StarCraft is a Real Time Strategy computer game produced by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998. It was unique at the time in that it had three races, each of which had asymmetrical statistics, abilities, and strategies: Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. Generally, the Terrans represent humans and form a middle-of-the-road race; their technological progression in the game is similar to that in WarCraft 2; they are played in Episodes 1 and 5. The Zerg have larger numbers and weaker units and are played in Episodes 2 and 6, while the Protoss have stronger but less numerous units and are played in Episodes 3 and 4.
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In StarCraft, the Protoss, Terran, and Zerg races engage in a massive interstellar conflict, with the game involving taking over unique, strategic planets, and court intrigue, with rebellion and trickery in each episode.
Xel-Naga's Creations: Protoss and Zerg
The Xel'Naga, an ancient spacefaring race obsessed with breeding the ultimate race, found hope on Aiur, where they civilized the psionically attuned Protoss based on their purity of form. After the creators revealed themselves and built a temple, however, the Protoss fell into disarray as their individuality thwarted the creator race's efforts. The Xel'Naga left in defeat, never to learn of the mystic Khas who would unite the Protoss centuries later under a planetwide philosophy called the Khala (the Way). Under the Khala, the Protoss formed an elaborate caste system, regaining their psionic abilities and creating an honour bound, technologically advanced civilisation.
The Xel'Naga realized that the cause of the Protoss rebellion lay in their independent minds. Though they marked their arrival on Char and Braxis with the building of more temples, but only when they arrived on Zerus did they finally find their target, a simple insectoid creature which exhibited purity of essence. They created an Overmind and minion Cerebrates to control their new race, the Zerg, with each Cerebrate controlling a Brood. The Zerg evolved into fierce community covering multiple genuses. With its psionic powers, the Overmind lured a herd of space creatures to the planet. With the genetic code of the Behemoths (Overlords), the Zerg became free of their terrestrial confines and the Overmind launched a surprise attack against the Xel'Naga, who were never heard of again. At the beginning of the StarCraft saga, the Protoss populated Aiur, Braxis, and Shakuras, while the Zerg had shifted its Broods from Zerus to Char to direct its long-awaited campaign of overcoming the Protoss.
Caught in the Middle: Terran
The Terrans in StarCraft are outcasts from Earth, which has been taken over by the United Powers League. The original Terran colonists were sent aboard giant ships to travel far into deep space. One of the colonies, Tarsonis, forms the Confederacy, an interplanetary empire over the Koprulu Sector. At the beginning of the game, the Terrans have claimed 13 worlds. The Confederacy's kleptocracy and oligarchy has angered many of its subjects, and some groups, such as the Sons of Korhal and Raynor's Raiders, have begun to demand greater liberty. When the rebels on Korhal proved victorious, the Confederacy glassed the planet's surface with nukes. All life on the surface was extinguished. However, as Episode 1 shows, the Confederacy's grip over its realms continues to collapse. For the rest of the storyline, you will have to play the game.
The Continuation of the Saga: BroodWar
BroodWar continues the StarCraft saga with the intrigues of the Protoss, the invasions of the Terran, and the infestations of the Zerg. Blizzard introduces the planet of Earth and its ruling body, the United Earth Directorate. The UED Expeditionary Force begins its invasion of Koprulu, Aiur, Braxis, and Char in Episode 5. Meanwhile, the Protoss battle the Zerg on Shakuras and fulfill a Xel'Naga legacy, while the Zerg Broods are torn between the Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, the UED Scientists' Psi Disruptor, and Daggoth's Overmind Cocoon.
Players act as a military leader of one of the three species in each Episode and in the melee matches. In the Single Player missions, the player's race makes advancements but does not come close to crushing the other races. The Single Player missions serve as an introduction into the game, the melee missions provide entertainment for those who want to skip the Single Player campaigns, and the multiplayer missions provide the actual entertainment; the order of difficulty rises respectively, with the Single Player generally being the easiest and human opponents the hardest. Within each level or match, the player controls a subdivision of a race (and in some instances multiple factions or factions of multiple races), establishes a base, trains and creates armies, defends the base and any expansions, and either attacks or carries out a special mission; the mission objectives are provided in the briefing and are accessible during the game.
In the 5-level Demo Version Episode, tutorial, six 10-level Episodes, the 6-level Enslavers campaign, and secret missions, the player immerses him/her-self in a world of dark fantasy where three races strive for domination. Since the strategies that the races use change constantly and may appear esoteric to the average player, Blizzard Entertainment has provided introductory briefings to each level explains how it fits in with the plot. Players may tackle the first of each of the above mission sets in any order, but can only progress to the next level after completing the mission immediately preceding it or by cheating.
The Single Player campaigns have a logical framework and reveal the strategies and intrigues that StarCraft has to offer in addition to the game itself. In producing the Single Player missions, Blizzard has hired fiction novel writers to inspire the storyline, making the StarCraft universe one of the most elaborate and believable fictitional game worlds to date.
