Their fire has gone out of the universe
April 21, 2015 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Star Wars Galaxy fans, you have no idea what the game was supposed to be like, and how weird it feels to hear adoration for features which to me ended up being shadows of their intent. Don’t get me wrong, the team did heroic, amazing work. All of these issues end up being my fault for overscoping or mismanaging, the producers fault for not reining me in, or the money people’s fault for not providing enough time and budget. The miracle is that we pulled it off at all.
Raph Koster, former creative director on Star Wars Galaxies, writes about the Jedi system in the former MMO. posted by Diskeater (65 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
I loved this game but it it was flawed in a lot of ways. The economy was screwed up with insane hyperinflation. They changed movement from mouse to wasd overnight. Becoming a Jedi was very difficult until suddenly it was very easy, which really pissed off the people who ground like hell to become one. The one hour a day server downtime at 5 am that told me that I had somehow played through an entire night on a workday. I was in my 30s and knew better, but I did it anyway. You could grind to become a tailor in that game. A tailor in Star Wars.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:36 PM on April 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Damn, his original concept of permadeath jedi which would be forced to train in hiding and conceal their powers sounds awesome. A jedi roguelike mmo!
posted by meta87 at 9:42 PM on April 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


Is this where I solicit Mefites to play SWTOR, the superior Star Wars MMO, with me because if it is hi please join me in my quest to get all my characters to level 60 so we can do raids together
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:46 PM on April 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


A tailor in Star Wars.

"I have altered your suit. Pray I do not alter it any further."
posted by darkstar at 9:47 PM on April 21, 2015 [173 favorites]


Is this where I solicit Mefites to play SWTOR, the superior Star Wars MMO, with me because if it is hi please join me in my quest to get all my characters to level 60 so we can do raids together

What server are you on? I'm on Jedi Cov and I've got eight 60s and will probably have 12 pretty soon after 12X XP starts in May. Don't play much anymore but I used to allllllllll the time. Was never a super elite player but did progression raiding for a long time and was decent at PVP.

12X class XP is amazing and will get you to 60 super fast (even without some of the shortcuts near endgame that involve skipping class storyline missions and going to Makeb early). Keeping up with gear can become a bit of a problem when leveling super fast but it helps if you have access to crafters. Any Mefites on Jedi Cov I can help out with crafting and/or credits.
posted by kmz at 10:37 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


A tailor in Star Wars.

damn, it's almost as if this whole narrative predicated upon exceptionalism and rule-by-birthright might appear untenable when faced with fundamental economic reality. Like how the well-armed parties in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones ride past countless acres of ravaged farmland without encountering a single character notably affected.

God forbid a video game attempt to address this point, that sounds boring.
posted by 7segment at 10:46 PM on April 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


Do you remember the scene in Star Wars where the Luke, Leia and the rest of the Rebels sat around and crafted things? I don't know about you, but that was my favorite part of the OT.
posted by Time To Sharpen Our Knives at 10:47 PM on April 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


meta87: Damn, his original concept of permadeath jedi which would be forced to train in hiding and conceal their powers sounds awesome. A jedi roguelike mmo!

Oh, great! A game that combines permadeath with the eternal unchanging status quo present in all MMOs. The only thing that stays dead is you! Awesome.

In all seriousness, permadeath could never work in an MMO. MMOs are simply not the games that have the kind of rock-solid balance, physics, and connections that they demand. People will have their connections flake out and die, or pick a fight with a mob that's way harder than the level suggests, or the server will lag and they'll suddenly get high fifteen times in a row. To say nothing of the armies of griefers that exist merely to make other players suffer.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:53 PM on April 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


damn, it's almost as if this whole narrative predicated upon exceptionalism and rule-by-birthright might appear untenable when faced with fundamental economic reality. Like how the well-armed parties in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones ride past countless acres of ravaged farmland without encountering a single character notably affected.

God forbid a video game attempt to address this point, that sounds boring.


At some point someone will decide to make a game based on Neal Stephenson's T'Rain. Basically, every high-level character (mage, warrior, lord, whatever) has to created a whole pyramid of quasi-NPC characters to mine, build, and generally work for them. I thought it was a genuinely interesting notion, and would fill up the game world fairly quickly.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:53 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr, you ever heard of Hardcore Diablo? Diablo II and III have hardcore modes which are just D2/D3 with permadeath (and no bringing in items from outside the hardcore ecosystem), and they're pretty popular.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:01 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Diablo isn't exactly a MMO. Servers are kept pretty small which keeps physics/connection issues to a lower level, and the game isn't as large, which reduces the balance problems (versus monsters, especially).

