Edited by Andrew on 3/15/11 7:04 PM (PDT)
NEWS (3-15-11): Due to hitting the post cap, this thread can no longer accept new comments--effectively shutting it down. To that end, I have reposted the essay here:
If you wish to join the conversation, please use the above link.
Upon request, I have updated my arguments incorporating many of the stronger cases made over the next 70+ pages of conversation. This has, necessarily, increased the (already pretty long) length of this post. Due to the way editing works on the forums, I also feel that this current version of my argument is a little more scattered, so please bear with me.
NOTE: This posts contains major SPOILERS to SC, BW, and SC2.
Disclaimer: I want start by saying that I loved the shorter mission length, upgrades, mix of old/new units, balance, and (though deeply flawed) more non-linear story. If Blizzard or fellow SC fans reads this, I am not a troll simply here to stomp on the hard work the writers put in. I am a true fan that was deeply impressed with the game itself, but deeply disappointed by the glaring errors in story. I have beta tested most of Blizzards games (including SC and BW) and assure Blizzard that I am here to voice my legitimate criticism as only a true friend can.
In this post I attempt to address what I see are major errors and missteps with regards to SC2's storyline. I intend this post to be extensive, as such, this will be a long post, and despite living in a world of tweets, I write in (more or less) complete sentences and paragraph structure… if you don't want to read something like this, don't. Because the post is so long I have broken it into multiple sub-posts under this one for the convince of the reader. I have also provided a rough outline so you can jump to a section you are interested in. Finally, I have, whenever possible, quoted original source material to demonstrate that my concerns are legitimate and not simply from memory or the ramblings of an angry fanboy.
My argument is meant to be understood holistically. No one of these points (other than the Overmind retcon IMO) sinks SC2, but, I feel, taken together, the points sum to the conclusion that there was an overall surprisingly poor quality of writing in SC (specifically in regards to retconning). This poor writing/culture of laziness greatly hurt the SC2 narrative.
I. Treatment of the Overmind in SC2 and Humanizing the Zerg
II. Apparently Brood War didn't happen
a. Kerrigan & Raynor
b. Whatever happened to the UED Legacy?
III. Broken storytelling
a) Mengsk & the Gang
b) The Books
c) "Four Years Later"
d) Two More Installments!
IV. The Protoss and their Past
a) The Tal'Darim
V. The Crutch of Prophecy
a) It was Foreseen and Free Will Redux
b) 8 Billion People
VI. That SC Feeling
b) Macro/Micro War
c) It's a love story!
Edited by Andrew on 11/24/10 9:35 AM (PST)
I. Treatment of the Overmind in SC2 and Humanizing the Zerg
The Overmind has to be free for SC to make sense"The Zerg were indeed created by the ancient Xel'Naga… But the Overmind grew beyond their constraints, and has at last come to finish the experiments they began so long ago." Zeratul Protoss Mission 9, the experiment, of course, being the creation of being perfect of form and essence. The Overmind makes clear that it wishes to assimilate the Protoss in SC NOT destroy them as the Dark Voice desires. That is a contradiction The SC manual states that the Protoss are perfect in form and the Overmind is perfect in essence (pg 51). As the Overmind explains: "For upon this world of Aiur shall we incorporate the strongest known species into our fold. Then shall we be the greatest of creation's children. We shall be... Perfect." (SC Zerg mission 9). This is a real high water mark in writing and SC lore in general; I love this section of SC. Also in Mission 10 the Overmind ends the Zerg campaign with these words: "Now shall the events set into motion so long ago be made complete. For the Protoss too, were created by the Xel'Naga. They were the first creation, gifted with a purity of form. And we were the second creation, blessed with a purity of essence. Indeed, our two species are but opposite facets of a greater whole. Soon shall our two races be made as one. Thenceforth shall all feel the wrath of the eternal Swarm... For the hour of judgment is come!"
As a Cerebrate the player is an extension of the Overmind, as it explains in Zerg Mission 5: "Truly all that you are lies wholly within me." If the Overmind is tormented and rebelling against the chains implanted within it by the Xel'Naga (which the Overmind slaughtered) then the Cerebrate player would know or experience in some way because the player was contained wholly within the Overmind—the player was a fraction OF the Overmind. Yet at no point in the campaign do these supposed chains manifest or does the Overmind rage. Even with Zasz death (Zerg Missions 6-7) the Overmind does not rage, even when part of its own mind is destroyed it still remains even. Rather than a raging monster in chains the Overmind remains from start to finish cold, confident, and inevitable. The ghost reports: "Overmind was formed with thought and reason but not with free will." Yet the Overmind thinks at the player (the cerebrate) so the Overmind can think and reason but cannot choose (freewill), so the cerebrate, being privy to the Overmind's free thoughts, would know if it was in chains.
