Good Star(t): SOE On Next Game’s Star Wars Heritage

By Nathan Grayson on February 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

Star Wars Galaxies was a lot of things to a lot of people. A largely barren land of infinite possibility, a janky pile of half-finished bantha poodoo, a player-driven sci-fi sandbox, a nigh-directionless walk through an abandoned Star Wars theme park. Maybe it was a little of all those things when it first came out, but people (myself included) came to love its quirks. And yet, though war never changes, Star Wars do. The New Game Experience (NGE) took SWG in a more cookie-cutter direction, and nothing was ever quite the same after that. Then the whole universe imploded in 2011. And in the game. Flash forward to 2014: SOE president John Smedley recently claimed that SOE’s next game will be “dedicated” to longtime SWG fans. But what does that even mean? Speaking with RPS, he recently elaborated. A little. The game is still technically unannounced, mind.

“Let me be specific,” Smedley began. “You know how you could build player cities and that sort of stuff in SWG? It’s that feeling of the players building something themselves. And I’m not talking about what we’re doing with EverQuest Next Landmark. I’m actually talking about the concept of guilds going to war with each other – that kind of stuff.”

“I think that’s the part older Galaxies players will enjoy. If you were into that, then I think you’ll enjoy the game we’re making. I think a player-run game is a very interesting idea. That was, to me, the best part of Galaxies. It wasn’t everybody’s favorite part, but I liked it.”

So the idea is to facilitate the creation of a player-run society, something which Galaxies nearly achieved with its ever-shifting economy and fairly robust (for the time) player housing. This new game, then, will seemingly take that a step further.

It will not, however, be another Star Wars game. SOE is out of the Skywalker family business for the foreseeable future, so the bond between this new game and SWG is purely spiritual. But SWG’s downfall still stands as one of Smedley’s biggest regrets, so he’s doing his damndest to stay the course this time around. And that means openly consulting players when major change is in the cards, not just assuming they’ll be on board like good little space* ducklings.

“NGE, I’ve said it a bunch of times: bad decision,” he admitted, sounding ever-so-slightly on-edge. “It was both us and Lucas that made a combined decision to do the right thing, but we both went about it the wrong way. I don’t regret wanting to make changes to combat whatsoever. In my opinion the original combat in Star Wars Galaxies was not very fun. What I do regret is not involving the community, which is where we’ve gone as a company since then. The big thing we learned from SWG is that you can’t make those kinds of decisions without involving the community. And in my opinion, we’ve flipped 180 degrees on that. But it’s obviously for the fans to decide.”

Some kind of announcement will apparently be coming in “a few months.” That’s rather quick given that a) it’s presumably an MMO of some sort and b) SOE’s also in the process of launching/maintaining EverQuest Next Landmark, EverQuest Next, and PlanetSide 2, among others. But the prospect of a world built from the ground-up to be owned and operated by players is quite enticing, Star Wars license or not. Here’s hoping second time’s a charm. This world needs more good, er, worlds.

*Note: the game is not confirmed to have a sci-fi setting. I just really like the idea of adorable little ducks in astronaut helmets.

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32 Comments »

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  1. AlManiak says:

    After all that SOE done to any mmo, can anyone really trust them? From SWG to Planetside and now Planetside 2, their mmos have a tendency to start out amazing the first 2 years (PS2 is the exception) after which they proceed to run them into the ground with general bad decisions.

    Still interested, but with plenty of cynical bile in my belly.

    • TekDragon says:

      Was coming on to say exactly this. I read that Reddit AMA and was laughing when Smedley was talking about hindsight and how he would change everything if he could go back. Bull**** he would. All you have to do is look at Planetside 2, a game with great potential that is being devastated on many servers by horribly balanced server populations. Players are quitting in droves over this, from all sides, as the server imbalances result in steamrolls that are boring for everyone.

