Finally confirming that the rumor that surfaced in the summer of 2016 (and then again earlier this month) is true, Blizzard announced tonight that StarCraft: Remastered, a complete graphical overhaul of the original StarCraft and the Brood War expansion, is in the works and expected to be released this summer. The remade game will featured 4K graphics and 1080p cinematics, upgraded audio, and new comic-book-style mission interludes and introductions, while the gameplay and balance will be "precisely preserved" from the originals.
"StarCraft remains very popular, especially in Korea. It’s doing so despite legacy Battle.net’s aging infrastructure, and from the client perspective, graphics, compatibility, and online features that are not up to modern standards," Classic Games senior producer Pete Stilwell explained. "We decided this was going to be our love letter to the SC diehards. So while the team dusted off the repos, rebuilt the pipeline, and rediscovered the codebase, we also spent hundreds of hours connecting with passionate and proactive folks all over the globe: The ones who have been keeping this game going. They gave us insight into the add-ons, game servers, and defined what made Brood War, Brood War."
Along with the dramatically improved visuals, StarCraft: Remastered will also bring modern connectivity to the game, including full Battle.net (now Blizzard App) support for matchmaking and chat, enhanced ladder functionality, and support for friends lists, streaming, and cloud saves. The new matchmaking feature will automatically connect players of equal skill based on their chosen race, but the game will also continue to support the original matchmaking system—which is to say, no matchmaking at all.
"If you remember, the original StarCraft didn’t have a button like Warcraft III," Stilwell said. "Players threw down a gauntlet in chat channels or hosted open game lobbies for other players to join and discuss terms. We’re retaining that style of interaction as an option. That is an essential element of the game’s culture."
The one aspect of StarCraft that's not being touched is the actual gameplay, which Blizzard said will be left exactly as it was. "Updated graphics, modern amenities, and other new features won’t matter if we ruin gameplay. Replays from 1.16 still work in SC Remastered. That’s how true we’ve been," Stilwell continued. "Whether players are continuing to play daily in an IGR, coming back after a long time away, or discovering the game that started the war for the Koprulu sector, this is the game the original developers intended you to play."
It sounds like Blizzard is doing everything right with StarCraft: Remastered, but that's not all its doing. At the end of March, it will also roll out a new patch for StarCraft: Brood War, updating it to version 1.18. Once that goes live, StarCraft and the Brood War expansion will both be made free for everyone—not free-to-play, as Blizzard emphasized, but straight-up free. StarCraft: Remastered will not be free, but it will be multiplayer-compatible with the original, so you can upgrade at any time without losing your progress in the campaign or having to give up any of your multiplayer buddies.
As for the future, and the obvious question about other Blizzard classics that may be due for an update, the short answer is to keep your expectations in check. "Now that StarCraft: Remastered is announced, we want to think about classic Blizzard games as a service, and to that end we’re primarily focused on StarCraft for now," Stilwell said. "We don’t have announcements to make about other classic games at this time."
StarCraft: Remastered is expected to be out this summer. For more information, hit up the new starcraft.com site, and have a look at some before-and-after screens below.