StarCraft: Engaging Mass Recall!

The secret mission Biting the Bullet in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modA long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I talked about a mod that adapted the original StarCraft campaigns to run in StarCraft II, an impressive and incredibly faithful effort guaranteed to send a powerful jolt of nostalgia through any StarCraft fan.

After I wrote that, the mod’s creators continued to expand, iterate, and improve upon it. The last campaign was completed, and it gained the much fancier title of “StarCraft: Mass Recall.”

As of a few days ago, the latest version of Mass Recall was released, updated for Heart of the Swarm. This version contains many more improvements. I’ve been playing through it again, and I am once again blown away by the quality of this mod.

Shiny:

One of the more obvious changes is the level of polish that now exists. When I first played Mass Recall (back when it was just “StarCraft remastered”), it was an impressive accomplishment but obviously non-professional. It had various bugs and rough patches.

However, I’ve yet to encounter any significant bugs or hiccups in this version. You’d never know it was made by amateurs.

The briefing room in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modWhat impresses me even more is their dedication to keeping true to the original campaigns. Not only are there now many more custom models for all of the units and buildings that don’t exist in StarCraft II, but even many units that appear in both games now have updated models to more closely resemble their original incarnations. These include everything from marines, to SCVs, to battlecruisers, to evolution pits…

There are now custom unit portraits, as well, and these are fully animated.

Everything is so true to the original. It really is just like playing StarCraft I with better graphics and more polished mechanics.

They’ve even improved upon the original in some areas by adding more details or new cutscenes. This isn’t a Lucas-esque rewrite — nothing substantive has changed about the gameplay or story. But there are little extra touches to make it just that much cooler.

For example, in the first mission on Antiga Prime, Kerrigan’s assassination of the Confederate officers now has its own cutscene. It uses the original audio, but we are now treated to the visuals of the Confederates being gunned down.

Extra details have been added to hero models to make them stand out more. You can now see that it’s actually Raynor on his vulture, not just some generic dude. The Norad II now has a custom model.

A mission from the original StarCraft campaign

Before

A Terran mission in the StarCraft: Mass Recall mod

After

They even made their own road sign doodad for Backwater Station!

I wish I could go back in time and tell my eight year-old self something this cool was coming. He’d have had such a nerdgasm.

Of course, then I’d have to tell him to avoid all my mistakes, and then use my time machine to kill Hitler, stop the invention of the atomic bomb, prevent the harmonica from ever being invented, and deal with inevitable temporal paradoxes created by my own meddling.

But I digress.

Difficulty:

One of the big issues with the original version of the mod was that the difficulty was rather over-tuned. Even on the lowest settings, there were some missions that practically required GSL-level skills to defeat.

In the new version, difficulty has been heavily retuned. I’ve only played the first Terran campaign so far, but from what I’ve seen, the new settings are a lot more sane. Playing on normal, I’m finding it challenging enough to be interesting, but not truly stressful.

A cutscene in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modThere’s also a new easy setting for those who wish to focus on the story rather than on challenging themselves.

Bonuses galore:

Something I’m also enjoying about this version of the mod is the amount of bonus material they’ve crammed in.

The campaign includes several secret missions I never even knew existed. I’ve completed two so far — Biting the Bullet and Operation Silent Scream — and both turned out to be quite fun. Maybe it’s just the novelty of never having played them before, but I think they were actually a bit more inventive in their design than most other campaign missions of the time.

I haven’t played it yet, but Mass Recall also includes the Resurrection mission which explains the continued existence of Stukov in the land of the living, which has been declared canon by Blizzard.

There are also little bonuses for those who aren’t too concerned with being perfectly true to the original. You can still use certain Brood War units, such as medics, in the original campaign — though that can be toggled off in the options if you’re a purist.

The Jacobs Installation mission in third person shooter mode in the StarCraft: Mass Recall modWhile you can now play the dungeon crawl missions as they were in the original, it’s still possible to play them as a third-person shooter.

I am still blown away that this is even possible, and these missions have been greatly improved from their original incarnation. When I first played the shooter missions, they were horribly buggy and awkward, but now they’re much smoother, and it pretty much feels like playing a real shooter — albeit a stripped down and basic one.

