The Popularity of Starcraft in Korea (and Elsewhere)

Today’s topic as originally chosen by William G (at UT Dallas) was the “Popularity of K-Pop“; however, given that I know almost nothing about K-Pop, and that it would be ironic if I had to do a lot of research to write about the popularity of something, I decided to jump topics slightly. Just slightly. The new topic is also popular in Korea. It is a sport that has filled stadiums and put speed, strategies, and reflexes to the ultimate test. It is the phenomenon known as Starcraft.

A video demonstrating the point:

This one is a full (but very short) game, with Korean commentary. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to actually understand Korean to see how fanatic they are:

This one is of the announcement of Starcraft II, back in May 2007 at Seoul, Korea. You should pay attention not to Blizzard’s actual trailer, but to the audience’s response, which occurs during the last 20 seconds or so:

Got it? Cool, you now understand all you really need to know about why Starcraft is so popular.

Just one final thing: Starcraft can get popular outside of Korea too. It just needs the right beat:

This has 4 million views so far—not bad for a video less than a month old and related to gaming.

*

Anyways, this is a very early post (it’s 12:25 am right now) because I will be leaving Ithaca very shortly to catch a 1 am bus to NYC. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the JFK airport; I have an idea for a really fun blog post, and I’ll see what I can do with it. See ya next time in Austin!

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Walkthrough, Difficulty Guide

StarCraft II

Format:

Mission Name

Difficulty: A/B/C/D (out of a 1-5 scale, 1 being the easiest, 5 being the hardest; A on casual, B on normal, C on hard, and D on brutal)

Achievements: E/F (also a difficulty on a 1-5 scale; E for the achievement on normal mode, F for the achievement on hard mode)

Then tips, advice, and other info about the mission.

I. Mar Sara Missions

1. Liberation Day

Difficulty: 1/1/1/2

Achivements: 1/1

As the first mission, this is very easy: you control Raynor and a few marines, and you need to destroy the Dominion headquarters, killing Dominion units and Mengsk statues along the way. Brutal is somewhat difficult because you lose marines pretty fast if you don’t control them well. Even so, you can win the mission with just attack-moving: both times I tried it, I lost all my marines by the time I got to the end, winning with only Raynor + the rebels with molotov cocktails.

2. The Outlaws

Difficulty: 1/1/1/3

Achievements: 1/3

This mission is also not very hard—on the first three modes I just build a tech lab, a medic, and then push out right away. But on brutal, this will not work. I would suggest massing a large clump of marines and medics before moving out. Why? The Dominion units are upgraded +1/+1, and you have no engineering bay and so cannot upgrade your units. Thus, you must outnumber the enemy significantly to do a sustained push. Once you reach about 30-40 marines you’ll be unstoppable.

The normal achievement, picking up mineral/gas pellets, is easy, but beating the mission on hard in under 10 minutes is a bit more intense. After getting a medic and a second barracks, you should push right away, rescuing the other rebel base as quickly as possible. This adds another barracks so you’ll have 3 in total. Just keep pumping marines from all three of them, and push. Against the Hellions, just take them out quickly so they don’t get many attacks on you, and the rest is easy.

3. Zero Hour

Difficulty: 1/1/2/4

Achievements: 1/5

This one is a throwback to mission 3 in the original Starcraft game, where you had to defend a base with bunkers for 25 minutes. In SC2, it’s again pretty easy on the casual and normal settings. Hard mode is a bit more tough because the Zerg start out with more upgrades, and thus can sustain longer attacks and do more damage to your bunkers. In brutal, the Zerg get more numerous and more dangerous attack waves, with more upgrades, and they can also take over your outside bunker zone easily. I had to keep a mass of marines and medics in my inner base for this one.

The normal achievement is a piece of cake–just make sure you have SCV’s repairing those bunkers, and a sufficient number of marines to defend. But the hard achievement is very difficult: you must kill 4 Zerg hatcheries, which requires offense. It took me at least 5 tries to do it, and it was by far the hardest achievement to get in all of the first few missions. The key is just building a large clump of marines and medics—about 50 marines and 10 medics is what I had, and just attack with the entire force sticking together.

II. Colonist Missions

1. The Evacuation

Difficulty: 1/1/1/2

Achivements: 1/2

A very easy mission, especially if you have reapers. Speaking of which, my preferred order after the Zero Hour mission is Smash and Grab, which unlocks the marauder, and then The Devil’s Playground, which unlocks the reaper. I also get the U-238 weapon upgrade on the reaper immediately after unlocking it—this single upgrade alone makes some of the early missions much easier.

You basically just escort the colonists to the spaceport. On hard and brutal the Zerg occasionally send attacks from multiple directions immediately following each other, so that your army might be preoccupied with one Zerg wave and not the other which is attacking the convoy. Even so, it’s not too bad, and reapers again make moving from place to place very easy, as they’re very fast units. A mass of marines, marauders, and reapers should make this mission easy.

For the achievements, just defend the convoy well, and defend the bunkers well, and you’ve got them. The hard achievement for this mission seemed to be one of the easiest hard achievements to get.

2. Outbreak

Difficulty: 1/1/2/2

Achievements: 2/2

Survive zombie attacks by night, and kill as many infested structures as you can by day. Again, reapers are perfect for this mission—I found them more effective at clearing infested units and structures than hellions, which are introduced here. Case in point: reapers do 30 damage to buildings, hellions 8. Also, the hellion takes some time between acquiring a target and actually firing, whereas the reaper attacks instantly. Strategy: Fill one bunker with marines at each of the three entrances, place a couple of firebats and medics in front of each bunker (and hold position on them), and then just mass an army of reapers and hellions. (You would optimally go all reapers, but you’ll have bonus minerals which you should use on hellions anyway.) At night, you can use this reaper/hellion army to jump from bunker to bunker to defend, and at day, you just attack like heck.

The normal achievement requires winning the mission in 28 minutes (reference to zombie movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later), and this is super easy with reapers. I haven’t tried it with just hellions though. The hard achievement is to kill 15 structures at night. Well, infested structures spawn infested units upon being attacked during night, so this is really stirring up the hornet’s nest, as Tychus says. With a large number of reapers though, this should be easy since their instant attacks will kill the spawned units almost immediately.

3a. Safe Haven

Difficulty: 1/2/2/3

Achievements: 2/2

You have to kill 3 nexuses and then a very powerful Mothership. Strategy: build SCV’s and a bunker in the beginning, and fill that bunker with marines. That’s about all the static defense you’ll need. Concentrate the rest of you resources on building vikings and getting air upgrades. All 3 nexuses are killable (even on brutal) with vikings alone.

The achievements are basically time runs. Both are easy if you just mass vikings. To kill the first protoss nexus (top-right of the map), keep the vikings in air mode and snipe the warp prisms powering the photon cannons. Once that happens, land your vikings on the high ground and hit the nexus from there. For the second nexus you can also just snipe warp prisms and kill it from the high ground. But for the third nexus, it is surrounded by water and the edge of the map, and has archons/sentries/high templar. To beat this, I would again snipe the warp prisms powering the cannons, and then land a mass of vikings outside of the base, and march in. You should be able to take out archons and sentries without sustaining too much damage. For the high templar, just send one viking to attack it, and it will be chased away. Finally, for the mothership, just send all your vikings at it, and try to keep at max range. It goes down pretty easily if you have enough vikings.

