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Nov 21, 2005

Comments

201.

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202.

I was just on Fileplanet, and thought I would pass this bit of info on about how great NGE is doing in comparison to WOW.

SWG Digital Downloads 3,684 Created on 11/15/2005
WOW Digital Downloads 124,734 Created on 11/19/2005

These are real numbers and can be located at:

http://www.fileplanet.com/158580/150000/fileinfo/Star-Wars-Galaxies:-Starter-Kit-File-2-%5BDigital-Purchase%5D

So although we are not hearing anything from SOE, I do beleive that this gives a good indication of how well the NGE is doing. These are hard numbers and not theories or surveys but an indication of how well the NGE is doing in the gaming community. The one theory that I do have is that a lot of these downloads are people leaving SWG, so if you are looking for your friends this is where a lot of them are going. WOW actually started this after SWG annonuced the NGE because they were smart enough to know that SOE was commiting suicide, and SWG players would need a new home --- smart company.

203.

Fileplanet numbers (sunday 4th):

SWG 3,689 paid downloads since November 15 link
SWG 26,609 10 day trials since November 15 link
WoW 125,424 10 day trials since November 9 ]link

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I am usually not posting rumours, but this one seems to have more than a grain of truth in it. Read on (repost from SWG forum):

----------------------------------------------

"Apparently, the NGE has really, REALLY stirred things up in Austin. All sorts of fingers are being pointed among SOE employee's as nobody wants to take the blame. Right now EVERYONE is trying to distance themselves from being responsible for making ANY decsions on pushing the NGE live. Every single employee is avoiding any connection to the NGE like the plague. I was told that the Dev's expected SOME account cancelations when the NGE went live, but my insider said they were willing to take those vet losses with the hopes of bringing in new subscribers over the holiday sales season. Also, the devs were counting on most of the threats by vets to quit to not actually go thru with cancelling. They have admitted, at least internally, that they number of cancels has FAR FAR FAR exceeded the number they were willing to take. As a result, there is beginning to be some serious discussion of a pre-NGE rollback. Several dev's are in serious jeopardy of being fired, and many many many of the support staff etc are polishing up their resume's because SOE has become the laughing stock of the online gaming community. No longer is it a badge of pride to work for SOE according to what I was told. Even my friend says he is no longer proud of working for SOE because of how they have destroyed their reputation.

Also, after having to report to LA on the NGE results, specifically the account cancels numbers, some of the big dogs from LA have flown into Austin for some serious intervention. No details on what that means yet, but it is known that Smedly and the senior crew at SOE have been behind closed doors for unusually lengthy meetings and have emerged with scowls on their face. The speculation is that LA is gearing up to crack down big time. (I would love to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings)

Because of the signifacant loss of subscriptions, customer service has laid off 25% of their support staff starting the 1st of January with more cuts expected.

All in all, the NGE turned out to rock the player base more deeply than what they expected. Talks are now underway on cutting the game off sometime in the first quarter of 2006. There is discussion with an outside company that is interested in purchasing the pre-NGE code with the aim of running a handful (5 tops) of pre-NGE servers, and maintained with a skeleton support staff. Right now this is apparently looking to be the most realistic result.


Added stuff:

Oh, and my insider said the Devs are being intentionally vague on their forum posting and player communication because they want to keep as many subscribers as possible right now. A memo was passed down to ALL Dev's by the SOE execs with a list of topics that are completely not to be discussed or responded to on the forums. It is generally feared by the SOE team that the more info the player base has, the more of them will quit the game.

Also, the game WAS in the pre-development phase on porting to consol (xbox, playstation), but that those cycles have been 100% stalled at the moment because the future of SWG is so uncertain. But I was told that if any Dev posted or said that consol talks were never taking place it is a lie because significant discussions had already been underway with the design teams experienced with porting PC games to consol systems and that the NGE was partly (not entirely) designed to acomplish this objective"

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Have fun

Erillion

204.

If they were pre-cu servers -- and not CURB servers -- I'd probably reup. Even though I'd be starting from scratch.

I miss my house.

205.

Sigh. I was given a 60 day card on my birthday (Nov 7th) and I am SO glad. It gave me the opportunity to live through the NGE and not feel like I was paying for anything. . .

I have been in SWG for about 2 years, and while not a vet from the beginning, do remember when shuttle times were 8 minutes apart.

I fear the NGE is going to be the death of SWG. People are leaving. My guild has seen a massive decline, houses are disappearing left and right from the city.

This entire NGE rollout (or shove out) was a fiasco from the beginning. I didn't see it mentioned here, but not only did it happen in 2 weeks time, but it happened 2 days after a major expansion release - Trials of Obi Wan -(which as it turns out the only thing major about it has been the lag).

I actually like a lot of the NGE ideas, but with the professions being literally destroyed overnight, I have little hope that this game in its current state will survive much longer.

I hope I am wrong. As a master pilot, I REALLY like the cozy feeling I get in my YT-1300.

Cay-den
Thievez' Paradise, Corellia, Sunrunner

206.

The numbers game (an example, Naritus galaxy):
We have just finished the grisly task of cleaning our guild rooster.

Pre-NGE ... 118 toons

Post-NGE ... 30 toons

(between 6 and 10 of these 30 will leave when their long term subscription runs out).

Just about the only thing really working at the moment is the Space Expansion "Jump to Lightspeed" (with "only" ONE mayor bug ... people not being able to master their current pilot career). As many want to ride out the botched ground game by becoming masters of all 9 piloting professions, this bug kicks those players in the marbles that try to pass the time in space til the worst bugs have been ironed out.

Have fun

Erillion

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208.

Heather,

I can confirm quite a lot about the subscription losses, since I have been a SWG guild leader for almost 2 years. Before the CU hit, Fated (Bloodfin server) had a stable membership of 100+ active people (120+ toons). We were a generic guild, with crafters, social professions, pvpers (10% or so) and pve players of all types.

After the CU, we hung on with at most 40 actives, a number that kept eroding, as new players usually came, saw, got bored and left. Those remaining were those interested in combat, and a very few die-hard crafters. You have to understand, the CU removed a lot of the very character flexibility and the sense of exploration that most had signed on for. Those of us who kept playing, even the combat types, for the most part did not do so because they liked the CU, but because they were too attached to the SWG community to let go. We felt bitter for all we had lost, and reminisced about the good old days. I, the guild leader of Fated, made an alt character guild leader, and joined a PVP guild (RIVAL), PVP being the only thing I still enjoyed in the game.

Then the NGE was announced, 2 November, one day after the latest expansion was officially launched. We were shocked, horrified. The CU had invalidated our skills, the equipment we had had made or looted, the resources needed for crafting. And now they were doing it to us again.

We were already hanging on by a thread, and the thread snapped. In a matter of days, entire guilds left the server. Rival had 60+ actives. All but 5 are now in City of Villains, waiting for an MMORPG that can become a more permanent home. Fated has scattered to the wind. 7 of them are with me in CoV, some of the rest have given up on line games entirely. Others are in WoW, DnL, DAoC etc. All of these games have entire threads, sometimes even forum pages, dedicated to SWG exiles.

As near as I can figure from the other guild leaders I knew (which were most), about 80% or more of the player base have quit over this. And this time, we are not coming back. The sense of betrayal is too deep. Twice now all we worked to achieve in game was destroyed. No one wants to go through this again and again and again, for surely in 6 months SOE will have another brainstorm on how to make more money.

I am not entirely objective about this, I cannot be. But I can tell you this, which you can check for yourself:

- the server loads for SWG are being manipulated. people have made toons on the various servers and done manual counts on all the planets, using the /who feature. Unless 100 people can truly be regarded as a medium server load, something is definitely fishy. Yes, you can set yourself anonymous, but usually only die-hard PVPers do so, and only 10% of the player base used to be into PVP.
- the forums for the individual servers are no longer accessible from the normal forum access portal. Unless you have a URL in your Favorites, you will not find them.
- the forum moderators are cracking down on any farewell posts, negative comments, links to SWG reviews etc. Scores of people have been banned without any reason given, including at least one of the player correspondents, who wrote a concise and polite post on his feelings upon quitting over the NGE.
- SOE management and the developers are ominously silent, there is hardly any communication going on. A letter to the community was proven to be almost a carbon copy of the letter posted after the CU. Monday 28 SOE management promised an announcement of a roadmap within a week. None has been seen so far.

Personally, I hope the game crashes and burns, and SOE and LA with it. Leaving aside the legal rights of these companies to do with their property as they please, I have serious problems with the ethics of the situation.

Linna

209.

>> I'm just a bit bothered that you and Heather seem so unwilling, in the name of professional decorum, to allow that the implementation of the NGE has been handled badly in relation to any possible rational long-term business plan for the game, and that there is a pattern of bad implementations in the history of SWG. <<

Precisely the sort of statement that
(a) professional decorum requires me not to comment on publically (no, really)
(b) is a matter of opinion :) At least until sales numbers come out. And yes, if you manage to make a large segment of your community dissatisfied/betrayed, it will show up in the numbers.


Scott,

As an IT professional, I have to completely disagree with you about your point (b). If you have any knowledge of the implementation history of SWG and current software development methodologies, you cannot, in good conscience, tell me that you believe SOE’s implementations have been anything but poor.

Had any of the product implementations I have been involved with been executed with the lack of professionalism and utter disregard for the client community, I would have been tossed out on my ear.

With today’s software lifecycle management processes and techniques, there is no excuse for to code to consistently go live with the issues found in the SWG product. By SOE doing so time and again, it can ONLY be bad for the long-term business plan. This is true for ANY product.

This is just unprofessional conduct and yet another example of why I believe that a professional body should oversee certifications of software developers and management personnel, but that’s another topic completely.

Apologies for potentially re-hashing what may be a closed fork, but I just found this thread and I couldn’t let this comment pass.

Tracey

210.

Mike's point, I believe, was that as long-time devs, we've all seen players loudly proclaim they're leaving forever time and time again, only to stick around. Here's the thing: If you spend the time to loudly proclaim you're leaving, you're outraged. Why are you outraged? Because you still care. If you still care, there's some chance (how much depends on the person no doubt) that you're coming back or that once you calm down, you'll be changing your mind.

'Tis true, Matt. I, for one, did not bother to comment on the NGE on the official forums nor have I cancelled my accounts… they’ll just expire. I didn’t see any point to saying anything since I don’t feel that SOE cares one whit about my opinion. I’ve certainly never witnessed anything that would contradict that feeling.

I wonder how many others like me are there out there? I suspect there’s far more than many would suspect.

211.

I am currently a SWG subscriber and actually paid out on three accounts till next summer, but I'll be cancelling in advance. These particular changes erode certain types of gameplay, so at least for the moment, those gameplaying populations will probably suffer. LA/SOE SAY that future changes will address those professions, but those statements have been made ad nauseum for sometime now, even prior to the CU and NGE. It's difficult to believe them. The recent example with the Creature Handling profession makes you wonder if YOUR profession is on the chopping block.

The unprofessional/unethical comparison with other segments of IT is probably dubious. Unlike most other service-oriented IT business concerns, MMORPGs aren't group contracts. If a company decides it's had enough, it leaves with a mass of customers all at once and sometimes according to the contract, sues based on the terms of the contract. MMORPG players represent themselves and are pretty wishy-washy about quitting. I have no idea how many quit for sure, but the marketing strategy of LA/SOE suggests that enough return later on to continue practices that inconvenience existing customers. Also there is no real contract with the customer base in a MMORPG which leads to a poor bargaining position on behalf of the customers and a service company more willing to experiment. In case you're thinking about the customer-company relationship with ISPs while the terms of the relationship are similar to MMORPGs, their service is more of a need than a want like games are.

