My wishlist for a Star Wars Galaxies 2

Star Wars Galaxies 2 will most likely never happen, owing to the fact that SOE has publicly stated that it will never work on an MMO based on an external IP again. Whether that’s true or not, if somehow this project were to be conceived, here are the changes from the original that I’d personally want to see in a sequel.

Modern Graphics Engine

This is the most obvious one. My personal choice for SWG2’s engine would be Unreal Engine 4, owing to its extremely impressive technology. The “Infiltrator” demo video for UE4 shows that it would be perfect for the realistic art style of the Star Wars: Galaxies franchise, as compared to the more stylized art direction of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

A Return to Skill-Based Character Progression

Like most SWG veterans, I lamented the loss of the skill tree progression system when the New Game Experience took over. With SWG2, I’d want to see it return with a vengeance.

Particularly, I’d like to see the depth and breadth of trees expand, allowing for greater freedom than even the original. Several aspects of the Star Wars universe were never fully explored in the first game, or were only given light treatment, such as slicing or smuggling.

More Player Races

The selection of available races in the original was good, allowing for most of the popular choices. I would like to see the Togruta, Chiss, and Devaronian races make a core appearance in SWG2. I’d also like to see droids as a player race, though that might be too complicated to balance against other races’ gameplay.

Bigger Worlds

The original SWG planets were pretty big, but they frequently felt empty. The expansion worlds had stronger design, but felt smaller. I’d want to see planets in SWG2 be more expansive than the original SWG planets, but have more points of interest throughout each.

For example, the planets in the first SWG felt a lot like the same planet given a different skin each time. While I don’t want quests to provide a meta plot, I would like to see localized content that gives each world its own character.

Greater Freedom of Movement

Let’s face it, movement was pretty horrible in the original SWG. You couldn’t jump or fly over obstacles, and it was completely possible to walk straight up a sheer cliff face. While we don’t necessarily need the full parkour aspects of EverQuest Next, I do want the ability to jump over things, be prevented from walking up impossible surfaces, and be able to climb, swim, and otherwise move as a person should be able to move.

Atmospheric Vehicles

I know these were added to the original SWG, but it came only in the last few months of the game’s life. Given how important they are to the Star Wars universe in general, it would be a crime not to include these from the beginning in SWG2.

I want to be able to bullseye womp rats in a T-16, over take a cruise over the highlands of Corellia in my own YT-1300. I also want shuttle transports to actually have real transit time, and not be a wait-and-teleport affair like they were in the original.

Player Factions

While it was great to have Imperial and Rebel affiliations in the original, to really ramp up the sandboxy nature of Star Wars Galaxies, the sequel would need to have player factions. This is particularly important if the game is set in a time period after the fall of the Empire, where a billion new factions would be vying for power.

I see player factions being akin to massive alliances of Player Associations, rather than just an enormous PA. They’d also have to be able to influence planetary politics, like how Imperial and Rebel players were able to influence things towards the end of the original SWG.

A Player Exchange

Unlike the auction house format of current MMORPGs, I’d like to see something closer to the original vendor system in SWG. You’d be able to search available items on a local, planetary, or galactic level, as well as purchase them, but you’d need to physically travel to the vendor in order to pick up the item or items. This is important for two reasons: to encourage exploration and travel, and to support the possibility of player deliverymen – “FedEx” quests that actually matter.

I want to have to travel to Tosche station to pick up some power converters.

Greater Visual Customization of Crafted Items

I liked that crafters could dye armor in SWG, but a sequel would need to take it to a new level. Item appearance should be further separated from item game mechanics than in the original. There is a vast variety of armor appearances in Star Wars, for example, and that should be reflected in SWG2. I don’t want just a dozen different kinds of armor in different colors. I want several dozen, if not more. If World of Warcraft can do it, so can SWG2.

Involving the Player Studio could help defray the cost of developing new models and textures for components of items.

Vehicular Combat

If we can fly in the atmosphere, we should be able to fight in it also. I’d want to see hover tanks finally make an appearance, among other things. If PlanetSide 2 can balance heavy armor against infantry, Star Wars Galaxies can do it too.

This list could be even longer, but the above are my biggest wishes for a Star Wars Galaxies 2. How about yours? What would you want to see in a sequel?

EverQuest Next Revealed

I’m writing this just a couple minutes after watching the EverQuest Next reveal video on Twitch. I couldn’t watch it live yesterday, but it was totally worth the wait. For an hour and a half, I was on the edge of my chair. The introduction was a beautiful piece of sand performance art, which I otherwise won’t talk about. The rest of the video was an introduction into what will probably be the single most revolutionary MMORPG to come out since 2003.

Dave Georgeson, director of development for EverQuest Next, started things off with a reveal of the art style. Let me tell you, this is a gorgeous game. The whole thing is very painterly, and is rendered using a modified version of the engine powering Planetside 2.

All of the races have been redone, and we were treated to concept art for several: the High Elf, the Dark Elf, the Human, the Dwarf, and the Kerran. The Dark Elf and the Kerran were probably the biggest departure from previous EQ designs. Kerrans are distinctly more lionesque, with pronounced lion’s heads instead of the old cat faces and huge builds. Dark elves look like standard dark elves, except they have draconic eyes and short horns. There’s a story behind that that I really want to hear.

