Star Wars Galaxies Date & Subscriptions

A press release on The Star Wars Galaxies Website (thanks Jody Overstreet and SWG Warcry) has a release date for the Star Wars MMORPG as well as a description of the game's subscription plans. Here's a bit:
LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment Inc. today announced Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, the highly anticipated initial installment of the first Star Wars massively multiplayer online (MMO) game series, will release June 26, 2003. The Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided online fan community now exceeds more than 500,000 registered members.

At launch Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided will offer four subscription plan options: Month-to-month - $14.99; three months - $14.00 per month; six months - $13.00 per month; and 12 months - $12.00 per month. By subscribing to any of the latter three plans, players can expect savings of up to 20 percent over the month-to-month rate. Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided has a suggested retail price of $49.95, and includes a 30-day subscription to the game. A special collector's edition, which includes a book of game-related art, in-game wearables, pewter figurine, lapel pin and patch, and a signed manual, will be available for a suggested retail price of $79.95.
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SWG has failed...
Jun 21, 2003, 22:10
SWG has failed... Jun 21, 2003, 22:10
Jun 21, 2003, 22:10
 
Lets go through all the problems shall we…



Immersive ness

99% of the world is, simply put, a randomly generated mess that lacks any feeling. It's obvious, as soon as you leave a city, that no thought went into the world whatsoever. In place of actual content, we have "random" encounters constantly. Every 15 seconds you can be sure that a group of mobs will spawn in front of you. Mobs have no life of their own; they're generated just because the player is there, and it makes the game more like Asteroids than an MMORPG.

Trying to trick players by having a random number generator do your work for you is a poor, poor excuse for content. It will not fool anyone. There's a feeling you get in a game world when you explore and find new things around every turn... new structures, creatures, places with a purpose. Places designed by a human for interaction with humans. Having the game randomly place blobs of mobs everywhere will never, ever duplicate that feeling.

So right away, 99% of the game world is uninteresting. Yes you have nice graphics for your terrain. Good job. But let me tell you something I read while designing zones for a MUD some years back. In the MUD builder's manual, it said "everything must have a point and a story" (paraphrased). This is sage advice, not just for MUDs but for all games. In SWG, nothing has a point or a story (except for missions, which have stories, but I'll get to that).

You know what would have been the best thing for SWG? If you had FORGOTTEN GRAPHICS and just designed a good game. A good game is good whether it's text based or has the prettiest graphics in the world. The "oooh and ahh" factor doesn't last for long. Take "blockbuster" movies as an example. Every summer, movie makers spend billions of dollars cranking out big budget movies. We all know the result: most of them suck. Hard. They're contrived, with no story, no writing, nothing but pretty explosions. SWG is the blockbuster movie of the MMOG world.

SWG needs more premanent features. I'm not talking about a battlefield or theme park hidden 10,000 meters away between 9,999 meters of zero content. I'm talking about giving the world life. Those random globs of bandits that appear constantly when you're in the wilderness? Give some a permanent home. Make an outpost, complete with scouts on the outer perimeter, campfires inside and a boss in a building somewhere controlling it all. Make it permanent and then it will mean something. Getting to the middle of it and slaying the boss will mean something to a player. The player can say "I went there, I did that, yeah baby." It gives players a sense of pride. Destroying a camp that appears in front of you just like 500 others like it, with the same 5 bandits standing around it, means nothing.

That's the key really, making a world that is meaningful. Every little bit has to be special in some way. It has to be designed by human hands, and when other humans see it and experience it, they'll appreciate it.

Other immersiveness things

-You can't jump in SWG, or swim. Instead, jumping is an emote. These two things are the very basics of immersiveness in a 3D world. Players need to feel like they can interact with their environment. In SWG, they can't. I'll give you an example.

Every town is surrounded with these low walls with only a few openings in them to get out. These walls are only knee high for even a short player. They're very, very annoying, especially because you cannot jump over them. They're like invisible barriers, walls in a pac-man game, that constantly remind you that you are in a game, not real life. To be immersed, players need to forget that as much as possible.

