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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 doyoulikegoatseeee ( 930088 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:36PM (#13999878)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:38PM (#13999910)
    This is a really stupid question. Did you play JTL during the year and a half it's been out? You got more than your $30 worth through play.

    Should JTL purchasers have been reimbursed when anyone who bought The Total Experience got both the base game, JTL and Rage of the Wookies for less than the original game cost at release? Of course not, they'd been playing with JTL for over a year.
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:44PM (#13999967) Journal
    You pay a subscription to use a health club. You don't get any say in who they hire, their usiness practices, etc.

    o wait... this is /. ... you probably dont.

  • by synth7 ( 311220 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:47PM (#13999990) Homepage
    About two years ago I played SWG for about three months. This is after having spent a couple years dabbling in DAOC, and wanting to try something that was a change from the fantasy genre. On first blush the game looked and played nicely, but in the end I sold my account and then returned to DAOC half a year later.

    As a single player I was able to completely "max out" my character in two months, completely unassisted. At the end I was a Master Engineer, Master Droid Engineer, Master Architect, and just shy of Master Merchant. Granted, I wasn't going to be in combat any time soon... but I wanted a change from the combat grind I'd pursued in DAOC.

    Part of the problem is that the trade skills are learned in lieu of combat skills. Most mmorpgs have tradeskills seperated, such that you don't give up the classical "leveling" and combat for being a crafter. I can't say this is bad, but it means that making a character like I did results in absolutely no gameplay after spending all of my development points. Sure, I can make guild halls, craft all kinds of gear, and spend time running to and fro gathering up raw materials from my mining installations and making trades... but that has very little in the way of ongoing excitement. In short, there were several ways to make a character that would have no endgame at all, and couldn't directly contribute to the "empire divided" overarching plot.

    Granted, this was my choice. But part of that choice was made after experimenting with the mechanics of the combat system. There were so many things I didn't like about their implementation of combat that I was driven away from that choice. For example, I found that kiting a mob (forgive the parlance) was easier in this game than any other... but there was this odd "feature" about doing so: Killing your target made your character suddenly stop in his tracks and pause for a second before you could start moving again. This would typically result in the BAF'd mobs catching up with you and beating you to a pulp on the spot. I considered it very poor design or coding or logic or whatever... and simply abandoned combat-based characters.

    I think that their complete overhaul of SWG is an indication acknowledging that they really didn't know what they were doing in the first couple years of creating and expanding their mmorpg. But, then again, I've got some pretty specific ideas about where I want the mmo genre to head, and I've yet to see anyone who's willing to abandon the old tabletop RPG conventions that have been translated over to CRPGs and move onto something more suited to large, highly-detailed, persistent worlds.

    But that is material for a long, long discussion.
  • by Osrin ( 599427 ) * on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:49PM (#14000025) Homepage
    Warden isn't a root kit, and it is no secret - the details of Warden are spelled out in the EULA that players agree to before subscribing. The privacy nuts seem to think it is a bad thing, many of us actually playing the game seem to like it.
  • by kherr ( 602366 ) <kevin@pu p p e t> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:51PM (#14000043) Homepage
    There's a lot of gnashing and wailing by veteran players, but as a vet player myself I have to say I think SOE is doing the right thing to the game. I'm going to have to adjust like everyone, but for the future of the game this is what had to happen.

    The most obvious change is combat. It is FPS-like (with a 3rd- or 1st-person perspective, similar to MDK), where you shoot at whatever your crosshairs are on. The previous combat was move-based, where you'd select a target and then issue a series of attack commands. No matter how you moved you'd keep your target locked. It's too early to tell what this will really play like since the test servers have some lag issues, but overall it seems to work well. The combat players will cry a lot because you can't sloppily just shoot when you feel like it. But hey, they all complained about the last combat upgrade and then adjusted to it.

