StarCraft (lost Warcraft II-based builds of PC game; 1996)
StarCraft is a highly successful real-time strategy game by Blizzard Entertainment. Released in March 1998, it shipped no less than 1.5 million copies worldwide in its first year of release, with 8 million more shipped through the following decade – 4.5 million sold in South Korea alone. Before StarCraft could take the world by storm, however, some disappointment was necessary.
Following the great success of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, Blizzard rushed to have another RTS game ready for release in 1996. Work on StarCraft began in 1995, with development starting in early 1996.
In May 1996, Blizzard headed to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) to show-off progress in the game, as well as look out for what their competitors were preparing. At that point, the game largely relied on the Warcraft II engine, with a very similar user interface and art style. This led to massive negative reception from gamers and press, with the visuals earning the game the nickname of "Orcs in Space", or "Warcraft in Space". Meanwhile, Texas-based developers Ion Storm demonstrated the game that made Blizzard revise their ambitions and development model – Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 – whose isometric view and 3D-like graphics made StarCraft's top-down model look obsolete and pale in comparison.
Blizzard developers returned home determined to completely rebuild StarCraft, but development slowly halted as crew members were shifted to another Blizzard project of higher priority: Diablo. Once work on StarCraft restarted in early 1997, the development team went on to completely rebuild the game, giving it a completely new engine and visuals that could match the competition.
The old builds based on Warcraft II are likely definitely lost now, as Blizzard developers had the habit of destroying obsolete data in order to avoid eventual misuses, such as using scrapped assets and/or leaking unfinished builds.
The following pictures (possibly mockups) were used to showcase the game's development state as of 1996.
- "Tough times on the road to Starcraft". Testimonial by former Blizzard Entertainment developer Patrick Wyatt, detailing the initial reception and resulting overhaul of StarCraft. September 7, 2012.
- "StarCraft: Orcs in space go down in flames". Another blog post by Wyatt, detailing his and his workmates' feelings towards Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 in comparison to StarCraft. September 27, 2012.