Game Reviews
SWP
Star Wars MMOs – Then and Now
"Hey! HEY! You fine. Why don't we put down these swords and - AH MY ARM!"

Star Wars fans haven’t exactly been taken care of in the last decade. The only shining light truly being a game called “Knights of the Old Republic” by famed RPG developer, Bioware. It was released in 2003, and was quickly hailed as one of the greatest games of its generation. But that’s it. After ten years that’s all that fans can truly be proud of. Sure there were other projects, some of which could even be considered “good,” but very few are memorable.

Released less than one month before hand? “Star Wars Galaxies” from the same team behind the hugely popular “Everquest.” Many forget that “Everquest” was the “World of Warcraft” of it’s time. It seemed like a match made in heaven. Little did fans realize, SWG would become the perfect embodiment of all that had gone wrong with the franchise.
Let’s face it, the first time any Star Wars saw an MMO in action, they all thought the same thing. The idea of being able to live in the SW universe seemed like a dream, and yet here was a chance to do so. I don’t envy the development team; it was a huge undertaking.
What was released in 2003 was one of the most ambitious MMOs of all time. I remember logging in on the first week, creating my character, and going to Tatooine. I opened my map and decided to walk to Mos Eisley, expecting it to take me five or ten minutes to go half way across the planet. It took me about two hours. In “Everquest” you would take five steps before hitting a load screen, and here was one out ten planets.
Like most MMOs, the launch was a bit shakey. Severs went off and on. Bugs were plentiful. It took months to get vehicles and mounts in the game, meaning that we’d have to walk everywhere we wanted to go. But it has potential. Every MMO is a work in progress, and the developer, SOE, set the foundation for something huge. I was hooked.
It was the first MMO that I had ever played that gave a sense of ownership. Anyone could have a house. Not just an instance, an actual place in the world where you could go. People would pass it going to a fro. You could even allow anyone to walk in and see your stuff. They weren’t all the same static model, either, nor were they filled with the same stock furniture. You placed your most prized possessions on display. You had the control.
Even the class system provided freedom. You didn’t choose one class and stick with it. You decided which skills you wanted. You could mix and match to create your own combination. It’s the way MMOs should be: The developers create a world and you live in it. With every restriction, it turns more into a linear game rather that a living, breathing world.
SWG’s potential quickly faded though. The developers seemed more focus on adding a constant stream of new content rather than fixing what was already there. Many features were broken or incomplete, and they would sit in the game for years before it was taken care of, and by that I mean replaced with a new system that was even worse off. Players were disgruntled, and numbers started to dwindle. Even the lure of Star Wars lore couldn’t save this sinking ship.
Perhaps it was written from the start. In hindsight, a Star Wars MMO that launched without space should have been a tipping point. That’s like releasing a pirate MMO without water. They eventually released a space-centric expansion pack, but it felt like a separate game rather than a fluent edition.
The slow unraveling of the game was made official when an “update” was released which took away the profession system and replaced it with nine very “WoW”-like options. Suddenly there were was a level system and combat had more of a shooter vibe. Once again, the development team tried to create something new rather than fix what was there. This was the final straw for many loyal players.
Now, a new Star Wars MMO had been announced. And from the same company that made KOTOR, no less. Not much has been announced, but the stuff that has looks promising. Anyone who has played “Mass Effect” can see the direction Bioware is taking it’s games. It looks like the same level of detail will be added to the online world.
The game seems to be focusing on story, which hasn’t been done to this extent on an MMO before. Every character, both NPC and player characters, will be fully voice overed. No more wall of text to bore you. And the story options change depending on who’s with you.
A class system has already been announced, and I seriously doubt it will contain the level of freedom that SWG did at its prime. That may not be a bad thing, though. Maybe structure is what a good MMO needs. It may provide Bioware more freedom to make the game what they want it to be, and they have a great track record of creating rich worlds. KOTOR and Mass Effect were almost MMO-like in terms of scope. It’s not wise to get excited about anything Star Wars related these days, but it’s hard for these guys to not get your hype meter going.
After the latest released Bioware video, it made me want to start up SWG again. If for anything, just to see how the game played six years later. Luckily, they were having a “play for free” week. I must say, I was surprised at what direction it has taken.
There is more emphasis than every on collecting. Collector’s items that are easy to get during a certain time period become worth a fortune after a while. It just reenforces how much more items are valued in this game, especially compared to other MMOs. These are items that provide absolutely no benefit to player. You simply put them in your house. And yet players are spending more on them than weapons and armor.
I don’t blame them though. The combat is still not fun. Missions are even more boring than WoW. All the good missions are usually a hassle to get to, provide minimal rewards, and/or require other people to complete. Other people being a surprisingly scarce resource.
It was almost eerie to walk through major cities and see so few people. To see someone else was so uncommon that it would often warrant a “stop-and-chat.” When I went into the chat channels, I scrolled through the fifty or so official channels and didn’t find one person. Cantinas, which use to be hot-spots, were bare. Just a few years ago it wasn’t uncommon to even run into people in the middle of nowhere.
The biggest addition is a Trading Card Game which is playable either in-game or through a separate application. It’s just another feature that goes onto the “features no one asked for, and no one needs” list, and the “desperate attempt to make money” list as well. Having to buy virtual cards with real money to play a card game within a game is excessive to say the least. The only real saving grace is that some packs contain items that can be redeemed in the actual game. More collections.
SWG is more fun in theory than actual playing it. The parts that should be fun aren’t and vice versa. SOE has found a way to make being a Jedi tedious and stale. I wouldn’t want the game to go away for good, but I don’t want to have to pay to play it either. I consider it a lost cause. After six years, you have to accept things for what they are. The devs will never work on this game enough to make it good. Bioware, you’re on deck.

