It’s hour four. We’re all locked to our laptops and the occasional desktop, jury-rigged to a desk or just plugged in on the carpet. Big fire hazard, but we’ll manage. A couple people have headphones on, the rest relying on speakers on their various devices. Protoss workers “bweep” and Terran marines grunt, Zerg hydralisks spit at Protoss carrier ships. Starcraft play sessions like this—crammed into a room with all your friends, hopped up on cheap soda and candy—were pretty commonplace when I was first discovering videogames.
Despite coming out in 1998 and being relatively dated even when I discovered it, there wasn’t much that could compare to Starcraft. There was something about the elegant simplicity of its design, coupled with near-endless competitive matchup possibilities and a thriving online scene that meant that even when more modern games were floated as local multiplayer options, we would still choose Starcraft. Weird, low-resolution, bad-pathfinding Starcraft. It just was more fun. No other game could capture the feeling it gave you.
A little less than twenty years after its first release, Blizzard debuted Starcraft: Remastered, fundamentally the same game as the 1998 release but updated with new graphics and higher resolution support. It’s kind of a strange step for Blizzard, generally not known for rereleasing older titles, but feels appropriate given the relatively lukewarm response to Starcraft II by fans.
Starcraft II is not, by any means, a bad game. Released in three major chapters between 2010 and 2015, it greatly expanded on both the singleplayer and multiplayer aspects of the original, as well as ushered in a new era of professional Starcraft play. But among many fans, myself included, it just wasn’t the same.
There wasn’t the weird, lawless online scene in Starcraft II. The entire online mode had been streamlined, turned into a more competitive and easily-accessible interface, but lacking some of the charm of the original, goofy game-list model, filled with matchup names like “NF FASTEST BEST ZC” in multicolor characters. It was more modern, yes. But it lacked something. This, coupled with the gameplay changes (most notably the lack of certain familiar characters from the original game and its expansion Brood War) meant that many fans of the original found themselves wanting.
Perhaps that’s to be expected. No game’s sequel will ever perfectly capture the feeling of the original, especially the strong emotions coupled with it. Games are always affected by their contextual framing, including time and place. Starcraft was my first real addictive online competitive game. It practically taught me how to type, between feverishly sending smack-talk to enemies or tactical advice to teammates. No game is going to be able to replicate that.
And honestly, that’s okay. There will be some kids for whom Starcraft: Remastered will probably be that game. It’s still the same game on the inside, a well-honed three-faction matchup with strengths and weaknesses for each team. Who knows, maybe someone will even hack up a new fastest map variant, complete with absolutely broken pathfinding and resources located directly next to your starting base. I’d play it.
Dante Douglas is a writer, poet and game developer. You can find him on Twitter at @videodante.