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Reporting In From 'MMOG' Land - 'Star Wars Galaxies: Battle for Restuss'

by Mark Crump on July 16, 2006 @ 1:53 a.m. PDT

he Star Wars Galaxies online game series is designed to immerse players in the rich Star Wars universe. Star Wars Galaxies will feature dynamic role-playing ground-based adventures across multiple planets in the classic Star Wars timeframe. With SWG: Battle for Restuss LucasArts is trying to appeal to high level players with new quests and content.

Publisher: LucasArts/SOE
Developer: LucasArts
Release Date: July 2006

When a company announces at E3 they are spending the next year focusing on improving and polishing the product, with no paid expansions (the best way to keep an MMO on retailer’s shelves), what they are really saying is “We know we’ve pissed off most of our customers; this is damage control, pure and simple.”

There hasn’t been an MMO more in need of damage control than Star Wars Galaxies. At this point, the missteps are legend: two combat upgrades (one that completely gutted the 32 professions) and communication mishaps that make the Bush Administration seem like straight shooters. At this point, whenever a LucasArts representative talks about SWG, I listen with a Costco-sized grain of salt.

So at E3 this year, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear, “No new expansions. We’re spending the year improving and polishing the product line.” Despite reassurances that last November’s New Game Experience wouldn’t ship until it was working, the presence of a new retail product dubbed “The SWG Starter's Kit” made players fearful that on November 15th, this puppy was getting kicked, regardless of whether it was working or not. On November 15th, it launched, completely bug-ridden, broken, and needing about six more months of development. Since I hadn’t played since the Trials of Obi-Wan expansion launched, I logged in recently to see how buggy it still was. It’s still pretty buggy. After dying, I had to re-log in to be able to use my special attacks again, some monsters weren’t returning attacks, and there are still issues with monsters warping; and these were evident in just the first hour I played.

Therefore, when the two nice gentlemen from LucasArts rolled out the “improving and polishing” line, I knew they were Desperate Men, and Desperate Men will say anything to keep their customers. What they’ve got planned for this year is interesting and might give the Galactic Civil War the shot in arse it needs.

This year’s goal is to give the higher-level players the same sort of directed content the lower-level players received as part of that whole “Starter Kit” deal, and to be fair, the first 20 odd levels of SWG are indeed a fine time, with lots of quests and a progression path. Unfortunately, LucasArts was willing to sacrifice the high-level players (read: your existing customers) to give new players a decent game. Now, six-plus months after the NGE, the high-levels will have something to do. Since I’m one of those high-level players, this is a particular pet peeve of mine. Since the NGE, the game has been unplayable for me. I’m too high a level to do the lowbie Legacy quests (the content introduced as part of NGE), and the only directed content I can gain XP from are on Mustafar, which is a planet made for grouping. So, I’m happy there’s content coming for me, but damnit, why did it have to take so long? While I can still grind out XP on planets like Dantooine, I prefer completing quests.

The premise is simple: There’s technology out there that could give either faction the power to control a Death Star. As part of the technology race, players will need to gather as-yet-undisclosed amounts of resources. As the race heats up, Imperial and Rebel players will meet up at the city of Restuss for an epic battle to determine who controls the technology. Something will go wrong, and the city will be destroyed in the process. The aftermath will provide players of levels 60 through 90 with the quest content they’ve been lacking.

I enjoy it when developers take existing content and change it. LucasArts hopes the destruction of the city will give the players the feeling they’ve changed the environment, but I’m not sure about that; it sounds like no matter, what the city is getting destroyed. While the players will provide the trigger for this, it’s not as if they’ll be able to destroy every city.

The Restuss Incident is the best shot at giving the Galactic Civil War a boost. Even in SWG’s heyday, the GCW was a poorly implemented afterthought. Setting up the stage for the showdown will prove both whether LucasArts can invigorate the GCW, and if players actually want to do the war. They’ve built it, and now, it’s up to the players to come.

The unfortunate side effect of the NGE is that traders got run out of business. Prior the NGE, most items in the game would decay, so you’d have to go back to the trader to replenish the item. LucasArts eliminated item decay in the NGE, causing uproar in the trader community, and for good reason — what’s the use in making items no one is going to buy? Another one of LucasArt’s goals this year is to help out the traders. The plan right now is to allow them to alter a looted item to make it better. I don’t think that’s enough, as it’s still going to be a one-time sale. I think the only way to really save the trader classes is to put item decay on death back in the game.

In-game events that are the precursor to the Restuss Incident went live the week of June 26th. I’m hoping that it’s the first step in making Star Wars Galaxies fun again.

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