StarCraft is a sci-fi themed Real-time Strategy game created by Blizzard Entertainment in the 1990s. It is based in the far future, where three rival races are battling for control of the universe. The popularity of the game is largely due to the fine balance its creators achieved between the abilities of the three races. Every attack can be countered by something else.
StarCraft has some unique features that players can use to construct their strategy.
Each of the three civilisations has 'spell caster' units. At least one of these has the ability to cast spells and can launch physical attacks, and at least one other unit is a dedicated 'spell caster' that has no other means of attack. These latter units automatically run away when attacked.
Stealth and Detectors
All of the races also have the ability to create invisible 'stealth' units. These cloaked units are only visible to the player that created them and his or her allies. Enemy players cannot see them unless they are near a 'detector'. Detectors are either a specific defensive building or a mobile unit that can scout out nearby enemy stealth units. In the Zerg race, for instance, this stealth takes the form of 'burrowing'. Certain units can dig themselves into the ground, and pop up when needed.
Nearly all of the units can be upgraded by 'researching'1 at designated buildings. This is important because upgraded units will always beat basic units in battle. Additionally, some abilities and spells must be researched before they can be used. An important strategic decision comes when deciding whether to dedicate resources towards creating more buildings and units or towards upgrading existing ones.
The Protoss and Zerg races can traverse large distances instantly. The Protoss use the Arbiter ship to 'recall' distant units to their location. The Zerg can build Nydus Canals from their colony to any place reached by the Creep, a mattress of biomatter which spreads outward from Zerg colonies. The Zerg can only build their 'buildings' - which are, in fact giant living organs - on a mattress of Creep.
The Terrans are humans who have been stranded in a remote part of the galaxy2. The Terrans hold the middle ground in the war, and most of their units are a cross between Protoss and Zerg, meaning they're not too expensive but are not particularly strong. All their units are similar to present-day military equipment, though are naturally more advanced. They include tanks, marines and also globes called Science Vessels that detect invisible objects and cast spells.
The Terrans spend their campaign trying to kill off the Zerg infestations that spring up everywhere and threaten the Terran empire.
Terran spells include an invisibility spell for the commando units called Ghosts, which can also cast a Lockdown spell and direct nuclear attacks. The Science Vessels can make some units invincible for a short period of time, damage nearby enemy units by irradiating them, and knock down Protoss shields with an electro-magnetic pulse blast. The Ghosts' and Wraiths' (jet fighters) invisibility causes opponents no end of problems, and if they carefully dodge detector vessels Ghosts and Wraiths can make particularly sneaky attacks upon enemy bases.
Click here for strategy and detailed information on the Terran species.
The Zerg are reptilian creatures who have an Overmind to control them all. The Overmind is the only part of their species that thinks; all the rest are slaves to its will. The Overmind is a fat brainlike monster that you very rarely see, which uses psychic power to control every Zerg. The Zerg's sole purpose is to take over the universe by ridding the universe of the Terran and Protoss races. Zerg units are relatively cheap to create but are weak, therefore they usually rely on strength in numbers to win. Everything the Zerg do is organic, and they reproduce by hatching larvae which evolve into a higher species.
The Zerg campaigns involve a huge amount of all-out slaughter of Protoss and Terran alike, and the chasing and killing of leading Protoss figureheads.
Zerg spells include Ensnare, whereby green goo covers enemy units and dramatically decreases their speed for a period of time; Parasite, which allows the player to see the line of sight of an infected enemy unit; and Plague, which slowly kills all the units touched by its red splatter. Another spell can turn the Terran command centre into a construction yard for exploding zombies! Zerg also have the remarkably annoying ability to burrow, dig a hole in the ground and hide where they can only be found by a detector. Fortunately they can't move while burrowed.
Click here for strategy and detailed information on the Zerg species.
An arrogant humanoid species, extremely intelligent and fairly pompous, the Protoss are trying to hold off the Zerg and eventually kill them. They are arch rivals of the Zerg and rely on fewer but more powerful units to fight for them. Protoss units can be very expensive, but they are strong, making each one count.
Protoss spells include Psionic Storm, which casts lightning over a small area and all the units inside that area. They also have an Hallucination spell whereby the unit subjected to the spell is replicated and creates dummies of the units (cover fodder in reality). The Protoss also have the Arbiter, a smooth yet bulbous aeroplane that emits a field of invisibility on the Protoss units around it.
The Protoss kick off their campaign by defending their home planet and then chasing down a so-called traitor Protoss. They eventually move to attacking the Zerg Overmind.
Click here for strategy and detailed information on the Protoss species.
All of these races fight it out in their own individual campaigns against each other: over desert, space stations and jungle territory.
StarCraft has an extensive multiplayer network, BattleNet. Aside from tournaments in the ladder (a system that depends on games won allows you to rise up the ladder), there are a large number of friendly games.
The real boost to StarCraft's popularity was the inclusion of the mapmaker of StarCraft so people could build their own games and as such there are a huge number of games available to play, from World War Two scenarios to 'dodging the rapist'.
The former features a landscape reminiscent of the entire European and North African continent, where each player takes on a role as one of the conflicting countries of the Second World War. In the latter you must move your unit to the top of the map without touching any other unit. Perhaps the most popular map is the 'Zero Clutter' map, which consists only of six unlimited deposits of minerals and gas, and a wall with a gap in the middle.
The most popular games involve a huge amount of monsters being produced and, depending on how many of the other players' monsters you kill, your units are upgraded to a better unit.
In South Korea StarCraft is a national pastime. The game is a professional sport, and the leading players are media stars.