Also, the game is shorter than a MMO, unless you grind all the way up to level 99 or something. Getting to the upper tiers of most MMOs is a several hundred hours proposition, and is the goal of basically everyone.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:04 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but I think what Mitrovarr is saying is that an MMO, unlike the Diablo games, is at least somewhat at the mercy of internet connections and other unstable elements. I mean, it's one thing to lose your Diablo II character on Hardcore because you got overwhelmed, but it would suck if you lost your character because Time Warner suddenly cut out (as they are wont to do) during a big fight.
posted by teponaztli at 11:04 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


(On preview, yes, that)
posted by teponaztli at 11:05 PM on April 21, 2015


In all seriousness, permadeath could never work in an MMO. MMOs are simply not the games that have the kind of rock-solid balance, physics, and connections that they demand.

I don't know if this the case. I think a lot less is known and definite than people think. I think never is a dangerous thing to say. I think time, and good work done and inspired ideas had by others, makes fools of all of us.

That said, permadeath should be thought about long and hard. Koster's idea for a permadeath character class actually sounds very interesting, because its lifespan was intrinsically limited -- to advance in it, you had to do things that increased your personal danger, attracting stronger and stronger assassins, until eventually invincible Evil Otto Darth Vader himself shows up and slices your head off. It's a cool idea.

I think permadeath may have a place in MMO design, but it's a high cost segment of the market, where you have to have hundreds of thousands of subscribers to break even, and that inspires executive meddling, which means no taking risks. Meaning no one tries games with permadeath, and their lack is then taken to reinforce the status quo. Really, however, no different from the many other kinds of gameplay that have failed to be tried in that genre.
posted by JHarris at 11:10 PM on April 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


It would suck, but the way they sound like they were planning Jedi at first, you should be lucky to survive at all. Jedi characters simply would not have long lifespans, which makes sense when they're supposed to be ruthlessly hunted during this time of Star Wars history. The shorter the character's expected life, the less permadeath sucks.
posted by JHarris at 11:12 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


This was a game I longed to play but was so poor I don't think we even had internet then.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:14 PM on April 21, 2015


>Yeah, but I think what Mitrovarr is saying is that an MMO, unlike the Diablo games, is at least somewhat at the mercy of internet connections and other unstable elements.

Diablo 3 is played 100% online on Blizard's servers - nothing is done locally. Many hardcore characters' lives have been lost to net interruptions (and Blizzard has a policy that explicitly states that you play at your own risk and they will never restore a dead hardcore character, no matter the reason, even if it was Blizzard's fault their servers died).

Hardcore Diablo 3 players absolutely do sink hundreds of hours into their characters just like MMO characters do. I don't see them as any more or less vulnerable to net interruptions.

I would have been extremely excited to play a permadeath character in an MMO, especially if the entire gameplay was designed around it. What's to stop a person having fun playing a Jedi, dying after 2-3 weeks, and starting a new one, and dying again later? It's an interesting niche middle ground between an MMO type games where it's "this is an MMO: play one character for 2 years until the expac comes out" and "this is a MOBA: level up a character and kit them out for 40 minutes until the match ends"

In fact in the back of my mind one of the interesting MMO type game I would like to see done would be a permadeath Hunger Games style MMO where the server resets every week or so - once you die you just become a spectator, or join another game. You get dumped into a large "arena" and you have to survive until the end while the game engineers various hazards to force players into encounters with each other.
posted by xdvesper at 11:19 PM on April 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


xdvesper: What's to stop a person having fun playing a Jedi, dying after 2-3 weeks, and starting a new one, and dying again later?

"Oh, boy! I get to grind my way through all of the lower levels of the game that nobody cares about but newbies again!"
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:28 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Permadeath in MMOs, in some form, actually has a precedent during a period of a few years in Everquest.

In EQ, at least for a while, your character's strength once reaching maximum level was your equipment. Any two level 60 Clerics were perfectly interchangeable modulo a very small number of (worthless) crafting skills. Gaining more powerful equipment was the entire late-game content of the game.

If you died in EQ, you left behind your "corpse", which had on it all the equipment you were carrying at the time (you could keep some items in the bank, which were not lost). If you weren't resurrected, which could only be done by a friendly PC who was at your corpse, or if you didn't retrieve your corpse by other means, all the equipment on your corpse would vanish ("rot") in 24 hours of logged-in time or 7 days of logged-out time.

Losing all your equipment wouldn't mean a complete reset of your power, but would leave you seriously hobbled for weeks, and it would be months before you were even halfway back to where you were. The most powerful items could not be traded, so there was no option to just buy your way into a powerful character.

This made solo and small-group exploration of remote zones very dangerous. If your entire party died deep in an unpopular dungeon, you were on a critical "corpse run" and the clock was ticking. You might be able to pay a Necro a handsome sum of money to follow you to the zone to "summon" your corpse back to a safe place, but they were hard to come by. I remember corpse runs that took up to five hours and cost several day's worth of currency farming in person-to-person payment.

