SWG History: Jedi Grinding
For months after the game was released, player speculation ran high on how Jedi would be introduced into the game. There was an entire Jedi Speculation forum on the official SWG boards, which regularly ran through a dozen threads a day on the subject. Each was more arcane than the last, offering some strange and lore-appropriate way for players to unlock their ‘force sensitive slots’. Prior to the game’s launch these slots were said to be filled with permadeath Jedis – a handful of deaths would be allowed for each Jedi character before their death was assured. In this way, the Jedi population would be kept low.
That was not, of course, how the Jedi system was introduced to the game. Players fully understood the whys and the wherefors when the first Jedi went public with her path to glory. Devices called Holocrons were the key; in Star Wars lore, holocrons are ancient devices that allowed characters to hone their Jedi knowledge. In Star Wars Galaxies, holocrons were hints at the class unlocks you needed to complete in order to unlock your Jedi slot. Players accessing holocrons would be told – quite directly – a class. In order to ‘complete’ that holocron, you needed to master that class. Once done, accessing another holocron would inform you of another class.
This method was successful for three holocrons. The fourth holocron is always silent. This silence, it would later be revealed, was hugely detrimental to the game. See, players really wanted to be Jedi. Very badly. Everyone wants to be unique, and in MMOs at the time playing a Jedi was just about the most rarefied thing going. The result: everyone wanted to be a Jedi. That fourth, silent holocron resulted in a practice called hologrinding. Because MMO layers will always find the ‘optimum’ strategy, the obvious solution to a silent holocron was to simply master every other class in the game.
This had two results. The first was afk grinding, absolutely everywhere in game. Combat professions, Medics, dancers, musicians, even artisans would be standing around in specific locals running game-supported macros to advance their xp. With that much content to take on, it was sickening for players to actually spend time playing. Most sane gamers would have quickly lost their taste for the game. The second result was an absolute destruction of the game’s economy. A careful web built entirely on player-made goods since the game’s launch came crashing down as macro-grinding jedi-seekers flooded the market with goods they neither understood or cared about. In the quest to master the artisan professions a player might make hundreds or thousands of an item, and then turn around to sell it for a fraction of the previous cost.
The strangest thing about the Jedi system is that it’s clear the designers initially thought it would be a good idea. Just a day before Monika T’Sarn unlocked her FS slot, Producer Haden Blackman’s comments in an interview on IGN make it clear he’s looking forward to a galaxy full of Jedi. To this day AFK grinding is such an intrinsic part of the game it’s not even considered a TOS violation anymore.