It has been stated (by Blizzard writing staff) that we, the players, simply do not know all the details of the Overmind. Perhaps, but this is a poor way to write. For, one cannot prove a negative. Yes it never said that the Overmind was NOT under compulsion, it also is never said that Kerrigan is NOT actually half Xel'Naga. This kind of arguing is setting up an undefended position whereby anything NOT mentioned in the original sources is on as strong a ground as what IS mentioned. --Did you know that that Mengsk is Raynor's son? Yes, it is stated that Raynor is younger than Mengsk, but that is only because you do not know about all the exciting Terran artificial aging technology that we are yet to reveal!—Good writing is not about throwing in additional ad hoc facts to make a story, good writing is taking the facts that exist and growing them organically and naturally. The Overmind is clearly free in SC1, this has been changed (retconned) by adding the previously unmentioned fact that it was not free. One is technically correct that I cannot point to a single line whereby the Overmind is free, but to do so is to argue fallaciously and defend poor/lazy writing.
The retcon gets worse: in SC2 it is stated: "The zerg were... altered. A single overriding objective was forced on them... the destruction of our [the Protoss]. The Overmind was formed with thought and reason but not with free will." The Overmind MUST ALWAYS make the choice that moves it closer to the destruction of the Protoss. Thus, ANY choice that deviates from this motive is IMPOSSIBLE for the Overmind to make. Because any choice counter to the destruction of the Protoss will be vetoed by the overriding. We are also told in SC2 that the Overmind KNOWS that Kerrigan can be used to free the Zerg from the Dark Voice's control. Thus, a logical contradiction. If the Overmind believes Kerrigan can break the enslavement then Kerrigan's existence violates the overriding objective! For, Kerrigan could lead the Zerg away from the destroying the Protoss, and the ONE action forbidden to the Overmind by the Dark Voice. Under the logic of the retcon itself (with no references to SC1/BW) either Kerrigan or the Dark Voice cannot exist. For, in order for her to exist, the Overmind MUST have free will to create her, yet the Overmind was "created [by the Dark Voice] with thought and reason but not with free will".
Edited by Andrew on 11/11/10 9:17 PM (PST)
II. Apparently Brood War didn't happen
Brood War seems to be pretty much ret-conned out of existence. Rather than provide several examples of the elimination of BW, I'll pick (in my opinion) the two most egregious examples.
a. Kerrigan and Raynor
The question of Kerrigan's humanity was left unanswered in SC. In Zerg Mission 4, Kerrigan spares Raynor's life telling him to leave: "It is certainly within my power [to kill Raynor]. But you're not a threat to me, Jim. Be smart. Leave here now, and never seek to confront the Zerg again." The line is delivered with a certain sympathy and compassion, leaving the player to wonder how much of Kerrigan survived the transformation into the Queen of Blades. This theme of how much of her survived is the primary story of Brood War. Throughout the BW campaigns it seems the Kerrigan, now free of the Overmind has "changed" and is human-ish again (BW Zerg Missions 1-4). Yet Zerg Mission 5 is the game changer, as Kerrigan so elegantly puts it in mission 10 she is "the Queen @!!#@ of the Universe". The entire point of the BW was that Kerrigan had reached the point of no return. It was not Kerrigan's choice to be transformed and infested BUT it was her choice to assume the role of the Queen of Blades ruler of the Swarm (BW Zerg Campaign).
It was BW where Jim sought to redeem Kerrigan. He frequently trusts her even when others do not. He constantly remembers that she spared him on Char. BW is the game that Jim doubts and hopes that she can be redeemed, it is BW that birthed that story arc, and it is in BW that that story arc comes to an end. When Kerrigan kills Fenix in Mission 5, Raynor states, "…How many noble souls do you need to consume before you're satisfied? How many more people need to die before you realize what you've become?" It is with this line that Raynor gives up any hope of redeeming her. And it is his next line that ends the will he/won't he story arc: "…I'll see you dead for this, Kerrigan. For Fenix and all the others who got caught between you and your mad quest for power! … It may not be tomorrow, darlin'. It may not even happen with an army at my back. But rest assured: I'm the man who's going to kill you some day." Why the writers of SC2 suddenly decided that this ending to the Kerrigan-Raynor story arc was less powerful then the trite/cliche love wins out in the end of SC2 I do not know. But in Brood War, Raynor made his choice: why he then is suddenly in doubt and conflicted is just poor writing.
