StarCraft: Ghost is a military science fiction stealth-action video game under suspended development by Blizzard Entertainment. Part of Blizzard's StarCraft series, the game was announced in 2002 and was to be developed by Nihilistic Software for the Nintendo GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 video game consoles. Several delays in development caused Blizzard to move back the release date and the game has not yet materialized. Nihilistic Software ceded development to Swingin' Ape Studios in 2004 before Blizzard bought the company, and plans for the GameCube version were canceled in 2005. Blizzard announced in March 2006 that the game is on "indefinite hold" while the company investigated seventh generation video game console possibilities. Subsequent public statements from company personnel have been contradictory about whether production will be renewed or planned story elements will be worked into other products. The continued delay of Ghost has caused it to be labeled as vaporware, and it was ranked fifth in Wired News annual Vaporware Awards in 2005. Although Blizzard Entertainment refuses to list it as such, video game journalism outlets including IGN and GameSpot list Ghost as canceled.
Unlike its real-time strategy predecessor StarCraft, Ghost is a third-person shooter, and was intended to give players a closer and more personal view of the StarCraft universe. Following Nova, a Terran psychic espionage operative called a "ghost", the game is set four years after the conclusion of StarCraft: Brood War and covers a conspiracy about a secretive military project conducted by Nova's superiors in the imperial Terran Dominion. Very little of the game's storyline has been released; however, in November 2006 after the game's postponement, a novel was published called StarCraft Ghost: Nova which covers the backstory of the central character.
During StarCraft: Ghost's gameplay, the player's character Nova must use stealth and darkness to reach objectives and remain undetected. Nova has a cloaking device that allows for temporary concealment, but certain hostile non-player characters can overcome this with special devices and abilities. Nova is also equipped with thermal imaging goggles and a special EMP device for disabling electronic devices and vehicles. In addition to the focus on stealth elements, Ghost includes a complex combat system. Blizzard planned to include a small arsenal of weaponry with assault and sniper rifles, grenades, shotguns, and flamethrowers. Nova can engage in hand-to-hand combat and uses these skills to eliminate enemy threats quietly. If alerted, enemy characters will hunt for the player, set up traps, and fire blindly to nullify Nova's cloaking device.
Nova is highly agile, acrobatic, and able to perform maneuvers such as mantling and climbing ledges, hanging from pipes, and sliding down ziplines. The player has access to Nova's psionic powers honed through training as a ghost agent, such as the ability to improve her speed and reflexes drastically. Ghost includes many of the vehicle units featured in StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War. Some vehicles, such as space battlecruisers and starfighters, only play support roles, while others, such as hoverbikes, scout cars, and futuristic siege tanks, can be piloted by the player.
The second unique game mode is "Invasion", in which two teams fight for control of mineral resource nodes. Whenever teams capture a node they gain points that can be used to purchase classes and vehicles. In all of the team-based game modes, teams have access to four Terran unit classes: light infantry, marine, firebat, and ghost. The light infantry class has minimal armor but a larger range of weapons, while the marine is a heavily armored soldier with an assault rifle and grenades. The firebat is a heavy marine armed with a flamethrower and napalm rockets. Finally, the ghost is a variation of Nova's character in the single-player mode, equipped with a cloaking device, thermal vision, EMP device, and sniper rifle, but lacks the speed ability. Due to the size of the armor worn by marines and firebats, only ghosts and light infantry can pilot vehicles.
Ghost takes place in the fictional universe of the StarCraft series. The series is set in a distant part of the galaxy called the Koprulu Sector and begins in the year 2499. Terran exiles from Earth are governed by a totalitarian empire, the Terran Dominion, that is opposed by several smaller rebel groups. Two alien races discover humanity: the insectoid Zerg, who begin to invade planets controlled by the Terrans; and the Protoss, an enigmatic race with strong psionic power that attempt to eradicate the Zerg. Ghost takes place four years after the conclusion of StarCraft: Brood War, in which the Zerg become the dominant power in the sector and leave both the Protoss and the Dominion in ruins. The game follows the story of Nova, a young ghost agent—a human espionage operative with psychic abilities—in the employ of the Dominion.