The art style for characters is exaggerated, even slightly cartoony. I’m really OK with that, especially since they’re building SOEmote into the game from the beginning. It’s easy to see the expressions of the players themselves on their characters, and that’s marvelous for a roleplayer, but also for immersion and socializing in general.

Movement is fantastic. Characters slide, leap, vault, grab, and otherwise interact with the terrain in a very natural way. With EQN’s “active movement system,” players are free to really enjoy moving around in the world. There are items and spells that allow additional ways to move, like the Boots of the Zephyr in the video that allowed the players to float gently downward. Brilliant stuff.

Then, we got into the Four Grails, as Dave put it.

The Core Game

Grail 1 is the “Core Game.” This was the least impressive of the Grails, but it was still nice to see. Character evolution from a mechanical standpoint is based on collecting classes from around the world and mixing and matching abilities from them. It sounds like a hybrid of Guild Wars 2’s system and Rift’s system. Weapon choice matters, like it does in GW2.

Destructibility

Grail 2 is “Destructibility,” and this was the first mind-blowing revelation. The entire game world is built of voxels, despite looking natural and perfectly designed. It’s fully destructible, even though it heals over time. It’s like if SOE took a look at Minecraft and applied that on a grand scale. The way it works, too, is gorgeous. You can definitely see the aftermath of epic battles in the environment that it occurred in.

A Life of Consequence

Grail 3 is “A Life of Consequence.” Besides the standard “every action you take matters” spiel, we were introduced to the idea of emergent AI in an MMO. SOE will create mob behavioral patterns – likes, dislikes, etc. – and then release mobs of that type into the world. They will live, react, and die according to how they’re programmed to behave. This means it’s entirely possible to have roving bands of orcs that actually decide to set up camp in a particular area – choose their own spawn point, as it were. It’s also possible to drive them out.

Permanent Change

Grail 4 is “Permanent Change.” For the most part, Dave talked about the Rallying Cry system, which is a little like a server-wide public quest that lasts 2-3 months each… and has permanent effect on the game world. These Rallying Cries are promised to be different on every server, and that along with the Life of Consequence and Destructibility Grails ensure that no two servers will have the same environment and history, let alone community.

EverQuest Next Landmark

As if all this wasn’t enough, then they got into the EverQuest Next Landmark game that’s coming out later in 2013. Landmark sounds basically like Minecraft on an epic scale, except that one continent in each Landmark server will have EverQuest Next art direction enforced… and creations from those areas will make it into EverQuest Next as real, lasting landmarks.

Player Studio

On top of that, SOE’s Player Studio will find a very interesting real money economy implementation for people who enjoy building things in Landmark; you’ll be able to sell not only finished works, but components. The example that Dave gave was of a player creating a nice crenelated tower. People could buy that tower, then make castles from it and sell those castles, and the player who created the tower would get royalties based on how many of that tower were used in the castle design for every castle sold. It’s a fascinating system.

Basically, EverQuest Next sounds like the game I’ve been waiting for my entire gaming life. I really want to hear about how the crafting system works, and more about all the races, but… it sounds awe-inspiring. EverQuest Next takes player involvement in the game to a level never before seen.

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Reawakening the Starborn

About a year and a half ago, I started a project to create a sci-fantasy sandbox MMORPG. It was called Starborn: Universe. I went through the trouble of getting a HeroEngine/HeroCloud environment and began learning the toolset. Design documents popped up in my Documents folder and on the dev blog I started for the project. Then, I got busy with other things, and Starborn: Universe went dark.

Until now.

I’m dusting off the design documents, but Starborn: Universe is as much of an experiment as it is a game. See, my theory is that online player-driven games can start with very little and grow over time. The idea of the “Lean Startup” can apply just as much to an MMORPG as it can to an iOS app.

The trick is that MMORPGs are hard to produce. They have a lot of moving parts and require a lot of resources on the part of the developer and operator. So how does one or two people accomplish this monumental feat?

By starting small, and iterating quickly.

If you’re curious as to what I have in mind, head over to the Starborn: Universe devlog. That’s where I’ll be writing about Starborn.

Returning to Skyrim

The last time I posted about Skyrim, it was shortly after release. You can read the first in the series here. At the time, I was playing on the Xbox 360 version. This time around, I’ve purchased the Legendary Edition for PC. I’m also playing a Destruction mage instead of the heavily armed and armored warrior I focused on in the 360 version.

Besides taking a completely different character route this time around, I’m also focusing much more on quests other than the main line. I own a small house that I’ve built but not yet furnished, gotten a fair ways through the College of Winterhold quest line, and continue to light up vampires that seem to crop up all the time in areas I’m traveling to.

I heard so many awesome things about mods for the game that I just had to get the PC version. That, and I couldn’t take screenshots in the 360 version, which was infuriating for someone who blogs about games. Today, I read an article someone reblogged on Reddit about a mod called Falskaar. Falskaar is unique in that it was produced chiefly by a 19 year old who declined to go to university in order to produce the mod. It took him a full year, and he’s aiming to get a job at Bethesda by proving his dedication.

By all accounts, it’s a damned good mod. I look forward to installing it when I finish with vanilla Skyrim.

If you’re interested in hearing further about my adventures in Skyrim, by all means, let me know in the comments. Otherwise, next week I’ll be writing about a topic near and dear to my heart…. sci-fantasy sandbox MMORPGs.