I do feel pretty cheated though. I feel like my 2 yrs+ of gameplay has been subsidizing software development with a final product that is quite different from initially advertised. For the nay-sayers who state that the piddling revenue losses from SWG can easily be absorbed by SOE and that we should wait and see, why exactly should players keep faith and continue to pay for poorly disclosed experimentation? Undoubtedly some people will relent and come back because of the Star Wars franchise, but in my personal opinion, I would say that this change is more akin to 3COM's departure from the enterprise switch market in 2000 with sales up and to the point where they announced every enterprise switch is now not supported. Too bad, so sad, please try Foundry and Cisco.

212.

As to the development practices of SOE: I have worked for several huge software companies as a bugtester/bugfixer/QA worker. My husband, who also played (and cancelled) is a database administrator. We were able to observe some things that were totally counter to business practice as we knew it.

- bugs would be removed, only to be reintroduced in the next publish or the one after that. To us, this indicated there was no version control: apparently several groups were working on the source code simultaneously, without a procedure in place to make sure all versions received the same fixes. An SOE insider once told me the company has entirely different groups working on in-game fixes for bugs reported by players, publishes, expansions etc, that hardly communicated. I have no problem believing this.

- From observation, it would seem that either the database design was severely flawed, or no database specialist were on SOE employ, and possibly both. One instance that still comes to mind is the fix for invalid loot weapons. These weapons sometimes had DOT effects, with a certain number of usages affixed to those DOTs. The number of usages ranged from 0 to 9999. Somehow, though, they sometimes came out at -1 uses, making them last forever. It took them over 1.5 years to fix the problem, and remove the weapons from the game. They claimed it was 'hard to find the weapons', because 'there were so many different weapons in game', which had my husband almost literally rolling over the floor laughing. How hard can it be to search for a variable? "IF usage=-1 then...."

Linna

213.

The problem I think SOE ran into is that SWG started with a very large amount of content. The content itself was not the problem but the errors inside the content itself was.
As time went by more and more of this content was being removed. In order to make the game more manageable. Then a few months later the game makes drastic changes.
The mistake was to remove content from the game, not just once but multiple times on large scales. You cannot give someone $50 for thier birthday and then go "oops im sorry I only ment to give you $20".
It would be a totaly different situation if they were adding content befor NGE insted of subtracting from it.

214.

Does a company have the right to fundamentally change the rules in a persistent world game after it has established itself?

In a strictly legal sense I would imagine that they do. And from what I hear Sony has more lawyers then Washington so they probably have the right even if they don’t.

But there is a very strong and unwritten social contract that makes such a move very unethical. Even if the company is unaware of this contract or chooses to not to acknowledge it, as long as the players consider it to exist they will act accordingly if it’s breached. While the only visible enforcement of this contract is the potential for an immediate loss of customers there is probably a larger and much more damaging cost considering that this industry seems to depend so heavily on word of mouth.

Looking at the SWG forums it would also appear that customers have strong associations between a game and its company much like people associate a car to it’s maker. If you’ve ever owned a very problematic Ford you don’t buy a Ford again. You don’t have to read far to find someone stating that not only are they never buying a product from SOE again, they aren’t buying anything from Sony as well. Given that relative sizes of the Sony Corporation compared to the number of upset customers makes this completely inconsequential in this case, for a smaller company this could be devastating

If there is any truth to these assumptions and any underlying trend in these observations it may mean that it really doesn’t matter if a company has a right to make changes in the manner and scale of the NGE because the damage caused by the perceived breach of the social contract is so great it may actually sabotage any chance for gaining enough new customers to cover the loss.

So where does that leave everyone? How much of a change can a game safely make? How do you judge to what degree?

The best way to go about this type of decision is probably to operate under the assumption that customer’s virtual items belong to them and do have a real world value. Not only is this a good place to start but in some obscure alternate future I can see this actually becoming the case if more companies embrace a cash for virtual items model or implement player trading systems that involve real money. Under such systems virtual items act very much like stock in a company and the game company becomes more like a brokerage that is just a custodian of the stock while facilitating transactions. In such a reality ownership does become a valid and unanswered question and actions that severely affect an items virtual value represent a real world loss. If I buy a weapon for $20 and a company destroys its virtual use making it worthless are they liable? In this reality could the NGE be viewed like the Enron style scandal in the scale it destroyed virtual wealth?

Working from the assumption that the virtual items do belong to the customer means changes that adversely affect an items value need to be looked at like an eminent domain project. Yes the freeway would greatly benefit the society as a whole but the people whose houses you need to destroy need to be compensated at fair market value. Yes bringing an overpowered item inline with the rest of the game would be better for the game as a whole, but you have to fairly compensate people for it. Adhering to this concept will make a developer really think about how much a particular change needs to be made. Is it worth the additional personal and time needed to fairly compensate everyone adversely affected by the change? Is there a better solution? A little bit of research into the amount of compensation needed for any particular change might also give you a very general idea of much you will alienate your current customer base. For instance the amount of virtual wealth destroyed by the NGE might have been greater then the amount of money held by active accounts at the time.

In short it’s probably better never to get a game into the situation where such a change needs to be considered.

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>>>>
The problem I think SOE ran into is that SWG started with a very large amount of content.
>>>>

SWG always suffered from a LACK of content and the content that WAS available was hard to find, especially compared to the sledgehammer methods of WoW to push the players into new contents and new areas. Add to that that the content in SWG then was more often than not bugged.

SWG started under the assumption that the players will make their own content and in a sense this was true. But these player events are be definition limited in scope and number of participants (especially as high number of participants would lag your event to hell because SOE has never been able to solve the problem of mass gatherings compared to DAOC or EVE). So players left the game bored after "having seen it all" (I doubt they have seen "all", but they have seen all the was easy to find and do). SOE / LAs answer to that was to make em grind for Jedi for months ... which was the true start of SWG going downhill (X-mas holocrons --> Jedi grind).

There was hope in early 2005 ... suddenly bugs were fixed, content was working, patches worked ... and **click** CU and new expansion ... and everything went to hell again. I wonder what happened in the beginning of 2005. Who was in charge and then sacked or brainwashed ? (S)he was our only hope ....

Have fun

Erillion

217.

Erillion: To answer your question. In late 2004, there was a shakeup on the SOE Dev team related to the CU. Several developers "moved on" in December and early January -- most especially those names associated with the changes most enjoyed by the users. (GCW changes, shuttle wait changes, loot changes that included new schematics for crafter and new house items, and the promise of -- but never the delivery -- of more looted mods for crafters to increase weapon and armor uniqueness)

Why was there a shakeup? I don't know for sure, but that was the time period that the original CU design docs were scrapped, and the CU was rapidly redesigned in favor of a level-based, WoWish clone, and the "We won't push the CU live until it's ready" mantra suddenly disappeared.

What I suspect happened was this: There was increasing pressure to meet the Episode III deadline (and have RoTW CU-enabled) and Developers were being pressured to cut features, release early AND were under pressure from marketing and LA to make it more like World of Warcraft.

The CU was crap. It broke the virtual world design in several places, there were at least a dozen "last-minute" changes that broke their own CU design, and it utterly neglected the concept documents, sandbox testing, and careful design done over months to fit it into the original world.

The CU that was delivered was NOT the one that was designed. The CU that was delivered was a slash-and-burned version, done solely to meet a deadline and to appease the marketing idiots who think people play World of Warcraft because they like colored icons and cool-down timers.

It appears the devs with the ability to rapidly find other jobs -- or the wisdom not to tie their name to the CU -- left.

What's ironic is that things like crafting, the economy, and housing actually GAVE players something to do despite lack of content. And the Devs -- the ones from summer 2004 until January 2005, seemed to realize it. They made changes to increase GCW accessibility to all players. They introduced loot kits, to give players something to hunt for (and not necessarily high-end creatures either). They had new schematics, posters (they should have been a smaller size though -- too BIG to look right in most houses. Never sure how that slipped by), new furniture, and the promise of more flexible and innovative crafting.

Then those guys left, and the CU hit test a few months later looking NOTHING like what the design docs and sandbox testing had shown.

I doubt it was a coincidence.

218.

Here’s speculative tin foil hat thought on the extreme WoWishness of the CU and the emergence of the NGE and Six or so WoW servers at the same time.

Blizzard sued SOE right after CU. SOE not wanting to publicly admit that the CU is a direct rip from WoW, SOE enters into a binding or non binding arbitration on the condition that the issue remains private. Sony legal comes to the conclusion that fighting the issue could be very expensive easily lost and not be kept private so SOE agrees to change the system within six months.

SOE now has to completely change its game again and the profession revamp is thrown in because they honestly think it will make the game more “Starwarsy” (I think this term is exchangeable with Cowbell.) and it provides adequate explanation for the drastic changes. The deadline arrives the revamp isn’t ready but it has to go live anyways.

219.
Here’s speculative tin foil hat thought on the extreme WoWishness of the CU and the emergence of the NGE and Six or so WoW servers at the same time.
The CU SWG wasn't close enough to WoW to trigger any sort of lawsuit. I'm not sure what parts of the WoW interface might be copyrighted or patented, but the SWG "copy" was cool-down timers and levels -- nothing Blizzard invented.
220.

Any lawsuits between corporations like Blizzard/SOE would not have been resolved in the timeframe you mention Quixote.

221.

I think the simplest explanation for the NGE is a combination of bad marketing and bad focus groups, combined with group think.

The focus groups WERE correct -- there is a large market for FPS games. They're very popular, after all.

The marketers were correct -- Galaxies could make a lot of money with a FPS (like they did with Outcast, Academy, and the like).

What no one apparently bothered to figure out was: "Was there a market for a badly implemented, poorly thought out cross between a FPS and a MMORPG?".

From reading Jeff Freeman's (now pulled) comments, it appears this went from concept to development in virtually no time, without anyone bothering to test the concept on actual players.

No offense to those "special" people Sony flew down to Austin, but honestly -- you're not going to get honest feedback (they won't even be honest to themselves!) from people you've paid to bring to Austin, put them up in a hotel, showed them around the "inside" of a game they love, and let them play tidbits of it.

It biases them just a bit, you think?

I'm guessing the CU bled more subscribers than it gained, and the NGE was rapidly cobbled together and thrown live.

They took away the combat spam, but it appears that all weapons do more or less identical damage (based on level) and that the stats don't seem to work at all. The combat engine is pretty much (Player Level * base_damage - Mob_level * base_defense) and applied if you happen to have the hit box under the mouse when the shot goes off.

That's it.

The game is actually MORE broken under the hood than it seems. They've got a steaming pile of crap there.

222.

I got a kick out of reading the publish 26 patch notes and all the remaining players falling over themselves to thank the devs for so many fixes. Haven't these people seen SOE in action with their "fixes"?

Most will likely not work, and the rest will probably break something that was repaired a few weeks ago.

223.

Only the fanbois are left. I saw a most telling comment on one thread. I'll try to reproduce it from memory. The gist of the thread was a pro-NGE guy was telling all the upset people to just leave already, 'cause they were ruining the game.

One guy responds: "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out was what I said after the CU. That lead to the NGE, so that was a mistake. They won't keep the servers open for just YOU."