      How long has the problem existed? About a year. How many threads have been made? Hundreds. What’s been done to fix the issue? Absolutely nothing. Instead we’re getting faction specific sniper rifles when 75% of the existing sniper rifles are already redundant and unused.

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        Rizlar says:

        Pop imbalances seem like a tricky thing to address, especially when the overall game pop fluctuates as much as free-to-play PS2 probably does.

        Recently Smedley and the PS2 devs have been engaging a lot with the community, they have been all over reddit and elsewhere answering questions and gathering feedback. This much seems undeniably different to the days of yore.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Server pops in PS2 were screwed from the beginning tbh. Playing in the first couple of weeks after release saw relatively even populations at the start that quickly swung in a huge way towards the faction that got the initial advantage, because people didn’t want to play on a “losing” side and just made a new character on a different team. This created massive imbalance from the very start that has never been fixed.

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          Rizlar says:

          Definitely think pop imbalances are being exaggerated a bit. It’s generally accepted now that the ‘fourth faction’ idea of people switching to the winning side is a myth, what actually happens is players getting beaten are more likely to log off than the players beating them, which skews the stats. There is a load of data on pop numbers here: http://sirisian.com/planetside2/population.php?world=all&timezone=0&allfactions=false

          Clearly it’s a bigger issue on certain servers, but from my own experience on Miller server-wide pop imbalance has only ever been a passing issue, and one which can partly be addressed by the two underpopped factions ganging up on the overpopped one. You are much more likely to see a continent with wonky pop, due to the losers all moving to a better continent, while the winning side draws ever more people over there to farm. In which case you can just switch to a better continent.

      • King Eternity says:

        The opposite of what you just said. SOE has been extremely engaged with the community for Planetside 2 and pretty much every step they have made has been in the right direction. The game is 10 times better now than it was at launch and their plans for the future look very promising.

        This game is the future of FPSs, it has ruined me for everything else. I’ve played Battlefield since 1942 but playing the BF4 beta just felt limited and simplistic after PS2.

        • satan says:

          Played PS2 from launch but quit a while ago, I enjoyed it but the drip feed of content wasn’t enough to keep me coming back. What was even worse was when content finally came out, it wasn’t just broken, the game would be unplayable for up to a week. That was how I got to know some people in my outfit better, playing other games with them because PS2 was broken. When SOE finally admitted they had serious problems with the game (O:MFG) I’d already quit.

          • P.Funk says:

            What really turned me off of PS2 was the fact that there would actually be “content”. Player progression, unlocks, levels, faction/server locked characters… are we playing an FPS or an RPG?

            What happened to players just being content to play a role in a team? When did everyone become obsessed with progression unlocks? Is this CoD trolling my PC FPSs?

          • satan says:

            It was sold as a mmofps and based on their projections and roadmap(s), it looked like it was going to be a mmofps.

  2. dasquish says:

    I can’t be the only one who was hoping that they meant they were creating a game where dancer and musician were viable, fulfilling, and fun as occupations. Can I? I loved that you could really work with a band, set up pyrotechnics, shared macros, the whole shebang. I truly miss my wookie entertainer. She got into maybe 3 gunfights throughout her existence and I logged a LOT of hours before NGE.

    • Bart Stewart says:

      The big draw of SWG for me — why I was active on its forums during development, and played for maybe a year past the NGE — was that it was designed so that combat wasn’t the main activity.

      Combat certainly mattered. But Raph Koster’s design, of mix-and-match skills (instead of a handful of character classes with developer-dictated powers) that also offered non-combat abilities as first-class gameplay modes, where the different playstyles had reasons to help each other out, was exactly what I had been looking for. In a word, the design of SWG was respectful. It respected the different ways that people like to have fun. It let the gamers who enjoyed socializing do that; it let the combatants enjoy exciting action; it definitely encouraged resource-hunting and production and commerce and other forms of achievement; and it let me be a wandering jack-of-all-trades explorer with resource-hunting and crafting skills and the ability to defend myself from most enemies. And it encouraged all those ways of having fun to interact with all the others (to varying degrees of success).

