Have you been contacted byLucasArts, and if you have, what was their reaction?
Sim Master was in fact contacted by the legal department of LucasArts due to potential copyright issues. The details of this situation would take a long time to explain, but in short the issue is that all Star Wars-related material is legally the property of George Lucas. Luckily Mr. Lucas appreciates and allows fan-based nonprofit projects that promote the Star Wars image to exist, as you can see all over the Internet. Clarification had to be made in direct contact with LucasArts that Star Wars Combine is a non-profit project, which was the main reason that it was allowed continued existence by the legal department. Possibility was also mentioned to grant a free Star Wars license to the Combine; however this was never finalized. Currently the game operates in a state of uncertainty of some sort in this aspect. However, this is not preventing our development team and our players from enjoying playing and developing the game. Until any such finalized resolutions are made, we are still confident that due to the non-profit nature [of SWC] no change of mind should follow from the legal department.
What's the monthly cost to run SWC?
Roughly the total cost involving operation of servers, domains, and other services would total to about $6,000 per year, which is covered by individual donations of our membership base.
Can you give an overview, or summary of how the game is played? How much of a time investment should the beginner player expect to make?
Game runs in delayed real time. That basically means that the universe in which your character lives does not pause when you leave the game. It also means that actions like walking, flying, and similar take time to complete. Initially new players tend to get a bit discouraged by this fact. However, once you get to know of the game more, you realize that it's actually a bonus, as this way the game can be enjoyed by both people with a lot of free time and the ones with limitations. If you have only a couple of minutes per day or even per week you can have a successful in-game career just as much as people who can devote hours. When it comes down to it everything depends on your style of play and interaction with other players that help you achieve your personal goals. Some of our players are highly active at a given time and then disappear for weeks. Upon their return a lot of them pick up where they left off without any serious set-backs. That way the game adapts to your life, as it should be, and not the other way around. We often find ourselves advising our employees (speaking from in-game faction perspective) that real life is more important if they have obligations like school or work projects in the upcoming weeks.
Are players expected to roleplay, or be in character all the time, or can the game be enjoyed without taking on a persona?
The game can be what the player wants it to be. Some are oriented heavily into roleplay and hardly do any in-game participation while others loathe roleplay and focus on in-game actions only. The most dedicated are always the ones that are hybrids between the two types, but overall you meet just about all sorts.
Do any of the canonical characters appear in the game, and if so, who controls their actions? When in the history does this game take place?
Combine is not following canon events in any way. In Star Wars history the game started during the war between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. However, from that point on the players were given full freedom to develop and progress as they saw fit, and like I mentioned, we moved far away from canon storyline. You see powerful groups and coalitions that have little or nothing to do with the Star Wars known from books or movies. Due to this fact you would not meet any canonical characters either anywhere in the game.
Does the game include the Expanded Universe?
The game includes the whole galaxy with some minor deviations compared to canon galaxy. From core systems to the outer rim, players can visit several sectors out of which each contains several systems, and each system contains several planets and other bodies like moons. Overall, the galaxy is vast, and offers a varied number of groups to join or professions to undertake.
Since this is a volunteer effort, what skills do you require of someone who wants to participate in working on the game?
Required skills to join the development team of the game vary and depend on the team. Sometimes specific technical knowledge is required, where in other cases simply the will to participate and some free time and good will is all that is needed.
We'd like to thank Soren for his time and answers! If you are aware of an independent MMO that the world should know about, send us a link via our tip line!