Star Wars fans haven’t exactly been taken care of in the last decade. The only shining light truly being a game called “Knights of the Old Republic” by famed RPG developer, Bioware. It was released in 2003, and was quickly hailed as one of the greatest games of its generation. But that’s it. After ten years that’s all that fans can truly be proud of. Sure there were other projects, some of which could even be considered “good,” but very few are memorable.

Released less than one month before hand: “Star Wars Galaxies” from the same team behind the hugely popular “Everquest.” Many forget that “Everquest” was the “World of Warcraft” of its time. It seemed like a match made in heaven. Little did fans realize, SWG would become the perfect embodiment of all that had gone wrong with the franchise.

Let’s face it, the first time any Star Wars saw an MMO in action, they all thought the same thing. The idea of being able to live in the SW universe seemed like a dream, and yet here was a chance to do so. I don’t envy the development team; it was a huge undertaking.

What was released in 2003 was one of the most ambitious MMOs of all time. I remember logging in on the first week, creating my character, and going to Tatooine. I opened my map and decided to walk to Mos Eisley, expecting it to take me five or ten minutes to go half way across the planet. It took me about two hours. In “Everquest” you would take five steps before hitting a load screen, and here was one out of ten planets.

"Hey! HEY! You fine. Why don't we put down these swords and - AH MY ARM!"

Like most MMOs, the launch was a bit shaky. Severs went off and on. Bugs were plentiful. It took months to get vehicles and mounts in the game, meaning that we’d have to walk everywhere we wanted to go. But it had potential. Every MMO is a work in progress, and the developer, SOE, set the foundation for something huge. I was hooked.

It was the first MMO that I had ever played that gave a sense of ownership. Anyone could have a house. Not just an instance, an actual place in the world where you could go. People would pass it going to a fro. You could allow anyone to walk in and see your stuff. They weren’t all the same static model, either, nor were they filled with the same stock furniture. You placed your most prized possessions on display. You had the control.

Even the class system provided freedom. You didn’t choose one class from level one to eighty. You decided which skills you wanted. You could mix and match to create your own combination. There weren’t levels, it gave you a “title” when you achieved a certain skill set. It’s the way MMOs should be: The developers create a world and you live in it. With every restriction, it turns more into a linear game rather that a living, breathing world.

"I don't think you understand, we were in the entire series! We're worth more than $5."

SWG’s potential quickly faded though. The developers seemed more focus on adding a constant stream of new content rather than fixing what was already there. Many features were broken or incomplete, and they would sit in the game for years before taken care of, and by that I mean replaced with a new system that was even worse off. Players were disgruntled, and numbers started to dwindle. Even the lure of Star Wars lore couldn’t save this sinking ship.

Perhaps it was written from the start. In hindsight, a Star Wars MMO that launched without space should have been a tipping point. That’s like releasing a pirate MMO without water. They eventually released a space-centric expansion pack, but it felt like a separate game rather than a fluent addition.