The Queen of Blades book strongly implies that the QoB and Kerrigan are different people, but unless Raynor also read the Queen of Blades book, HE does not know that Kerrigan and the QoB are different people. No one, in game, asserts this as a fact or even floats it as a theory. Only the player (who has read the book) knows this fact. The only person that even comes remotely close to stating Kerrigan and the QoB are different is Valerian. Yet, Valerian's words about redemption are ambiguous given the Orwellian nature of his government. Regardless, Valerian is not trusted by Raynor (Raynor states that outright). So even if Valerian is saying that Kerrigan/QoB are different people, and even if this is a true statement in the game world's facts, that does not give Raynor (or the player) reason to BELIEVE Valerian other than the love story narrative that has emerged in which Raynor will believe the best in Kerrigan simply because he loves her--a storyline which I contend is a retcon to their BW relationship. Raynor just being "on board" with Valerian's notion that Kerrigan/QoB are different people is a problem from a narrative standpoint.
b. Whatever happened to the UED Legacy?
We do not need to see the UED again in the flesh. I realize they were largely slaughtered at the end of BW, and that Earth is very far away. I do not desire the UED to be present, but certainly they played massive role in shaping the Korprulu sector. Unfortunately, the legacy of the UED was forgotten, and the universe was weakened accordingly. The SC2 installation voice over who knows what mix up would be excusable if the Korprulu Sector did not know that the UED had been monitoring them the entire time, but the problem is that the UED kind of sort of INVADED THE DOMINION! So now the Korprulu Sector and Dominion knows that Earth at least is aware of their existence and that all contact with Earth has not been lost. I would think that this revelation would play a bigger role (or at least SOME role) in SC2, but apparently this was inconvenient and rather than craft the story to the facts, new facts were made to fit the story.
The UED had a monumental impact on the sector, and so its legacy not being mentioned seems strange. It seems that someone (be it government official or one of the Raiders) would have mentioned the UED in a more substantial way (regardless of if knowledge of the UED was spun, suppressed, or lied about--someone would talk about it!)
Edited by Andrew on 12/10/10 3:43 PM (PST)
II. Broken storytelling
The non-linear storytelling was a bold and interesting choice from Blizzard. Unfortunately, it often failed to provide a cohesive storyline. Characters, rather than evolving, randomly jumped in attitude and mood. On my play through, Raynor, after a mission, was upbeat and "back on the right track" as a "good man." Matt specifically complements him on making good decisions. My next mission ended with Raynor in the bar, Matt explaining that Raynor hasn't been the same in a long time, and that when Raynor figures out who he is he should tell the crew! It's a good moment (both scenes are) but both are cheapened by the storytelling. Rather than evolve and grow he wildly jumps about. Rather than see him advance, as we did in SC, Raynor is a disjointed broken mess (and not in a good way) one mission to the next.
A similar situation occurred when I choose to press the Dominion by outing Mengsk secrets. Because of my actions, rebellion and protest were spreading throughout the Dominion against Emperor Mengsk. Yet, in my dealings with his own son, Valerian, never seems to mind. All the while, my actions are seriously throwing into question if there will even be an emperorship for Valerian to assume. Even assuming Valerian hates Arcturus, the cognitive disconnect between the way Valerian treats the player and what the player is doing to the fundamental existence of the Dominion is a demonstration of shockingly poor writing and character development.
But perhaps most egregious is if one does not play through the Protoss section of the game, then Raynor has NO motivation to save Kerrigan OTHER than a love story.
a) Mengsk & the Gang
As Blizzard's own bio of Mengsk shows (http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/game/hero/arcturus-mengsk), he is envisioned to be an unbelievably charismatic and has a vision of how the world should be that people are actually drawn to. People follow Mengsk for a reason. Mengsk was such a fascinating villain in SC1. He was educated, charismatic, tactical, and was fighting against a horrid corrupt government that nuked his homeworld. Yet, in SC2 Mengsk was just this distant, "big government is watching" villain. The newscasters, rather than plausibly show his side of the conflict or reveal "his oratorical mastery and firm control over the media" (Bliz bio), were mostly for comedic value or filler. In SC1 I could see why people followed Mengsk, but I never understood that in SC2. I never got the feeling that Mengsk was a worthy opponent. Mengsk, Raynor, Kerrigan were just talking heads in SC1, but at least they had interesting things to say and forwarded interesting philosophical differences. It was subtle and complicated. SC2 is blunt and boring.
b) The Books
I realize the Dark Voice/Voice in the Darkness is introduced in the Frontline series and the DV may not be the VitD. But DV = VotD is a charitable reading because otherwise the DV is completely and utterly ad hoc. Yet, even if DV=VD this does not excuse the fact that it's relation to the Overmind is a retcon. Just because the retcon occurred in non-game does not make the retcon okay somehow.