3b. Haven’s Fall*

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 2/2

This mission is ridiculously easy if you just mass vikings. the very first thing you should do is build a reactor on the starport. I was able to beat the mission on brutal by building only 1 bunker of marines and 2 siege tanks for defense, and about 20+ vikings for offense. To take out the new infestations, use the vikings in air mode to take out mutalisk and brood lords, and then transform them into ground mode to kill the virophage and other units around it. To kill the main Zerg bases, again use air mode to kill the mutalisks and brood lords, then switch to ground for a frontal assault. If you have a mass of vikings it will be easy to attack. For the bottom-most base I had to keep about 5 vikings in air mode to deal with newly spawned mutalisks.

The achievements are also super easy if you mass vikings. Again, kill the mutalisks and brood lords, switch to ground, and take out the ground forces and the virophage. This mission, however, is overall harder than Safe Haven because you constantly have to worry about Zerg infestations.

*On the choice missions, I will mark the path I choose with an asterisk (*).

III. Artifact Missions

1. Smash and Grab

Difficulty: 1/1/2/4

Achivements: 2/3

This mission is pretty easy on the first three difficulties as all you need to win are a mass of marauders and medics (in addition to a bunker of marines in you main base). But in brutal, the Protoss get void rays! I didn’t know about this, so the first time I tried brutal, I led with a mass of marauders and medics, and pretty much quit the mission once I saw a void ray.

The first achievement is to kill the stone zealots without losing a unit—this is easy if you have all marauders and medics in your army. If you have marines you should move them off to the side. The second is to beat hard in less than 15 minutes, and this is not too bad if you maintain a constant push into the Protoss base.

2. The Dig

Difficulty: 1/2/3/4

Achievements: 1/5

This mission scales in difficulty quite well—it gets genuinely tough on higher difficulties, where swarms of Protoss units attack. The “aerial assaults” become especially dreadful. My strategy is to maintain a force of siege tanks in siege mode (most important unit), bunkers, and goliaths. A backup army of marines, marauders, and medics is helpful.

The normal achievement is to kill 20 units with the laser, which is pretty easy. But the hard achievement, to kill 50 structures with it, was impossibly hard. The problem was that every time I tried pushing into the Protoss base, they would just pump replacement units and structures so that I was always pushed back. You really just have to be patient for this one.

3. The Moebius Factor

Difficulty: 2/2/3/4

Achievements: 2/2

A fairly fast-paced and mobile mission, and quite fun. I found that having the Hercules research helps here, because it is much more sturdy than a medivac. Basically, just follow where Dr. Narud tells you to go, and build marines and War Pig mercenaries, and the infantry weapon upgrade definitely helps. The mission is beatable by building only a relatively small number of units—if you locate the Moebius survivors, it becomes much easier.

That is the first achievement, and the second achievement, to win before Kerrigan accesses 6 data cores, is also easy: she had only accessed 3 data cores on my first attempt at the achievement. Just move around a lot, and you’ll beat the mission quickly.

4. Supernova

Difficulty: 2/3/4/5

Achievements: 1/2

This is one of the hardest missions in the game, especially on higher levels. On brutal the wall of fire advances so quickly that by the time you’ve settled into one base, you need to clear the next one so that you have a place to where you can relocate. While there is a cheesy way to win (hide banshees/vikings in the bottom-right corner, wait for the fire to kill most of the Protoss defense, and then attack the artifact vault), the conventional attack becomes progressively more difficult with each difficulty level. You’ll be fighting virtually everything in the Protoss army. This is also the only mission where I had to restart on casual mode (I underestimated the last Protoss base and my army got slaughtered in the final push).

Achievements for this mission, however, are easy. It is nearly impossible to lose a unit to the wall of fire, and killing 75 units with banshees is also easy, because there are so many ground units on the map.

5. Maw of the Void

Difficulty: 2/2/3/4

Achievements: 1/4

One of the funner missions in the game, as it basically prompts you to mass battlecruisers. It’s really not that hard of a mission, but perhaps time-consuming.

To get the first achievement you need to destroy all of the rip-field generators, and you’ll already have the vast majority destroyed anyways to win. The second achievement requires patience and some saving/loading of the game.

IV. Covert Missions

1. The Devil’s Playground

Difficulty: 1/1/2/4

Achievements: 2/3

Lava floods the map every few minutes, and to make it worse, the Zerg send in consistent attack waves. On brutal I found myself spending as much on defense as I was mining, so I just launched an all-out attack on the Zerg bases and wiped out most of them. It is a very fun mission with reapers. You’ll want to beat this mission as early in the campaign as possible to unlock reapers, which really help in the first two Colonist missions.

This is the first mission with a Brutalisk, and a fun way to kill it is to lure it to the low ground when it becomes flooded with lava. I personally prefer reaper kiting, but the lava is necessary for the achievement. The second achievement is to locate all of Tosh’s miners, and this will simply take a while to do.

2. Welcome to the Jungle

Difficulty: 2/3/4/5

Achievements: 1/3

I found this to be a fairly hard mission, just because the Protoss have strong units and lots of air units, especially void rays. (Though on my hard-mode run through the campaign, I did an order in which I had vikings available for this mission; they made it a lot easier.) Just create a large army of marines, marauders, medics, and goliaths. On brutal, try to prevent the Protoss from sealing the first two or three terrazine altars, but don’t worry about the rest—just try to collect the gas faster than the Protoss can seal them.

To not lose an SCV, just be careful with your SCVs. Stopping the Protoss from capping a single terrazine altar is a bit more tricky. My advice is to create a backup group of 4-5 hellions. If you can’t beat the defensive force guarding the probe, just send the hellions to snipe the probe and then rub back. Hellions have more hp than reapers, and so, are more suited for this task.

3a. Breakout

Difficulty: 1/1/2/2

Achievements: 1/3

A very fun mission where you control only Tosh and engage in an AoS-type gameplay. Anyone who has played Warcraft III custom maps (*cough*, DotA), should love this mission. It’s also very easy because you can focus all your attention on one unit.

The first achievement requires that Tosh not go below 100 health; this is easy because there are plenty of allied medics around. The second achievement is a time run and is more difficult, but still not too hard—just advance as quickly as possible and use your nukes when they become available.

3b. Ghost of a Chance*

Difficulty: 1/1/2/2

Achievements: 1/3

The most fun mission in the game, in my opinion. It’s a stealth mission with Nova and a handful of other units. You also don’t start out with a base, so you can focus all your effort on infiltration. It is not too hard.

Killing 15 units with dominated units is the first achievements, and this is incredibly easy: the siege tanks alone should have 15 kills. The Maelstrom Rounds upgrade on the siege tank (the one that adds +40 damage to the primary target) is very useful: it allows you to wipe out the units on the middle bridge of the third part of the mission with just a dominated tank; without Maelstrom Rounds, the tank gets killed first. The hard achievement is to kill every last unit, and if you’re a perfectionist, then you’ll be doing this already. Don’t worry about the miscellaneous missile turrets—they don’t count.

