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Role Playing (Games) Media Movies Star Wars Prequels

John Smedley On The New Galaxies 43

Gamespot has part one of an extensive interview with SOE CEO John Smedley about the recent and controversial changes made to Star Wars Galaxies. From the article: "Star Wars never hit that excitement level around here. It never got--there never was a critical mass of people here that wanted to play it. So we knew we could do way better. And I guess as much out of a love for making these kinds of games, even though that sounds corny, though it's true, we wanted to make this game better." We had our own talk with Mr. Smedley not too long ago.
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John Smedley On The New Galaxies

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  • Such potencial and all was wasted... SWG could be one of the best MMORPG built around a wonderful setting, but instead it was bland.
  • by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @06:46PM (#14230567) Homepage
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/10/arts/10star.html ?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1134234111-qM+OBZTgCE9+jbFl687Dv g [nytimes.com]

    Must read.

    Smedley is a liar and a thief. I'd normally never say that, but in his case, it's true.
  • is thinking the millions of Star Wars fans, ranging in age from toddlers to 100 year old grandparents will pay them 15 bucks a month for a shoddy FPS wannabe. To risk your traditional RPG type customers for some unknown amount of FPS customers is just bad business, especially since there are much better Star Wars FPS type games out there that don't have a monthly subscription.

  • Changes... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by warGod3 ( 198094 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:18PM (#14230731)
    As a long time player of SWG, I have seen the game go from something was that fun to play to something that is being dumbed down for mass appeal. I understand that they are trying to appeal to a greater market to attract more people. They (SOE and LucasArts) have decided that the opinion of people that have played a while is irrelevant. Although numbers have not been published by SOE, it is estimated that their losses are far greater than they anticipated with the NGE.
    I think part of what I read scared me. But it didn't when I read it at first, it was after a conversation I was having with someone regarding the another industry. It seems that other industries have relied heavily on their name brand to carry them through as well, and things happened and they had to tighten their belts. What will happen at SOE? I think that they are trying to target SWG to the "younger" generation.
    Now we are hearing rhetoric and rumors from all sides to all extents about what is going to happen. Yes, I am still in the game, for now. Are more changes to come? Probably, but what will they bring?
    • As a long time player of SWG, I have seen the game go from something was that fun to play to something that is being dumbed down for mass appeal. I understand that they are trying to appeal to a greater market to attract more people. They (SOE and LucasArts) have decided that the opinion of people that have played a while is irrelevant.

      Have you considered that if they are losing subscribers and failing to attract new ones in sufficient numbers, the people who have been playing the longest and keep playing m
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:19PM (#14230733)
    The current version of the game is fun for he first hour or three, but after that it just gets boring. It's gone from being a game where you needed some time to familiarize yourself with the system, into being a game where the system is so simple there's nothing to familiarize yourself with. The price of this, obviously, is that there's no more diversity in the system. The result of this is that people will most likely buy it due to the fact that it's Star Wars, and because of the marketing being done for it, and they'll be playing it probably a couple of weeks, and then quit, because at that point it's become a second-rate shooter, and nobody pays $15/month to play that when they can play first-rate shooters online for free once the game is initially bought.

    The only hope now is that SOE either rolls back the servers (very unlikely), that they put up a few "classic" servers (also very unlikely), or that they shut it down completely (seems pretty likely) so that someone else might start from scratch with a second Star Wars MMORPG.
  • How about content? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Somatic ( 888514 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:01PM (#14230922) Journal
    Smedley: We spent quite a bit of time and money doing product research. We did a number of focus groups and talked specifically about changes that we could make to the interface, to the combat, and to the overall gameplay experience--to make it a lot more fun. We also did surveys asking the current user base what was missing, what were things we could do to make the game better.
    And in all of these user surveys, apparently no one ever said they wanted content, and that's why there was none, right?

    Let me spell this out for you future game developers. Randomly generated content is not content, it's crap. The brain of even the slowest human can smell the difference between hand crafted and computer generated content. It's why the Turing test hasn't been passed, it's why automated customer service menus piss people off, and it's one of the reasons SWG failed.

    Creating a massive world that was 99% empty might have seemed like a good idea on the surface, I know. You'd save all that time on programming, writing, implementing... you'd create beautiful cities (and you did), players would go to them and be merry... but all the rest of the world would be random. It didn't seem like a bad idea, I know. I can follow the thought process that led to SWG's design, and on paper, I can see how it might have sounded good.

