Before Starcraft, before Diablo, there was Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Warcraft II. No, not World of Warcraft. Just Warcraft, the game of strategy.
I first heard the name Blizzard in the mid '90s. I was not a big PC gamer at the time. Most of my gaming time was devoted to Nintendo consoles. However, a little game had come out for PC called Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. It was made by a developer I had never heard of before, who went by the name of Blizzard Entertainment. I heard about this game not because of the internet, which barely existed at the time. Nor did I hear about this game because of gaming magazines, since I didn't subscribe to any and read them only on occasion. I heard about this game because I had a younger brother who absolutely would not stop talking about it. He was what you would call obsessed.
It Was 20 Years Ago Today...
To this day, I'm not sure how he first encountered Warcraft II, but wherever it happened, however it happened, it left a massive impression on him. He eventually got his hands on a Shareware version of the game (a '90s term for "demo") and played it constantly. When he wasn't playing it, he was telling me about it; every nuance and detail about the game, literally following me around the house talking to me about it. This was my introduction to Blizzard. Being a gamer myself, naturally I was curious as to what had my 12-year-old brother so fired up. So I would sit down with him and watch him play.
Realtime strategy was a new genre for me, and I didn't understand most of what was going on at first, but he explained a lot of what he was doing. Eventually, I tried the game myself, and was soon hooked. The game was really good. The feeling of building a town, an army, and a navy to defend that town, and then demolishing an enemy orc town with your army and navy was very satisfying.
Warcraft II: My Introduction To RAM Tinkering
There was only one problem: We couldn’t play the full version of the game. Our computer was a 386 Packard Bell. Warcraft II required a hefty 16 megabytes of RAM, and our computer only had eight (don’t laugh, this was the mid-'90s, after all). A bummer, but that didn't stop my brother. He saved up what little money he had for some extra RAM, bought it, and even installed it himself. Not bad for a pre-teen.
I remember sitting with him in the computer room as he cracked open the family computer, ready to perform what we thought was major surgery. Installing a stick of RAM and moving some jumpers around is nothing major, but we didn't know that at the time. This was a big deal. It felt like the scene in A Christmas Story, where Ralphie is decoding the Little Orphan Annie secret message. Nerves were high, the implications of success or failure, massive. He didn’t want to do something wrong and break the family computer that cost hundreds of dollars.
I was by his side as his assistant, not doing much other than offering moral support. After opening the computer, the RAM easily snapped into place. Jumpers were adjusted to their appropriate place, quick and easy, more so than I expected. He closed the computer up and booted up his newly bought full version of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. We stared at the monitor, holding our breath, waiting for the opening cutscene to materialize.
Oh, Yeah. Time To Wage War Again
A few weeks ago, I decided to dust off my copy of Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne expansion, since I never beat the expansion when it was first released. I've been impressed at how pitch-perfect the gameplay still is. The graphics look dated, but I can't think of one complaint or gripe about the gameplay, or anything about it that feels dated by today's standards. Warcraft III still feels incredibly polished. Blizzard could go back, redo the graphics while leaving everything else intact, and it would get a sale from me.
Generally speaking, most of Blizzard’s games have aged very well. In fact, its longevity is unmatched by almost any other developer. Even the mighty Nintendo, who coined the phrase “evergreen titles” when referring to its DS and Wii games remaining popular and on store shelves for long periods of time, would have a hard time matching Blizzard's longevity. Blizzard seems to have set the bar in this category, and that bar is pretty high. Whereas most games are lucky to occupy retail shelf space a year after their release, Blizzard games sit on retail shelves for several years following their release. Starcraft and Diablo II were on store shelves for around 10 years after they came out. By industry standards, that's unheard of.
Games That Are Still Revered
Diablo II and its Lord of Destruction expansion are still revered in the PC gaming community. So much so that Blizzard recently released a patch to the 16-year-old game, with a promise that patches to more of its older titles are on the way. A few days later, we got a patch to Warcraft III that enables it to run on newer PC operating systems. No other developer I’m aware of does this for their games, years after release. Warcraft III now runs on my Windows 10 laptop without a glitch.
The same has been true for the original Starcraft, which was on retail shelves for a ridiculous amount of time. Blizzard is now rumored to be working on a remastered version of its seminal strategy game, and being a Blizzard fan for more than 20 years now, I’m thrilled that the company is showing a pattern of supporting their old games. A remastered or remade Starcraft would be a big deal, especially in South Korea where the series is a national obsession.
Do You Remember Your First Time?
World of Warcraft has been Blizzard's ultimate cash cow, and while I celebrate its success, I do think it's time to remind gamers who grew up with the series — and gamers who are too young to remember — where the Warcraft series has its roots. I know they've been busy getting the Starcraft 2 expansions out the door and releasing Overwatch, but it's time for the brains at Blizzard to make Warcraft IV. It's been long enough. I understand the Starcraft series is the favored Blizzard series by many when it comes to realtime strategy, but for me it all started with Warcraft, and I hope that Blizzard doesn't forget that. As great as World of Warcraft is, there are fans out there who want to see the series get back to its realtime strategy roots.
Give us Warcraft IV, Blizzard! That is, if you're not already making it, which you very well might be. And thank you for supporting your old games. We still love them. Zug-zug.
What was your first Blizzard game? What's your favorite Blizzard game? Comments below!