Friday Feature: Development Philosophy

I’m going to take a step back from our regular Friday features to write a bit about our development philosophy. “What’s the purpose? Why are you making the decisions you’re making? What are you focusing on?” Those are questions we’ve been hearing regularly, and I’m going to try to give you a look into the mindset we’re using. So, without further ado, the general philosophy we’re working with.

Freedom is everything. The sandbox was SWG’s greatest strength. Unlike the vast majority of MMOs, players could always leave a mark on the game – quite literally. Player-crafted goods reigned supreme; player cities dominated the landscape; player interaction drove PvP.

The original team did wonderful things to make the game open. It’s something we don’t want to lose.

The profession revamp is designed to make the game even more flexible than it used to be! A problem in SWG was that professions that “did” things were pigeonholed into doing it a certain way. My go-to example is always smuggler: to be a smuggler, you had to specialize in pistols. (Unless you were a triple threat, with TKA/smuggler/pistoleer.)

Wanted to use carbines instead? Well, prepare to have a large number of points tied up in things you can’t use, from the pistols line in marksman to all those pistols-only combat specials.

Worse, at end-game PvE levels there were only a handful of professions (or even templates!) that worked. Fighting Krayts, for example, virtually had to have the heavy armor piercing T-21 or Power Hammer. Professions like pistoleer, carbineer, TKA, and fencer were out in the cold at the end-game level.

So we’re doing our best to open things up further, make the game more open than it already is. We want people to pick a profession because it’s fun to play, not because it’s the only way to complete content.

 

Structure is necessary. SWG failed to impose rules it needed to keep the game going on a long-term basis. The worst offender was the housing system – the devs failed to anticipate what would happen. Namely, players built rings of houses at the edge of the no-build zone around starports. The more time went on, the worse it got.

PvP withered away as it became clear players had nothing to gain, but things to lose by engaging in PvP. A small, dedicated crowd (both ground and space) kept at it, but it was never what it could have been. Alternatively, it never reached the heights we saw during the Anchorhead/Bestine wars.

The idea, then, is to impose some structure where there wasn’t any before. Not because players are playing the game “wrong”, but to keep the game healthy and to channel energies into activities that are fun for multiple people.

 

Eliminate the grind. Those of us who played from the beginning are now twelve years older than when we started. Many of us have kids that weren’t born when we first played Star Wars Galaxies. We have jobs, spouses, family, commitments that we previously lacked.

We’re not eliminating the grind entirely – players still have to level professions (even if it’s much quicker than the old days), acquire resources, and so forth. But the days of spending weeks camping a boss spawn or trying to get that last perfectly-tuned pearl are not the the defining characteristics of the Empire in Flames project.

 

Provide fun. This probably shouldn’t be the fourth entry on this list, because that’s hardly fair to the importance we put on it. The game should be fun. Leveling skills should be fun. Crafting should be fun. (Well, for those who like it – I’ve personally never played a game where I enjoyed crafting. That’s my personal preference, though.) Running through a dungeon should be fun. Engaging in PvP should be fun. Building a city should be fun. Decorating should be fun.

Even when we had content under the various SWG implementations, fun was often substituted for grinding. Kill collections became monotonous, item collections had a “rare” item that sapped the enjoyment from looting pieces.

We want players to have fun, not swear at that stupid item that just won’t drop.

 

Give players something new. Seems like an odd statement, but it’s true. It’s why we’re working to allow players to own buildings that were previously only for NPCs, or build entirely new professions, or implement new planets entirely.

We’re a server built by players who loved the game in all its forms, and we all had things we wished the SOE dev team would have done. Now it’s our turn to prove that those things could have been great.

 

Use what worked. There are SWG emulator teams that are committed entirely to a certain era of the game – pre-CU, CU, or NGE. The problem is that, arguably, none of those systems worked well. Pre-CU was an unbalanceable mess; CU depending heavily on creature/player levels that undercut the freedom of the skillpoint system; and the NGE removed the freedom of character building.

We played through SWG from the very beginning, and we understand that somethings worked very well, but many things didn’t. We refuse to pigeonhole ourselves into thinking just one way; instead, we’re going to take the elements that worked well and make them work together.

Are the changes going to please everyone? No – but there’s not a version of SWG /anywhere/ that /everyone/ likes. Period.

 

So now, when you’re questioning a decision we’ve made or a method of implementation, take a look at this and you can likely see how it fits in with our philosophy. Will we make everything perfect? I doubt it. But we’ll do our best to build a server that’s still fun to play, twelve years after Star Wars Galaxies first released.


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