In Custom Games, players can choose to play Melee duels against up to seven computer opponents (playing any more than two can be particularly challenging). In these rounds, players will face multiple enemy factions, all of which have excellent start-of-game moves such as simultaneous commands, perfect coordination, and knowledge of the entire map and enemy forces. The AI is decent, though particularly good if considering what Blizzard had to work on when creating the AI before they released StarCraft. Later-game AI is okay, although the AI has many faults that conniving players may take advantage of, such as attacking an enemy main structure with a worker unit and destruction of the main causing the computer to "play dead". The AI is strong enough to be a good challenge against novice players, although experienced gamers usually consider the computer to be no challenge.
An alternate form of Melee map is the Money Map, in which the game is scattered with both minerals and vespene. Intermediate players generally agree that playing Money Maps, while possibly more exciting, is ultimately less rewarding because it encourages strategies that work better on Money Maps but are poor competitors in the non-Money maps that pro player ladders are limited to.
Players can also play on Battle.net, Blizzard Entertainment's official free server for its players. The ladder ( player ranking system ) is mostly corrupted by the deluge of hackers and cheaters and a lack of anti-hacking software. Due to the large player base and lack of a matchmaking system, games tend to be highly unpredictable (skill-wise), and prone to hacking. While there are several active channels on the various Battlenet servers, private ladder servers are much more popular for intermediate to skilled players. StarCraft multiplayer continues to be an international attraction, despite being over a decade old, from the promotive strategies of notable players such as Boxer and Nada.
Players on Multiplayer usually play BroodWar, and limit themselves to only a handful of maps. The most popular ones are the four-player square map Lost Temple and the very vertically oriented two-player map Showdown.
The Triumvirate of StarCraft Strategy
Bases and Expansions
Players begin with a main base, which is usually the largest through the game because it is the first one that the player has and is thus the most readily accessible, easiest to defend, and earliest to enlarge. As the game progresses, players may also establish expansions, which are built primarily for economical reasons—in this case, Minerals and Vespene. Expansions allow players to enlarge their income and provide significant benefits to their controllers; hence, they must be well planned and carefully defended. Battles in StarCraft generally revolve around which player claims which resource node to establish an expansion, and the winning player is very often the one who gets the most expansions the fastest. However, expansions usually take an investment, the timing of which can be very tricky, especially with experienced players; the resources poured into constructing a self-sustainable expansion could be used instead on teching—expanding the technology tree available to the race—and gathering more units for an offensive attack.
Players who have a larger base/economy at the expense of military units are Economy-Oriented; they have a separate strategy from Military-Oriented players (see the section on Strategies).
Armies and Tactics
StarCraft sports an asymmetrical strategy system, first pioneered by Strategic Simulations' War Wind. Players must learn to use the unique units and their associated stats, descriptions, and spells of each race to gain an advantage over an opponent. This is markedly different from WarCraft 2; indeed, StarCraft's developers tried to avoid creating a product that would be called "WarCraft 2 in Space", eventually leading them to rewrite the entire program. Online snapshots of StarCraft Alpha show a game that looks almost identical to WarCraft 2 evolving over many distinct versions, including ones in which the Overlords could attack, the units had a "Mobility" rating, the Creep were bright purple, Spawning Pools actually had larvae, Nydus Spires in place of Spires, Templar instead of Dragoon, Marines that could Self Destruct, and units selected with a green contour glow.
Armies are best when mixed with various units to ensure flexibility and protection; however, at times a task force should have only one type of unit with a particular aspect, such as Cloaking, superfast-movement, detector, or transport. Strategies also change as the game progresses and as players duel over different maps and map sizes; StarCraft's strategies are many and varied. This guide provides an in-depth analysis of units, structures, maps, and strategies to make the game a more exciting experience.
When producing armies, one must balance between sheer production of low-level units, production of higher-tech units, development of the base economy, obtaining technological advancements (teching), and expansions.
Additionally, the abilities of multitasking, doing two things at once; macromanaging, taking care of the bases and expanding when optimal; and micromanaging, using tactics and spells when most useful; help players gain the edge over others. Most professional players have outstanding performances in these three areas.
Players who have a larger army at the expense of their base economies are Military-Oriented; they have a separate strategy from Economy-Oriented players (see the section on Strategies).
Technology and Variety
StarCraft's technology tree is designed to give players who spend resources in research, upgrades, and technological structures a benefit in the game. While "teching"--developing technology at the expense of both economy and military—can be risky, the first player to obtain key technology usually wins because their technology gives them newer, more cost-effective ways of fighting a battle. The benefits of a technology-laden force becomes less rewarding if the player lacks adequate units to take advantage of the boost, and if the player lacks the resources and unit production structures to quickly use the technology.
Selection of the most suitable technology can prove very beneficial; nevertheless, an enemy can always try methods of avoiding the technology. For example, Siege Tanks can be very effective against Zerglings, but can be outflanked by Mutalisks, which requires an alternate technology path.
StarCraft is nevertheless a derivative of WarCraft 2; the technology tree for the middle-of-the-road race, Terran, appears very similar to that of WarCraft 2. Meanwhile, the Protoss have more options, and the Zerg have even more flexibility.
Players who have better technology at the expense of economy and military are Technology-Oriented; they have a separate strategy from Military-Oriented players (see the section on Strategies).