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A falling Star(craft)

posted on March 30th, 2006 by christian

So it seems that Starcraft: Ghost, has been put on "indefinite hold"(meaning "canceled") after four years in development. An interesting turn of events to be sure, but what is even more intriguing is the community’s reaction, or should I say un-reaction to the news. I expected message boards to light up with threads and comments, but instead it seems that very few gamers are troubled by the loss. I gave it some thought, and I came to a few conclusions that might explain why no one cares (or has ever cared) about Ghost.

Don't get your hand stuck
The bulk of the multiple developer’s time went into modeling the perfect ass checks.

1 – *Blizzard Fans are like Enix fans*

And by saying this I mean no insult. It is simply that Blizzard’s fan community is much like Enix’s in Japan; they are used to certain kinds of games with certain kinds of features from their favorite developer, and anything outside of that realm may not be greeted kindly. Blizzard has made their name producing Strategy games and RPG’s, and it is what fans have come to expect from them. A Stealth/action game like Starcraft: Ghost is about as far away from the typical Blizzard game as can be, so it should be no surprise that most fans have shown a lack of enthusiasm.

2 – *The masses don’t care either*

There was a time, right around Ghost’s announcement, when stealth games were all the rage. The success of titles like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Splinter Cell gave rise to a slew of wannabes (and even games from other genres) that tried to cash in on the demand for stealth gameplay. If Ghost were actually released around that time, it might have generated some buzz among the casual gaming crowd that was hooked on the stealth craze. Fast forward to 2006 and we see that the craze has pretty much died down, and the stealth genre has been left to the heavy hitters. These days a game like Ghost wouldn’t draw the casual crowd’s attention like it could have a few years ago. The fact that the game changed developers, along with the rumors that recent builds have focused much more on action than stealth, may indicate that Blizzard may have finally realized that they were trying to cash in on a fad. Too bad they weren’t able to realize that from the very beginning.

3 – *Starcraft fans are not Warcraft fans*

Another important aspect of Ghost was that it would finally allow people to explore the world of Starcraft in full 3d. Blizzard must have thought that people would jump for this concept in the same way that many gamers were anticipating World of Warcraft’s representation of Azeroth. It seems that Blizzard forgot their own words of wisdom pertaining to Starcraft: It isn’t Warcraft in space.

I don’t think people are playing WoW just because it is a solid MMORPG. They’re also playing because Warcraft 3 gave them a reason to. WC3 changed the series forever, by introducing an even richer lore, an RPG like hero system, and a beautiful vision of what Azeroth could look like in 3d. This set the stage perfectly for a game like WoW, and also attracted many non-strategy gamers to the Warcraft series.

Starcraft is in a much different situation. It has no equivalent to Warcraft 3. It is like trying to make a WoW out of material from Warcraft 2. With Ghost, the developers are trying to make 3d environments based on a 2d game where five different areas of a planet can have the same looking map and the closest thing to 3d renders are a handful of cutscenes. This isn’t exactly an easy task. A game like Ghost has its place somewhere down the line, but not until something else comes along to better flesh out the Starcraft universe and establish what SC should look like in 3d. They need to make Starcraft 2 first.

Crates, too
If that barrel explodes, this game would have pushed the boundaries of what we know to be digital entertainment.

Furthermore, Starcraft fans are not like current Warcraft fans. They aren’t playing the game for the story (though many would like to see its conclusion), they aren’t playing for "phat loot", and they aren’t playing to enjoy a nice fantasy setting. The reason that people still play Starcraft, why it is broadcasted on Korean television, why you can still find it in game stores, is because it is a damn fine strategy game. And fans are going to keep playing it until a damn finer strategy game comes around, namely Starcraft 2. Build it, and they will come…

4 – *Blizzard is special*

I’m serious with this one. Blizzard is part of a very elite group of game makers that can be PC exclusive and still make money hand over fist. The incredible success of WoW is perhaps the ultimate proof of this. So why then did they feel so inclined to return to the world of consoles? It isn’t like they are low on cash, and releasing a game that you commissioned to another developer is a risky way to re-enter the market. If you ask me, a much safer bet would be to focus efforts on another high-budget, big profile game that is guaranteed to sell millions. Something like, I dunno, *Starcraft 2*!!

So there you have it. Starcraft: Ghost was destined to fail because in the end no one really wanted it (I’m not even sure if Blizzard wanted it). One day there will be a time for something like it to come out, but it is not now. Whatever financial losses Blizzard may have incurred from the development of Ghost are probably minor (considering how much WoW is raking in), but I hope they learned an important lesson from all of this. Know your weaknesses, play your strengths, and listen to the past. If Blizzard is going to do anything with the Starcraft license, it needs to involve mouse clicks and Zerg rushes.