V. Rebellion

1. The Great Train Robbery

Difficulty: 1/2/3/5

Achievements: 2/2

This mission is really fun on easier modes but is truly brutal on brutal. I could not beat it the first time around, and had to play the mission that unlocked siege tanks first, so I could kill the bunkers and the two marauder strike teams from afar. Once you get siege tanks it’s a lot easier.

The normal achievement is to kill the marauder strike team—fairly easy. You get the achievement during the game, so you could save the game, kill the strike team (getting the achievement but for example lose half your army), the reload and play on without killing it. Siege tanks in siege mode crush the marauders.  The hard achievement is to not miss a train, and this is quite easy.

2. Cutthroat

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 3/2

Here is again a very fun mission, where you must gather scrap minerals around the map and deny the opponent from gathering minerals. Once you gather the minerals you can just do a siege tank push or a fun ghost/spectre push.

The normal achievement is to kill 25 units with vulture spider mines, and this is actually not easy to do—I had to go to melee range of a unit, lay a mine, then run back, to get enough kills. Just laying mines at base entrances doesn’t seem to get enough kills.

3. Engine of Destruction

Difficulty: 1/1/2/5

Achievements: 3/2

Very easy on the first three modes: even on hard, you can just send 1-3 SCV’s repairing the Odin and create a small wraith fleet (6-8 of them) and win, with no ground support. On brutal, the opponents target your SCV’s! On several of the base pushes, I had to send ahead an army of siege tanks/marauders and basically suicide them so that Tychus in the Odin wouldn’t die. For the final push, just bring all your SCV’s off the mineral line and have them repair Tychus. Have some wraiths to hit the battlecruisers, and it’s do-able from there.

Find and destroy the Loki is the normal achievement. Find the what? It turns out the Loki is this battlecruiser in the back of the fourth base. It’s pretty easy to kill with cloaked wraiths: you just kill the detectors and own the Loki with impunity. The hard achievement is to not let the Odin go below 30% hp, and this is super easy if you have SCV’s repairing it.

4. Media Blitz

Difficulty: 1/2/2/3

Achievements: 1/3

Now you actually get to control the Odin, in which Tychus acts as a one-man army. This makes the mission very fun as well. The best base to destroy is the one with the factories and heavy armor—in normal and hard you can afford to destroy this base and some starports in the air base; in brutal, you only have enough time and hp to destroy this one base. It’s still an easy mission though, with the Odin being as strong as he is.

Killing an enemy factory, barracks, and starport is super easy—you just do what the achievement says. Beating the mission in less than 20 minutes, though, is somewhat tough—you’ll need to wipe out as much as you can with the Odin first.

5. Piercing the Shroud

Difficulty: 2/2/2/2

Achievements: 2/2

Being the secret mission, this is pretty easy no matter which difficulty you’re on, but not incredibly easy. The only trouble is the invincible hybrid, so even casual mode is not a true walk in the park.

Normal achievement is to kill the Brutalisk without losing a unit—easy if you use plasma rounds. Next is to locate all the weapon pickups—also quite easy if you know where they are.

VI. Prophecy Missions

1. Whispers of Doom

Difficulty: 1/2/2/3

Achievements: 2/3

The first Protoss mission, fairly easy since Zeratul is so powerful. On later levels you’ll have to think about how to do some of the puzzles, though some can certainly be cheesed. For example, on the baneling part, I just run back and eventually the banelings will give up chase and roll back, whereupon you can take free shots at them.

Surviving with 3 or more Stalkers is not too hard if you blink properly. Not getting Zeratul damaged is a bit tougher, and you’ll also need to be patient for his shield to fully regenerate after each fight.

2. A Sinister Turn

Difficulty: 2/3/4/5

Achievements: 2/5

This is one truly tough mission, where the hybrid Maar consistently attacks and resurrects every time you kill it. He casts very powerful abilities too, becoming more powerful over time. On brutal, I won by sneaking into the pillars with a few immortals, stalkers, zealots, and dark templar, damaging each preserver pillar so that it only has 50-ish hp left, then kill them all quickly. This is because when you kill a pillar, Maar teleports back and begins to slaughter your army, so by damaging all the pillars first, you can quickly kill the remaining two pillars after Maar’s teleportation.

The first achievement is to kill all of the Protoss, which isn’t too bad on normal. On hard and brutal, they have void rays and rebuild their bases, which makes it much tougher. The win in 25 minutes on hard achievement was impossible for me until I did the sneaking in strategy.

3. Echoes of the Future

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 1/4

You need to get Zeratul to four Overmind tendrils, and you meet a lot of Zerg resistance and counterattacks along the way. Easiest strategy is to mass colossi and stalkers. The colossi own ground units, and the stalkers will take out mutalisks and occasional brood lords.

The first achievement is to kill 50 Zerg units with Zeratul; if Zeratul is in your army at all, it is almost impossible to not get this achievement. The second achievement is much tougher: win in 20 minutes. It’s not impossible though, but you’ll need to act quickly. Securing both warp gates early on and powering up the robotics bay helps.

4. In Utter Darkness

Difficulty: 1/3/4/4

Achievements: 3/5

An overall very tough mission. You have to kill 1500 enemy units on casual and normal, 2000 on hard, and 2500 on brutal. On casual, enemy units have only 50% hp, including hybrids, so it is pretty easy if you have lots of colossi/phoenix/carriers. Starting normal mode, the mission is a defense against a relentless attack. Massing colossi is definitely the way to go. (There is also the dark templar wall strategy which I have tested, and it is very efficient.)

This mission contains perhaps the hardest achievement in the campaign. The first is to kill 250 additional units on normal mode, and the second is to kill 750 additional units, also on normal mode. This second one is nearly impossible. After several tries, I was able to kill 2252 units before my last unit died—that’s only 2 kills above the needed amount. My strategy was massing phoenix and then carriers as soon as they were available. When you lose your base, you just hide on a corner that only air units can access, then just kill mutalisk/corruptors for score.

VII. Final Missions

1. Gates of Hell

Difficulty: 1/2/3/3

Achievements: 1/3

It’s one of the last missions but a fairly easy one. You rescue Dominion drop pods and then make a push against the Zerg to kill three nydus worms.

The first achievement is to kill all the spore cannons, which is very easy because the spore cannons don’t do much. The second is to rescue all 10 of the drop pods, which is somewhat hard to do if you’re using your ground army to rescue them. To be cheap, you can call down a mule to rescue a drop pod if you really need to.

2a. Belly of the Beast

Difficulty: 2/3/3/4

Achievements: 2/5

This is a mission where you get to kill a TON of Zerg. And you use the four biggies from the Hyperion crew: Raynor, Tychus, Swann, and Stetman. Each person has a different unique ability, so it almost feels like an RPG dungeon crawl. Just use your abilities often, and you’ll win.

