21 July 2010

The Science of Starcraft

Posted by Ryan Anderson

In 1998 the computer game Starcraft came out, setting the bar for real-time strategy games for the next decade. I loved playing Starcraft, and spent more time that I’d like to admit doing so. Starcraft also gave me my first taste of computer programming: the game came with a “map editor” which let you construct your own maps, including simple if-then statements. IF an enemy unit enters my base THEN it explodes. Stuff like that.

Well, on July 27th, the long-awaited sequel – Starcraft 2 – will be released. I am super-excited to play a new and improved version of one of my favorite games of all time. My brother has been playing the beta version and it sounds like it’s awesome.

With that in mind, let me tell you about the great idea I had last week. I was trying to think of some new non-fiction writing project to embark on. I write here and at Universe Today, but I was hoping to come up with something with a broader appeal than just space enthusiasts. And then it hit me, I could write something like the Science of Star Trek, but for video games. But each game is set in its own universe, some of which don’t really follow any scientific rules at all. I needed a little more focus. And then, as I was biking to campus, I realized that I could write about the science of StarCraft.

I immediately googled it, and found that nobody had beat me to the punch. The more I thought about it, the more perfect it seemed. It combined my three favorite things: science, writing and video games! With the game launching next week, I could get a new blog up and running just in time. So that’s what I did!

I am happy to announce the grand opening of my new blog: The Science of Starcraft! I’ll be digging into every aspect of the StarCraft universe, speculating about how it might work, and searching for real-world analogs. My first post is already up, taking a look at one of the cinematic teaser trailers for the game, which shows how the human armored infantry units are constructed. In my post, I show how the robotics in the video are actually quite similar to those being developed for the military today. And the assembly robots in the video are nearly identical to those on actual assembly lines!

If you’re familiar with the game, head on over and chime in or suggest a topic for me to write about! If you don’t know a nydus canal from an archon, go take a look, see what all the excitement is about, and learn how modern science is imitating modern science fiction (or is it the other way around?)

I’m pretty excited about this new project, and I hope you’ll check it out, and spread the word to any friends of yours who might be into either gaming or science! I’ve also created a new twitter account that you can follow: @starcraftsci