These are good examples of where the books can be used as nice supplemental material. I find such things interesting if well done. But there is a difference between flushing out something we did not know and fundamentally re-writing something that we already know.
c) 4 Years Later
I realize there has been 4 years between SC1 and SC2. But some decisions are pretty important from a story telling perspective, and the decision to NOT kill Kerrigan is one of them. The 4 years later explanation is a crutch for bad writing. The last time we see Raynor, he is swearing to kill Kerrigan for embracing her role as QoB (BW), the next time we meet him (SC2) he is pining over her picture in the bar (the same emotional state he began but did not end BW with). Four years can change a lot, but we as the player need to understand why that change occurred. It seemed that all the changes that took place over those 4 years systematically restored characters to their pre-BW emotional states. Good writing may have huge jumps in a character, but those crucial details are filled in meaningfully. This was not the case in SC2.
d) Two More Installments!
It is often noted that there are two installments left. That does not mean that we do not have the right to critique the installment we have. Indeed, Blizzard is fantastic about receiving constant feedback from fans and adapting. The open beta tests, that Blizzard is famous for, help tune the game play and balance to perfection. I wish my critique to in some small way help with the story. Just as when a multi-player forum goer comments, "The zergling rush is too strong in this build." it is silly for anyone to respond, "Well there are two more installments!" So too is it silly to respond in this way to those that have misgivings about the story.
Edited by Andrew on 12/19/10 9:09 PM (PST)
IV. The Protoss and Their Past
Where the Zerg are the fear of nature personified, the Protoss are the fear of technology personified.
Having slain the Xel'Naga and descended into a crazed orgy of violence and carnage documented within the Aeon of Strife (see SC manual pg 72-73) the Protoss fear what they were. The point of the Khala is a strict code meant to control (SC manual 74-5) the "unbridled ferocity of the Protoss at war" (SC Manual pg 80). The Protoss are so terrified by what they were that the Dark Templar are considered a bigger threat than are the Zerg (SC P:2, 7, 8 and BW P:3, 7). It wasn't just a plot point to draw out more missions that the Conclave constantly butt in during the Protoss campaign in SC, it was the point of the Protoss! They are so horrified and hate their former carnage that they could not see or fear anything else. It isn't just hubris that drives them: it is also terror of loosing control. So it was shocking that in SC2 Zeratul just casually summons the Protoss Colossi without any fear that the Protoss were reverting to their old chaotic ways. The barely contained rage, deep regret/shame, and fear that is so prevalent and central to the Protoss psyche in previous games is absolutely absent in SC2. Any trepidation the Protoss may have for summoning some of their worst weapons of war is non-existent. It seems the lesson of the Protoss from SC was lost to the writers of SC2 because the ancient race has suddenly changed!
Additionally, I (as the player) controlled the Zerg invasion of Aiur (SC Z:9-10). I fought for the Overmind, and I then fought to destroy the Overmind (SC P:9-10). If the Colossi were on Aiur why is it that I never saw them in either the defense or assault? Why where not the ultimate Protoss weapons of war used then—if they were to be used at all? And if the colossi were held back for the reasons sighted above (the fact that the Protoss fear themselves more than any external threat) why then were the colossi so casually used THIS time rather than when Aiur was in her darkest hour?
Certainly, Zeratul would have something to say about the colossi being there. Even if it was a line of dialogue along akin to, "I can't believe the Conclave feared our technology so much..." or "Perhaps I shouldn't use such powerful weapons..." or literally anything other than "Oh boy! Colossi!" It was an easy point in the narrative to learn more about the Protoss, Zeratul, or both, but instead we do not learn anything.
