Last year Blizzard announced that Starcraft II is coming.
I don’t know if there is an official release date yet, but I expect it to hit sometime this year. Which means Starcraft II will come out a decade after its predecessor. That’s a huge length of time between sequels. (Compose and insert your own Duke Nukem joke here, thanks – mgmt.) For contrast, Tomb Raider first appeared in 1996, and has had eight major titles, eight re-releases / expansions, and seven titles on other platforms. I’m not saying Blizzard should have pumped the series (can we call it a series when the second one isn’t even out yet?) the way Eidos did for Tomb Raider, but after the smashing success of the first game I think most people expected the follow-up a little sooner.
|I know it’s old, but I still dig those 1998 Starcraft graphics. Not just in a nostalgic sense, but even compared to modern titles. It’s not as sophisticated, but it still looks great. The technology made it good then, but the art direction keeps it good today. (Still, I do find myself wishing I could zoom out.)|
I know I’ll get the game, although the RTS genre has pretty much left me behind since Starcraft ruled the earth. RTS has evolved in much the same way FPS games did over a similar time period: Each new title introduces another layer of depth and complexity intended to please existing fans, while placing the games further and further out of the reach of newcomers. This demo from BlizzCon ’07 is a parade of confounding new elaborations for players to master:
The original Warcraft was very simple. Players could grasp the basics in just a few minutes. The sequel created a nice Rock, Paper, Scissors relationship between the unit types, giving the game some depth at the expense of a bit of a learning curve. Now Rock, Paper, Scissors is viewed as childish and quaint, a gameplay mechanic for children. Now if you want to put out an RTS to please the fans of the genre you need twenty different unit types with convoluted overlapping relationships that give rise to tactics so numerous they require their own Wiki to be fully explained, and years of dedicated play to master. Unit A is weaker than Unit B unless A has a certain upgrade or B is fighting at a distance, provided that they don’t have unit C supporting them. And this entire relationship becomes moot if aerial Unit D is present and there are no air defenses or if the allotment of resources on the map makes B and D too expensive to produce in bulk. At some point my eyes glaze over and I become irritated, “Look, just tell me which of these little doodads I gotta build.” As if this isn’t perplexing enough for your tastes, Warcraft III had all of this plus a little stats-building RPG running on top of it.
I’m not saying that complexity is bad or that the games shouldn’t evolve, but at some point they transformed into something new. The “easy to learn, hard to master” aspect of Warcraft 2 has been replaced with “tortuous to learn, impossible to master”. I have this sinking feeling that when I get Starcraft II the game I loved will be buried deep beneath the surface of bewildering modern RTS mechanics, far beyond my reach.
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