Did Star Wars Galaxies Fail? ~ Raph Koster

Pathfinder Online

Goblin Squad Member

So, was it a failure?

Well yes, of course. And also, no. It depends how you ask the question

Galaxies actually had the best one-month conversion of any game at SOE, by a double-digit percentage.

SWG also had the shortest play session lengths of any RPG at SOE (action games, including Planetside, had shorter). This had very much been a design goal

However, at the same time, it also had the highest total hours played per week. In other words, it was the least grindy per session, and the most sticky on a week or month basis.

SWG did not sell a million units instantly, and then lose them all, as many claim. It took two years for it to hit a number that big (unlike WoW, which shot up incredibly fast). Early reviews and launch buzz were mixed at best. That said, it was picking up more new users a day than all other SOE games combined, even after the CU. It did have a churn problem, and exit surveys showed all the top answers for why people left were “lack of content.” This was largely attributable to things like the combat balance, the lack of quests, and so on.

WoW didn’t kill SWG. In fact, SWG lost less users to WoW than any other SOE game. (This makes sense — it was the least like WoW, after all).

Lastly, SWG was a lot cheaper to make than what was about to be its competition. Like, 1/4 of the budget or less of a WoW.

In short…

The game wasn’t doing as badly as people seem to think. It didn’t fail in the market. It did just fine, even by the standards pre-WoW. But there were huge expectations that we didn’t push against, it launched with serious problems, and the team wasn’t really equipped to fix them. This resulted in a series of errors that damaged the game’s ongoing viability, which resulted in more hurried changes.

The analytics stuff is interesting.

The expectations at the end is the most illuminating thing. The vision and how that informed EVERYTHING and where the devs strayed from that vision the problems came.

Goblin Squad Member

In my view if it created stories such as this one... it was one of the most successful mmorpgs ever created:-

After almost two years, I could see that this would not last. Player counts were dropping; the game was being mishandled more and more. When they did away with the holo-grinding, it wrecked a large part of my business model. And again, when the Jedi-village went live, it was the final nail. No one needed to spend vast amounts on anything any more. You could just become a Jedi from a quest chain.

I started shutting down my enterprise. I had bought and sold dozens and dozens of accounts, billions of credits; for the remaining players on my servers, my accounts were fixtures. They were how they functioned, they were how they survived. Most had no clue it was one person pulling all these strings, and in the end, I liked it that way. I stopped “playing” the day I was killed in Theed starport by a fresh new Jedi who didn’t understand how to even play the game.

I couldn’t even bring myself to fight back. I just stood there. I was one of the few true Dark Jedi Masters, and I let him kill me. That very act illustrated perfectly what SOE did wrong. Those of us who had faithfully put in the hours and weeks and months required to earn those lightsabers were spit on and betrayed by the very architects of the game we loved.

Now obviously I did my share of exploiting the game, and your share, and his, and hers. But I put in the work to holo-grind. I put in the work to move my way up endlessly grinding on fambas in Naboo, cats in Corrilea, and rancors on Dathomir. I didn’t buy my personal Jedis; I earned them. I knew the game, I knew the struggle, and I knew what it took to get them.

And in the end? On my last day playing? You could start a new toon who was already a Jedi. I walked away and I never looked back. That moment at my desk, 10 years after it started, I sadly closed the window and went back to work.

Because it wasn’t the game I loved. That game died in 2005 with the NGE/CU. It died when developers turned their backs on the gamers who had spent the effort and instead listened to the lazy, whining voices who wanted it all given to them.

Ironically, those voices were the same people who happily handed Tan money for the credits I provided. Happily handed me stacks of cash for Jedi accounts. Did I help in the demise of SWG? Yes. That is something I accepted long ago. The game that I loved so much, I helped to destroy.

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Interesing Story About SWG's Downfall

Goblin Squad Member

I did read that, but skimmed it... interestingly:-

You'd have a battle game and a role playing game all together.

But SWG had more fundamental issues around the combat system

We could build a real twitch combat system that was less turn based and more visceral. It was a very exciting idea.

A prototype of the combat and faction switching in a town had been built. That and the launch World of Warcraft game influenced the development of the Combat Upgrade (Apr 2005) and following New Game Experience (Nov 2005).

