Let me tell you about the time I played the Starcraft demo for so long that I ended up playing a demo to a completely different game.
I was young and had plenty of time on my hands. You’d think I would have been spending my time looking at books of Boris Valejo artwork in my local Borders and then going home to take a shower with all that time and all those hands, but video games were much more engrossing in those days. I was especially excited about Starcraft. It had the nostalgia of Warcraft with totally radical space aliens.
Let me tell you about how much I love cool sci-fi aliens. This much. (I am pointing at my 7″ erection.) This is an important thing to remember (my love of aliens not my erection).
I was so excited about the game that I played the demo over and over again every day over several days that turned into weeks.
This got boring and the super cool space aliens, the Zerg, started to nag at my curiosity with their alien mystique. But the demo only let me play as the Terrans and the internal workings of the Zerg remained hidden. I wanted to know more about them; how did they function, did they want to be my friends, and what 70s pop icon(s) inspired their color scheme? This was in the days before the internet swelled with ripe juices, back when people referred to the internet as “the world wide web”, and right about when the first whispers of ‘google’ emerged from the mummified lips of Babylonian prophets buried in the deserts of the East. Also, my dad only had a 28k modem. Point is, I couldn’t find anything on the internet and my only reasonable way of discovering more about the Zerg was by playing the demo in such a way that I could learn about them.
Only one level in the Starcraft demo pitted the player against a Zerg base and it was in this level that my play style slowly evolved from extermination to one of scientific research. Like Jane Goodall I entered their home land with nothing but good intentions.
I built engineering bays and flew them over the Zerg home to observe them better. I built fields of command centers with Scanner add-ons so that at moment’s notice I could voyeuristically gaze upon the throbbing organ structures of the Zerg hive. I wanted to understand what function each Zerg building served so I sent marines on suicide missions without a flicker of remorse so that they could destroy a single structure without harming the rest of the hive. The marines’ fates did not matter. I was a scientist. I was making discoveries and I was ably played by Gary Oldmman and I didn’t care how many Bill Paxtons were sacrificed. There was science to be done! Those marines cost only fifty minerals, easily replaced minions, and if I could have done so I would have gladly sent hundreds of them to be infested by the Zerg. Of course I couldn’t because Blizzard, in a spell of shortsightedness, didn’t include an upgrade in the Academy that taught your soldiers to take off their armor, lie prostrate on the ground, and allow aliens to rend their supple human flesh for the purpose of hybridization. It’s a shame more games don’t allow this option; Alien vs. Predator, Half-life, and Quake all spring to mind although MDK and Another World do not for some reason.
The deaths of my marines were not in vain. Combined with my marines’ childish loyalty, equal to that of a Lemming or a Mudokon, and my constant Scanner observation I discovered many things. I hadn’t eaten for two days wasn’t one of them although the discovery came soon after when I tried to stand up and collapsed into the shape of a broken Dragoon – LOL! :P
I learned that while my troops were built from separate buildings the Zerg were all created from larvae at their hatchery, which blew my mind at the time since I was coming from a Warcraft/C&C perspective. I learned which buildings were responsible for allowing the Zerg to produce which units. Hydralisks from hydralisk dens, zerglings from spawning pools, the rare mutalisk from spires, and the queen from the queen’s den. Some of these may seem obvious, like “of course the hydralisk comes from its den” but you have to remember that I was a scientist. Nothing was certain until I exhausted all possibilities. I destroyed every Den and saw no more production of Hydralisks and it was then that I knew that the Zerg didn’t just name their buildings ironically. I logically deduced that the evolution chamber must be for upgrading units like an engineering bay (although at first I thought that it [and later the spire] was for producing overlords). I even, through diligent observation, learned that the drones didn’t build structures, they grew into structures.
Does this seem tedious and boring? Yes, perhaps, except that I had tremendous fun doing it. Remember that I had a lot of time on my hands and I loved cool space aliens. Learning about this alien race using a loose version of the scientific method was great. I was doing SCIENCE in SPACE on ALIENS! It was the most amazing game I had played (possibly better than the real Starcraft) and a game that still doesn’t exist.
Interestingly, there were three mysteries that I never solved and one is crucial to why I’m even writing this blog.