Normal achievement: don’t let any hero fall incapacitated. This is not hard at all—just watch the queen at the very end. The hard achievement is to kill 50 units in one shot of Raynor’s Penetrator Round. I must have spent 20 tries on this before I got it to work. I used the beginning of the second part of the mission, where you meet an infestor and a ton of infested units in a narrow alleyway.

2b. Shatter the Sky*

Difficulty: 2/3/3/4

Achievements: 1/4

A mission that requires some thinking. I built many different types of units for this mission, including vikings, battlecruisers, marines, medics, goliaths, tanks, and ghosts. Some good upgrades to have: both goliath upgrades make the goliath a very good unit for assaulting the lower-right platform, as it can attack both ground and air at once; ghost’s infinite cloaking as well as range upgrade, as they can easily kill mutalisks, zerglings, and hydralisks; the viking’s aoe attack and range upgrade, so it can destroy clusters of air units from far away; and the science vessel, so you can repair vikings and goliaths. Ghosts were the fun part though, I built 8 of them and had them all perma-cloaked, and just went around attacking and sniping stuff. At the end all 8 of them had at least 20 kills each.

Not losing a unit to platform explosion is super easy: after you destroy a cooling tower, just retreat. Beating the mission in less than 25 minutes is tough though, and you don’t have enough time to mass a sufficient number battlecruisers (plus, they’re slow units). This is why I went more for vikings, ghosts, and goliaths.

3. All In

Difficulty: 3/4/5/6(!)

Achievements: 3/3

Oh my god. This mission is way harder than any mission before it—the difficulty ramp is huge. You have to defend the artifact for some amount of time, and in the meanwhile you are attacked by massive waves of Zerg. In all four of my runs I killed the air in Shatter the Sky, so I was up against Nydus Worms in this mission. Banshees, siege tanks, and marauders will be the most important units. Use Banshees to take out Nydus worms. When the end approaches, one way to gain some extra time is to send all your mining SCV’s up to the artifact’s high ground and just build a ton of stuff. Each building will both delay the Zerg final push and stop Nydus worms from popping up at that location. That is how I beat brutal after many frustrating, failed attempts.

The normal achievement requires religious use of Energy Nova, while the hard achievement requires very little usage of it. Both are fairly tough, as I could not manage to get the sufficient number of kills on normal at first, and I could not beat hard without using it more than once. But after a while, it becomes easier to do and both achievements just take some practice.

Technology

Protoss Tech:

  • Ultra Capacitors (instead of Vanadium Plating): I prefer bonus DPS over bonus survivability. When your units are in a large clump anyways you have strength in numbers.
  • Orbital Depots (instead of Micro-Filtering): This is just really convenient.
  • Automated Refinery (instead of Command Center Reactor): A passive bonus; and queuing two SCV’s at a time still makes the SCV’s the same cost.
  • Science Vessel (instead of Raven): Heals mechanical units.
  • Tech Reactor (instead of Orbital Strike): Building two high-tech units at a time is much more amazing than sending infantry anywhere.

Zerg Tech:

  • Fortified Bunkers (instead of Shrike Turrets): I went for the other bunker upgrades as well, and this research fits the upgrades better.
  • Planetary Fortress (instead of Perdition Turrets): I ended up not really using either one.
  • Hercules (instead of Predator): Only useful in The Moebius Factor and Supernova, but better than Predator, which was not useful in any mission.
  • Regenerative Biosteel (instead of Cellular Reactor): Auto-healing mechanical units is an amazing ability. Cellular Reactor would only benefit units like Ghosts/Spectres, Wraiths, Banshees, and Battlecruisers; and their rare use is not nearly as much as the usual massing of mechanical units.
  • Psi Disruptor (instead of Hive Mind Emulator): Passive effect requires less focus than an active one.

Upgrades

Base Upgrades:

  • Bunker: Both upgrades. Both bonus range and bonus slots are useful for defense.
  • Missile Turrets: None. (Turrets are already strong enough as they are.)
  • SCV’s: Double repair upgrade. I thought the multiple construction upgrade was useless, especially if you have Orbital Depots.
  • Buildings: Both. Fire suppression is very good, as is Orbital Command.

Infantry Upgrades:

  • Marine: Both upgrades (stim and shield). Come on, name one mission where you don’t use marines.
  • Medic: Stabilizer medpacks, because is amazing. The ability to train without tech lab is useless later on with tech reactors.
  • Firebat: None.
  • Marauder: Both. Concussive Shells (slowing) and Kinetic Foam (+hp) are both very helpful.
  • Reaper: U-238 Rounds (bonus range, and damage to light armor). It makes some of the earlier missions much easier. The G-4 Clusterbomb takes too much effort to use.

Vehicle Upgrades:

  • Hellion: None.
  • Vulture: None.
  • Goliath: Both. Two attacks at once? And super range? Awesome.
  • Diamondback: None.
  • Siege Tank: Both. Bonus target damage and reduced friendly splash damage are really good.

Starship Upgrades:

  • Medivac: None.
  • Wraith: None.
  • Viking: Both. (Makes Vikings excellent as anti-air throughout the campaign.)
  • Banshee: Both. (Useful for last mission.)
  • Battlecruiser: Both. (This made Shatter the Sky easy.)

Dominion Upgrades:

  • Ghost: Both. (They become really fun to use with infinite cloaking, and bonus range makes them really good at sniping, both with normal attack and with ability.)
  • Thor: Immortality Protocol. (Rebuilding a dead Thor is awesome.)
  • [Spectre: Both. (Lash is awesome, as is infinite cloaking.)]

This is not a Starcraft 2 campaign walkthrough in the normal sense; I just want to give an overview of the mission difficulties and any tricks I found to completing them. And I have certainly played each mission on all four difficulty levels at some point or another.

By the writing of this post I have amassed 1570 of the 1590 achievement points for the campaign (missing only the Lost Viking gold and the normal mode speedrun) and a total of 3000 achievement points.

Any questions, criticism, advice? Just make a reply!

Starcraft II Editor — Second Look

Random fact: On the day of my last post, which was about a short story considered a brilliant piece of American literature, my blog received its lowest daily view count in more than three months (130 views). I guess the Internet is just that antagonistic towards American literature.

Today’s topic is much different: the StarCraft II map editor. Four months ago, during the beta, I was able to play around with the editor very basically, and wrote up a post comparing the SC2 editor to the SC1 and WC3 editors.

Recently I was able to mess around with the editor again, this time trying to create the basic gameplay for an AoS-type map. After all, I had plenty of experience with the WC3 editor, and the SC2 editor, as I mentioned in the linked post, is very similar.

That turns out less true than I thought. The truth is, the SC2 editor is not only far more powerful, as I had mentioned, but also far, far more complicated. Of course, diving into any new thing takes a while of getting used to, but on the SC2 editor, I spent eight hours just trying to make a hero system and setting up the map and triggers for an AoS, and didn’t even succeed in creating items or an inventory. To change even a single stat on a weapon took me a couple minutes of messing around the first time.

