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Old 07-31-2018, 06:41 AM
BoxCrayonTales BoxCrayonTales is offline

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Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 56

Unhappy What went wrong with StarCraft lore?

Over twenty years of retcons and changing writers, StarCraft lore has become a mess. When StarCraft II was released, many fans cried foul because of numerous retcons and plot holes. These were so extreme that they can be cataloged in an entire blog. But the problem with the lore goes back earlier. The story of Brood War, for example, is loaded with plot holes.

StarCraft 1's aborted backdrop

Ultimately, the lore went wrong back when the first game was released. According to interviews with IGN and with Polygon, the plot of the first game had not been planned by the time the gameplay and manual backstory had stabilized. On its own there is actually nothing wrong with that. The problem is that Metzen made some rather questionable writing choices that clearly did not account for the limitations of the game engine and the initial lore.

The manual presents the single most consistent and reasonable iteration of the lore. The backstory has a few mistakes here and there, but for the most part the lore paints a nice picture and foreshadows the war for the fate of the Koprulu sector. The zerg want to consume the protoss, but need the determinant so they invade humanity, but then the protoss get involved and alienate the terrans, and both the terrans and protoss have their own internal strife making stuff more difficult than it should be. This is a great backdrop against which to tell stories.

What Metzen forgot is that this backdrop was never planned to advance. The manual has no provisions for what happens if the Sons of Korhal succeed in overthrowing the Confederacy. The game engine itself does not include provisions for what happens if the zerg succeed in assimilating the determinant (which should logically take the form of new units with a terran core genus or something). The entire premise is dependent on the zerg being a vicious, all-devouring swarm that seeks to perfect itself by assimilating the strongest species in the universe.

Episode 1 neatly breaks the whole premise

Metzen made numerous mistakes as a result. He neatly resolves the Koprulu war in the first episode, barely exploring it in the process. The manual included foreshadowing that the protoss would have a civil war over the fate of the terrans and maybe ally with the Umojans, but none of this ever comes to pass. The zerg and protoss forces just leave because Metzen decided they should and rationalized it after the fact.

Thus, the entire premise of the three races fighting is nullified. Pretty much everything introduced in the manual is now meaningless trivia. Metzen ignores this and forces three-way conflicts to reoccur in the following two episodes using flimsy justifications. The terran characters continue to make cameos in the following episodes but contribute nothing to the plot.

Despite these mistakes, the story of Rebel Yell is competent. Not amazing, but as a standalone story it at least makes sense every step of the way. Unfortunately, it easily has the strongest story of the original trilogy of campaigns. The next two were nowhere near as well plotted.

Episode 2 loses it way

In the second episode, Metzen really drops the ball on characterizing the zerg. The concept of the determinant is never explicitly mentioned and since the game engine was not balanced with new assimilated terran units, Metzen introduced an infested terran hero instead who contributes little to the plot besides serving as a plot device. The story of the episode is unmemorable and meanders. It feels like filler that serves solely to explain what the zerg were doing, where they want and foreshadowing an ending involving a blatant deus ex machina. Although Rebel Yell was not perfect, at least it told a compelling story with characters who developed socially if not personally. The Overmind episode is amazingly dull unless you are a diehard zerg fan, and it becomes utterly irrelevant when the sequels roll around and kill the zerg hierarchy off. Most of the zerg characters are not very interesting and are not used in a way to make them look interesting. They are painfully bland and as a zerg fan that hurts me real bad.

There is some evidence that this episode was actually stitched together from at least two separate plots that were not correctly integrated. Midway through QoB vanishes despite being set up as a weapon against the khalai protoss (not the dark Templar) and the invasion of Aiur doesn’t mention her relevance at all. The Overmind claims that the only thing keeping them from invading the protoss is that they don’t know where Aiur is. This is incongruous with the manual, which states that they had probes on the border of protoss space for what was apparently centuries at least and did not invade because their military was inferior.

Episode 3 obliterates the protoss and zerg cultures

In the third episode, Metzen follows through on the manual’s extremely vague promise that the zerg will eventually invade the protoss. The difference is that the manual teased this as something to happen in the distant future, not feature as the plot of the first game in the franchise. There are no assimilated terrans because the game engine did not have them, so the determinant is invalidated unless you perform serious mental gymnastics. Furthermore, the galactic protoss empire mentioned in the manual has been reduced to a single planet located a short distance away from the terrans. Some terrans are included to maintain the three way conflict, although their presence is really forced and the narrative goes out of its way to revisit Koprulu even though the story has moved on.

Then the game ends with the Overmind, who was previous established as the bodiless conscience of the zerg race, suddenly being made physical so that he can be destroyed by a previously established deus ex machina. This completely invalidates the premise of the setting by destroying the thing responsible for setting the conflict in motion, if leaving Koprulu and dropping the determinant concept were not already sufficient on their own.

Conclusion

Obviously, this is not a strong foundation for sequels. Every sequel basically pulled a new conflict from nowhere and the world building grew increasingly distant from that established in the manual for the first game. Numerous retcons were made that weakened the story. Every game was pretty much set in its own universe that included trivial references to the past games. By the end of SC2 the setting had become a completely different one that used the same names and races but otherwise had a completely different tone and theme and style.

Barring introducing even more retcons, there is no way to fix this. For a game about the three races fighting, the narrative universe went out of its way to remove their reasons for fighting. For a game whose first manual had such a huge potential for expanding on the world building, the subsequent lore was surprisingly unwilling to really explore any of the ideas introduced therein. The games pretty much focused their main plots around events that effectively destroyed what little culture were possessed by the protoss and zerg.

I cannot say anything about the future of the franchise, if it indeed has a future (the esports scene for SC2 has severely declined and right now Blizzard seems to be concentrating their effort on Overwatch). This is not a strong foundation and I fully expect that any sequels will make further retcons and render the setting unrecognizable from the last installment, much less the other predecessors.

A reboot could fix these problems and allow writers to cherrypick elements of the previous continuity that fans liked (later introduced characters like Abathur, Dehaka, Alarak, Stukov, Tychus, etc), reintroducing forgotten plot points (like Umojans, KMC, protoss tribes, zerg broods, the determinant, the protoss' galactic empire, etc), while discarding what did not work (the degradation of the protoss and zerg, Amon's generic doomsday plot, the weekly apocalypses that destroy the sector but are instantly recovered from, etc). The obvious rebuttal is that a reboot would alienate older fans, but the constant string of retcons that destroy the consistency of the existing continuity has already done the most to alienate older fans. A reboot would allow the story to appeal to both old and new fans by dropping all the retcons and repackaging what the old fans loved to appeal to new fans. Everybody wins!

Feel free to discuss. Agree, disagree, etc. If you have any questions about my analysis or want clarification, leave a reply.
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