I was born in 1985 and I was 13 when Starcraft 1 came out in 1998. I got a copy right after BW was released and played both of the campaigns with joy. I slowly started to play with others and I quickly became the best Starcraft player that I knew of in my tight circle of few friends. I realized later that I was not great at all, just better then them.
When I got older and started to study maths at university. I also found ICCUP and got some serious improvement. I made C- twice and was quite happy with that. This was also around the time SC2 came out. I was very hyped up for it but after playing it some I found that I enjoyed the goofy 3v3's and 4v4's (as well as doing funday Monday challenges) much more than the competitive 1v1 gameplay. I felt that BW had something that SC2 missed. Don't get me wrong. I did NOT miss having to send every single worker to mine minerals. Nor did I miss having to click every single building to macro, but there was still something that I felt BW had that SC2 lacked, but I had a hard time putting my finger on it.
I want to note that along side everything that happened later on I had 3 children, finished my master's degree and got a full-time job as a high school teacher. So I would gradually have less and less time off to work on Starbow.
I think I still remember actually finding Starbow. There was a thread on tl.net which analyzed the pathing of BW vs the pathing of SC2. It used Starbow as an example of an alternate pathing possible in the SC2 engine. At this time, however, Starbow's pathing was not that different from SC2's pathing. More on that later. I found the (now ancient) original Starbow development thread on the "custom maps" section (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/sc2-maps/304955-starbow First post looks a lot different now than it did then) and quickly tried out the mod. I fell in love. I felt it was much closer to what I wanted SC2 to be. I quickly started playing it more, leaving regular SC2 aside completely and participated frequently in the development discussions.
Tournaments and PR
"Kabel" is the original creator of Starbow. He is brilliant, but he's not that keen on handling much else than the actual development. I wanted the mod to grow badly. We had about 20 people who were interested in playing at very different skill levels so it was difficult to find games and try out different strategies. I tried to organize a couple of very low-key tournaments with little to no prize pool and learned quite a lot from that. I also wanted to play in Starbow tournaments and played in the first I organized, realizing later that that was probably not the right thing to do.
I became known with another player named "decemeberscalm" at this time, although I cannot pinpoint exactly when it happened. He, like Kabel was more interested in game design than becoming a great gamer and we played a lot and became good friends. He would later learn the SC2 editor better than almost anyone else I know. It was around this time that Totalbuisciut dropped a message in our dev forum that he liked the mod and wanted to do something with it. We were super hyped, but did not really know what to expect.
TB hype and Kabel's retirement
On January 10th 2014, Totalbiscuit uploaded a youtube video of two axiom Sc2 players playing Starbow vs each other. It changed my life forever and sent me down a path I was not ready for. This happened to be in the HotS stale meta where most SC2 players wanted something new and fresh. Kabel did not have time to handle all the request he got and ask if I could be the "PR guy" of Starbow. Me, wanting nothing more than to spread the mod far and wide, quickly accepted and overnight, I was skype contact with people from twitch, Razer, ESL and other e-sport organizers. I later got Tasteless, Artosis, Day9, Husky, Destiny, People from blizzard and TotalBiscuit on the list. I was a bit overwhelmed.
We quickly discovered that the Starbow chat in-game that we had been using could only hold 50 (or 100, don't remember) people and we needed to make a group and a second chat. Reddit exploded and many wanted Starbow to be more than it actually was.
It's important to remember that we were not ready for this AT ALL. The mod was far from complete, we did not have any social platform in which to communicate effectively with the players, and nothing close of a ladder system to find opponents. We were incredibly hyped and happy of what had happened, but with had an enormous task ahead of us. At the same time, Kabel had been contemplating on leaving Starbow development. He LOVED trying out general concepts and ideas, but he was not that keen on balancing specific units and polishing games. Suddenly we could not make any huge changes and balance became #1 priority as many of the units in the game were not balanced well at all.
Kabel left the mod shortly after the hype began and I proposed that we made a small dev group of about 4-5 seasoned and passionate Starbow players. The first group consisted of myself, Decemberscalm, SolidSMD, Kalevi and Franscar. At the same time, some person I don't remember the name of made a Starbow ladder I think was called "Starbow Arena". At this point I had already planned to get a group together to make "Starbowmod.com" which was suppose to be a community hub with an integrated ladder system. I remember feeling offended that someone made a Starbow ladder without talking to us first. We quickly asked him to shut it down as we were making a ladder ourselves and it's something I regret to this day. We should have just collaborated with him as he was able to do something in 1-2 weeks that took us almost 2 months.
