How Jedi ruined Star Wars Galaxies

    
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Hope you’re not tired of hearing about Star Wars Galaxies because Raph “Holocron” Koster’s got SWG on the brain this week, and he’s answering reader questions at length. Earlier this week, he addressed the game’s PvP system, and in last night’s edition, he explains how the Jedi came to be jammed into SWG — and how they pretty much ruined everything.

Koster identifies the core problems with Jedi characters: “Everyone wants to be a Jedi. Jedi are rare during the original trilogy. Jedi are super powerful.” Maybe “everyone” is a stretch; that character in the pic above is my husband’s Jedi, not mine, since I never bothered to roll one. But there’s no question they inspire envy in everyone around them, and in the Rebellion Era setting, they should have been ultra-rare to boot. The early SWG team, Koster recalls, debated making Jedi NPCs-only, reducing their power, or picking a different time period to begin with. Each solution was rejected, and so Koster dreamed up the idea of a Diablo-inspired hardcore permadeath mode for Jedi, which was also rejected initially because ha-ha permadeath, right?

Instead, the developers borrowed from Bartle to create the random-profession-learning character path we all knew and loved/hated. But like so much other content, it didn’t launch with the game because the game was shoved out the door unfinished in less than three years. “I watched so many features fall apart during this period,” Koster writes, including among them the incomplete Jabba’s palace, vehicles, player cities, player-scripted contract missions, dynamic POIs, procedural terrain, and professions like Writer and Miner. Some of those were patched in later. Some never were.

“After Holocrons, the game was dead; it was just that nobody knew it yet.” -Raph Koster
“[T]hese paragraphs felt like opening a vein. SWG fans, you have no idea what the game was supposed to be like, and how weird it feels to hear adoration for features which to me ended up being shadows of their intent,” he laments. “Don’t get me wrong, the team did heroic, amazing work. All of these issues end up being my fault for overscoping or mismanaging, the producers’ fault for not reining me in, or the money people’s fault for not providing enough time and budget. The miracle is that we pulled it off at all.”

Of course, the game did launch, and people happily made homes and lives for themselves within it. “And most importantly, nobody was a Jedi,” Koster remarks. “Nobody cared. They were playing the professions they liked. They were doing what they wanted to do.” LucasArts, however, demanded Jedi from “the second biggest MMO outside of Asia” by Christmas of 2003. The Jedi system was a go; SOE dropped Holocrons as hints into the game, and video gamers did what they always do: They brute-forced Jedi by just learning all the skills.

“Satisfaction fell off a cliff,” Koster says.

“Everyone started playing everything they didn’t like. Oh, some players discovered new experiences they never would have otherwise. Many emerged from this with a new understanding of the fundamental interconnectedness of a society. But most just macroed their way or grinded their way through it all as fast as possible, dazzled by the booby prize of Jedi. [… O]ne month after Holocron drops began, we started losing subs, instead of gaining them. SWG had been growing month on month until then. After Holocrons, the game was dead; it was just that nobody knew it yet. […] Pretty much every single subsequent change can be traced back to that day. All the panicky patches, the changes, the CU and the NGE, were all about trying to get the sub curve back on a growth trajectory. Some of them were good changes. Most of them were bad, in my opinion. But they can all be traced to me saying ‘yeah, fine, skills is good enough’ in a hurried minute-long conversation on a work day that was probably fourteen hours long.”

Koster argues that the “playerbase felt betrayed” by the system. Before it, “people dreamed of Jedi, and were content, and had fun.” But he didn’t. By the time the Jedi Village rolled around and everyone was a Jedi, Koster had been moved to other projects. “I never even logged into the game after NGE, to be honest,” he admits. “Holocron was my last handle, on any forum. And I never played a Jedi at all.”

[Source: Raph Koster’s blog]

Check out our past posts on Koster’s SWG restrospectives:

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#240ScootIt

Valiant effort but this isn’t your art project. This isn’t your exclusive magnum opus in which you can dictate how things will always be and people will be fine with it. This is a video game. With people who want to play and have fin as the character they want to be. The force and jedi are what made star wars so memorable alongside it’s interesting space lore and technological style. No sh!t people brute forced the system. “Man people wanna be jedi in our Star Wars MMO. CRAZY RIGHT!? “

JonathanDoe
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JonathanDoe

I played from day one. I played a few months… it was fun as hell. I think I was a water farming pistoleer smuggler. There were some crazy raids, even at low levels. I remember running across half a planet to get to one. I don’t remember why I stopped. I think I had three months free and it ran out. Anyhow, after they made the Jedi changes, I came back for a month. My god the game was horrible. Really just a shell of itself.

Noyjitat
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Noyjitat

Also: I can sympathize with the people that played swg from day one to the changes that added nge etc. I understand why you would be upset by big game changing patches such as this. It’s something SOE was famous for after all. 

SOE added many game breaking updates and items to planetside and as a planetside player from alpha, beta and day 1 I got to enjoy a dev team that simply never listened to player feedback  until people started unsubscribing. Corecombat added stale gameplay to the surface battles with the only nice thing being the gate shields on the surface base. 