224.

"I guess this all started when Jim Ward became president of LucasArts. [As a group], we asked ourselves what could we do to significantly improve Galaxies. Star Wars is a big mass-market IP and we always felt like we had underdelivered on the Star Wars experience.

I think the numbers that we had, while they're OK for the MMO space, could be a lot bigger, given the amount of people that know about Star Wars." John Smedley, Gamespot interview

Does anyone else here fail to grasp his logic on this? With this thinking, they should do a Elvis or Beatles themed MMO because there are a lot of fans out there, so the game would be popular. Most likely the average Star Wars fan falls into one of the following categories:

Could it just be possible that there are only so many Star Wars fans who like gaming, and even less that like either FPS or RPG type games?

225.

"I guess this all started when Jim Ward became president of LucasArts. [As a group], we asked ourselves what could we do to significantly improve Galaxies. Star Wars is a big mass-market IP and we always felt like we had underdelivered on the Star Wars experience.

I think the numbers that we had, while they're OK for the MMO space, could be a lot bigger, given the amount of people that know about Star Wars." John Smedley, Gamespot interview

Does anyone else here fail to grasp his logic on this? With this thinking, they should do a Elvis or Beatles themed MMO because there are a lot of fans out there, so the game would be popular.

Could it just be possible that there are only so many Star Wars fans who like gaming, and even less that like either FPS or RPG type games? By having the name Star Wars or Star Trek on the title, doesn't that in itself begin to limit the audience to the game?

226.

The SWG mess made the New York Times today. While it's not unusual to see it at places like here, GameSpot, IGN, etc. I can't recall seeing a story about a game's failures like this reach the NY Times in the past.

For Online Star Wars Game, It's Revenge of the Fans

227.

I wanted to call out this quote from the NYT article:

"We really just needed to make the game a lot more accessible to a much broader player base," said Nancy MacIntyre, the game's senior director at LucasArts. "There was lots of reading, much too much, in the game. There was a lot of wandering around learning about different abilities. We really needed to give people the experience of being Han Solo or Luke Skywalker rather than being Uncle Owen, the moisture farmer. We wanted more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat. We needed to give people more of an opportunity to be a part of what they have seen in the movies rather than something they had created themselves."

I had a much longer post prepared about this quote, the nature of core vs. broader gameplay (and player demographics), and community, but I'm not sure it's worth posting. Suffice it to say that this one brief comment by Ms. MacIntyre tosses aside the bulk of what has been learned about the underpinnings of success in MMOs. Broadening the market by creating a "more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat" works only if you're able to slough off PC players and replace them with a larger set of people currently more focused on console games. I can think of few more difficult and unproven transitions to attempt.

The real lesson here will be SWG's survival over the next six-plus months. I don't wish the game ill; I hope they're able to weather this current storm (and no doubt huge customer losses) to find a new and sufficient player base. But, like a lot of folks waiting and watching on the sidelines, I'm most interested in What Happens Next. Does the game pull itself together with a new playerbase, or does it wobble and totter and crash to the ground, unable to survive its own internal change?

SWG's survival (or not) will be the real lesson here. MacIntyre says in the NYT article that they expect their subscription numbers to rebound to pre-NGE levels within six months. That'll be the test, assuming SOE and LA don't pull the plug before then. If it lives and thrives, we all learn a lot about the resiliency of online games (the cries of the disaffected notwithstanding). If not, well, we all learn (perhaps once and for all) that where MMO success is concerned, "it's the community, stupid."

228.

"But more it's because it means that the very players you draw due to the license come with a much stronger set of expectations about the experience they're going to have."
quoted from T. Burke earlier in this thread


This is precisely why SWG is a failure, and has been since it launched. I have played SWG every day, yes EVERY DAY, since it bowed in June 2003, finally giving up the ghost this past month with the announcement of the NGE and the realization that what little authentic Star Wars that was in the game has now died a final death.

The game was immensely flawed, both in terms of design, and in terms of being faithful to the source material, from the beginning. I knew this as early as beta 2, but I still logged in faithfully: leading a roleplay guild for two years, creating content for my friends, and generally making the most of the virtual world aspects that no other game had ever attempted. Why? Because this was Star Wars, and better yet, the chance to live in the Star Wars universe!

SWG is not a failure because of buggy code, poor customer service, or any of the other (mostly accurate) threats currently being levelled at SOE. It is a failure because it's developers/marketers didn't respect it's core audience, an audience that may not have made it the best-selling mmo in history, but could have, and I firmly believe would have, made it the longest running, and ultimately, the most emulated. All they had to do was respect the source material and they would have easily captured 100-200k hard core subscribers for the foreseeable future.

I've moved on, and I suppose it's representative of the charmed existence I've been fortunate to lead when I can list a game as the number one most disappointing experience of my life, but I do hope that other companies, particularly those working with much-loved licenses such as Tolkien, Star Trek, etc, learn some sort of lesson from the debacle that SOE/SWG has become.

It really is heart-breaking to watch, and while I have plenty of good memories and a handful of real-life friends as a result of SWG, I also have a belly full of nauseating realizations about the gaming industry and it's decision makers, and while emotion compells me to give SOE the middle finger, compassion compells me to hope that someone talks some sense into whoever is responsible for this fiasco, before they piss on the fantasies of another set of genre fans, anxiously, and perhaps naively, awaiting their dream of an accurate virtual world rendition of their favorite universe.

229.

>>>>
We wanted more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat. We needed to give people more of an opportunity to be a part of what they have seen in the movies rather than something they had created themselves."
>>>>

Read : We need to give people the opportunity to grind themselves senseless until their brain oozes out of their ears. Or make them outsource the grind to China or India.

I dont remember Luke Skywalker slaying 234567 bol animals on Dantooine in the movies (and no, the number is NOT exxaggerated !!! I wish it were.).

>>>>
It really is heart-breaking to watch, and while I have plenty of good memories and a handful of real-life friends as a result of SWG, I also have a belly full of nauseating realizations about the gaming industry and it's decision makers, and while emotion compells me to give SOE the middle finger, compassion compells me to hope that someone talks some sense into whoever is responsible for this fiasco, before they piss on the fantasies of another set of genre fans, anxiously, and perhaps naively, awaiting their dream of an accurate virtual world rendition of their favorite universe.
>>>>>

AMEN to that !

Have fun

Erillion


PS: Thanks for the info about the dev shakeup in December 2004. Figures.

230.

Well, the 'Starter Kit' hasnt made a dent in the NPD sales figures. Sales rankings on several of the major online retailers are absolutely abysmal.

The gamble hasnt paid off. Last person out switch off the lights...

231.
MacIntyre says in the NYT article that they expect their subscription numbers to rebound to pre-NGE levels within six months

Anyone who believes that is smoking crack. No sane human being believes that. It's just PR. They can't flat out say: "2/3rds or more of our existing accounts quit or cancelled, and virtually no one new has shown up."

232.

MacIntyre: "There was lots of reading, much too much, in the game. There was a lot of wandering around learning about different abilities. We really needed to give people the experience of being Han Solo or Luke Skywalker rather than being Uncle Owen, the moisture farmer. We wanted more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat."

Yoda wept.

233.

MacIntyre: "There was lots of reading, much too much, in the game. There was a lot of wandering around learning about different abilities. We really needed to give people the experience of being Han Solo or Luke Skywalker rather than being Uncle Owen, the moisture farmer. We wanted more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat."

Yoda wept."

Yoda wept indeed.

234.

>>>>
Patch 26 Notes ...

* Billboards have been added to the world for important buildings so they are easier to find for new players
>>>>

Say hello to in game advertising in the near future !!!

Have fun

Erillion

235.

I understand it's potentially a sop to traders. Despite the fact that loot is better than anything they can craft, that characters are rewarded with the items they need during character advancement, and that there is no decay of items whatsoever, SOE is apparently under the impression that traders will forget all that for the chance to advertise their wares on a billboard.

Either that or it's just for looks -- big equivilants of loot posters.

Fact of the matter -- the game sucks. There really IS no real market for a MMOFPS. The only persistence FPS fans want is rankings and stats -- their whole schtick is that it's player skill (ignoring lag for the moment) with the whole targetting and movement thing.

They don't WANT stuff like your character's "agility" screwing with their targetting. (And from what I understand, SOE didn't really implement character stats doing anything either) or "level" determining what guns or tactics they can use.

SOE's idjit marketers apparently saw "Hey, people like Battlefront. Let's make Galaxies like Battlefront, with some World of Warcraft in there too -- people like that as well!". The people who like Battlefront already PLAY Battlefront -- why would they pay 15 bucks a month for a lag-filled FPS that penalizes them by preventing them from using techniques and weapons without that stupid PvE grind?

And why would the World of Warcraft folks come play a crappy MMOFPS which was apparently coded by people who have never HEARD of basic software engineering principles -- like, you know, regression testing and version control.

My read on their Software Development practices is pretty ugly -- it appears they have at [i]least[/i] two teams working on the same code base with no interaction, no version control -- which means old stuff is getting written back over new stuff (which then has to be hotfixed after live) and no one catches ANYTHING.

I think their bug fix team fixes bugs, checks it in, and then the "development team" has altered that same file and checked it right back in -- and the changes aren't merged, resulting in the bug being RIGHT back in the game despite it having been fixed.

It also appears their marketing people are flaming morons, and their developers are more interested in WHAT they can do than whether their users actually want it done.

Good job, Jeff. You did indeed prove you can take a laggy virtual-world style MMORPG and turn it into some weird bastard offspring of Planetside and Battlefront. You also proved no one wanted it. Good luck keeping that job.

"The customer is always right" is a false statement. However, "The customer is the one that decides if your bloody product actually SELLS" is true. Enjoy your steaming pile of feces there. It appears you're about the only one.

236.

Crappy patch after crappy patch aren't enough to keep this thing afloat. The sooner they put this thing out its misery the better. But do enjoy your Life Day free gift! Bah. Who cares.

237.

I tried to read all the posts but for lack of time couldn't so forgive me if I am repeating another post.

Some of what is being discussed here is ethics.

I believe SOE/LA can change anything they want to. Clearly it has already been done. That does not make it ethical. If you subscribe to a gaming magazine and they change their format to housekeeping it is their right to do so but it is unethical.

Additionally, software may be one of the only products where quality is an unessential part of the product. This clearly is unethical. Imagine receiving medication that was "promising" for an ailment but didn't actually do anything. Or imagine eating at a restaurant where your food was "mostly cooked," sent back to the kitchen and then returned as a different dish entirely but also undercooked.

Regarding the motive for the changes - I can't see SOE or LA retargeting this at a newer "younger" crowd since it costs some $ to play and also because younger crowds also have an attention span that is scattered among many interest including other games and gaming systems (not to mention spending time actually growing up). This is a very cold and calculated move but that doesn't make it smart. Trying to repackage this as a new game may haved saved them some money in the short term but clearly the future is already spoiled.

Also, changing the game to make it more of a shooter is ridiculous. There are zillions (that is an actual virtual number) of shooter games available so why try to morph into yet another one? I can understand trying to generate appeal by making it easier to "jump into" but perhaps just creating a beginner universe would have been sufficient.

I think that there will be much more fallout from this "experiment" in both business and legal arenas than is currently apparent.

One last observation. If time (often) is money, all the hours spent by veteran gamers and loyalists must feel like a stock market crash. And would anyone reinvest in a market that has essentially stolen your hard work and hours?

