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Massively's Community Detective, Issue #7: Star Wars Galaxies

Jef Reahard

Community Detective is back after a week off and looking forward to bringing you news you can use when evaluating MMORPG communities and customer service. This week, I take a look at our third Sony Online Entertainment title, the venerable sci-fi sandbox known as Star Wars Galaxies.

While SOE gets a lot of hate in the gamer community (much of it, ironically, for the same SWG that we're going to examine today), several of its titles provide some of the best customer service in the business, and SWG is no exception. Similarly, the game's community features an unusually high number of helpful people, particularly on the Starsider server.

Follow along after the cut to see what we found.

Jetpack in Mos Eisley
First things first. We've got to give a little lip-service to our methodology (particularly this week as we're changing it up a bit). In our first few columns, we were able to make extensive use of global and regional chat channels (as well as group chat and personal tells) to gauge a game's community. With Star Wars Galaxies, the chat channels are player-created (if they exist at all), and they're not particularly useful as they're quite often empty save for special events. To compensate, we parked our characters at Chalmun's Cantina in Mos Eisley, long the SWG-nooblet playground and also a hotspot for roleplaying and low-level group-finding.

Our polling consisted of approaching as many random players as possible, both via spatial chat and private tells, in order to ask our traditional community questions. It's not exactly a fool-proof (nor scientific) system, but it does work well for gathering general impressions and random snapshots of a particular server community. In this case, we chose Starsider, as it is far and away the busiest of Galaxies' remaining shards and home to vastly different player types (the server is renowned for both its pilot and roleplaying communities, for example).

As per usual, we also put SOE's customer service system to the test via support tickets on two different accounts.

Community Case File - SWG graphic
We began our community analysis with the following question:

Question graphic - How do I make money?
It seemed a reasonable thing to ask as a pretend-noob, since SWG is famous (or is that infamous?) for offering players very little in the way of hand-holding after they've exited the Tansarii Point Station instance that serves as the title's tutorial. We polled the clientele in the Mos Eisley cantina (as well as those flitting about the nearby starport) on various days at multiple times during the week, including weekday afternoons, evenings, and over the Labor Day weekend. Population in Mos Eisley was surprisingly dense even on weekdays, and Starsider was much more crowded than I recall from my last lengthy play session in early 2009.

While we received a steady stream of answers from players at all the time slots, the weekend predictably provided the most bang for our buck. Responses ran the gamut from helpful and detailed to snarky and off-putting, with the former outnumbering the latter almost two to one in all test periods.

For our second question, we narrowed our focus a bit:

Question graphic - What is there to do at endgame?
SWG has one of the most diverse sets of endgame options in the genre. Whether you're into raiding (heroic instances), PvP (ground- and space-based Galactic Civil War systems), PvE (collection and gear-grinding again on the ground or in space, as well as crafting), or roleplaying (Storyteller and Chronicle tools), the game has plenty to keep you busy. The aim with this question was twofold: one, I wanted to see whether most of the people in Eisley were newbs with no clue about endgame content (as opposed to vets rolling alts); and two, I was curious for personal reasons, as a return to the game was looking more likely with each passing paragraph.

As with our initial question, response quantity and quality varied with day and time, and the weekend periods again featured the most returns per question.

Analysis graphic
Starsider's community did nothing to sully its lofty reputation during our week of play time. Much like Lord of the Rings Online's Landroval server, SWG's Starsider sported a population that seemed mostly friendly and willing to help newbs at the drop of a hat. There were exceptions though. Over the course of a hundred-odd characters queried, we were told to "read the frakking forums/manual/FAQ/wiki" fairly often. We also received no response at all on occasion. Combined, those two types of responses accounted for approximately 25 percent of replies, while the majority made at least a cursory attempt to help us.

It should also be noted that the SWG forums are the place to go for newbs. Not only are game systems and guides presented in excruciating detail, but the new-player boards offer a plethora of resources for the novice and returning player alike. The community has put together a post detailing player helpers, sorted by server and profession (SWG's equivalent of the standard MMORPG class); the post encourages newbs to contact said individuals in-game with any and all questions.

Customer Service Case Files - SWG graphic
SOE continues to impress us with its customer service, both in terms of response time and communication. This week, our tests involved submitting two help petitions on separate accounts. Much as in EverQuest II's and Vanguard's customer service systems (which we examined a few weeks ago), contacting CS in SWG involves an in-game browser window that grants access to the knowledge base and support website. The knowledge base comes up first, and it's basically a buffer that attempts to get you to self-actualize. The real action happens when you fill out a help ticket. We received immediate confirmation emails on both issues, the first of which was a deleted item and the second of which was a more unusual request. Our main account was created on launch day, way back in June of 2003. As such, we were curious as to why we couldn't equip the seven-year veteran title that characters can display in the game. We filed a petition asking for clarification and access to the title.

Analysis graphic
GM Volom responded regarding our deleted item (a small Naboo house deed) approximately four hours after we'd filed it (and three after the initial confirmation email). The deed was restored with minimal fuss. Curiously, SOE GMs don't seem to be under the same we-can't-restore-items mandate that is commonplace in other games. We also received a follow-up email to confirm our satisfaction with the experience.

The title ticket was handled by GM Zuglash. Unfortunately, we weren't able to claim our veteran title, as the system is based off of "entitled" days (basically the number of days actively subscribed). Though our account was over 2600 days old, actual subscription time was just over 2200, granting us the six-year veteran title and leaving us about a year short. Zuglash took the time to thoroughly explain how the system works and also placed a few gifts in our in-game backpack as a consolation. As with our first ticket, we also received a follow-up email that invited further questions and commentary.

That about wraps up our snapshot of the Starsider community as well as our experiment with Star Wars Galaxies customer service. Despite what you may have heard from eternally disgruntled pre-NGE players, SWG remains a viable sandbox destination that features a helpful community and that rarest of MMORPG animals: GMs who genuinely care about the customer experience.

The Mos Eisley Cantina

Statistics table

Join Jef Reahard every other week as he goes behind the scenes to file first-hand community and customer service reports from the front lines of your favorite genre titles. From Aion to Zentia, the Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of

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