Another is a theme I see as emerging: moving the game more in a fantasy direction. Like introducing prophecy (which I will discuss later), the Protoss are moved in a more fantasy direction. One thing that I think sets it apart in SC1 is that the Xel'Naga did not set themselves up as gods to be worshiped. A difference I see here is that when sci-fi writers talk about "gods" in this way they mean highly-advanced aliens, but when fantasy writers talk about "gods" they mean the divine. Indeed, the Protoss in SC understand that the Xel'Naga were scientists. Zeratul states, "But the Overmind grew beyond their constraints. and has at last come to finish the experiments they began so long ago." (SC P:9) So it has been frustrating that the Protoss degrade into a more fantasy based version of worshiping the Xel'Naga as gods, rather than the SC relationship. Certainly both of these themes are present in both sci-fantasy in degrees, but an overall theme in SC2 is a move towards the fantasy side.
b) The Tal'darim
I realize they were introduced in other media and have done heinous things, but much effort was put into introducing players to characters they knew from SC. At least as much effort should have went into re-establishing characters from other media (which have a lower probability of familiarity). Jim says, "They are fanatics" and somehow that is supposed to justify a war of aggressions smash and grab. As far as the player is concerned, Jim has no real beef with the Tal'darim. Now had the Tal'darim been developed/backstoried we may understand why it's okay to attack them but, as it stands, the Tal'darim end up looking like the victims in SC2 rather than the fanatical Aeon of Strife-esque Protoss.
I feel that the Protoss were mystical in the first game. There was a certain element of spiritualism and mysticism in the way their society functioned, but I don't think the Protoss were religious. The difference is not easy to parse, but I say that mysticism involves holding that there are deeper meanings than we do/can comprehend, but NOT attributing those unknowns to gods. Clearly this fits the SC1 Protoss, but NOT the Tal'darim. Now, obviously, no group is monolithic in its belief structure so maybe the Tal'darim are the outliers, but the religion of the Tal'darim struck me as a stark contrast to the mysticism of the Protoss (and DT) that we saw in SC/BW. This difference, again, is a shift towards the more fantasy side of the spectrum.
Edited by Andrew on 12/28/10 8:13 PM (PST)
V. The Crutch of Prophecy
I knew things were in trouble when I heard Zeratul announce, "The Zerg Swarm came, as was foretold…" This line really crystallizes so much of the attitude of the writers of SC2 for what was created by the writers of SC. Simply put, no. No the zerg swarm was not foretold. IF the Zerg Swarm had been foretold, maybe the Protoss would have had a better solution than annihilating entire planets. IF the Zerg Swarm had been foretold by the Dark Templar, then they would have warned the Conclave. For, despite the ill blood between the Conclave and the banished Dark Templar, the Dark Templar still "relentlessly strive to protect their race and the ancient secrets of their Tribes." (BW Manual pg 13) In fact, the SC manual makes specifically clear that the Protoss were taken by complete surprise by the Zerg (77-78). So it is clear that the Protoss were not the ones doing the foretelling!
Perhaps it was the Xel'Naga that were foretelling, and the Protoss discovered it too late. Again, this is poor writing. If the Xel'Naga were so good at foretelling one would think they would have foretold that the Protoss would rise up against them, they would move to another world, where their next creation, the Zerg Overmind, would slaughter the "greater whole of the Xel'Naga race" (SC Manual pg 53).
So maybe it was the Dark Voice that did the foretelling, yet, why would the Dark Voice foretell something it was going to do? I'm not sure that it fits the definition of foretelling. If I were to make the comment "I will post in this forum tomorrow." And then I in fact do post tomorrow (because I live a rich full life) certainly no one would respond: "Andrew posted again today—AS WAS FORTOLD!" So it could not be the Dark Voice that did the foretelling either.
There was no prophecy in SC. There is no mention of it that I can find in the game scripts or SC or BW manuals. Why include a mechanic like prophecy in SC2 when it has no precedence? The "prophecy" in SC2 feels like such a trite plot gimmick to forward information without any real effort on the part of the writers. It is simply a lame crutch that dumps information on the player in a way that the writers could not come up with an actual clever way to do so. It feels so borrowed from other non-starcraft universes: Warcraft has prophecy. Diablo has prophecy. Starcraft should not.
a) It was Foreseen and Free Will Redux
As BroodmyWarcraft has pointed out, by including prophecy, all the characters are merely playing a part in a play. Thus, not only does Blizzard then strip the Overmind of its free will (overtly), but, thanks to the prophecy, all the Starcraft universe are mere slaves to cosmic events that have been foretold--that have been pre-determined. Their choices mean nothing, because it was all foretold, prophecy strips them of any real meaning to their actions: prophecy makes the universe deterministic (or fatalistic), and free will (as it is typically understood) is incommensurable with determinism.
