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StarCraft logo.png

Blizzard Entertainment


Chris Metzen
James Phinney


Derek Duke
Jason Hayes
Glenn Stafford
Tracy W. Bush


Microsoft Windows
NA: March 31, 1998[1]
EU: 1998
NA: 1999
Nintendo 64
NA: June 13, 2000[2]
EU: June 16, 2000
AU: May 25, 2001

Latest release

Brood War
"Your only choice is interstellar war"
— Tagline

One of the StarCraft retail boxes

StarCraft[3] (abbreviated as SC or SC1) is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment and released for Microsoft Windows on March 31, 1998.[1] The game later spawned a franchise, and is the first game of the StarCraft series. A Classic Mac OS version was released in 1999, and a Nintendo 64 adaptation co-developed with Mass Media was released on June 13, 2000.[2] Development on the game started shortly after Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness release in 1995. StarCraft debuted at the 1996 E3, where it was unfavorably compared to Warcraft II. As a result, the project was entirly overhauled and then showcased to public in early 1997, receiving a far more positive response.

The main storyline of the game revolves around a war between three galactic species: the protoss, the zerg, and the terrans. The storyline was initially introduced by the manual.

The sequel, StarCraft II, was announced on May 19, 2007 and the first chapter was released on July 27th, 2010. On March 26, 2017, StarCraft: Remastered was announced and the original StarCraft became free with Remastered release on August 14, 2017.[4]

Official Description

In the distant future, the newly formed Terran Dominion faces the arrival of two hostile alien races: the savage Zerg and the enigmatic Protoss. Gather resources and expand your forces to lead them to victory. The only allies are enemies. The only choice is war.


StarCraft was the best selling computer game in 1998[5] and won the Origins Award for Best Strategy Computer Game of 1998.[6] In November of the same year, Blizzard released an expansion pack called StarCraft: Brood War.

StarCraft made significant improvements over Warcraft II. Warcraft II, while advanced for its time, featured what many gamers believed to be a weakness in that, apart from a few minor (but significant for balance, especially at higher skill levels) differences in available spells and the cost of upgrades, the game's two races were exactly the same mechanically, with only graphical differences. StarCraft improved upon this by adopting the technique introduced by Strategic Simulations' game War Wind of having sides with obvious asymmetries. The asymmetry was inspired, in part, by Magic: The Gathering.[7] Though the game's three races (protoss, terrans, and zerg) were slightly imbalanced when the game was first released, the expansion pack and fifteen patches (of which four significantly affected the gameplay mechanics) have balanced the three races.

The game also included multiplayer gaming on Blizzard's Internet gaming service One can play against opponents free of any charge beyond the original purchase of the game and local Internet access fees. Many players enjoyed playing in groups against the computer (AI) in skirmish games. While the AI is considered to be weak compared to a good player, decent early game performance can make it an enjoyable opponent for more casual players. Players can also create unfair maps that are advantageous to the computer and can be extremely hard to beat. A few years after the release of the game, Blizzard released several free maps of a higher difficulty and over time, the patches have also improved the AI.

Expansion Packs

Main article: StarCraft: Brood War

Blizzard produced one expansion pack for StarCraft in the form of StarCraft: Brood War, released in November 1998. The expansion pack adds new units and continues the storyline in the form of a campaign structure similar to the original game.

Commercial expansion packs that were unauthorized by Blizzard include Stellar Forces, HunCraft, and Stratospace. In some cases, these expansion packs have been removed from circulation and legal action was taken.[8][9]

Add-on Packs

Blizzard authorized two add-on packs[10] in the same year of Brood WarInsurrection, and Retribution.[10] Both of these add-on packs are set during the events of the original game. As of 2010, Blizzard has not decided whether these are canon or not, but would be willing to incorporate certain material from the games.[11]

The StarCraft: Insurrection was the first authorized add-on pack by Blizzard to be developed and published by Aztech New Media.

The StarCraft: Retribution was the second authorized add-on pack by Blizzard to be developed by Stardock and published by WizardWorks. This addon was not well received by reviewers and wasn't widely available.