My new argument: While the WC3 editor and the SC2 editor look very much alike, the WC3 editor is in fact more like the SC1 editor than the SC2 editor. Actually, there is an important caveat here: I’m talking only about the Object/Data editor. For Terrain and Triggers, it still stands that WC3 and SC2 are closer.

The object editor in WC3 is essentially the unit editor of SC1 with significantly more fields, and also more tabs (not only units, but also abilities, items, doodads, destructibles, buffs). Suppose I wanted to change the damage of a Marine/Footman. In SC1 I would go to the Marine unit, and change the damage field from 6 to whatever I wanted it to be. For the WC3 Footman, the process is exactly the same.

SC2, on the other hand, is modular. So, to change the damage of the Marine, you can’t just go to the Marine unit. From the Marine, you have to find the link to the weapon, which in turn has a link to the damage. Once you’re at the damage, you can modify it.

Alright, it takes two more steps—so what? Well, this makes multi-object things WAY more complicated. Letsay I wanted to create an item that adds an aura in WC3. I would need an Item, Ability, and Buff. The Ability must known which Buff the aura uses, and the Item must know what Ability it is supposed to carry. Nice and simple. In SC2… let’s just say I haven’t figured it out yet.

Even supposing I could create an item, I would also need the inventory, which is incredibly difficult to make, at least without a very careful and detailed tutorial. Even looking at the source of another map (which was an excellent way to learn the WC3 editor) seemed to not help, because there were several inter-object links that I did not know how to make.

Anyway, I’m not saying the SC2 editor sucks or anything—I’m just saying it’s far, far more complicated than what I’m used to, and it will most likely have a long adaptation time. Even figuring out the basics is a challenging task. Right now, the editor just seems far more complex than it needs to be, but we’ll see.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

StarCraft II

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is a real-time strategy game and yet another impressive gem from Blizzard.

Overview

This post is a review in all but the usual sense. I’m not here to assign the game a number from 1 to 10 (though if I were, it would be very high); instead, I am going for a “review” in a more academic sense—a study of the game.

Which means I’m not trying to praise or condemn the game, but rather, to gain an almost artistic appreciation for it, like I would of a film or book.

Gameplay Background

The real-time strategy genre is a type of chess where you can move all your pieces at once and you don’t take turns. What the original Starcraft (1998) did was create totally different factions. Instead of each side’s army consisting of a king, a queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns, one side could have four pieces that moved like knights and pawns, another two like rooks with limited range, two more like bishops that could jump over pieces, and a piece that could teleport to another unoccupied square within two rows, but only once every three turns.

Call the standard 16-piece setup A, and this new 9-piece setup B. Each piece in B might be more powerful than in A, but B has less pieces. In Starcraft, if the Terran (humans) are A, then the Protoss (an alien race) would be B, for they use smaller numbers of stronger and costlier units.

The Zerg (the other aliens) are the opposite of the Protoss. Perhaps their chess setup would have 16 pawns, four pieces that moved like kings (but don’t obey the rules of check), four knights, and a queen. This is a total of 25 pieces.  This allows swarming with larger numbers of weaker and cheaper units.

Of course this is a drastic oversimplification of the game style (I’ve left out important things as resource collecting, production buildings, scouting, etc.), but that covers it essentially. Starcraft II continues the same gameplay, just with different units.

Plot Background

In Starcraft II’s single-player campaign, you follow the actions of Jim Raynor, a rebel leader against the Terran Dominion and its evil leader Arcturus Mengsk. You learn that Raynor is a friend of many Protoss factions, and that he is especially on good terms with the dark templar Zeratul. And the Zerg are led by Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades.

This alignment did not occur from accident.

Starcraft: The Terran Confederacy in the Koprulu sector in the Milky Way suddenly encounter technologically advanced Protoss warships that incinerate some Terran fringe colonies. They find that the Protoss have done so to prevent the spread of a parasitic race called the Zerg.

At this point, Jim Raynor is a Marshall on the planet Mar Sara, which is attacked by the Zerg. The Confederacy is slow to help, so Raynor puts himself in charge of saving as many colonists as he can. When he destroys a structure that has been infested by the Zerg, the Confederacy arrests him, and to evade arrest, Raynor has no choice but to join the Sons of Korhal, a terrorist group led by Arcturus Mengsk.

To overthrow the Confederate capital world of Tarsonis, Mengsk sends his second-in-command, psionic agent Sarah Kerrigan to place a psi-emitter on the planet. This device lures the Zerg, who will overrun the human population on Tarsonis. When the Protoss under Tassadar come to destroy the Zerg, Mengsk orders Kerrigan to stop the Protoss, but when she does so, Mengsk abandons her on the planet to the Zerg. Raynor, disgusted by the betrayal of Kerrigan, defects from Mengsk, and in the fall of Tarsonis and the Confederacy, Mengsk creates the Dominion and crowns himself Emperor.

The Overmind, ruler of the Zerg, had actually decided not to kill Kerrigan. She was instead infested to be an agent of the Zerg Swarm. The Protoss dark templar Zeratul assassinates the Zerg Cerebrate Zasz, but this act reveals to the Overmind the location of Aiur, the Protoss homeworld. The Overmind quickly mounts a direct assault, and embeds itself into the planet.

Even as the Zerg take over Aiur, the Protoss Conclave insists on conventional, honorable fighting against the Zerg, even though the Protoss are hopelessly outnumbered. The Conclave also seeks to arrest the high templar Tassadar, who has tried to free Zeratul—only dark templar energy could defeat the Overmind. After a brief Protoss civil war, the combined forces of the Protoss under Tassadar and Zeratul, and Raynor’s rebel group, defeat the Zerg, and Tassadar sacrifices himself to slay the Overmind.

Brood War: Not terribly important to the storyline of Starcraft II, except that Kerrigan becomes the sole leader of the Zerg.

Story and Storytelling: The Single-Player Campaign

Blizzard has come a long way in storytelling. In Starcraft, the plot unfolds in-game as well as in mission briefings. Key cinematics also illustrate critical points. The plot was linear, meaning one mission directly followed another.

The campaign of Starcraft II is, by contrast, nonlinear. You often have different missions to select from (though you end up playing through most or all of them anyways), and have choices to make in upgrades and research. Three times in the campaign, you will have to make a binary choice that either affects the plot or what you’ll face the next mission. These choice selections were very interesting, and lead to interesting replay options.

In one choice, you must decide whether to help Tosh break out a group of Specters or help Nova stop the Specter operation. If you help Tosh, you’ll have the ability to create Specters in later missions, whereas if you help Nova, you’ll have the ability to create Ghost. The two missions where you either help Tosh or Nova are my favorite in the campaign.

Besides the nonlinear story, the story itself was greatly enhanced by the various methods of storytelling. Besides mission briefings, in-game actions, and cinematics, the story takes place interactively on the Hyperion, Raynor’s ship. The most amusing method was the television broadcasts, which show Donny Vermillion and/or Kate Lockwell. Donny often cuts off Kate’s report of the real news, reporting his own biased information.

As always, the story is full of surprises and plot twists. The most shocking part of the story was Zeratul’s appearance on the Hyperion, and his visions that Raynor later viewed. It turns out the Overmind in Starcraft was more than it had seemed.

