WarCraft II

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While WarCraft I was hailed by most critics and gamers alike as a top quality game, it hadn't really made the impression that a game like Dune II or the Doom series had. But the sequel to War1 - WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness - proved to be an all-time classic and propelled Blizzard to a status only bettered by iD Software.

So what was it about War2 that made it such a classic? There were many revolutionary features, such as Fog of War, 8-way Multi-Player over an IPX LAN, land, sea and air units, Unit AI settings such as Stand Ground, Patrol, and Fire at Ground and much more. While it lacked a couple of features of rival title Command & Conquer, it made up for it in awesome single-player storyline, cut-scenes, music and sound.

But all these great features don't necessarily make for a classic game. A classic game has to have all this and stand the test of time. Of course, Warcraft II did this very successfully - even now, four years after the game's release, you'll find over 100 people playing online every day.

It was this online play that helped War2 stay alive. While you can complete the single-player missions in a matter of weeks (or even days for some people), online play can keep you going for months, or even years. While LAN and modem games are fun when you can organize them, you can find an online game 24/7.

When War2 was released, there were very few games that were played online. Blizzard had never intended War2 to be played over the net. But a program called Kali changed all that. Kali emulated an IPX network, fooling games like War2 into thinking they were connected to a LAN, when in fact they were connected to the net. This allowed up to 8 players (in theory) to compete from anywhere in the world.

War2 was comparatively good for networking as well. Before the 1.2 patch, games of up to 4 players were tolerable, so long as pings weren't much higher than 600ms (although some would say they needed to be less than 200). With version 1.2, Blizzard - who now realized War2 was an online game - included some network optimization, allowing much higher ping tolerance. Even pings as high as 1000 in a 1v1 made for a playable game, and with low enough pings, 8 player games worked.

Besides the mere fact that War2 was playable online, players soon found out that there was an incredible depth of strategy possible. Through extensive online play, players developed their own style, and some definite - although entirely beatable - strategies emerged. And this was the key to War2's success as an online multi-player game - there was no strategy significantly better than all others [with one or two exceptions, which are detailed below].

The depth of strategy is quite an important part of War2. The game is near even chess in it's complexity, yet the fundametal's are not particulary hard to pick-up [probably easier than chess]. This depth is best illustrated by a common scenario in the earlier days of Kali. At the time, the Internet was growing at such a rapid rate, and Kali's numbers were increasing exponentially. Often, players who had played many games with their friends via modem or LAN migrated to Kali. They [perhaps naturally] assumed that their unbeaten runs would continue on Kali. Often, these players would be arrogant and rude, and when they finally got a game, they would invariably be destroyed. The reason the gap existed was because Kali players played a lot more often, and developed far more complex and sound strategies. There was an incredibly huge gap between the best Kali players and the best modem and LAN players - a top Kali player probably wouldn't lose one game in 100 to a modem player.

With three different resource settings, and land and sea games - not to mention the subtle differences in strategy for each individual map - there was a virtually endless array of strategy possible. Some of what is now considered fundamental stuff was named after it's inventer, such as the {{NaTe}} formation [a way of walling-in a tower with farms] or the TommyNG [a strategy to get grunts extra fast by killing your peons].

There were only two [although some would say one] strategies that were unbeatable: barracks [or sometimes mill] first and the medium resources 7-man grunt rush. Barracks first involved building a barracks before anything else, and using your resources to get grunts. This sort of strategy was highly effective before the 1.2 patch when the color bug could be exploited to discern your opponents starting position. Because of this, it was common practice to play under 'Town Hall First' (THF) rules. The 7-man grunt rush on medium res [as opposed to the low res version] stopped most players in the know from playing medium res on land, ever. It basically got 7 grunts before any defence or counter was possible. Many believe the only way to beat it was to do it yourself. However, there were some defences possible, involving guard towers, which are too complex to go into here.

With War2 being such a great game to play online, several leagues formed so competitive play could take place. One of the first was the International WarCraft League (IWL) where many of the veteran Kali players competed. Another early league was the National WarCraft League (NWL). One of the more popular competions, where the 'second generation' of Kali players played was Cases Ladder, also called IGL. At one stage, Cases had upwards of 3000 players in it's 1v1 ladder, probably the biggest RTS league of it's time.

War2 is still being played, and with the anticipation of WarCraft II: Battle.net Edition as high as it is [a version of War2 that has very few changes], it's obvious that this is one of the greatest games of all time.

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