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Page 10: The Golden Circle
Momentum was at an all-time high at Blizzard, especially since Warcraft II had taken less than a year to produce and had ended up being a huge hit. Hoping to capitalize on the success of Warcraft, Blizzard rushed Starcraft into production and developed three races: the trailer-trash Terrans, the insectlike Zerg, and the high-tech Protoss. With Diablo scheduled for a mid- to late-1996 release, Blizzard hoped Starcraft could follow soon after, using a modified Warcraft II engine.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 1996, Blizzard was thought to be the developer to beat, especially given Warcraft II's huge success and the buzz around Diablo. E3 that year would also mark the public debut of Starcraft and the announcement that Diablo would include a free Internet gameplay service dubbed Battle.net. At the show, Blizzard had six monitors set up, three for Diablo and three for Starcraft. Unfortunately for Blizzard, the reaction to Starcraft was tepid at best.
"By the last day of the show," remembers Dave Brevik, "I think Diablo was up on five monitors, and they had reduced Starcraft to one lone monitor." If the numbers didn't do all the talking, the fan reaction certainly did. Fans called the game names such as "Orcs in Space" or "Warcraft Goes Purple," referring to the predominately purple artwork that had been swapped in over Warcraft's art. All in all, fans thought Starcraft was a bit too much Warcraft for their own tastes.
The rights to Pax Imperia 2, a space simulation designed by an outside development group for publish by Blizzard, had already been sold to THQ in early 1996, when the Southern California-based publisher acquired the game's developer. But Blizzard remained confident it could turn around the internally developed Starcraft. Staying true to Roper's words, Blizzard was willing to take its time, even if it meant that Starcraft's development would be the "longest and most painful [one yet]," as Morhaime later told Strategy Plus magazine in early 2000.