Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lessons of Star Wars Galaxies +

Originally Posted by Dominion1971:
Dropping a free-flowing creative person in an environment that is set in the middle of Star Wars and Empire strikes back just wont work... not without changing canon, which I heard over and over would not be allowed, nor should it. Its that canon that made the Sw stuff so great...
I find this surprising, and in a couple of ways.

First, my impression is that the creative people were the ones who most liked the early SWG, precisely because it (unlike other MMORPGs) wasn't overly directive -- it didn't try to control every infinitesimal moment of what the developers thought your gameplay experience should be. Instead there was this large universe filled with places and things and processes, and you got to explore them in your own preferred way.

It's worth noting that some of the most satisfied players of SWG were the ones who figured out how to arrange objects in their houses to create amazing works of art. I saw fireplaces, aquariums -- one guy even built an astonishingly accurate model of Anakin's pod racer from Episode I.

Now that's creative freedom. Who says it's only "fun" if you get some kind of in-game collectible reward for doing it? What a terribly cramped definition of fun that is!

Second, and a little bit pickier, is the question of fidelity to Star Wars canon in Star Wars Galaxies. SWG not only changed SW canon, it utterly and completely defiled it... with Jedi.

I am not and have never been a Jedi-hater; that's silly. But it's a fact that whereas the movies made a point that all the Jedi had been wiped out (mostly by Darth Vader), a year into SWG there were Jedi all over the place. And the more time that passed, the more Jedi there were. Heck, ever since the NGE, "Jedi" is a starting class!

I understand SOE/LA wanting to allow gamers to have the ultimate Star Wars experience (as seen in the generally good single-player Star Wars FPS games) of being a Jedi. It's a crucial marketing feature. I get that.

But it's also horribly disruptive to any gamer for whom the story of Star Wars carries the most entertainment value. At the time in which SWG was set (just after the destruction of the Death Star), the Jedi were gone. By allowing any and every SWG player to have a Jedi character (and this was true on Day One even though we didn't know it then), SOE/LA simply ignored canon. And in doing so they obliterated this important part of the Star Wars story.

Was the marketing aspect more important? Maybe. But no one should think that the decision that allowed the gameworld to fill up with glowstick-brandishing "Jedi" came without a cost. SOE/LA very clearly made their choice: game >> story.

So IMO it wasn't creative players or the relatively open-ended nature of the original game that dealt a deathblow to canonicity in SWG.

Man, I could just rattle on about this stuff for years....