      But almost immediately after SWG launched, the new live development team started amping up combat and disconnecting it from needing any of the other playstyles. I actually put together a spreadsheet that analyzed every single officially documented change from launch to the NGE, which showed clearly the increasing prominence of shoot-n-loot as the focus of game enhancements. The Combat Upgrade, and the NGE that followed, simply took this trend to its inevitable conclusion.

      Player cities were interesting (and supported post-launch by the Politician skill tree), but I don’t know that I’d say that competition among player cities was the best part of SWG, and the part that will be of the most interest to the folks who really appreciated that game before the NGE. As Demolitionist says below, what mattered to those players were the features that promoted the feeling of player agency in a big and interesting world — the things that made them want to invest emotionally in SWG as a place they cared about.

      But we’ll see what the real game looks like once they reveal it. I’m hopeful.

      • Demolitionist says:

        Respectful is probably the best way I’ve heard that put. Well said.

      • blackfire83 says:

        This. This. A thousand times: THIS!

        I loved that there were different playstyles and they were treated (nearly) equally. Also, limiting a character to so many skill points meant that you could NOT do everything and you HAD to get help from others, which is kinda what (should) make an MMO different. Too many MMO’s these days are really single-player affairs which artificially require you to group up with other people by just making the combat more difficult. Or restricting how many crafting professions you can have.

        My character in the original SWG was largely a crafter, but he picked up some rifle skills so he could tag along with hunting groups, go prone on a hilltop and provide at least a little bit of help.

        So please, please, realize that people want something different than just another combat game with some ‘crafting’ mixed in. We want different viable playstyles. Please.

  3. CaptainVolcanoes says:

    I really want them to just re-make SWG. Exactly as it was pre-NGE.. BUT, alter every one of the art assets to be slightly different so as not to imply it’s a star wars game. We could call it “STEG WERF: A Hegemony Subtracted” the expansions could be named: Glide To Halfspeed, Angry Hairy People and Trials of a McGregor.

    I’d buy that.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Just take it up a notch; Galaxy Wars Universe

    • Chummers says:

      “They,” meaning fans, have already done so:
      http://www.swgemu.com/forums/index.php

      Creature Handler, Bio Engineer creature-crafting, and Jedi aren’t implemented, but mostly everything else is there!

      • soco says:

        That was my biggest concern about the “we’re making our next MMO to be a love letter to SWG fans.” Sony might get it in their head that all their old fans are off playing their old game through the SGWEmu and decide to fire up the lawyers.

  4. goettel says:

    Smedley kinda feels like MMO’s Lucas to me, and that’s not a good feeling. Still, SOE 2.0 did open the year better than just about any other MMO joint, and I’m curious to see what this will become. If the Firefly IP hadn’t been sadly snatched away yet, my money would be on that – in every way possible.

  5. Demolitionist says:

    I think I’m like most SWG diehards out there when I say I’m interested but apprehensive.

    Smed touts the player guilds, guild wars and cities, but that’s only a part of what made SWG great. That’s not enough of a draw without the other aspects, and certainly not enough to make it a spiritual successor or as Smed put it, like “home.” This is still super early, though. Hopefully as time goes on, they’ll start popping other pieces into the puzzle. And even though the Star Wars IP was a big part of making me want to play SWG, I can honestly live without the licensing or even a sci-fi setting.

    Regarding listening to the fans, here’s hoping they listen to the RIGHT fans this time. A lot of the changes that came into play in the CU and NGE were requested by players. Their cries for Jedi to be easier to obtain, the game to follow a more linear questing system and the gameplay as a whole to feel more like WoW are what led to those changes.

    IIRC, subscription numbers even went up for a while after the NGE (after the initial drop caused by the mass exodus of vets), so those changes obviously appealed to a large group of people. The problem with that crowd is that they don’t stick around. They want to run some dungeons, get some loot, then move on to the next big thing when they’ve “maxed out.” They’re not interested in building and maintaining a virtual world.