    The "iconic professions" is really not an accurate way to describe the changes to professions. The SWG concept of professions is being replaced with character classes. Currently in SWG, you could change what your toon does by dropping professions and learning new ones. With NGE you have to delete your character to change classes. Once a smuggler, always a smuggler. You want to be an entertainer now? Delete your character and start over, losing not only your skills but your equipment and, most significantly, your actual toon's physical design and name. I think this part absolutely stinks. SWG players grow attached to their virtual identities, and now we're facing a change that forces us to sacrifice those identities.

    The professions themselves aren't going away (well, Creature Handler and Bioengineer are), but rather being combined for the classes. Every trader now becomes artisan, merchant and two crafting professions. Marksman, Pistoleer, Carbineer and Rifleman are rolled into the new "ranged combat" tree, which a number of classes have. Melee combat professions are similarly combined.

    Jedi is now a starting class, which has veteran jedi up in arms. But seriously, this is why people play Star Wars games. And in NGE the starting jedi are simply melee fighters with pole arms. A lightsaber doesn't come along for them until they get to level 30, and even then it's not a great lightsaber. Testing has made this seem somewhat like a kung-fu movie, with a few masters and a huge horde of minions running around.

    One of the very cool things about NGE is the player tutorial. New players actually play in a separate introductory area on a space station. There are lots of quests that walk players through learning the game, and there's plenty to do there in terms of earning money and even traveling to another station and going into a dungeon. Once a player decides to leave the starting area, they can never go back. But the area is rich enough that there's no rush to leave. This is so much better than being dumped into the world and having to find your way through the advanced players and the communities they've created.

    All in all I think NGE is going to breathe fresh life into SWG, providing the kind of interest in play that WoW has. It's clear this is what the gaming market wants, and SOE is delivering a very worthy update to achieve this.
  • by SpacePunk ( 17960 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:00PM (#14000152) Homepage
    Instead of putting bad money after good in developing the NGE why didn't SOE fix the bugs, and add content? I'm not talking loot drop schematic content, I'm talking changes in profession content? For example, there are a lot of furnishings in the game world that isn't available for the architect class to create? How hard would it be to add those items to the architect list?

  • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:01PM (#14000163) Journal
    ... that makes the question all the more legitimate. I don't think it should just be "funny"... I would like a serious answer to the question:

    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?
  • Resource Gathering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:06PM (#14000230) Journal
    I've played a lot of MMORPGs, and one thing that leapt out at me playing SWG is how slow and cumbersome resource gathering was. If you wanted to be a crafter, you had to commit to spending hours sitting around while your hapless character extracted minerals. I understand this got better in the late game, when you could afford expensive stuff, but in the early game it was a huge timesink of the sort that Sony is best known for, and that was one of many such time sinks I experienced in the ten day free trial that pretty much summed up my SWG experience.

    I suppose my question is this: Do you have any plans to make a game that's sole purpose isn't to keep people paying your subscription fees for as long as possible? That particular facet of Sony ideology has turned me off to every Sony game I've ever played.

  • by SpacePunk ( 17960 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:08PM (#14000268) Homepage
    Why the fuck are you answering questions here on Slashdot instead of answering questions in your own goddamn forums? Are you defective? Do you give enough of a fuck to talk to your players instead of going on these idiotic public relations jaunts? The fact that you are here answering questions instead of your own forums answering questions just shows how little you give a damn beyond reaping the subscription rates and ripping your players off by announcing a major game change the day after release of an upgrade.
  • Re:OS X client? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Surlyboi ( 96917 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:17PM (#14000373) Homepage Journal
    and what about the 2+yr vets....we get the same as a jedi that unlocked 3 days before NGE? the blue glowy should be for vets that are TRUE elders...not just pre NGE unlockers

    Screw that.

