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The Brood War Renaissance

Brood War HD

The Brood War HD rumors are back again. And if you’re anything like me, your first reaction would have been to roll your eyes and move on without a second thought. For those that have been keeping up for the last year, this would seem all too familiar. We’ve been down this road before, and we know from experience it leads to a dead end.

The rumors originally started prior to Blizzcon in 2016, and at the time, why wouldn’t we believe it? The Afreeca Starleague (ASL),  had just completed her maiden season. Brood War was back in the spotlight for the first time in six years and the audience was there. And the legends that built, not just StarCraft, but all of esports, were slowly but surely returning to the frontline. The news from Seoul said the announcement would be made at Blizzcon.

Why wouldn’t we believe it?

Yet Blizzcon came and you could almost hear the grasshoppers chirping as the StarCraft community stared on in utmost confusion. We had assumed far too much and we were asses for it.

Brood War HD

Now four months later, here we are once again. You’d be a fool not to be skeptical. I sure as hell was.

Then a Reddit user by the name of Voltz found something. The Battle.net Store, ie. Blizzard’s official store, ceased sales of the original StarCraft Anthology. As of this posting, downloads of StarCraft and Brood War are still listed as “sold out”.

This came just as Blizzard announced a special event to take place at the season 1 GSL Finals in Seoul, the StarCraft capital of the World. An event that would be attended by the CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime. And would feature a special showmatch between the “TaekBangLeeSsang”. Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong, Song “Stork” Byung Goo, two most feared of the 6 Protoss Dragons. Lee “Jaedong” the Tyrant and Lee “Flash” Young Ho, simply called God. Four of Brood War’s legends known as the most dominant of their respective races.

Very quickly, the burns of the past went out of mind and the realization of what was happening came crashing down.

 

The Second Coming

As exciting as the prospect of a Brood War renaissance seems, it’s important to remember this can still go badly. The second coming isn’t a given, it’s a work in progress that must be polished to perfection.

Balance

One of the more entertaining misconceptions among those that know of Brood War’s role as the progenitor of modern esports but have not actually watched or played it is that it was a well-balanced masterpiece of a game that StarCraft 2 never matched. The reality, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Brood War was and still is an imbalanced mess of a game. Cracklings are overpowered, Mass Recall is overpowered, Siege Tanks are overpowered. Every race in Brood War is horribly overpowered in some way or another. And this is something that should absolutely not be touched.

If Brood War’s balance is such a mess, why leave it alone? Because that’s exactly what made Brood War amazing. The game was like the world’s hardest equation that programmers were constantly trying solve. For this reason, Brood War went through several eras where on race or player would dominate for months.

One of the most famous moments in Brood War was the legendary “Bisu build” that solved Protoss vs Zerg. Protoss vs Zerg was a matchup that was previously heavily Zerg dominated. The Bisu build shifted balance back into the favor of Protoss eventually leading to the Era of the Protoss Dragons.

Brood War always has been a game of using your races’ overpowered crap to deter or counter your opponents overpowered crap. And Mapmakers played a crucial role in this by crafting areas of the map that each race could use to their maximum advantage. This is how Brood War was truly balanced, not by crunching numbers but by putting the onus on the players themselves to use what resources they had available in the smartest way possible.

 

Mapmaking Resources

With this in mind, it should be clear fostering Brood War’s mapmaking scene is critical to building a healthy second generation. Remastered models and textures are a given. But extending new textures and resources for mapmakers to build beautiful new worlds is important to drawing creators back. Brood War has very different art style to StarCraft 2 so the canvas is there to work with. They just need to be given the tools too.

 

Brood War HD
Abyssal Reef by SidianTheBard is a recent and beautiful example of what mapmakers can do if you indulge their creativity. Naturally, I’m not saying this should be the standard but just give them a fighting chance, their imagination is our greatest asset.

Mistakes of the Past

There are a lot of features that took a frustrating amount of time to reach StarCraft 2. This is something that absolutely must not happen again. Automated tournaments and micro-transactions immediately come to mind. But some issues require us to take a hard look at Blizzard’s design and structure choices. And why a lot of it may not still be up to date.

Prioritizing Accessibility

One of the most obvious grievances that has plagued StarCraft 2 is the first thing you see before you even start a game. I’m of course referring to the game client. StarCraft 2 features a client that is so completely overloaded with bells and whistles, that there have been reported incidents of the game menu putting as much as 3 times more strain the GPU than the game itself. Just to put that into context there have undoubtedly been incidents where there are players able to run the game itself but find the menu unworkable.

StarCraft 2’s beautiful but less than practical game menu. Featuring an animated background taking up the vast majority of available space.

And I can say this with certainty because I was one of these people. The laptop I used at the time could run the game but would suffer heating issues and fps drops attempting to navigate the menu. It’s for this reason that I actually switched to League of Legends as my esport of choice for several years before I eventually upgraded. And as grateful as I am to be back with StarCraft, it seems a bit ridiculous to say that I was driven away from a game because of the menu you have to navigate to play the game.

Now, this is of course my personal opinion but I genuinely don’t care about that massive animated background that is taking up 90% of the menu. What I care about is being able to run my Hello Venus playlist in the background without my game client having a seizure.

Brood War HD may be a re-mastery of a 1998 game but this is 2017. And a lot of the standards from then have gone out the window. Perhaps back then we would have stared at our menu screens and admired the visuals but now a menu is just a lobby that we tab back to just to queue for another game.

Brood War HD
League of Legends game client. Simple, un-intrusive design that prioritizes information and accessibility.

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment. Abyssal Reef designed by SidianTheBard.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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