XBLA’s Most Wanted: StarCraft
The real-time strategy genre is a category that has always eluded consoles. Every once in a while a developer will try to make an RTS game work with a controller. From time to time, it does work. Halo Wars for the Xbox 360 and Pikmin for the GameCube come to mind. But for some reason, real-time strategy games just haven’t been refined enough on consoles and the genre hasn’t taken off. Barriers such as the transition from mouse and keyboard to controller are often cited as the reason why.
Blizzard Entertainment is one of the few developers in the world, who never misses a beat. Every single thing they release is pure gold. They take care of their franchises, and they take their time to make sure that they release the best games possible. That is why I’m calling on Blizzard to be the ones to finally break open the real-time strategy market for consoles, by releasing the original StarCraft on Xbox Live Arcade.
What should change:
StarCraft in HD – A large portion of gamers played StarCraft competitively for twelve years. Don’t ignore StarCraft simply because it was released in 1998 and doesn’t look all bright and shiny. Like every other Blizzard game, StarCraft has a great art style that gives the game a timeless charm, despite some rough edges. If StarCraft were to be released for XBLA, Blizzard should update the visuals here and there and apply a slick new layer of high-definition paint.
Brood War – After its release, StarCraft technically received several expansion packs but Brood War is the only expansion that Blizzard helped develop and officially recognizes. Brood War picks up right where StarCraft left off, and follows the characters that you become vested in during the original StarCraft. Brood War also added several new units for each playable race in the game, and made gameplay tweaks that were met with positive response from fans. Brood War was included in the oft-forgotten Nintendo 64 version of StarCraft so it only makes sense that it also get included in a potential XBLA release.
Controls – Many believe that the barrier holding real-time strategy games back on consoles, is the controller itself. On PC, gamers are able to select units, give them orders, and jump across the map at very high speeds. Real-time strategy games require multiple levels of management as you balance collecting resources, defending your base, exploring, and taking the fight to your enemy. Thus far, developers have had trouble granting that kind of control to players with a controller. Let’s be honest, to be good at a game like StarCraft, you need to be able to think and act quickly. Somehow, Blizzard needs to find a way to give gamers on consoles that same level of oversight and control on consoles. There was once a time when it was thought first-person shooters would never work on consoles. Today, consoles essentially own the first-person shooter market. The talented folks at Blizzard can find a way to make real-time strategy work on the Xbox 360. They just need to set their minds to it. A small project such as bringing the original StarCraft to XBLA, is the perfect way to get the ball rolling.
What should stay the same:
Expansive universe – Blizzard has some of the deepest, most enthralling franchises in gaming, period. When Blizzard creates a universe, they really take care of it. For our readers out there who haven’t had the opportunity of playing through StarCraft’s campaign and getting acquainted with the characters, races, and universe this would be your chance. Xbox Live Arcade is the perfect tool for developers to introduce gamers to their universe. If Blizzard brings StarCraft to XBLA, they have the chance to expose millions of new gamers to an incredible franchise. There’s a great story being told here, and it’s well worth any gamer’s time.
Competition – StarCraft is one of the world’s most popular “E-sports”. Since its launch in 1998, players from around the world have prided themselves in competing against each other in StarCraft. Tournaments are held all around the world, with prizes of millions of dollars up for grabs. All you have to do is prove that you’re the best StarCraft player in the world! If StarCraft were to come to XBLA, Blizzard should definitely put some time and effort into creating a solid infrastructure for the XBLA community to compete against each other. Leaderboards, and ladders are only just the beginning. People take StarCraft very seriously and there is definitely room for expansion of the competitive side of XBLA that Blizzard could take advantage of.
Balance – Because StarCraft is one of the most competitive games in the world, it is absolutely critical that Blizzard balances the game correctly. One overbalanced unit, or tactic they didn’t plan for and millions of gamers from San Diego to South Korea will be screaming at the top of their lungs. Luckily for us, Blizzard has had thirteen years to find the perfect gameplay balance for the original StarCraft. Were Blizzard to bring StarCraft to XBLA, they already have the right gameplay balance laid out that should please the community. The balance of the game is something that definitely should not be toyed with.
Why it would succeed:
StarCraft is a classic game in a very under represented genre on the Xbox Live Arcade. Not only would it be worth playing for Xbox 360 owners, but the potential for future progress in the console RTS market is just too great to ignore. If there is any developer that can finally nail real-time strategy on a console, it’s Blizzard. If Blizzard were to release StarCraft on XBLA, they could potentially follow up with a full blown retail release of StarCraft II for consoles. It would also break open the door for their uber popular WarCraft series, and so many other classic RTS franchises that haven’t yet tapped the console market. Xbox Live Arcade is the perfect place for developers to introduce their universe to a new audience. If Blizzard can perfect the RTS on consoles by putting out StarCraft on XBLA, new fans will come rushing to the series like zerg out of the hive. Bringing StarCraft to Xbox Live Arcade could be a game changer. There’s not many thirteen year old games that have that sort of potential, but StarCraft is certainly one of them.