Change is not always good nor is it always necessary.


238.

>>>>
Also, changing the game to make it more of a shooter is ridiculous. There are zillions (that is an actual virtual number) of shooter games available so why try to morph into yet another one?
>>>>

Especially when almost every single one of these gazillion shooters is technically better done than SWG, has less lag, collision detection, MUCH better mob AI etc.

Not to mention that LA has FLOODED the market with Star Wars shooter games already - so THEY THEMSELVES have cornered that share of the market already ... and it does NOT cost a monthly fee.

Check out this site :
http://startrek.perpetual.com/2005/11/customer_survey_results.html

Seems the Star Trek MMORPG guys are asking questions too. But contrary to SOE and LA they FIRST find out WHO their customers are and THEN ask them what they want. Strange behaviour, neh ?

Have fun

Erillion


PS:
For all the SWG tragedy .. the recent Wookiee Life Day gift made me smile .. a HUGE Wroshyyr tree, and Gungan celebration music. Its only 2 min of fun, but a much needed morale boost for SWG veterans.

239.

I really believe that SOE isnt the architect of this madness that is the NGE. I believe that Lucas Arts put the vice on the SOE team because the game was not living up to their expectations.

SOE developers...(at least the ones the players were dealing with)...were in the middle of working on the CU1 and all its problems and updates when this madness hit.

I believe...(because of all the rumors and information that i have seen)...that LA was working on this code along with a few select members of SOE for about a year then poped it on the SWG team.

I really think LA made these changes and wanted it done. SOE already has a better designed FPS called Planetside...why do they need another?

I play EQ2 and planetside...I do not see the level of mis-management in these games. I dont. I see a patch/fix or update to EQ2 at least every 2 days or so. I see Dev comments and questions. Its like the SWG team and the rest of SOE live in two different worlds.

I really think LA has a stranglehold on this game and that is why it has always stumbled. Constant nitpicking by LA and changed demanded by them never let the game get off the ground.

EQ2 is only about a year old and has had two small expansions as well as one major expansion called desert of flames. Yes it has bugs...but nothing compared to SWG.

Dosnt make sense unless LA has more control then we know...and i believe they do.

240.

Takaris: From what I understand, SWG is SOE's problems writ large. Planetside and EQ and EQ2 ALSO show the same piss-poor quality control, the same issues regarding magically reappearing bugs, and many similiar customer service issues.

The sole difference, I think, is that SWG is under a rigid release timeline that EQ2 isn't. Shoddy documentation, lack of rigorous testing or version control -- all of this can be overcome if you're willing to spend a lot more time on the test servers letting your most obsessed players test it and let you know when you need to reapply crap you've already fixed.

SWG, however, gets released on an accelerated timeframe because of LA's. (Has to be a release for Episode III, has to be a release for the DVD release of Episode II, etc).

There's no "We can withold launching this a few weeks/months because we wasted time with poor quality control".

I don't doubt -- in fact I'd swear to it -- that LA pressure and LA timelines made the problems ten times more visible.

But the problems are endemic to SOE. They have poor development practices, poor version control, and -- above all -- what strangely seems like contempt for their customers.

241.

While it is true that quality control, testing, and customer service are all contributing factors to the demise of SWG, I think what few people realize (or admit) is that the number one failure is that of bastardizing the license to the point of being unrecognizable. This started with the original design team, and though it has taken nearly three years to manifest itself, the meltdown we are seeing now is in no small part due to the gross negligence of those designers who chose to abandon Star Wars traditions in the name of 'fun' game design.

Were it not for the legions of player jedi (at a time when there weren't supposed to be any), high-ranking alien characters in the Imperial military, and a host of other flagrant continuity violations, I would still be playing and roleplaying in SWG, despite the crappiness of the NGE.

Sony took what would have been their most loyal customer base, purist Star Wars fans, and kicked them square in the groin with repeated design decisions and 'content' additions that made any sort of authentic Star War roleplay almost impossible.

Sure, the game mechanics suck(ed), but I would still be playing if they hadn't completely raped the Star Wars universe that has been presented in such detail across various other media forms.

242.

M: I do believe that the LA timeframe and their insistance to release the expansions in a specific time-line agrivated the problem 100%.

I also believe that LA demanded the changes and had a hand in creating the problem that is now SWG. I have not seen the same type of "bug" infestation to the degree that SWG is now experiencing in the other games of the SOE line. I dont know if you play any of the other games or have experienced SWG at all but is seems to me that the level of comitment and general work from the developers in the other games is on a different level then what the normal SWG player is use too.

Granted, all games have bugs and bugs will appear with each patch/upgrade in some form or another. Its the comitment in the developer team to get these bugs squashed in test and finally in live when a player lets them know about it.

I do not know the staffing levels at eq2 but they seem to squash as many as they can per update. SWG in contrast..well...it takes them a dang long time. SWG content takes a long time...if at all.

As far as contempt...i think SWG community is feeling the brunt of it...I do not notice this on the other games and ive been playing lots of SOE games for a bit of time....EQ1 anyone?....

I think its pretty easy to blame SOE on the whole but when one looks behind the curtain...you see the LA suits hyping the game in the NYtimes or doing interviews...or telling us there is going to be a change. (julio)


243.

A writer for the Christian Science Monitor has now weighed in on the changes to SWG.

Actually, it's more of a comment on the comments in the recent New York Times article, but it's still interesting.

--Flatfingers

244.

Did the Emperor care what the Jedi would think about Order 66?

The answer probably reflects SOE's opinion on the matter. People tend to act like SOE doesn't understand the implications of what they are doing. Yes, in general do not attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity, but in this case they had ample time to think about the consequences.

245.

Jef: No offense, but purists would only have been satisified if they'd designed the game SOLELY for the purist, in which case you would have been better off strangling the game in the crib.

Your "They didn't stick to canon" gripe is nothing new -- I mostly hear it about Jedi. It's just scapegoating. "The game sux because they didn't stick to canon. The game sux because of all the Jedi".

No, it doesn't. It sucks because it sucks. It sucks because it was released a year early, and never fixed.

Had there been no Jedi and strict canon, it would have just sucked more playability out of it and died within the first year.

The game sucked because the game was of piss-poor quality. It was fanbois -- who were almost all bitching purists -- and devoted virtual world players who kept it alive.

The NGE crapped over both of them. There won't be a SWG by summer.

246.

Of course my argument is nothing new. I've been saying it since Nov. 8, 2003 when the first jedi reared it's ugly head on the servers. The game died that day, in my opinion. Why? Because as soon as the cat was out of the bag, everyone and their brother decided they had to also have a jedi, and most players forgot about all the nifty virtual world features that made the original game fun to play (despite it's legion of bugs and non-existant quality control). Rather than craft, socialize, roleplay, or build communities, people chose to hologrind, and later, perform endlessly repetitive quests at the FS village in order to unlock a better quenker-killing template.

I agree with you that the game was conceptually flawed from the beginning, however, as I said, it would still be a viable money-maker for Sony and LA if they had not completely butchered the Star Wars lore that people grew up with. Hard core fans, such as myself and those in my guild, were willing to put up with quite a lot of sub-par game mechanics and design decisions. What was not forgivable was the constant influx of anti-canonical features and marketing decisions. Jedi were the most visible example of this, but there were many others as well, enough to fill a very large post in this forum.

Jedi were the most glaring example of the dev team's flawed logic, and those players that actively pursued Jedi status bear some responsibility for the game not living up to it's potential as a virtual world Star Wars simulation.

247.

sorry Jef i don't agree with you in terms that the players who actively pursued Jedi status had any responsibility for the game not living up to its potential.
Those players simply used the game mechanics made available to them by SOE / LA.

Regarding, the Lure destructive nature of the "content" added, there i agree, from Jedi to Clone Trooper armour to mustafar... All they have done is milk the franchise to achieve more profit. It was highly, "immersion breaking" to go to Bestine and see 20 jedi's and 10 clone troopers in a timeline which they have no place of being in.
Its is a known fact that Roleplayers, are possibly the most long term players a company can want, since they normally do not leave based solely on game mechanics, but create their own content, Oh! but hang on... thats not write according to LA.
These type of gamers normally, have long term subscriptions and don't leave the game when a new "hot product" hits the market.
SOE / LA have since launch simply ignored them and put them aside.

248.

Well, you yourself said that 'seeing 20 jedi's' was immersion breaking, so using that logic, player jedi bear some responsibility for the game not feeling like Star Wars, and not being conducive to authentic roleplay.

No one forced players to grind for months to achieve an immersion breaking character, they did so of their own choice, whether out of boredom with the game, ignorance of Star Wars lore, or both.

Jedi was a carrot dangled in front of people who didn't have the inclination or the imagination to roleplay or build communities, and it worked for awhile, as 80% of the servers (or whatever the official number was) went about diligently with their nose to the grindstone. This kind of community polarization effectively killed Star Wars roleplay in the game, which, if you were subscribing because of the game's virtual world Star Wars potential, was effectively the beginning of the end.

This is not to say that Jedi players were the sole reason for the crappiness of SWG, obviously much of the blame goes to the devs, marketers, etc, but I've grown tired of all the belly-aching by former Jedi that I see in much of the current SWG press coverage. These players were part of the problem, and have themselves to thank for the game's demise.

249.

Jef, listen to yourself: "I blame the game's failures on people playing an available class when I didn't want to see them".

It isn't their fault. It's Sony's and -- to a lesser extent -- yours.

Jedi -- along with canon -- were a scapegoat. Someone to blame for a poor game. Heavens forbid you blame the game, because that means there's no cheap fix.

Was it a bad design choice? Hell yes. But blaming players for playing the game as designed is ludicrous.

Oh well -- the Jedi haters were nothing if not ridiculous. And I say that as a player who was never Jedi nor BH.

250.

There's a facinating article in the Hollywood Reporter (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/columns/video_games_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001698964) called "MMOG publishers conjure up new business models" with some interesting quotes related to SWG.

The article really deserves it's own discussion, but I thought this from Nancy MacIntyre "senior director of SWG" was most interesting:

"MacIntyre believes that, over the long haul, the monthly subscription model will disappear from the MMOG market and will evolve to the selling of virtual items, an in-game economy, and the selling of premium services. But, she says, not immediately.

'Not all games are set up around the buying and selling of items, which would make it very difficult to take a game like 'Star Wars Galaxies' and make that transition,' she says. But, she adds, when 'Star Wars Galaxies 2' is developed -- perhaps in 2008 or 2009 -- things will be different. 'If we were starting to build 'Star Wars Galaxies' today, we would absolutely consider building it from the ground up with premium services.'"

251.

Morat, kindly refrain from putting words in my mouth, and worse, enclosing them in quotation marks when I didn't actually say them.

You may disagree with me, which is fine, my only point was that I, and many players I know, would still be playing (bad design and all) were it not for the constant canonical raping. The ability to roleplay in an authentic Star Wars world was more important to us than the game's poor implementation.

Jedi and other canonical blunders are not a scapegoat, they are an undisputable fact staring you in the face. They may not have been important issues to you personally, but they still exist.

SWG has gone downhill because of poor design and worse quality control, no one is disputing that. But for many people, perhaps more than you realize, those issues were not the most important ones.


252.
You may disagree with me, which is fine, my only point was that I, and many players I know, would still be playing (bad design and all) were it not for the constant canonical raping. The ability to roleplay in an authentic Star Wars world was more important to us than the game's poor implementation.

