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

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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Nathan Grayson

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