The walls were a bad design decision, but they wouldn't have been if the fundamentals of a 3D world were included in SWG.

It's very troubling that the devs couldn't include something as basic as jumping into their engine.

One way to look at a game is as a challenge that must be solved. Great games provide freedom for the players to solve problems in as many ways possible. Take away something as simple as jumping or swimming and you take away very important ways that players feel out their environment.

-You can't attack most NPCs in cities. Being held accountable for your actions is arguably the greatest strength of an MMORPG. In one sense, players build up a reputation over time which adds another layer onto the game world. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about actions within the game world. You should be able to attack NPCs, even if they're so powerful they'll kill you in one hit. Why? Because that makes the world more real. It gives you the sense that every little thing you do is meaningful. That friendly trainer will kick your ass if you attack him. It makes everything more alive.

Missions

I know you wrote neat stories for some missions, and in a way, those stories are the best thing about SWG. Some are genuinely funny.

But the fun of reading the mission details doesn't last, as they're just another trip into the useless wilderness (or a trip to another city if it's a deliver mission). After your first mission you realize that they're quite mindless, and just a source of cash.

To decrease the immersion, there's a limited number of missions and they're repeated. The solution? It's obvious, guys. If you had a history and story for each planet, the solution would be there already. Missions would be a way to delve deeper into that history and participate in it. You could add progressive missions, where you complete one and get another, more difficult mission, that gives you more story and involves you more deeply in the planet's politics, story, whatever. (Yes, I know there's one progressive mission in Jabba's palace. Big deal. You can't have something like that in just one, or two, or 5 places inthe game, fellas. It has to be all over.)

Give players a chance to feel part of their world. You deliver a loaf of bread to an old woman, and in doing so meet her grandson. He's in trouble with the law, and needs you to help him get a message out of town. You deliver the message and realize he's involved in the rebellion when you reach the hideout. The people at the hideout ask you to help him escape from the town. You help, but you have to kill a few Emperial troopers in doing it. You become more trusted in the rebellion after that and are given a mission to assassinate an Imperial General. And on, and on. There, I just wrote a whole progressive mission for you. It's easy. SWG needs it.

Missions or quests are one of the best ways to get players deeply involved in a game (in fact, most single player games are based on a single evolving quest that the player must complete). Don't ignore their potential.

Combat

Like I said in the immersiveness section, there's no point in exploring. So there's no point to combat. There's no goal. Nothing to drive the player on to accomplish some great kill except for gathering bones and hides. Adding loot wouldn't solve this. The only solution is giving content and context to combat. Once again this boils down to making a more permanent world. Running out into the wilderness and killing big_fat_mob_00 doesn't mean anything: every player and his grandmother is going to have 500 big_fat_mobs generated for them too every time they leave a city. There needs to be permanence in a world for combat to mean anything.

Combat is awkward. There shouldn't be 2 different buttons for "attack" and "stop attack". It should be one button that toggles on and off. You should be able to change your target in combat. You should be able to hit escape and clear your target whether you're under attack or not. You should be able to sit while under attack (that's right, if something has aggro on you, you can't sit or log out).

It's almost impossible for a group to have a working healer. Besides having an impossible time trying to target people, the healer has to run back and forth trying to locate the person he's trying to heal so that he's close enough for it to work? You'll never have a good combat system because of this; grouping will always be zerging.

Player Crafting

The very basic machine that's supposed to allow players to sell goods, the bazaar, doesn't work. Why?

Because it has a 100 item limit. Combine that with the SEVEN DAY AUCTION SYSTEM and you have 100 CDEF pistols being sold on a 7 day auction, and bang, the market is useless for 7 days. Whether your item shows up or not in a search seems random. Players that want to sell high end goods have reverted to shouting "WTS uber rifles 5000 credits!" in the middle of town. Not that there's anything wrong with people shouting to sell things; there isn't, if they have no alternative. But if your game is designed with a market system and people are still forced to go out and shout because the market doesn't work, something is wrong.

