be an insult to the trailer. Stacks of StarCraft piled up on the counter, and people impatiently extended their hands to receive their copy. Shouts of “Right here!” and “Oh, god! Please give me a copy!” permeated the corridor that was the game store. It looked a lot like food handouts in a third world country.

After getting my copy, I stormed outside the store through the herd of angry teens. Apparently, my mother was still the topic of conversation, and as I their insults faded and my heart began to pace itself, I smiled to myself and walked the rest of the way home with a copy of the game I’ve been so eager to play. Fear that one of those nerd-raged gamers might come and beat me to a pulp never crossed my mind. Were they really willing to give up hours of waiting to beat the crap out of a fourteen year old kid? Probably. They could have walked away with my game but, thankfully, I live in the Bronx – the police permeate the streets here religiously. They eagerly wait for a minority to cough or sneeze so they can harass them with made-up laws of how not covering your mouth can constitute an ass kicking or a fine of one million dollars. Sadly, most people believe their conjured fibs, or pretend they do, as to not get beaten senseless by a patty wagon full of underpaid policemen with nightsticks and guns.

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I got home, slammed my keys on the table, and proceeded to unwrap the game. Yes, I skipped school this day for this game – something that I am very proud of doing, by the way. I managed to chew the plastic off, and, in the dead silence that was my home, I closed my eyes, touched the game’s plastic CD case to my forehead and uttered the words “Thank you, lord.”

StarCraft is a monster of a game. Anyone who’s played it for the past decade will no doubt agree that no other RTS out there, with the arguable exception of Warcraft III, has established a loyal following like this game has. While many other RTS’s exists and can be compared with regards to mechanics, none can – and has not – been able to stand up to StarCraft’s competitive nature. That’s not to say that the single-player campaign isn’t amazing.

The single player is definitely filled with enough substance to marinate your attention for hours on end. The story, which might seem a bit convoluted to some, is one of the best I’ve come across in my years of gaming. It isn’t your typical regurgitated storyline that we see in both movies and games. Instead, it brings an abundance of story for the three races that the story is based on: The Terrans (humans), the Protoss and the Zerg. The Zerg, who are the baddies in the game, are trying to overtake just about everything in existence. The Terrans and the Protoss, both whom were once fighting against each other, now fight for the survival of life itself. Of course, there is much more depth to the story, but I would be spoiling tons for those who haven’t played the game yet. The last thing I need is a group of angry gamers with pitchforks and limejuice camping out in front of my house. So, I’ll leave the rest shrouded in the mystery it deserves.

At the time, StarCraft’s graphics was an orgasm for the eyes. Compared to today’s photorealistic games, the first StarCraft looks like cave paintings to some. But the addicting gameplay and competitive adversaries that exist on Battle.NET has been more than enough basis to maintain, if not grow, the fanbase that it has. Korea, the most StarCraft-centered country in the world, perpetuates avid competitions amongst the best in their country (who are also considered best in the world).

For years, a lot of us played StarCraft. At times, we played it in the place of other games to nurture our competitive hunger. If not for the multiplayer aspect of the game, some of us would continuously revisit the world for nostalgic reasons. Regardless of how many times you play the original StarCraft, one can always come out of it with a satisfying feeling. It contains all those great elements that make a game a remnant through the years. It is proof that a great game can withstand the tribulations of age and constantly evolving technology in this industry.

During my era of StarCraft, I would stay up countless nights immersed in the game’s online arena. With the darkness coating every corner of my room, the only light that provided a warm salvation was the radiant glow that emitted from my bulky monitor with StarCraft units and structures filling the screen. With sugary drinks and cholesterol-infested snacks substituting all major food groups, I played the game habitually during school days, and more during the weekend. Of course, I didn’t let the game affect my grades, but, at one point, it became a substitute for my social life, sadly.

Twelve years later and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is released. Over the past ten years, fans of the first game sent countless emails to Blizzard, created sites and formed groups all demanding and praying for a sequel.  Some went to the extent of modding more recent RTS games to have the look of StarCraft, in a desperate attempt to recreate the beloved classic in a more visually appealing concoction.

Like the sneaky bastards that they are, Blizzard held the game in secrecy until they finally decided it was time to end the ongoing depression that StarCraft fans were going through. The announcement brought tears of joy to many eyes, and frantic convulsions and parades in Korea – at least I’m assuming so.

With the announcement of a sequel, fans everywhere scrambled, and the Internet flooded with posts and images that would ensue a combination of joy and lunacy. New units were revealed, with the addition of sleeker yet familiar visuals that promised to have mercy on even the less fortunate of PC rigs that suffered from the hands of aging components. As usual, Blizzard charmed the PC community once again with the news; I, for one, smiled to myself intensely for an hour or two – the same way Michael Jackson probably did when his house was filled with under aged children with careless parents.

