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For years we have been under the assumption that when a Protoss dies, his form psionically dissipates into the void in a brilliant flash of blue light. Presumably, the Protoss loses control of his powers and his form can no longer be sustained. However, in Karune's StarCraft II Q&A Batch #26, Andy Chambers discussed the Protoss death animations. He imparted that the “blue flash” is simply the unit teleporting back to the nearest safe haven.

1. Do Protoss warriors actually die? What is the blue flash when they die?

In the chaos of the battlefield, Protoss warriors fight with tremendous power and grace, but even so, they can be mortally wounded. Then the Protoss' foes often bear witness to a startling sight: the injured Protoss disappears in a bright flash of light. Such a vision has caused primitive races to quail in superstitious fear, and yet it has no supernatural cause. On the contrary, it is merely the result of teleportation, which is one of the chief strengths of Protoss technology. Protoss warriors typically have teleport mechanisms built into their armor. If the warrior is sufficiently injured, a properly functioning mechanism will automatically teleport the body to the nearest safe haven.

A Protoss warrior who is badly injured but still living may be placed in a dragoon--or latterly an immortal--shell to continue to fight. This is the choice of the individual warrior. Some warriors elect to shoulder the burden of remaining among the living instead of joining the sum of Protoss lives embodied in the Khala. It is worthy of note that the lives of individual Protoss that have passed into the Khala are no longer coherent entities, and the Protoss cannot speak with their dead per se. However, there are memories and strands of experience that can be accessed. Only the most skilled Protoss preservers can locate and follow specific desired strands of knowledge. The tremendous value of preservers comes from the fact that they carry within themselves and can access the sum total of Protoss experience at an individual level.

 

This is an example of a retcon. A retcon is an amendment to a previous work of fiction, such as StarCraft, where facts or history are changed, usually in order to facilitate the writing and consistency of a new work of fiction in the same setting i.e. the StarCraft universe. It can also refer to the changing of the interpretation of facts from a story. This retcon in particular has caused some controversy in the community. Some feel that it undermines the Protoss warrior spirit, while others think the opposite.

Advantages

It explains how Protoss recover bodies and how important Protoss warriors really are. The Protoss population has been decimated. Even one Protoss is valuable beyond measure on the battlefield. There are simply too many dragoons to have been obtained through any other means than this teleportation process. The advantage of this system is that the Protoss gets warped directly to the treatment facilities and stands a very good chance of surviving.

This retcon ties in very well with The Dark Templar Saga, by Christie Golden. It explains why the Protoss in StarCraft: Firstborn didn't die in a flash of light. During the Aeon of Strife, Protoss warriors did not have power suits or any other advanced technology. When they were killed they simply fell to the ground and bled like any other living creature. Protoss warriors who have fallen are ritually bathed. The Protoss would detest having their brethren’s bodies in the hands of their enemies, lest the Protoss bodies be dishonored.

This retcon validates Fenix's death cinematic. According to Fenix, his body was physically recovered instead of warped back. This makes sense considering that his psi blade and therefore his suit, failed. However, this only happened to him because he was hard-pressed at Antioch by the Zerg and went a long duration without rest or repair. Therefore, failing suits are the exception, rather than the rule.

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Perhaps the biggest advantage of this retcon is that it fits in with the StarCraft universe. Quote:

Then the Protoss' foes often bear witness to a startling sight: the injured Protoss disappears in a bright flash of light. Such a vision has caused primitive races to quail in superstitious fear, and yet it has no supernatural cause.

 

The StarCraft universe is based on science-fiction. Though we might not understand how exactly everything works, it does need to make sense and fit together. We can all agree that “souls” should have no place in StarCraft. Indeed, when the now defunct soul hunter made its debut, the StarCraft community quickly rose to put it down for this exact reason. Therefore, any semblance of Protoss releasing their souls upon death should be scoffed at as well.

