There are a few moments in time where gaming had a profound impact on the way I thought of entertainment. Among those moments was my first time playing online multiplayer. The time was 1998, and before that my perspective of what a video game could be was limited to simple single-player experiences, such as that of Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog.
That would change quickly once I logged into Battle.net for my first time. I would soon find myself chatting away with thousands of other gamers and embarking on competitive adventures that challenged my skills. Although I would spend some time playing traditional games as a Protoss main, once I was introduced to the custom map community, there was no going back.
StarCraft featured a full map editor that provided access to graphical assets, triggers, and everything else needed for players to program and build AAA quality levels. Made better, these could be readily shared online through the main interface, making creation and sharing a simple workflow. Thousands of maps would find their way online, exploring the potential of the game engine and providing nearly limitless replay value at no additional cost. I would spend hundreds of hours playing these maps, and even tried making a couple of my own.
To celebrate the launch of StarCraft: Remastered, I'm going to look back at some of the most popular custom map types of early StarCraft and Brood War.
1. Big Game Hunters
Popular Maps: BGH, Big Game Hunters $$, Big Game Hunters Elite!
StarCraft was an incredibly challenging game, but everyone enjoyed building up a fancy base and earning the most powerful units. To shortcut this, a map optimized for resource gathering was build. Housing eight spawn locations, players would have direct access to infinite minerals and gas, feeding their war machine.
This style of map was particularly popular with players who enjoyed doing "comp stomps", where groups of players would gang up on a single A.I. to quickly earn a win. It wasn't a great use of time, but players cared very much about their public win/loss record, and this was a cheap way to inflate their record.
Popular Maps: Sniper Elite, Team Fortress, V-TEC Paintball
There was a lot of variety in how gameplay mechanics were implemented with paintball maps, but generally speaking you would need to stealth around the map and carefully track and shoot enemies. On the more popular maps you could only be shot once before you were downed, so positioning was incredibly important.
I spent a lot of time playing these due to the high skill cap. It wasn't easy to win in a way that reminds me of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Popular Maps: A Day at School, Legends Open RPG, Kyprion Pact
Some of the earliest custom maps were RPGs. Inspired by the single-player campaign, these used linear progression to tell a variety of narratives using that usually incorporated special units.
Many of these took influence from other games of the time, including Final Fantasy and Metal Gear. A few even told the story of major StarCraft campaign characters to provide a fictional backstory to them.
They were a nice break from the more gameplay-focused StarCraft experience, usually delivering a casual game flow where you could sit back and watch things unfold. Though, they tended to be short, so most players would avoid them in the long term.
Popular Maps: Protect Bob, Starship Troopers, Zombie Hotel
Survival maps were very popular, and their designs were wide ranging. Zombie-style maps usually topped the charts, pitting a team of players against hordes of flesh-hungry foes. But there were also more traditional wave-style maps where you simply tried to defend a position, something that has been done thousands of times since then.
A lot of the fun of survival maps came from being able to work with your team and quickly click on enemies. Some form of progression was usually included, allowing you to gain access to unit upgrades and special abilities.
5. Tower Defense
Popular Maps: Skibi's Tower Defense, Lurker Defense, Sunken Defense
Tower Defense style maps were among the most popular, and to this day account for the most downloads. Not only did they incorporate co-operative gameplay, but there was a sense of progression that felt rewarding.
Many players were addicted to trying to get to the highest wave possible, and would spend time chatting with other players about where to place defensive units and structures for optimal effect.
Did you play StarCraft custom maps? Let us know which maps were your favorites in the comments below.