How do I put this gently? You purists were screwed the moment they announced the time frame of the game.

Secondly, there aren't enough people so big into roleplay to pay for a crappy game but so purist that they couldn't work around the constant canonical problems -- generally by the simple expedient of setting up a guild and not allowing anyone in who violated whatever vision they have of "canon".

If you can tolerate people talking in spatial about the new Firefly movie or their new car in the middle fo the cantina, you could tolerate Wookies with Imperial ranks and pre-NGE Jedi.

But Jedi and Wookie Imps were a lot easier to blame than the game design -- because, let's face it -- SOE's MUCH more likely to shut down the Jedi path than they were to fix the game.

253.

Hang on a bit. Quality control, I agree. The two systems for enabling Jedi (multi-profession mastery and Village grinding), I agree. Those were serious design problems. (Although the latter looks more obvious with the benefit of hindsight.)

But "poor design?"

First of all, which design are you talking about? Do you mean the design of the original game? The original game plus vehicles and player cities? That game plus Jump to Lightspeed? The post-CU game? The NGE game? Or something else?

Secondly, while in hindsight I could name some things I thought could have been done better, overall I thought the original design was actually very good. Not so much in terms of evoking the Star Wars universe, but as a massively multiplayer persistent-world game based on that universe, I thought the original design did a very good job on a number of important basic features. For example: skills rather than classes, designed-in dependence among playstyles, a fully player-run economy, visually appealing graphics, Imperial vs. Rebel PvP, and an unusually deep crafting system.

So what is it that people are thinking of when they refer to SWG's "bad design"?

--Bart

254.

I suspect than when people throw around the catch-all 'poor design' in relation to SWG, they are really referring to poor customer service and the fact that many patches broke more than they fixed.

I am a Star Wars fan first, a roleplayer second, and a gamer third, so, when I say poor design, I am referring to the game's ability to recreate an authentic version of the Star Wars universe for fans to populate. The original box says, and I quote, "immerse yourself in the Star Wars universe." It doesn't say immerse yourself in a loose approximation of said universe where large chunks of the mythology are ignored or altered in the name of more subscribers.

I actually liked many facets of the SWG original 'design,' from the skill system, to the player housing, to the social professions, to the crafting, and I played the game long past the point when it stopped being Star Wars because I thoroughly enjoyed running my shipwright business and roleplaying with the few Star Wars fans who cared.

Poor design, again, to me, was implementing the timeline during a period when few, if any, jedi existed, and then allowing players to be jedi (as the lightsaber is a signature icon unique to Star Wars, of course every casual fan who tried the game would want to have one, regardless of whether it was canonically appropriate).

I have always been curious as to why, if the dev team knew they had to include jedi to generate subscriptions, they would willingly bork the fun of the purists (who were more likely to be faithful customers) when they could just as easily have set the game in a period more appropriate for large numbers of visible jedi. That is poor design.

Ditto the teras kasi profession. TK's were a dime a dozen in SWG, because before the original 'combat upgrade,' they were one of the most balanced and powerful combat classes, nevermind the fact that they were ultra-rare in canonical Star Wars, and turned SWG servers into giant kung fu fights that looked more at home in MXO than SWG. Again, poor design, from the perspective of someone who wants to accurately roleplay Star Wars.

The TK and jedi examples are two of the more glaring ones that purists like myself took offense to, and the fact that no thought went into these concerns (and I assure you they were voiced in beta) falls into a phrase that I call 'poor design.'

And, despite the fact that it seems very easy to just wall yourself off with a guild of like-minded friends and ignore all the b.s. around you, as Morat suggests, the reality and practicality of that is somewhat less simple. Believe me, it was tried.

255.

In terms of the gameplay itself, the Imperial vs. Rebel PVP that Bart refers to was horribly unbalanced, alternately controlled by players with knockdown abilities, then combat medics, then players with the ability to do headshots, and finally jedi. So, I think it is a bit inaccurate to label the PVP part of the SWG equation as 'well-designed.'

Along the same lines, the player-interdependence was only an issue for non-jedi, since those with force-sensitive templates crafted their own weapons, wore their own robes/armor, and generally existed completely outside the rest of the player-run economy in terms of supply and demand.

These are just a few of the game mechanic designs that I consider flawed, and again, they pale in comparison to the treatment of canonical/story issues. Many players scoff at these, but I have to ask them, why are you playing an RPG for any reason other than roleplaying/immersion?

256.

> Imperial vs. Rebel PvP

When I cited that as an example of good design, I wasn't referring to the specific implementation -- what's important is that it's a feature that was implemented in any form.

The same goes for the other systems I mentioned. We could argue all day over whether the details of each of these were implemented "well" or "badly," and the details do matter, but they don't matter as much as whether SWG's designers thought to include those systems at all.

Of course, the decision to allow players to become Jedi might be one of those things that was just doomed from the start, even if it was a marketing necessity. Maybe (as I think you and others have implied) no amount of design could have saved that decision from dragging SWG into the Dark Side.

Sometimes designers don't get to design.

--Bart

257.

Ah ok, my mistake, I thought you were saying that PVP was one of SWG's strong points. If you approach SWG from the standpoint of what sub-systems made it into the game, then yeah, I think it's one of the best 'designed' mmorpgs to date, prior to the CU.

However, all that potential was ultimately wasted, which is one reason myself and other ex-patriots are so vehemently opinionated against Sony, Lucasarts, and whatever anonymous devs/marketers/executives are ultimately responsible for it degenerating into such a fiasco.

I think we all wanted to love SWG, for various reasons, and it's just a shame that it turned out this way.

258.

Let me be upfront about this I despise the NGE for its failings. Its reduced the game to a laggy mess which animates at about 1 or 2 fps overnight. Its turned a rich skill system I very much appreciated into what I always hated about RPG's (and yes I mean the paper and dice ones) where you were stuck in your class and that was it.

I quit over the NGE and I won't be back in the game I've played since European launch date. A game that - at times - I was spending about 90% of my disposable time in (excluding sleep, work, mealtimes, SO time.)

However...

I can see exactly why what was done was done. It was badly executed, badly communicated and a betrayal of the ethical trust players should be able to have in the designers of a virtual world but players made this a rod for their own back IMHO.

Three things happened in SWG IMHO that made such a last ditch attempt to bring in subscribers inevitable. 1st the original design was over ambitious and led to a great deal of complexity that would ultimately be difficult to manage.

2nd the games alpha class didn't remain a myth. They publicised how to get to it and at a stroke changed the whole end-game. They lifted at least 50% of the player base out of what they were doing (acting as a community) and put them onto what was then the hologrind (and would later be the XP & timesink of the village.) Why did they do this? They wanted to use Jedi to market the game and also due to existing player pressure to know. Never underestimate the fact that we "forced" them to tell us, just as we always did, by making a noise about it.

3rd - they listened to us when they shouldn't have done.

The first problem was purely SOE's. The second was in part the playbase. The third... that was all us. Maybe they should have been stronger but ultimately we made the game what it was.

Of course when I say "we" I actually mean "other players - the vocal few" who actually used the forums. For nearly 18 months I never even looked at the forums - most players DON'T. If you're content you don't look. If you don't have time to spend hours trawling through them without sacrificing the little game time you get per day you don't look. The people who are active on the forums (please allow me to generalize a little) are:

a) People with genuine, long term issues to have resolved (eg the Smugglers and the Creature Handlers)
b) People who want PVP fixing.
c) The genuine souls who wanted the best for their own niche.

Of these my impression is that item b) was the most vocal.

Now, before you say it yes after the CU and NGE this changed - granted. But mostly the life of the forums has been about PVP and what was wrong with it for each profession. This is why entertainer, crafter etc never really got the love - but also avoided the nerfs. No one was being very vocal in those professions.

The PVPers essentially got what they wanted from profession to profession, nerfing here, nerfing there... That might have been fine but the design of the game was too complex. There were too many skill possibilities which is why we had FOTM templates - to get around the nerfs.

Until someone bleated about it and we were nerfed again.

The players caused that IMHO.

And when Jedi came through as a viable, achievable class? Then you had not just the PVP players but a whole load of other players who may never have considered it before wanting to make Jedi. They just wanted the most efficient way through their jhologrind - and later the village. Social hunting stopped on Tatooine for example - we did it to ourselves because we all wanted to grind Jedi.

We bleated about the "indignity" of having to stop our grind and actually get back into the community to heal battlegatigue and wounds. So they took battlefatigue away and effectively destroyed the point of entertainers.

Even pre-CU it got to the point that the only time most people said anything to another character was "pwned you" or "thanks for the buff doc", post CU if you weren't PVPing then you didn't even have that much contact.

Jedi was so important that a huge percentage of the player base went after it and when it got there... it was that huge, vocal, percentage that wanted what? Yes, nerfs. BH are too powerful. Why should I lose x? Why can't I do Y?

Publish after Publish was given to Jedi because the players led them that way. Even if you weren't actively pursuing it you'd still use your holocrons. You'd still rack up professions. You'd make use of the content or go after the loot involved. To SOE it appeared the shift to Jedi was the profitable route - and they could sell the game with lightsabers!

We did that.

Yes, you can argue lack of content led people to Jedi, but I'd actually argue that people didn't stop to explore content or (in the hologrind days) play their professions BECAUSE of Jedi. Look at the forums - Jedi have long been the most vocal. Jedi and Jedi wannabe's have been a growing % of the playerbase - but critically a larger % of the forums. Why? Because when Jedi was a time sink, demanding huge amounts of player time, it favoured certain type of player. People who could devote large amounts of time to the game, people in school, college for example. Fine - you spend the time you get the reward. But I believe this was a relatively smaller piece of the subscription cake - a smaller part who also had time to spend hours a day on the forums.

Personally I was never a Jedi, I never wanted to be. I didn't really look at the forums until around the CU. And as such I'm partly to blame because I was never a voice that said - "you know apart from PVP this game works okay. If you want to PVE you can be pretty much any combat profession... and it works. Just give me some more content devs."

I never did that and so we come to NGE.

We borked the game every bit as much as SOE. Our "decisions" led us here because we created the problems in the game. We let the whole thing be about an alpha-class. We didn't stop to think beyond our own selfish concerns about where new players were coming from.

And now we got what we deserve.

I don't expect this to be a popular comment and let me say again I believe how SOE handled this (timing, communication, breach of faith and the like) to be a model of what not to do. But lets not blame it all on them. We - the players who knew there was a forum and visited/contributed to it - carry the blame too. We never said "this works, good job. Hey, don't just listen to that."

NGE was the last throw of the SWG IMHO. Numbers were declining even when they started it. Maybe there's a console issue - but even if there isn't I can see why SOE/LA did this. They had to start again to fix the mess we all helped make.

Oh... and I'd just like to share one thing. The saddest thing I ever saw in SWG was the night before the NGE on the Euro servers... Creature Handlers taking out their favourite pets one last time, petting and playing with them. Perhaps they thought they'd still be able to pull them out, maybe they knew. I am not joking when I say that the conversations I overheard between them then brought a lump to my throat. And I knew then that what SOE was doing was a breach of faith. I became then as angry as the rest of us. These were people who'd stuck with broken professions - proving that a 'break' doesn't need to mean you can't play or enjoy it - and made their own content and connections. These were the people that were being let down the most. Their whole way of playing, their content was being removed. And in part - we all did it to them.

C

259.