I'm not going to go into the many flaws in the "economy" as people like to call it. Plenty of people have done that already and I've already made enough posts on it to be sick of it. Let's just say that the crafting system is the best thing SWG has going for it. More thought seems to have been put into it than anything else. When the game comes out it'll probably still be the best thing about it, so they should make it so that the economy isn't flooded with every kind of item within a week, making all that hard work worthless. If the game came out today, that's what would happen.

End Game

SWG has no end game. There really isn't anything a player can aspire to except becoming an overt and killing some other obverts. The rate of advancement is so fast that mastering your class is hardly part of the game.

You devs have said that maxxing out your class is only the beginning of the game. Ok, where do we go from there? Battlefields? Is shooting people across a battlefield supposed to hold my attention for years? The life of an MMORPG should be years, unless you spent years in development so that player could get bored with it in a month.

Is shooting other overts supposed to hold my attention for years? What, exactly, IS supposed to keep me playing? Even as a beta tester after only a few weeks, logging on is a chore. No, it's not the bugs. If you've noticed, I haven't made one mention of bugs. My critique is all of the game as it is when "working as intended".

Shooting the same random mobs that appear for me when I leave a city is not a goal. Shooting people across a battlefield is not a goal. The game needs goals that players can aspire to right out of the box.

In original EQ, players had killing a dragon someday as something to aspire to, right out of the box. In DAoC, players had realm to realm combat, right out of the box. What can SWG players aspire to? There's no permanent world like there is in EQ, so players cannot have goals to conquer some mob or place someday. There's no PvP reward system like DAoC, so players can't aspire to becoming the greatest at PvP and having an in-game reward for it.

What, exactly, do players have to aspire to?

Keep in mind that this is coming from an experienced MMOG gamer. I've played multiplayer games since there was nothing but text based MUDs. At this point, like many 10+ year veterans of the industry, I can look at a game and see right away where it will fail and where it will succeed. And I honestly don't see SWG succeeding anywhere in the long run.

”Hardcore Star Wars fans will play the game for a month, sure. But just because it's star wars doesn't mean it will hold their attention despite all its flaws. There are a LOT of Star Wars games out there. The hardcore Star Wars fan has plenty to choose from. What will make him choose SWG over all the others? “ IGI Denis graven

Game Stability

Now that I've talked about all the game systems as they would exist with no bugs, I'll talk about the bugs.

When someone points out the many, many massive bugs that plague every game system in SWG, someone inevitably says, "You think this is bad? You should have seen EQ when it first came out!"

Well, there's a difference. EQ was the pioneer in the 3D MMORPG industry. They didn't have anyone to tell them what to do or how to do it. They didn't know how to make a server handle that many people, or how to make sure the graphics would work when there were 50 other players on screen. They had to figure it all out on their own.

That was a long time ago. Not only has the industry made leaps and bounds since then, but SWG actually has people from EQ working on their staff! They aren't baby-faced college kids straight out of freshman year, these guys are supposed to be the best of the best of MMORPG design veterans, gathered form games like UO and EQ.

What happened guys? One of you must know how to set up a database so it doesn't crash the server every 3 hours. One of you must have designed a quest system at one time. Some of you helped design the most successful MMORPGs out there. What happened? On top of all the things missing from the game, don't any of you know how to set up a server so that it's stable?

The last successful MMORPG, DAoC , was stable throughout beta and shipped stable. Why? Because it was a second generation MMOG, and they learned from the past, and they made a stable gae like modern game designers should be able to do.

That's all I can think of for now. If I had another couple hours I could come up with a lot more.

Hey, it's not my millions of dollars that will be lost. It's not even my 50 dollars that will be lost, because I'm not buying the game. Thank god I was in beta…

This comment was edited on Jun 21, 22:15.
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