SWG History: The NGE (publish 25)
Just ten short patches away, and that rise in subscriptions would come to a crashing halt. As fundamental a shift as the CU was, it was nothing in comparison to the changes implemented with the “New Game Experience”, or NGE. The NGE will go down in history as the largest change ever to hit a post-launch MMO. Almost every system in the game – from combat to crafting, all the way through to classes – was fundamentally shaken by this patch. The NGE took what had been a skill-building character advancement system and transformed it into a level-based system with very specific classes. One of these classes was even the Jedi, meaning that players could create force-using characters from the very start. No more holo-grinding.
Along with the loss of holo-grinding, the playerbase’s sense of what the game was shifted. Many players at the time of the NGE had been there since launch, happily chatting and socializing in cantinas or going on hunting trips with their friends. Now they found their characters in a strange new world, populated by classes and systems they didn’t understand. The sense of outrage, in-game and out, in the forums and online, was palpable. Emotions ran hot, with “betrayal” the running theme for most individuals that experienced the changes firsthand.
It’s not clear how large a drop in subscriptions resulted from the NGE, but it was large. First in drips and drabs, and then in increasing waves of departures as a cascade failure hit the social fabric of the game. Ironically, the real problem was almost certainly not the changes themselves. As a player of the game today can tell you, the title is almost certainly better off for the firestorm of change that the NGE introduced. Players began to leave not because of the changes themselves but because of the enormous pile of bugs and inconsistencies they introduced.
For a period of time it was incredibly challenging to actually play the game. Combat, still being ironed out from the CU ten publishes previous, was in shambles. Crafters, artisans, were beside themselves as their once broad-based ability to craft was narrowed down to a much smaller selection. Entertainers were even affected, as the inability for an entertainer to participate in combat – or indeed, do anything aside from entertaining – meant there were suddenly very few of their number. Above all the wailing could be heard the cries of the Creature Handlers, the combat soldiers who had long been accompanied by their fearsome beasts. The entire concept of creature pets was removed in the NGE, and with it went both the Creature Handler and BioEngineer trades.
When the /quit storm began, it began with the most vocal and committed members of the community. In other words, the key influencers. Their departure drastically lowered the quality of life for player association members, city dwellers, etc. Seconds-in-command, deputy mayors, and guild officers were the next to go as leadership unraveled. With their social ties cut, other players just drifted away from the game, some trailing bitter words of rebuke the whole way.
Since the days of the NGE Sony Online Entertainment has as much as admitted its mistake. They took the wrong tack on the subject, made a bad call. But yet, the game is still running. Star Wars Galaxies still lives, and the community that rebuilt among the ashes of the old is going strong. Join us in the next post for a look at the post-NGE days, and hopes for the future of this unique title.