Pitfalls
The biggest blow to StarCraft canon comes from a loss of visual continuity. Death animations for critters like the bengalaas and kakaru have been invalidated. These two critters die in a flash of blue light similar to Protoss warriors. Death animations for Protoss characters such as Raszagal and Aldaris are now invalid as well. In fact, there’s nothing to stop Blizzard from reviving Aldaris.

Having a zealot teleport back in game when he gets hit by a yamato cannon seems incongruent. Also, the death animation and sound is incongruent for another reason: the Protoss actually looks like he is in the process of dying i.e. falling back and letting out a scream. This retcon also raises the question of what constitutes a safe haven and why can’t the teleportation be used for other situations, such as teleporting away when a Protoss is outnumbered.

Perhaps the greatest reason that this retcon is frowned upon is that Protoss do not truly die in battle. This defames the legendary Protoss battle cry, “My life for Aiur!” Another issue is that this retcon doesn’t make it very clear yet how this process would work for other Protoss, like dark templar, and why the death animations are different. For example, in StarCraft, zealots, bengalaas and dark templar all explode in a swirl of blue fire while high templar don’t necessarily explode but instead disintegrate and leave an afterimage.

 

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It seems that Blizzard can’t get their facts straight about how exactly the reincarnation process works. According to Andy Chambers, the Protoss that are warped back are placed in a dragoon or immortal exoskeleton.

A Protoss warrior who is badly injured but still living may be placed in a dragoon--or latterly an immortal--shell to continue to fight.

 

Yet here is what the StarCraft II website says about these exoskeletons.

But the loss of every immortal is keenly felt. These ancient warriors are a dying breed pledged to give their all in the end times of their people….Soon none will remain.

Now the dragoons of the past are all but gone. The sacred shrine that was dedicated to the creation of the dragoons was infested by the zerg and lost along with the protoss homeworld itself.

The stalker is a machine controlled by the shadow-essence of a dark templar warrior fused into a metal body to protect his people.

 

So, the dragoons and immortals can no longer be built, a stalker can only be controlled by a dark templar, and the khalai Protoss that are warped back are left...where, exactly? Perhaps Andy was referring to the time from before the dragoon shrine was destroyed. However, if that was the case he wouldn’t specifically say that that the returning Protoss could be placed in immortals.

What is not a retcon

Many people have some misconceptions about what exactly this does/does not cut out from StarCraft canon.

1. Why don't Dragoons take advantage of this advanced technology? The Protoss inside the dragoon is almost dead. The dragoon exoskeleton is the Protoss’ remaining life support. If it gets damaged during battle, there is no saving the Protoss inside. Also, keep in mind that the cybernetics core is not responsible for making dragoons. Its function was to house the mysterious essence translators that bonded fallen Protoss warriors to an exoskeleton through the Khala. Presumably, the essence translators themselves were created at the shrine and then transported to the cybernetics core.

2. Protoss using this technology to escape death or unfavorable situations. While this certainly could be possible, there is no proof of it.

3. Do dark templar still carry no armor? The dark templar have been portrayed as warriors that wear nothing but capes and their own warp blades for armament. However, the dark templar do indeed wear armor. In StarCraft: Queen of Blades by Aaron Rosenberg, dark templar have been described as carrying heavy armor. Also, according to “Karune's StarCraft II Q&A Batch #26,” only shields that have been generated by machinery can be drained by a science vessel’s EMP spell i.e. the dark templar’s shields.

4. Protoss can no longer dissipate into energy upon their deaths. While this retcon would seem to heavily insinuate something like this, it’s not true. Protoss can still turn their bodies into energy as witnessed by the zealot’s charge ability, the archon merge (as far as we know), and Adun’s own death which was discussed in Shadow Hunters, by Christie Golden.

How exactly would this work?

We haven’t received the more intricate details of this process. If Chambers gave us more details as to how exactly this worked, and why this retcon was developed originally, there would have been fewer negative reactions. Here is a possible explanation for how this technology functions.


