Overmind versus Kerrigan - thoughts

Campaign and Story
I've always adored the original concept of the Zerg race as it was before Brood War, under the Overmind. They were the only race in Starcraft not just with completely non-human appearance, but with completely non-human logic and goals as well. From the very beginning, the two key traits that defined the Zerg race were the hive mind and the constant desire to evolve.

But in Brood War, when Kerrigan took over the Swarm, there was almost nothing left of this concept. The Zerg became nothing but Kerrigan's private army - working for her because they were coerced by her to do so, not because they were part of some greater hive mind, which is pointed out right at the beginning of the Brood War Zerg campaign. Not a single word is said about evolution either - the entire story of the Queen of Blades campaign is about Kerrigan using deception and treachery to get rid of her rivals - including the second Overmind and the other surviving Cerebrates. This is why I thought that at the end of Brood War everyone lost. Not just the UED, the Koprulu Sector Terrans, and the Protoss - but the Zerg too, even though they were technically dominating the sector and could easily crush both the Terrans and the Protoss, had Kerrigan not decided to "allow them their reprieve". In a way, the situation was even more hopeless for the Zerg than it was for the Terrans or the Protoss, as there was no one left to bring the Swarm back to what it originally was.

Well, there was Duran. Believe it or not, I thought that if there was any hope for the Zerg to "return to their roots", it was with Duran, as the hybrids he was making were essentially the same thing as what the Overmind tried to do when the Swarm invaded Aiur - a race that combined the best traits of the Protoss and the Zerg. But, then came the Dark Templar Trilogy and SC2...

But then I had another thought as I was replaying through the original game's Zerg campaign. In particular, these words made me stop to think:

Overmind:

My children, the hour of our victory is at hand. For upon this world of Aiur shall we incorporate the strongest known species into our fold. Then shall we be the strongest of creation's children. We shall be...

Perfect.

This word, "perfect", immediately called me back to this conversation in Heart of the Swarm:

Kerrigan: Tell me about your work.
Abathur: Look at flesh, see only potential. Strands, sequences, twisting, separating, joining. See how it could be better. Eat flesh, splinter bone. Inside me, can touch it. Weave it. Spin it. Make it great.
Kerrigan: But not perfect?
Abathur: Never perfect. Perfection goal that changes. Never stops moving. Can chase, cannot catch.
Kerrigan: You certainly have your uses.

And Abathur is right. It's a basic fact that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of biology and evolution should know, which makes me think: did the Overmind just get outsmarted by Abathur (and billions of human school students as well)? You can never be "perfect", you just can become best suited to a specific task (even if it's as simple as "destroy your rivals", "exact vengeance on Mengsk" or "find a way to defeat Amon"). So did Kerrigan ironically give the Swarm a higher purpose by making it her private army?
Well, not in the way you think.

The original purpose of the Overmind - and I mean original as in before we knew that Amon interfered in it - was to be the coalescence of the Swarms' will. That very basic, intrinsic function of the Zerg - to survive, and therefore adapt and improve - formed the core of what became the Overminds' intelligence.

In the original backstory, the Overmind found out about the Xel'Naga and decided to consume them - upon finding out the existance of the Protoss, it then decided to consume them too. While many would laud this as original, I'm afraid it isn't. The Tyranids have almost identical concept for their purpose, and the Starship Troopers bugs are of that variety too.

In the revised backstory, Amon directed the Overmind to assimilate the Protoss in an attempt to eventually create the perfect creature. This however contradicted the Overminds base directive to survive, as we see in the "prophecy", i.e. the Overminds guess of what would happen. It is possible - and plausible - that the Overminds' doublethink would justify their attack on Aiur by the promise of "acheiving perfection", no matter how well it knew that this concept is impossible. The true purpose of the attack was to be destroyed and leave the swarm in the hands of an entity that could be free of Amons' directive. The Overmind wasn't "outsmarted" by Abathur, only that Abathur represents wholly the primary natural existance of the Zerg while the Overmind was under the shackles of Amon, who may additionally have grafted into the Overmind the belief that perfection would be achieved through merging Protoss and Zerg - something that Amon believes, but Abathur does not.