ESL contacted us and wanted to implement Starbow into a new site they were working on. We considered their offer but ended up deciding to make it community based and not company based. Looking back, that was 100% the correct decision as ESL would probably have backed out as soon as the hyped down, while we managed to keep the community alive for several following years.
I had asked on reddit if any programmers wanted to help make starbowmod.com. I had NEVER made a website in my life and I knew very little programming. Many showed interest in helping us and I thought "the more the merrier" without thinking about the differences of programming languages and the complexity of getting them all to collaborate. Luckily, some joined and told me how we should proceed and I was able to organize them hierarchically. I should have, in hindsight, only gotten 2-3 people who knew the same languages and were very passionate with different areas of expertise.
At the same time, several content creators were making Starbow content and Razer had a small tournament. ESL was running weekly tournaments and there were even Starbow showmatches on the "Ender's game" event. We talked to twitch and Razer and were able to get $1000 for a prize pool for a larger event. The Starbow Beta Invitational: Starbow Beta Invitational Tournament
We wanted to gather Starbow content on our Starbow stream: https://www.twitch.tv/sc2_starbow (since I was not doing anything else...). We were trying to get Totalbiscuit to co-cast with me and decemberscalm. Unfortunately he could only cast some of the final matches. I was looking forward to casting with him, but one of my kids got sick and was crying a lot (I was streaming from my PC). I had to mute my mic and just be the observer as dec and totalbuiscut casted the event. That's the first and last time we had money from a company to sponsor a Starbow event. We've had many since with varying prize pools, but that has all been from fan's donations.
Around the same time we got in contact with someone from the Artillery gaming company. We had no idea what it was at the time. We quickly learned that day9 was involved and working on a game with them. This is the game "Atlas" that was never completed. They were all very impressed with Starbow and wanted a meeting with all the current developers + Kabel. We gladly had a skype meeting with all of them and shared what we felt we had learned. They actually almost hired Kabel to their team after that meeting. Day9 said back then that he wanted to do some dailies on Starbow although it took quite some time before it actually happened. But he did deliver. Twice. Many Starbow players became alpha testers for Atlas, myself included although I had little time to play it.
After the initial hype
The hype was dying down and fewer were playing the game. But we had gathered a core of passionate players who found it for the initial hype which helped the game development move along much faster than it had before Jan 2014. We had regular tournaments driven by passionate community members and we were feeling ready to push the mod out of beta.
Artosis and Tasteless started streaming and playing the mod a lot. This was a tad controversial because they had basically never played SC2 on stream before so many accused them of only finding passion in Starbow and not in SC2. I hooked up with them on skype and Artosis and I planned to get some showmatches going on his stream. Sadly, the game was still quite imbalanced and many of the matches were bad because of some units being OP. They also talked of trying to get a Starbow event on GomTV, but that sadly never happened.
Day9 published his daily at this time, naming it appropriately for Starbow pushing out of beta. Our ladder system had been improved from an external program you had to download to a website integrated system. We experienced a new boom of players joining us. For 4-5 weeks we had over 2000 games played per week and we foolishly thought that Starbow was going to stay stable and slowly grow. But sadly, the players left after 5 weeks or so and we were down to the small core again.
The development group had changed over time as well, and it ended up with myself, Doa(ZzZ), Kireak and Kalevi. We kept on working on the mod although few were playing. We had many ideas we wanted to try out which were risky to do while many were playing it as it might scare people away. This kept on for a long time, always with the hope that there would be a small comeback. We had some periods with some coming back, but nothing too noteworthy.
The game is now in actually quite a good state, but we don't really have any players. I wish it was this good when the initial hype came about, but it would probably not be this good without it. Chicken and egg I suppose.
I've learned a lot of things about BW, SC2, RTS games in general, how to work with other organizations, how to bring passionate people together and I've made quite a lot of mistakes as well which I hope I've learned from. I want to post a longer rant about all I have learned as well some more in-depth about the development of the mod itself, but this is more than long enough for now.
I cannot tell this this story without mention a bunch of people who have helped tremendously along the way. So here they are in no particular order. I'm probably forgetting many who deserves mentioned.
Kalevi, Vehk, Finn, ArticHydra, SoaH, Veritas, Ahli, Franscar, HideR, Dirtybag, SolidSMD, ZzZ, Kireak, Theredbandit, Fatal, Danko, Decemberscalm, HirO, BorN.