I have only pirated one game in my life. I had picked up the Xbox version of the Star Wars game Republic Commando, expecting it to work in my new Xbox 360. That’s when I discovered that the 360 hadn’t been updated yet such that Republic Commando was backwards-compatible, and there was no information about when the next title update was coming which would allow me to play the game. Angry and frustrated, I downloaded a copy of Republic Commando for PC from a bit torrent site. Just a few days later, the Xbox 360 received the needed update to allow me to play the console version, and I deleted the pirated PC version from my hard drive.
The only way I was able to deal with the qualms of Catholic conscience generated by pirating Republic Commando was that, in my mind, I’d already given the appropriate parties my money for the privilege of playing the game – and I was angry. It’s easy to justify this sort of thing when you’re angry.
I was discussing Starcraft II with a friend last night, and he told me that it wasn’t a game he’d be willing to buy, but he might pirate it. As the owner of copyrighted material, myself (a trio of screenplays written in my sordid youth), I am generally in favor of the arguments against piracy. Anyone who works hard to produce a product should be paid for the right to use said product. In this case, however, I found it difficult to chastise my friend, because I understand his perspective.
I had Starcraft II in my hand last night, and I couldn’t pull the trigger on the purchase. Paying $60 for a PC title bothers me a little. There has always been something very satisfying about paying $10 less for games which often would have better graphics or deeper gameplay than console titles. I’m a cross-platform gamer, which means I dip from all the attitude pools; and there was something smugly pleasant about paying less and getting more.
Considering all the reports about the quality of Starcraft II, I could have stomached $60…but then I thought about those missing Zerg and Protoss campaigns. I’m into Starcraft for the lore, and the story. I actually owned the original three Starcraft figures (and sold them for a pretty penny on eBay recently). The cutscenes and little video clips were the best part of Starcraft for me. I didn’t have time to learn all the strategies and nuances of the game which were required to be successful in the multiplayer, and I have even less of that time now…and a great many more games to play. My stack of PS3 and Wii titles for these two new-to-me consoles keeps getting distressingly higher.
Edge magazine spoke to Starcraft II’s lead software engineer Carl Chimes about the decision to go with a Terran-only campaign:
“You’re calling the next two parts expansions, but each one focuses on a different race in single player – why did you decide to split the game up like this?
“CC Early on in the development of StarCraft II, we realised that we wanted to make the story so epic that it just wouldn’t fit in one box. So we had a number of choices and ultimately we decided to split that campaign up into three equally epic stories and deliver those as the base game in each of the expansions. Wings Of Liberty will focus on the Terrans, and future expansions will focus on the Zerg and Protoss.”
I have trouble with a line like “wouldn’t fit in one box.” PC games have frequently come on more than one disc. Knights of the Old Republic came with 4. Blizzard really couldn’t have delivered the entire campaign experience in this release? Even if Blizzard claims that being tied to Activision doesn’t change its culture as a developer, that is a separate issue than their behavior as a company.
It’s not that I was surprised by the knowledge that I was only getting 1/3 of the story…but there’s no news as to when Heart of the Swarm will be released, and Legacy of the Void might not be out for years.
We’ve been told that they will be priced as expansions, but when the main game is now $60 what does that mean? $40 per expansion? Potentially $140 for the full experience I think deserved to be the baseline product? Blizzard had 12 years to develop this game, more than enough time to work on all three campaigns and release them simultaneously. I’m not sure that there’s really any excuse for holding back on the other two campaigns other than pure greed. I try to be fair in assessing the conduct of corporations, because they aren’t charities and deserve to profit by their efforts. This feels excessive, however.
Some reviewers care so little about the missing campaigns that they don’t even mention it, and others only give the consideration a passing nod. I read that there are allusions to be made to Wing Commander, and a 16-hour campaign is quite reasonable, considering that many $60 console titles can have campaigns that last only half as long…but it seems as though the majority of the value for Wings of Liberty is the multiplayer and Battle.net, neither of which hold other than passing interest for me.
I’m still going to buy Starcraft II, because I write about video games and this is one of those titles that simply must be played considering all the press it is going to generate for quite some time, but I can also write the purchase off on my taxes as a work expense. If I wasn’t writing about video games I wouldn’t feel this sense of immediacy, and the need to experience the game with as little outside tainting of opinion as possible.
If I was just coming at it as a gamer, however, I might wait for the price to come way down. I can understand why some people are going to pirate this particular title. When Blizzard starts talking like a proper corporation, which is to say, issuing silly statements about mistakes being proof of success, and hiking up prices, they begin to feel a little slimy to me, and that’s when I start finding it difficult to feel bad for the actions of the pirates. I don’t condone what they do…but in this instance, I would understand it.