To soften the overall serious tones of alien invasion and saving the universe, Blizzard added plenty of references and humorous dialog. My favorite is the part when Tychus jokes to Raynor that using the Xel’Naga artifact could destroy the space-time continuum, to which Raynor responds, “This isn’t science fiction!”

Favorite Mission: “Ghost of a Chance”

This one is intense on micromanagement. You control no base, only Nova and a few reinforcements. The positioning of units and usage of abilities is key. The mission is like an epic version of “The Dylarian Shipyards” from Brood War.

Next Favorite Mission: “Breakout”

Essentially an Aeon of Strife game, like DotA. You control only one unit, Tosh, and try to control the tide of a battle. As in “Ghost of a Chance,” the key is positioning and using abilities. It is similar to the mission “The Search for Illidan” in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Also, the parts where Raynor constructs bases in areas you capture is the opposite of “Twilight of the Gods” in Warcraft III, where the enemy Archimonde constructs bases in areas that he conquers.

Battle.net and Multi-Player

Also a great improvement. Battle.net is a state-of-the-art online system, and the lack of LAN is not a big issue. This is because the new Battle.net has very little lag, and whatever use for LAN can be done on Battle.net.

Besides that, the gameplay is excellent and well polished. The only qualm I have is that the Terran and Protoss seem more fun to play than the Zerg. Note that I’m not saying they’re imbalanced or easier to play; they just seem to have so many more options. Protoss with their Warp Gates are extremely fun.

Favorite Protoss Unit: Stalker

An very flexible unit that can hit air and ground. It is extremely mobile with its blink ability, and the option to use Warp Gates to warp in many of them at once is amazing. Massed stalkers with upgrades seem to be very effective.

Terran Favorite Unit: Viking

It has a very long-range air-to-air attack that is perfect against capital ships or Overlord hunting, and it can transform to ground mode, making it a viable ground-to-ground mech fighter. The ship upgrades work for both modes.

Zerg Favorite Unit: Baneling

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent’s army decimated by a massive blob of rolling green spheres.

Balance

As an amateur player I cannot speak much about this, but Starcraft II seems very well balanced. Each race has a distinct feel, but together they are matched up quite well. The game has come a long way from the early days of the beta (in which I did play), when several cheap strategies could win consistently. Even now, the Void Ray rush is super effective, at least at lower levels.

Achievements

How do you enhance the replay value of any game? Add achievements. I’m not sure whether this is new for the real-time strategy genre, but Blizzard certainly has success with the achievement system in its World of Warcraft. I’ve read an article somewhere about how achievements scientifically make a game addicting. But Starcraft 2 doesn’t even need the psychological effect.

For example, in the campaign missions, there are two bonus achievements, and it can sometimes be difficult if not nearly impossible to grab both awards in one play of the mission. One achievement might be to kill every last structure on the map, while the other might be to finish the mission in under 20 minutes. You’d have to play the mission at least twice, once to get the first achievement, another to get the second. Plus, there are de facto achievements such as finding research points on the field that can be used for valuable upgrades for later use in the campaign.

This system is very addicting for perfectionists like myself. Even without achievements, I would search every corner of a map for hidden stuff (e.g., in Warcraft III, especially the expansion, there were secret items and tomes everywhere if you looked for them). The achievement system makes you want to do this even more.

Graphics

While I don’t consider graphics to be the most important part of a game, I am fairly impressed by the graphics of Starcraft II, mostly the ability to generate in-game cutscenes and rendered movies in the campaign. Also, the real movies are in much higher resolution and detail than those in previous Blizzard titles such as Warcraft III.

Map Making

Blizzard’s map editors have been incredible, and during the beta I have already discussed the basics of the Starcraft II map editor. I haven’t found time to really experiment with it yet, but when I do, I’ll keep you updated.

The Fun Factor

To be honest, Starcraft II is one of the funnest games I have ever played, if not the most. It is because they made it much more than a game—they made it an environment, and a very immersive one at that. My only real concern here is that it might be too immersive, and be another World of Warcraft, a very addictive game due to its fun factor. World of Warcraft is what happens when you make a game too good.

Then again, there is no monthly subscription fee for Starcraft II, so Blizzard needs not make it as addicting. But once you get the game, it will be very hard to put down, at least for a while.

Concluding Remarks

Starcraft II is incredibly polished and incredibly fun, and it proves that the real-time strategy genre is not dead—it just needed another kick. And Blizzard gave it this kick.

Plot Similarities in Blizzard Games

Blizzard Entertainment

With StarCraft II just released, and from recently playing the original StarCraft and WarCraft III campaigns, I’ve noticed that, between the plots, there are quite a few similarities. Blizzard’s creative department is very good at this. The list of Blizzard games [abbreviations] I’ll be using in this post:

  • StarCraft [SC1]
  • StarCraft: Brood War [SCBW] (expansion)
  • WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos [WC3]
  • WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne [WC3: TFT] (expansion)
  • StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty [SC2]

Well, I don’t own WOW, and I don’t know the plots of the first two WarCraft games. Therefore my comparisons will mostly run between StarCraft and WarCraft III, including expansions.

SPOILER ALERT

The Hero Becomes the Villain

Diablo (!):

  • At the very end, the hero defeats Diablo but tries to contain Diablo’s soul within himself. This fails, because Diablo takes control of the hero’s body. In Diablo II, the Diablo you face is the hero of the first game.

SC1:

  • In the first campaign (Terran), mission 9: “New Gettysburg,” Arcturus Mengsk abandons ghost agent Sarah Kerrigan to the Zerg. She is infested. In the next campaign you can use Infested Kerrigan, a Zerg unit. By the end of SCBW, she has become the “Queen of Blades,” the ruler of the sector, and the primary antagonist.
    • BUT, in SC2 we learn that she is the prophecized savior of the universe, and she is de-infested at the end.
  • Also in the first campaign, Arcturus Mengsk himself is initially a hero, trying to overthrow the evil Terran Confederacy. When he takes power, he crowns himself Emperor of the new Terran Dominion, but his government ends up being just as oppressive as the Confederacy that he overthrew.

WC3:

  • In the first campaign (Human), mission 9: “Frostmourne,” Arthas Menethil, a human paladin, is so blinded by vengeance that he would kill the dreadlord Mal’Ganis at any cost. Unfortunately this cost is the taking of the cursed blade Frostmourne, which essentially binds the wielder to the Lich King. By the next campaign you can use Arthas, an Undead Death Knight. He becomes the primary antagonist.
  • In the second campaign (Undead), mission 5: “The Fall of Silvermoon,” Arthas (now undead) defeats the high elf Sylvanas Windrunner and turns her into an undead banshee. She later becomes the Queen of the Forsaken.
  • In the third campaign (Orc), mission 5: “The Hunter of Shadows,” Grom Hellscream, in order to defeat the Night Elves, drinks from an enchanted well; however, this enchantment is from the blood of Mannoroth, a pit lord. Hellscream subsequently falls under demonic possession.
    • BUT, in mission 8: “By Demons Be Driven,” Thrall rescues Hellscream’s soul, and Hellscream redeems himself by slaying Mannoroth before dying.