Main article: StarCraft: Remastered

On March 26, 2017, a remastering of the StarCraft and Brood War was announced. It would feature new visuals, audio, and online support, but the core gameplay is set to remain unchanged.[4]


Main article: Gameplay of StarCraft

StarCraft improved upon its predecessor Warcraft II, which featured two very similar playable factions, by introducing asymmetry between the units and technologies available to its three races (Protoss, Terran, and Zerg). This asymmetry was similar to that pioneered in the lesser-known 1996 SSI release War Wind. The unit types available to each race define its racial identity. The Protoss can field powerful and expensive warriors and machinery, while the Zerg count on sheer numbers and speed to overwhelm their opponents. The Terrans are the versatile and flexible alternative to both races, with an emphasis on specialization and combined arms. In many ways, the Terran can be considered the "in-between" race in that they tend to benefit from more moderate conditions, whereas the other two races tend to prefer one extreme or the other. This can make it difficult to create maps that are fair for all races.


Main article: StarCraft storyline

The trifecta

The plot of the original StarCraft game revolves around the arrival of the zerg in the Koprulu sector and their later invasion of the protoss homeworld Aiur. After they have destroyed the Confederate colony on Chau Sara, the zerg are used by the rebel organization Sons of Korhal, which lures them to a number Confederate worlds using psi-emitters to further their own goals. After the Confederacy's fall, the Sons of Korhal's leader, Arcturus Mengsk, establishes the Terran Dominion, crowning himself emperor. The Zerg Swarm is, however, closely followed by a protoss fleet which burns down all worlds the zerg infest. The leader of the Protoss task force, High Templar Tassadar, later discovers that he can disrupt the Zerg Overmind's control over the Swarm by eliminating his cerebrate servants with the help of the Dark Templar. The involvement of the fallen Dark Templar will prove to be fateful; indeed, while slaying the Cerebrate Zasz, the Dark Templar Zeratul briefly comes in psychic contact with the zerg Overmind, who is then informed of Aiur's location and directs his Swarm towards the protoss world. The protoss high authority, the Conclave, is defeated by the Swarm, along with a large proportion of all protoss. In a desperate attempt to put an end to the zerg's destruction, Tassadar, Zeratul, and the remaining protoss unite their strengths with human Jim Raynor and attack the Overmind itself. They succeed in destroying it because Tassadar sacrifices himself to destroy it using Dark Templar energy.




StarCraft has achieved a cult-like status in the computer gaming world. Due to the complexity and depth of the strategic possibilities, StarCraft, especially in its online multiplayer form, remains very popular, even years after its original release. The game's popularity in South Korea has been unexpectedly high, with nationally recognized tournaments, and intense training groups sprouting up across the country.[16] There are even a couple of cable-access channels that often televise tournaments live with the top players competing against each other, cheered on by enthusiastic spectators and fans. The top StarCraft players enjoy mild celebrity status.

The infamous Operation CWAL (Can't Wait Any Longer), formed in 1997 as a writers group of the StarCraft suggestions forum, made an attempt to "liberate" a final copy of StarCraft, which appeared obviously completed despite numerous delays on the part of Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard Entertainment has gone as far as to give special thanks to this group in the manual for StarCraft, as well as including their name as a cheat code in the game (typing "operation cwal" during a single player game will dramatically decrease the time required to build units). While not very active today, Operation CWAL remains as one of Blizzard Entertainment's older and more loyal fan groups.

In the early 2000s, the game became extremely popular among South Korean online gamers, to the point of being exaggeratedly referred to as the national sport of South Korea by avid gamers, and the majority of StarCraft players now come from that country. The origin of this unusually high level of popularity is likely a combination of StarCrafts suitability for competitive multiplayer and the fact that it was released during the beginning of the boom in popularity of "PC baangs" in Seoul, resulting in a perfect opportunity for the game to catch on.

Since 2005 through 2017, StarCraft is still one of the most popular online games in the world, even including a recently remastered version of the game. The game itself has its own culture, similar to Slashdot's and Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) communities.

