SWG History: Aging Gracefully Eight Years On
Much like the current Star Wars MMO in development, Star Wars Galaxies had a very active forum community before the game even launched. Many of those who were a part of that original community still play the game. Although I was not an active member of that first community, I certainly read what was happening and was extremely excited when the game launched on June 23rd, 2003. For the first time in history, a player was allowed to create his own character to live in the Star Wars universe. And despite the issues that would come a couple of years later, the community in the game is still strong and active.
I logged into my old stomping grounds of Starsider on a character that some people would recognize. Since I am an avid roleplayer and that community is still very active in SWG, I joined one of the chat channels I knew and asked where I could possibly find some RP events for the evening. It was still early, so I was not expecting much. To my surprise, I received an immediate reply. The members of the channel said there were not any events that they were aware of, but I may be able to find some RP in a couple of player-owned cities. One of these cities was the city I used to spend all my time in: Red Sands. I had to see what was going on there after years of being away. I was taken aback when I arrived. The leaders of the town had placed an invading force of NPCs about the city and were having a stand-off with the citizens, a scene that appeared to be right out of a western.
“I think SWG is in a great place because the development team is doing a good job of leveraging what makes SWG unique: player customization and freedom of gameplay style,” Pilot Senator Anishor told me when I ran into him in-game. I spoke with the player representative for hour or so about what Galaxies has done over this past year that has made it remain solid game in his mind. Of course, since he’s the Pilot Senator, he was most interested in talking about the recent player bounties in space. I agree that this is an incredible addition to the game, but let’s start from right after the anniversary last year.
If I were to title this year it would be “Player’s Choice.” Every update this year revolved around ideas that players have been requesting for years. Right off the bat — the day after the anniversary — the developers lifted the no-trade tag from a large number of items. Anishor said, “The only no-trade items in-game now are generally Trading Card Game items, which is a huge swing from two years ago when it seemed like everything was no-trade.” This allows for a player-driven economy with few restrictions on what can be bought and sold between players.
The next few months would bring us things like fishing changes, additional storyteller functionality, and a rare loot system. The playerbase loved these mostly because they had been asking for them. After all, why have fishing in the game if it really does nothing? And event planners have been asking for changes to the storyteller for a while. The rare loot system introduced us to loot that had been absent from the game for years.
Just before the end of the Galactic Moon Festival, we were introduced to the first part of the next big content update: Witches of Dathomir. During this prologue, we went on missions in an attempt to gain loyalty with either the Singing Mountain Clan or the Nightsister Clan. We did not know until a month later in December that this content would open up not only new content for players but also new gear and loot for everyone. “With the new Witches of Dathomir themepark, every style of gameplay has an equal means of obtaining the rewards,” Anishor explained when I spoke to him. This meant that no class — combat or not — was left out of receiving rewards for the themepark.
Then in March, as if to prove that they run one of the few MMOs that take non-combat classes seriously, the developers launched a major overhaul to the Entertainer profession. It would require its own article to explain all the details, but I can speak to some of the major updates. The profession became more viable in combat with a self-heal ability, Drama Expertise changes, and Heroic Jewelry. Image Designers were given nearly every hairstyle available in the game, including hair for Sullustans. New dances were added along with a major overhaul to the buffing system. The type of buff became a critical choice depending on which type of encounter you were facing. Good Entertainers would be familiar with different types of combat so they could better inform their customers which buffs they should take. No buff is created equal. In fact, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Entertainers should be familiar with classes now, too. Not every class is viable with the same buff.
Unfortunately, the next big changes in Star Wars Galaxies weren’t exact positive Restructuring within the company caused SOE to lose its Denver, Seattle, and Tucson studios, and 205 employees were laid off. Although this didn’t have a major effect on SWG, it did mean that Zatozia, the game’s community manager, moved on to a different game in the company. She was replaced by Mepps, who would also act as community manager for the turn-based tactical game PoxNora. These changes would be followed closely by the longest downtime in the history of SOE. Due to a major compromise in Sony online security, all SOE games, including Star Wars Galaxies, were shut down for a month.
These changes did not stop the forward momentum of the design team.
Star Wars Galaxies has always been unique in having bounty hunting system that allowed players of the Bounty Hunter profession to track down not only NPC bounties but players as well. The developers have extended this unique system to now work while players are in space, much to the delight of the Pilot Senator. Anishor proclaimed, “It has been a long-standing request of both the Pilot and the Bounty Hunting communities. What is really impressive is that the dev team was quite responsive to the Pilots’ concerns about the way the player bounty system worked.” Basically, if a player gets a bounty on his head, a Bounty Hunter can now track him down in space, at which point, both players appear attackable to each other and can dog-fight it out. Although ground-based bounties can be resolved in space, space-based bounties have to be finished in space.
The future holds more positive changes and additions to the Galactic Civil War content, including extending the fight to space — putting the “star” back into Star Wars.
Meanwhile back on Lok, it appeared the stand-off in the desert would end peacefully, but this is Star Wars, right? As it turned out, the NPCs I mentioned earlier were Nym’s enforcers, and they were not going to leave with debts unpaid. As the transports left, the enforcers turned their guns on the town, bombarding the city and destroying the city’s communications. What happens after that is up to the player characters and the Force.
If you ask the citizens of Red Sands, the next greatest Star Wars adventure is theirs.