Some zones were incredibly difficult to even get to -- requiring 40-man raids just to get to the entrance. If you somehow got there, logged out, and didn't follow your raiding party back out, it would be literally unsafe to log in to that character until someone else friendly was there.

Ultimately, very few people had their corpse rot. But the danger was there. It was ever-present. It's been more than 10 years since I played EQ, but I still have corpse rot nightmares. And you could imagine an Everquest class that had a corpse-rot timer of 1 hour instead of 24. A class where it was completely lunacy to go out in the world unless you had a small army to guard your fragile corpse. A class that wasn't allowed to keep a set of "backup gear"in the bank. A class that was the iron core and glass front of any raid. A class that was entirely dependent on never going on a losing mission, because they were the last best hope for the galaxy.

The thing I miss the most about EQ and its crazy days of corpse rot was the element of fear that backed up the concept of risk. When you went on a raid to a dangerous zone, and you knew no one else was there to resurrect you, you were playing with all the marbles. It was the reason that you didn't go deeper into the Sarnak pits. It was the reason you waited until the Cleric was at full mana. It was the reason you bothered getting that helmet with the 50 extra HP. When you told someone you solo-camped the Voice of the Serpent deep in the heart of Ssra temple, they knew you were crazy, not just patient.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:10 AM on April 22, 2015 [25 favorites]


To be clear, I think his idea was that there would be a permadeath Jedi, and lots of non perma-death classes. So that would actually be perfect, because if you want to play an easier version of the game you'd just play a standard class, but you could always try to raise your Jedi up if you felt like it. The issue would be that many players would really want to be a Jedi, but not all of them would like permadeath (I don't) so they would get frustrated. The gameplay as a non-Jedi would have to be good enough to compensate, basically. If being a Jedi was more fun, then no-one would want to be a non-Jedi.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:18 AM on April 22, 2015


Permadeath has an even precedenter precedent in the first MMOs back in the early 90s. It wasn't exactly easy to permadie since it required some extremely cavalier and/or idiotic play, but it happened. And high level characters didn't take the weeks to get there that power levellers use these days, they usually took years. And many thousands of dollars since we were paying by the hour.

And they still had permadeath.

Kids these days are spoiled and get off my lawn.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So... basically marketing screwed it all up? Hardly ever happens. From the article:

Players had formed governments. Vehicles were very popular. The early game economy, which was intentionally rocky because players had not yet developed all the interdependence infrastructure, had started to hum along. Entertainers were going on tour, and few of them were macroing, because they played entertainers because they liked it. People were building supply chain empires and businesses with hundreds of employees. Merchants were making a name for their shops full of custom-crafted gear.

And most importantly, nobody was a Jedi. Nobody cared. They were playing the professions they liked. They were doing what they wanted to do. The secret of Jedi was a secret still, and there were countless theories. Players thought they were being watched and only the deserving would be picked. Players thought that various half-finished bits of content were actually the start of Jedi quest chains...


And LucasArts marketing says, “we need a Jedi by Christmas.”
posted by Admira at 1:30 AM on April 22, 2015


His permadeath idea for Jedi was awful and the overall design for SWG was a disaster. It was a failure for a reason. The only reason he even got the job was UO which was another game where his entire intended design was a crushing failure and the only reason it succeeded was the emergent PVP game which drove away more customers than it brought in.

His entire routine is to try and build worlds when what people actually want is games. Please, nobody hire him for another expensive failure.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:27 AM on April 22, 2015


Drinky Die: "Please, nobody hire him for another expensive failure."

Hello, Fellow Traveller. I think people call Raph Koster a game designer because he is adept at coming up with ways in which games should not be designed. I read Theory of Fun, thinking I might find something inside that would show why he keeps getting work, but it's completely over-rated. Inane writing with amateur doodles for art. He must have amazing blackmail material on someone important in the games industry.

SWG was fun, but I had good friends to run around the universe with. We were constantly frustrated by various stupidities in (what I learned later was) Koster's anti-design, but we liked Star Wars and we had fun hanging out with each other virtually.
posted by barnacles at 3:37 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


It always seemed like the real problem was pretty fundamental. When you play a game based on a movie, you want to experience the iconic stuff that was in the movies. In Star Wars, a lot of that is being a Jedi and using the Force. But, of course, part of the fiction is that Jedi are scarce. So there's a conflict where the designers don't want to let the players do the thing that they actually paying to be able to do.

It also didn't help that spaceships weren't available starting at launch. No spaceships in a Star Wars game? That's half of what the franchise is known for.
posted by unreason at 4:00 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


A tailor in Star Wars.

