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One of Warcraft 3’s most iconic features exists because of tech limitations

The fact that it made Warcraft 3 entirely different from StarCraft is just a bonus

Today, Blizzard’s classic fantasy RTS returns in the form of Warcraft 3: Reforged. The new release has given both fans and the developers a chance to revisit one of the most important strategy games in genre canon. But one feature has always proven contentious among new players – upkeep.

Upkeep in Warcraft 3 reduces your gold income while you’ve surpassed certain unit populations. Keep a small army, and your gold comes in as normal. Surpass the soft unit cap of 80, and you’ll only receive 40% of the usual money. This mechanic does encourage players to play aggressively rather than turtle, but lead artist Rob McNaughton says us that’s only part of why upkeep was implemented.

“Coming out of StarCraft you’re able to have unit caps that are pretty high,” McNaughton tells us. “But Warcraft 3 was a fledgling RTS in 3D, and we didn’t have unlimited memory back in those days. 3D hardware was pretty weak. So there was a mechanic that we built into the game: upkeep.”

Blizzard has always billed upkeep as a strategic limitation above all else – just look at the official breakdown of the mechanic – but it seems that’s only part of the story. Either way, upkeep isn’t changing for Regorged.

“Of course we kept it because it’s integral to the game now,” McNaughton says, “but if I could do anything differently, I would rather have more units. But that would just be me. The way we designed it made Warcraft 3 so different than StarCraft.”