I first saw the game at a friend's place. This was shortly after its retail release, so it was brand spanking new. I watched my friend play for a while with that insufferable smile on his face, moving his units back and forth and building some fortifications. I heard the sounds of combat and the omnipresent vocalization of every issued order. I didn't get to actually play the game, however, because my friend was notorious for never letting anyone else play his games, ever.
But that didn't really bother me in this case. My first impression was that it looked okay. Kinda sterile environments, pretty standard game-play, and all that in some space marines type setting. Really? Yeah, Command & Conquer was better, and always would be.
Enter my other friend and neighbor, Affair, who dropped by one day with a burned copy of Starcraft/Brood War. He'd just acquired the game himself from a friend he had seen play it, so he brought it over along with a spare CD key.
We played, and it was good. I had to admit that I'd been wrong about the game - its multiplayer was a lot of fun. Soon enough we were frequenting Battle.net, happily playing money maps. Big Game Hunters was a perennial favorite, Alcatraz another. My glory moment - one that I still remember to this day - was building 583,000 cannons, then warping 6,830 Carriers into the back of my opponent's base to end a three-year $$$ FASTEST MAP $$$ NO RUSH game. Those were good days.
Some time later, I was browsing the internet for StarCraft stuff, as I wanted to get better. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but what I found was astounding.
I discovered a world wherein people took this game very seriously, where people played competitively in leagues all over the world. A particular moment of insight that I clearly remember came while I was browsing what I believe was SCLegacy's strategy section. There, I realized that efficient economy, not money maps, was at the core of its strategical repository. It instantly made a kind of sense.
I read up on build orders (many of which are hilarious now), on strategy and tactics, and I started looking more closely at famous names in the community with growing anticipation. Hell, we had a hero right here in Norway! It was exciting, and most of the first day went by just catching up on this new world of gaming.
I was psyched as all hell to tell my friend, and I was itching to try out this whole new side of the game. As it turns out, he had also discovered the professional scene on the exact same day, which deflated my mentor status somewhat. We met, we conversed with enthusiasm, we exchanged replays. So it began.
Over the coming months, when we didn't play, we watched pro replays. I discovered Garimto, and a few more who would fade away, but for the most part I marveled at AMD_Grrrr...'s Protoss prowess. The best player in the world was a Protoss! Obviously, I'd chosen the badass race! And I had someone I could really get behind and cheer for! My friend's race, the Terrans, were struggling!
Then Boxer came along.
Well, I'm embarrassed to say that it took me longer than it did my friend to see Boxer's unbridled genius, but at the end of the day, Boxer was an innovator and a winner. My friend, I had to concede, had the better hero, and the reign of Protoss was, sadly, at an end. AT LEAST UNTIL REACH, COCKSUCKERS, YEAH NOW WHAT YOU LITTLE
So, yes, there were ups and downs for a Protoss fan. But I always enjoyed the game and the competition, and I was always paying attention to what Protoss players were doing if nothing else, cheering them on in their eternal struggle. It was bias at its finest, but I was good at it. After all, I was the Protoss player saying that Zerg required less skill because they just built lots of units and attacked.
Definitely not pictured: 1a2a3a
I didn't have front row seats to StarCraft's ridiculous rise in popularity like many of you did, but I was watching from the sidelines, taking in events some times weeks or months after they had occurred.
My first StarCraft hero was understandably Guillaume Patry. I remember his win against H.O.T.-Forever in the 2000 OnGameNet StarLeague as being huge. My friend discovered Slayer, and we both thought it was badass that a Norwegian kid had gone to Korea and beaten the likes of IntoTheRain and I.Love_Star in a tournament that also had TheMarine and the famous Canadian. Later, SlayerS_`BoxeR` would cause brief name confusion.
Time passed. I had affairs with Garimto and Reach, and perhaps one more, but it was Nal_rA who stole my heart away. He was the Boxer of the Protoss race, the humble innovator and the wild entertainer. He pioneered more Protoss builds than anyone else in history, and with ridiculous shit like this, how could he be anything but awesome?
While the Koreans were evolving into meta-humans, however, the international scene dwindled, and an era of sorts ended when people packed it in, said their final ggs, and disappeared.
Looking back, I never really knew or appreciated what we had back then. The game was so popular that everyone played it. There were dozens of active players in my home town, which was surprising considering only twelve people lived there. Hyperbole aside, I can honestly say that Norway's StarCraft community was awesome. There's been nothing like it since.
I have no segue into the next paragraph, so here are some kittens.
My interest in the game has waxed and waned numerous times over the years. Lately, StarCraft 2 has been overshadowed by the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer and had to have surgery. The prognosis is very good, but the effects of surgery and stress has left me feeling drained and not up to playing anything more demanding than Transport Tycoon. I admit, it's probably why this post, initially intended simply as a response to zeratultassadar's How did you find out about StarCraft? thread, slowly became an outlet for reminiscence and retrospective, growing so large that I had no choice but to blog it with my humblest apologies to zt.
As for StarCraft 2 and its current beta, I might pick it up when I finish treatment, although by then everyone I play against will probably violate me.
C'est la vie.
In the end, StarCraft is the one game I return to, and it remains the greatest and most spectacular exhibition of skill in the gaming world. I have three legitimate copies of the game, and one additional CD key. I have thousands of replays and VODs, including some rare stuff as well as some general awesomeness from the populace of Brood War NOR-1 from back in the day when the channel was frequented by the likes of Drone, Nazgul, Heat, etc., and my friend and I would observe and record games. I have a folder shrine to Nal_rA. In short, I have gigabytes of gameplay footage organized meticulously on my hard drive, with redundant backups on DVDs, because I'll be damned if I lose everything I've collected over the years. I still suck at StarCraft, and I still love StarCraft, even when I don't play it.
Quite a leap for the game I thought looked inferior to COMMAND & CONQUER.