In a very simple sense, the higher purpose that Kerrigan - both as herself and as the Queen of Blades - directed on the Zerg is "higher" in terms that it isn't the intrinsic purpose of the Swarm itself, but the wiles of a sentient being. While she was the Queen of Blades, however, that same being was also warped and affected by Amons' influence. Now, Kerrigan is human in most ways except form - and this is becoming a reflection on the Swarm which is being repurposed to suit her specific, human needs, such as freedom and vengeance. Whether these are "higher goals" than evolution and survival for the sake of evolution and survival, is a matter of perspective - and from the human perspective, yes, these are then higher goals.

Say what you will about the completely alien Zerg Swarm in SC1, I think they're better of this way. Maybe they'll finally turn into the Starcrafts Zerg we all secretly want them to be.

24/08/2013 13:18Posted by PRH
(and billions of human school students as well)?


Are there really BILLIONS of human school students?
100 million, max, imho. But I don't know statistics from the back side of my face, so... w/e.
Just thought a bit more on this and came to the conclusion that no, the Swarm didn't "lose" in Brood War. :) Kerrigan just proved to be a more efficient leader than the Overmind (plus, she knew how her enemies thought, having been a human once), so her "replacing" the Overmind and the Cerebrates is also a kind of evolution, and the Swarm didn't stop evolving after Brood War either. That's how long it took me to understand the obvious...

Say what you will about the completely alien Zerg Swarm in SC1, I think they're better of this way. Maybe they'll finally turn into the Starcrafts Zerg we all secretly want them to be.


When I played SC campaign, I didn't want Zerg to become anything other than extinct. They are a threat to all other races. Of course, from their twisted "point of view", which is that of a faceless cruelty of evolution, they are working towards a higher goal - optimization on genetic level and elimination of genetic imperfections. However, since we as spectators are human, and (hopefully) share human compassion and emotions, we care about the underdog non-Zerg species, the victims, enough to oppose that goal.

If the Zerg have achieved the ability to coexist with other species, that is their redeeming quality. But that makes them not Zerg anymore, in the pre-SC2 sense. The old version of Zerg has no place in the universe, from our, human, point of view.
24/08/2013 15:42Posted by Strajder
If the Zerg have achieved the ability to coexist with other species, that is their redeeming quality. But that makes them not Zerg anymore, in the pre-SC2 sense. The old version of Zerg has no place in the universe, from our, human, point of view.


I agree whole-heartedly.
I don't think the Zerg will ever achieve some kind of "Rachni" status, in the sense that their contribution to defeating Amon will make them beloved by the Terrans and Protoss. Hell, I don't even think that the Terrans and Protoss will ever get along.
But what I don't want on the other hand is an eternal war scenario. Starcraft will always have all three races in rivalry, but I don't want what happened to the Imperium happen to the Dominion. There's a big differance between "anathemaic abomination" and "armed rival in a reasonably sized but still a little crowded sector". The Protoss and Terrans will have to remain armed, but won't need to polarise their society for a permanent war effort, something that without exception always ruins nations, empires and individuals alike.

24/08/2013 15:34Posted by PRH
Kerrigan just proved to be a more efficient leader than the Overmind (plus, she knew how her enemies thought, having been a human once), so her "replacing" the Overmind and the Cerebrates is also a kind of evolution, and the Swarm didn't stop evolving after Brood War either.


There's a differance between evolution and revolution. Kerrigan introduced a completely rogue virus into the Zerg genome, that of humanity, and the resulting reaction has permanently and rapidly mutated the species.


24/08/2013 13:18Posted by PRH
(and billions of human school students as well)?

Are there really BILLIONS of human school students?
100 million, max, imho. But I don't know statistics from the back side of my face, so... w/e.


