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Role Playing (Games)

John Smedley Answers Your Questions 189

Posted by Zonk
from the senator-smed dept.
Last week we asked you for questions about the Star Wars Galaxies 'New Game Experience'. You responded, forcefully and often frustrated. Mr. Smedley has taken the time to answer some of the most thoughtfully put questions, and while some of his answers are brief he answered your questions straightforwardly and honestly. Many thanks to Mr. Smedley for taking the time to talk to us. Read on for his responses to your questions.
The latest "Freebies" by Yerase (636636)
You've recently announced that you plan to give Jump To Lightspeed to previous subscribers who had not purchased it for Free, since it is required for the new intro Tutorial. This is similar to the decision to release the "Total Experience" pack for $30 that included the original game, JTL, and the second expansion "Rage of the Wookies", with an additional item (The Barc Speeder). Do you feel you have any obligation to reimburse the veteran players who payed the premium prices ($30) for each of these expansions when they were first announced (many times before they were even released)? Either monetarily or through in-game items?

John Smedley:
It's common in the game industry to release new versions of games that incorporate older content. In this case, SWG really is much better with both the ground and space games as one package, which is why we're offering them together. We are giving rewards to our veteran players in general, but not specifically in this instance.

OS X client? by Dark Paladin (116525)
I realize that this is a long shot, but with the rise of Mac sales and the upcoming change of Macs from PPC to X86, is there a chance if an OS X client? One of the reasons I believe that Blizzards WoW has done so well is because it allows both major desktop OS's to play together, rather than trying to partition on group on a separate server (or pretending they don't even exist, with all of those dollars itching to be spent).

John Smedley:
Unfortunately, no. I absolutely love Macs (I've got 2 at home myself). I wish we could do this, but it's enormously cost prohibitive if you didn't start out from the beginning with Mac development in mind.

Wouldn't it be easier to scrap the game.. by Jason1729 (561790)
...and start over completely with Star Wars Galaxies 2?

John Smedley:
No. While the scope of the new enhancements is large, it's built upon a very powerful underlying engine that gives us the ability to enhance the game in meaningful ways rather quickly.

Re:Will this update...? by kebes (861706)
Given the recent bad press surrounding some of Sony's intrusive software, what changes, if any, are you planning for the copy-protection and cheat-prevention aspects of the game's software. During these change-overs, are you planning on putting in any special software that will monitor the users, and/or software that will attempt to prevent copying the game? Can you guarantee that such software will not "cross the line" and do things not directly related protecting the game itself?

John Smedley:
No. We are a subscription-based service, and therefore this isn't necessary.

Why wasn't NGE announced on 11/1? by WCMI92 (592436) NGE was dropped on us on 11/2, the day AFTER we were charged for the Trials of Obiwan expansion. Why did you deliberately withold this announcement until it was too late for veteran players to cancel their pre-orders so they could play on Test Center to see if they liked the changes?

John Smedley:
Simply put: We made a mistake in the way we communicated everything happening within the game to our current players, and we apologize for it. We're offering refunds to all players who purchased the Expansion pack before 11/3 (when we announced the NGE). But we feel very, very strongly that our current players are going to enjoy the enhancements to the game. The content in Trials of Obi Wan is even more fun with the new game experience.

Re:Another important question from a player by TychoCelchuuu (835690)
Why have you chosen to answer questions here on Slashdot instead of on the Star Wars: Galaxies forums? Many players are already fed up with the lack of communication, especially with these sweeping changes being announced the day after many of us bought Trials of Obi-Wan. Don't you have more of a responsibility to paying customers than you do to promoting the game?

John Smedley:
There are long threads that I've started myself on our forums, but we have community representatives that are answering questions diligently on our forums already, and I'm very involved in what's being said. I'm trying to get the word out in other venues and we know that Slashdot has a wide reach into the online gamer audience in general and the SWG community. Btw, I try to personally answer all of the emails from our players that are written to me and I get a fair number of them each day from our players.

Non-Combat Classes? by by Alpha_Traveller (685367)
Commando, Entertainer, Jedi, Medic, Officer, Smuggler, Spy and Trader.

What if my daughter wanted to be a diplomat? Something tells me that's not the same as Officer. You mentioned each class would show up as a familiar Icon, and I wouldn't call Princess Leia any of the things above. Only three out of the nine are even remotely "non-agressive" in nature. That doesn't speak well for a game that was once geared to be more of a world to explore than just a massive wargame.

[editor: How would you respond to this reader, concerned about the overwhelming shift in emphasis from sandbox-style world to combat-heavy 'game'?]