10 Comments

  1. Golden Jew said on March 31, 2006:

    Excellent analysis of the utter apathy towards this game. Having been to E3 several years in a row, and watch SC:Ghost change, one of the common themes was that no one cares. I actually overheard someone at the Blizzard booth last year utter in disgust about how there was Ghost, but no WoW expansion. Back to the basics Blizzard. Good thing you have your WoW fortune to prop you up.

  2. Billy said on March 31, 2006:

    I find it hard to explain why I dont give a rats left nut about this game being cancelled… odd I am a pretty big Blizzard fan. I guess I will just assimilate the data of the article and use it as my reasoning.

  3. Stefan said on March 31, 2006:

    I was never really that excited about this either…but now that I’m thinking about it facing a zergling rush from a first-person perspective would be pretty cool.

    Until you died, I suppose.

  4. Dan said on April 1, 2006:

    Every second I knew blizzard wwas developing ghost, I knew the sequel to arguably the greatest RTS game of all time was being left in the dark. Needless to say, (and therefore, I am going to say it anyways) the failure of ghost makes me extremely happy.

  5. Cyril @ Defunct Games said on April 5, 2006:

    I did a full interview with Blizzard at last year’s E3 and from my talk with them it seemed like they were really excited about the project. The person I talked to seemed extremely eager to discuss even the smallest elements of the game … which really surprised me. This is not the case with a lot of E3 interviews, since most of them have been asked the same five questions a thousand times already. But Blizzard was really excited, and I couldn’t help but be excited for them. I too saw how it grew and changed, considering all the work that went into it (several years worth) I am a little sad that it may not come out after all. I assume they cancelled it because it didn’t quite live up to their standard, but the ideas were good and it seemed like a good way to get people interested in StarCraft again. Hopefully this year they’ll just go all the way and announce a real StarCraft sequel.

  6. Fil said on April 27, 2006:

    Two words: WarCraft Adventures.

  7. Dan said on April 28, 2006:

    ha ha, I remember wanting to play that game really bad. In retrospect, maybe my desire for WarCraft Adventures wasn’t such a good idea.

  8. Force Reaver. said on August 16, 2006:

    OK first of all your facts are way off base. I play just about every damn game that blizzard cranks out simply because blizzard doesn’t make shitty games. When you think about it every game that blizzard has ever made has become a top million seller. I am also one of the biggest star craft fans ever, and let me tell you we all cared that the game got canceled "or at least the hardest of the hardcore,". I know about fifty teens at my high school who were waiting half their lives for this game. The problem was that so little information was revealed about it that Hardley anyone found out that it got canceled. In fact there are probably people still out there who think the game is going to be made. Third, they don’t need a star craft 2 to come out with ghost. It doesn’t matter how dull the game may be texture wise, its the characters and the shapes and the art that is found in the strategy and instruction books that it was being based off of. 4th, the plot for a stealth action game would be perfect especially in first person. The ghost is one of the most over looked units in SC and with the ability to cloak itself and carry a long range gausse sniper rifel who wouldnt want to get behind the shoes of one of those. Not to mention being able to see a Zerg Ultra-lisk baring down upon you or taking on a protoss zealot squad in hand to hand combat, or being able to see a seige tank up close. 5th, unless you have WoW chances are you have a shitty computer. Thats why I play diablo, starcraft and warcraft 3. Simply because they are great games that run on my old computer, this goes the same with other fans. The chance that this game would be realeased on home consoles would make our lives so much easier simply because most of us already have and x-box or a ps2. The real reason I beleive it got pulled back was so that it could be re-desighned for the ps3 and sutch. 6th, how dare you tell us blizzard fans what we are and what we are not!!!!

  9. Christian said on August 17, 2006:

    I’m sorry you were looking forward to the game, but I think both of us are guilty of cirss crossing opinion with fact. Though in the overall gaming scene, I didn’t see it get that much attention after it started to fall into development limbo.

    Also, while Blizzard themselves are skilled at storytelling, this game was given to another developer. There’s a strong chance it wouldn’t have been as good, and it seems unlikely that it would resolve Starcraft’s plot.

    I also can’t believe that Starcraft fans wouldn’t want a proper sequel. Yes, the original is still fun, and it runs on just about any PC, but keep in mind that Warcraft3 wasn’t overly demanding when it came out, and I doubt SC2 would either. Personally, I’d rather see another finely balanced strategy game than a trendy stealth game.

  10. mark said on May 23, 2007:

    Starcraft 2 is announced!!

    We’ve got a great starcraft 2 community building up at http://www.starcraft2forum.org

    If anyone wants to come and talk about this great game, please do so! It’s probably the most anticipated game of all time, I mean, we only had to wait 10 years!

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