This is the second post of a two-part series on Starcraft and late-90s networking. Part 1 describes Starcraft’s many connection options.
Configuring Starcraft networking in 1998 was an adventure. There were four different connection options (plus AppleTalk on Macintosh computers), each of which required specific software and hardware to function. How did anyone figure this stuff out?
It turns out that the Starcraft CD included detailed support documentation. Today, this provides a glimpse of computing history circa 1998.
Writing about multiplayer Starcraft reminded me how strange networking was in 1998. I remember connecting a computer to a modem, which was connected to a phone line (many homes had a second phone number specifically for this purpose). The modem would dial a number and “talk” to a modem on the other end.1
Networking two computers over a phone line seems bizarre to me now. You could connect without an IP address, packet switching, routers, network address translation, or firewalls – all the things we take for granted today.
I wanted to run the original Starcraft, released in 1998, on my Linux desktop using QEMU. Thus began my six hour rediscovery of computing in the 90s, an era when installing working software required wizardry, persistence, and luck.
Windows 98 First, I installed Windows 98 in QEMU using an ISO that I found online. Pentium 2 processor, 128 MiB of RAM, and 1GiB disk should be more than enough to handle Windows 98!
Starcraft was the first game I played online. My friend and I would dial each other over a 56K modem. I remember wondering why he kept ending his chat messages with “:” and “)”.
We liked to mine minerals and build armies, but I don’t remember attacking, winning, or losing. The network connection never lasted long enough.
One day I wandered into a battle.net lobby. Everyone was typing furiously into chat before the game started.