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StarCraft: Ghost was a tactical action game for video game consoles, announced on September 19, 2002, under development by Blizzard Entertainment and Nihilistic Software. Development later shifted to Swingin' Ape Studios, which Blizzard eventually bought. The game was based in the StarCraft universe.
Blizzard, known for computer games, took a step in a different direction by developing it exclusively for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 video game consoles. A GameCube version was also planned, but it was cancelled in November 2005. The development of the primary version of Ghost was infamously delayed and plagued with issues, becoming one of the most famous examples of vaporware. As of 2014, the project has been officially classified as canceled.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Storyline
- 3 Development
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Ghost's gameplay centered around a single-player campaign, in which the player controlled Nova, a ghost agent. The game was stealth-based, meaning Nova would frequently stealthily approach objectives, using darkness, shadows and cloaking to avoid detection. However, the opponents could sometimes use decloaking devices to detect her. In addition, opponents who couldn't see her would still try to hunt her down if they detected her in some way.
The player would need to solve simple puzzles in some parts of the game in order to bypass security "locks". For instance, in order to bypass zerg security, Nova must match her psi energy with the system code, and the player must work out color wave patterns to simulate this.
Nova was capable of a wide variety of combat moves, including climbing and sliding down zip lines. Nova can use techniques such as "dangle snipe" (in which she hangs from a pipe with her legs and snipes an opponent) and also make instant stealth kill attacks in a mini-game in which the player uses different button combinations against different opponents. Nova can even kill an opponent by forcing a grenade into an opponent's helmet and then sealing it shut.
Nova was typically equipped with an AGR-14 assault rifle and a sniper rifle, but could carry a variety of other weapons and grenades. She sometimes used the psyblade, a melee weapon designed using protoss technology.
In multiplayer mode, players could play (as terrans) light infantry, marines, firebats and ghosts. They could drive or fly vultures, stingers, siege tanks and Grizzlies. As zerg, they could play zerglings, hydralisks, infested marines and mutalisks.
Several multiplayer game modes were available, such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and Capture the Base.
Capture the Base, also known as Mobile Conflict, involves two teams of up to eight players trying to capture a mobile factory and bring it to their own side using infantry units, which can fight inside it; they would be dropped off using Grizzlies. The battle takes place on Mar Sara.
Another game mode was Invasion, in which players attempted to take control of resource nodes for points, gaining more powerful units which could be used to destroy the enemy base. Points can be gained for killing enemy units. Taking control of an unoccupied node requires a player unit to remain near the point until a control meter fills up. If the node has already been occupied, the panel controlling it must first be destroyed.
The bases are connected by a web of these interconnected nodes. Each node must be captured in turn, which enables dead characters to respawn at a point closer to the front line.
This game mode includes a minimap.
Players start as the lowest ranking unit on each side; light infantry for terrans and zerglings for the zerg. Gaining access to higher ranking units requires an expenditure of points: a marine costs two points, a firebat costs three and a ghost costs the most at five, while a hydralisk costs one point, an infested marine costs two points and a mutalisk costs the most at five. Respawning takes 0 points.
