Know Your Lore: A basic history of StarCraft
With Starcraft Remastered coming out next week, it seemed appropriate to look back at the setting as a whole. Who are the Zerg or the Protoss? Why are they fighting with Humans? Is this supposed to be the future of Earth? Or is it some Star Wars style “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” scenario? This post won’t be touching much upon the sheer volume of Starcraft lore built up over the years. Instead, we’ll rather focus on what you’ll need to know to get up to speed if you decide to go and give Starcraft Remastered a try.
The distant past
Back before Humans arrived in the Koprulu sector of space, the Xel’Naga arrived. These primordial beings hailed from The Void, a region that could be seen as ‘beyond’ space as we understand it. Their goal was the fostering of sapient life. The Xel’Naga were godlike by our standards, possessed of advanced technology and uncanny powers. But although, long lived, they were mortal beings. One day, they and even their species would die. Therefore they saw the creation and fostering of sapient life as part of their life-cycle. It was a means for the Xel’Naga to exist beyond their own species’ span. Those they fostered would be their ‘children’ in a way.
Xel’Naga sought two attributes that they considered worthwhile in a successor race. They defined these attributes as Purity of Form and Purity of Essence. The Xel’Naga experimented on the races of the Koprulu sector to establish a species that would have both of these traits. The Purity of Form was the potential for great psionic powers. The species the Xel’Naga worked to foster this quality in were the ancient Protoss of Aiur.
But this species was ultimately deemed a failure in their creators’ eyes, due to Amon and other Xel’Naga who followed his teachings. This was because they pushed Protoss evolution too far too fast. They broke the racial uniting mind-link between the Protoss. Abandoned by their creators, the Protoss entered the Aeon of Strife. It was a generations long war between factions of Protoss that caused many to leave their world Aiur forever. Still, the Protoss held the Purity of Form, even if they were descending into fratricidal conflict.
For the Purity of Essence, Amon and his followers went to the world of Zerus, where they found an arthropod species that already incorporated mutation based on absorption of other species. This species seemed to Amon the very manifestation of the Purity of Essence, and so they were harnessed. In Amon’s plan, the Zerg would in due time absorb the Protoss, bringing the Purity of Form and Purity of Essence together in one species. But to prevent the Zerg from falling as the Protoss had, a being called the Overmind was created to control and harness the Zerg’s evolutionary path. Some Zerg escaped this process, hiding from the Overmind and those Zerg (the ancestors of the Zerg Swarm) that served it, but the majority of their species became the Swarm.
The Xel’Naga devolved into a civil war at this point in the past. Some supported Amon, others fought his Xel’Naga faction. Amon unleased his Swarm upon his own people, and in the process some of the Xel’Naga were consumed and their knowledge (fragmentary though it was) became the Overmind’s. It now knew of the existence of the Protoss and sought to acquire their Purity of Form in order to become perfect, the union of Form and Essence. But it also sought to subvert Amon’s plans — the Overmind had no wish for the Zerg to serve the mad Xel’Naga’s schemes, or indeed anyone’s plans but its own.
The arrival of Humanity
The whole reason Humans enter this story at all is due to a fascist regime and a targeting error.
Back in 2229, the planet Earth was ruled by a league of nations called the United Powers League. This despotic one-world government saw any deviation from baseline humanity as an affront to the Divinity of Humanity. They began to fill prison camps with dissidents, or just those unfortunate enough not to conform to their vision for the future.
A new solution was sought for these noncomformists — a one way colonization trip, effectively exile from Earth forever. A program known as Project Purification had been exterminating the ‘unfit’ in secret. It was easy for scientist Doran Routhe to select 40,000 or so of the intended victims, put them in cryostasis, and outfit ships for the long voyage out of the Earth system to colonize new worlds. No one would miss them — they were to be executed anyway. Routhe even supplied the ship with an experimental AI called ATLAS to help monitor the prospective colonists.
But despite all efforts, a hitch developed in the plan. Instead of arriving at their target, the ships traveled for over three decades before arriving in the Koprulu sector. In that time ATLAS noticed a high degree of mutation in the cryonic stasis pods. Unusual levels of psionic potential were recorded, possibly due to the prolonged space flight, or their genetic modification.
In Koprulu, Humanity found itself utterly cut off from Earth, decades away from where they were supposed to be and forced to settle what worlds they could. Only three of the four ships sent survived, each colonizing a different world. Due to the loss of both warp drives and navigation systems, Earth’s location was lost, along with any real idea of where they were.
Over hundreds of years each colony world was settled and in time the descendants of the three arcs met. The world of Tarsonis was settled by the crew of the arc Nagalfar, while Umoja was the site of the crash landing of the Sarengo, and the landing of the Reagan. The Sarengo was lost, but the crew of the Reagan would go on to settle Umoja. The arc Argo landed on Moira. Tarsonis benefited because its arc had contained ATLAS. Although the AI suffered numerous technical failures, it was still functional enough to give the Nagalfar crew a leg up while settling Tarsonis.
Humanity began a period of colonization. Tarsonis eventually developed a subwarp engine that allowed them to make contact with Moira and Umoja. Each colony world had settled throughout their own systems and each had things to offer the others. A series of trade agreements followed. Each had also developed their own culture and system of governance. When the Tarsonians pushed for a Confederation-style government the other two worlds resisted.
And so Tarsonis simply decided to start its own Confederation. They ramped up both their military and exploration programs, settling and exploiting more worlds, created a ‘senate’ to govern and administrate their expanding holdings. Both Moira and Umoja watched these developments with alarm, but nobody could expect what would happen next — how civil war would break out as the Confederation expanded, how a rebel faction would discover the existence of the Zerg and how to lure them to attack Confederation worlds, or the arrival of the Protoss and how a three front war would engage. In that moment they were watching the beginning of a war none of them could possibly have foreseen.
Next time we’ll talk about how that war would change all three races forever.
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