I also quite enjoyed the number of Easter Eggs snuck into such missions. Apparently people will still be playing World of Warcraft and Diablo III in the 26th century.

An Easter egg in the StarCraft: Mass Recall mod* * *

All in all, Mass Recall is an incredible effort, and far better than we have any right to expect from unpaid fans tinkering in their free time. I’d consider it a must-play for any StarCraft fan.

Get it. Get it nao.

New article:

I’ve got a new article up at Nexopia on Great Songs From Wicked Games.

World Spectrum: What You Never Saw

Like any creative work, a novel inevitably ends up with some things on the cutting room floor. There are certain elements of the World Spectrum universe that I wanted to describe but simply never found the time to without diverting from the main plot.

Books of the World Spectrum bannerIndustrial Automatons:

As you read the World Spectrum novels, you might get the impression that all Automatons — or at least the vast majority of them — are war Automatons, but this is not the case. Industrial Automatons, used for more peaceful purposes, are fairly common.

Such Automatons are used for things like mining, forestry, demolition, and construction. Pretty much the things you’d expect heavy machinery to be used for in the real world. They tend to be more more highly specialized than their military counterparts, and they are usually not humanoid. They more closely resemble things like backhoes and other real world industrial machinery.

They didn’t come up much because the story largely focused on war and conflict. And once things started to get really crazy, I imagine most of the civilian machines were broken down, their parts re-purposed to create more war Automatons.

Civil wizards:

Similarly, the reader’s view of magic in the spectrum of worlds is almost entirely limited to battle wizards. But not all wizards choose a militaristic life. Indeed, the majority are what is known as civil wizards.

As you might expect, magical powers have a lot of very useful applications. For example, civil wizards are very useful in the worlds of construction and landscaping. They can fuse stone, bind structures with magic, and alter the shape of the land, and they can do all these things with more subtlety and care than Automatons or conventional labourers.

Barria, the known worldOther wizards’ abilities lean more toward the artistic. Wizard-artisans can create statues and carvings of exquisite detail and breath-taking beauty, and their works are sought by wealthy art-lovers the world over.

The rarest of wizards were the Healers, who could use magic to cure disease and restore injury. This requires a supreme mastery of sorcery, for magic is a chaotic and dangerous force that can easily do more harm than good.

The life of a civil wizard varies greatly based on the choices of the individual and the nation they live in. Most seek out the employ of a wealthy benefactor — usually the government or a major private company or guild — who would pay for their services. However, especially skilled or specialized wizards may live as freelancers, selling out their services to the highest bidders.

Of all the human nations, Uranna has the greatest tradition of civil wizardry. They see the great potential inherent in a strong pool of magical talent, and their government sponsors all civil wizards, even those whose talents are more in the area of the artistic than the practical. As a result, Uranna is a land filled with magically wrought beauty.

Leha and Drogin’s resemblance:

This is a really minor detail, but I never found a place to mention it, and it always bugged me.

One of my novel characters, recreating via the MMO AionLeha and Drogin don’t share a lot of physical similarities, despite being brother and sister. For the most part, they look no more similar than any other two random Eastenholder individuals.

But there is one feature they share: They both have the same nose. It’s very straight, like a perfect right triangle, and they inherited it from their father.

Tyzu’s oceans:

Tyzu is a world I wish I could have explored more. It’s such a surreal and alien place, and it’s ever-changing. The potential for new and strange locations, beasts, and phenomena is virtually limitless.

Something in particular that interested me was the thought of what Tyzu’s oceans must be like.

My thinking was that Tyzu’s oceans would be almost unrecognizable as such. They’d be as overwhelmed with plant-life as the rest of the world, and the end result would be a soupy expanse of dense seaweed, algae, and floating plants. Maybe even have a few species of plant adapted to growing on top of the dense of mat of aquatic vegetation, treating it like soil.

I don’t see there being much animal life in a Tyzuan ocean. Simply wouldn’t be enough room. They’d also be home to storms even more vicious and violent than those on the rest of Tyzu, as there would be no great trees to protect one from the lashing rain and hurricane-force winds.