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In January 2002, Eric "[LLF]HuntaKillR" van Aggelen of the Netherlands created a website that documented the history of StarCraft's evolution from a version of Warcraft in Space to the masterpiece as it exists today. Hundreds of people visited this website and discovered that StarCraft had not always been as polished as it is now. In April 2003, StarCraft Legacy and Eric created a partnership to make this documentary accessible to the masses. Today we present to you: The Evolution of StarCraft.

Quick Links
Early Alpha
Alpha
Early Beta
Beta
Interface
Brood War

As development was beginning on Diablo in 1995, the people at Blizzard Irvine were brainstorming their next game, a project that would attempt the daunting task of surpassing Warcraft II. Bob Fitch, an instrumental programmer of nearly every Blizzard game since Rock 'n Roll Racing, had originally been assigned to work on a game called Shattered Nations, a post-apocalyptic strategy game of warring earth-bound nations, while Warcraft II was still under development. He was later pulled off of Shattered Nations to code Warcraft II's AI, and by the time Warcraft II shipped, Shattered Nations had been cancelled. A new game would be developed instead...a project that would "take Warcraft II and turn it into a space game."

The game would feature three totally different races, as opposed to the similar twin races of Warcraft II. Using the Warcraft II code as a base, Bob assembled a primitive build of StarCraft for E3 1996. Here are some screenshots of the first version of StarCraft ever shown to the public, the Early Alpha Version of 1996:

Early Alpha Screenshots

The Zerg in the Early Alpha were known as the Nightmarish Invaders. Later the Nightmarish Invaders were renamed to the Zurg and even later to the familiar Zerg to avoid legal issues of the Zurg sounding too much like the villain of Disney's Toy Story.

The first image shows us several early Zerg units. The first unit is the Larva, followed by the Drone. The bottom two units on the left side are easily recognized as a Scourge and Mutalisk. The second unit on the right is an Overlord, although it looks a lot like a Guardian at this point. Under that is a Carrier with an Interceptor. In the second screenshot, we see that the Overlord actually has an acid-like attack. In the third image, we see an unevolved Hatchery and a Spire above and to the right. You can spot three Overlords floating around, as well as two of those unidentified units that are in several Early Alpha screenshots. The interface is very Warcraft-like. In the fourth image, we observe that peons were originally flying units that mined minerals from floating asteroids. We also get a glimpse of the first Protoss land unit, perhaps an early build of the Zealot.

Early Alpha Screenshots

Here are screenshots of the Zerg buildings from the Early Alpha phase. We don't have much information about the other two races in the Alpha phase, but the Zerg were very popular back then. You can observe why people called it "Warcraft goes 'purple'" instead of StarCraft. An upgraded Zerg structures looked almost exactly like its predecessor, except for a few added spikes.

Early Alpha Zerg Structures
Hatchery
Lair
Hive
Creep Colony
Sunken Colony
Spore Colony
Extractor
Spawning Pool
Evolution Chamber
Hydralisk Den
Spire
Greater Spire
Nydus Canal
Queen's Nest
Ultralisk Cavern
Defiler Mound

Early AlphaAlphaEarly BetaBetaInterfaceBrood War

The game made a weak first impression at the convention, and it received much criticism. There were many remarks that the game looked too much like "Orcs in space." When Blizzard came back from E3 that year, they decided to scrap the idea. Their decision? "Let's step it up a little more, let's revamp the engine, let's do more than what we're showing. We can't do Orcs in space."

Thus, StarCraft was reborn. The basics of the Warcraft II engine were still used, but more work was being put into the design and programming. At the beginning of 1997, a newer version of StarCraft was unveiled to the public. The Terran were still a bit awkward looking, and the game interface no longer resembled Warcraft II. Blizzard initially focused on the most difficult task, balancing the game. Carriers were much smaller, Goliaths looked very different, and the Dragoon was named the "Templar" in this version. The Wraith was known as the Phoenix back then, the Observer as the Witness, and the Reaver as the Trilobyte.

Many people loved this version. Goliaths had a machine gun, flame-thrower, and missiles to unleash on ground targets. Transport units landed to load units, and units didn't simply disappear and appear when loaded in and out of transports. The game at this point, was still very Alpha.

Alpha Screenshots

Early AlphaAlphaEarly BetaBetaInterfaceBrood War

As the project progressed, it became evident that major changes would be required. For example, the Warcraft II engine was just not capable of producing the effects they were looking for, including spells such as burrowing, cloaking, and Interceptors on Carriers. Bob Fitch, the Lead Programmer declared at this point, "I've had enough. We can't do what you (the designers) want to do with the game engine the way it is. Give me two months. At the end of that time, we will be able to do everything you are thinking of and ten times more." In February 1997, Bob gutted the entire game. Two months later, true to his word, everything they wanted to do they could finally do, plus a whole lot more. And thus StarCraft had gone through its second major revamp.

