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Ask John Smedley About Star Wars Galaxies 383

Late last week, Sony Online Entertainment announced a fundamental revamp in the way that the Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG will be played. The Everquest-like autoattacking gameplay and multitudes of player classes are being removed. This marks the most dramatic change ever made to a MMOG already live, and Sony Online President John Smedley is willing to take questions from the Slashdot community about the changes. One question per comment, and we'll send the ten best questions on to Mr. Smedley. We'll post his answers as soon as they're returned. More details are available below, as are some preliminary responses from Mr. Smedley about the broad picture they're aiming for.
For some background, Gamespy has a look at what the changes will be. Players are already checking out the new content on the test servers. f13 has an entire feature on the new systems. SWG Game Designer Jeff Freeman fills us in on the decision-making process used to decide to make the changes. As a note, Mr. Smedley and the folks at SOE are well aware of the sometimes critical nature of our discussions here, and they specifically want the chance to answer any concerns we might have about the new systems. Feel free to be as harsh or as hopeful as you are inclined to be: Mr. Smedley has promised to answer the questions come what may.

John Smedley: I was going to send you a Word doc, then remembered this was going to /. Including the text here.

Q: In your own words, would you like to lay out exactly what the scope of this overhaul will involve?

John Smedley:
There are two primary elements at the heart of this redesign: the re-focusing of Star Wars Galaxies's profession system and the introduction of what we're calling "Fast-Action Combat."

We are taking the 30+ professions and focusing them down to 9 "Iconic Professions." After the changes go live, when a player goes to start a new character in the game, they will see 9 boxes in the profession field. Those boxes will read Bounty Hunter, Commando, Entertainer, Jedi, Medic, Officer, Smuggler, Spy and Trader. Each descriptor will also have an image of an iconic Star Wars character, such as Han with Smuggler, Boba Fett with Bounty Hunter, Luke with Jedi, etc. These Iconic Professions will make it much easier for players to understand which type of character they're going to play and the type of activities and actions they should expect to find with their new profession.

Existing SWG players will be given a special item after the transition. This item will allow them to re-specialize ("re-spec") their character up to nine times. This will allow vets to try out each of the new Iconic Professions to determine which type they want to play.

The second major portion is the implementation of "Fast Action Combat." We're going to strip out the current SWG "select target, start macros, wait for combat to end" gameplay and replace it with a much more engrossing, entertaining control scheme. "Fast Action combat" controls will be similar to action games that our playerbase is intimately familiar with (Diablo certainly comes to mind, as well as our own Untold Legends game for the PSP). Now, every time a player clicks on their mouse button, they will fire their blaster, swing their lightsaber, shoot lightning bolts from their fingertips, etc. The pacing of combat has come way, way up, making the game faster and much more fun.

Fast Action really goes a long way towards making you feel like you're living the Star Wars experience, which is the primary goal behind all the enhancements we've been making to the game over the last few months. Instead of a passive, wait-and-see style of combat, you're now going to be much more involved with the action happening on-screen, which is even reflected in the music that you'll hear while fighting. Additionally, we've boosted the rate player's health regenerates, putting them back into the thick of things right away.

Q: Was there a single game element, piece of feedback, or event that prompted this re-envisioning? This is a very dramatic decision, and the reasons behind the changes seem almost as important as the changes themselves. What prompted you to give this plan the go-ahead?

John Smedley:
There are millions of Star Wars fans out there. SWG should be the game those players have always hoped for, a game that finally allows them to live inside the worlds and settings they know so well from the movies, the books, the comics.

Our main goal with SWG for the last nine months has been to make the game more "Star Wars-y," for lack of a better term. Our two latest expansions, Rage of the Wookiees and the new Trials of Obi-Wan have delivered players the kind of directed, hand-crafted content that they would find in our other titles, as opposed to just having open-ended "sandbox" style of gameplay.

The redesign comes about after hearing desires from our own players on forums and in person at the SWG Fan Fests, multiple focus groups, and our own design team's desire to create something much more grand and sweeping with the game. We have big plans for SWG in the months and years ahead, and we needed this new platform to use as a foundation for creating the vast Galactic Civil War that our players want.

Q: The immediacy of real-time combat certainly seems more 'Star Warsy' than the current system. What is being done to specifically ensure that combat recaptures the energy of the battles we see in the movies? How is this overhaul going to affect the space experience, if at all?

John Smedley:
Simple: by engaging the player, instead of having them watch combat from a distance. Fast Action is just what it sounds like. Players will find themselves jumping in and really applying themselves, interacting with the game like never before. Everything has been sped up in combat, including attacking, reloading, using special abilities, items and powers, even the speed with which health is regenerated. This allows players to fight with large numbers of enemies without having to take constant time outs to regen. This isn't like any other MMO out there.

The space elements of the game are going to remain as they are, since this action philosophy was already part of that experience. With this redesign, we're attempting to make the ground portion of the game as exciting and adrenaline-pumping as the space portion.

Q: For all of the Star Wars Galaxies players who already have time invested into characters, what plans do you have to transfer their existing characters to the new system?

John Smedley:
When the redesign comes to the live game, there will be rewards for our veteran players (they should be announced later in the week). As I mentioned before, all vets will receive an item that allows them to respect their character up to nine times, allowing them to dive into the new Iconic Professions and try them all out. Current Jedis will receive two enhanced items, a special robe and a lightsaber.

Additionally, anything non-combat related attached to the player's character will remain unaffected after the transition, including vehicles, property, collectibles, etc...

