Archive for May 2007

Oooh! Starcraft 2!

I heard this announcement soon after it was made: Blizzard had said they would be making a big announcement at a Korean games convention, and it was a doozy!

Starcraft 2 is not only in the works, but its already in playable condition!

Starcraft is considered by most to be the pinnacle of the real-time gaming genre. From the company that helped to usher in this genre with Warcraft comes the highly anticipated sequel to the space-themed strategy masterpiece. A great story with a deep background, some great single-player campaigns, and an unrivaled multiplayer experience made this one of my favorite games ever. Despite the critique of this game (and others like it) as a simplistic rock-paper-scissors approach to play-balancing, the simple mechanics of unit and counter-unit allow for some deep tactical thinking. Going online and viewing strategies for the different factions is like reading a chess handbook: various openings, midgames, endgames. Players have deduced algorithms to optimize a factions strengths against the weakness of the others. They’ve perfected plans for playing on the different maps against different numbers of players. But, like any good strategy game, players can still win by bucking a known technique and throwing an opponent off-guard.

When I booted up this decade-old gem recently, I still enjoyed the tactics and play, but the graphics have gotten long in the tooth. Blocky and pixelated, and with my current rig being far faster than the machine I used to play on, the units now move really fast. Enter Starcraft 2.

The game does a remarkable job of looking very much like Starcraft. But when the game is in motion the new fluidity of the units, and the visual effects and lighting make the game pop like never before. The playfield can be tilted from the old isometric angle of the original to near ground-level, making the battles feel more immediate and showing off the fully 3-D rendered playfield. They’ve introduced some new units to complement the old favorites, some specifically to help neutralize some of those vaunted player strategies. And Blizzard still has some of the most unbelievable rendered cutscenes in the games industry.

A simple announcement would have been exciting, but a 20 minute demo hosted by a developer at the Korean con has me fired up about the release.

Starcraft 2 is a must-have for fans of the old game, and for RTS fans in general. Like always, Blizzard will release it “when its done”.