I started playing Rift again, after trying out Everquest 2 and Guild Wars 2 also. Until Everquest Next Landmark comes out, Rift may be my fantasy MMO of choice. We’ll see.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
EverQuest Next – Landmark Focuses on Construction and Exploration, Is Free-to-Play
EverQuest Next + Jeremy Soule = Geek Delight
EverQuest Next Redefines Next-Gen MMOs
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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.
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.
Ten years ago nearly to the day, Star Wars: Galaxies launched to the world. As a remembrance of the adventures I had there, I’m writing now about the game as it was in those days and the community that surrounded it.
As you read this, you may wish to listen to the playlist on YouTube that starts with the above video. It’s a wonderful collection of the music from the game, familiar audio glitches included.
The feature list on the original website, way back in 2001
One of the things I remember reading first about Star Wars: Galaxies was an interview with lead world artist John Roy about procedural planet generation, and how he would discover features of the landscape that were new even to the designers. That got me really excited about exploring these worlds that I’d only read about or seen on the big screen.
I’m not sure how often this technique is employed in modern MMORPGs. My impression is that the vast majority of current worlds are slowly crafted by hand by artists, which is why we have so many beautiful vistas but so few boring areas to contrast them with. If all we ever see is beauty, we start to tire of it and look for something better. I miss the rolling hills of Corellia where my first SWG toon “grew up.”
Another thing that I truly miss about Star Wars: Galaxies is the wait times at the starports. You could only travel to another planet if you bought a ticket for a starship and waited at a starport for one. They arrived in ten minute intervals, which means frequently large groups of players would congregate at the main starports while waiting to travel to another planet. It made for some great conversations, and new friends.
Something else I miss about Star Wars: Galaxies was the grind. As a crafter who played before the concept of “practice mode” was introduced, I would sit there and grind out components to level up my skill for hours. When I ran out of materials or empty space in my inventory, I’d make a backpack, shove the extra items in there, and head out to my personal harvesters for more materials. This was before anyone was able to build medium or heavy harvesters, so there were still vast fields of personal harvesters dotting the landscape.
The grind, at least for SWG crafting, meant long periods of sitting there doing the exact same motions over and over again. This sounds really boring, but frequently after about five minutes of doing this, I would hit a kind of altered state of mind – a vaguely pleasant feeling of just “being.” The only other time I’ve ever felt that is when practicing Zen meditation, and I sorely miss it.
Before vehicles were introduced, everyone had to walk everywhere. Shuttles and starports were jammed full of players on their way someplace. Player cities didn’t exist yet, but there were always massive collections of player houses exactly 1km outside of every major city. It made those cities feel a lot like real cities – you would always be passing by other players on your way either into the city core for transport, into the suburbs for shopping or socializing, or out into the wilderness for adventuring and hunting. Every city had its own distinctive feel, too, on my home server of Chilastra.
Coronet was where I first landed, and it’s where I spent the first few months of the game. It felt very rugged, like a city on the fringe.
Theed, on Naboo, was where the entertainers and image designers hung out. It was definitely a “pretty” city.
Mos Eisley was… well, a desert city. Because of all the difficult, unbuildable terrain surrounding Mos Eisley, it wasn’t nearly as dense as the others. I think the players more nostalgic for A New Hope landed there.
The other cities, like Restuss on Rori and the Imperial Outpost on Talus, had much smaller and more focused populations. Later, when they allowed players to build on some of the more advanced planets like Dantooine and Lok, more interesting communities started springing up.
In the end, Star Wars: Galaxies really was the best MMORPG experience I’ve ever had. The early months, even with all the bugs, network issues, and missing content (capes!?), are permanently etched in my memory as a wonderful time.
Rest in peace, SWG.