More units were introduced in this version, and buildings looked a bit cartoony, but very beautiful. Most of the units looked very similar to the final version, and only the buildings looked very different. Marines were known as Marauders. More names would eventually be changed from build to build.

Early Beta Units/Structures
Terran
Protoss
Zerg

In the following screenshots, you will notice several things such as how Science Vessels had legs, Dropships still landed to load ground units, the original blocky design of the Terran Battlecruiser, how air units used to swerve and bank as they flew around, and the old Terran "power stations."

Early Beta Screenshots

Early AlphaAlphaEarly BetaBetaInterfaceBrood War

The Beta version was revealed near the end of 1997 and the very beginning of 1998. It was the build that most resembled the current StarCraft version. The engine was upgraded a bit, and a few more units were added. Some name swapping had occured and some balance fixes were made. They couldn't alter it too much, since they had a settled deadline they had to finish the game by.

Beta Screenshots

Valkyries were originally included in the game, as you can see in the first screenshot. They were later taken out and saved for the expansion. Wraiths originally fired their Air-to-Air Gemini Missiles at ground units; Blizzard later gave them a less powerful Burst Laser instead. As seen in the fourth screenshot, Drones used to be able to fly. Of course, you can still fly Drones today, just not as easily.

Beta Screenshots

In the second screenshot, you can see two Firebats starting a forest fire. This is an indication that units used to be able to affect doodads with their weapons. Also, Marines had a grenade attack. In three of the images, you can see the Zerg Nydus Pit, with several upgrade commands. The Nydus Pit had very similar art with the Sunken Colony, which is basically a pit with a spike that comes out of it. In Beta8.jpg, notice that each Zerg structure has its own set of Larvae. Spire Larvae would produce air units, Spawning Pool Larvae would spawn Zerglings, etc. You can also see the desert tileset here, which was of course saved for the expansion.

Beta Screenshots

Nothing new to note here except for the old Vespene Geyser design, as well as the old Assimilator, a halo-like structure that surrounded the gas. Something worth mentioning is that every High Templar used to have a "Psi Assault" attack. This was removed with the decision to keep the unit as a spellcaster, although the hero unit Tassadar still retained the attack.

Beta Screenshots

The Zerg Defiler Mound used to be called the Mutation Chamber. In the fifth screenshot, you can see two obsolete Terran buildings: the Refinery-like Starbase and the Repair Bay structure that you can find in other Command & Conquer games. A couple more Beta facts that were not covered by the above screenshots:

  • Vultures used to be able to shoot out Spider Mines as a grenade, which would detonate upon impact.
  • Like the intro movie of StarCraft, Terrans used to be able to salvage resources from destroyed structures. This feature was later replaced with the ability to take over enemy add-ons.
  • Worker units would drop the resources they were currently carrying when they died. This was removed due to clutter-up.
  • Terran buildings were able to have multiple add-ons at the same time.
  • Like it says in the StarCraft manual, Mutalisks had a green, burning Acid Spray attack that was horrifically imbalanced, while Queens had the Glave Wurms. The Glave Wurm replaced the Acid Spray for the Mutalisk, and the Queen was left as a spellcaster with no attack.
  • Dropships used to be as big as Carriers and were able to carry eight units regardless of size.
Here are some images with information about the Beta buildings and units. The pictures are labeled "Alpha Units", but this is wrong; they are really the Beta units. Just enjoy them and think about how much they have all changed.

Beta Units/Structures
Protoss
Terran
Zerg

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Here are images of the Beta loading screen, the Beta Battle.net interface, the Beta Battle.net login, the Beta score screen, the Beta Brood War CD, the Alpha Editor version and the Beta start-up screen. Notice the little differences with the current ones. Some layout differences, but not very many major changes.

Beta Interface/Misc.
Battle.net Interface
Login Screen
Score Screen
Campaign Screen
StarEdit
Title Screen

Early AlphaAlphaEarly BetaBetaInterfaceBrood War

There was also a Beta phase of Brood War of course, though not nearly as turbulent as the development of StarCraft. Brood War had to be tested too after all. There are not many screenshots with interesting information, but these should give you a little idea of what the Brood War Beta was like. The "Blue Archons" in the screenshots are actually just hallucinated Archons (we mistakingly originally reported them as a merge between High and Dark Templars). Also something to note is that the Valkyrie had a spell called "Afterburner" which would substantially increase its speed. This was later removed due to cheese tactics where players would use it to fly into a Zerg base, kill all the Overlords, and fly out again.

Early Alpha Screenshots
Brood War Beta CD

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