‘StarCraft’ Fan-Made MMO ‘StarCraft Universe’ Goes To Open Beta — And Blizzard’s OK With It

StarCraft MMO: Two words that would have set many of us to hyperventilating if they’d been uttered five, ten years ago. But many of us long ago accepted that it was never going to happen. It took Blizzard Entertainment 12 years to release a sequel for the first StarCraft, released in 1998 — in fact, StarCraft II‘s first tagline was “Hell, it’s about time!” — at which point World of Warcraft had already been running for six years and was the world’s most successful MMO.

So we sighed, and concluded that it was never going to happen. Even a StarCraft RPG mod, made in 2011 using the game’s provided modding tools and titled World of StarCraft, was shut down by Blizzard in 2011, and earlier this year took down a popular fan-run World of Warcraft vanilla server (that is to say, one that only features the basic game as existed before the first expansion pack came out,) called Nostalrius Begins.

And so it may come as a surprise to learn that, according to Motherboard, there’s a new fan-created StarCraft MMO from the developer of World of StarCraft out there, titled StarCraft Universe. More importantly, it’s just entered open beta — and wonder of wonders, Blizzard is allegedly ok with it.

Here’s the history as per Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Back in 2011, a group of modders headed by Ryan Winzen decided that they were going to use the StarCraft II modding tools to make, essentially, an entirely new game through Blizzard’s platform, promising “third-person action RPG elements of World of Warcraft, the combat mechanics of Diablo, and the starship mechanics of FTL with the StarCraft setting.” They had released a few progress videos on YouTube before the big announcement.

That character select screen does look awfully familiar. That character select screen does look awfully familiar. [Image via Upheaval Arts Gaming]Within 24 hours, Blizzard had chanted up the lawyer-demons, sending out cease and desist orders and having their Deputy General Counsel call up Winzen himself. Valve even stepped in and offered Winzen a job working for them, in a strange parallel of their hiring of Defense of the Ancients developer IceFrog, (he’s never publicly disclosed his real name) which also got its start as a mod in a Blizzard game, Warcraft III.

Winzen did not elect to accept Valve’s offer, and after the legal storm subsided, he and his team kept on with their project — it turned out that Blizzard’s primary objection was the name World of StarCraft, Which might be a little odd when one considers it would still be running through their own game, but it has to be supposed that they might want to use the name themselves at some point, or at least make clear that the mod isn’t official.

In fact, when he recounted his conversation with Blizzard’s legal counsel, Winzen noted that they already hold the copyright on the name World of StarCraft.

“The Deputy General Counsel from Blizzard contacted me last night to discuss the details of the ‘World of Starcraft’ project. We talked for a while and apparently some people from Blizz were concerned I was developing the game somehow outside of SC2. Anyways I explained the details of the project to him and made it clear this mod was to be developed within SC2.

“After that was clear he obviously wanted the name to be changed … I’m trying to work with him to get the name Starcraft Universe (Currently in holding by Mille25) or Starcraft Chronicles. I am fully respectful of Blizzard’s Intellectual property, and they DO in fact own a copyright on ‘World of Starcraft’ and have EVERY RIGHT to do what they did. If I want to continue this project I’m at the mercy of Blizzard’s good graces since they OWN it all.”

The 'StarCraft II' editor is almost excessively comprehensive. The ‘StarCraft II’ editor is almost excessively comprehensive. [Image via Upheaval Arts Games/Facebook]Now, more than five years later, Winzen and his team (Upheaval Arts Gaming) have released an actual cinematic trailer and a gameplay trailer, and the “game” is available for all to play in beta for anyone who already owns StarCraft II.

Ok, it’s not quite what we were all hoping for. But it’s pretty awesome all the same.

[Image via Upheaval Arts Gaming/Facebook]