    But what you've got to understand, devs, is that there is no substitute for the human hand. Technology is great when used right, but it is not a good babysitter. Random levels worked for Nethack because it was a single player game, an ASCII game, and the design was genius for its time. But random will not work in a modern MMOG.

    People need to fall in love with the world they're playing in, and a computer-generated design just can't inspire that love. Only the human hand can do that. Maybe in the next 20 years a genius programmer will come along who will write the algorithm that will be able to trick the human brain into loving it that way they love something painstakingly crafted by a human... but for now, you have to do it by hand.

    I'm serious, game devs. I'm trying to save you millions of dollars. Don't do it. Hire a bunch of high school aged D&D DMs if your budget is that tight. Just hire a human, k?

    (oh yeah, and crippling bugs wrapped in unstable code that never get fixed are bad too)

    • by MilenCent ( 219397 ) <johnwh@gmaiELIOTl.com minus poet> on Sunday December 11, 2005 @02:12AM (#14232073) Homepage
      I'll put aside the question of whether Star Wars Galaxies' random content was good or not. I'll even grant you that it might not have been possible for any Star Wars game to be randomly generated -- it may have been possible to get that workable engaging, but for the sake of my point I'll concede it.

      I don't think that random content is inherently bad. I don't think it'll always look like a computer made it and not a human. I don't even think that always matters.

      You invoke the sacred and holy name of Nethack as a talisman against the gameplay it stands for, but the plain fact is, no one's ever tried to make Nethack-style random gameplay work in a commercial product. (Diablo does not count for reasons to be revealed.) And Nethack, despite how it looks, is absolutely not outdated -- indeed, its open source nature has spawned dozens of interesting and creative patches for the game, ranging from special levels (Lethe, Heck2) to new monsters (Biodiversity) to entire new play mechanics (Color Alchemy, described below).

      But it is not controversial to say something like "Nethack rulez" on Slashdot, in which the radio of Nethackers as opposed to the general population is, shall we say, higher than normal. So to avoid mere karma whoring, I'll attempt to explain how to make random content work.

      You do it by randomizing more than just maps. (Re Diablo: There.) Having an infinite amount of terrain to explore is not enough to make a game interesting. Roguelikes do it by also randomizing the item definitions, restricting player knowledge of them, and making their discovery a major part of each game. Some games randomize still more, or provide mechanisms by which the basic item randomization has profound effects on the game. Examples: The presence and alignments of altars in Nethack has a profound effect upon that game, even though technically they're just part of its map generation. ADOM generates different alchemy recipes each game, which can potentially give players a potent source of resources. There is a user-created patch, Color Alchemy, that does something similar in Nethack: instead of having that game's potion mixing system be based upon type (Healing Potion + Gain Energy Potion = Extra Healing Potion), it's based on the color in the potion descriptions (Whatever Red Potions are + Whatever Yellow Potions are = Whatever Orange Potions are)!

      Also, randomly placed monsters are not interesting in a game in which they...
      A. ...have no "hard" way of harming the player. When overcoming player death is as simple as clicking a respawn button, no monster is really that dangerous. Rogue had *common* monsters that could do permanent strength damage, could quickly drain levels, could confuse with a glance, permanently degrade armor, etc. Nethack, of course, has the infamous cockatrice, Medusa, monsters that can curse items, monsters that can burn with a glance, thieves, and many others.

      And all true Roguelikes have permanent character death. When that foe around the corner could suddenly destroy your entire character, let alone his stats and equipment in ways that are not trivial to overcome, then that random generation begins to really mean something. Show me a MMORPG like *that* and I'll be there like a shot.

      B. ...are all essentially aliases for each other. This is related to point A, I think, in that many games tend to support umpteen different types of damage, but the main way in which they are differentiated from each other is in the kinds of resistances a player may have. (This is a reason I don't play Angband, despite its being a major Roguelike.) Often, many of them tend to behave in the same way as the others, have the same general types of attacks, and ultimately, due to the reluctance of the designer to have them do really bad things to characters, don't have anywhere near the personality that Nethack monsters have.

      So, I think you can indeed make randomly generated content, but it can't be half-assed. And ultima
      • Without wanting to disagree too explicitly with you, I will say....

        A lot of people don't play Nethack. It's very appealing to a certain kind of person, and a very impressive feat of both game design and social engineering. It's a wonderful piece of work that anybody would be proud of.

        But the reasons that Nethack hasn't conquered the gaming world go beyond anti-ASCII bias. It's not the game people want to play. Most of the reasons you list as good things about Nethack are precisely themselves the reasons
        • A lot of people don't play Nethack. It's very appealing to a certain kind of person, and a very impressive feat of both game design and social engineering. It's a wonderful piece of work that anybody would be proud of.

