If you want to hear my rant on why it is bad to interpret StarCraft gameplay too loosely, read the box. If not, just skip to the argument part.
Games like StarCraft are designed first to be balanced, and then to be consistent with a fictional universe. Take Halo: Combat Evolved as an example. The Assault Rifle fires full-sized 7.62x51mm NATO rounds (uh-huh, in the Twenty-Fifth Century?) fully automatically (yeah right), but it is only effective at short ranges (what??). Whatever. The designers said "Hey, let's make a full-auto SMG-type weapon," not, "Hey, let's make a .30 caliber assault rifle." Likewise, in StarCraft, the game designers said, "Let's make three sides, each with balanced units," not, "Let's make a game based on this fictional universe (which, by the way, doesn't exist yet because the game's not done)." The game is based on a (usually basic) storyline, but it defines the universe. The same is true of X-COM: UFO Defense. It does not really matter that an under-funded organization with "state-of-the-art" second-rate weapons and inexperienced personnel can defeat an Alien force with superior technology and apparently unlimited resources, because that is how the game is balanced.
The game should be considered as the first point of reference for its universe. The StarCraft game is set within the storyline, and it defines its own universe. The novels are based on that universe, which is itself secondary to the gameplay; therefore, if we undercut the gameplay by calling it an inaccurate representation of the universe, we undercut the rest of the universe even more because it is secondary to the gameplay. For example, let us say that a Marine is representative of a whole platoon; however, the unit was reduced to a single man just to make the game playable. Could we not likewise say that any of the information in the books (I do not own any; take the figures on a Terran Battlecruiser's cruising speed for an example) is merely there in order to make the novel readable? Perhaps the entire backstory is just a "fictional" representation of the "real" StarCraft world just to make it plausible that men in space suits would shoot animals. With no foundation, the entire universe collapses.
Finally, I think that it is completely unnecessary to take liberties with the gameplay representation. For example, looking in the manual, I noticed the description of the Terran Marine: a powersuit and an assault rifle firing 8mm slugs at 5,600+ fps. Given that the powersuit can absorb more recoil than a human could, the slugs must be light, but not too light. Even so, at such a high speed, the slugs would lose energy and stability quickly. (I'm not up to doing the numbers on this; could somebody give numerical estimates?) This is consistent with the fact that a Marine can punch through some armor at short range but cannot engage enemies at long range. In close quarters, you would hardly need a squad of these guys to do some damage.
(Well I enjoyed writing it anyway. I hope y'all had fun reading it!
I have to disagree strongly with the idea that a StarCraft unit is actually representative of an entire squad. If it were so, then I believe that it could be modeled somewhat like the following:
- One Marine (or other small unit) contains several personnel.
- One Battlecruiser (or other large unit) contains one person/vehicle.
- It seems very unlikely that a 99% Marine (for example) represents twelve infantrymen all on the verge of death, so losing health must mean losing a few soldiers (for small units).
- Gaining health, therefore, means gaining back lost soldiers (for small units).
However, I do not see any evidence that this is what the designers intended. In fact, it seems that nothing was further from their minds:
- Obviously, all sprites show a single character/vehicle in the game.
- Portraits increase units' "individuality."
- Units are given individual ranks, e.g., Marines are privates, not squad leaders.
- Terrain seems to favor a single-man-unit approach. "Sergeant, take your men up that staircase" and "I want Charlie Company taking cover behind... that tree" seem less realistic. (Or does a tree represent a forest now?)
- I am having some trouble finding a way to view all of the cutscenes easily, but from what I remember, they show no indication of squad combat. On the contrary, Marines seem to use very Hollywood-style one-man-army tactics. The only explanation that I can think of is that cutscenes depict only Marine "units" whose health is in the red.
- Hero units are very powerful. If one is comparing Raynor to a whole "wing" of Vultures, then the best explanation is that heroes command a whole squad of elites.
- Ghosts probably work alone (squad = 1 man), but that means that a single Ghost is far more powerful than a single Marine out of a Marine unit.
- What about repairing? For small units, it requires that the unit actually gain more personnel. A squad of SCV's repairing a single Battleship makes sense. If a Vulture is 50% damaged, then perhaps a Vulture unit represents two bikes, and each is damaged. The damage can be repaired instead of buying a whole new bike, which makes sense. Protoss cannot repair at all, which is fine. A 90% damaged Zergling "squad" might reproduce sexually or asexually during the course of a battle, until it again consists of twenty(?) Zerglings. That is plausible. Enter the Medic. Medics most certainly
do not "make" more Marines. (Or is that why they're women?) At least, I sure hope not. The length of a typical battle makes it impossible anyway. Perhaps Medics represent reinforcements? From the "invisible" supply lines from the Supply Depots? Incapable of/prohibited from firing a weapon until joined with an official military unit? If healing means reinforcements, then Marines, not Medics, should "heal" Marines.
Edited by NinthRank, 24 October 2007 - 09:10 PM.