WC3: TFT:

  • Throughout the first campaign (Sentinel), Maiev is trying to hunt down Illidan. By the end, Malfurion remarks that “[Maiev] has become vengeance itself.” Given Illidan’s intentions, however, it is arguable whether Maiev is a protagonist or antagonist.

The Villain Was Serving a Greater Power

SCBW:

  • In the secret mission “Dark Origins,” when Zeratul discovers Samir Duran‘s experimentation on Protoss/Zerg hybrids, Duran explains: “I am a servant of a far greater power.” Could he be referring to the Xel’Naga?

SC2:

  • Tassadar reveals that the Overmind from the first game was actually controlling the Zerg against its will (it was itself controlled by a more powerful force), and that it sought to infest Kerrigan so that someone else could control the Zerg.

WC3:

  • In the second campaign (Undead), Kel’Thuzad summons the demon Archimonde into the world. Archimonde, however, has no need for Arthas or Kel’Thuzad. Arthas becomes appalled, and Kel’Thuzad informs him that the Lich King has already foreseen this, and that he has plans for Arthas.

WC3: TFT:

  • In the first campaign (Sentinel), Illidan Stormrage appears to be using the Eye of Sargeras for himself. Later, at the end of the second campaign (Blood Elf/Human), we learn that Illidan was serving the demon Kil’Jaeden, who gave Illidan the task of destroying the Frozen Throne and subsequently the Lich King.

The Apparent Ally Is Actually an Enemy

SCBW:

  • In the first campaign (Protoss), Aldaris is initially reluctant but accepting of the need to go to Shakuras. He then incites a rebellion, and the player must defeat him in mission 7: “The Insurgent.”
    • BUT, later we learn that he was the good guy all along—see the next entry.
  • The dark templar matriarch Raszagal is a seeming ally of Zeratul throughout the entire game. But we learn in the third campaign, mission 9: “The Reckoning,” that Raszagal was a puppet of Kerrigan. Thus, Aldaris’s rebellion against Raszagal was justified.
  • In the second campaign (Terran), Samir Duran is a seeming ally, but during mission 7: “Patriot’s Blood,” we learn that he is actually working for Kerrigan and the Zerg.
    • Actually, in the secret mission “Dark Origins,” we learn that he is serving not Kerrigan, but an even greater power.
  • Also in the second campaign (Terran), Alexei Stukov is the vice-admiral of the United Earth Directorate, but after some suspicious activity, the player is sent on a mission to kill him in mission 7: “Patriot’s Blood.”
    • BUT, it turns out he was the good guy, and Duran was the bad guy. (See above.)

SC2:

  • Tychus Findlay is Raynor’s buddy for the entire game. But at the end, he reveals that he “made a deal with the devil,” Arcturus Mengsk. He would have to kill Kerrigan. But Raynor kills him first.

WC3:

  • In the fourth campaign (Night Elf), Tyrande Whisperwind frees Illidan Stormrage in order to help fight against the demonic invasion. Illidan later serves a demon, and is the first antagonist to appear in the expansion.

The Apparent Enemy Is Actually an Ally

SC1:

  • In the beginning of the third campaign (Protoss), both Tassadar and Zeratul are considered enemies, the first a traitor, the second a dangerous outcast. They eventually defeat the Zerg Overmind.

SCBW:

  • Kerrigan goes both ways. She is an enemy from the first game, but in the first campaign she helps the protoss Zeratul and Artanis recover the Uraj and Khalis crystals. In the third campaign she also helps Mengsk recover his Dominion capital of Korhal from the United Earth Directorate.
    • But, she turns on her allies, killing Duke and Fenix, revealing that she had used everyone as a part of her own plan to rule the sector alone.
      • BUT, at the end of SC2 she becomes uninfested, and it is hinted that she will be the hero again.

SC2:

  • Kerrigan. See above.
  • The Overmind from the first game. Tassadar says the Overmind had “courage.” See “The Villain Was Serving a Greater Power.”
  • Valerian Mengsk, the heir apparent to Arcturus Mengsk, seems at first to be another loyal Dominion agent. But it is revealed that he is the owner of the Moebius Foundation, that he can help Raynor rescue Kerrigan, and that he is against his father.

WC3:

  • In the third campaign (Orc), Grom Hellscream’s Orcs slay Cenarius, who was actually trying to prevent them from unleashing demonic powers from the Chaos Well. Hellscream drinks from the well and becomes corrupted.

WC3: TFT:

  • Actually uncertain for Illidan. He is at first the foe who brought into power the Naga, but he was actually trying to destroy the Lich King, though he was doing so albeit under Kil’Jaeden’s command. Then again, he does help Malfurion rescue Tyrande. At the final fight, it is Illidan versus Arthas, and neither can be said to be good.
  • Lady Vashj is apparently an enemy, but she and her Naga assist the player in the Alliance campaign.

The Grand Alliance

SC1:

  • In the final mission (Protoss mission 10) “Eye of the Storm,” the Protoss under Tassadar and Zeratul and the Terran under Raynor join together and defeat the Zerg Overmind.

SCBW:

  • The final mission (Zerg mission 10) “Omega” essentially inverts “Eye of the Storm.” Kerrigan‘s Zerg defeat the combined forces of Mengsk‘s Terran Dominion, DuGaulle‘s United Earth Directorate, and Artanis‘s Protoss fleet.

WC3:

  • In the final mission (Night Elf mission 7) “Twilight of the Gods,” the Night Elves under Malfurion Stormrage and Tyrande Whisperwind, the Humans under Jaina Proudmoore, and the Orcs under Thrall hold off a demonic invasion led by Archimonde against Mount Hyjal, the World Tree.
    • Well, eventually the invasion succeeds, but Archimonde falls into Malfurion’s trap upon reaching Mount Hyjal.

The Prophecy

WC3:

  • Medivh is THE Prophet. He foretells the invasion of the Burning Legion (making him a doomsday prophet), and ends up uniting the Humans, Orcs, and Night Elves to defeat Archimonde’s invasion.

SC2:

  • Zeratul becomes the prophetic character, telling Raynor that Kerrigan is the key. To some degree, Kerrigan is also prophetic. In SCBW, Duran could be considered prophetic.

The Guy that Nobody Believes (At First)

SC1:

  • None of the Protoss believe Tassadar at first when he says they must trust the Dark Templar, and they believe he has defected to the dark side. The Dark Templar end up being invaluable to the fight against the Zerg, and Tassadar ends up being the ultimate hero of the game.

WC3:

  • The humans initially laugh at Medivh‘s doomsday prophecies, but he ends up indirectly saving Azeroth.

One of the primary reasons there are so many twists, like the good guys becoming the bad guys or vice versa, is how the campaigns are structured. Each game involves a thread of campaigns that use different races. So when you’ve fought against a certain foe for an entire campaign, and then get to command them in the next, you immediately begin to ask moral questions, like whether what you did in the previous campaign was the right thing.

