Hey guys! Remember two years ago? Man that was such a crazy time. A lot has happened since then. Obama crushed McCain in the general election, the GOP decided to react like themselves, and angels descended upon us and we entered into the Fourth Age. And then more STUFF began to happen. And I know what the big question is: Derrick, why didn't you write anything about all this garbage? Well, it didn't help that Games Workshop decided to be a big dick to their customers… again. It just didn't feel right using Dawn of War 2 for anything, my game of choice. But that all became irrelevant once a… better option appeared. Let's do this.
Before we delve into the fun stuff, we need to understand how we got to this point. For me, voting for Obama was far more than voting for a series of campaign promises from a political party that had about as much excitement going for it as a big ol' bowl of plain oatmeal. It was voting for a change in process. It was a vote against all the bullshit. The jowly white guys on MSNBC and Fox yelling at each other. The brilliantly diabolical strategies of Karl Rove, which cynically exploited hot button issues for the simple purpose of dividing us into red and blue buckets. The idea that right and wrong were two sides of a coin, and one side would mean the entire republic would dissolve in an orgy of aborted fetuses marrying each other after entering the country illegally. It was the idea, that maybe, maybe maybe maybe, we could work together for just once and get shit done. But I, and many others, forgot to take into consideration one thing: people are stupid.
In any case, let's look the Bush II years as the reign of Starcraft. Like those 8 years, Starcraft dominated all. For people who aren't into gaming… Starcraft was like the… Lord of the Rings of Real Time Strategy (RTS) games (if not PC games in general). Every RTS game, and I'm serious, I mean every freaking one, is compared to it. The game is practically national bloodsport in South Korea. It was a major milestone in gaming. The plot has been repeated so many times, nearly all inferior (even by itself). Warcraft III was released a mere 5 years after it, and it blatantly stole game balance mechanics and even plot from it… and it was made by the same company. Blizzard itself could barely improve on the formula.
Yeah, Starcraft. Great game, but also bloody awful. The game's speed in online matches was so horrifically fast that it often seemed that the whole strategy aspect of the game was thrown out the window. Causal players were quickly forced out. "Micro" (short for "micromanagement") became the word of the era; being able to personally manage all that little stuff flying around at 100 mph became the difference between the elite players and schlubs like me who just wanted to see some terrans murder some zerg. And the forums… oh god the forums. The game frankly, became one of the most newbie-hostile games out there. And it only got worse as the years went by. A normal game for a casual gamer went like this:
1) Game starts
2) Mine some Ore
3) lose to a 2 minute rush.
4) Get called something homosexual in nature.
So does that sound familiar? Discourse limited to only a select few. Incredibly intimidating to new participants… and in many cases, were discouraged from playing period. A poisonous enviroment so toxic the general public lost interest? That's what the Bush years were like. Nasty rancid bipartisanship marked more by epic fights and one REALLY bad decision than any real progress. And since the "hardcore" controlled discourse, nothing ever changed. No adjustments were made to the game. Micro still ruled the day. The dreaded "Actions per Minute" stat ruled all (top Starcraft players usually were in the hundreds). And yet, we cannot deny that as awful as this was… it still defined everything that came after it. Everything we do, everything that we plan, every RTS game that comes out… for better or for worse, will be influenced in some way by this. It's probably due to 9/11. That's simply the reality that we live in. I need to stop before I make the horrific mistake of comparing Starcraft to 9/11.
But wait! Hope is not completely lost. A new era started to appear. New RTS game with new ways of doing things. Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander. Each one made direct strides AWAY from Actions per Minute, from micro-heavy strategy, from asinine liberal/conservative litmus tests. And they were pretty popular. Popular enough to generate some stirrings in the online crowd. This wave of strategy games emphasized getting things done IN THE FIELD OF BATTLE, rather than microing your build order back at base. These games rewarded new ways of playing, aggressive play that even newbies could appreciate. And they were embraced heavily; popular enough to spawn sequels and expansion packs for all.
So was this it? Was this the stirrings of change? Was the bullshit going to finally… FINALLY stop? As we've seen, definitely not. By the time you'll read this, Starcraft 2 will have been on store shelves for at least 6 hours. It will have sold enough to live in the top 5 games sold for 2010. It'll probably end up as one of the most well-reviewed and best-selling games of all time. It will outsell the ipad. The Democrats still have the amazing ability to shit all over themselves when they have every advantage. The GOP still is only interested in regaining power, refusing to even pretend to play nice. Same shit, different toilet.
The RTS genre has made incredible strides in technology and game mechanics since Starcraft was released in 1998. Starcraft 2 has reportedly been in development since 2003. And it has made ZERO innovations since then. The game has rejected cover systems, squad grouping, territory control, grand-macro organizing… all of it. You still have to manage 40 Lazy Peons gathering ore. You can lose a game in 5 minutes if you slip up your build order by a few seconds. The game still plays the same, albeit spit-shined to a beautiful polish. The online multiplayer suite is frankly, incredible. Matchmaking has never been smoother, or easier to find an equal-skilled opponent. I've actually wasted time watching broadcasts of SC2 replays on Youtube, it's never been easier to appreciate the skills that the high level players have (I recommend watching Day9's stuff… he's enthusiastic and knows the game). Man, that game looks sweet doesn't it?
This was meant to be a funny article, and it ended up a little weird. Sorry. Think of it as an intro. We started this off with an era of cynical bipartisanship and APM bullshit. We had a fleetingly short period of actual change. We're probably back to an era of cynical bipartisanship and APM bullshit. But there's beauty in the system. After all, the tastiest sausages are usually made in the most disgusting ways. It's really going to come down to how one plays… the delicate balance of macro and micromanagement. You need to balance the big picture strategy (when to expand, when to start the high level stuff, when to harass and with what, when to scout) with the little picture stuff (ordering your guys to attack this specific unit, targeting this area with a special power). The most valuable resource to an RTS player is his/her attention. How Obama manages his will be how we evaluate his presidency.
Next: How Nancy Pelosi's macro-management will kill us all.
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