b) 8 Billion People
Sorry have to fit this in here due to edit/length issues:
Raynor tells Mat that Kerrigan murdered 8 billion people. By redeeming her it also makes Raynor look terrible. We have all heard of people that fall in love with sociopaths (Eva Braun, Stalin's wives, etc.), but at some point there must be a number of murders where even these people would say, "Okay, I love you, but, wow, you've just killed too many people and you must be punished!" Unless, of course, they are sociopaths themselves, and simply don't care about other people being murdered. And that is really where Jim Raynor is at this moment. He's in love with Kerrigan who has killed over 8 billion people... 8 BILLION PEOPLE. Blizzard wants us to believe that his love for her is greater than his disdain that she killed 8 billion people. So what number would Jim balk at? I mean now that we are into the billions, when is enough enough for him? Because, apparently the 8 BILLION mark just isn't enough people for him to stop feeling sorry for her, or wish her punished, or treat her with any kind of disdain.
By redeeming Kerrigan, and making Raynor the champion of that cause, it weakens Raynor as a moral compass of the series. He was, in SC/BW, the kind of every man. Jim was just a guy doing his best, calling it like he saw it and trying to do what was right in a screwed up universe, sometimes he was right, sometimes he was wrong, but he always tried. Then 4 years later, apparently, that leads him to conclude that the murderer of 8 billion people should be treated with more tenderness and love than he treats his own crew.
It reduces him from an interesting moral character to a sociopath in his own right, for only someone truly unfeeling and non-human could forgive the murderer of about the population of Earth. In my eyes, her redemption not only destroys the Queen of Blades character, it destroys Raynor as well.
Edited by Andrew on 12/20/10 10:41 AM (PST)
VI. That SC Feeling
In this section isn't as cut and dry as Raynor saying I'm going to kill you, then suddenly pining over Kerrigan's picture. This section is more about my interpretation of the game than logical/narrative flaws.
Fantastic has a really interesting examination of this topic,
Very little humanity is portrayed in SC2. The marines, rather than have unique armor, or visors up with faces, walk around with visors down in the cinematics. In SC1, the marines typically had their visors down, faces clearly visible, making them human-adding to their plight, be it the fear and brokenness in the opening BW cinematic or the comradely in Battle of the Amerigo cinematic. Compare this to SC2, with the marines in their identical red suits: faceless, emotionless, non-human. They are simply things that are shot (as Fantastic points out) they might as well have been robots. By not showing the marines faces, or emotions, SC2 de-humanizes them. Compare this to the brilliant treatment in SC where the goal of the cinematic and treatment of humanity seemed to be to humanize the nameless grunts.
b) Macro/Micro War
This leads to the broader point that SC1 expertly balanced the micro and macro aspects of the war. Despite the events of SC being epic in scope, pitting entire races against each other, the story was told from a micro level: the effects were a micro level. Many of the cinematics were not "epic." Many featured throw away nameless people (who died terribly). Perfect example the opening cinematic:
The cinematic is not really about the planet being glassed, it is about the very human endeavor of surviving and scrapping bye. It is about the micro effects of a macro war. The main event, the Protoss destroying the planet, is secondary to the humanity of the salvage crew's interactions. The cinematic is instantly engaging because it is about humanity (warts and all). We understand that there is this massive war/event going on, but the way that information is handed to us comes in the form of showcasing the characters (brief as their appearance may be) rather than focusing on the epicness of the event itself. That is what SC2 was so missing: characters, actual emotion, actual humanity. We are told macro level details (billions dead, millions displaced, etc), but the death of the two nameless guys we met for 2 minutes during Wasteland Watch (Terran cinematic 1) for my money means more than all the numbers the writers can throw at us.
c) It's a love story!
Starcraft is about humanity, and humanity is what SC2 lacked most of all. It lacks characters, engagement, and heart. Certainly love is an aspect of humanity, but to claim, as Metzen has, that "Starcraft is, at the end of the day, about a boy and a girl" (3:08 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHbw_1xKRjs&feature=related) is, in my opinion to completely miss the point.
But let's assume that Starcraft is a love story. Where did the love come from? How long did Raynor and Kerrigan know each other? My guess is it couldn't be more than, at best, a few months. Yet, apparently, over that time they grew to have a love so pure and radiant that it can survive Kerrigan butchering 8 billion people (including friends of Raynor). How is that kind of love possible (at all) but particularly given such a time frame? I realize that some of this is covered in the books, but Jim and Kerrigan's relationship in SC is ambiguous: they could be attracted to each other, or they could be friends, or close colleagues--each version of the relationship seems plausible. Yet that's the problem! What does not seem plausible is that in this short time they forged such a close bond that Raynor would be willing to sacrifice everyone and everything for her, be willing to forgive her crimes, could be in love with her after the things she's done.