I honestly think that the NGE for SWG might have killed any prospects for an SWG2. SWG got a whole lot of players who were new to MMO's and will likely never play one again - or at least not play one made by Sony. I have a hard time imagining any other companies out there who could successfully make and market such a huge product which everyone will expect to be horrible because of its first outing in SWG. To be sure it wasn't just the NGE, but the myraid of problems that plagued SWG from the onset from bugs to exploits to lack of content to lack of customer service and communication. It certainly ruined not only MMO's for many people, but SW too (along with the prequels) - myself among them.

As for the NGE being LA driven instead of SOE driven... Well, only SOE could have brutalized the player base so succinctly in their release of this product, but the design HAD to come from LA due to the amazing sales and popularity of Battlefront and Battlefront 2. Its fairly obvious the design elements were taken almost directly form that engine. Gives LA a black eye right on top of the one that SOE has earned throughout the years.

260.

Chewster talks about the players having precipitated this New Game Engine (my term for the NGE, because it's certainly not an enhancement), but he bases all his arguments on PvP players. Frankly, the original design of the game is based on the end game being all about PvP. There isn't really a whole lot for players to do once they tweak their character the way they want except PvP, and a little high level grouping escapades. Either way, you get to see the differences between professions, virtually all of which had MAJOR flaws. Not to mention that there were bugs so rampant in the combat system that PvP, again the advertised end game of the the system, was difficult at best. I hated PvP and did very little of it, but there was also so very little to do outside of it. Content was severely lacking in the game, which is why it relied so heavily on PvP. Also, crafters got plenty of tweaking and nerfing, lest we forget the lesson learned by Droid Engineers in the first 6 months of the game.

It couldn't have been the player's fault if it wasn't incumbent on the players to create content in the first place. Sure, it's an MMO where YOU get to decide what happens, but there has to be something more to interact with than other players or there ends up being nothing else but PvP and what was the GCW in SWG. The imbalance between the professions and the basic broken-ness of many professions was the greatest detriment to the game long before the NGE, and that was caused by LA and SOE, not the players. Many complained about legitimate and reasonable issues that were mostly ignored or I guess more realistically, were horribly misconstrued as a desire for 'faster and easier' gameplay. Truely ridiculous to blame it on the players if they hadn't been playing a broken and minimized game from the start.

261.

You know, I cruised the SWG forums today -- just for giggles. I've got to say, I got a lot of kicks out of people claiming "Just stick with it, it'll get good soon. they've got some good stuff coming".

Traders are slated to be looked at three publishes down the line (March -- which means the SWG plan for Traders is to have them all quit, and replace them with NPCs).

SWG's devs have always talked a good game. But other than a 6 month period in late 2004 -- they've never delivered a fraction of what they said they were. It's amazing that some people still haven't grasped that.

262.

I had one of the NGE supporters explain how SOE was serious this time about fixing the game because they had risked so much with the NGE that it was unthinkable there was any other reason for it. I wish I wasn't so cynical in my old age, but I really do think they fully expected this to be a resounding success and now they are just pulling things out of their rear trying to make it all work.

263.

This is from a post in the SWG Forum that was locked up. Im not sure if anyone of you saw this but I was able to retrive this. Weather you believe the content is entirely up to you. Everything after this has been copyed and pasted.

INSIDE INFO ON THE FALLOUT OF THE NGE ON SOE

I don't expect you to take my word on this but I will share with you what I was told by a friend of mine who works for SOE. I can't give you any more detail like his position, department, etc for fear of him being identified. They apparently are bound by some air-tight non-disclosure agreements.

Below is what I was told:

Apparently, the NGE has really, REALLY stirred things up in Austin. All sorts of fingers are being pointed among SOE employee's as nobody wants to take the blame. Right now EVERYONE is trying to distance themselves from being responsible for making ANY decsions on pushing the NGE live. Every single employee is avoiding any connection to the NGE like the plague. I was told that the Dev's expected SOME account cancelations when the NGE went live, but my insider said they were willing to take those vet losses with the hopes of bringing in new subscribers over the holiday sales season. Also, the devs were counting on most of the threats by vets to quit to not actually go thru with cancelling. They have admitted, at least internally, that they number of cancels has FAR FAR FAR exceeded the number they were willing to take. As a result, there is beginning to be some serious discussion of a pre-NGE rollback. Several dev's are in serious jeopardy of being fired, and many many many of the support staff etc are polishing up their resume's because SOE has become the laughing stock of the online gaming community. No longer is it a badge of pride to work for SOE according to what I was told. Even my friend says he is no longer proud of working for SOE because of how they have destroyed their reputation.

Also, after having to report to LA on the NGE results, specifically the account cancels numbers, some of the big dogs from LA have flown into Austin for some serious intervention. No details on what that means yet, but it is known that Smedly and the senior crew at SOE have been behind closed doors for unusually lengthy meetings and have emerged with scowls on their face. The speculation is that LA is gearing up to crack down big time. (I would love to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings)

Because of the signifacant loss of subscriptions, customer service has laid off 25% of their support staff starting the 1st of January with more cuts expected.

All in all, the NGE turned out to rock the player base more deeply than what they expected. Talks are now underway on cutting the game off sometime in the first quarter of 2006. There is discussion with an outside company that is interested in purchasing the pre-NGE code with the aim of running a handful (5 tops) of pre-NGE servers, and maintained with a skeleton support staff. Right now this is apparently looking to be the most realistic result.

Oh, and my insider said the Devs are being intentionally vague on their forum posting and player communication because they want to keep as many subscribers as possible right now. A memo was passed down to ALL Dev's by the SOE execs with a list of topics that are completely not to be discussed or responded to on the forums. It is generally feared by the SOE team that the more info the player base has, the more of them will quit the game.

Also, the game WAS in the pre-development phase on porting to consol (xbox, playstation), but that those cycles have been 100% stalled at the moment because the future of SWG is so uncertain. But I was told that if any Dev posted or said that consol talks were never taking place it is a lie because significant discussions had already been underway with the design teams experienced with porting PC games to consol systems and that the NGE was partly (not entirely) designed to acomplish this objective."

264.

Seems unlikely that they'll sell off the game to someone else to run pre-NGE servers. I can't imagine that LA's deal with SOE allows that, and if they really are talking about a SWG2 in a few years, they're not going to let the license go anywhere while they wring more money out of it.

265.

Received the "come back and try it for two weeks" email last night. My account, of two years, expired in August.

So I downloaded the new patches over night and signed on this morning.

In three hours, I saw 3 people off of my 566 friends list online. I acknowledge it was a Sunday morning, so I'll check again this afternoon and evening.

However, if that small snapshot is any representation of how many people they've retained it must be bad.

Caveat: I tended to hangout with those that enjoyed the creative side of the game, more into crafting and socializing than pure combat. So the dropoff in my circle of friends would most likely be much higher than an random cross-section of the entire player base.

266.

Many vets have the same situation as you do Bob. My friends list of 180 or so had 2 on last night (Saturday evening). Just my opinion, the people in game right now are one of two types:

Old vets holding out because they love the old game and hope it will return one day and players who prefer FPS/action games that enjoy what the NGE is.

267.

Well, there's a link over at Slashdot to an interview with SOE's John Smedley, in which he distressingly shows just how little SWG's decision makers have learned in nearly three years of game (mis)management.

The gist of his conclusion is that 'sandbox games don't work,' which apparently explains the dumbing down for the NGE.

I just hope this misguided attitude isn't prevalent throughout the mmo development community, because if the exciting virtual world aspects of the original build of SWG get swept under the rug, that will be even more of a tragedy than what these folks have done to Star Wars.

268.

The problem is that sandbox type games are hard to make, hard to maintain, and hard to justify when you have WOW pulling in the money. In his recent interview on Gamespot, he admits that the numbers for SWG were good for a generic MMO, but not one with the Star Wars name, hence the changes he implemented. With this thinking, no game can hope to satisfy the ideals prevalent here on Terranova.

269.

I have read the recent interviews with John Smedley and Julio Torres about the direction of SWG and the attempt to make it more accesible.
The blatant envy for the success of WoW leaps from the page. With good reason of course.The huge numbers posted by that game are the dreams of all the online companies.

I think they miss the point that WoW is limited in scope but seriously good in implementation. Its quality leaps out at you from all aspects. This is the thing lacking in SWG.

In my opinion what makes WoW so successful is not that it caters to the hardcore players with high level instance play and PvP play. It does , but the real beauty of the design is that casual players can play for 30mins , 1hr , 2hrs and still feel a sense of achievement. Still have an involvement in the game. This is the key to having the large numbers. Casual players , New players. Players who have had little involvement in MMORPGS and whose only previous experience of gameplay is single player games. WoW CAN be played on a level where a single player can play it just as a dynamic single player game and be "lured" into the MMORPG aspect.

This , to me , is where they are trying to take SWG. I suspect that the original game code was hard to maintain and that it had "got away" from the Devs. The code became badly maintained , documented and implemented. The CU seemed like an attempt to move large parts of the internal code from EQ2 over to SWG and bring the code back into line. This obviously failed. The NGE seems to me a major re-write from the ground up of the code and , linking into to the original post , a serious attempt to rewrite completely the SWG game.

I can see a long term plan of making SWG a minimal fee , maybe even free-to-play MMO. Alternate revenue streams , real cash purchase of additional items etc etc. Who among the veteran community bought the expansions and special additions just for the in game "goodies"?. I have several alternate copies of the game to obtain the glasses, the BARC speader and more.

The manner of its implementation and timeline associated with it simply beggars belief. I am speechless at the way this has been presented and done. How anyone could think this would be anything but a PR disaster is beyond me. If the decisions had been reached I can think of many ways in which this would have been done better.
Who decided on this? Who decided this was the way to go? and in the way it did?

I have rambled a little. My passion for the game is dying now and I can see in hindsight a brutal inevitability in the way it went. I just wish....

I think game companies should NOT be envious of WoW. Blizzard are introducing millions of new customers to the MMORPG market.Companies SHOULD be viewing WoW at the moment not as a rival but as a GATEWAY product. Fetching new people into the genre.

SWG , properly developed , in its initial form would have been in an ideal position to be the "next step" for these new gamers down the road to a true virtual world game. This is the next big market that needs looking at. WoW players looking for a little more depth and interest. Maturing themselves as gamers and looking for a little more feeling into a game. Dont copy WoW , embrace it and move on.

Alas never to be for SWG!

270.

I started with EQ way back, and after Sony took over there was very little change to the game at first. Then came the cutbacks to CS. They outsourced CS to India to cut costs and enlarge the profit margin. They removed almost all of the player driven guide program. I put up with this for years until one day I lost something that I worked very hard for and I got an automated response, after a month of trying to talk to a person and not just an automatic response I quit. I moved to another game called EvE Online and vowed to never play another Sony game. I think that was the smartest thing I have ever done (online game wise)

EvE Online has attracted many of the old SWG players, not nearly as many as WoW but still quite a chunk. One of the many reasons I still play EvE is the developers listen to the players, they have a defined testing process that's open to all. There's no intentional secrets (sometimes they forget to put an item in the patch noted) kept from the playerbase. Many players share their ideas via the forms and many of those ideas are implmented. SOE could learn something from CCP.

Check out www.eve-online.com

271.

Admittedly, their (EVE Online) patching process isn't the definition of "smooth" -- but when they patch, it's expansion sized. I listened to the old hands and didn't even bother logging in for two days after the patch.