So I feel I am responsible for the NGE, because the impetus came from an idea I initially championed, which I as unable to deflect when it was being mis-applied (in my view) to SWG.

Looks like they tried to go down the combat rabbit-hole, whereas the solution was indeed the plan to expand the context of the RPG -> world.

Sounds familiar...

Goblin Squad Member

SO WISH SWToR was more like SWG...

Goblin Squad Member

There's always The Repopulation. SWG reborn. With optional shooter mode.

Goblin Squad Member

@Kyutaru -

Possibly those capture something of "what it is / what is in it" that Raph Koster tries to go through in his SWG compendium blogs here. However, I think what really captures SWG is that story above by Patrick Desjardines.

Is it possible to capture that outcome where as per EVE the players are literally running the systems in game (and maybe making money and stories aka "value-added" from it to an extent a cultural phenomenon springs from it)?

Raph is consulting on Crowfall, next. So it would be apt to ask: What is Crowfall trying to achieve, in this sense? I can't see it myself. I can see a game that perhaps takes developments of themepark and sandbox EQ/WOW forwards... but is it enough? Maybe it will able to create a LOLx100 sort of tactical recurring battle scene? WH40K:ET seems to be going that route to for 3rd person shooter.

What SWG did was create a virtual world for roles based off an IP and trying to make that world-building come alive through the massive scale of many players' different agencies interacting with each other. Combat is and probably should be one aspect of that. It was an aspect that seems to have caused huge issues for the game atst as undue development focus, is at least my own reading (perhaps wrong?).

Goblin Squad Member

Combat is perhaps the least relevant part of The Repopulation. The game is primarily a crafting simulator with plenty of lore and world development. Players even put up their own cities and decide allegiances and governing much like SWG. The only real game aspect is the random quests that spring up like SWG terminals or the dungeons to explore across the world.

Entertainer is a skill profession and most skills can be done in town. There's loads of harvesting skills that work into each other and make specializing as part of a 20 man supply chain necessary. Where Pathfinder places the entire emphasis of the game on combat, The Repopulation goes the opposite route and makes combat professions little more than glorified harvesters who murder mighty beasts for their insides and pelts.

All the tools are given for players to explore and do as they please to shape the world. Actual Sandbox gameplay as opposed to the Darkfall approach that PFO and Crowfall have adopted.

PFO has gone the DF route in terms of city placement. I would argue this game's intended focus is combat but that combat is primarily glorified harvesting here as well.

Crowfall from all indications will be a true Sandbox. It runs off the voxel system featured in titles such as Everquest landmark. It's also intended to be a true Open World PvP focused title (unlike PFO atm) but that doesn't make it any less a sandbox.

It's definitely a sandbox, definitely PvP focused, kind-of-sort-of an MMO, definitely looks worth keeping an eye on.

Goblin Squad Member

Of all of the MMOs I have played, SWG and LotRO were the two best in capturing the essence of their respective IPs.

Other games that did a good job of having "atmosphere" were / are: COH, FE, AOC, TSW, STO, and EvE.

Each of those have something unique about them and are the best examples of their genre.

Goblinworks Executive Founder

Bluddwolf wrote:

Of all of the MMOs I have played, SWG and LotRO were the two best in capturing the essence of their respective IPs.

Other games that did a good job of having "atmosphere" were / are: COH, FE, AOC, TSW, STO, and EvE.

Each of those have something unique about them and are the best examples of their genre.

SWTOR's nice too.

Agreed. SWTOR and ESO are probably my two favorite theme parks. They were both extremely enjoyable for what they were. LotRO was fun too but it feels quite dated these days.

I can only play any Theme park so long before it becomes stale though. LOTRO and SWTOR are the only ones I ever maxed a character in. Before the first expansion for both. And only one apiece. ArcheAge too if you count it as a ThemePark I guess.

SWTOR has been great fun for me. I think it is the best themepark MMO that exists.

Luckily, I was a latecomer, so I didn't feel the need to powerlevel, and thus I haven't burned through their content yet.

Goblin Squad Member

Savage Grace wrote:

SWTOR has been great fun for me. I think it is the best themepark MMO that exists.

Luckily, I was a latecomer, so I didn't feel the need to powerlevel, and thus I haven't burned through their content yet.

