StarCraft HD and the Pitfalls of Updating a Classic

StarCraft HD rumors

Since Blizzard doesn’t seem to be refuting the rumors as of this writing, perhaps StarCraft HD is indeed about to become a reality. As good as StarCraft II may be, it’s still overshadowed by the legacy of Brood War and its storied reign as the king of real-time strategy for 14 years. But with this recent development, it seems that Blizzard is acknowledging the enormity of StarCraft: Brood War‘s legacy, thus updating the game to run better on newer systems. Now if they’d do it for WarCraft III as well.

Even now, it’s still one of the most played games in Korea while StarCraft II has been relegated to niche status. Meanwhile, the StarCraft II eSports scene had shrunk considerably after its annus mirabilis of 2012 and has not gotten close to its former glory since then. Meanwhile, fans have been awaiting a return for Brood War, and I can’t blame them since while StarCraft II games can put me to sleep at times, but StarCraft: Brood War games are actually more exciting to watch.

I’ve been playing through the StarCraft singleplayer campaign recently, and the one thing I do want from the game is an improvement with the user interface. I’m not saying that it should work exactly like StarCraft II since part of the gameplay’s efficacy lies in the skill required to play it competently in the first place. All I want is for the interface itself to be less clunky, and Chaoslauncher can only do so much.

From 4:3 to 16:9 Aspect Ratio

This is the most obvious improvement. Having more screen real estate means you see more of the game, which is a good thing in RTS. Maybe there’s also a chance that it can also change how the units move and so on, but that’s not very likely. What it may change though is how the entire game looks, and that can actually change its gameplay to a certain degree when things don’t go well.

Most HD remakes of games don’t seem to make much improvement since they still have to use the same assets as the original while upscaling them to fit relevant screen resolutions, and that’s twice as difficult at least when dealing with a game that started in 4:3 aspect ratio. Will this transition from 4:3 to 16:9 be proportional or will there be some sacrifice of integrity for the sake of visual clarity in 1080p?

I don’t know the exact answer to that question, or if this is actually something to worry about in the first place. I just thought it may have some weight.

Will They Keep LAN?

This is a point of contention that many fans are expecting to get the short end of the stick of. LAN is why IcyCup, Fish, and Garena exist, and a public company like Activision Blizzard would want to get rid of any sort of motivation for pirating their games. They’ve fought against any sort of effort to add LAN to their games since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime has had to sit in the middle of a crowd shouting, “WE WANT LAN!”

However, it’s the same reason why StarCraft became such a hit in Korea and partly why StarCraft II hasn’t done well in comparison. To remove LAN is to potentially doom StarCraft HD to the same limited appeal as StarCraft II in net cafes, or PC bangs as they’re called in Korea.

It’ll also put another failure point for professional StarCraft matches that had been the driving force for StarCraft‘s popularity in Korea as lag and disconnections become more of a possibility. If they remove LAN from this HD remake, they’d pretty much make StarCraft worse, thus losing the point of the exercise in the first place.

Will They Fuck with the Old StarCraft?

“I need THE OLD STONE COLD!” – Vince McMahon

And we need the old StarCraft since the sequel has fallen off the wagon when it comes to preserving the legacy of real-time strategy. Command & Conquer is pretty much dead in the water, Grey Goo didn’t make that much of a splash, Company of Heroes is niche at best, and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is a Gamers Workshop title. (You know how Games Workshop is, right?)

What made the old StarCraft so good wasn’t just the theme, the design of the units, and so on, but also the seemingly happy accidents that later became what made StarCraft such a test of skill in the first place.

Here’s Sean “Day[9]” Plott returning briefly to StarCraft: Brood War, explaining how unit control worked in the old game. You’ll then realize just how game balance was achieved seemingly by accident—or better yet, by skill.

Fetter with any of these long-established mechanics for the sake of “updating” the game, and it pretty much kills StarCraft HD as a revival of the good ol’ game. I’m sure Blizzard does understand that somehow.

StarCraft: Brood War vs. StarCraft II

It comes down to this. Why would they think of making a StarCraft HD remake, even though they have StarCraft II in their lineup to worry about. The latter now has a revamped ladder system and gets constant patches, so it’s not like they’ve stopped working on it despite it being overshadowed by Brood War‘s legacy. It’s not like Legacy of the Void is actually bad.

Well, StarCraft II indeed isn’t that bad, but it’s no Brood War. Perhaps that’s why StarCraft HD is such exciting news for RTS fans. All we need is a user interface that’s not as clunky and a revived player base and we’re set for a resurrection. You’ll see guys like Flash, Bisu, JangBi, Fantasy, Jaedong, and so on come back and a new generation gravitating to the old game instead of being lost in the midst of StarCraft II and MOBAs.

Got Feedback?

Do you think it’s a good idea? Do you think StarCraft should just be left alone? Do you think Koreans are a bunch of smelly kimchi-eating dickweeds? Or are you just jealous they’re so good at playing this shit? (Because if you can be top tier in a game like StarCraft, you can do pretty much anything.)

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