Former master tailor here. :) I also mastered the dancing profession! I actually really loved that about Star Wars Galaxies. I've never played another MMO where non-combat professions were something other than a means to enhance combat professions. I remember reading forum posts from players who considered "running my armor shop" to be the primary activity of the game. Like, they enjoyed balancing the books for their in-game businesses.

I also really loved being a Creature Handler and having an army of tiny banthas following me around. :D
posted by neushoorn at 4:17 AM on April 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


7segment: "damn, it's almost as if this whole narrative predicated upon exceptionalism and rule-by-birthright might appear untenable when faced with fundamental economic reality. Like how the well-armed parties in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones ride past countless acres of ravaged farmland without encountering a single character notably affected.

What I was trying to say was that of the limited number of skill sets that I could pursue, being a tailor seemed least in keeping with the Star Wars ethos. I actually did become master tailor first because I like crafting and wanted to bulid up some credits in the bank. The worst part of it was that the economy was so fucked that being a tailor wasn't economically tenable in this game. I also like fighting. It wasn't possible in this game to be both a master tailor and a master anything else. So when I became a rifleman, I had to drop the tailor skills. Then I couldn't do the crafting that I like. I couldn't justify paying for another character at the time, so I could only be one thing at a time.

God forbid a video game attempt to address this point, that sounds boring."

It's a game. People play it to have fun. I'm willing to accept that a game set in a given fictional universe can only model a subset of the reality. Why would anyone playing a game want to play the part of the ravaged farmer? That doesn't sound like fun at all.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:44 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


In other old MMO news, Anarchy Online just got a new update.
posted by curious nu at 4:45 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I should add that I would play Galaxies again if it ever came back, though I wouldn't be able to dedicate as much time to it as I did.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:48 AM on April 22, 2015


SWG was a major part of how I fell in love with my husband. We both worked 12 hour night shifts, so on our days off, when wide awake at time no one else was awake, we'd play SWG. Get a doctor buff for a few hours and go explore and do missions. I also loved how the non combat characters had vitally important and involved roles in the world. It really was its own world. Crafters had to go out and survey and mine for the raw materials. Testing to find the areas that had the highest concentration. I thought that was lots of fun because it meant exploring multiple planets and running into new species and environments. Grinding to become a ranger was fun because you had to set up your camp and hope someone would come along and hang out for awhile. You got to chat with some nice folks who literally were stopping just to help you out. Entertainer was fun because they had multiple dances and instruments and songs and "flourishes" that you could group with others with. Medic was fun because you could see all the neat armor and battle wounds the combat characters had.

We loved that game! There is swgemu (I don't have the link right now) which is a team trying to create an emulation of SWG before that horrid combat upgrade.

I remember being master TK (hand-to-hand martial arts with no weapons, really) and finishing the mission on the Wookie home world where you defeat this tiger beast and win these amazing knuckler weapons that only TKs could use. A friend helped me through that whole mission and I was so excited! And then, like two weeks later, they "upgraded" and made those awesome knucklers obsolete. I think k I just sat and stared at the screen when I realized it.

Then, when I was grinding for Jedi - we finally had the village and the specific path and quests to finish to get the Jedi, this being after specifically avoiding it because there's no going back to a different career after Jedi - I was two weeks away from making padawan when they "upgraded" again and Jedi was suddenly something you could play immediately out of the box.

Love-hate relationship, that game! And I still miss it. Running out of Correllia to go fishing in the river, to see what kind of fish I could catch. Taunting Lord Vader so he'd choke-hold you to death. Training and raising baby banthas. Going off hunting Night Sisters to try to loot the good stuff.

Sigh.
posted by jillithd at 5:00 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is a great read for those of us who were in SWG at launch. I had a good time reminiscing when a friend posted this on Facebook last week. I was one of those misfits who played as an entertainer because I liked it. The game was broken and bizarre, but to me it succeeded where a lot of MMOs fail - it created a wonderful stage for the players to create their own fun.

My favorite SWG memory is how my then-husband designed his first character to bear more than a passing resemblance to Steve Buscemi.
posted by trunk muffins at 5:37 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


This just confirms my theory that the best / only viable Star Wars MMO would be a primarily ship-based game. A bit like Eve Online, taking place in the chaotic days following the death of the Emperor, when everyone is a smuggler or militia or commanding a bit of the Remnant. Jedi are mostly irrelevant, because lightsabers and force powers aren't part of ship combat.
posted by xthlc at 6:02 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like I should be apologizing to some of the people in this thread for liking the game. Apparently folks like me don't exist.

But instead, a quick PSA: The rhetorical expressions "everybody" and "nobody" don't really add anything to comments, they just annoy people. "Most folks" and "few folks" are only a few characters longer, and they're both more accurate and more agreeable to people on every side of the conversation.
posted by Bugbread at 6:02 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The game was broken and bizarre, but to me it succeeded where a lot of MMOs fail - it created a wonderful stage for the players to create their own fun.