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask John Smedley About Star Wars Galaxies

Comments Filter:
  • by daeley ( 126313 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:43PM (#13999958) Homepage
    it seems to me that if you are paying a monthly subscription to play a MMORPG you should have some say in the administration and changes to the game. after all you have a lot at stake in it, monetarily and time spent. why aren't more of these MMORPG companies allowing for more democracy? i for one would be pissed if an update broke my months of time and money spent developing my character etc. furthermore i think the introduction of a little democracy could very well make it more interesting.

    The democracy lies in that if you are dissatisfied with the product, and your expression of that dissatisfaction goes unheeded by the developers, you can stop sending them money. ;)
  • Just tell us why? (Score:2, Informative)

    by 1337speak ( 930122 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:15PM (#14000345)
    Why did you guys announce this "upgrade" the day after ToOW release? I mean heh... sounds a bit strategical to me, an "upgrade" like this would take months if not years to create, this total revamp is bigger than the normal CU itself (which by the way was announced months before) and will change the genre and remove very many reasons to playing this game. You have said that every upgrade will be on the "In development forums", and step by step be shown to the players. Was this "upgrade" too small to ever be put there? You knew well that very many players wouldn't ever have bought the expansion if they knew the game was going down the trashcan 2-3 weeks later. If not illegal, this is fraud and you are cheating your players... I doubt I will get an answer to this, and if I won't, I will take it as my statements in this post are correct (I know you read all of them so no response will mean as much as a response really...). By the way... people probably have cancelled their accounts, and most responses you have been getting have probably been negative, do you really think that I should believe you when you say that most people are optimistic about this? What do you take people who play this game for? Don't you think they play it for a reason, that they are happy with the current system? Of course some people may want the NGE, however I don't believe the majority of the subscribers enjoy complete revamps which take time to get into and fix bugs etc... each 6 months. Just my thoughts, I really have lost all my trust to SOE/LA for first removing the original combat system pre-cu and then removing what's left of the fun from it from CU1 by adding CU2. I am sorry to say this but it's the way I feel... Thanks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:31PM (#14000519)
    to revitalize one critical missing aspect of the SW experience, IE the actual war?

    currently you have allowed the galactic civil war to sink into obscurity by going out of your way to accomodate those who feel both sides should be balanced, and by making it supremely difficult for sides to fight and get a sense of accomplishment.

    how do you plan on rectifying this post NGE? do you plan on actually letting players feel the oppressive might of the empire, or will you continue to cater to a vocal minority who would prefer balance over immersiveness? what will be done to alieviate one of SWG's core problems, namely the inability of the game servers to support epic massive battles of over 100 players?

    (for those of you who don't know, this is currently impossible in SWG)
  • by TychoCelchuuu ( 835690 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:54PM (#14000832) Journal
    That's actually perfectly legitimate, so let's reword it so we get an answer:

    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?
  • by fallen1 ( 230220 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @04:28PM (#14001282) Homepage
    Keep the parent modded up. I know for a fact that SOE lost TONS of players when the first Combat Upgrade (combat downgrade more like it), Armor crafting nerf, and Weapons crafting nerf went into place. I personally canceled three acounts (hey, I needed the storage and lots for crafting :-p), multiple friends cancled theirs, their friends canceled and so on. I can say with confidence that at least 5000 friends and friend of friends left around the same time I did. That doesn't include all of THEIR friends and friends of friends who left as well. The Combat Upgrade and nerfing that SOE did garnered a Mass Exodus(tm) from the long-term player base and the only thing that kept SWG going was the influx of n00b players wanting to play Rage of the Wookies that was advertised during EpII. From what some friends, who drifted back to check out the ongoing Mass Exodus(tm) and slow demise of SWG, have said is that the Mass Exodus(tm) is ongoing and that the long-term players who had managed to hang around after the CU nerfage and further patches have now begun to leave in droves with some of the current changes announced (the NEW Combat Upgrade and class nerf, the fact that you MUST log on and pay maintenance for your house(s), factories, etc. at least once in a 3 month period or they go *poof* along with everything in them [this is JUST to keep players in the game or coming back for one month every 3 months since you can pay months or YEARS of maintenance into a house just so you DIDN'T have to worry about this crap], more crafting nerfage, etc.) to the game.

    Sony Online Entertainment fucked the duck with Star Wars from the get-go. Those of us who played beta (LOL) or started shortly after the game went live were basically STILL playing beta even a year into the game. There were hundreds of minor things that needed fixing that were simple code fixes that would have completed content already in the game and made it playable. The Combat Upgrade was completely useless as the only thing people wanted was the classes balanced a little better -- not a shiny new WTH do these Everquest icons mean? interface and whiz-bang graphics when you hit someone with your blaster (since when is THAT Star Wars??).

    My personal opinion is that SOE wanted to fuck Star Wars Galaxies any way they could because they did not OWN the world and licenses for it outright. I firmly believe that if LucasArts had held off on the game and brought in the talent to operate and run their own server farms and related works for SWG then the game would have been 300% better than it was initially and THEY would have listened to the player base. Possibly. At least more than SOE did.

    As much as I loved the original version of SWG, the intricate crafting, the thrill of finding a new "uber" resource, the great fun in both PvE and PvP (yeah, some folks had 't3h uberest' template and were a pain in PvP), and the loads of friends I had there I hope SWG dies a violent death and takes part of SOE and their frigging no-help customer service and non-listening devs and management team with it to a vivid MMORPG death.

    Then, from the ashes, LucasArts takes the feedback SOE tried to quash about the CU and goes back to SWG version 1, fixes what was wrong with it, and then puts out their own version, hosted by them, feedback directly to them, good customer service, and helpful in-game CS too and all is right with the SWG universe. Of couse, I also want the impossible - my toons from the current SWG converted to LucasArts improved SWG1 game with all my resources, weapons, armor, houses, and credits intact. *heh*

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"