If you haven't tried this yet, I recommend playing a Jedi and going with dark side choices. The early storyline of this (<20) is far more interesting and "evil" than playing a Sith Marauder going dark side choices.

Unfortunately the Devs screwed up by allowing anyone to use any color crystal. They should have left it where yiu were barred based on where you fell in the DS - LS scale.

Before that change, you knew who was dark side / light side by the crystals they were using.

Goblin Squad Member

I found that SWG died before the NGE, when over 75% of the population became bots just grinding away. A complete loss of player interaction. That's when I left. It had become a bad single player game.

Goblin Squad Member

The Combat Upgrade hurt the game, rather significantly. If it was needed, the devs went about announcing it and implementing it in the entirely wrong way. The players felt ambushed by it, and that SOE didn't care about their paying customers. With better communication, things might have gone better. But post-CU, the game had a feel of "players vs devs", and that is hard to bring new people into. The other failure of the game was to not factor in top tier crafting and its effects, such as how good composite armor could be if a player was buffed. Had the devs realized that such armor and buffs made players gods among men, perhaps the solo-groups wouldn't have happened and the game would have kept its community spirit.

The takeaway from SWG?
1) Communicate with your players. Help them understand your decisions. Goblinworks does very well with this.

2) Test your code and designs before implementing! Goblinworks could use a little bit of a boost here. Perhaps there is a way to boost the population of the test server? Provide incentives to be there?

Goblin Squad Member

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Ravenlute wrote:
I found that SWG died before the NGE, when over 75% of the population became bots just grinding away. A complete loss of player interaction. That's when I left. It had become a bad single player game.

You are correct that that the decline of the game was before NGE, it was actually shortly before LTLP. The damned Holocrons was the problem.

Before the Holocrons, the only way to become a Jedi was to stumble upon it . The first Jedi on Ahazi server was quite content to be the only one, until someone else discovered it. Unfortunately the forum whines were heard by SOE, and they initiated the holocron system.

Then players could just level up a certain class, have the next class revealed, level that class and unlock the Jedi class missions and class.

This lead to the AFK grinding (botting) and power leveling of characters in tow.

Meanwhile certain classes, like Smuggler, were neglected for nearly 2 years (including beta) as they had no "powers" assigned to the Mastery level.

SOE adopted a flavor of the month class system leading up to JTLS as well.

Silver Crusade Goblin Squad Member

SWG was a tremendous game in my personal experience up to the CU

our whole guild was disenchanted by the CU

we liked the game so much, we played again when the SWGemu group obtained the code and built the 14.1 version again and is still going strong today with thousands of players

Silver Crusade Goblin Squad Member

and yes, the grind-to-Jedi didn't help anything

i'd always hoped they'd make Jedi a randomly chosen and awarded character slot that would pop up occasionally with permadeath

Goblin Squad Member

@Bludd: Good observations there. As important as the implementation is the presentation. I'm working on something along these lines I intend to write up in a series of (ahem, long) articles in the next few weeks. It's actually based on the consideration that anything different between worlds eg "magic" or "sci-fi" via "What If?" questions MUST be on a scale slider that itself interacts from all that is derived from the usual constants of time and space (aka "...from all things").

@coach: That was the correct path, the path that was informed by sticking to the lore, to the foundations of that IP's world-building. I would call this rule of world building "Proportionality". With it, motivation is affected.

Goblin Squad Member

As someone who loved piloting and equipping my starfighter in SWG, I miss the game terribly. Nothing out right now duplicates it, and I think the EMUs are far off from implementing JTL.

It is easy to roast SOE over the CU and later NGE. To extent they should be- the implementation and communication was terrible with those changes. However, SOE was the patsy. LucasArts was the real problem. They had unrealistic expectations for subscription numbers, and rather than build on what they had, LucasArts burned the house down.

But even after the disaster that the NGE was, there were still some fantastic things that were put in the game. The Battle of Hoth Heroic is still my favorite raid-style content in any MMO- tough, requires exceptional teamwork, substantial. Plus you either got to pilot a snowspeeder or AT-ST. When LucasArts forced the shutdown due to the release of SWTOR, the devs had implemented atmospheric flight, so pilots could finally drop down from orbit and provide air support for their ground allies.

If LucasArts hadn't been so focused on unrealistic numbers, and SOE had a better dev team in place- what a game it could have been with the later content.

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