Seriously, the guy was right. For an MMO, Jedi are evil. Han Solo is fucking cool, but we all saw The Empire Strikes Back. He got a few shots off on Vader, which were completely ineffective, and was disarmed. Vader didn't even break a sweat. Jedi taken on 50-1 odds and win pretty much every time. Indeed, one of the biggest problems* with the prequels is how the hell did all the Jedi get gunned down that easily?

And it was all good until the Jedi came and fucked it up. I love how a certain class of gamer -- one, I might add, that pretty much reeks of GamerGate -- despised SWG for not being all about the Jedi and Starships and blowing shit up from day one. But, screw them. They tried to make a place where people could do fun things, and for six months, they did.

And it is high-effing-hilarous that the moment marketing made them drop the Jedi hints, it took three of them, the grinders figured it out, everyone became a Jedi, and as the Incredibles taught us -- if Everybody is Super, Nobody is Super. Then the conversion rate drops. They had something building, made everyone a Jedi, and everyone went BORING and left.

(Sad trombone)

But yeah, it's the standard litany. Great ideas, not enough time to execute them, death march hours, so mistakes are made because everybody is tired, so awake hours are wasted fixing them meaning the death march is actually setting you back, and decisions made during 14 hour days set traps that marketing can then trigger to destroy the product.

Don't want to say "When it's done?" Don't pre-announce. Write it. Test it. Make it good. THEN show the shiny and put it in beta. Or, do what Notch and Squad did and start with basically nothing at all and say "Hey, we're building something, let's see what happens" and let the community drive it as much as you do." Of course, Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program would never be allowed to happen with the Star Wars IP.

Except, well, in some ways, in the first six months of SWG? It actually, in some ways, happened just like that. Until the Jedi came to "restore order to the Universe."


* Well, plot wise. There are legions of problems with them.
posted by eriko at 6:03 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I should add that I would play Galaxies again if it ever came back, though I wouldn't be able to dedicate as much time to it as I did.

As far as I know, SWGemu is still going strong, though I don't know how closely that resembles playing actual SWG back in the day.

Hearing about old MMOs with corpse runs, losing levels for dying, 40 man raids, etc always makes me think 1) huh, that sounds interesting and 2) thank god I'm not playing one of those. I know I'm just a filthy casual and I'm totally fine with that.
posted by kmz at 6:09 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, slightly aside - maybe it's an age thing (I'm 40), but do people my age (who would have been 28 when this came out, which I assume would not be an age outlier for the game) really think Jedi are the coolest thing in Star Wars? As a kid, I liked Luke OK, but my coolness ladder was 1. Boba Fett 2. Han Solo 3. Darth Vader 4. Luke Skywalker. I don't remember my friends really fighting over who got to play Luke, either (in fact, I don't think we even used the Luke action figures, except for the Hoth winter outfit Luke). It was all about bounty hunters and ROTJ biker scouts and the like.
posted by Bugbread at 6:11 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why not just make the Jedi powers take a really long time to recharge? Maybe that's how it really works in the movies. How do we know that after Vader throws a bagel at Han using the Force that he doesn't have to spend a day in the Death Star Spa? What if lifting that X-Wing gave Yoda a Force Hernia and that's why he died?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:18 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jebus. "You think a game based on a movie should be about the things in the movie, thus I will accuse you of reeking of a minsogynst hate group."

I spent the entire second half of my WoW career after I wasn't doing the hardcore raider thing mastering every aspect of fishing in the game. I won the fishing contest in STV three times on a PvP server back in the day when it was actually hard to do. I had a Tauren bank alt named "Dolphinsafe" with every piece of fancy bank alt gear I could find to sell my fish. Since I quit WoW I have bought the expansions solely to do all the fishing achievements and then quit again. My point is, I understand non-combat stuff can be serious fun in an MMO. My time in UO was spent wood chopping before the sad reality that Koster had created a horrible dystopia set in and then I had fun thieving instead of PKing because killing stuff was less interesting.

Star Wars was not the venue to spend countless resources creating crafting games and none on flying through space or being a Jedi. I hope I'm clear I'm not saying that to say crafting isn't fun. I'm saying it because if you make a game based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea you shouldn't set it in the Sahara and spend all your time building a puzzle game where you re-arrange rocks in the sand. It's not the game you are supposed to be making.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:23 AM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't know. SWTOR doesn't seem to have any of these problems. Jedi all over the damn place and I still feel pretty badass when I power up my light saber and boomerang it across ten meters of open space at some charging, ten-foot tall monster.

I think the cool part of being Superman is being able to fly and speak German and stuff. It's not about making everyone else play Jimmy Olsen so you can be the big man on campus.
posted by Naberius at 6:33 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


...but do people my age (who would have been 28 when this came out, which I assume would not be an age outlier for the game) really think Jedi are the coolest thing in Star Wars?

