SWG Retrospective- Part 4: The Ugly

The last few days I looked at my history with SWG. During that trip I took a look at the game and how it evolved and how that effected the game.  Today I’m going to look specifically the good and the bad parts of SWG, and how they effected the game, the players and their merits as basic game elements. We’ll start with the Ugly so that we can end this series on a positive note.

Many of the Ugly parts of SWG came about as part of the NGE (and to a lesser extent, the CU). But I’m not going to ignore the biggest issues that caused it.

Failure to Not Launch


Now I know there were many reasons the game launched when it did and that when it launched, it had already been delayed several times. Unfortunately, the game suffered the most from to much potential.  When the game launched there was lots of potential. The open world, the Galactic Civil War, becoming a Jedi, space combat, etc. All of these things were launched incompleted.

The open world aspect, being able to go anywhere and build you home/city anywhere was great. But when the game launched cities weren’t included. And when cities were added they didn’t really work right. The eventual removal of house and city decay completely killed the system for several years as the game became full of dead houses and dead cities, preventing those still playing from doing anything.

The GCW was supposed to be a big emphasis of the game. It was called “Empire Divided” after all. Unfortunately, there was no point to it. You could become a Rebel or an Imperial, and at first, there was open world pvp. If you were actively helping the Rebels, the Imps could kill you.  But death was meaningless and there was no real advantage to killing the enemy except the fun of the fight, which didn’t appeal to everyone. The GCW lacked any territorial control. Various things were added over time, the latest effort after my time with the game ended, but that was years after launch.

We’ll look at space and Jedi as their own separate things but suffice it to say, the game launched and was in no way complete. They tried to do to many things and ended up doing none of them very well.

Jedi


The original implementation of Jedi was idiotic. Mastering 3-7 random professions and then you unlock the ability to create a Jedi character? Really? Someone thought that was a good idea? One aspect they got right, was the Jedi as powerful and (relatively) rare. The addition of the Village had issues but it got one thing right that I liked, turning your current character into a Jedi. After all, Jedi were all but extinct, discovering you were Force Sensitive should be something that could happen to anyone. And then learning the ways of the Force would be hard.

What they should have done was introduce Elite Professions. Essentially there should have been several top tier skill trees you could unlock. Unlocking them should have been difficult but obtainable by anyone who wants too (like the Village but without the pure luck of the holocrons). Mandalorian Warrior, Ace Pilot, Scoundrel/Crime Lord, Corporate Giant should been archetypes along with Jedi. Each skill set would add tremendous power to a certain play style (force user, pilot, crafter, warrior/BH, underworld) but bring great consequences. The more skills you took in these areas, the greater the power but the greater the consequences.

Of course, SWG didn’t do that. Jedi was only elite thing to strive for, so of course everyone did. And then when the NGE came, they made it so everyone could be a Jedi ruining the awesomeness of them, and ruining the timeline.

Ignoring Space


The Space game was a great element of SWG. Unfortunately, it was tacked on and not integrated. So it really was almost a separate game entirely. After JTL there was virtually nothing done with space for years. Player capital ships was a carrot dangled a few times but never materialized. So much could have been done with this system. Once JTL was added they should have removed the starport insta-transport. To get somewhere, you could take your ship, or public transport. And these public transports should have been attackable by NPC’s and players. If your a known Rebel and you’re trying to get past an Imperial blockade, don’t take public transport, go find a smuggler. Or get in your X-wing and blast past the TIE patrols, but watch out for that Star Destroyer (which was another thing that was broken, the single ISD in the game in deep space was so easy to kill it was sad).

Broken Combat


The combat in the game was broken pretty early. Buffs and 90% resistant comp armor which made players invulnerable, should have been impossible. When the game launched, you needed a group to do anything big. It was a blast getting together to try and take out a Krayt or a Tusken village. There was still plenty you could do alone too. The CU did a lot of things right with fixing combat, but it also did a lot of things wrong.

Millions of Players


Now we’re past the biggest problems the game had at launch, let’s get to the big issue, the NGE (and CU). SWG had problems but it had a devote core of followers. Maybe the game wasn’t profitable even with that core but I somehow doubt it. The game suffered from being Star Wars and from WOW launching. Until WOW, a couple hundred thousand players was a big success. But WOW got more. Many more. And because SWG was Star Wars, it was decided that it should be able to do that as well.

Unfortunately, instead of just leaving SWG as it was and starting work on SWTOR earlier, they tried the impossible. Fundamentally changing a game after launch is just a bad idea. Adding levels, speeding up the combat, removing the skill system were all done in the hopes of gaining more players. But the game wasn’t designed for this stuff. It just made things worse and alienated current players. Those things killed many of the best parts of the game, and more importantly, took developer time away from improving the other stuff.

If they had stuck with the CU (even with the artificial levels) and moved forward from there, all of the cool stuff that got added in the last few years, might have come when many people were still playing. And those things might have kept more people playing. But we’ll never know. Instead years were devoted revamping the game to work with the quest/level/class system that was the NGE.

I could probably rant for longer about a great many other things. But since I have already surpassed the 1000 word mark I’ll leave it here.  Next time we’ll look at what SWG did right and hope that some other games use those things.

 

The Complete Series

SWG Retrospective Part 1

SWG Retrospective Part 2

SWG Retrospective Part 3

SWG Retrospective Part 4

SWG Retrospective Part 5

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