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The Protoss does not necessarily need to carry the teleporter itself in his suit. Instead, he could simply carry a beacon which lets the Protoss base keep track of his location and recall him if he dies. The beacon could be rather small, allowing dark templar to keep it hidden under their capes. Perhaps this device is not carried within the power suit, but is rather a cybernetic graft built into the Protoss itself, which monitors vital signs directly from the protoss' own brain. Therefore, when the base recalls the Protoss, the warping animation might appear different for each type of Protoss because all Protoss have different psionic energy signatures.

The zealot would have no control over when he gets teleported back. The process would most likely be purely automated, recalling the Protoss only when he is at the brink of death. Given that there is no guarantee that the Protoss will make it back in one piece, and the fact that the Protoss is for all intents and purposes dead upon arrival, this would result in no loss of honor for the Protoss who is recalled in this way.


This same mechanism could be installed in ships. Perhaps the Protoss pilots are recalled before the ship explodes, and the ship self-destructs in order to not give other races the technological secrets of the Protoss fleet.

Alternatives?

Granted, this isn’t the most creative idea Blizzard has had so far. But are there any better solutions?

We could stay with the old method, where the protoss releases his psi upon death or simply converts his body to energy. Another popular version of this method is the idea that when the Protoss dies, his body rejoins his brethren in the Khala. Its greatest strength is aesthetics, however it does nothing to address the thinning numbers of the Protoss and it still has the issues that were detailed earlier in this article.

Perhaps we can have a combination of both. Protoss can still turn their bodies into pure energy upon death. The Protoss that are mortally wounded and unable to fight should be teleported back. The Protoss that are killed very thoroughly could just die on the battlefield in the same flash of blue light. Alternately we could simply distinguish between time periods by saying that the Protoss only began using this technology after the Brood Wars. However, we still run into the issue of visual consistency and this entire concept seems rather artless when compared to the new way of doing it.

Conclusion

This retcon has a decent share of its positives and its negatives. Perhaps in the coming months more information will be revealed about why this retcon had to take place. Our staff had the following things to say about this retcon.

ChaosSmurf wrote:

My opinion is that it isn't as big a thing as everyone is making out. Sure, it's a retcon, but it can also be used in the argument about "Why if the Protoss are so highly advanced do they get beaten by a guy with a nail gun?". I like the change, I think it's a nice little piece of lore. Quite WHY it was done I'm not sure, but it's possible it may make sense once SC2/Dark Templar 3 is released. Also, we do not know the extent of the damage that it teleports at. Is it teleport before MAJOR damage is done, or teleport once it has got to the point where it's death for the unlucky, and a dragoon for the lucky?

 

Drake Clawfang wrote:

This revelation invalidates all we know of Protoss society. The Protoss live for glory, and honor. They are a race of warriors. They are all prepared to give their lives for Aiur, they say so themselves. Now it seems that every Zealot we thought died honorably defending Aiur, instead teleported away to survive. Avoiding death by using teleportation? That is cowardly, the Protoss face death with honor. Everything we've seen about them in game shows that the Protoss value dying in battle like a warrior should. Now, they do not die, they flee. And they are reconstructed in Dragoon walkers. The existence of a Dragoon must be one of torment, for the warrior inside to know he fought hard but still failed, and is forced to use machinery to continue the battle. Why would any Protoss want to continue living in such a state? Simple: they don't. Why do the Zealots and the Templar flee like cowards when the battle is too great? Live a coward's life or die a warrior's death. Which do you believe the Protoss would choose?

In closing, in StarCraft, the Protoss had a battle cry;

"My life to Aiur!"

Now it seems that this quote needs to be restructured to suit what we now know about the Zealot. So the new Zealot battle cry is:

"My life for Aiur, unless I'm actually about to die, in which case I'll teleport away to be revived as a robot."

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