BFRS or battle rank increase to 23 came next (can’t remember the order) BFRS were grossly overpowered at first and still a problem later on but not as bad as implementation. But like swg’s nge bfrs were our nge and the player population disappeared very quickly as a result of this game update (and never fully recovered even after they nerfed them)

BR 23 gave us extra cert points which resulted in even more max suits and special assault and air cav. Aircav was too prominent because of the extra certs so they added a ton of extra AA to the game, including base turrets, deployables and flak ammo for the rocket launcher. TR players whined for aa buffs and they over buffed the burster max not once but several times so that hurt those that liked flying.

expert (or was it called advanced?) engineering was added which had  a nice set of new deployables added. Sadly they goofed here and allowed us to also have an increased limit on the number of mines we could deploy. Being a combat engineer I both loved and hated this because I was also a buggy driver (eventually however they buffed buggies against landmines, but this probably would not have been needed had the limit to deployabled never been increased or the extra cert points from br23)

Expert hacking added something the hacking users wanted and also buffed sunderer which the sundy buff would of been fine had it not had a built in emp device making it completely ruin combat engineering. Advanced hacking also had no limits to the amount of items it could infect which also hurt combat engineering.

Finally Battle rank 40 was added and drumroll please! Achieving this rank gave you access to all the equipment, vehicles and maxsuits available to your empire. Cert points were part of the games balance so this threw that out of the window. At this point I and my group stopped playing entirely. I came back to play again missing the game but sadly most people have either moved on or stopped gaming entirely. 

Then I checked out that monstrosity they call planetside 2 which is basically no different than any other shooter I  had played before planetside 1. It just has the big battles ps has. It’s still running though so I guess they must of done something right, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

Noyjitat
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Noyjitat

I dont think I would of played as much without being able to play a force user. Luke and Darth Vader were the characters that attracted me to starwars. Not Boba Fett or Han Solo… Not that I didnt like fett or solo.
I tried swg before nge and the slower combat and lack of lightsaber / forcepowers was a turn off for me. Having said that I did level and play a commando, bounty hunter, officer and a jedi during the nge times. Thoroughly enjoyed them all too.
Now im just waiting on projectswgnge so I can continue where I left off.

Kass40
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Kass40

Sadly I was one of those Jedi, I also did not know any better. I was new to world of MMO gaming back in 2007. My brother introduced me to WoW, anturally after a few months of that I felt the urge and desire to play Galaxies. I lasted only a few months, felt overwhelmed by the game and the community. The community was great, but at same time it was scary too resentment towards all those Jedi I soon discovered.

I wish I had hung around a lot longer in the game, in many ways if I had done so I’d never of met the people I now call my inner sanctum of close personal freinds. And folks this has been a long time coming from me, sorry for running into the cantina in Mos Eisely bragging I am a Jedi. I did not know any better at the time, and in many ways wish I could still play the game in its original pre-nge form.

But… the warm chills of walking out my house on Tatooine and seeing the twin suns with binary sunset playing was just incredible, and so was the x Wing engine I stored in my house once :)

amkosh
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amkosh

cald amkosh Actually, when you get down to it, neither did I.  I just wanted to be a Wookie crafter.  I subbed off and on from launch til JtL launched, then I had free access (supposedly for a year, but it still worked in 2009) and played.   I didn’t play often, maybe once or twice a year for a few days.

AilsaN10
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AilsaN10

Skyewauker AilsaN10 Minecraft is a sandbox and is very active.  It is NOT a themepark MMO by any means.  So I don’t agree that sandbox MMOs need also cater to players wanting a themepark.

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

Skyewauker AilsaN10 “SWG was for RPers pretty much.”
I played SWG.  I almost never RP’d, I don’t RP normally.  I only did it a few times when an RPer would need healing by my doctor, and I did it to make the other human being behind the avatar feel good about player, not because I liked RPing.  Plenty of people I know played SWG w/o RPing.  /shrug
Not directed at you personally, but we ALL (yes, including myself) look back at SWG and see what we want, by default.  Takes additional focus to push past that, and see how things really were.  Analog brains can be so imprecise.  :)

Cujo H
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Cujo H

ZenJitzu  Its a hell of a good read.

Barachiel
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Barachiel

raphkoster Caec That’s because it was a class that had never been in the game before, AND a class based on a archetype that a lot of the fans loved.  

It is my belief (and just my belief, i make no pretense to The Truth(tm)), that the reason for the spike is because Jedi were the sole “endgame” content that existed in SWG.  

The theme parks were comparatively short, and group-based.  But Holocron Grinding?  That you could do solo!  That you could do when you were sick of farming mats, stocking your shop, and placing furniture in your house.
Don’t get me wrong, the systems SWG did have were *AMAZING*.  The problem was, the pre-NGE SWG had nothing else to do besides that.  Procedurally generated mission consoles work for a loot grinder like Diablo, but not for a game with a storied history and rich lore.  

SWG was perfect for the Second Life crowd, who aspire to be a nameless craftsman or artisan or animal trainers in the GFFA.  For anyone else, it was a soul-crushing disappointment.