Friday, January 18, 2013

Stuff That Never Happened (Virtual Edition)

          In March of 1998, a little company known as Blizzard Entertainment (best known for masterminding the most commercially successful MMORPG of all time, World of Warcraft) bestowed upon our tiny blue speck of a planet my all-time favorite real-time strategy game, Starcraft (edging out the Warcraft series, and blowing Age of Empires back to the DOS age). The game was wildly successful and is considered by some to be one of the best and most important games of all time.

          The game, following the exploits of three species waging war against one another for dominance in a remote part of the milky way galaxy, was and is a tour de force of story, style, and execution. The problem? It left me wanting more. I loved the story, the environments, the character design, really the whole Starcraft universe. The Brood War expansion that followed alleviated some of my wanton blood-lust, but it still didn't quiet my hunger. 

          Then something wonderful happened; Starcraft: Ghost was announced. Now, my video gaming experience up until this point has been largely split between two camps: flight simulators and third person adventure platformers. Starcraft was, for the most part, the only strategy game I played with any real investment, which I largely credit to the quality of the universe in which it takes place. With age, I've incorporated first-person shooters into my tastes, but still, to this day I tend to avoid anything top-down or involving a lot of resource management, so Starcraft remains an anomaly.
          Ghost, however, was like Blizzard had reached deep into my chest, removed my heart, and developed it into a video game, or so it seemed. It was intended as a third person shooter, the story following the exploits of Nova, a Terran Ghost (a stealth-based psychic espionage sniper class of warrior), with potential for a multiplayer mode that would allow users access to several other classic warrior classes of Starcraft, including the Marine, Firebat, and, from the looks of it, perhaps even Zerg or Protoss characters as well.

          For a time it seemed as though my long-time dream of getting up close and personal with a Hydralisk before blasting it in the face with a flamethrower was going to come true. But then, it didn't. Ghost, it seems, was cursed. The damn project faced setback after delay until one day when I walked down the block to my local Game Crazy (yes, the defunct Hollywood Video gaming subsidiary), the clerk told me that the game had been put on indefinite hold by Blizzard, though everyone else counted it out as canceled. Then, like rubbing salt in the wound, the bastard told me that the $5 I put down as a reservation was non-refundable but could be applied to another gaming purchase. That day a part of me died. That was the day I lost my innocence. That day was my childhood's end. That day was [insert tired cliche regarding purity, incorruptibility, and/or virtue and their inevitable dissolution]. There is one upside, however, to this sad tale: I'll never know if the game sucked.

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