New and changed units
|Light Infantry||Light infantry are security guards found in various terran installations, they are equipped with lighter armor than marines. They can produce gun turrets and decloaking devices.|
|Marine||In addition to their standard issue C-14 "Impaler" Gauss rifle, marines can now carry flak pistols and grenades.|
|Firebat||In addition to their standard issue Perdition plasma-based flamethrower, firebats can fire napalm rockets, of the guided or unguided variety.|
|Ghost||Ghosts will wield an assault rifle/grenade-launcher combination as their standard weapon. The AGR-14 rifle is less powerful than the C-14 "Impaler" gauss rifle. This weapon is different from the original C-10 canister rifle. In addition, ghosts can use the BOSUN FN92 sniper rifle (which is, again, different from their long-ranged canister rifle from StarCraft), a special lockdown device, and the psyblade (a psionic melee weapon developed using protoss technology).|
|Grizzly||The Grizzly is a fighter-bomber which carries passengers.|
|Siege Tank||Equipped with plasma cannons.|
|Stinger||This six-wheeled terran jeep fills a role in between that of the vulture and the siege tank. It has a crew of two and is equipped with a heavy assault cannon.|
|Vulture||The vulture is armed with a powerful laser or grenade launcher.|
|Spectre||The result of genetic experiments conducted on ghosts using terrazine gas.|
|Seeker droid||These small robots prowl installations. They can reveal a cloaked ghost to other units.|
|Zergling||Virtually unchanged from StarCraft, has a bloodlust ability.|
|Hydralisk||Also virtually unchanged, but now has a melee attack.|
|Infested Marine||Capable of firing poisonous rounds from an "infested" gauss rifle, in addition to its suicidal explosion ability and a claw attack.|
|Mutalisk||Fires a bio-plasma attack and can pick up ground units to drain them of life.|
|Infested SCV pilot|
|Overlord||Some have been locked into tanks.|
|Brain Spectre||Cybernetically enhanced overlord.|
|Vindicator||Also known as the purifier, little is known about this unit. It carries a single, large "lightning gun" on its arm. The vindicator does not move while firing the ranged weapon.|
Blizzard declared the storyline of the unreleased game non-canon in 2012.
Emperor Arcturus Mengsk has rebuilt much of the Terran Dominion and built up a new military, despite having to worry about the zerg. Smaller factions have been taking this opportunity to seize power while larger factions are otherwise distracted.
Mengsk and his new adviser, General Horace Warfield, have begun a secret project codenamed "Shadow Blade". The project uses protoss technology. The program uses terrazine gas to alter the genetic makeup of ghosts. These ghosts are transformed into spectres – shadowy superhuman beings bent on executing the will of their true master.
In addition, a Blizzard panel at BlizzCon 2005 revealed that Kerrigan was massing her forces on Char and was strong enough to "crush the entire sector", Mengsk rebuilt the Dominion military with robotics and stolen protoss technology and has retaken a number of worlds, while Artanis was trying to merge the two groups of protoss, made more difficult because many Dark Templar hate the protoss who had banished them from Aiur.
The main character of the game is Nova, a terran ghost (psionic espionage agent) in the employment of the Terran Dominion squadron, Nova Squadron, working for Colonel Jackson Hauler in his ghost squad. She used to be a member of the Confederate Old Families, but has since undergone a memory wipe.
Nova is about to embark upon a perilous mission to uncover the frightening truth behind Project: Shadow Blade – this conspiracy will cause her to question her own identity while embroiled in a struggle between the Terran Dominion and the rebel Koprulu Liberation Front. She was expected to have to make a choice between her loyalties to Jackson Hauler and to Arcturus Mengsk.
Opening Cinematic The opening video shows a group of Terran Dominion marines (and a few firebats) assaulting a zerg-infested "vespene" refinery (actually a terrazine refinery) on Mar Sara. Captain Bock leads the group, but is incompetent and refuses to listen to Lieutenant Haggs' suggestion to scout the area first, and when HQ says it will send three dropships with reinforcements, one with a black ops unit, Bock tries to cancel the order. Bock's forces promptly fall into a zerg ambush. He pleads for reinforcements, which arrive in the form of the dropships, one of which is carrying Nova and a black ops team. Two of the dropships are shot down by mutalisks but the third safely lands, disgorging the black ops unit and Nova.
- Nova (protagonist)
- Jackson Hauler (leader of Nova Squadron)
- General Horace Warfield, in charge of Project Shadow Blade (invalidated by more recent information)
Characters Based on Concept Art:
- Mar Sara
- Vyctor 5
A protoss starship would also be infiltrated in one mission.
