The opening cutscene ran on lowest graphics with a bit of choppiness. Jim Raynor's alcoholic beverage wasn't all that pretty-looking, but it worked. Then the gameplay started, and the frame rate was stupidly bad. As Jim's fancy-looking dropship flew in the dialogue got a bit ahead of the game as the computer struggled to process everything in real time, and all in all things probably took about twice as long as they should (particularly startling since it wasn't on fastest game speed), but it was playing. Given the enthusiasm with which I had awaited this game, and that the alternative was sitting around feeling bad for myself and thinking about the break-up, I was willing to put up with it. I'm not sure if the computer started to handle it a little better or if I just got used to it, but before long I didn't even really notice the choppiness.
Partly because of the abysmally slow effective game speed, and partly because I was terrible at the game, it took me most of the summer to beat the game, staying up late most nights. I think I had to try that level where you stole Terrazine gas canisters from the Tal'Darim (I think it was called "Welcome to the Jungle?" about forty or fifty times on Normal difficulty. I loved it, though; I'd loved the original game's storyline as a kid, and finally it was being continued. A lot of people hated the Wings of Liberty narrative style and plot developments, but I thought it worked. It was less about the grim tale of the Korhal sector and more about the heroic narrative of Jim Raynor, but heroic narratives can be good storytelling, too.
Then I finished the campaign, and moved on to multiplayer. I was pretty nervous about this, though. It's one thing to run a choppy game when you're the only one that's suffering, but it's another thing entirely to subject other online players to it. For the time being it was fine because I had 50 games to play in the practice league, where the game speed was slower and I had some idea how to handle it. But once those 50 ran out I wasn't sure my computer could handle it. I actually played custom games and training missions to stall, trying to make my 50 practice games last.
Luckily, for Christmas that year I got a laptop – specifically, I got a Macbook Pro (13", I believe). I'm pretty sure the first thing I loaded onto it was Starcraft II, and thank heavens, it ran acceptably. I finally got to skip my practice games and go into matchmaking for real. I spent a long time in bronze league, because I was terrible, but at least I could play the game.
With a laptop in my possession, I also started to spend a lot more time on the internet. In particular, I had much freer access to YouTube now that I didn't have to compete with anyone else for computer time. The first internet resource for Starcraft I visited was the Battle.net forums. There I learned some basic tricks of Terran macro (e.g. only build three barracks on one base), some concepts like constant SCV production and APM, and some valuable lessons about the Starcraft community (Overall they're pretty nice, but any individual member has a decent chance of being a complete asshole. That chance is much higher on the Blizzard forums). I also discovered HuskyStarcraft on YouTube, and started to learn the names of a few professional players (I liked DeMuslim a hell of a lot).
This post is still the top sticky'd post on the Terran forums, because really high-quality posts on the B.net forums are that few and far between.
And then there was one weird game on Jungle Basin that Husky casted which he mentioned Day was also doing a show about, and that voila! My first introduction to the Day Daily (and later, Day introduced me to TL). Like a lot of players, I didn't know a damn thing about how the game should actually be played until I encountered the daily. Pretty quickly I got out of bronze into silver league. By the summer I had reached gold. By the end of the summer, I had yet again gone through a recent and fairly devastating break-up (with the same girl as last time!), and I was playing a hell of a lot.
Then I went to college. When you're two weeks off a break-up with a girl you thought you might marry some day, you don't really feel like getting out and partying with some freshmen in college you don't know, so I was keeping to my room. For a good two weeks the frame rate was abysmal not just because of my computer quality, but also because I was on an overtaxed college wi-fi service. I remember a couple TvZ's during those first couple weeks working the following way:
1) I build up my army, preparing to go attack Zerg with a good bio+tank army.
2) I move out, and start to approach his base when the frame rate drops to a crawl.
3) Frame one: I spot a few lings (the front of his army) at edge of my army's vision, and begin spamming for my tanks to siege.
4) Frame two: I see all my marines in a ball of green goo on the ground. My tanks still haven't begun to siege.
5) Frame three: As lings and mutas finish off the last couple tanks, I see them in the beginning of the siege animation.
6) I gg, fume for a few minutes, and then queue another game.
That happened a few times before I got my ethernet to work, and even after that things were choppy sometimes. Despite all that, I was actually moving up the ladder, and got placed into platinum league. It was a bit tough to keep playing Starcraft as college work picked up, and frequently I had to take two-week breaks near the end of the quarter to get prepared for finals (two-week breaks are TERRIBLE if you want to improve at anything).
I think it was that spring there was a patch which in balance terms was a nerf for Terran – but also included was a big performance boost for Macs in big battle situations, and my win rate improved quite dramatically. It didn't happen immediately, but after my two-week break at the end of spring quarter I started playing over the summer and pretty quickly made it into diamond. At this point I wasn't even playing the game quite so much, since I'd found myself more of a social niche and was spending a lot more time with friends. I lost compatibility for a while after patch 1.5.0, and when I managed to make things work again Blizzard had messed up the "use command instead of control" option in the menu such that I couldn't play the game very well until I figured out to swap the keys in System Preferences rather than swap them using SC2.
And then, during the school year, there was the patch which kept warning me that I would be forced to update to Mountain Lion (I had been running on Snow Leopard). It was a little sad that I'd have to move to an OS where BW and WC3 would no longer run, but I still updated OS's because honestly, if SC2 isn't running on my OS then I need a different OS. As soon as I updated, the game ran a great deal worse. I dropped back down to platinum, although I didn't really attribute it to the performance drop so much as to the fact that with such bad performance, I found myself playing a lot less. Even so I bought HotS a couple weeks after release, and I put in a few hundred games either during spring quarter or at the beginning of the summer.
Then due to travelling I was going to be unable to play for a while anyway, so I took a long one- or two-month break. Just yesterday I started playing again, and I found the frame rate looked like this (Sorry, I recorded this on Quicktime Player so it's not well cut or pretty or anything. Also, obviously Quicktime Player had to be running while SC2 was, so the frame rate is a little bit worse than you'd expect otherwise because of it):
It's not as though frame rate issues were ever exactly absent in the ~9000 games of Starcraft I've played. But when I started out I still had plenty to learn about the game, and even in spite of the lag I could learn to play the game better. Even without the frame rate problems, there are certain problems always present when playing on a Mac, such as mouse acceleration (I haven't figured out a way to adjust this the way you would on a PC). But with this new frame rate problem, I feel like the only way I could improve at this game would be to find a way to buy a better computer. And if I can't improve at the game, I'm not totally sure why I should even keep playing.
I've put thousands of hours into this game, and I hate the idea of quitting. If I had taken a fraction of those hours, found a job, and spent them there instead, I'd have more than enough money to buy a good enough computer to avoid these problems. But as it is, I'm having to lead an SCV with my mouse by about a full collision radius just to click on it and send it to build something. There's no way I can focus on learning to macro, or improve my marine splits, or try to find an opening in TvP that doesn't die to some kind of all-in if I can barely send a worker to build a barracks.
So I'm gonna troubleshoot the frame rate thing if I can. And I'll keep trying periodically to check if it fixes itself. Because if it doesn't, I might just be done playing SC2 until I earn enough money to buy a computer that can actually play it.