Professional Competition

Main article: StarCraft professional competition

In South Korea, StarCraft professional gamers, known by their pseudonyms such as Lim_Yo-Hwan aka SlayerS_`BoxeR`, Iloveoov, [Oops]Reach, [ReD]NaDa, [NC]...YellOw, and Nal_rA are celebrities with their games being broadcast over the television channels MBC Game and Ongamenet. A selected few have made substantial monetary gains through this. For example, one highly successful player, "[Red]Nada", signed a 3 year, $500,000 contract in 2004. Another example is "SlayerS_`BoxeR" who can, if all goes well, make $780,000 in the next 3 years, making him the highest paid StarCraft player ever. Some players can earn a decent to good living from TV-contracts and sponsoring and tournament prizes. However, the lower-echelon pro players tend to subsist on relatively small wages. Many pro gamers playing StarCraft use every minute of their spare time to play, in order to maintain preparation for the highly competitive leagues. Superior StarCraft and Warcraft III players are often referred to as "gosu". Less than average skilled players are often called hasu. Professional gaming in South Korea is an example of how e-sports can attain a social status similar to physical sports.

Replays, RWAs, VODs and Battle Reports

StarCraft has a feature that the player can record a game and save it as a replay, which can then be viewed with any other copy of StarCraft, displaying the entire course of the game. As of 2005, there are many websites that host replays of players with different skill levels, though pro-level replays are relatively rarely released, for reasons of team secrecy and pro-league policy.

The RWAtools are a set of freeware tools, that create valid replay files, additionally containing an Ogg audio stream. They allow gamers to comment their own games while they play them and comment replays of other players. During replay the commentary is kept in sync with the game. This can be particularly interesting for people new to the game, who can learn from more experienced players pointing out things about a replay they would not have seen on their own, or simply for entertainment.

BWChart is a program used to analyze a player's actions in order to teach the viewer how a given player plays.

Lasgo's Observer Pack contains, beside other things, a tool that allows you to see the results of the recorded player's actions as if you played yourself (except the mouse pointer and the selection boxes).

VODs (from "Video On Demand") are videos that show the screen of a commentator (or sometimes player) during a (usually) pro-level game. They are (legally or not) available from a variety of websites, and are ripped from Korean television or Internet streams. They usually come in the ASF video file format for Windows Media Player, which plays them with seeking disabled, or in the Windows Media Video format. Because they are compressed with an MPEG-4 codec and the file size needs to be small, there is a significant quality loss in comparison to watching a replay. VODs are usually accompanied by enthusiastic announcing from the Korean commentators, and the occasional crowd shot.

StarCraft Campaign Editor and Custom Scenarios

Main article: StarEdit

The game comes with a campaign/map editor (practically a "Game Creation System" in itself) called StarEdit. StarEdit has many features, including a trigger system that allows one to make radical changes to the way that map works, readily giving gamers the ability to create custom map scenarios (also called MOD's). Hundreds of custom scenarios are created everyday, giving the game a refreshing variety. The StarCraft map-making community has also constructed additional editors or functionalities that grant the user even more power to modify the game.

Scenarios are created with entirely different sets of rules, objectives, and units. More popular user created scenarios include Evolves, Golem Madness, Turret Defense, Sunken Defense, Nightmare RPG, and the ubiquitous Tower Defense.

There is another type of map circulating in the online communities: StarCraft Diplomacy. There have been multiple versions of this game produced. The version was inspired by the board game Diplomacy.

