Pardon my meme, but O RLY? Sure, the guy killed kids, committed domestic abuse, went on an extreme power trip, betrayed his mentor, tortured one of his kids and tried to kill the other, choked any underling who failed him and struggled with sexual repression -- but thank goodness that we have professionals around to tell us the obvious. Now, if those psychiatrists can turn their attention to George Lucas and his making of Howard the Duck, we'd be making progress.
Anyway, continuing from my history retrospective of Star Wars Galaxies and last week's interview with the first batch of SWG vets, the Game Archaeologist now ventures into a subculture long believed to be extinct: post-NGE players who love the game. Join me in welcoming our newest expedition members: Bill "Flynne Cordova" Van Malsen, Alex "Danick Jett" Wiberg, Stephanie "Jao" Koehler and Earth Eternal's Andrew "Titas Lightdust" Sipotz. Never tell them the odds and they'll get you there safe every time.
The Game Archaeologist: When did you first start playing Star Wars Galaxies, and what drew you to the game?
Bill: I started played Galaxies in the summer of 2004. For some reason, the Bio-Engineer profession caught my attention and I had the crazy idea of making a small fluffy creature out of the DNA of Rancors (think of the killer bunny from Holy Grail).
Alex: I started playing SWG in 2003 as I was already very much into Star Wars. Some friends managed to import the special edition from USA to Denmark, and we all started playing together.
Stephanie: I had the SWG box and waited like it was Christmas for launch. I had never played an MMO before, so I didn't know what to expect, but I thought the Twi'lek girl on the box looked cool. I made a Twi'lek dancer/pole arm named Jao in late July 2003.
Andrew: I started playing in beta. I was drawn to the sandbox style gameplay and of course the Star Wars setting!
What's one of your most favorite memories from SWG?
Bill: I found the right DNA combination for making some really nasty creatures and gave my killer Durnis (SWG equivalent of bunnies) to a couple friends who were playing as Creature Handlers. As time passed, a guildmate started thinking he was all that and a bag of chips, due in no small part to having Teras Kasi in his template, and he challenged one of my Creature Handler friends to a duel. The Creature Handler friend pulled out my killer Durni for the fight and the duel commenced. The Teras Kasi player managed to get the incapacitation on the Creature Handler, but in the fight he had forgotten about the Durni, and he had to beat feet to try and get away from the critter. By the time he had gotten things under control with the Durni, the Creature Handler had recovered from his incap and won the duel. That was probably my proudest moment as a Bio-Engineer.
Alex: My favorite memory from SWG was the first AT-AT I saw. I am very much into the roleplay side of the game, and as a roleplayer I had just joined the secret rebel unit in my city. My character returned from a hunting trip and walked over a hill into the city, and next to The Angry Jawa cantina was a giant AT-AT the size of the city hall. Pex, one of the developers, had helped the roleplayers make an Imperial crackdown in the city. I remember I screamed at my computer when I saw that.
Stephanie: Most favorite: Miss Valcyn 2007 pageant, where my event team raised over 100 mil in prizes. All our factional and playstyle differences aside, Valcynites loved their server and if invited to would give their time and credits in support of the community.
Andrew: Shortly before player towns and vehicles were implemented, my guild decided to scout out potential locations for our town. We had to do it all on foot. We spent the entire night wandering Dantooine aimlessly, but when we found our little spot on a river near a lake, miles away from any other players, it was the coolest feeling I've ever had an in MMO.
What did SWG do that made it unique or better than other MMOs?
Bill: I'd have to say it was the possibilities in gameplay. Back in the day you could tweak your profession template, work on unlocking Jedi, or even find your own challenges to deal with. When I log in these days, I don't feel I have to do something if I don't want to, as there are still plenty of possibilities even now.
Alex: Originally I played the game because it had Star Wars in the title. It was vasts worlds, blasters, Wookiees, Rodians and Bothans. The sandbox mix/match professions where you could combine your character's skills to make him be exactly what you wanted was a lot of fun. No one was the same, not to begin with.
Stephanie: SWG stands tall above MMOs in having an integrated player experience. The community and diverse playstyles were interdependent. It wasn't just you could pick to be a tank or a healer. You can be a TCG mogul or a leader in PVP. You could be a player event organizer or specialize in making one weapon better then anyone else. In other games, the non-combat aspect is an after thought or mini-game. I have never seen a game with a better balance of freedom and structured activities.
Andrew: I loved the idea that you were living as a character in the Star Wars universe. You could hang out in the cantina, decorate your house, go hunting with your friends, and just explore this huge, huge game world with no real set goals.
CU and NGE were controversial changes to be sure -- looking back, do you think the controversy was overblown and that the NGE ultimately redeemed itself?
Bill: I was lucky in that my chosen professions had straight translations to NGE professions (Jedi to Jedi, Squad Leader to Officer) and was able to adapt, but with the way the NGE was brought to the community and the state it was in when it was released, it deserved all the controversy it got. But I don't know if it will ever be able to redeem itself in everyone's eyes. The game is much better than it was when the NGE first hit, and a lot of progress has been made both for professions and content, but the NGE stigma is tough to get away from.
Alex: My main problem with the updates was the removal of the combat queue. I believed that when it would hinder those who played on American servers from Europe, as we tend to suffer more from lag than others. But I believe the updates have more than fixed than the problems the NGE gave us. We needed a new system when they introduced the NGE, but dropping it on the players like that was... yes. The biggest mistake in MMO history.
Stephanie: The NGE ultimately was a better game than Pre-CU. Okay everyone, put your stones and pitchforks away. SOE kept working at class balance and adding content, and for years after the NGE debacle the game improved. Thing is, Star Wars fans are a loyal and passionate bunch. Skewering SWG with the NGE was akin to killing Yoda, serving him as BBQ and asking the a Star Wars fans if they want hot sauce on the side.
Andrew: I am of the few people who would say I enjoyed the initial CU. The NGE however, essentially ended the game for me. It was a spectacular example of fail, everything was buggy, the "legacy" quests were boring and mindless (still are to be fair), the zero amount of communication ahead of time, ugh... I don't even like thinking about it. I do believe the game has gotten better as the developers have taken and shaped the content to fit the new gameplay, but as many people point out, it will never be Star Wars Galaxies again.
What's the best change to come to SWG over the years?
Bill: I'd have to say it's the focus on delivering content to compliment the sandbox elements of the game. The expansions were a good start, and the development teams over the years have delivered more on top of it. It hasn't all been perfect (the Naboo section of the Legacy quest, for example) but it's added to the game nicely, and it's been done without having to pay extra for an expansion pack, which is a bonus as far as I'm concerned.
Alex: The best change to SWG was when the developers got their wake-up call with the NGE. When the new dev team sat down and said, "Ok guys, how do we save this?", they actually started listening to the players of the game, added what we wanted, listened to the senators, gave us the warden program and let us take responsibility for the game.
Stephanie: When they did away with AFK buff-botting for Entertainer. Being a primarily social player, the various changes to game mechanics never had much impact on my day to day activities. Sure it was nice to have Hoth to play in, or a new trinket to pursue, but the biggest impact on my game were those that gave Entertainers a reason to be at the keyboard and socializing.
Andrew: Greatest addition of all time was the Jump to Lightspeed expansion. This added an entire element to the game, but integrated it so well that it felt like a natural extension. I have many fond memories hanging out on my party barge with friends, touring the galaxy.