          Well, my original was about the possibility of using random generation to create a game world. My point was that it can definitely work, but you can't just generate new terrain unless there's something about it (like Nethack's altars) that adds to the game beyond just adding a bunch more larg
      • Diablo 2 has random everything that you listed for nethack. It also offers permanent character death.

        Permanent character death will never appeal to more than a tiny fraction of players, though, particularly in a MMORPG where PvP is viewed as a greater necessity. There are just too many opportunities for griefers and bad luck to ruin the experience for the common player (lagdeath).

        MMORPGS can make as much use of randomly generated content as any RPG game can. As a designer, you just have to know that rand
        • Diablo 2 has random everything that you listed for nethack. It also offers permanent character death.

          No, not that I'm aware.

          The randomized item system is substantially different, and considering that identifying items has half the game in a Roguelike it's important that they get it right. One-use items are preidentified in Diablo 2. Equipment is often not ID'd, but it doesn't follow the "discover one, discover all" concept that true Roguelikes use. Further, all the "armor" tends to be different things on
          • Diablo 2 has one-use (stat boosters), multi-use(spell items), and permanent (armor/weapons) all of which are randomly generated and have randomly picked effects with randomly generated intensity levels. Like all good RPG's the random effects come from a fixed list, which is used to rule out unbalancing items.

            Items are generated from a 64 bit random key, combined with an 8bit power level (used to limit the intensity of low level items).
            • Diablo 2 has one-use (stat boosters),

              The identity of the item matters less than how the player discovers its purpose.

              multi-use(spell items),

              But Nethack's multi-use spell items are much richer: wands can be zapped in a direction, at yourself, aimed at the ceiling or the floor, recharged, cancelled or broken. Concerning recharging, each time you recharge it, there's an increased chance the wand will blow up. If you zap an empty wand often enough, on each zap there's a 1-in-131 chance that you'll wrest a las
          • Diablo 2 has random everything that you listed for nethack. It also offers permanent character death.

            No, not that I'm aware.

            If you played online, you had the option of playing on permadeath servers.

            They also had "ladder" servers, where you tried to be the first to the top, with PvP available.

            The ultimate King of the Hill, though, was the ladder PvP with permadeath. Now those were some damned hardcore players.

            • The "Not that I'm aware" statement I made refered to the whole line that I quoted. I was aware that there is a permadeath option. Yet the game is designed around non-permadeath, with permadeath being a fairly "hardcore," in their own words, alternative.

              But concerning permadeath, sure, I'll take up the challenge of responding to why their permadeath isn't the same as Nethack's.

              Both games allow the player to play a non-permadeath game. In Nethack, you arrange this by entering Discover Mode (Shift-X during
      • And all true Roguelikes have permanent character death. When that foe around the corner could suddenly destroy your entire character, let alone his stats and equipment in ways that are not trivial to overcome, then that random generation begins to really mean something. Show me a MMORPG like *that* and I'll be there like a shot.

        Yes, because Nethacks rule number one - think before you act - works so well in a realtime game.

        Nethack works, because when you are in a tight spot, you can go walk you dog, sl

        • Yes, because Nethacks rule number one - think before you act - works so well in a realtime game.

          It might! I've yet to see anything about Nethack that makes it *imperative* that that style of play could not work in a real time setting. Maybe not for Nethack itself, (the DevTeam says in the FAQ on their site that they don't think realtime multiplayer is right for the game because of its complexity), but that style of game might still be workable. Rogue, for instance, is nowhere near as complicated as NH bu
      • no one's ever tried to make Nethack-style random gameplay work in a commercial product.

        Uh, the entire Fushigi no Dungeon series (Including Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon and Pokemon: Fushigi no Dungeon) which are commercial versions of Rogue and Nethack? I know for a fact there was a Gameboy Advance title along the same lins as well (Monster Dungeon or something along those lines).

        I'm pretty sure I had to pay for those and they were nethack-style (to the point of being random).
        • Uh, the entire Fushigi no Dungeon series (Including Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon and Pokemon: Fushigi no Dungeon) which are commercial versions of Rogue and Nethack? I know for a fact there was a Gameboy Advance title along the same lins as well (Monster Dungeon or something along those lines).