For a love story, love is not portrayed in a sophisticated way in SC2. Love is this generic rationale for Raynor, but never really explored. Indeed, the other character we are told that Raynor loves is Tychus (not romantically, but still there is supposed to be friendship/love). Yet, how is does Raynor show that love? When he finds out that Tychus' suit could kill him (and also having on board a brilliant mechanic and possibly a brilliant scientist) Raynor simply shrugs "That's Tychus!" (cue 80's laugh track).
Love, rather than be treated in an honest human way, is treated with as much shallowness as the characters themselves. For a story that is supposedly about love, the topic is handled (in any of its forms) very poorly. Just as the prophecy is a deus ex machina to give us plot, love seems to be treated as the deus ex machina to forward motivations of characters.
Edited by Andrew on 1/27/11 7:29 PM (PST)
I am not alone in my critique and worries. Not only are there many forum goers that have deep reservations and respectful cogent critiques, professional game critics also agree with us. They agree: the game is fantastic, but the story is deeply flawed. BKExecutor has extended his diligence (originally: post 1375 pg 69, updated: 1512, 1513 pg 76) has done a fantastic job compiling quotes, but here is a short version. Please stop by and see BKExecutor's post:
1. Gamespot: http://bit.ly/bvahqh
2. IGN - http://pc.ign.com/articles/110/1108642p3.html
3. Original-gamer.com -http://www.original-gamer.com/?action=article&id=1743
4. GAMECRITICS.com - http://www.gamecritics.com/richard-naik/starcraft-ii-wings-of-liberty-review
5. InsightBits: - http://bit.ly/9G5rbO
6. Honest Games http://www.honestgamers.com/reviews/8985/StarCraft-II-Wings-of-Liberty.html
7. Eurogamer.net - http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/starcraft-ii-wings-of-liberty-review
8. Destructoid- http://www.destructoid.com/review-starcraft-ii-180400.phtml
9. HookedGamers.com -http://www.hookedgamers.com/pc/starcraft_ii_wings_of_liberty/review/article-575-2.html
10. FortheloveoftheMedia.com - http://fortheloveofmedia.com/games/393
11.. Absolute Games- http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/topic/1568011928
12. GameShark - http://www.gameshark.com/pc/reviews/3584/Starcraft-II-Wings-of-Liberty-Review.htm
I have no problem with people that enjoyed the game's story. It is not my place to say what people can and cannot or should and should not enjoy. But where enjoyment is subjective, quality is objective. We can talk about what is good and bad storytelling! I have no problem with people that enjoy bad things (or do not enjoy good things)--I love a greasy cheeseburger, but just because I enjoy it does not make it 5 star dinning. We must separate enjoyment from quality when and where we can. As Jean-Luc Godard notes, "Beauty is composed of an eternal, invariable element whose quantity is extremely difficult to determine, and a relative element which might be, either by turns or all at once, period, fashion, moral, passion."For, if there is no objective measure of quality, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is no better than Wiseau's The Room, Beethoven is no better than Britney Spears. We may not agree on what makes one better than another, but it is inherently wrong to claim that quality is purely subjective or purely based on enjoyment.
No one is claiming Metzen and Blizzard does not have the RIGHT to change anything. My contention is that changing established cannon weakens the story, is poor writing, and is part of a culture of laziness in the writing team of SC2. That is their right, but it hardly makes them good writers or tells a coherent story. I didn't expect everything to be explained in the story; I understand certain plot points and ideas will change, but I expected that the basic coherency of the SC world would be continued. I expected a story that pays respect to the works that came before rather than the expedience of ret-conning and sloppy writing for what will come next. Starcraft is one of my favorite games, and remains so. I love the technical aspects of SC2, but it is deeply flawed by expedient writing. I easily looked up the script and manuals for SC and BW, but it seems that Blizzard did not. I take the Starcraft lore seriously because I enjoy it; I wish that Blizzard had done the same. Blizzard can tell a better story than SC2, and SC fans deserve a better effort than the story presented in SC2.
I didn't start the thread (or maintain it) to get thousands of "love this post" comments. I am always grateful to get complements from like minded gamers, I enjoy discussing the topic more with people that disagree with me. I maintain this it to help maintain the dialogue. I don't think anyone constructively entering the conversation should be shouted down--logically shot down yes, but shouted down no ;) So please, PLEASE, do not "Dislike" comments that are constructively adding to the discourse but you do not agree with, we may not agree, but the dialogue only gets better when we actually talk rather than try and "vote out"/bury the opposition.