    Smed… show us you’re worthy of our trust again and listen to the right people. If you’re really interested in hooking in the SWG crowd, build a niche game for that niche, not the bland “mass appeal” crap that most people put out. Otherwise, why bother? The first mention of loot-filled dungeons and I’m out.

  6. geldonyetich says:

    Smed: “So, how’s Everquest Next shaping up?”
    Dev: “Well, it looks to be an open-ended, virtual world-focused game with few boundaries where the primary draw will be players building their own cities.”
    Smed: “Nice. How does our data on customer trends stand up to that?”
    Dev: “… Well, before we alienated them with the NGE, that was primarily why people played Star Wars Galaxies.”
    Smed: “…”
    Dev: “…”
    Smed: “Crap. We need to get them back. Okay, how’s this, ‘Our Next game is “Dedicated” to longtime SWG fans.’?”

  7. Lemming says:

    “I’m actually talking about the concept of guilds going to war with each other – that kind of stuff.”

    It’s on the tip of my tongue..some kind of Guild Wars, you say?

    • Moraven says:

      I think more along the lines you could take out another guild’s structures and holdings. GW everything is pre built and instanced.

      Maybe more along the lines of Shadowbane.

      I miss the old days of WoW when it was server only PvP/Battlegrounds. You got some heated faction and guild rivalry.

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    Rizlar says:

    Is that screenshot actually representative of what SWG looked like? The cel-shadedy style looks fucking awesome!

    I remember reading a lot about SWG when it launched, but was too young to pay a sub then so never actually tried it.

    • Koozer says:

      That’s not cel-shading my friend, it is a slightly dodgy shader on low-poly models. SWG went for realistic.

  9. Broodix says:

    I’ll only be interested if they make it a pure sandbox, with a 100% player-run economy, space combat similar to JTL, and include SWGs crafting system.

  10. shiptonator says:

    I quite liked the combat in early SWG. But what do I know. I also liked standing in a desert with my utterly rubbish Twi’lek listening to the stirring soundtrack. And then taking him into a cantina and making him dance for ages as my dancing skill levelled up whilst drinking tea and doing other things.. all on a totally crap Dell Inspiron laptop too.. I gave up after my speeder bike was eaten by a rancor on a planet that was 20 levels higher than I should have been on (was trying to level up by joining hunting parties of far higher level characters and sponging the XP).

  11. Noburu says:

    SPACE DUCKS GO!

  12. ostego says:

    Please don’t be voxel! PLEASE don’t be voxel. Please.

  13. Hohumm4sh3d says:

    Agree with hopefully not voxel type graphics,

    Apart from the NGE which occurred SWG for me from launch was awesome.

    The only MMO which I had two clients running on the same machine. One client with my Twilek Dancer and entertaining buffing people who sat in a chair in the guilds cantina and was running 24/7 and the other client for my adventuring :)

    Also how cool was Jump to Lightspeed in the larger ships when you could have other players on the ship with you manning the guns?!

    I for one can’t wait to see how SOE pull this off.

    Ho

  14. The Random One says:

    It may be weird but the opening paragraph made me imagine games I’d like to play a lot more than the game the article’s actually about. One is an urban exploration simulator in which you walk around decrepit structures, such as a long abandoned theme park. Other is whatever would be called Barren Land of Infinite Possibility.

  15. sith1144 says:

    that image got me really excited untill I realized I wasnt looking at a screenshot for their next game :/

  16. Husper says:

    As a huge fan of SWG I am still incredibly angry about what they did to that game, Smedley can go jump off a bridge before I touch another of his games. I will be actively stopping all my friends from going near this game. I sold my Jedi Knight for $1000 after the CU, could have gotten 4x that before, but still something as they became worthless after the NGE and other debacles.