          Yeah, I remembered those shortly after I posted. I don't know enough about them to see if they really seek to do what true Roguelikes do, or if they're half-hearted attempts to utilize that kind of gameplay, like Azu
    • I agree with what you're saying. I hate NPCs, I hate talking to them, I hated the whole "training" aspect of Galaxies.

      On that note, why not put money into hiring "professional" role players with special access to the game. Maybe a REAL storm trooper recruiter who tells you to goto X planet at X time where you meet a real person playing the storm trooper sargent and from that point on you go through basic training and end up on a star destroyer, etc, etc. Hire PEOPLE to interact with the players. That
  • The real problem, if I recall, was a heavy load of grinding on most professions, making the game less enjoyable to casual players, because hunting or mining expeditions took a lot of time. This was a bit better on, for example, the Entertainer profession, but few people tipped the musicians in the bars and they could not easily progress in the economic system, which was quite ingenious with an eBay-like long-run auction system integrated.

    So after a few months, I quit and put my subscription fee towards TiV
  • The original product attempted to deliver a innovative high-concept MMO in a IP that was fundamentally mass-market and accessible. I can't speak for the implementation of the "new" SWG - which from all accounts is hideous - but the overall strategic decision makes sense from a business perspective. Gamers who enjoyed the game for its ambitious design and aren't as interested in living out their SW wish-fulfillment fantasies get shafted, of course, but what can you do? The mainstream is a homogenizing force.
    • I very much agree. I was always impressed by the audacity of the attempt to weld together Star Wars' mass (and middle-brow at best) appeal and a high-concept designer's game design. And I think the failure of that marriage is (and there's an extent to which this is brutally obvious) the major reason for SWG's lack of success. In hindsight, marrying Star Wars' mass appeal to a mass-appeal game structure (something more like what Blizzard has done with WoW, but possibly even more casual friendly) would hav
  • SWG is a fun game (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @10:54PM (#14231500) Journal
    For the first month. Maybe two. When you are still new to the world and everything is new and a challenge. When you tame your first bantha, get your first landspeeder, make your first firework.

    The first time you go in a group to dathomir and engage a lair of rancors. Well at least if you go in a good group (non buffed to the max group that can solo a rancor lair)

    And that last bit is the problem. As you learned the game you found out that in the beginning you were hopelessly crippling yourselve. Your "action" points (health action mind) depleted only because you hadn't bought the proper buffs. Without buffs taking on a bunny could be a challenge. With them you could stand in a circle of enraged giant rancors and kick their but.

    But this also ruined the fun. Gone were the carefully prepared expeditions. Do you know that at one point nobody went to dathomir without a medic in the group? When I left EVERYBODY including dancers and musicians were making the dathomir village run (if you don't know don't ask) 2x a day. (oh alright if you must know, to become a jedi you had to trade regular xp you gained by doing your chosen proffesion in the village. a 15 minute drive across dathomir wich turned the most hostile planet into a freaking highway)

    Unlike other MMO games there was usually no problem in finding a group. Finding the members of the group was another matter. SWG may be the first MMO game to come up with the concept of the solo group. You see a high level combat character could easily handle the thoughest missions BUT was unable to get them when alone. You had to be in a group of about 5 to get the best missions (payout) so people grouped just to get missions wich they then did on their own. WEIRD.

    After a while SOE realized the game was not going well and started changing things. One of them was the addition of dungeons. Not a bad idea in itself except that SOE populated them by enemies wich insane hitpoints and resists. So it became less exploring a carefull crafted story line in a dangerous location and more a constant 5 minute kicking contest. Most people just created a macro to trigger their best attacks and went to make coffee while clearing a room.

    Remember those early usermade doom levels? Were every room had a dozen endbosses? Those levels that absolutly sucked? That is SWG "high level" content. Do a corvette mission once with a non maxed out combat character you will be death before you know it.

    And that was SWG's biggest failure. It provided nothing in the middle. Once you had gone past the initial learning period it had a big void and then only the high level endgame were you either created a tricked out combat specialist and copied exactly the perfect template or you just didn't have a chance.

    Same with crafting, nobody had any use for a mid level crafter. From almost the very beginning if you wanted to make money creating stuff you first had to grind to max level and then recoup your money by selling your high level goods. I tried chef and couldn't even give away my low level stuff.

    Strangely enough it wasn't really the combat that was boring. What was boring was that sony decided that high level meant giving just 1 million hitpoints and 100% resists (yes 100% meaning they NEVER took damage) on all but one type of damage and if your proffesion didn't do that kind of damage, then though luck.