It's been a week and it's apparently quite playable now -- except in the heaviest systems, where lag can sometimes kill you.

Then again, their Devs have been quick to accelerate their hardware replacement plans and to bring in some serious experts to help them build a bit more overhead until they transition.

We use some serious hardware at my work, but what EVE's got planned makes our stuff look dated.

272.

Jef> The gist of [John Smedley's] conclusion is that 'sandbox games don't work,' which apparently explains the dumbing down for the NGE. I just hope this misguided attitude isn't prevalent throughout the mmo development community

I don't know about "prevalent," but from what's been published so far on Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG, and in particular from the blunt comments of some of their designers, it sounds like they agree with Smedley.

LOTRO looks to be designed to be conventional, simple, and directed, rather than innovative, deep, and open. Maybe Turbine is right, and this risk-minimizing, gameplay-focused approach is the only way to compete with WoW. Maybe another game that's deliberately similar to WoW in its gameplay can be as successful as WoW.

Maybe so. But it's still a let-down for those who enjoy immersive worlds. The SWG refugees will have to look for their promised land for a while longer, it seems.

--Bart

273.

Don't forget the evident deception surrounding the release and advertising of the Trials of Obi-Wan and the NGE. ToOW was advertised as containing items/specialties for professions that were announced two days later would cease to exist. Viewed in the context of SOE knowing full well the NGE would mean lost players, it's not difficult to see that this was an attempt to squeeze out the last bit of money from the previously-loyal playerbase that they have now discarded entirely.

Additionally, their public statements in interviews about some of the professions they removed are jarring. Take Dallas Dickinson's IGN interview statement of "I mean, what is a Pikeman, and why is it something in the game?" when in actuality, there are more characters fighting with polearms than there are smugglers in the movies. This statement along with the others about 'no one wants to be Owen Lars and work on a farm (this means you, crafters)' is just more horrid disrespect for the players. Disclosure: I played a Pikeman from the game's release until the NGE when I cancelled furiously. I was also permanently banned from the SWG forums for writing something similar.

They also stated that the Creature Handler and Bio Engineer professions were played by less than 1% of the players, when their own profession statistics released in just August 2005, lists CH as 15/37 in rank of most played, and another dev list ranks CH as 11/37 in most-mastered professions. Both ranks are above professions that made it through the NGE transition. I find it hard to believe that those ranks represent 1% or close enough to reach 1% a few months later. This is simply another example of SOE's low opinion of it's current customers.

Julio Torres gave another insight into SOE/LA's opinion of the SWG players in the weak G4 TV interview where he says: "we experienced that in the past when we make enhancements like these and in general whats really interesting about that a lot of them come back after they feel like ok they\x{2019}ve vented their, their concerns." They honestly seem to believe that players are just children throwing tantrums and are so hooked on this game that they won't be gone for long, no matter how poorly they treat their customers.

I think the reactions to the NGE, the real reactions, not SOE's PR, have shown that this time the customers are more resigned to leaving it all behind than they were for the Combat Upgrade where many people complained a lot, but not so many actually left. The NGE is attempting to shift the playerbase, shift genres and instead has shifted the already precarious PR position of the game into one of rapid freefall.

ant

274.

Well, the onslaught is on full time now as they offer 15 day trials to cancelled subscribers, make space fighting give you ground fighting xp, and introduce random loot drops that give you a combat level jump when you use it.

How bad are things going when they actually link to IGN's story listing them as the "biggest suprise" for 2005 on their website? The story doesn't say anything good about the game, yet they promote it as being something good. I also notice they failed to link to Gamespy's award as being a "green banana" but I guess that is to be expected.

275.

Maybe they should try paying for better press. But then, when you're getting hammered by everything from the New York Times to the Chrisitan Science Monitor... you get a little desperate and anything that isn't an outright slam starts looking like good press.

Or better yet, maybe they should re-evaluate and revamp their bad business practices and maybe invest in and USE some actual version control.

276.

Found an intrestiing post on IGN's boards. Its supposedly from the guy who stated that the NGE was going to happen. Everything after this point is from post:

More from the guy who leaked the NGE to the jedi boards months back
(sounds like his source is now cut off):
_______________________________________________________________________

Posted: Thu Dec 08, 2005 2:37 pm Post subject: These plans are a bit dated at this point.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anyway I heard about the NGE six months ago when it started though I actually thought it was a new game my source was telling me about or that. Maybe it was a large expansion. When TooW arrived I thought that was it. Sadly the NGE arrived and I knew the awful truth. Anyway it was a totally different team working on the NGE not the second tier devs or the guys they brought over from matrix.

Previous plans asside this info is actually quite moot at this point. These plans have all been scrapped even though the data may be stored for reiteration at some point in some other product.

From what my friend told me and he has been fired by the way. The situation is entirely too bleak for words. Right now the whole project is in a form of limbo. There simply is not the playerbase now to generate profitability. The trials of obiwan has generated negative cash flow position, and the NGE code and previous code incarnations are at practical war with one another. Not least of concerns is that LA is very agitated by the no profit margin situation.

Unfortunately this all boils down to one thing people still in the game are going to be left with a very limited developement cycle. In all reality the NGE is not going to be around much longer nor will there be a rollback. The realization is that this would not bring back enough players.

From what I have heard there are 2 options on the table. Option 1 is to reimplement a pre Cu system in a couple months as a sort of grand reopening either through sony or a third party who will buy or lease the original engine. With a very small developement cycle. Option 2 is that SOE keeps the license or is relegated merely to server hosting duties. Which SOE at this point seems to prefer. Anyway developement of SWG 1.5 shall commence. This will not be a playable product persay when developement starts all servers will come down. The servers will then return late next year. The new game will recycle a great deal of material from the original game enviroment item models, but the base line engine will be different one that will be very upgradeable.

The reasons for this are simple instead of a 2.5 year production schedule the product can be up and running in a shorter time frame because it does a high degree of recycleing. Which might be a good thing. No matter what maybe early to late february expect to see 1 or 2 options implemented or maybe a combination of both. Where a smaller company obtains swg original matrix and can port over current or previous users, and the swg team will be ported over to work on the rebuild with a few newly hired team.

Right now there is no good solution the oppinion in the offices is that the damage is irrevocable. The players still will not trust the product even if a rollback were enacted, and doing the additional recodeing on what now is a very high risk propostion may be good money following bad. So the choice is either sell or pawn the license off on someone else, or do a signigifigant redevelopement cycle in alpha stage. Either way from what I understand the entire NGE system is scrap. In this sense they have listened to the player and even discounting the bugs most players have expressed they hate the entire concept.

277.

I'd like to make an observation:

There have been several instances where SOE has backed down in the face of overwhelming player opposition to changes. If memory serves me correctly, once was around the CU, and the second was the ToOW rebate.

I know of several people who have left SWG, and they have done so cleanly. They don't check the forums, look at reviews, post on Amazon, etc., heartsick as they are. They respect the decision of their guildmates and friends who have chosen to remain behind.

In contrast to that are the anti-NGE'ers who post here, and anywhere else that they can find.

What's the motivation? Were the anti-NGE'ers emboldened and encouraged by these previous instances, with the theory being that if they can make enough noise, SOE will back down here as well? What's the ultimate goal? Is it to scare off enough people to kill the NGE and force a rollback, even at the risk of shutting down the SWG? Or is it just vengeance?

I suspect some of the vehemence between the anti-NGE side and the remaining players stems from the remaining player's suspicions that the anti's are in fact pursuing a scorched earth policy. Unfortunately, if the negative feedback campaign is actually effective and sufficient enough to cause a roll back, the following will occur:

1. The game will not be able to overcome the negative press enough to grow the player base, and still shut down.

2. Players will grow more vocal, not less, in SWG, endangering SOE's control in other properties as well. You have to understand groupthink in order to see that this could be a bad thing. Think lemmings.

3. Other companies will take note, and in order to maintain control of their properties, not allow themselves to fall into the "SOE trap" by allowing players to influence commercial decisions.

In short, the stakes are very high. SOE now has no choice but to stick by the NGE. It's either continue with the NGE, or shut down the game.

With that realization, if the anti-NGE'ers continue with their actions they have in effect declared war not only on SOE/LA, but on every player who has chosen to remain in the game and wants it to continue.

Make no mistake, if you are a player who wants this game to continue, whether you like the NGE or not, you've just been issued a call to arms.

278.

Nik,

While I think there is some truth to your assumptions, you seem to have missed one where the anti-NGE people are hoping to make this such an obvious mistake for SOE that no other game developer will even dare think about pulling the same stunt. If SWG lost 50k subscribers and gained 100k, the fact is SOE screwed 50k people and that can't be supported.

279.

Nik, I can't speak for anyone else, but my 'motivation' for speaking ill of SWG and SOE is to encourage anyone I come in contact with to avoid the product.

Much moreso than being anti-NGE, I am anti-SWG, and have been since late 2003, when the game began deteriorating from its virtual world roots into the fiasco that it is now. The NGE was just the icing on the cake in terms of illustrating how wrong the game went, and how clueless its developers were/are.

While I feel for those folks who have decided to stick it out and keep playing (I was one of them for a long time), I don't have any sort of responsibility to 'let it be' and not point out the fact that the developers have been blatantly and unapologetically raping Star Wars for the better part of three years whenever I get the opportunity to do so.

I would hope the mmo industry takes SWG as a lesson, and either stops making licensed games, or makes them respectfully and accurately, realizing that their target audience is hardcore fans, not the gazillions who flock to WoW. If it takes shutting down SWG to send a message to the suits calling the shots, I'm all for it, whether or not it offends any players who are drinking the SOE kool-aid and hanging around.

280.

Oh Nik... for many of us, you got it all wrong. For many of us, even if SOE did roll things back, we wouldn't return -- and SOE KNOWS THIS. They know that they have alienated thousands and destroyed any chance that they could rebuild enough credibility with us that we'd even consider returning. It is TOO LATE for them to repair what they have broken. And what they have broken is the unwritten yet all-important contract between customer and vendor to deliver the product that was paid for in a complete and working condition.

While this contract may be more elastic in the world of MMOs due to the nature of the product, it still very much exists -- as SOE and LA's handling of SWG has proven. And in a market where customers cease to subscribe to good products when they become bored of them, simply cancelling and walking away does not sufficiently make it clear to either the business or the buying public when a product is as consistantly eroded of value as SWG has been. So we have found ways to make ourselves heard, both to the company that has cheated and lied to us and to our fellow consumers.

It is regrettable if those very few who like the new product are inconvenienced by the message we are delivering. We have nothing against you. If anything, we feel sorry for you. You haven't yet felt the sting the deplorable business practices that SOE and LA use. Saying that you will, in time, feel as we do is an excercise in futility, since no one wants to believe that they are being used and ripped off and we all want to believe that we are somehow protected from the callous incompetance and greed of those we rely upon to provide us with our products and services. But the truth is, the only ones who can protect us from becoming victims of an unscrupulous company's bad business practices are ourselves.

These attempts of ours may end up to be feeble and unsuccessful, but they are worthwhile. We can be content in our efforts knowing that SOMEONE hears us and is paying attention. And in the end, we can only hope that the people who provide us with our games are not only listening, but learning that we are more than green-wooled sheep mindlessly waiting to be fleeced -- but that we are educated and intelligent consumers, handing over our money only when that money buys us what we choose to buy, and unforgiving of intentional substitutions or consistant shoddiness.

281.

