Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Visit To Tatooine

I recently had the opportunity to take that Star Wars MMO people are talking about for a spin.  Though I can't say that this was anywhere near the top of my priorities list, I decided to bite - it was a limited time offer that not a lot of people will get. 

There were something like eight character classes to choose from, but I didn't have that much trouble picking one given that this was not a character that is going to be around forever.  With respect to everyone who gets excited about Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, and Stormtrooper-equivalents (seriously?), if I'm going to spend an hour in a Star Wars MMO, I'm going to pick Jedi.  A couple appearance customization choices later and Farwel Stawag (Farewell Star Wars Galaxies - see what I did with those links?), an Ithorian Jedi, was ready to zone in. 

An eye trunk, my Jedi has.
I've never played SWG before, and I don't expect that I ever would have, were it not for the coincidence of upgrading to a Station Pass shortly before the game's final billing cycle.  As it was, I figured it was worth an hour of my time to take a quick look at the game before Lucas pulls the plug, if for no other reason than in case I decide I'd like to tourist the game's final world (galaxy?) events. 

I'm never going to know what this game was like before its notorious "New Game Experience", or even what it is now for those who still invest time in a product that is slated to come down in a few months.  Based on my early impressions, though, I can say that this is not the Star Wars MMO I would have been looking for if I was in the market for one. 

Why narrate the intro, when you have the Star Wars slanty text license?
Many details, including races, lore NPC's, music, and even the opening text crawl, are right out of the films.  Unfortunately, the feel of the game is about what NGE critics have always said - an attempt to retrofit a more action-based combat system onto a game that was not designed for it.  Tacking on a few quests to kill 10 Tusken Raiders does not bring this game up to par for what I'd expect of a modern quest-based solo MMO.  When I hear about what the game was before, it seems like a big price for SOE to exact from the players of that era for a revamp that would have faced an uphill battle even if the effort wasn't best known for driving the game's most dedicated fans away in dramatic fashion. 



My Jedi gained a few levels on the NGE's introductory space station, helpfully populated with lore NPC's and generic kill quests.  By level seven, I could throw my stick or knife (apparently handing out lightsabers to new Jedi is a line that even the NGE would not cross) and fire off force lightning.  In a game like WoW, this progression would have been fine.  In a world that is specifically set prior to The Empire Strikes Back, it seems weird to see Jedi of all shapes and sizes firing off force attacks every which way.  I suppose I should be grateful for the lack of lightsaber - I find the concept of whacking something with a blade of pure energy that can cut through anything and only doing 20 damage pretty darned stupid looking, whether or not they got the sound effect right. 

By far the more interesting part of my visit to the game came when I finally zoned off of the starbase and onto Tatooine.  There, I saw players with familiar vehicles and gear, going about their lives amongst NPC Jawas and Tusken Raiders.  Personally, I was a bit lost, since the highly structured introduction does very little to prepare the player for the wide range of crafting, factions, and other things that await in the game's real universe.  Even so, I have to tip my cap - this part of the experience was actually different from what other MMO's offer. 


(Aside: To the extent that this was not the Star Wars MMO I am (or am not) looking for, is whether TOR will be.  On one hand, I can definitely appreciate the concept of effective use of a license; Rift put a lot of effort into their original world, but I may actually have a better idea of what my level 7 Ithorian Jedi with an hour of play time is like than my level 40 High Elf with many more hours under her belt. That said, I remain skeptical primarily because I didn't enjoy the gameplay in Dragon Age, and nothing I've heard from people who have actually played TOR (as opposed to watching promo videos) reassures me that TOR will be different.) 

Regardless of what happens with TOR, the MMO community is losing a unique experience when SWG closes its doors in December.  Though this game is not something I was interested in, right down to the end, I still offer it a sad final salute.  No one wins when an MMO closes down, especially when even its revised state is still somewhat unique in the current market.  Moreover, SWG's continuing community demonstrates that some folks who have weathered all of this game's trials are definitely going to miss it when it's gone, and that's a day that none of us are eager to face.  
When riding off into the sunset, who needs a mount when you can have a speeder?
It hopefully does not smell worse on the inside. 

7 comments:

Stabs said...

Yup it was very mean indeed to shut it down.