Maps set in the story lines of popular television shows are also widely used. Android Menace is a particularly developed example, taking place in a large portion of the Dragon Ball Z story line. Maps with infinite minerals are also very popular, examples including "Fastest Map Ever" and "0Clutter." Many real-world events, including the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II and the American Civil War, have also been used as a base for StarCraft maps. There have been recent StarCraft maps depicting single or multiple scenes from books and movies, such as Troy and The Lord of the Rings. These maps include The Battle for Pelennor Fields and The Battle for Helm's Deep. In addition, a large amount of StarCraft players are also engaged in large, multi-player "Lord of the Rings"-type based maps, with each player controlling and developing a whole nation, complete with heroes and units. Instead of the building their forces from the ground up, players are given control of pre-built cities and armies. Units are periodically created at a special point, called the "spawn point". The purpose of these maps is usually to destroy a certain building that, when destroyed, disables an enemy's ability to spawn units. These maps range from the traditional Lord of the Rings v. Last Alliance (LA) to newer maps such as The Rings of Power (TRoP) and After Lord of the Rings (After-LotR). Older maps include Lord of the Rings version GOLD, which many accept as the origination of the "castle building" idea, and Middle Earth version Pre Lord of the Rings, which introduced the concept of hero units that were dauntingly stronger than the units in a standard army, shifting the focus of the game from large-scale battles to single unit strategy. This includes the strategy of operations, or "opping", which involves using one hero unit to achieve a goal, such as the destruction of an opponents spawn(s) or heroes

The popularity of custom maps is not limited, however, to only online gaming. Because StarEdit allows the mapmaker to "link together" several maps, single player "campaigns" (which are long scenarios played out over several maps, hence the name "campaign") have become prominent in the community. Popularized by the revolutionary Antioch Chronicles, many campaigns even come with "MODs" that feature new "heroes" (i.e. the mapmakers create new art files to be imported in to StarCraft, thus creating completely new units and characters - something StarEdit alone could never do). Popular player-made campaigns include Campaign Creations' Legacy of the Confederation, Life of a Marine, The Antioch Chronicles, and's official campaigns: The Shifters and Fields of Ash.

In addition, some other map editors exist. These include the "StarCraft X-tra Editor", and have other features not in StarEdit. One of the possibilities included in some editors include "stacking" buildings and minerals, placing many one on top of the other. The ability to change player colors has been left to some of the more advanced editors, including "SCMDraft" and "StarForge", which were introduced after editors such as "GUEdit" and SCMToolkit" were becoming obsolete after barriers were broken and newer limits set. Most serious map creators now prefer "SCMDraft2", "StarForge", "PROEdit", and "uBeR@TiOn", because they give the user in-depth capabilities, such as the ability to use hidden AI scripts, protect maps from common theft, running sizeless sounds directly from the StarCraft disc, changing the color of text, compressing their map, and in more advanced areas, place raw sprites, sprite-units, extended players, disabled units, etc. Most of these editors (excluding "StarCraft X-tra Editor") are designed from scratch, eliminating most of the limits of the original StarEdit, the "StarCraft Campaign Editor." Many of these 3rd party programs have revolutionized StarCraft map making and new discoveries as to what different sprites or unit numbers do to the game, or as the most effective way to cloak certain units are discovered virtually every day. Many websites including, StarEdit Network, and StarCraft Index have been built around the capabilities of these impressive StarEdits.


"Nineteen years after StarCraft’s release, it remains popular around the world. With such enduring appeal, it’s tempting to assume that the game’s development was a closely choreographed ballet of art and design. In reality, it was more like a bar brawl."[17]


The concept emerged after the completion of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. While it was expected that Warcraft III would be the next logical step, Blizzard's art team wanted to work on something different. Designers still wanted to make another RTS, but it was decided that this time, it would be in a sci-fi setting.[18] Chris Metzen has voiced the opinion that the game was a reaction to the Warcraft series, and as such, from the outset, was intended to be more gritty and realistic.[19] Much of the concept of the game revolved around the idea of three races, and finding a balance between the three.[20] At the time of the game's development, Blizzard employed around 50 people.[17]

Numerous of ideas were thrown around,[21] including the possibility of working with LucasArts to make a Star Wars-themed RTS.[18] At some point, the talks fell apart.[22] Over time though, it was developed into its own setting.[21] with the game eventually receiving the name "StarCraft." Chris Metzen originally reacted negatively to the name, due to its similar title with the Warcraft series.[20]

