Following the tradition established with the demo version of Warcraft II, Blizzard released a demo version of StarCraft with a unique short campaign called Loomings, which serves as a prequel to the story in the retail game. In the demo, the player takes the role of a Confederate Alpha Squadron Lieutenant who had just arrived to the fringe colony of Chau Sara. The local Magistrate asks for help dealing with a cell of Sons of Korhal rebels who have rooted themselves in the colony, but the situation soon goes out of control as previously unknown alien life forms suddenly attack Confederate forces. A mysterious Confederate black ops unit called the Cerberus Recon Squad arrives to contain the spread of the "xenomorphs", and their Commander asserts himself as the man in charge, much to the displeasure of the Magistrate. Together with the player they must fend off the Zerg invasion of the colony.
The demo was released as an Internet download and as a shareware CD, with the former having less content due to download size restrictions. The short version of the campaign includes a tutorial and three missions, while two more missions are found in the CD version. Additionally, the number of unit quotes had been reduced in the downloadable demo, and the full intro movie could not have been possibly included with it.
- "StarCraft Shareware" -- Shareware title
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Add-on release for the full versionIn September 1998, Blizzard released the demo missions as an add-on for the full game under the title Precursor Campaign. This release includes all five missions from the CD version of the demo, as well as the tutorial mission. Due to the limitations of custom campaign format in StarCraft, this version does not have intermission screens, and the tutorial briefing does not have the "Skip Tutorial" button which is mentioned by the Adjutant. Also, the stand-alone version of the demo uses unit and structure stats from StarCraft v1.01, while the Precursor Campaign will use the stats from the version to which the copy of StarCraft that is used to run it had been updated. The Precursor Campaign maps can be opened in the Campaign Editor, allowing to view some of the hidden mission-specific AI scripts which are normally unavailable in the Campaign Editor.
Features absent from the retail gameSince the demo was released after the retail version, map designers have used some features that are not found in the full game. This is especially noticeable in the indoor mission that takes place inside the Confederate research installation: for example, doors do not only open upon the player's units' approach, but they also close automatically when no units are nearby. By contrast, in the retail version, doors in all installation missions will remain open once the player's units have activated them. Also, Terran Beacons that mark interactive computers within the installation disappear once the player had used them; in the retail campaigns, beacons always stay where they are. These design features were later picked on in the Brood War expansion, where doors and beacons in the indoor mission behave similarly to the demo version of StarCraft.
Heroes and special unitsJust like in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, all races in StarCraft have Hero versions of all offensive units. However, only some of them are used in the retail version campaigns, while others are placeholder heroes with no role in the main story whatsoever. The demo campaign makes use of the Firebat and Goliath heroes, which appear as elite Cerberus counterparts to the normal Terran Firebat and Terran Goliath. Also, General Duke is the only character who is prominently featured in the StarCraft storyline to make a cameo appearance in the demo campaign. Duke is available as a hero unit during one mission, although he does not have any dialogue except his unit response quotes. Furthermore, this is the only official mission to use General Duke as the Siege Tank hero (the retail StarCraft Terran campaign was supposed to have a mission that uses this version of Duke but it was cut from the final release of the game). Additionally, the demo campaign contains the only official pre-Brood War mission that allows the player to control the special Terran Civilian units.
Multiplayer map re-releaseBoth the electronic download and the CD version of the StarCraft demo include one multiplayer map for two players called Byways. This map was re-released on June 11th, 1999 as a bonus map to be used in the full version of the game, under the title Byway.
Recycled demo materialSome of the lines by Terran Marines that can be rescued by the player during the demo indoor mission (Den of the Beast) were later re-used in the Brood War Terran indoor mission.