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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 contr