Running Starcraft + Brood War on Windows 7

Right so as promised here’s another how to on running an old classic on windows 7.

There is a general issue with running the *craft series games on vista+ systems due to the change in the underlying graphics architecture of the systems. This has resulted in the games running in the infamous “low colour” mode (where everything looks like it’s in 16bit – probably because it actually it :P). This is an annoying bug and one that cannot be easily addressed. Theres a patched driver floating around that someone reverse engineered (annoyingly i cant find the link). I’ve tried it with Starcraft and unfortunately this isn’t (yet) a stable solution (game runs sooooo sloooow) so we have to resort to other means.

As i mentioned in my update the solution to running the original Starcraft and it’s expansion pack ‘Brood War’ is as obscure as it is elegant. No need for tools, no need for patches no need for virtualisation.

Note: As always for the best possible experience i would recommend to anyone wanting to run classic games to simply use a virtual machine. These are so easy to setup and they are free. You don’t need VMWare workstation because that’s intended for advanced users (developers etc…). VMWare player, VirtualBox are both free and easy to use solutions. Microsoft’s Virtual PC is also an option. QEMU is pretty much king in the virtualisation world (albite lacking in the nice pretty simple UI so perhaps not for everyone). Boot up a virtual machine, install a copy of windows XP like you would on any other machine and your good to go.

Ok so that aside lets get Starcraft running on windows 7!

First you will need to install the game (obviously). You MUST do the following:

  • Install the latest patch (afaik 1.15.1).
  • Go to gamecopy world. Download the NoCD patch for the version of the game your running. This step is crucial. I don’t care if you are against piracy. I don’t care if you spent your hard earned pocket money to buy a legal version of the game. Copy protection technology is ALWAYS an afterthought hack – this is no exception. This game (like all the others i blog about) runs perfect PROVIDED YOU CRACK IT FIRST. The reason is simple. These copy protection technologies use obscure ways to do what they do (because people think this makes it harder to get around them). Typically this is just funny (and sometimes it’s actually degrading in performance). However as soon as something in the underlying architecture of the OS changes (like say going from XP to Vista) your fucked. Your precious copy protection will no longer work the way it’s supposed to and (most of the time) it will be the one single reason why, after following all the steps other people have outlined to get the game running perfectly for them, will fail for you. Crack the game if you actually want to play it – it’s YOUR game. You paid for it. You have that right.

Once the game is patched and cracked your almost done. 2 more things to do:

  • First (as always) go into the game folder, right click on starcraft.exe and choose properties.
  • Click the compatibility tab and tick EVERY option under settings as well as “run as admin”. Don’t bother with “run in compatibility mode”.

Now, here’s the obscure bit. Get ready to play the game, minimise the game folder and go to your desktop.

  • Right click on the desktop and select “screen resolution”. You will get your display settings window.
  • Now, without closing the display settings, go back to your Starcraft folder and run the game.

You will see the starcraft splash screen displayed all correctly and the game will run fast and without issue – at the time of writing i’m about 3 levels away from finishing brood war on a 26″ 1920×1200 display.

WTF? – Don’t ask. Just exit the game and try starting it without first opening display settings 😉

IMPORTANT: You will need to open up display settings EVERY single time you want to run the game.

Also note: If you minimise the game while playing, you will screw up the colour again and you will need to restart it. Also sometimes after playing for a while you might randomly start getting colour issues.
Save what your doing and restart the game – it’s not a perfect solution (because it’s a hack) but it gets the job done :)

UPDATE (21/03/2012)

charlesm (Comment #17600) suggested that:
The only thing I use to get rid of the color issue is put a check mark by “disable desktop composition.”

March 19, 2013 at 1:24 am

Have fun guys, and here’s a video for you to enjoy :)