July 27th, 2010 marked a very special day for fans of the hugely popular Starcraft series as it’s second installment release neared. After 12 years of waiting, 12 years of enjoying the insane machinations of the first game, 12 years of countless twitch matches online, the first part of the Starcraft 2 series was released. But Blizzard didn’t let this launch go unnoticed. Not by any means.
My friends and I got wind of a Starcraft 2 launch party being held in Santa Ana in front of a Fry’s Electronics store. Having never really been to a midnight launch for a game before I didn’t anticipate too much. I thought there would be EZ ups with SC 2 gear, televised matches, and a small squadron of security guards to keep the place from getting too rowdy. Boy was I wrong. Upon arrival there were already a good 400-500 people in line in front of a huge stage! And on this stage was a massive screen with lights pouring down all over this thing. It felt like I was at a concert or back at E3.
Having 3 hours to kill before the midnight opening is a long time if you have nothing else to do but guard your place in line. Thankfully Blizzard was prepared and they had their minions wandering the crowd handing out stickers, magnets, T-shirts, and other goodies they had on hand. Around 9:15 the MC showed up, April, and she gave us the introduction to the first band of the night. And wouldn’t you know it, the singer was the voice actor of “Sarge” in the first Starcraft. For those that are a bit rusty on the old version of the title, watch this.
And for having done his main act a while ago he was pretty good on stage. After this old timer got his go we were treated to our first 2v2 competition. April called for people who had managed to weasel their way into the beta earlier this year and picked two from the crowd. These lucky folks got to play on stage with two other Blizzard developers, one on each team. The teams were Terran and Zerg which meant that things would be moving at a fast clip. What we got, however, was even faster. Starcraft 2 has ramped up the game’s natural speed and gone for a more “rush” oriented approach compared to the last game which was moderately paced. There were a number of new units ranging from even smaller creatures than Zerglings (Roaches) to mammoths like the Protoss Colossus and Terran Thor. Each was a sight to behold as different strategies were used to decimate the other team into flaming bits.
Two more performances were delivered to us, around 10:30 and getting colder, one of which was a popular Rock Band song, Free Bird. The band did quite well with their rendition as it entertained the lot of us. A lot more people had begun to show up with even the news teams 2, 4, and 9 set up around the parking lot in which we were camped.
After listening to another round of entertaining music, more matches were held. This time we had all three races, Protoss, Terran, and Zerg to watch. The combination was very cool and interesting as all three got to display their abilities and and weaknesses. Terran seemed to be able to handle more enemy units with a well rounded focus. Micromanaging Terran units was not as effective as Zerg or Protoss with the lack of medics but the Zerg seemed to mainly focus on rushing the entire game. It seemed that with the smaller than Zergling units around things moved much quicker and the other players would be forced to defend from an early attack. We all enjoyed these matches and were surprised to see the people who were chose from the crowd rewarded with $600 NVIDIA graphics cards. That’s one hell of a consolation prize.
Just before the end of the show a Blizzard person had gone out amongst the crowd and asked random fans what they would want to ask the Q&A panel. Three developers, one from Art, gameplay, and production, sat in on a good round of questioning fro the audience. One question was asked about Diablo 3 and when it would be out. However the devs simply answered, “When it’s ready”. This great to hear from Blizzard as it shows that they aren’t harried by due dates and deadlines. They take their time and get the project out there when it’s finally finished and it shows.
Now, we had been waiting in line for about three and a half hours and out feet were starting to kill us. There is only so much standing one can do before becoming a cripple begins to sound comfortable. But there will always be someone better than you and this kid did it by a whole 21 hours. Curtis was the first person in line by snagging the spot 24 hours in advance to the event. That’s dedication for you! But what’s this? He’s speaking on camera….something about Starcraft 1…..WHAT!? He’s never played the first game and he’s FIRST in line??? Just about everyone booed the guy and wanted him in the back of the line, which had now grown to 4,000 people. This kid may have the most time spent in line but one guy drove all the way from Wyoming, 17 hours, just to attend the event AND he’d played the first game. Much better. However to just about everyone’s displeasure Curtis and companion were rewarded with signed Collector’s Editions from the developers before the doors were even open. In typical nerd stereotype, Curtis seemed to have a smug air about him without even cracking a grin.
11:55. We have five minutes to go. The crowd can barely control themselves. Finding something to do for those few minutes was worse than the 3 hours we spent in line. Why can’t time go by fas- what’s this? They’re announcing the countdown? Awesome! We love your watch Blizzard! The spectacle they put on just for the countdown was mighty impressive and exciting.
WOOOOHOOOO!!!!! The doors are open! And we patiently wait in line. Soon enough we are inside Fry’s. The place looks like a mini Costco for electronics! There are heaps of copies of Starcraft 2waiting for us at the front door and I feel kinda funny picking up a regular edition next to the monster Collectors Edition. Then it’s off to the autograph table. Oh yeah. You read that right, autographed copied of Starcraft 2 from the development team! I hadn’t known about this part of the show until about half way through the show and when I learned about it I knew I’d be picking up another copy. When I saw how long the table was I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough room on my box to get all their signatures. But, being the experienced devs that they are, all managed to squeeze their names onto the box and even give Raynor additional features.
There were a few sour grapes to be found during this amazing event however. We learned that a copy of the game would run up around $60 instead of the traditional $50 for PC. This is most likely attributed to the Activision part of the company since Blizzard and Activision are one in the same. Another note about the game is the fact that there is no Spawn function for it. This means you can’t put a virtual copy on your computer and play online, only when the person that gave you the Spawn, is online. Perhaps it will appear in the Zerg and Protoss editions later on own the road. Who knows. And that’s all she wrote. We hung around ’till about 1 in the morning at Fry’s and got to experience certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you Blizzard for putting on a great show and providing your fans with tons more fun and entertainment for year to come.