20 years ago this month, the world of video gaming was forever changed when Blizzard Entertainment released a little game called StarCraft. Released on March 31, 1998, StarCraft is one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed video games of all time. Not only did it influence a generation of real-time strategy gamers, but it effectively launched the rise of esports as we know it today. Now some two decades later, StarCraft is still one of the most beloved game franchises in the world with countless players spawning more overlords, constructing additional pylons, and causing blood vessels to burst in fits of rage after getting Zerg rushed yet again. To celebrate its birthday, today on The Dan Cave, we’re running down some weird facts about StarCraft you need to know.
Starcraft got dunked on in its first appearance
If at first you don't succeed... | Image: Wikia
When it first debuted, it got eviscerated by critics. StarCraft’s first public appearance was at the E3 Expo way back in 1996. That alpha version of the game was literally just a reskinned version of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, and critics weren’t buying it. They ridiculed it as “Warcraft in Space” and it inspired the team to rebuild the game from the ground up. They completely rewrote the engine, overhauled the art, and the result was a smash hit that went on to sell more than 11 million copies worldwide, including 4.5 million alone in South Korea. Now that’s a lot of minerals.
It was almost about vampires
Actual space vampires from 1985's atrocious Lifeforce | Image: TriStar Pictures
Back when StarCraft was first in development, there was a very different concept than a three-way war between the Terrans, the insectoid Zerg, and the psychic Protoss. In a 2015 Polygon profile, former Blizzard senior vice president of story and franchise development Chris Metzen revealed that during StarCraft’s development phase, it was briefly going to be about space vampires. “The rest of the team was like, ‘I dunno man, space vampires are pretty wack. We want to do something a little broader,’” Metzen said. To that I would humbly say, “Yeah but dude...space vampires.”
StarCraft’s leading lady owes her name to a bitter rivalry
More like "I, Terran" | Image: Blizzard
The psychic Terran commando Sarah Kerrigan is one of the most badass characters in StarCraft canon. She starts as en elite agent and eventually becomes the monstrous, murderous Queen of Blades after she is captured and infested by the Zerg. However, her name actually has a double meaning. On the surface, Sarah Kerrigan is named after Nancy Kerrigan, the Olympic figure skater whose leg was broken by goons hired by her rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband. In this case, Blizzard meant this as a dig against their biggest competition at the time, Command & Conquer and its resident badass lady commando, Tanya. In hindsight, it feels kind of gross and weird, but hey -- that’s the Zerg for ya.
StarCraft has been nationally televised in South Korea since 2000
Production values are much higher nowadays | Image: Team Liquid
Launching in South Korea around the same time as internet cafes known as PC bangs became popular, StarCraft is something of a national sport--or esport if you’re nasty. Starting in the year 2000, a program called Starleague featuring high-level players competing for small cash prizes began airing on the channel Tooniverse. It grew so popular that it was spun off into its own television station: OnGameNet. At its peak, Korea had three different cable channels broadcasting StarCraft 24/7,” Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime told Polygon in 2015. Nowadays most tournaments are livestreamed online rather than broadcast on TV, but never forget that once upon a time a StarCraft tournament had more people in attendance than the Super Bowl.
The South Korean Air Force turned their Top Guns into pro gamers
Almost as fun as volleyball | Image: Fomos.kr
In 2006, the South Korean Air Force created a professional StarCraft team composed of recruits because several pro-gamers--most notably, the legendary player Boxer--were active duty military members serving their compulsory two year terms. They formed the Air Force ACE team and were allowed to continue practicing and competing in Starcraft tournaments during their service. In 2009 they made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s first military pro gaming team. However, the team is no longer active thanks in large part to the dissolution of Starleague, the league in which they played. Guess they’ll have to stick to playing weird shirtless volleyball like or start practicing Overwatch until the wee hours of the morning like I do.
There’s one Starcraft sequel you’ll never play
I am still waiting to play this game | Image: Blizzard
While StarCraft II is still a staple of the global esports scene, it’s unfortunately the only StarCraft sequel you can play. But it wasn’t the only StarCraft sequel that was developed. In 2002, Blizzard announced a game called StarCraft: Ghost, a spin-off that put you in the a third-person stealth-action shooter that put you in the role of Nova, an elite psychic espionage unit in the Terran Army. The game was supposed to take place 4 years after the events of Brood War and would find Nova investigating a conspiracy around a top-secret military project being conducted by the Imperial Terran Dominion. While fans held out hope for four, long years, it was finally placed on “indefinite hiatus” by Blizzard in March of 2006. Now it’s finally living up to its subtitle. Because, you know, it’s dead. Like a ghost.
StarCraft has literally been among the stars
You never know what you might need when you're boldly going where very few people have gone before. In the case of astronaut Daniel Barry, he chose to bring a copy of StarCraft with him on his 1999 mission to the International Space Station. Barry brought it because it was something that reminded him of home; he used to play it online with his kids so they could stay connected even when he was gone working for long periods of time. The game disc orbited the Earth a staggering 153 times, traveling 3.5 million nautical miles. The worst part? He didn’t even get to play it in space! It was in an inaccessible compartment for the duration of the trip. The vaunted disc now sits in a place of honor in Blizzard’s offices, presumably waiting until Elon Musk puts wi-fi on the moon. I don’t know if he has the vespene gas for that though.
There’s only one person with whom Blizzard would make a StarCraft movie
Please cast Keanu Reeves as Jim Raynor | Image: Blizzard
While the Warcraft movie’s performance at the box office makes the prospect of seeing a StarCraft movie on the big screen seem unlikely, it is something that has long been on the minds of fans and the game’s creators. In 2010, Blizzard’s executive vice president of game design Rob Pardo revealed to MTV News that they probably could have made a StarCraft movie or something on TV years and years ago, but they were waiting for the right person. Who could get them to change their tune? James Cameron. Pardo said “I think if Jim Cameron came to us tomorrow and said, ‘You want to make a StarCraft movie?’ we’d probably sign that.” Honestly, I would too if it meant that we’d get sweet relief from an entire decade of new Avatar sequels.
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