I'm 30 and for people between my age and yours, SW games concentrating on Jedi is a regular source of complaint. I got a friend of mine playing KOTOR and he said he had a lot of fun until the game basically strong-armed you into being a lightsaber-wielding Jedi. Another friend made a gun-based character and stuck to it even after becoming a Jedi. My last play-through of KOTOR I did the same thing and it was a lot more fun to play a dual-blaster wielding badass than leveling up Sword Guy to Glowy Sword Guy.
posted by griphus at 6:51 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also Star Wars 1313 falling through is still a sore point for me; it sounded like everything I wanted from a SW game: no grand cosmic plot of Light vs. Dark, just gritty street-level stuff.
posted by griphus at 6:53 AM on April 22, 2015


...but do people my age (who would have been 28 when this came out, which I assume would not be an age outlier for the game) really think Jedi are the coolest thing in Star Wars?

I didn't touch any Jedi or Sith while playing SWTOR because the non force users were way more interesting!

I really loved playing SWTOR and I played the Imperial Agent, which by the way, has the most amazing storyline, I almost feel giddy remembering how immersive it felt. They could have spun this into a movie: you're a cloak and dagger spy, essentially, and you have a morally conflicted mentor, and your organization is nominally interested in doing the "right" thing for Imperial citizens while also being aware that they also serve at the whim of the cruel and twisted Sith. It feels like you're fighting two wars at once: an open war against the Republic, and a secret war against the Sith to mitigate the worst of their cruelties.

SPOILERS AHEAD (although, this is an old, old game by this point)

Some branches of the storyline bring you in contact with the Republic's spymaster who seems like the antagonist, but the web of intrigue unravels further into an Illuminati style plot where it turns out a secret organization has been planning for the Jedi and Sith to engage in an evenly matched war of mutual destruction, before they swoop in and exterminate all the surviving force users - in their words, common people - non-force users - in BOTH societies, are second class citizens beneath the iron fist rule of the Jedi and the Sith - and it's time for them to take their destiny in their hands again.

As a non-force user yourself you can see the logic in this, especially given the extreme cruelty the Sith are capable of - but you plainly can't allow this war to occur, which would cause the death of billions. Complicating this matter further is the fact that - in some branches of the story - the Republic spymaster also sympathizes with you, confiding that he is also disillusioned by the corruption within the Jedi ranks and suggests you team up. There are so many possible endings to the game, some in which you turn and become a Republic double agent, or you disappear as a free agent to fight injustice as a vigilante, you could remain as head of Imperial Intelligence, or join the ranks of the Sith.

Unfortunately SWTOR seems to have suffered the same problem SWG did - amazing ambition and vision, but they weren't given the resources to execute it. You can plainly see the holes in SWTOR - only 1 out of 5 companion questlines per class was even implemented in the game (you can literally see the gap in the dialogue where the quests are meant to go) and of all the Flashpoints (dungeons) in the game only the first one you play was ever completed properly with branching storyline and dialogue. Playing the game at launch felt like you were playing a very early Alpha test of a totally amazing game, but you knew they would never have the resources to finish building it. They never did.
posted by xdvesper at 7:31 AM on April 22, 2015


Currently going through this whole process as a part of the Planetside 2 community. SOE (now Daybreak Games, not even kidding), has been trying to port the thing to PS4. On the plus side, performance is at an all time high. On the other hand, everything else keeps getting right-sized, simplified, removed, or broken.

To the point where community members (myself included) would rather they just stop patching. Just stop, completely, let us enjoy what's there.

The Star Wars Galaxies: New Game Experience patch makes frequent appearances in discussion, as does the fact that Smedley is still here.

There's a lot of cool stuff they could do for the war aspect of the game over the individual battles, but none of us expects to ever see it. New comSmedics in the store soon! Etc etc
posted by Slackermagee at 8:28 AM on April 22, 2015


Unfortunately SWTOR seems to have suffered the same problem SWG did - amazing ambition and vision, but they weren't given the resources to execute it. You can plainly see the holes in SWTOR - only 1 out of 5 companion questlines per class was even implemented in the game (you can literally see the gap in the dialogue where the quests are meant to go) and of all the Flashpoints (dungeons) in the game only the first one you play was ever completed properly with branching storyline and dialogue. Playing the game at launch felt like you were playing a very early Alpha test of a totally amazing game, but you knew they would never have the resources to finish building it. They never did.