I thank any that read any section of this rather lengthy mess of an essay :P I especially want to thank any that braved this longer version! I also want to thank anyone for comments.
Ohhh, and for a treat, check out JohnnyZeWolf's parody of this post: http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/topic/1869251726. It's pretty funny.
Edited by Subsourian on 8/14/10 6:47 PM (PDT)
Ok this is actually fairly well thought out with good citations. I applaud this.
For the most part I agree. The Overmind's retcon was unneeded, horribly. They could have just as easily said the Overmind did everything on its own will but still foresaw the Dark Voice coming into existence, thus creating Kerrigan to break the cycle, for he knew he would either be dead or under its sway.
And OH GOD YES to the Brood War thing. You think Mengsk and the Dominion would be a little more on their toes for, you know, being INVADED BY THEIR HOMEWORLD. And being cut off from their last vestige of hope, seeing now that truly the entire universe conspired against them? I LOVED the UED, I thought they were well fleshed out characters, and it's a shame to see that their invasion is glossed over, considering it took the entire sector by storm.
And you mention Fenix's death. Anyone else notice how Fenix himself was Retconned? I mean there isn't ONE mention of his existence anywhere in the campaign. Plus you think the Raiders, who fought alongside Fenix and his warriors, would be a little more familiar with the Protoss then they were in the campaign, seeing as they were rescued by them on Char and fought on Auir.
Plus I could go into a whole essay on Ressurection IV and the bonus maps which Blizzard keeps insisting are canon being horribly retconed (Stukov being alive, an anti-infestation serum developed by the Protoss). But for the most part this hit my concerns right on the head.
I know I'm being a total jackass, but honestly. What do you expect them to do? It's obvious they can't just redo the entire campaign. And you don't really say what they can do better. I suppose in a way you do. But the retconning is done. Maybe it sucks from your perspective. Chances are quite a few feel the way you do.
But all we really are is passengers. Blizzard writes the story and we get to play it.
I know it isn't Mass Effect, but it's still a pretty good story. Maybe I think so because I like the ending.
As for Stukov, do you really think the Protoss would help Kerrigan? Who in the entire universe would ever want to help her other than Jim? Just because Jim doesn't mention Fenix doesn't mean Fenix never existed.
What is so wrong about retconning? As a semi-writer, sometimes the world just doesn't end up the way you wanted it to be. Something you thought was a cool idea you wish you changed earlier. If you aren't famous then it isn't a problem. Like Han shooting first. Sometimes you just want to change things despite the terrible uproar about something so insignificant. But I guess that's what happens.
The series gives a lot of detail about the Fallen One (the traitor Xel'Naga who turned the overmind against his brethren), Valerian, the Aeon of Strife, the exile of the Dark Templar and the role Adun played, and a whole bunch of stuff. It fills a few holes in the stuff you mentioned above, but not all of it.
@GeminiEclips You're not being a total jackass, I didn't write this to get a billion "I agree" posts. I'm interested in the discussion.
I realize Blizzard can't fix what is done. They/we are stuck with it. Yet they can pay more attention to the lore than they have in the next installments.
As for ret-conning, yes some ret-conning is okay. Again, when the UED invades in BW that can be viewed as ret-conning because the SC manual states contact was lost. That is an okay retconning because it wedges in something interesting that provides insight into the nature of the Dominion, Kerrigan, etc. It did not necessarily change what had happened merely tweak it. The retconning can also be bad. When the entire psyche of the Overmind and Protoss is changed, that's bad. When the entire relationship from hatred to love is changed between Kerrigan and Raynor that is bad retconning.
I too am a semi-writer, and the mark of good writing is not what new things you can think up independent of the world you have crafted previous, the mark of good writing is what can be done with what you already have established. I also realize what is acceptable retconning is largely dependent on taste. I would hope that even you would be upset if Raynor had been retconned into being a Protoss :P So I see your point, but, at the same time, SC2 retconned too much for me and I hope that in future installments of SC2 the established universe is better respected.
@Zalast Interesting. Perhaps I'll pick the series up. I'm curious as to your opinion on how canonical the series should be taken. I'm always a little skeptical of cross-media canon. As a friend remarked upon seeing Revenge of the Sith "I don't want to have to read the comic, watch the cartoon, and read the novel to understand what the heck is going on!" I really don't know how I feel about non-game sources.