    This meant that the end fights always became just a matter of having a good buff and then just beating away for 20 minutes. As a tka I even had "fights" were I would engage a night elder wich I couldn't damage but to keep her attention while a rifle specialist attacked her mind pool. Both of us used macro's and we chatted about how much it sucked we didn't get in the WoW beta.

    SWG tried a lot but it also failed in a lot of areas. I think that they forgot during the initial design to hire somebody from out side to review it and give an unbiased opinion. There were just to many problems for the game to have a chance of success. What SOE is doing now is fixing symptoms not causes.

  • It's really a shame that they're doing this to the game. Sony is, once again, pissing me off. It's not fair to all of the gamers who have put so many months into the game.
  • in the version of Star Wars Galaxies, does Greedo shoot first?
    • No, the real question is how on earth did anyone at Sony think creating a Star Wars MMO was ever a good idea? Yes, Everquest works to an extent, but that's pretty much a free-form RPG world built from the ground up. On the other hand, everyone knows Star Wars and consequently wants to be a hero - a Luke Skywalker or a Han Solo, and just applying the same sprawling structure to the game has resulted in one big mess. Plus there's the fact that there can be no semblence of contuity in the game.

      What Sony should
  • by natx808 ( 675339 ) on Sunday December 11, 2005 @03:17AM (#14232202)
    The NY Times article is a perfect example of what has happened to many of US!!! The veteran SWG player base who've played since or launch, often with multiple accounts -- were very powerful, wealthy and able characters in game. SWG was the only game I played, even though I own many many games. These were *VERY* happy times for me, making friends in game and me and my brother reliving our childhood. This article serves to inform the public who aren't privy to the game concrete proof that the NGE was a failure -- not Mr. Smedley's and the rest of the SOE goons twisted take on reality.

    My request to SOE is to release the original server code to the community and let us do it ourselves. As far as content is concerned, the player base was the content for me. Since my entire guild and brother left after the NGE, the new game just isn't worth it. My reasoning is this - I paid $80 for your game. Now the product is totally different than what is written on the game box. The manual is freaking worthless because the game is so different.

    It sounds to me that since EQ2 isn't doing as well as they hoped, SOE just opted for a half-assed remake of SWG instead of SWG 2? Either that or a developer went postal on them in an unusual way.

    Well here's a free idea to SOE: Allow players who reached the end game ne allowed to create areas, items, etc. I played on a mud (genocide) and when you reached the highest level a player gets to create their own realm.


    Regards,

    Piki Punobi [SK]
    Corbanits
  • One major handicap SWG has always had. And something I've never seen addressed in any of the dozens of post-mordems I've read about it, including this one, is the crippling economic drain designed to make players constantly work just to maintain what they already have. I suppose it was made that way so players would have something to do, due to the lack of worth-while content. Building 'maintenance/rent', city taxes, item decay, dissappearing factories and harvestors, etc. I played SWG for a year, and I ca
  • What's happening now is, IMO, a convergence of the original bad design and the community.

    The original SWG design was innovative, experimental, and horribly mangled. As a previous poster noted, once you'd figured out the action system, you could stand amongst a crowd of Rancors and laugh. This may be amusing if you like god-mode but it makes developing challenging encounters impossible.

    So, as another poster noted, MOBs with complete invulnerability except for one weakness were released; this is also horrib
  • Anyone familiar with the way LucasArts alienated its legions of Adventure Game fans knows that this not unusual.

    Cancelling the release of Sam and Max 2 weeks away from the release after fans waited 10 years for a sequel marked the end of respect for LucasArts. This was a company which had been heralded as the innovators of some of the most memorable and enjoyable games of all time.

    Cynics believed that LucasArts would stop at nothing to feed the Star Wars machine, which is credited with having cost many of

  • Just save the toruble and play WOW.
  • More BS from SOE.

    Lies, lies and more lies... do I sound bitter? You're damn right I am, having been a paid subscriber since Dec 2003.

    There was a rumor going around that SOE's contract with Lucas ends this coming May. I'd be surprised if SWG is around after that.

    The only way this game would draw it's previous numbers is to roll back to pre NGE and start servers up again, leaving the existing NGE game running for whoever wants it. And ha, what are the chances of that... good bye SWG.
  • If you really want to beat WoW, for starters how about making the game playable on PC and Mac? Sony has repeatedly marginalized Mac players. Blizzard came out of the gates with a dual-platform game and showed that it's possible. Sony, on the other hand, comes out with Everquest Mac literally years after the PC release, just shortly before EQ2 is announced. Pathetic.

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