Thursday, February 24, 2005

SWG: The Galactic Civil War and Crafters

After reading the latest developer notes on the changes to the Galactic Civil War gameplay of Star Wars Galaxies, I wonder how crafters will fit into the new GCW structure.

What incentives do the revised GCW rules offer crafters (and other non-combatants) to participate in the GCW?

As far as I can see, the answer is "none." If anything, the new rules actually make GCW participation more dangerous for crafters without providing any kind of corresponding inducement to join up. Given that there were virtually no reasons for crafters to participate under the original rules, how do the proposed changes improve SWG for crafters at all? How do these changes increase the "Star Wars" factor of SWG for crafters when non-combatants are actually penalized for trying to get involved in the GCW?

In short, how do these changes make SWG more fun for non-combatants? Or does that matter?

I'm not dogmatically opposed to these changes. I actually like what I think will happen under the new rules for fighters. I think the changes make a lot of sense for them. But what about non-fighters? Do the developers want us to participate in the Galactic Civil War or not?

From these changes, the impression I get is "not." Only those with combat skills are wanted.

Disappointing, this is.

As a crafter in the middle of a war zone, I'm not expecting to be able to defend myself with weapons. Not only do I completely get that, I agree that that's how it should be. I don't have a problem with the new GCW rules as far as they go.

My concern is that the new rules don't go far enough. They offer new incentives for combat players to participate in the GCW in this game, and that's a good thing... but there doesn't appear to have been any thought whatsoever given to how crafters could participate more in the GCW as well. I think there ought to be something in the new rules to encourage crafters to play an active role in the Rebellion or the Empire, and I'm disappointed that the only comment related to crafters was basically a smackdown: "crafters aren't worthy; if you're factioned, you'll probably die -- too bad."

As a crafter, I'm not asking for new features that allow me to smoke stormtroopers or blow up Rebel bases -- I'm just looking for some sign that the developers consider crafters a desirable part of the SWG game world by including them when they offer new game features. If the new GCW rules included features allowing crafters to make some useful contribution to shifting the balance of power in the galaxy, that would tell me that SOE was serious about making SWG fun for everyone, not just fighters.

But I don't see that in the new GCW rules. And that's disappointing, not just to me personally as a crafter, but as a missed opportunity to bring new crafting-oriented players into SWG so that it's more fun for everyone.

As to specific ways that crafters could contribute to the GCW, there've already been plenty of threads suggesting good ideas. Merchants could make financial contributions; Armorsmiths/Weaponsmiths could craft factional items; Architects could repair bases; Artisans could survey for or even supply harvested materials to an NPC contact -- there are all kinds of ways crafters could be allowed to contribute more (and these ideas are just the most trivial).

The specific idea isn't important (although it would help if whatever actually got implemented were really fun). What's important is that SOE offer something to crafters to indicate that we're wanted in this game, rather than completely ignoring us when reworking one of the most Star Wars-specific aspects of the entire game.

So: this isn't a rant against the fighters. It's a request to be offered the same level of respect when new game features are created.

A couple of quick final points:

1. If factional armor craftable by players in included in the Combat Upgrade, I think that's great. Here's hoping!

2. On the question of whether a crafter (let's say an Armorsmith) should have to be of the "correct" faction to make that kind of armor, I wouldn't object if factional armor crafting were implemented that way... but let's consider the alternative.

What if a Rebel could make stormtrooper armor? That seems odd, but why shouldn't it be allowed -- as long as there are reasonable consequences for doing so?

Wouldn't it be interesting to be able to create a story around something like this? All interesting stories are about conflict... and wouldn't a factioned Rebel be conflicted about doing something that helped the Empire?

Maybe you lose faction points for every point of damage done by your faction to that armor. That's crude, but it shouldn't be too hard to implement and offers a direct consequence for doing something "against" your faction. Support the other side for too long, and you lose enough faction points to maybe get kicked out of your faction entirely.

More interestingly, what if crafting the other side's factional items started causing increasingly negative reactions from NPCs of your faction? You could remain a Rebel or Imperial, but your perks would start decreasing in value; you begin to be stripped of your factional ranks; recruiters would start sneering at you and accusing you of being a traitor; "name" NPCs might visit you and demand that you stop helping the enemy -- you get the idea.

It seems to me that as long as there are appropriate consequences, players ought to be able to do what they want. It means "odd" things can happen, but it's those odd things that allow interesting stories to be created.