Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lessons of Star Wars Galaxies +

Some players of SWG have suggested that gathering resources felt like a "logistical nightmare" for casual players, that tending harvesters felt like grinding.

I considered myself casual, but I really enjoyed the resource gathering subgame. Running harvesters was an interesting combination of planning (which resources are the best to harvest right now?), combat (how can I get to my harvesters when they're surrounded by antagonistic mobs?), exploration (this high-percentage resource site is a place I've never been before), and commerce (I don't need these resources I've harvested -- where can I sell them for the most money?).

In my experience, harvester-based resource gathering only became un-fun in a couple of ways. One was if you got too wrapped up in always having the absolute "best" resources; you could wind up obsessing about checking your harvesters several times a day to make sure you didn't miss replanting them in the best spot when a great new resource shifted in. The other way that resource gathering would start to feel like work was if you persuaded other people to assign admin rights to their harvesters to you. There were people (usually in guilds) who had hundreds of harvesters admin'ed to them; they could literally spend hours at a time tending fields covered with harvesters.

As long as you just tended the 10 (or fewer, depending if you had a house) harvesters you could personally plant, and were OK with not always having harvesters planted in the perfect location for the best resources, resource gathering was a fun and even reasonably lucrative subgame to play in SWG, even for casual players. At least, that was my experience of it.

And if you were a crafter, too (as I was), resource gathering got even more interesting because that put additional constraints on which resources were the most useful to you for the kinds of items you wanted to craft. (Many craftable items based their quality on the characteristics of the resources used, or even required certain resources to be made at all.)

That's not to say that this resource gathering/crafting system was perfect. In particular I had criticisms concerning experimentation; I never thought it contributed enough to the characteristics of the final crafted product. (And wrote several of my typically long-winded design essays suggesting ways to improve this situation.)

But I always thought the resource-gathering segment of this part of the fully player-run economy of SWG was one of the better-designed bits.

Heh. Former SWG players are like economists: ask two of them a question and get three (or more) opinions. :)