John Smedley:
This is a really good question, and I think goes to the heart of why we made these changes. The name "Star Wars" carries with it a lot of expectations, and from the research we've done, we weren't delivering enough of the core Star Wars experience to people. Remember, SWG takes place right in the middle of the Galactic Civil War! We felt like we needed to focus on the core iconic professions rather than 34 different professions that weren't unique enough. It just made the game too hard for us to add content to and to balance properly. We finally saw the forest from the trees on this and made the right move.

We still offer professions for non-combat oriented online players who are more interested in the social aspects of the game. We still have the Entertainer position (which is about as non-combat as you can get), as well as the trader class, which encompasses all aspects of crafting and item creation within the game. Additionally, we have made it so that non-combat professions do not agro within the game, so that players who do not choose to fight will be able to move about the game world without worrying about aggressive mobs.

Returning players? by Minupla
With the complete revamp of the game will there be a returning player incentive program? Something so that those of us who left earlier can come back with a minimum of pain and check out the rework and see if it's something that is compatible with our particular playstyles?

John Smedley:
Absolutely! We're going to be offering free trials for download (or at retail stores) in addition to the all-new Starter Pack.

Why not fix the game? by Zonk
Overwhelmingly, the jist of many questions we recieved was "Why do this instead of fix bugs and expand existing content?" What led to the decision to make such a drastic change in the game's playstyle, given that there was still a large population of players who were very happy playing Galaxies as it existed two weeks ago?

John Smedley:
We didn't feel that we could "fix" the existing game without making these changes to the number of professions. Trying to add content and balance a game with 34 different professions was just proving too difficult. We would spend weeks working on content specifically for one or two professions, but that would come at the cost of neglecting the other 30+. I think when we made the game we went too far into the direction of a "sandbox" style of gameplay, when what we needed to do was balance that out with awesome Star Wars gameplay that gives the player the feeling of being heroic.

We also had the very basic business problem of needing to appeal to a wider audience of players in order to keep the game growing rather than seeing the audience dwindle down over time. At the end of the day, our decision came down to wanting to make Star Wars Galaxies the most incredible Star Wars experience ever. Even though we know these changes will be upsetting some of our players initially, we feel that once they see how awesome we can make the Galactic Civil War, and how cool the new Star Wars content is they'll feel like we made the right decision at the end of the day.

All I can say is: try it before you pass judgement. If you are a current player, log in and check out the game. If you are a player who has tried the game and left because it was not delivering the experience, come back. If you're a gamer who has been on the fence because of what you've heard about the game previously, grab the free trial and jump in. We have a free 10 day trail available on the website (http://starwarsgalaxies.station.sony.com/), which can be converted to the full version of the game at the end of the trial period. I feel that the enhancements we've made to the game have made Star Wars Galaxies the game it was always meant to be.

See you on Tatooine!

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John Smedley Answers Your Questions

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  • Thank You (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krast0r (843081) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @01:50PM (#14045319) Homepage Journal
    "Simply put: We made a mistake..." - not something we are hearing often enough from some companies recently, not naming any names.
  • Re:Amazing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CoderBob (858156) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:11PM (#14045505)
    why would people be complaining about it to the degree they are and in the numbers they are?

    Because 94.53% (Pulled from OutOfMyAss.com) of the people on MMORPG forums are people who are obsessed with seeing their words on the forum and bitch no matter what happens. For every person they make happy, they piss off someone else.

    The people who are happy won't be on the forums bitching, so it skews the numbers: if 123/150 people on a forum, say, are complaining, that looks bad. If 123/12348 people that are actually playing the game are complaining, that's not horrendous. It's not great, but it's not horrible, especially in an environment where people seem to feel the need to "be the best" instead of just enjoying a damn game.

    Add all this up with the entitlement that many MMORPG players feel they deserve, and you get a bunch of people bitching about everything, tying up the reps time, and making getting anything accomplished that much more difficult.

  • Re:Erm.... No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by harrkev (623093) <kfmsd@NoSPAM.harrelsonfamily.org> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:15PM (#14045547) Homepage
    So, what I am hearing is some people saying "I like vanilla. I wish that it was vanilla again" and others saying "I tried it and didn't like vanilla. Now it is chocolate. Good move."

    To summarize: you can't please everybody.
  • Re:Erm.... No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:20PM (#14045586)
    Really? Because noone snuck into my cupboard and changed all my vanilla into chocolate and then took all the vanilla off the market so it became impossible to buy more.

    Give me my vanilla back soe!
  • Impressed (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:04PM (#14045977)
    This is one of the least 'marketing oriented' responses I think I've seen from a game company in a long time (if you take into consideration the dribble we normally see from game companies, particularly online games).