Walkers from Shattered Nations that would form the basis of goliaths

Prior to and during the first part of the development of StarCraft, Blizzard was working on at least two other sci-fi strategy games. One of these was Shattered Nations, a post-apocalyptic game where factions had to scavenge technology. The game was canceled in favor of StarCraft, but there is evidence that some aspects of Shattered Nations made it into its successor—the goliath design for instance bears great resemblance to a mech that was in Shattered Nations, and was relabeled as such by gaming magazine PC Champ.[23] Unlike StarCraft, Shattered Nations was a turn-based isometric game,[24] similar to the Civilization games.[22]

Another sci-fi RTS Blizzard worked on was Pax Imperia II, a sequel to Pax Imperia. In 1997, Blizzard sold the rights to THQ, and the proposed sequel was released as Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain.[25] It has been stated however that StarCraft was a single project game.[26]

Subsequent Development

"There wasn’t a lot of thought process. It was more of—let's put this in, and boom. That’s our Siege Tank. That’s our Battlecruiser. There was no going back, no 'Hey, can we redo this?' There was no desire for that. It was cool, just as it was." - Samwise Didier[27]

A set of general guidelines for the three races was quickly settled on. Terran structures would be square and clunky, protoss would have elegant and round structures, while zerg structures would be vaguely triangular, covered in spikes. The models of units were rendered out to tiny images at each of the angles. However, Blizzard's cinematics team began production on the game long before the rest of it had been solidified. This led some confusion as to how units would appear in cinematics, versus how they might appear in the game engine.[27]

The announcement of StarCraft came before the development of its game engine.[28] The game was originally planned as a one year project.[20] It was originally anticipated that the game would be shipped in December 1996, with the thought of the game being a one year development cycle, but it was finally finished in March 1998.[21] At E3 1996, the game got a poor reception, earning its "orcs in space" moniker due to its similarities with Warcraft II. According to Samwise Didier, the reason for this was that work hadn't yet begun in earnest, and the showing was the result of tight deadlines. After E3, the team set out to overhaul the game.[27] At E3, the developers saw another sci-fi RTS called Dominion, and felt that its 3D art style would be a good template for how a sci-fi RTS should look.[22] For a while, though, StarCraft took the back seat to development of Diablo,[27] members of the development team were temporarily shifted to work on the game.[20] Over the next two months, Bob Fitch overhauled StarCraft's game engine, while its members were steadily transferred to Diablo.[27] The original game engine had been the same one as Warcraft II, but it didn't generate the effects that Blizzard was looking for, such as burrowing, cloaking, and the carrier's interceptors.

The game's "crunch period" began in August 1997. It lasted about six months before the game shipped in April 1998.[29]


A problem during development was that at this point in time, game studios were starting to utilize 3D graphics, while Blizzard still hand-drew their models. The game's artists began experimenting with 3D, but at least at first, the results were less than promising. To deal with the problem, the art team made the models wider and thicker, resulting in a distinctive over-the-top style.

Another problem was that other studios were getting into 3D graphics, and Blizzard still hand-drew their models, pixel by pixel. Didier and the other artists began experimenting with 3D—though the results, at least at first, were less than promising. To deal with the problem the art team made the models wider and thicker, resulting in a distinctive over-the-top style. This concept stemmed back to Warcraft, to go against photorealism. For StarCraft, this translated into a clunky aesthetic. This was the beginning of the "Blizzard Style," taken from technical necessity. On a related note, the game could only feature 15 colors per model.[27]


The game's soundtrack was composed by Glenn Stafford. The terran soundtracks extensively used slide distortion and electronic guitar. Stafford would later describe this as a "homecoming" for himself, as his background lay in progressive rock, whereas the music of Warcraft II was more orchestral. While the protoss OST was more orchestral than the terrans, Stafford on instrumentation that would keep them feeling extremely distinct from Warcraft, taking inspiration from Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the movie (film) Alien. Wary of parallel development, he purposefully avoided the film Starship Troopers. For the zerg, Stafford went for ambient electronic music, ominous and dark, with expansive sounds. The zerg OST was co-produced by Derek Duke.[30]


