StarCraft, Age of Empires and Diablo are old legacy games developed by Blizzard Entertainment or Microsoft Game Studios during the 90s, in Windows 9x era. StarCraft is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game, Diablo is a dark fantasy-themed action role-playing game, while Age of Empires is a history-based real-time strategy computer game.

The three games were immensely popular, till today. From the release date of 1998, more than 11 million copies of StarCraft had been sold worldwide, making StarCraft one of the best selling computer games for PC, with three expansion packs available, namely, Insurrection, Retribution, StarCraft: Brood War. Diablo has Diablo: Hellfire as its expansion pack, and Diablo II and Diablo III as sequels. Age of Empires spans a huge series with games such as Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, Age of Empires III, Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs, and Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties.

Since StarCraft, Age of Empires and Diablo were developed in Windows 9x and XP era, the game does not work properly or correctly in Windows 7 and Vista. For example, although Diablo, Age of Empires II, StarCraft with path version 1.16 or 1.16.1 (1.161) can install and run poperly in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, however, the game is launched in crappy, messed-up and bright turquoise color in the menu system, and graphics are glitched in random places, effectively rendering the game unplayable. In Windows Vista, the erroneous game graphics display happens intermittently, but in Windows 7, the issue happens on every game launch.

Attempt to run StarCraft, Diablo or Age of Empires in Windows XP Mode in Windows Virtual PC, a backward compatibility feature provided by Microsoft for Windows 7 also does not help to play the game, as the game requires screen resolution of 640×480 with 256 colors desktop, as Windows Virtual PC does not provide easy way to change screen mode.

Here’s a few workarounds or tricks that can fix various color issues on these popular legacy games, and get StarCraft, Diablo or Age of Empires to run properly for gamemplay in Windows 7 or Vista. Note that depending on computer configuration such as different graphics accelerator processing unit (GPU), sometimes it may not be necessary to do everything that is suggestion in the solutions below. In other words, just do whatever necessary to get the game running.

Method 1: Run with Compatibility Settings

  1. Right click on StarCraft, Diablo or Age of Empires icon, and select Properties.
  2. Go to Compatibility tab.
  3. Tick the check box for all options under the Settings section:
    • Run in 256 color
    • Run in 640×480 screen resolution
    • Disable visual themes
    • Disable desktop composition
    • Disable display scaling on high DPI settings
  4. Optional: Set Compatibility Mode should set to Windows XP SP3

    Note: Some other users suggest that it won’t work in Compatibility Mode due to missing font file issue. Try the settings to fit your own system.

  5. Optional: Check Run as Administrator option.
  6. Click OK to close the Properties dialog.
  7. Right click on Desktop and select Screen Resolution (in Windows 7) or Personalize (in Windows Vista). Leave the window opens.
  8. Run StarCraft to play the game in perfect coloring.

Method 2: Running in 16-bit Colors

  1. Right click on Desktop and select Screen Resolution (in Windows 7) or Personalize and then Display Settings (in Windows Vista).
  2. Click on Advanced Settings link.
  3. Click on the Monitor tab.
  4. Choose High Color (16-bit) from the Colors dropdown list.
  5. Click on Apply and confirm the display settings prompt.

Note: Windows Aero transparency effects will be disabled.

Method 3: Kill Explorer Process Prior to Running StarCraft

StarCraft is an old legacy 8-bit (256 colors) game, and thus it don’t work properly in full-screen in Windows 7 and Vista because the Windows Taskbar is always display “on top” of other windows, messing up the palette rendered by the game, which using a process similar to Surface Renderer in DOSBox.

  1. Open Task Manager (TaskMgr).
  2. Go to Process tab.
  3. Highlight explorer.exe, and click on End Process to kill and terminate Explorer.

    Note: Terminating Explorer.exe will make Windows Taskbar and all open Windows Explorer windows exits and disappears.

  4. Run StarCraft, Age of Empires II or Diablo. If you are already in the game, use Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut to switch back into the game.
  5. To restart Explorer, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager. Then click on File menu and select New Task (Run). Type explorer and hit Enter.

Alternative, create a batch file (file name with .bat extension) with the following commands to automatically perform the above actions, and run the game.

taskkill /F /IM Explorer.exe
%ProgramFiles%\StarCraft\StarCraft.exe
start explorer.exe
exit

Note: Replace the second line (call to run the game) to the exact path that pointing the the game executable. An easy way is to right click on the game icon, and copy the text inside the “Target” box to replace the string above. Or just place the batch file inside the game directory.

Tip 1: Script above restart Explorer immediately after launching the game. If the game is still having color issue, try to delay the restarting of the Explorer by adding a “pause” command before starting Explorer, or use “start /w” switch to run the game, which cause the next command to execute after the game is exited. E.g:

start /w "%ProgramFiles%\StarCraft\StarCraft.exe"

Tip 2: Change the game shortcut to point to the batch file to play the game.

Method 4: Use StarCraftFix (for StarCraft game only)

The fix StarcraftFix is a Chinese-based batch utility made to fix any display problem happens when playing StarCraft game in Windows 7. To use the StarCraft Fix, just download the following RAR archive:

StarcraftFix.rar

Unpack the content to the game folder, and then run StarcraftFix.exe. Then click on the button in the middle, which means “Play Game” to start playing the game. It works similarly to method, with automation in one-click.

Tip: If the game freezes on “Loading”, or the colors still get messed up (such as mini-map goes blank or black), press Alt + Tab keyboard shortcut to switch out of the game and back in.

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