Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Dreams

I recently read an article written by a friend of mine about his adulation, joy and love for the Duke Nukem franchise and the finally-being-released-after-a-14-year-delay Duke Nukem Forever. He talks about the hope, the knowing, the faith that Forever was always going to come, no matter how many delays or how much mud the name was dragged through.
Even after 3D Realms - the Apogee company responsible for Duke - closed down, he held fast and it was picked up by Borderlands' Gearbox. And now, after all these years - more than half his life - the game is being released and he has joyfully played the demo after all that waiting.

Despite having never really talked about it before, that is exactly - exactly - how I felt about Starcraft 2.

Starcraft was one of those games that defined my childhood. Besides some fairly unknown games like Gizmos and Gadgets, Treasure Mountain, Operation: Neptune and some more known games like the Worms franchise, Fury 3 and Myst, Starcraft was the game I played with my brother every week; the game I had LAN parties, inviting a dozen friends over to play; the game I loved but (if I'm to be honest) was never very good at. But I didn't care. It was so much fun.
This was, of course, back when a game's story mattered a lot. Sure, the graphics may be a little dated now, but still amazing for its time, but damn was that story engaging with characters I loved. I still remember how I felt when Sarah Kerrigan got merged with the Zerg. I to this day regret the death of Fenix and his subsequent rebirthed Dragoon form. I still identify with James "Jim" Raynor. And, at the end of Starcraft's amazing expansion pack Brood War, I knew that Starcraft 2 was coming. I knew it. I felt it.

I liked to dream that it was coming just around the corner, and we'd finally meet the Xel'naga, the ancient race in the Starcraft universe. I finished Brood War in 1998. And then I waited and I waited.

There was no word that there would ever be a Starcraft 2, but I knew. There had to be. They wouldn't leave the story like that, begging to be finished, begging to be continued, heard, seen. Internet and PC Magazine rumours abounded about this game. "It's coming!" They cried. "Just you wait!"
There was fan-made art and all sorts of things to keep our hopes up that the game was coming. It became a joke amongst my family and friends. The game was coming, we knew, but it also wasn't. It gave us something to look forward to. Something to want.

Then there was Blizzard's biggest game delay mess-up. If you know Blizzard, you know I'm talking about Starcraft: Ghost. The game was going to be a third-person shooter-style game, sort of like a Splinter Cell in the Starcraft universe. We would finally see the inside of the battleships, see the Zerg up close, see what every character really looked like and how they lived. It would have been like what World of Warcraft did to the Warcraft universe - you can see it, experience it, be in it.

Delay after delay after delay. The came never came. There were press releases and exhibitions, "It's coming," they said. "It is. We promise."
And it didn't.
Then, disaster struck. Blizzard changed development companies over some dispute or another and all of the work that had been done - pretty much the entire game mind you - was deleted, erased and made as if to start over. They never did. The game development never recovered and Ghost was dust in the wind.

A light, though, a light came through. It happened in May, 2007. We got it. Released at E3 and then on the word-spreading web, we got the first teaser for Starcraft 2. It was simple. A man - a criminal - being unleashed from his chains and bolted tight into the overwhelmingly large suit of marine armour.
"Hell," he said, a smirk and a cigar. "It's about time."

Yes. Yes it was.

From then on, art and gameplay trailers came and finally, on the 27th of July, 2010, we got it. We were given Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. And we loved it. Sure, there were problems - lots of them. No LAN capabilities, only online play, regioned multiplayer, but hot damn, we had something. The story continued and it was glorious.

To be released in 3, 40-hour gameplay installments, starting with our future selves, the Terrans, the game promised to be an epic of immense proportions. In between missions you got to explore the battlecruiser on which Jim Rayner took residence. You saw the models, moving and speaking, of these characters, not just small talking faces in a war-room or short cut-scenes - these were people, damnit!

It finally came. And now, we wait on part 2. And part 3.

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