Hyperspace Beacon: Post mortem

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Hyperspace Beacon: Post mortem
When a company ends a project or when a theatre production ends, the producers and directors will usually do an analysis of the project. They will give a rundown of what performed well and what performed poorly. The idea is to ensure that the next project delivers better results than the previous one. Granted, we will not be able to sit in on the official post mortem meeting for Star Wars Galaxies, but we can do our own analysis of what happened.

As I said above, the idea is to take what we learned from the previous project and apply it to the next one. In the eyes of a Star Wars MMO fan, the next project will be Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now to be fair, I already have a series of articles that feature the mistakes SWG made that we don't want to see in The Old Republic, so this time around, I figured it would be best to show off the good things SWG did that should probably be repeated in SWTOR. This is by no means exhaustive, but it's a couple of the big ones in my mind.

The first place to start has to be location, location, location. When I first stepped into Star Wars Galaxies eight years ago, Naboo was my choice of starter worlds. I envisioned my character to be a little higher-class and military-like, so Naboo made sense to me. And what is the first thing anyone does when he lands in Theed? I've gotta see the palace! And that's exactly what I did with my annoying green droid trailing after me. (Maybe the droid came later in the game. I don't remember exactly, but he was annoying.)

Locations are a bit more difficult in The Old Republic because -- let's face it -- there should be nothing that resembles what we see 3000 years later. However, there are facets that can carry from one part of the timeline to another.

If I were to name one thing that seemed to be missing for me the first time I played the Smuggler origin world, it was the lack of recognizable assets on Ord Mantell. I am a huge Star Wars fan, as most of you know, so it only took the first bit of blaster fire for me to say, "Oh, yeah, this is Star Wars." However, it may take some people a bit longer for it to feel Star-Wars-y. Maybe it would be the first speeder bike you roll behind for cover. If you need more than that, then maybe your first character should be a Jedi. I hear they get lightsabers.

The game should be filled with locations that make you feel that this is the same universe from movies. Even though we never landed on Nar Shaddaa in the films, there should be sites and sounds that make us feel as if this were taken straight out of the films. Star Wars Galaxies (for its day) did a wonderful job of this on Rori. Rori is one of the moons of Naboo, and you could tell. The city of Restuss (before it was destroyed) resembled Theed in terms of architecture, and it was swampy just like parts of Naboo in the movies. In contrast, Corellia felt a bit jarring. I had multiple discussions with fans who suggested Corellia felt too much like a fantasy world and less like the science fiction metropolis that it was supposed to be. The Old Republic has shown off some of the art from its version of Corellia, and although I have not seen anything in the art that screams Star Wars to me, I believe its mix of monumental architecture and industrial decay make more sense in the universe it's set in.

I will attribute the next piece of greatness to Raph Koster, the (original) creative director for Star Wars Galaxies and one-time lead designer for Ultima Online, who took the player-driven crafting from the latter game and dropped it in the Star Wars universe. To this day, the only game that has come close to its level of player-interactive crafting is EVE Online. Multiple professions required other professions to create goods for yet other professions. This created a very circular economy that you just cannot find in most games today. A simple example is found in the Musician and Droid Engineer careers. Musicians made credits by granting buffs to other players, and at the time the game launched, they also healed fatigue. The Musician's job became more effective if she had a droid companion. These, of course, were created by the Droid Engineer. The Droid Engineer could harvest materials, but his job of harvesting was easier if he acquired from an Architect a mining structure and engineering factory. However, not every piece of the Musician's droid could be made by the Engineer himself. One piece was made by the Musician, too. Finally, all the pieces were brought together, and the Engineer created the droid customized specifically for that Musician.

I would certainly like to see this level of interdependence carried on to the next project, The Old Republic, though perhaps it does not need to be carried to this level. For one, in SWTOR, the crafting professions are independent from the combat professions. However, it would be nice to see the Armormech turn to the Biochem to make a biochemical set of armor or vice versa. Perhaps the Biochem needs an injector designed by the Armormech. I have mentioned before that I believe "epic" loot should require Crew Skills in order to be created. This will enhance the social aspect of the game.

Part of creating an MMO is creating a living world. This does not mean that it has to be a second job, like EVE is. There can be a consistently fun combat game to play, but the interdependence will create a persistence to it.

As I said, this is far from exhaustive, but let me know what you think. What other pieces of SWG can be applied to SWTOR to make it more of the game you would like to see while remaining true to the vision of the game?

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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