Although the game has been indefinitely postponed, the backstory for Nova was released in the novel StarCraft Ghost: Nova by Keith R. A. DeCandido. It was meant to accompany the game's release, but was published in 2006 after development halted. In the novel, Nova is a fifteen-year-old girl and daughter to one of the ruling families of the Confederacy of Man, an oppressive government featured in StarCraft. The Confederacy is overthrown by rebels, who go on to form the Dominion. Nova has significant psionic potential, but has been kept out of the Confederate ghost operative training program because of her father's influence. After her family is murdered by rebels, Nova loses control of her mental abilities and accidentally kills 300 people around her home. She flees from her home before she is caught, and is later forced to work for an organized crime boss as an enforcer and executioner. She is rescued by a Confederate agent who is investigating her disappearance during a rebel attack on the Confederate capital that leads to the Confederacy's destruction. Nova is consequently acquired by the newly formed Terran Dominion, who erase her memory and train her as a ghost agent.
Few details have been revealed about Ghosts plot beyond Nova's backstory. Under emperor Arcturus Mengsk, the Terran Dominion has rebuilt much of its former strength and controls a new military formed to counter the Zerg. To further bolster the effectiveness of his military, Mengsk initiates a secret research operation codenamed Project: Shadow Blade and places it under the command of his right-hand man, General Horace Warfield. In the program, an experimental and potentially lethal gas called terrazine is used to enhance the genetic structure of the Dominion's psychic ghost agents. The process is described as changing the agents into "shadowy superhuman beings bent on executing the will of their true master". It is into the midst of this that Nova finishes her training and is dispatched in operations against the Koprulu Liberation Front, a rebel group that challenges Mengsk's empire. However, Nova's mission leads her to uncover a conspiracy that involves Shadow Blade. This revelation causes her to question her loyalty to the Dominion and could upset the balance of power within the galaxy.
Nihilistic Software began development on StarCraft: Ghost in 2001. Nihilistic aimed to release the game for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube video game consoles in late 2003, which illicited positive reactions from the press. The game was consistently delayed, and during the third quarter of 2004, Nihilistic discontinued their work on the project. Blizzard stated that Nihilistic had completed the tasks it had been contracted for, and the game would be delivered on time.
In July 2004, Blizzard Entertainment began collaboration with Swingin' Ape Studios to work on the game, and bought the company in May 2005. Despite anticipation for the game by industry journalists, Ghost was delayed again and its release date was pushed back to September 2005. At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2005, Ghost was officially reannounced, but the GameCube version was canceled by Swingin' Ape Studios due to the platform's lack of online support. The game's release was again delayed until 2006. Despite the efforts of Swingin' Ape, Ghost failed to materialize as scheduled, and in March 2006 Blizzard Entertainment announced an indefinite postponement on development of Ghost while the company explored new options with the emerging seventh generation of video game consoles. Despite its long development history, IGN noted that the concept of Ghost still held promise. Although the game's development was suspended, Keith R. A. DeCandido's novel StarCraft Ghost: Nova was published several months later in November 2006.
Complementing Nihilistic's and Swingin Ape Studio's work on the game, Blizzard's cinematics team—originally formed to develop StarCrafts cut scenes—created the cut scenes for Ghosts single-player campaign, which are integral to the game's storyline. The team, which originally consisted of six people, grew to 25, and used newer hardware, software, and cinematics techniques to create higher quality cut scenes than those featured in StarCraft and Brood War. The game's trailer, comprised of the cinematics team's work, was released in August 2005.
Since Ghosts production halted, Blizzard Entertainment has sporadically released information about the title. At the BlizzCon conference in 2007, StarCraft series creator Chris Metzen hinted that elements of Ghosts story may appear in the upcoming StarCraft II. Metzen further stated that he believed Ghost had an excellent storyline that may be told in future novels following from DeCandido's Nova. In June 2007, Rob Pardo, one of the lead developers at Blizzard Entertainment, indicated that there still was interest in finishing Ghost. Later in an interview, Pardo stated that Blizzard had been "stubborn" in persevering with Ghost, but they "were not able to execute [the game] at the level we wanted to". Blizzard's president Mike Morhaime and Pardo gave a presentation on the company's history at the D.I.C.E. Summit in February 2008. During the presentation, they listed games canceled by Blizzard, which did not include Ghost. When questioned about this, Blizzard's co-founder Frank Pearce explained that the title was never "technically canceled" and that it was not in the company's focus at the time due to a finite amount of development resources. Despite Blizzard's announcements, many of the video games industry's journalists now list Ghost as canceled and consider it vaporware; the game was ranked fifth in the 2005 edition of Wired News annual Vaporware Awards. In July 2008, British newspaper The Guardian claimed that Ghost had been quietly canceled due to the economic crisis of 2008.