Wut? Have you played the game in the last several years? Because . . . none of those things. Yes, I saw some of that back in beta and in the first few months, but after that the game developed fast. In fact I stopped playing as much recently because the amount of new content became overwhelming when the new expansion dropped. Hermione and KMZ, look for me on Jedi Cov. C'Mell is my current main. I've got a bunch of 60 healers of various classes, mostly Pub side, though as I mentioned I haven't played as much in the past few months as I did over the last few years.
posted by The Bellman at 8:38 AM on April 22, 2015


A tailor in Star Wars.

I was a tailor in Star Wars. A massively successful one! I had an established shop in a player city that I built and decorated myself, where I sold unique branded products that were still traded in the game long after I stopped playing. I dealt with a network of business partners supplying raw materials, had advertising droids in all the biggest cities, and bankrolled my guild's more aggressive activities without ever shooting one blaster myself.

THAT is what made the game special, not the Jedis. He touches on that in the article, how people chose to play as dancers and musicians, coming up with choreography and going on tour. I designed costumes for those rock stars! The game originally rewarded "soft" social, nurturing and entrepreneurial roleplay with the same amount of XP, money and game utility as combat classes, which made it possible for my Star Wars experience to be all about giving people makeovers.

That made it appealing to an incredibly diverse set of gamers and set the stage for a lot of really interesting emergent player behaviours. People built museums, spas, petting zoos, in Star Wars. There was a whole WEDDING INDUSTRY in Star Wars! I have not since found a game with a crafting system and economy consciously designed to make that kind of experience possible.
posted by Freyja at 8:39 AM on April 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


Wow, heated theme park vs sandbox MMO discussion. Party like it's 2003!

"Please, nobody hire him for another expensive failure."

Too late!

So... basically marketing screwed it all up?

More along the lines the type of game made was very in-congruent with the theme of Star Wars, and one of them had to break.

A lot of this discussion has recently come up because of the recently crowdfunded sandbox MMO Crowfall. Several of the people on it, including Koster, were also on SWG. For those of you with visions of dancers and doctors in your heads, a large portion of the rest were part of the team that made Shadowbane, another failed sandbox MMO, but one considerably more red in tooth and claw.

In fact of the the heads of the current Crowfall team, Gordon Walton, had admitted to designing the dreaded New Game Experience, or NGE, that was so hated by the community. Granted, he also could see how much of a train wreck it was going to be, and refused to go forward with it. He was then fired.

I funded Crowfall, even though I'm not usually the type of person who likes going to Gankytown. At this point I'd much rather have an interesting failure instead of another WoW clone, which also fails, and isn't even interesting. I can always play WoW.

SWTOR, for all of it's paint and chrome, was a mechanically a clone of a game from over a decade ago. And while people talk up a good game about content, the cost of content creation for a theme park MMO is barely possible by even Blizzard themselves, who have all the riches of avarice at their disposal. I'm still betting on a 8 month plus content drought until the next expansion. When you add voice acting to it, and voice acting for 8 different storylines, there was no way in hell a developer could keep pace.
posted by zabuni at 8:39 AM on April 22, 2015


Smedley is still here.

Wait...REALLY? Wow. They were completely well positioned to dominate the MMO industry and then Blizzard swooped in and took the whole thing to nuclear level mainstream success while they puttered around with "mediocre" being the best possible outcome...and they are still letting the same guy try and try again.

Wow, besides NFL head coach there aren't so many other jobs where doing it once, even half assed, somehow makes you qualified to do it forever.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:41 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


a large portion of the rest were part of the team that made Shadowbane

SB.EXE 2 crush!
posted by trunk muffins at 8:44 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wut? Have you played the game in the last several years? Because . . . none of those things. Yes, I saw some of that back in beta and in the first few months, but after that the game developed fast.

Well, some of it is definitely still true... there's more story content in the latest flashpoints, but no real branching like in Esseles/Black Talon. Imperial Agent is the only truly developed class story. Almost all new content (new companions, new planets, etc) is generic to faction with a few class-specific flourishes.

It's fine for me though, because I understand how many resources are required to do even that.
posted by kmz at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2015


I only played it briefly but the game let my character have sex with Darth Lachris so it will always have a special place in my heart.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2015


Hey, are we all on Jedi Covenant? Awesome! Look for anybody named Rickhannon!
posted by Naberius at 9:41 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


When you play a game based on a movie, you want to experience the iconic stuff that was in the movies.

The iconic stuff that made Star Wars special for me was less the big battles and laser swords and more the vision of an enormous galaxy full of weird and wonderful things, big and messy enough you could easily imagine living there.

Sure, when I was a lot younger I play acted light saber battles and whatnot, but there is plenty of adventure sci-fi with aliens and space fighters. Star Wars stuck around in my adolescent fantasy life not because of the events in the movies but because of the places - and because of the way those places suggested a vast array of other worlds to be explored off screen.

I didn't want to be Luke; I didn't even want to be Han. I wanted to be myself, living in the Star Wars galaxy.