It made up my mind not to preorder TOR. I may play it one day and I don't kid myself that I'm having some sort of consumer protest impact but I like to think when they look at the metrics they'll see some people in the ** didn't buy because they were mean to SWG circle ** while counting the money from the ** bought TOR because we canceled the other SW MMO circle **

Even if they never know at least I'll know (and now you and your readers).

Yeebo said...

This post inspired me to fire up a SWG account. Apparently, I'll pay for the next 2 months and get around 4 for free. Not sure if that will be enough to motivate me to actually play, but I'll at least have the option to log while it winds down. I spend $8 a day on lunch, so I'm not worried too much about potentially wasting some sub fees.

More on topic, I agree that current SWG is a fairly unique MMO. The entire genre will be diminished by it's absence soon. No other game combines such open ended sandbox mechanics with an (if narrow) quest based leveling game. Considered purely as a sandbox, it's arguably still superior to EVE and DF.

Magson said...

I started playing SWG in July of 2003. I didn't particularly care for the combat, but once I discovered healing I was hooked. Eventually I decided to make a "full healer" -- Doctor/Dancer. As I was gaining skill boxes for dancer, I discovered the social aspect of the game, and frankly I've never seen such a wonderful social scene in a game since.

Still and all. . . as much as I loved the skill points / skill box multi-classing system, it got a bit boring over time, and as friends began to quit it got more and more boring, so. . . once EQ2 launched I left SWG in a heartbeat.

After SWG got added to the Station Access, I loaded it again. This was after the "Combat Upgrade" but before the NGE. After the CU, I felt like SWG had become EQ2 with guns. A couple of friends were still playing and it was good to catch up with them, but not enough to keep me playing.

I didn't look back at SWG for several years -- not until they announced their "demolition program" for old buildings that hadn't had their upkeep paid in a long time. I still had Station Access, so I logged in to be able to take down some buildings. I still had my character and it was granted level 61 based on the skill points I had allocated at the time of the NGE. Should have been 80, but I'd dropped several skill boxes during my CU login time, so. . . yeah.

I went around the old haunts before they got demolished, and the sheer amount of nostalgia surprised me. But then again, it was all for all the social activities and the things my friends and I did in those places, not for the game itself.

Still, I decided to check out what all the fuss with the NGE was about. Once I figured out the UI and the tricks of the trade, I found it actually wasn't a bad game in and of itself, but since I loved the skill box system so much, for me it still felt a shadow of its former self. As a result, I didn't play it for long, just a month or so, and I don't ever plan on going back either, not for the closing down events or anything. I'm choosing to keep my memories as they are now. I'll always remember SWG fondly, so I don't need to be there for the end.

Sente said...

The old skill system was definitely more interesting than the current one, since you could make your own mix of different professions and were able to master two of them at the same time.

It was not very friendly to experimentation though, since any skill points you wanted to re-allocate had to be re-grinded in a different skill tree path.

Unfortunately eleveryone also starts in the same place nowadays also, it was nicer when there were a few different starting points.

One thing like about the game is the kind of Sci-Fi themed frontier atmosphere, which perhaps is more prevalent on some of the other worlds.

If nothing else, take the speeder for a ride on a few of the other planets just to explore a bit. Spawns appears a bit slow though, so one might not see everything unless one slows down from time to time.
Just be prepared to speed up again if you stop by a Rancor or something similar :)

Magson said...

Rancor's weren't a big deal under the old system, especially if you had doc buffs -- When I was a Teras Kasi Master I'd AOE grind on them for their leather with my toon wearing one of her bikini-topped dancing outfits. TKM/Master Dancer was my skill box spolit at the time.

Yeah, my character was in an entertainer's guild. Never seen the like in any game since.

Sente said...

Personally I thought there was too much buffing in the game after a while which trivialized much of the content - that was on the path of the destruction of the game before CU and NGE IMHO.

Rancors were certainly not the most vicious you could encounter, but serves as a good example of a creature that may be known by name by people who may have only seen some of the movies.

Jkbond646 said...

You missed a great game back 03-05. With the sandbox gameplay and very much living out a true roleplaying experience it is still something lacking in current MMO. To build cities and have a true economy. The current SWG is just a shell of what was a unique MMO. It is a sad event to see it go.