    I can understand where some of the existing players would be upset by the changes, but you have to admit something had to be wrong with the game. Star Wars is one of the most well known IP's in the world, and just the game's player base hovers at around 250k, a fraction of the subscribers of the top online games?
  • by Lord Kaio (687564) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:36PM (#14046259)
    I played Galaxies for over a year since it's initial launch and I was pleased that it seemed to be moving in the right direction from the start. At the beginning there was nothing, lots of open ground, not much to do, so many bugs and it was almost all on foot. I have to give them credit though because alot of the server related bugs were cleared up, they added in Player Cities, Creature Mounts, Vehicles, tons of items for in your house and some minor quest materials. I was more than happy just hanging out with my friends in game, flying around on a planet, just watching a family of Rancors from the top of a hill. It felt nice not having to worry about levels like many other MMO's. I was working on a Creature Handler/Pistoleer/Medic template so I could have a pet tank for me while being able to damage from range all the while healing myself and my pet. It was a great solo template...keyword being was.

    Then the changes started happening. The biggest change was that they rushed the Jedi making experience out into the world. When we all first started, there was no guide on how to make your character into a Jedi. Sure there were tons of theories, but none were proven true. Then finally, one person came forth and had ascended into being a Jedi. While I'd like to think that it's just coincidence, I doubt that the whole Jedi path was being independently explored at the same time and finished within days of each other on other servers. Soon enough, word was out that if you mastered 5 (I think it was 5 at the time) of the professions that were randomly determined for you at character creation, you could become a Jedi as well. Thus, the grind began. The numbers of players never seemed higher, but the number of people truly "playing" dropped incredibly. People were taking advantage of the macro system to master the social classes in hours. Cantinas were filled with AFK dancers and musicians spamming their specials. Crafters were flooding the Bazaars (think auction houses in data terminal style) with goods that they were making in mass quantities to fly through a profession. Harvesters were everywhere, houses went up for storage more than anything else. This led to an economic collapse, driving most of the "true" crafters to close up shop and leave since the market was flooded with cheap mass produced goods that kept prices low.

    Instead of trying to slow this influx of people trying to become Jedi, SOE decided to help everyone by revealing that Holocrons (rare drops in game) could be used to tell you the next profession you need to master. So holocron prices jumped into the millions of credits and "Holo-grinding" was born. To make matters worse, for Christmas, everyone received at LEAST 2 holocrons, some somehow managed to get 4 (single character per server, so no alts sharing holos). There were crafty people though that would use an alt on another server to trade to someone to get their alt's holos on their main server. Everything focused on the holos and the quest to be a jedi.

    Well, if you don't know already, it worked, Jedi started popping up everywhere. While most people thought that a Jedi should be a hermit and secretive, you'd see them walk into crowded cantinas and pull out their lightsaber to the "Oooo's" and "Aaah's" of the crowd. Most people pushed for massive experience loss on Jedi Death, or even Permadeath (i.e. start your jedi from padawan). What did the Jedi's get punished with? Item decay like the rest of us in the long run, and with this new patch, nothing.

    Now that Jedi are covered, lets talk about PvP. Galaxies always felt like it needed PvP, Imperials vs. Rebels is the perfect backdrop when racial and class differences are the same on either side of the fence. The problem was that classes weren't balanced at all. A Teras Kasi Artist (Think Monk from EQ) could go into a den of Rancors and emerge unscathed carrying a full pack of Rancor teeth and hide. My lowly Creature Handler/Pistoleer/Medic template let me take on one at a time, but I'd be ripped a new
  • by copenja (840759) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:42PM (#14046303)
    John S. should be fearful, because nothing in the internet is as fearsome as the wrath of a bitter MMORPG nerd!!!!!!!! These guys are bunch of super pissed-off dudes! Messing with them is like stirring up a hornets nest. It's just isn't a good idea.
  • by soundvessel (899042) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:56PM (#14046423)
    Give them a fucking break. The game came out in the early days of MMORPGs and they bit off more than they could chew at the time. There isn't a single MMO right now that isn't plagued with problems, but the early ones (UO, SWG, AO) all had the uphill battle of defining the genre. SWG, while I haven't even played it (yet), seems to have tried to offer an experience that was much larger and more involved than any of the others at its time.

    Given that they've had an attrition of players due to some mismanagement of the game--which they've fessed up to--, the logical budget they can even allocate to managing the game and its various fixes, necessary adjustments in reaction to the way players play the game, and other philosophical concerns, it was imperative that they make some changes to the original structure of the game, or let it die. Which doesn't make an sound business sense.