That’s really the genius of these games, that characters don’t have fixed allegiances. And with certain characters, specifically Kerrigan and Illidan, you really don’t know whether they’re ultimately good or evil until you know it for sure.

The StarCraft II Map Editor, in Context

It’s basically the WarCraft III editor. Plus a lot more.

The point of this post is a comparison between the WarCraft III (WC3) and StarCraft II (SC2) editors. Of course, because SC2 is in beta right now, along with its editor, many things may change. The general idea, however, should stay about the same, and moreover, it is the overall resemblance between the two editors that prompted this post.

I speak from several years of experience with the WC3 editor, and with two very extensive and elaborate maps under my ownership (one self-owned, one co-authored).

StarCraft

My map making started with SC1, and I must say that the WC3 editor is vastly superior to that of SC1. To put the WC3/SC2 editor comparison into context, I shall first go over the basics of the SC1 editor.

Original StarCraft Editor
StarCraft 1 Editor—Terrain (Click Image to Enlarge)

SC1’s editor was far more powerful than others in the time period in which it was released—StarCraft debuted in 1998. The editor’s main strength was the Trigger Editor, which allowed the creator to script the action of a map according to events that happen in the game. The events, however, were not called events—they were called conditions, and this made sense for SC1. Hence, the SC1 Trigger Editor relied on a condition-action schema.

SC Editor Triggers
StarCraft 1 Editor—Triggers (Click Image to Enlarge)

Also powerful was the Unit Editor, with which a user could modify the basic stats of a unit or building:

StarCraft 1 Editor Unit
StarCraft 1 Editor—Unit (Click Image to Enlarge)

Note, however, that this only allows very basic modification. If I wanted to change the attack speed, attack range, attack animation, movement speed, collision size, building options, etc. of a unit, I would be at a total loss with the StarCraft 1 editor.

WarCraft III

Within just four years, in 2002, Blizzard released WarCraft III, which came with a much, much more capable editor.

WC3 Editor Terrain
WC3 Editor—Terrain (Click Image to Enlarge)

Note carefully the icons in the terrain palette in the screenshot above, particularly the ones for “Apply Height.”

Basically, the WC3 editor can produce beautiful terrain. But that’s not the point. Its Trigger Editor is incredibly more complex than that of SC1, and this is where the  superiority shows. Here is a screenshot of the WC3 Trigger Editor:

WC3 Editor Triggers
WC3 Editor—Triggers (Click Image to Enlarge)

Okay, the screenshot is not that impressive, but keep it in mind when we compare it later to SC2’s editor. Do note the Event-Condition-Action schema. Finally, here’s the WC3 Object Editor:

WC3 Editor Objects
WC3 Editor—Objects (Click Image to Enlarge)

This is much more impressive than SC1’s editor, which only lets me change ten integers and a name at max. Note that the screenshot by no means captures the whole list of customizable attributes: look at that scroll bar! Surprisingly, most StarCraft 1 players seem to not know about this power—most of them have no idea how powerful the WC3 editor is.

After all, one of the few World Cyber Games (WCG) game is Defense of the Ancients, more commonly known as DotA. And yep, it was created by the WC3 editor. It appears in fact on Battle.net that more WC3 players play DotA than the actual WC3 ladder.

To further reiterate the power of the WC3 editor, I present to you a demonstration of custom spells I made a long time ago in WC3.

This is far beyond the dreams of a StarCraft 1 map maker. Now, as I mentioned in an earlier post,

. . . I was appalled when SC players and map makers posted numerous questions [on the Blizzard forums] asking whether the SC2 editor will have certain features; Blizzard just said yes, yes, yes. In one of their FAQs, they had the question along the lines of, “Will the editor be able to—,” with the answer, “Yes.” The reason the questions were appalling was because nearly every single feature requested was already in the WC3 map editor, released five years prior to the announcement of SC2.

And if SC2 is released later this year, in 2010, it will have been eight years since the release of WC3. That’s double the time between SC1 and WC3. This means the jump in editor capability from WC3 from SC2 should be twice as high as that between SC1 and WC3, right? Well, it was certainly an improvement, but not a shattering one.

StarCraft II

I opened up the SC2 editor for the first time today. My first thought was, Wow, this looks like WC3. In contrast, I was not suddenly reminded of SC1 when I first opened the WC3 editor. Here’s a screenshot of the SC2 editor: (I recently got a new laptop, and hence the Windows 7 theme in the following pictures will look different from the Windows XP theme you saw in the preceding ones, as I have SC1 and WC3 on my old laptop, and SC2 on the new.)

SC2 Editor Terrain
SC2 Editor—Terrain (Click Image to Enlarge)

Remember those “Apply Height” icons I told you to remember a few screenshots back? Well, here they are again. It turns out the SC2 terrain editor is very similar to that of WC3. After all, WC3 already allowed beautiful 3D maps, and there wasn’t an incredible amount of room to improve upon.

Okay, now I never really cared too much about terrain in the first place. So naturally, my first instinct was to go to the Trigger Editor. You can imagine the surprise I felt when I saw this:

SC2 Editor Triggers
SC2 Editor—Triggers (Click Image to Enlarge)

Not only are the icons and interface the same, but so is the Event-Condition-Action schema! You’ll notice the “Local Variables” as well, but I assure you, from WC3 editing experience, that it is nothing new: Blizzard just made local variables a little more friendly to use. Now, this resemblance really says one thing: not that SC2’s editor isn’t powerful, but that WC3’s editor was so powerful that they had little to improve upon.

I don’t have this in the screenshots, but once you go to add events, conditions, or actions, the interface does change a little. Overall it is very easy to adapt to, from a WC3 perspective. I think it’s actually a little more user friendly: in WC3 you often had multiply nested fields in a trigger, and to modify a single one would require peeling away the layers, which would require several clicks; in SC2 this requires just one click no matter how many layers of nesting occur, because all the fields are written out. Of course, to more advanced WC3 mapmakers this is not a problem because of JASS scripting, but it is an improvement nonetheless.

What about the SC2 Object Editor? Here’s a screenshot:

SC2 Editor Data
SC2 Editor—Data (Click Image to Enlarge)

It’s actually called the Data editor in SC2. For consistency, I have screenshot the place where you change a unit’s hitpoints for each of the three editors, and you see quite a change on each one. Unlike the very familiar trigger editor, the Data editor does take a while to get used to. Its basics are, however, the same. The right-hand-side panel looks very similar between the WC3 and SC2 data editors (for now I’ll refer to both of them as data editors), and even the left-hand-side is not totally different. If anything, the WC3 data editor is more organized, by both type of data (unit, item, doodad, destructible, ability, upgrade) and within each type (units categorized by race and role); in SC2 all the data is there in one big list.

Alright, that’s my first look at the SC2 editor. I’m not incredibly impressed so far, but I do think it has great potential. After all, SC2 is still in beta, and there are two more expansions coming out. And from the experience of StarCraft: Brood War and WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne, expansions tend to make editors way better.

I’ll probably be messing around with the editor a bit in the upcoming days or weeks, if AP/IB tests allow. I’ll let you know if there’s anything bizarre.