Main articles: StarCraft alpha, StarCraft beta

During the development process, there were great efforts to steer the game away from being simply "Warcraft in Space," and eventually the entire game engine had to be rewritten to allow the developers to achieve the desired result. Unlike Warcraft, where both the Alliance and Horde played identically bar spells, it was intended that StarCraft possess a rock/paper/scissors style of balance, partially inspired by Magic: The Gathering.[18]

The game's resource system was finalized four months before the game's release.[27]


The old "space vampire" concept

"StarCraft’s world was born in a whirlwind of creativity. When we made these races, we just threw a bunch of crap at the wall and saw what stuck. We knew that our Terrans were going to be rough and dirty. We knew we wanted the Protoss to be—not savage, exactly, but primal, and powerful. And we knew we wanted the Zerg to swarm." - Samwise Didier[27]

The initial storyline of StarCraft was in a sense, a science fiction spin-off of its counterpart franchise, Warcraft. More of an action shooter, it featured clans of 'space vampires' in a sci-fi setting.[21] Concepts for the setting were worked on by Chris Metzen and Nick Carpenter. The original pitch was a science-fantasy epic, with "a story told in a far-out universe with a huge world and different factions." Other members of the development team reacted negatively however.[20]

As design on StarCraft shifted towards an RTS game, it was decided to simplify things into recognizable traits; spidery aliens and psychic brain aliens would be easily recognizable to an audience.[31] Humans would feature in the game, but the developers didn't want to do the "Galactic Good Guys" trope, instead going with "Surly Space Cowboys That Were Prisoners."[22] It was decided that the terrans would be "rough and dirty," the protoss "primal and powerful," and that the zerg would swarm their enemies.[27] Orcs were present during development, with the idea of copying the set-up of the first Warcraft game, Orcs and Humans. This idea was later abandoned.[21] Influences for the game's setting came from Starship Troopers, Predator, and Battlestar Galactica.[22]

The terrans, protoss, and zerg made it to the final product, but they differed from early conceptions. In early concepts for the game (which originally took place in the 28th century), the terrans had ruled the stars for 600 years, but now possessed just a fragment of their early territory. The zerg (or "zurg" as they were originally known) were a bio-mechanical race rather than a purely organic one.[32] The protoss were openly hostile to the terrans and in the game's original backstory, carried out a massacre of terrans on one of the planets of Tau Ceti.[33]

Initially, the storyline was broad, the key events such as the fall of the Terran Confederacy and the invasion of Aiur not being implemented until work began on the single player campaign.[31] Cinematics were created before the fleshing out of the story, designed so that they could easily fit in—the intro cinematic is an example of this, designed to sell terrans as "rednecks."[21] Characters and topics were almost chosen on a whim, and were designed to be self-contained.[27]

When developing the game's zerg campaign, Metzen gave the campaign "a Shakespeare meets Old Testament kind of vibe." The decision to make Kerrigan the Queen of Blades was to allow the zerg campaign to be seen through a human lens, thus her infestation at the end of the terran campaign.[20]

Certain elements of the canceled Blizzard game Bloodlines were ported into StarCraft,[34] though others (such as its space vampire concept) were cut.[31]


StarCraft sold well, which Blizzard was prepared for. What wasn't expected was the reception in South Korea. It was the first Blizzard game to begin pushing the company in a global direction.[35]

StarCraft was the best selling computer and video game of 1998.[36] An estimated 9.5 million copies were sold (4.5 million copies in South Korea) by 2004.[37] In 2009, the Guiness Book of World Records recognized StarCraft as the best-selling RTS game at 9.5 million copies sold.[38]


Main article: Blizzard Entertainment#Awards

StarCraft on the Walk of Game.

StarCraft has been nominated for GameFAQ's 10 best games ever, and Sony's Walk of Game.

Guinness World Records awarded StarCraft the records for "best selling strategy game for PC"[39] and "longest-serving eSports game" on 1 November 2010.[40]



Alpha screenshots



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External links