Off topic here, but oh well... Think of it this way-population of 7 billion right? Most of the northern hemisphere countries seem to have ageing populations so lets say that 35% of those people are of school age (not the correct number, but I would guess that's about right) . The northern hemisphere houses roughly 90% of the world's population (according to Wikipedia at least, but hey, this is a SC2 forum, I'm not going to spend ages looking up statistics), or roughly 6,300,000,000. So 35% of them, or 2,205,000,000 will be of school age. So yes, there are probably billions of school children, not even taking into account the southern hemisphere.

That felt like a really dickish way to say that your own estimate is quite likely incorrect now that I look back at this, but I'm not deleting it now that I've typed it all :)
Being of school age doesn't mean you go to school. If we look at orders of magnitude of schools that actually provide the necessary education to know this, we need to look at first world countries and a minority sample in second world countries. Example: much of non urban Russia, China, Mexico and India will not have access to sufficiently qualified schools. That's a pretty large chunk of the populace leveled.

We're left with a maximum of a billion people in urbanised locations across the northern hemisphere. If 35 % of them are really school age, only 350 million, that's of the 100 million order of magnitude. And even then, I doubt that more than 1 % of those actually know enough about evolution and biology to know that evolution does not direct toward perfection.
25/08/2013 11:27Posted by Rasofe
evolution does not direct toward perfection.


But it sounds cool, doesn't it? "Awaken my child, and embrace the glory that is your birthright. [--snip-snip--] PERFECT." Also gives the Zerg a more directed goal than just "constant change".
26/08/2013 09:13Posted by Strajder
But it sounds cool, doesn't it? "Awaken my child, and embrace the glory that is your birthright. [--snip-snip--] PERFECT." Also gives the Zerg a more directed goal than just "constant change".


"You know what else sounds cool?
A broken neck!"

Anyway, they had a directed goal. It went against the Zergs' survival instinct so the Overmind went crazy and committed virtual suicide.

I also find some things kinda confusing about the BW QoB / SC1 Overmind discussion. You'll hear people say that the QoB was the greatest villain ever back then, because she just does whatever the !@#$ she wants no matter if its too soon or not even smart, and then leaves the Cerebrate to handle the mess she leaves herself in. And then you'll have people say that the SC1 Overmind was the greatest villain ever because it had a completely alien purpose and was a complete monstrosity.

But Amon gets the pole because he talks at one point. When he's obviously winning. No, QoB certainly didn't spout of villainous monologues when she was winning... while killing Fenix and Duke...

Do people judge anything objectively these days?
Amon isn't criticized because he talks. (Misrepresenting the other side isn't very objective either.) Amon is criticized because he's a pretty generic villain with unclear motivations. Wanting to wipe out all life is a pathetically stereotypical "bad guy" move. The Overmind may not have been the most relatable character but his motivations and actions made sense, in the context of the zerg race. We know next to nothing about Amon or why he's doing anything. They might do something good with him in the next expansion, but so far there's no point comparing him to the Overmind or QoB since he's nowhere near as developed.
24/08/2013 13:18Posted by PRH
but with completely non-human logic and goals as well.

I would like to contradict although people tend to go more for pleasure.

I've always adored the original concept of the Zerg race as it was before Brood War, under the Overmind. They were the only race in Starcraft not just with completely non-human appearance, but with completely non-human logic and goals as well. From the very beginning, the two key traits that defined the Zerg race were the hive mind and the constant desire to evolve.

I liked the Overmind because it wasn't so much an individual as the amalgamated personality of an entire species. Each time you fought a zergling, you were fighting the Overmind face-to-face. This is contrast to the UED, Kerrigan, or Amon who merely control the swarm to serve their own personal ends.

It went against the Zergs' survival instinct so the Overmind went crazy and committed virtual suicide.

Where's the evidence for this given that the Overmind was on the precipice of total victory over the protoss? Would it not have been more prudent to travel to Shakuras instead if he wanted to commit suicide, where his enemies actually had the ability to kill him?
I like to think of it this way: since the overmind was the amalgamated consciousness of the swarm, he's not really dead.

Just keep belieeeeeeviiiinnnn

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