Let me give you a slightly different example Nik as to why you are wrong. The whole of SOE is rotten to the core, and the anti-SWG folk are mostly those who stuck it out for years due to their love of Star Wars, the NGE was the straw that broke the camels back.

On to the example, Customer Relations. Well they deleted the CR forum as there was too much negative feedback. A person has an issue where the base she planted is unusable as a tree was spawned right in front of it's door. She called in CSR and asked them to delete said tree, she was then called an Exploiter and was told she put the tree there (I wish we could have stuck down trees and lakes willy nilly, we could have decorated so much nicer). The CSR then deleted her base and left the tree where it was, as she was an exploiting cheater. She then took her problem to the Game Discussion board (well they deleted the CR one), and was told it should be on a CR one, and was deleted and locked. What price Customer Service? That's why so many hate SOE, they not only screwed up SWG, they screw up CR and screw us at the same time. The anti brigade is doing it's level best to ensure on other developer does this again.

PS Raph Koster will talk about the end of SWG beta, but funnily enough he is silent on NGE and the end of his sandbox game.... makes ya think?

282.

Quixote >>"Does a company have the right to fundamentally change the rules in a persistent world game after it has established itself?"

I think this is a great question, but (as with most great questions) I don't think the answer is as obvious as it may seem. I think that in this instance, there are some other considerations that may change the question a bit. I think there are at least two perspectives on this issue.

This first is this:

Does a company have the right to fundamentally change the rules on its subscribers with little or no notification or input?

Here, I think that the answer has to be a resounding YES. Anything else is just crazy talk, since ultimately, the developer owns all of the ones and zeros.

But the second perspective asks a very different question:

Does a company have the right to fundamentally change the rules on its community members with little or no notification or input?

This question may appear to be almost identical to the first, but my feeling is that it isn't even close. Here, I think that you have to answer a resounding NO. I think that to do otherwise is unconscionable.

Lydia points out above that, ultimately, MMOGs are a business. This is certainly true, but I'm reminded of the old "It's just a game" argument. Ultimately, a game is just a bunch of ones and zeros, but when you arrange them in a certain manner the ones and zeros take on the characteristics of a game so that they are no longer merely what they are ultimately. Further, when the game becomes an MMOG with its own community, it becomes more than just a game. In a similar manner, when one is in the business of developing and supporting an MMOG, they become a service industry, and I believe that when a community rises up around their MMOG, they take upon themselves additional responsibilities.

It's the community, stupid.

The game is not "just a game" because there is a group of real people with all of their messy feelings and such forming an in-game community. In a similar manner, SOE cannot be "just a business" because there is a group of real people with all of their messy feelings and such forming an out-of-game community. This is not incidental.

Game developer conferences have sessions on how to form an online community. MMOGs have community relations people who talk about the community of players. They interact with those players on community forums and use the word "community" a lot in their posts. Why? Because they don't want players that just subscribe to their game, they want people who are connected in a deeper way. They want to foster deeper relationships, and I personally feel that, for a lot of developers and community relations leaders, this goes beyond simply increasing retention (although I don't doubt that retention factors into it).

I'm sorry, but you don't get to have your community members and eat them too!

If you want to foster a community, you don't get to then treat your community members like mere subscribers. You don't get to objectify them as nothing more than the monthly fee that they pay. You don't get to write of something that disenfranchises much of your community as just a business decision. You and your MMOG helped to create the community, and you have a responsibility to what you've helped create. That's why you see the word "betrayal" above. That's why you see the feeling expressed even in the posts that don't use the word. Subscribers don't feel betrayed, but community members do. You don't get to ignore that.

The ethical foundation for this reasoning is very similar to that which condemns the "griefer." You are playing an MMOG where you share the sandbox with other members of a community. You don't get to act like your concerns are the only concerns that matters.

From this perspective, an MMOG provider that treats the community members that it has helped to create and foster as if they are mere subscribers is taking on the role of a "griefer."

They are acting as if the MMOG is "just a business" when they should know that it is much more. They should know because they've worked hard to make it such.

So, what happens when the MMOG providers have painted themselves into a business corner and some drastic measures need to be taken to overhaul the game? Am I saying that the providers don't have the right to do this? Not at all. They just need to keep in mind that the MMOG is more than just a business and they need to treat the community members as more than mere subscribers.

At least, that's how I see it.

--Phin

283.

Interesting responses to my last post. I read them with great enjoyment! :)

I think we can all agree that MMOG's are essentially the property of the companies that put them online. And any business that ignores its customer base does so only at it's own peril, unless it's managed to create and maintain a monopoly with an inelastic demand.

What I've found interesting is that most of the former SWG players posting here have invested themselves so deeply into the game that they actually feel a sense of grief and anger over the changes made. I keep reading the word 'betrayal' used. I suppose that is the risk you take when you are the creator of an immersive virtual environment-that sometimes your customers will go in a little too deep.

Interestingly, I just caught myself doing that with this, my last post on this subject. I very nearly launched into a tirade using phrases like "angst-ridden", "vindictive", "self-righteous", and my favorite "Got your personality mixed in with the size and color of your lightsaber", but I was strong. :)

I will now huddle in a nearby corner and repeat the words "It's only a game" over and over until I lose all urge to post on this topic again.

284.

Nik,

I think people who actually make virtual world games couldn't be happier that people feel so emotionally tied to their creation, afterall, that is the goal of virtual worlds, to seem real.

I can also understand why you don't get it when you say to youself "its just a game, whats the matter with these people?" Maybe one day you will find something that captures your imagination enough to make you forget it is just a game, then you will understand better.

285.

I've just read this, all 144 pages of it in one sitting, (actually in bed :) It's without a doubt the most interesting thing I've ever read about "games" Astounding!

However, to matters at hand, the Washington Post is getting in on the act too:

"Sadness in 'Star Wars' World"
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/01/AR2006020102341.html

Then there is this page on IGN:

Date Posted: 8:51am Subject: SWG server loads revealed. Deleted off the $OE boards.
http://boards.ign.com/star_wars_galaxies/b6642/109251731/p1/?1

-Quick Stats: 10,363 people total
Most people on a server: Bria
Bria's Population: 722 (conceptually speaking approx 60 people per planet)

Least amount of people: Lowca
Lowca's population: 227 (conceptually speaking approx 18 people per planet)
Note, I ignored Europe-FareStar server's pop (of 113) b/c it's not in its prime time there.

286.

Praxis22, thanks for the server load info! Couldn't find it (of course) on SOE's boards. The populations are definitely really, really low.

287.

Seems they have disabled the server population info from being sent to your computer now, so all galaxies show as "very light" regardless of actual population.

Not sure which looks worse, knowing 10k people are playing or that all the galaxies are empty, either way, kinda sad in the scheme of things.

288.

As of today, the servers still rate a population traffic level of Heavy. However; lag, warping and bugs are at an all time high. Numbers? Have a friends list with 500 people on it, last night only 5 people were on. This ship is sinking. The next publish is the make or break point for even the new post-NGE players. The entire player base is fed up with the lack of commuication from the developers and csr's.

Today I deleted my 3 year old characters (4 of them) and threw the SWG disks out.

289.

I finally bit the bullet and cancelled. Over the past half year since NGE hit, I haven't seen the game get better or more exciting. Yes, there are some new players, but these are the immature, "target demographic" of "OMG WTF, i'm ub3r 1337!!!11" This is the type of player that SOE apparently wants, and not me, the mature and intelligent player. So I think I'll have to join the masses at WoW.

Though no game will ever be what pre-CU and pre-NGE SWG were. It's pretty sad. Seriously, Smedley and Julio need to do some serious rethinking. No one wants World of StarWarsyCraft.

290.

I must confess that I was only recently made aware of this site and I am in awe. The maturity of the conversations around such a topic that are MMOGs is astounding. I have been sifting through the archive in search of more opinions on SOE, SWG and the NGE. I have been a player of SWG for 3 years now and I find myself fascinated by the "business" side of this MMO: what was SOE/LA thinking? what are they thinking now? where can this go? how long does it still have? what is the current status?

I'm not sure if there are still Terra Nova authors who pay any attention to SWG and/or still play it. In any case, I would be very interested in hearing the latest opinions of the authors regarding SOE, SWG and the NGE. Thanks.

291.

ActiveNick > I'm not sure if there are still Terra Nova authors who pay any attention to SWG and/or still play it. In any case, I would be very interested in hearing the latest opinions of the authors regarding SOE, SWG and the NGE. Thanks.

I spent about 12 hours downloading all the patches last weekend, I hope to take a poke around to see what changed. I also downloaded and registered with Seed, and updated EVE - I guess I'm in a space mood.

292.

Just as a quick follow-up to my previous post/question: The reason I was asking is there were a lot of early opinions in this thread back in November as to speculations on what effect the NGE would have, would it succeed/fail, and what would be the impact on the player base and subscription numbers.

SOE was asking the community for 6 months to solidify the game and make it fun again. While I think this is a ludicrous request as the NGE should have shipped 6 months later in that case, we are now 8 months later, the subscription numbers seem down based on MMOGCHART.COM and based on player observations online, a majority of the forum posters are more furious than ever, the latest "expertise system" announcements from SOE are doing nothing to ease the player base on their complaints of lost pre-CU/CU and lack of character diversity, and the list of bugs/issues with the game is still very long.

Is there one of the Terra Nova authors planning on starting a new thread/post/topic regarding the state of the NGE + 8 months and its effect on the gaming industry and SOE's decision to stay the course all this time? I would also be interested in hearing the opinion of the scholars here as to what are SOE/LA'S options at this juncture. Thank you.

293.

ActiveNick > is there one of the Terra Nova authors planning on starting a new thread/post/topic regarding the state of the NGE + 8 months and its effect on the gaming industry and SOE's decision to stay the course all this time

sounds like a good idea, expect something, sometime, from, well, one of us :)

294.

I've played UO, tried the stupid game called WOW, and durning the whole time been off and on in SWG.

The swg of today is nothing like day 1. Yes the game has taken some bad turns but it is today a fun game for those who seek it. The expertise system gives you variety yet gives anyone that wishes to participate in PvP an equal chance. The only people I hear complaining are the1337s that can no longer win 90% of the time in combat.

Na sayers should stay out of SWG. Go play your teeny WOW game or City of Heros.

295.

Jake said "Na sayers should stay out of SWG. Go play your teeny WOW game or City of Heros."

If you say that enough times "CU, NGE initial, NGE current, etc." eventually you will be playing by yourself. Game companies want people to play, and telling them to bugger off is the fastest way to kill a game. How much fun will you have if they close down SWG because too many went to play their teeny WOW or COH?

296.

Well, today is the 1 year anniversary of the NGE and it seems not much has happened. They still have half of the professions missing their expertise systems, still don't know what to do with crafters and entertainers, still don't have collision detection, and still don't have mobs of players.

Most of the new additions made in the last year are re-gifts on things that were in the game prior to the NGE, but somehow they just aren't as good, and the one truely new thing "Restuss" lagged out so bad that most didn't bother trying to experience it.

All in all, pretty pathetic for a company that keeps touting itself as "A leader in MMORPGs".

297.

Too bad they seem to spend more time and resources censoring criticism and calls for the return of the old system from the forums than they actually do on developing the game.

298.

Sony to launch virtual universe

After the complete disaster that SWG has become, does Sony actually expect to compete with SecondLife in this arena? Do they really expect memories to be **that** short?

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