The slow unraveling of the game was made official when an “update” was released which took away the profession system and replaced it with nine very “WoW”-esk options. Suddenly there was a level system and combat had more of a shooter vibe. Once again, the development team tried to create something new rather than fix what was there. This was the final straw for many loyal players.

Without SWG, the unemployment rate for MMO Storm Troopers sky rocketed.

Now, a new Star Wars MMO has been announced. And from the same company that made KOTOR, no less. Not much has been announced, but the stuff that has looks promising. Anyone who has played “Mass Effect” can see the direction Bioware is taking it’s games. It looks like the same level of detail will be given to the online world.

The game seems to be focusing on story, which hasn’t been done to this extent on an MMO before. Every character, both NPC and player characters, will have voice overs. No more wall of text to bore you. And the story options change depending on who’s with you.

A class system has already been announced, and I seriously doubt it will contain the level of freedom that SWG did at its prime. That may not be a bad thing, though. Maybe structure is what a good MMO needs. It may provide Bioware more freedom to make the game what they want it to be, and they have a great track record of creating rich worlds. KOTOR and Mass Effect were almost MMO in scope. It’s not wise to get excited about anything Star Wars related these days, but it’s hard to not get your hype meter going with these guys.

Don't pay the monthly fees and it's the Rancor for you.

After the latest released Bioware video, it made me want to start up SWG again. If for anything, just to see how the game plays six years later. Luckily, they were having a “play for free” week. I must say, I was surprised at what direction it has taken.

There is more emphasis than ever on collecting. Collector’s items that were easy to get during a certain time period are now worth a fortune. It just reinforces how much more items are valued in this game, especially compared to other MMOs. These are items that provide absolutely no benefit to player. You simply put them in your house. And yet players are spending more on them than weapons and armor.

I don’t blame them though. The combat is still not fun. Missions are even more boring than WoW. All the good missions are usually a hassle to get to, provide minimal rewards, and/or require other people to complete. Other people being a surprisingly scarce resource.

It was almost eerie to walk through major cities and see so few people. To see someone else was so uncommon that it would often warrant a “stop-and-chat.” When I went into the chat channels, I scrolled through the fifty or so official channels and didn’t find one person. Cantinas, which use to be hot-spots, were bare. Just a few years ago it wasn’t uncommon to even run into people in the middle of nowhere.

If you thought it was annoying in Episode 2, I've got good news for - oh wait, I don't.

The biggest addition is a Trading Card Game which is playable either in-game or through a separate application. It’s just another thing that goes onto the “features no one asked for, and no one needs” list, and the “desperate attempt to make money” list as well. Having to buy virtual cards with real money to play a card game within a game is excessive to say the least. The only real saving grace is that some packs contain items that can be redeemed in the actual game. More collections.

SWG is more fun in theory than when actually playing it. The parts that should be fun aren’t and vice versa. SOE has found a way to make being a Jedi tedious and stale. I wouldn’t want the game to go away for good, but I don’t want to have to pay to play it either. I consider it a lost cause. After six years, you have to accept things for what they are. The devs will never work on this game enough to make it good. Bioware, you’re on deck.

2 comments
Czartim
Czartim

The problem with MMOs is that they have to appeal to such a large audience. Some people want PVP, some people like raids, some like to solo, some like to group, some are casual, some are hardcore. It's damn near impossible to please everyone. The part I hate most is leveling. I hate that three people who started the game at different times can't play together until they all capped out their levels. I understand why developers want to reward playing for a long time (otherwise, what's the point?) but I hate having content not being available to me. Everyone knows the goodfun content in WoW doesn't start to level 55ish, so why do I have to play 1-54? And further more, unless I want to pay a Koren dude to power level my character, I have to pretty much solo all those levels. And only two of the classes are made for soloing. I can't tell you how many characters I have, all between level 20 and 30 because the idea of only being half way to the good stuff after that boring month endeavorer nauseates me. And even when I get to the high levels, there will always be people who've been playing since launch with the best loot.

Hollowman
Hollowman

It's funny that I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, but don't think I will ever invest in any MMORPG, solely on the fact that I am not a fan of the genre. I know some die-hard SW fans that wouldn't touch Galaxies with a 10-foot pole when it came out, so I guess you are right about it being more fun...in theory.