Months later, Blizzard would go on to announce that multiplayer beta invites would be sent out to a list of lucky folks who already had accounts. Fingers crossed, I prayed to every known deity in history for my chance to experience the long-awaited sequel that everyone has been salivating over. As an up-and-coming site, we weren’t guaranteed invites. So, like every other fan of the game, I checked emails periodically and made lunch of my fingernails as I anxiously checked my inbox every so often. Then, a week after the invites were sent out, I received my invitation.

I would say that tears of joy streamed down my face as I read out loud the wondrous email that had made its way onto my inbox; but I was more in a state of shock. Like the bastard that I am, I emailed my staff members and ridiculed their absent luck all while singing made up songs of happiness with zero rhyme schemes, and even less sense. I would question my sanity a bit after, of course.

I downloaded the beta as quickly as my horrendous Internet connection would allow and installed the game. The most nostalgic moment I felt was when the game launched and the retro-remixed original StarCraft song played. For the first time in my life, I experienced an eargasm. I marveled at the new high-res UI and nodded in approval. At this given moment, the wait was worth it.

Anyone who has played and followed Blizzard games for the past two decades will agree that it’s almost impossible for this company of talented people to create a bad game. In fact, I’ve yet to play a game that I’d even label “mediocre” from Blizzard. I’m beginning to think that the words “bad” and “game” aren’t allowed to be used in the same sentence at their studios without someone pouring ludicrous amounts of money into a gargantuan jar of sorts labeled “No-no’s.”

After putting insane amounts of hours into the beta, satisfaction settled in and I now waited for the game to release. July 27th, the day before my birthday was when Blizzard was going to make their welcomed sequel readily available to the yearning public.

However, with the limited amount of copies going out to press, DualShockers was pretty much omitted from receiving StarCraft II. The more popular sites were entitled to their copies before anyone else was, so my faith in receiving review product was pretty dim. Or so I thought.

On the day of July 26th, while on readying to pre-order my copy of StarCraft II, my doorbell rang. As usual, I figured the mailman was too lazy to slide my mail into the mailbox, so I proceeded to walk to the door and, standing outside holding a hefty box, was a FedEx deliveryman. He asked for my name and signature and, bewildered, I stared at the box and signed the unbeknownst package that sat at my feet. I wished the FedEx employee a great day, lifted the heavy box and brought it inside my house all while staring at the sender’s address. California.

While tearing the box apart, my gut told me that it was a package from Blizzard while my mouth uttered the words “This isn’t the game…” Waiting inside the secured cardboard box sat the Collector’s Edition of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty fully wrapped in the comfort of its plastic packaging. I screamed in excitement and, for whatever reason, jumped like a drunken maniac at a mosh pit. I honestly never thought I’d be this excited for any game. Apparently, I was proven wrong on this day.

I opened the box and stood fascinated at that moment and decided to record an unboxing video that didn’t sit too well with the Internet due to my ridiculous amounts of unprofessional vocabulary. I concurred with the viewers and decided that maybe winging an unboxing video without looking at the contents first wasn’t too smart of an idea. But, to me, the element of surprise was far more important in order to reflect the sheer amount of joy I felt during this period.

As gamers, anticipation is an emotion we all experience throughout the years. In my 25 years of gaming, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt the anticipation or merriment that I felt for StarCraft II. Maybe it was the countless years of waiting for it that conceived this feeling, but I think it had more to do with wanting to reiterate the sensation I once felt as a young gamer during a time when I played and loved one of the greatest games I’ve ever experienced. Considering that PC gaming isn’t one of the strongest platforms in the gaming industry anymore when compared to consoles, it was refreshing to see that it was a PC game that made me feel the nostalgic pleasure of a great game without the barriers of inflating loyalties to a specific brand.

I think that, yet again, I will experience countless nights of friendly multiplayer gaming while consuming diabetes-inducing soft drinks, fattening fruit pies and potato chips – all because StarCraft II has pushed me back to an era where nothing but an amazing time is the most important facet of gaming. It has truly brought every element that made its predecessor an astonishing classic, and added layers of marvel onto it to mold a sequel that is both satisfying and memorable for both newcomers and natives of the first.

I thank Blizzard for sending us the game. I didn’t have to rush through a line of mutants this time around to obtain my copy; and my mother’s name, profession and sexual orientation remained humane.

Now, I just impatiently wait for my ram to get here so I can get the review going. The other 8GB exploded due to overheating and I’m now stuck in limbo without any StarCraft II… [Sigh]

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Yaris Gutierrez

Born and raised in New York City, Yaris is one of three co-founders at DualShockers. Gaming since the inception of Nintendo in the 80's, he has grown to avidly appreciate games of every genre, maturing his preference specifically now to third-person action games, first-person shooters and JRPGs. He's a software engineer, father and husband during the day, and mildly attempts to hold onto his "hardcore gamer" title during the evenings. An attempt that he tends to fail miserably at.

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