Ghost has its origins in the late 90s/early 2000s. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox had launched, and in 1998, Blizzard, who desired to enter the console market, had released the original StarCraft to positive reception. It was in this context that the idea for Ghost was pitched to Blizzard by Nihilistic Software. Exactly who came up with the idea for Ghost is unknown, but according to Robert Huebner, Nihilistic had been greatly influenced by the rise of stealth games in the late 90s. They presented their idea to Blizzard, based on the concept of players taking control of a ghost, but as a player on the battlefield rather than from a god's-eye view. A demo was pitched that involved a character in a trench along with zerglings coming overhead. The demo included siege tanks and an air strike. Bill Roper could see Nihilistic's passion for the project, but Blizzard itself had its hands full with its own projects, as in the early 2000s, much of its staff was working on Diablo II. The two companies struck a development deal whereby Nihilistic would contribute the main work on the game and Blizzard would guide development with constant feedback. Blizzard would also provide cinematics. No specific deadline was given to Nihilistic.
Course of Development
Nihilistic began development on Ghost in 2001. Nihilistic aimed to release the game for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube consoles in late 2003. The team put a lot of effort into making the character, and by extension, the player, feel as though they were in control of a ghost. Abilities like cloaking and swift movement would make the player feel like a combat veteran, and the power to call down nukes (as in the original game) would provide a feeling of battlefield domination. The plot in this stage of development underwent numerous revisions, but it was quickly agreed upon that Nova would encounter enemies from all three of the first game's playable races. However, at some point, development began to go awry. Interviews conducted with Nihilistic staff members have demonstrated that this exact point can't be agreed upon, but according to Huebner, trouble began when regular meetings with Blizzard became more about adding new features and experimenting and less about perfecting an established idea. The game's open-ended development timeline allowed for lengthy debates and significant iteration to occur without the team making progress toward a shippable title. When Splinter Cell was released in 2002, Huebner noticed that some of Blizzard's feedback was mirroring the features contained in the game. Metal Gear was likewise an influence. Furthermore, Ghost suffered from a number of producer changes, which meant that no one person at Blizzard was responsible for the entire life of the project. This also made the Nihilistic developers feel as though Blizzard wasn't making Ghost a priority, as large gaps between feedback were occurring. Another change was that while Ghost had started off as a stealth title, Blizzard was demanding more action in the game. The stealth-action spectrum wavered over feedback, and the question of multiplayer was brought up. Nihilistic delivered demos quickly, but this led to very different feedback from Blizzard's "strike teams" as the game's style (stealth or action) differed between builds. When James Goddard was hired as a consultant, he pushed the game towards the action end of the spectrum, which, in Huebner's mind, was to the game's detriment. Goddard's appointment, among other decisions, contributed to the cumulative feeling at Nihilistic that no one at Blizzard took the project under their wing. Among team members, there was a collective feeling that Rob Pardo provided much-needed guidance and specific feedback before Goddard came on board, but this didn't last long.
During the summer of 2002, the entire Nihilistic Software development team quit en masse. Following the resignations, Blizzard reassured their customers that there was nothing to worry about, that Nihilistic Software had merely finished the job they were hired for, that there were no power struggles inside the company and that the game will be delivered on time. After the 2002 Tokyo Game Show, the art style was changed, a multiplayer mode was implemented, and a team co-op multiplayer was "being chased." However, the game was entering a point where Blizzard was starting to feel that it wasn't shippable, either (in Huebner's view) due to lack of resources or too many decision-makers. A Nihilistic staff member has claimed that the story had undergone numerous rewrites, which exacerbated the development issues.
In 2003 and '04, the issues came to a head. No progress was being made, and Nihilistic was looking for a partnership with Electronic Arts. The levels were playable but felt cobbled together from different games. By 2004, according to David Paul, the game was in a shippable state but had a lot of missing content. That same year, a meeting occurred between Nihilistic and Blizzard. According to Huebner, both sides felt that production needed to wrap up. At some point afterward, Nihilistic ceased work on the game.