I don't know whether it is cause or effect that I don't play MMOs or really any non-casual video games, since Myst, which I played through to the end three times - not for the puzzles, which tended to be annoying, but for the worlds.

All of which is to say, a Star Wars MMO with no Jedi and no space battles but where you get to just be a person living in the Star Wars galaxy, doing whatever you feel like doing? That sounds like the dream realized.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:59 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Jumping on the SWG crafting bandwagon: through diligent mining, cataloging, and hoarding of raw materials, I made the best firearms on my server for about the first six months after release. There were spreadsheets. I ended up making 100 million credits (about half of that on T21 rifles), then selling my business to my next-best rival for another 100 million credits. When I realized there was nothing in the game that I could spend 100 million credits on—where's my Super Star Destroyer?—I got bored, donated the money to my player city's government, and quit.

SWG had the most interesting resource and crafting system of any MMO I've played (and I've played six). Unfortunately the adventure-and-combat side of things was borked on launch and my patience ran out before they got it working. (Did they ever get it working?)
posted by The Tensor at 10:08 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think I'd particularly want to be Luke or Han in a Star Wars MMO. I'd probably want to play as a member of a Resistance Rebellion cell on Sullust or somewhere, waiting for secret transmissions from the Alliance, and planning our next strike against the corrupt local moff.


A proper Star Wars game should have opportunities like this.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:23 AM on April 22, 2015


Quoting myself, sorry.

My time in UO was spent wood chopping before the sad reality that Koster had created a horrible dystopia

I mean, Koster deserves some sort of award in the dystopian fantasy/sci-fi genre. He didn't just write a dystopian novel full of strawmen oppressors...he actually created a fictional dystopia that generated so much real human suffering that people ended up thinking Everquest was fun. They should hire him to design a video game for Guantanamo inmates. No judge will call it torture, but...
posted by Drinky Die at 10:25 AM on April 22, 2015


Now I understand why a wave of SWG players ended up in Second Life. I hadn't known how sandboxy the former was.
posted by Shmuel510 at 12:53 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I met Raph Koster once. We went to tour his office while we were in California for SDCC. He was working on some big web project that was like GameMaker except webpages that I never heard about again. My boss got into a conversation with him about MMOs and what Blizzard was doing with phasing and instancing -- that is, things that you can see that other players can't, based on your story/quest progression. At the time (Lich King had just come out) it was just used for very large changes in the environment (like depending how far you were in the story, a town would go from ruined to rebuilt), but my boss was talking about how it could be used on a much smaller scale -- say you needed to pick some berries off a bush for a quest, why not just make those berries personal and only visible to you? Then you don't have to deal with everyone wanting the same berries and having to wait in line for them to respawn. Raph was like, nah, no way. Totally impossible. Fast-forward to now, there is not a single quest token in WoW that isn't instanced in exactly that way.

He was a real nice guy though. Bought us lunch. Very pleasant.
posted by rifflesby at 1:41 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


My SO loved that it was so fantastically hard to become a Jedi in Galaxies. It kept the godmoders out of the game. She went through the the heroic effort to push one of her characters through to Jedi, and never used it in combat: only for the crafting bonuses.
posted by clarknova at 2:55 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well I've never met the guy and can't speak for his niceness. But he wrote an interesting and informative article. I can't hate on him.
posted by JHarris at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


SWG had the most interesting resource and crafting system of any MMO I've played (and I've played six).

Have to agree. The resource gathering was awesome, and to have a small place out in the middle of nowhere, just looking for resources was sublime. Running to your harvesters and checking resources, then moving...Eve has done this same mechanic on a planet scale, and it got tiresome.

But I hold a soft spot for SWG, and the weekend screw up with (I think it was Dantooine or Yavin IV) where the developers released code that allowed 2.5X gains or more... We rocked it.)
posted by Benway at 6:14 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I have altered your suit. Pray I do not alter it any further."

"But the arms are too short."
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:04 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Raph wrote a little bit more about SWG on his blog.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


(hoooo-aaaah) "There, you see? You talked back." (hoooo-aaaah) "Now you're getting flared collars and knee-pockets." (hoooo-aaaah) "Never underestimate the Dark Side of the Force."
posted by JHarris at 2:24 PM on April 24, 2015


More seriously, I think everything Koster writes about SWG is endlessly fascinating and makes perfect sense. Then everyone comes out and backs up a dump truck full of hindsight on what he writes.

I'm not going to say "if you know so much then you do it better," because c'mon, few of us will ever have the opportunity to helm such a project despite wanting to. (Rollover note.)
posted by JHarris at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


“The Game Archaeologist: What Star Wars Galaxies Life Was Like Before The NGE,” Justin Olivetti, Massively Overpowered, 25 April 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 12:23 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


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