    One of the most annoying things about SWG is the sense of entitlement the jedi have. I'm a two year vet AND a jedi and I couldn't care less what others get. Seriously, get over yourself.
  • by RocketScientist ( 15198 ) * on Thursday November 10, 2005 @05:57PM (#14002210)
    I know some people who played, up until this week, SW:G. All are fairly hardcore MMORPG'ers who really liked the depth and breadth of character customization and crafting available in SW:G. With that gone, they've all cancelled their accounts, in the (probably vain) hopes that SOE will keep the old ruleset servers around and let n00bs play on the new ruleset.

    How many cancellations have happened since the announcement?

    Alternatively, how many would it take to change SOE's mind?
  • by Fargmania ( 930197 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @07:03PM (#14002913)
    In an interview dated 7/29/2003, Julio Torres was quoted as saying: "When Sony and Lucas set out, we said, 'How can we do this and not make another EQ?' We didn't want it to be all about Luke, or combat, or lock our players into a class. So we created a system that would allow players to switch professions during the game, and there would be a lot of gameplay around making that change. If you want to go from architect to scout we've created a system to make that happen."

    Now with the new system, you are locking players into their classes, making it all about combat, and making oversimplified "iconic" classes like Luke (Jedi). The person who announced these new changes to the online community was none other than Julio Torres.

    In your FAQ on the new changes you announce that crafters are not being phased out. Quoting: "...Galaxies has one of the deepest and most engaging crafting systems of any game that offers one. We are still supporting crafting, but as a profession unto itself included in the nine iconic professions (Trader). What is really fantastic about crafting now is that we are allowing for skill branching within the crafting profession so that crafters can specialize in certain skills and thus help maintain the diverse Galaxies economy."

    Let us ignore the obvious fact that specialization is possible under the current ruleset thanks to the ability to mix and match professions, and move on to note that in the very same FAQ the following was revealed: "Item decay has been completely removed from the game." The only inference I can draw from that simple statement, is that as soon as there are enough items created on the server, no new ones will be necessary since nothing decays. Leaving traders with nothing to do but buy and sell used goods. Leaving this essentially just another combat game.

    My question to you, Mr. Smedley, is what justification do you have for recreating the game completely contrary to its initial formula, if that formula is what gave the game the degree of success it has achieved up to this point? Most of us players are agreed that the combat system is in serious need of an overhaul (especially after the botched disaster of the first combat upgrade), but that doesn't explain the reasoning behind dumbing down the game to the point at which it no longer appeals to the type of player that it was originally intended for. Please enlighten us.
  • indeed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SamSim ( 630795 ) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @11:45PM (#14004738) Homepage Journal

    For the incurably curious:

    Slashdot comment #1,000,000 [] - 15th June 2000

    Slashdot comment #2,000,000 [] - 1st March 1999. It's unknown why the date of this comment is earlier than the previous one. My guess is the comments weren't numbered sequentially this early on in Slashdot's history and were renumbered at some later date.

    Slashdot comment #3,000,000 [] - 13th February 2002

    Slashdot comment #4,000,000 [] - 2nd August 2002

    Slashdot comment #5,000,000 [] - 2nd January 2003

    Slashdot comment #6,000,000 [] - 20th May 2003

    Slashdot comment #7,000,000 [] - 19th September 2003

    Slashdot comment #8,000,000 [] - 16th January 2004

    Slashdot comment #9,000,000 [] - 28th April 2004

    Slashdot comment #10,000,000 [] - 18th August 2004

    Slashdot comment #11,000,000 [] - 5th December 2004. My hat is off to evilmrhenry (542138) [] for finding this for me.

    Slashdot comment #12,000,000 [] - 21st March 2005

    Slashdot comment #13,000,000 [] - 7th July 2005

    Slashdot comment #14,000,000 [] - 10th November 2005

    A graph of these values can be found here. []

    As you can see, the rate of posting has been almost perfectly constant for several years now, but comment #14,000,000 was due to occur on 23rd October 2005 and is over two weeks late. Regardless, at the current rate, comment #15,000,000 should occur on or about 1st March 2006. See you all then!

    (PS: cuuuurses)

Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.