By Evan Schwab
As a kid and teenager, no game brought me greater joy (outside of Final Fantasy VIII) than StarCraft. Few other games absorbed as much of my time as the greatest RTS game of its time. Each day after school, my buddy and I would log in to Battle.net and engage in numerous battles while spilling copious amounts of pixelated blood. We were pretty good, amassing excellent win/loss columns while competing in ‘legit’ (no $$$ maps, of course) maps and matchups. It was, for me, the glory days of PC gaming. StarCraft II rekindled the RTS fire in my heart during its run, but nothing captivated me like the original.
Earlier this month, Blizzard released StarCraft Remastered HD, a fully remastered installation of the original StarCraft PC game. The entire game - story, multiplayer, map builder, etc. - plays in full 1080p (or 4k widescreen) resolution, and the results are actually impressive. For those of us who grew up with the game, the effects are quite noticeable, and the visuals have been improved to a verifiable level. What could be more tempting for full blown nerd nostalgia than a remastering of one of the greatest RTS games of all time that still included multiplayer? For me, not a whole lot could meet that competition.
The game of StarCraft, one of the first true Esporting events - and one that brought a lot of light to arena - is a simple but complex masterpiece that is easy to grasp and difficult to master. Where StarCraft II focused heavily on the build/counter build, StarCraft didn’t always afford its players the luxury of a shift in strategy. Often, players would require the mastering of micro vs. macro (small vs. large) encounters. Enhancing your micro could spell the difference between losing an army of Dragoons to a few Siege Tanks or wiping out the Terran threat. StarCraft often came down to cases of whose micro skills were better, enhanced only by the speed in builds and dexterity of APM.
Having had ample time now to compete in a few multiplayer matches (the likes of which I understood how rusty my skills had become), I can attest to the longevity of StarCraft. Even though I saw my paltry forces and bases decimated (though, to be fair, I wasn’t terrible, especially when considering my teammates), the gears of memory began to turn, edging away the rust and squawking into motion. And that is the beauty of StarCraft: Skill is a matter of practice, and strategies can be touched up and improved with every match. Each game is a learning opportunity, no matter how great the victory or defeat. Watching replays to take note on enemy strategies and movements can ultimately lead to future practice, while the experience of in-the-moment combat cannot be replicated - even if you’re taking a beating.
Seeing how successful the StarCraft multiplayer universe remains, the question turns to the type of impact the remaster will have on Esports. While StarCraft II and the original Brood War remain in various circuits today, you have to wonder if StarCraft Remastered will usurp a slot in future tournaments. Ultimately, it’s still too soon to tell, though Esports StarCraft legends like BoxeR commend tweaks made to the overall game (like customizing hotkeys). But if StarCraft doesn’t make any circuits in the near future, one thing is certain - players of StarCraft young or old can still play together. You don’t need to own the HD version to play with against someone with the update; the original StarCraft can play games with owners of StarCraft Remastered. It’s a beautiful sentiment and one that isn’t lost on players.
Blizzard, too, seems to understand the import of a game surviving the test of time and how necessary it was that the remaster be crafted properly. They knew they had to account for the modern era of technology (something like seven versions of Windows have come and gone in the time since StarCraft released). Pete Stilwell, senior producer over at Blizzard, told Redbull writer John Partridge that “It’s essentially a lot of bringing StarCraft to the modern era…” by updating matchmaking and allowing for better or more competitive matching with opponents. While 4k remastering was one of the most important facets of the release, Blizzard sought to improve an already impressive experience. To their credit, StarCraft and Battle.net still runs with the familiarity of my childhood while featuring great additions and improvements to the system. From my experience, and although the player base is still initially small, the matchmaking filters seem to aid in my search for games, though the wording of match types is a bit vague and somewhat confusing.
Still, Blizzard has done a great service to the fans of StarCraft and the masterpiece itself. Handled with care, StarCraft HD could make a big splash back into the Esports circuits. Should fans of the series or newcomers choose to pick it up, they surely won’t be disappointed in the game itself. Like the Renaissance of days gone, the RTS genre just got a little bit brighter with the renewal of one of its crown achievements. Stay tuned to learn more about StarCraft HD and its hopeful return to the frontlines of RTS Esports.