    There will be another Star Wars MMORPG after SWG. It's inevitable. LucasArts is probably already drawing up the plans for it; it'll take place in a different time period, perhaps even a different world of the universe. The implementation will be much different. But Sony's efforts at making and managing this game will set a precedent for what the new game will accomplish, what it will fix, and the limitations they set on the world.

  • by GroovyChk (640592) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @04:28PM (#14046761) Homepage
    I tried WoW for awhile but cancelled it. No player cites, no houses, limited crafting, and yet another fantasy game. I have loved Star Wars since I was a little girl of nine. I just want them to fix the classic SWG game. Pre-hologrind.
  • Re:Erm.... No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fallen1 (230220) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @05:55PM (#14047559) Homepage
    In the Old Game, I had to keep most of the graphics choices cranked to Zero to get consistent Frames Per Second performance, regardless of where I went. Even then, highly populated areas totally blew that down the tubes and gave me almost no FPS.

    In the NGE, I have been able to crank everything back up near the top again and I am obtaining VERY consistent FPS, regardless of where I am and how many people are in a given area.

    Emphasis added.

    Yeah, the reason is THERE ARE NO MORE HIGHLY POPULATED AREAS. Period. Coronet - dead. Theed - dead. Dant Mining Outpost - almost dead. I'm on Intrepid which is one of the suggested started servers with what was a damn good player base and active population. I came back right before the NGE went into effect so I could test the changes live. They suck ass for a MMORPG. They're not bad for a First Person Shooter style game. Unfortunately, SWG was supposed to be a MMORPG with a complex story and background and *d'oh!* a complex game to go with it. Not a dumbed down, 8-year-old's wet dream FPS game. The overwhelming response to both the Combat Upgrade and now the NGE is negative.

    SOE knows the players are leaving in droves and have been since the CU. This is the death spiral of a once cool game (pre-CU and definitely pre-NGE). Everything has been dumbed down (especially crafting) and you now have no choice in creating a "unique" character. Period. A jedi is a jedi is a jedi. A smuggler is a smuggler is a smuggler. And so on right down the line of, what was it?, "Nine iconic 'professions'". Pleaaaaaaase. Smedley and SOE need an icon up their ass for destroying the entire SWG: An Empire Divided experience.

  • by C0rinthian (770164) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @05:57PM (#14047585)
    I've run one character to 60, and have a second in the 40's now. I can think of one, possibly two times in my entire WoW career that I've had problems finding the things I need to kill because of player competition. Perhaps you are on one of the more crowded servers?

    As for why WoW is so popular despite it's simplicity, I think it's simplicity may be a reason. I came to WoW after playing Eve for almost 2 years. I helped run a corporation of over 100 people, and was deeply involved in 0.0 alliance politics. It is a VERY complex game, and honestly I burned out. WoW may not do anything significantly new to the genre, but what it does is done very well. The game is easy to get into, and it's entertaining. Does that appeal to everyone? No, but it was a nice change of pace for me, and I'm having a blast.
  • by Nullsmack (189619) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @06:20PM (#14047786)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke [wikipedia.org] perhaps reading this would be better, considering it seems like Mr Smedley has his head in the ground..
  • Memo to SOE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lewp (95638) * on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @07:02PM (#14048108) Journal
    Get out of the MMORPG business. You can't handle it.

    The problem with making an MMORPG is that most people only play one. Companies that are incapable of making an outstanding game -- like SOE -- can rest easy making regular PC or console titles, since truly awesome games are rare and they just have to compete with other mediocre companies on a marketing basis in an attempt to get a place in a larger shopping cart.

    With MMORPGs things are different. One good one can come out and completely ruin the market for five years by locking up your potential audience. If these people have time for another MMORPG, they just play more of the one they already have.

    Thus, if you really want to be successful in the MMORPG space, you need to make amazing, genre-defining games that are either so much better than the competition that people are willing to give up weeks/months/years building characters to switch, or that bring in players to the MMORPG space who wouldn't have played otherwise.

    SOE, your best days in this market are behind you. You had the lead, with EQ, and you blew it. EQ2 is awful, SWG was (and probably still is, I'm reserving judgement to be fair) awful, Planetside didn't really make anything of itself, and you've got nothing better coming down the pipe. Get out, let Blizzard play the 800lb gorilla (which is what they are now, not you), and let smaller companies with better reputations and the ability to innovate try to topple them.

    You guys... just get jobs you're actually good at.

    Love,

    A concerned citizen

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