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MMO Blender: Jef's SWG/Star Citizen mashup

Jef Reahard

Thus far I've managed to keep my nose out of Massively's MMO Blender column. This is primarily because I don't need 1000 words to describe the ideal MMORPG when a short phrase like "Star Wars Galaxies minus the IP" basically sums everything up.

That said, something happened a couple of weeks ago that caused me to expand on this idea. Chris Roberts returned to the ranks of gamemakers, and when he announced his Star Citizen multiplayer title (which I desperately hope he renames, incidentally), it set in motion an MMO flight of fancy that I would love to experience.

Star Citizen - virtual cockpit
Star Citizen's space combat

In a nutshell, my perfect MMO blend has now gone from SWG without the IP to SWG plus Star Citizen's space combat. Yes, I know Roberts' new multiplayer opus is nothing more than a prototype at this stage. Said prototype is the kind of space game that SWG, Star Trek Online, and EVE Online could never be in their wildest dreams, though.

In all fairness, SWG's space combat was pretty stellar. A sizable portion of the game's population abandoned the ground game for it, partly because they had all wanted to blow up Death Stars since the late 1970s but also because Jump to Lightspeed was such a solid gameplay experience.

It was an MMO riff on the classic X-wing and TIE Fighter PC sims, which were themselves riffs on Roberts' original Wing Commander. JtL married that to a nifty parts progression system that allowed you to build your own ship, customize it via a huge array of add-ons (the vast majority of which were player-crafted), and even make a mobile player house out of it if you were flying a freighter or a gunboat instead of a starfighter. Did I mention multiplayer ships and the ability for players to pal around inside them as well as operate gun turrets, fire countermeasures, and repair the ship in combat?

Yep, all of that was doable back in 2004, folks.

Star Citizen takes it to another level in terms of visuals and fidelity, of course. Roberts' demo features full working cockpits, immersive avatar representations that grip the yoke and the throttles as directed by player input, and a physics-based flight model that looks mighty compelling even in its pre-alpha stage. I don't know that it's also going to include SWG's modular building bells and whistles, but my ideal game certainly does.

Star Wars Galaxies - swoop racers
SWG's ground game

I'd go back to the original incarnation of SWG for my super-game's ground combat. I enjoyed the NGE well enough, but I enjoyed 32 skill-based professions and the ability to teach skills to your fellow players a whole lot more. There was melee, pet-handling, and more diverse gunnery skills than you can shake a T-21 at. Since we're doing away with the IP, that would mercifully do away with Jedi, Sith, and their cliche glowbats and godmoding, leaving behind a proper sci-fi combat experience.

PvP would make use of SWG's original flagging system, though I'd add a third criminal faction to complement whatever Rebel/Imperial analogue my lore writers managed to come up with. Players would declare themselves allied with a particular faction and then would have the freedom to further declare themselves active combatants, which would flag all opposing faction members as attackable anywhere in the game world.

In a nutshell: open PvP for those who want it without bothering those who don't.

I'd also throw in SWG's post-NGE raids. They were called heroics, and if you're into that sort of thing, they were a literal blast, whether you're talking about infiltrating a Star Destroyer filled with Imperial troops or a dank cave full of droids and mystics on a backwater planet well clear of the main space lanes.

Star Wars Galaxies - flying casual
SWG's economy

Yes, there would be item decay. Yes, the majority of the game's gear would come from crafters. Yes, there would be local markets and storage, and yes, you would have to travel to a specific location to obtain a specific item if you purchased it remotely (or have it couriered to your location).

And look, I know EVE has a thriving player-run economy with all this functionality, but let's be real. It lacks soul because CCP's idea of interactive is sitting in your station, margin-trading while your eyes glaze over on the market screen. That's great for left-brained types who love number porn, but SWG married a similar local/regional supply chain system to actual interaction with your fellow players and their avatars.

Star Wars Galaxies - Xwing on Dathomir
SWG's player-content tools

With all due respect to City of Heroes, Ryzom, and Star Trek Online, SWG's player-generated content suite remains the gold standard. There was the requisite mission generation system, but more importantly there was the Storyteller mechanic, which allowed you to drop most of the game's objects almost anywhere in the expansive open world. Size mattered not, as you could place everything from a potted plant to an Imperial Walker (you could place them in player cities too, provided you had building rights).

That's not all; you could also drop NPCs, direct them to patrol and attack, and stuff them with loot obtainable by members of your story group. It was literally a game within the game, and there's nothing even remotely like it on today's MMO market.

Star Citizen - pilot
Star Citizen's private servers

Roberts' Star Citizen design document calls for private servers to go along with its primary persistent shard, and this is the one thing I wish SWG had featured in its heyday. While the game itself was largely divine, the playerbase was too often bent on grinding out Jedi and turning the genre's premier sandbox into the same old progression treadmill. Don't get me wrong; there was still a ton of fun to be had, but the ability to temporarily whisk your guild away to a customized instance would have made the experience that much better.

So there you have it, folks. My MMO Blender is basically a little bit of Star Citizen and a whole lot of Star Wars Galaxies. Looking back, I suppose I could have gotten by with typing SWG minus the IP in lieu of this article. Given the game's conspicuous absence, though, I hope you'll forgive me for taking any and every opportunity to talk up its features.

Have you ever wanted to make the perfect MMO, an idealistic compilation of all your favorite game mechanics? MMO Blender aims to do just that. Join the Massively staff every Friday as we put our ideas to the test and create either the ultimate MMO... or a disastrous frankengame!

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