StarCraft: Ghost Personal Experience

I joined Swingin' Ape Studios in September of 2004 to begin work on the rebirth of StarCraft: Ghost. I was immediately impressed by the company's talent and passion for creating games and was not surprised when Blizzard purchased the company in May of 2005.

As I've worked on Ghost, sound programming principles such as encapsulation, modularity, anticipation of scaling, detailed commenting, and careful API design have evolved in my mind from abstract textbook concepts to everyday practices. Perhaps the most important skills that I've developed are the ability to recognize when a more generic, robust solution is called for instead of special-case code, and the discipline to invest the time up front to implement it. I've found that making this investment almost always pays off, sometimes much sooner than I'd expect.

Given the nature of my tasks, I often work closely with artists and level designers. I've always derived satisfaction from being able to provide them with useful tools and features, and my eagerness to do so has earned me somewhat of a reputation as the go-to guy for gameplay requests. I've learned to balance the needs of content creators with the time I have to offer them and the technical limitations of the systems I'm working in. When a new feature is proposed, we're usually able to come up with a plan that meets both of our requirements.

My contributions to Ghost include the flying Terran mobile factory; a full-featured animated reticle system; a generic, event-driven particle and audio system; Nova's ability to remove panels from all angles and crawl through the tunnels they revealed; Nova's ability to hide in crates and lockers; a variety of level design features such as scriptable moving objects, elevators, and the like; a series of modules for special effects such as bolt emitters, dripping blood, lasers, tracers, smoke trails, old-school monitor full-screen effects, an old-school console with glowing trails as characters print, and an updated version of the classic StarCraft teleportation effect; a humorous on-screen readout of the flying sentry robot's internal thoughts when controlled by Nova; and dozens of weapons and weapon system modules such as the sniper rifle, the shotgun, the silencer upgrade, Nova's flamethrower, sticky grenades, landmines, laser trip mines, a particle interface for weapons and projectiles, improved grenade physics, laser-guided rockets, remote-guided “fly-by-wire” rockets, electric stun darts, a viral slime attack, a charged fireball attack, and my favorite, exploding rounds that gib ordinary units and liquify marines inside of their armor.

The project did not end up where we had hoped, but looking back on my opportunity to work along side extraordinary people with high standards and a shared desire to create something big, it's hard for me to view the year and a half spent on Ghost as anything but a positive experience.

Dan Reed
Software Engineer
Blizzard Enertainment