Sunday, February 15, 2004

SWG: The Imperial Stormtrooper Water Ballet Team

So far I definitely approve of the Imperial crackdown -- it's a much-needed boost to the Star Warsy-ness of this game. I thought I'd share a couple of the experiences I've had that lead me to this conclusion.

My first sign that something was different came a few minutes after I logged in for the first time following the Imperial Crackdown code patches. I had just stepped outside the front door of my house to check on a wind harvester when I heard an odd sound... the sound of a starship. "That's funny," I thought. "How can there be ships out here? I'm nowhere near a city."

As I looked around, I realized that a Lambda-class shuttle had just landed a few meters away. Suddenly out from the back of the shuttle poured a column of Imperial stormtroopers!

As the shuttle took off, I ran back to my house. (I'm neutral, but these guys might not appreciate that, I thought.) From my doorstep, I could see the troopers lined up in a formation, not moving. They didn't seem inclined to open fire on me, and they didn't appear to be coming after me to check my ID, so after a minute or two I calmed down and went back to my usual routine.

Following this I needed to go to Tatooine. While I was there I visited Mos Espa... but I don't recommend it. First, it took so long to log in there after the shuttle trip that I thought my link had gone dead. When I finally appeared, there were so many Imperial troops milling around in the street that my frame rate plummeted to approximately 1 frame per second. Trying to move was so painful I headed back onto the shuttle as quickly as possible. It was nice to see the strong Imperial presence, but the frame rate just can't survive the number of troopers in Mos Espa.

OK, now jump forward a day. I'm back in my home on Naboo after the trip to Tatooine, and I've just logged back in. I walk outside to check on my equipment factory when I see five or six Maulers on the other side. I try to sneak up to my factory, hoping that the Maulers (like Trade Avengers and swamp rats) will continue not to notice me like they haven't for the past few weeks... but it's no good; they aggro on me and start firing.

I can just barely hold my own against a full Mauler if I'm lucky, but there were a pair of them after me. I raced back to my house... when with a shock I realized the stormtroopers were still there.

And then a funny idea occured to me. On my way back home from Tatooine a different group of Maulers had chased me into a nest of shaupauts. After I'd managed to get away I noticed that the shaupauts had attacked the Maulers.

Now here was another bunch of Maulers after me... and another group of mobs who could protect themselves was nearby. "Hey, maybe stormtroopers don't like Maulers, either," I thought, and with the Maulers on my heels I changed course and ran right into the middle of the stormtrooper formation.

In seconds, my prayers were answered as every trooper opened fire. Weapons blazing, the troopers converged on the Maulers. After thirty seconds of brightly colored laser bolts filling the air, both Maulers were smoking corpses on my front lawn. Briefly raising their hands into the air in celebration, the stormtroopers then calmly returned to their staging area by my front door.

"Great!" I thought. "I can just keep leading the Maulers back here, and the stormtroopers will finish them off for me." But no. After a moment's pause, every stormtrooper continued walking... straight into the river that flows in front of my house. In seconds, what had been a crack squad of death-dealing Imperial warriors had become a water ballet team, complete with synchronized swimming moves straight out of an Ethel Merman movie.

Fortunately for me the stormtroopers had called in a few of their pals to the other side of my house. In a small group were a couple of lieutenants, an exterminator, a swamp trooper, and a random stormtrooper. So for thirty minutes I led respawning Maulers to their doom -- I'd wander over, get one or two of them to aggro on me, and lead them back to the Imperials who made short work of them. Eventually the Maulers quit respawning and I was able to manage my factory in peace.

Bottom line: I'm no longer afraid of being harassed by Imperial troops. Rather than fearing them, I now regard these stormtroopers as my own personal home security system. Cool.

One other funny thing happened, however. As I was checking some harvesters on the other bank of the river (where the Imperial water ballet team was still in action), a rogue faamba appeared. Given my pretty good /maskscent I wasn't worried for my personal safety, but I did notice that the swimming stormtroopers seemed to be getting closer and closer to the faamba.

Sure enough, they finally got a little too close for the faamba's comfort, and he waded into the water. Suddenly the stormtroopers realized their peril and opened fire. Oddly, they were able to do so while in the water -- they'd stand up as though they were on land, fire one shot, then go back to swimming.

Eventually the faamba succumbed to the massed fire of the stormtroopers... at which point they went right back to their synchronized swimming routine.

So developers -- for all the grief and whining you get from this board, here's one player who's fairly pleased with what you've accomplished in the Imperial crackdown. Please keep on coming up with such interesting NPC behaviors!

Especially if they help me stay in business.

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