According to Goddard, when Nihilistic ceased work on Ghost, Blizzard considered the project was in good enough shape to hand off to another studio. In July, 2004, Blizzard Entertainment employed Swingin' Ape Studios to work on the game, almost immediately after Nihilistic ceased development. According to sources, when Swingin' Ape took over, development became less stressful, and feedback became more streamlined and consistent. While Nihilistic had introduced some multiplayer elements, there had been pushback due to team members feeling it was moving away from their original vision. With Swingin' Ape, according to Goddard, the multiplayer could be given more attention. Reportedly, Swingin' Ape moved to make the game "its own," repairing what it saw as being broken in Nihilistic's version of the game. Blizzard bought Swingin' Ape outright in May, 2005. However, Swingin' Ape still worked in their own facilities, separate from Blizzard. However, Matthew Bell has since claimed that under Swingin' Ape, Blizzard was making Ghost a priority. Feedback was carried out directly, and a cinematic was released at BlizzCon 2005. However, the Gamecube version was canceled in the same year. Reportedly, the 2005 build elicited generally positive feedback, though some Nihilstic members have mentioned that they felt resentment to the more action-focused game Ghost had become, rather than the stealth game they had originally conceived.
There was also the issue that World of Warcraft had launched in 2004, and by 2005, had over a million players. Consequently, staff had to be diverted from other teams to maintain the game, Swingin' Ape included. Furthermore, Ghost had begun life at the start of one console generation, but by 2005, the next console generation was about to be launched with the Xbox 360. During the summer of 2006, Blizzard announced that StarCraft: Ghost would be indefinitely postponed while they examined the capabilities of the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii systems. According to Goddard, Blizzard was faced with the question of whether to devote even more resources to Ghost to make it ready for the new console generation, or shelve the game and possibly return to it at a later date. Bell has further commented that Ghost had been designed for consoles, but Blizzard was seeing such success on the PC that pursuing a console game no longer seemed an essential proposition.
Blizzard eventually decided not to continue producing the game, as it was in internal competition with World of Warcraft and StarCraft II. Reportedly, Blizzard gave the development team the option to continue development and to bring Ghost to the current console generation. However, Bell has expressed doubts that if this had been pursued, it might not have been completed, as so many different projects (World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and the new iteration of Diablo III) would mean that the Ghost team would struggle to get things done. Eventually Blizzard chose not to continue the game because they didn't believe it could succeed. It was supposedly 6 months away from completion at the time of its cancellation. The development team was dissolved, and assigned to other projects within Blizzard.
Blizzard employee Rob Pardo suggested that Ghost had failed but could be brought back; Blizzard has explained that the game was never announced as canceled or dead and it is simply focusing on other games.
At the World Wide Invitational 2008 Rob Pardo has suggested that the game was a "miss" and so was canceled. The console division appears to have been canceled; Blizzard has no plans to reopen it and as of August 2008, no-one is working on it and it wasn't even on the radar, Blizzard having its hands full with other projects. In July 2008 the Guardian newspaper reported that Blizzard had quietly shelved StarCraft: Ghost due to the economy. At BlizzCon 2008 Mike Morhaime said that StarCraft: Ghost was losing resources in competition to World of Warcraft, StarCraft II and Diablo III, and Blizzard decided that "now is not the right time" for StarCraft: Ghost. At BlizzCon 2009 Chris Metzen said Ghost would "rest in peace". However, Michael Morhaime also suggested it could return when a team becomes available. By 2011, he stated that the game had fallen into a position where it could not succeed. Occasionally the development team behind the game has been talked to, as to whether the project could be finished.
In 2011, Blizzard confirmed that StarCraft: Ghost was not in development for financial reasons. The lack of development remained true in 2012 - the game has no development team, and was not discussed, though according to Dustin Browder, it was not impossible that the game could be resuscitated at some point in the future.
At PAX East 2013, Blizzard employee Matthew Burger stated that the project was on hold, had never been canceled, and did not rule out the game being released one day.
In an interview explaining the cancellation of Titan in 2014, Mike Morhaime described StarCraft: Ghost as canceled.
In 2016, an expose by games journalist Patrick Stafford featured interviews from Nihlistic, Swingin' Ape, and Blizzard staff members, detailing the history of the game's development.
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