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Perfecting Real Time Strategy: StarCraft 2 Influences

The original StarCraft has proven to be a great influence on many of the RTS games that followed in its footsteps. In the 9 years since the release of StarCraft, the RTS genre has evolved, and now that we’ve gotten a glimpse of StarCraft 2’s development, it is clear that it is influenced by the evolution of the other games in the genre as well. Today, we will look for the origin of some of the new features in StarCraft 2.

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Discussing influences for StarCraft has to start with the Warhammer universe. Since day one, there have been rumors that Blizzard had originally designed the StarCraft engine to accommodate a Warhammer-based game. It’s easy to see why, as the three StarCraft races resemble well established Warhammer designs: The Terran are very close, in style and concept, to the Space Marines; the alien Protoss have a very similar feel to the Eldar; the Zerg and the Tyranids look like cousins from a distant brood.

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Some people still claim that many of the designs for StarCraft 2 are “borrowed” from the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, perhaps rightly so – Andy Chambers, formerly an author and game designer for Games Workshop, is now a creative director for Blizzard.

However, this is already ancient history, and we want to focus on the StarCraft 2 gameplay. If you haven’t been following the latest developments from BlizzCon, do take a look at our post covering the major changes and new information revealed at the event – it is pertinent to our discussion.

 

Drop PodsStill on the subject of Warhammer, another thing that’s obviously been inspired by it are the Drop Pods. We have actually suggested that StarCraft 2 use a similar system to provide the Terran with increased mobility in our “Suggestions for StarCraft 2” Article. The StarCraft 2 Drop Pod system is similar in effect to the one in Warhammer, and looks like it too.

 

Dustin Browder, lead designer, had previously worked on Command & Conquer and Red Alert games. It’s easy to see these games’ influence on StarCraft 2:

It started with our discovery of the Yellow Minerals, a more valuable resource, which is very likely influenced by Red Alert’s gems (as opposed to gold) and C&C’s blue Tiberium (as opposed to green). These two resources are worth twice their normal counterparts, but in StarCraft, the better resource is only worth 50% more (12 minerals instead of 8).

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Another feature that is closely identified with C&C that’s made the transition to StarCraft 2 is selling off buildings, or as the Terrans have termed it, “salvaging“. In C&C, you can sell a building for half its worth. If it’s damaged, the value of the building will be decreased proportionally. In StarCraft 2, at this point, only the Terran can salvage, and this nets them 100% of the resources put into the building.

Two units from the GDI faction of the C&C games now have similar versions in StarCraft 2:

jumpjet.gif1) Tiberium Sun’s Jump-Jet Infantry: These guys had a jetpack and a vulcan machine gun. They filled the same role as the StarCraft 2 Reapers do – very mobile infantry with a high mortality rate.

2) Tiberium War’s Jaggernaut: This is a heavy mech unit, used for artillery purposes. Like its StarCraft 2 version, the Thor, this unit plants its mechanical legs firmly into the ground before firing a long range artillery barrage.

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Another game that has probably influenced StarCraft 2 is the recently released Supreme Commander, spiritual sequel to Total Annihilation:

1) Mega units: Supreme Commander is very famous for these. While the 3 factions have an almost identical army, separated only by graphics style and a few minor attributes, the mega units are where their differences shine. Each faction has a few exclusive mega units – all of which take a long time to build, have a very unique feel, and act completely different from each other. Our favorite: The Monkey Lord.

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We still don’t know how “mega” the Protoss Mothership is going to be – certainly not as powerful as the Supreme Commander mega units are compared to normal units, but it is certainly a unit along the same line: Seeing it emerge from an enemy base would be a cause for alarm, as it would surely bring devastation with it.

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2) Units built by workers instead of in factories: This applies to the mega units in Supreme Commander, but currently, only to the Thor in StarCraft 2. The aforementioned mega units are too big to be built in dedicated unit factories, and therefore are built right on the battlefield by workers. The Thor’s building process is infinitely more impressive, however!

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3) Supreme Commander is also responsible for a very cool addition to the RTS genre, now incorporated into StarCraft 2: Radar! In Supreme Commander, as well as in StarCraft, the radar building provides information about enemy units under the fog of war, granting an invaluable strategic advantage. We are bound to see this feature in many RTS games in the years to come – in fact, it is currently making an appearance in one of the new factions introduced in the Company of Heroes expansion, now undergoing beta testing.

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There have been many other updates to StarCraft, not confined to a single, originating game: The GUI has gone through a major overhaul, and now displays more info than ever. The interaction with the game is more intuitive, and the interface is easier to use effectively. These things and others have become a standard in recent RTS games. Some of these improvements have already found their way into Blizzard’s previous RTS game, WarCraft III.

As you see, Blizzard not only inspires others with its great ideas, it also knows how to spot good ones and perfectly implement them into their games. This is evident in other games of different genres by Blizzard, and is partly what makes them one of the, if not the, best game developers today.

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