Good Old MMOs

News that Star Wars Galaxies was shutting down at the end of 2011 shouldn’t have mattered to me in the least. It was a long time ago in a dim man cave far-ish away that I first experienced the disappointment of Galaxies, but somehow finding out that the case is now truly terminal is a bit like finding out a high-school ex-girlfriend has been given only months to live. Suddenly, you decide to remember the good times, even if there weren’t very many. Or really any at all.

It seems odd to think about all the casualties in the MMO space of games I’ve played throughout the years. Sometimes good, occasionally truly bad games have had their brief run at this difficult genre, glowed dimly for a few months or years and then finally succumbed quietly. Games like Auto Assault, Horizons, Asheron’s Call 2, Star Wars Galaxies and Vanguard have lived, struggled and ultimately died.

Wait, what the hell do you mean Vanguard is still up and running?!

Regardless, I still somehow think of the MMO genre itself as exceedingly young, which it very much isn’t. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my perception of its innocence could, if one were feeling particularly snotty, be construed as an indictment on its complete failure to truly evolve. That may be why for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m not really playing a massively multiplayer game.

After all, in the span of nearly a decade and a half as a legitimate video game genre, I don’t really feel like MMOs have done much to refine and redefine. There have been tweaks here and there, and certainly the visual sophistication of the modern MMO is worth at least a passing mention, but ultimately it feels like the great ideas that should have evolved the massively multiplayer experience never really did so. We’re all still basically playing EverQuest to some degree.

After six years of World of Warcraft, ten years of AO, twelve years of EverQuest and fourteen years of Ultima Online, I feel that we players are basically doing the same things and asking the same question.

MMOs may be the best test case of all time for the culturally accepted definition of insanity, and after more than a decade I feel like my great capacity to do the same thing over and over again may have finally been exhausted. Because that’s really the whole scope of the genre: a platform for extraordinary repetition, to the point where the more you play, the more you are asked to “grind” away at the same action until your fingers and eyes bleed.

Of course, I say this as someone who has become disillusioned with the system. After all, repetition—some might say iteration—is a firm foundation for gameplay and game design. One round of a modern war shooter is ostensibly like any other. Strategy games can be built on the approach of continually refining builds. When I play my favorite Rock Band song, I’m not being given a different note chart to follow than the one I’d been given on any of the hundred times before. So why do MMOs get dinged for asking you to do another kill quest or grind for rep?

Maybe it’s just because the expectation for results for the genre is on a much broader scale. Give me fifty hours in a shooter and I’ve probably had the opportunity to experience everything the game has at its disposal, and I’ve begun to feel like I’ve accomplished something for my time. For MMOs on the other hand, fifty hours is still considered to be exceedingly casual and barely enough of a time commitment to have made a dent in the game. MMOs measure their players’ success on the scale of months and years spent in game.

But it goes beyond that. As I say, there seems to be little evolution in the genre as a whole. When deeply committed MMO players talk about change within a game environment, they often appear to be talking about the finest of minutia from an outside perspective. Rescaling some formula for reputation mechanics has a major bearing on players with 5,000 hours of gametime, but it is irrelevant if you’re just looking from the outside in, when the real complaint is that the overarching game is just another bloated dragon hunt through orc town.

Worse still, I’m not sure there is a solution. The development and maintenance of these games is such a risky and complicated procedure that reckless, or even risky, innovation is just impractical. This isn’t a situation where two guys in a garage with a server and a dream are likely to launch a plan that changes the landscape—in part because it’s such a tricky beast to tame without the support of a large organization, and in part because it’s not really a situation where the major players have an impetus to change.

Instead, MMOs have become a bunch of snarling carrion eaters barking in the darkness, biting at scraps as they wait for the fat lion of Blizzard to slink away from the carcass. Right now, nobody seems to be hunting for the fresh kill.

I suppose someday, someone will go take down the next big prey, and maybe then we’ll enjoy a new meal. But for now, the MMO genre feels mired in the mud, dragged down by its own weight. I miss the sense of wonder and adventure, now roughly a decade gone, but on the upside I’m finding so much more time to play other games that I almost don’t even miss it.

Comments

Exactly my sentiment... and the reason I can't get excited about any of the freshly released or upcoming MMOs.
I think another part of the issue is that those old MMOs had a lot more room for social interaction, the Internet was still young, we were naive, and it was awesome to be able to play and talk with other people. Today we'd rather be left alone or play with our friends, therefore the repetitive gameplay becomes the main thing.

An excellent article that does much to comment on the state of MMO's. I do like the imagery of World of Warcraft being a lion that has made the kill, with every other MMO being a bunch of scavengers.

I am surprised however that no mention was made of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Here's a game that many are hoping will be the title that at least challenges the lion that is World of Warcraft. Now I have played this game at E3 this year and from what I experienced, I'm not convinced.

The combat suffers from the usual spreadsheet vs spreadsheet guff, with the player jabbing at keys every now and then to increase their dps during the engagement. The light sabres are little more than glowing clubs that seem to do little to no damage, which is odd for a weapon that can cut through anything!

I also know people who are in the closed beta and they tell me how the story side of the game is so much richer than any MMO. It is this they say makes the game stand out. That and that it's being developed by Bioware.

I suppose it's a case of waiting and seeing, but I'm going to watch from the sidelines as SWTOR arrives before jumping in, if I even bother to do so.

The development and maintenance of these games is such a risky and complicated procedure that reckless, or even risky, innovation is just impractical.

I think we may see a move to more and better procedurally-generated content MMOs. Think Realm of the Mad God, but bigger and better. Or Hellgate: Lodon, but with more engaging random content. One can hope, anyway.

Mixolyde wrote:

Think Realm of the Mad God, but bigger and better. Or Hellgate: Lodon, but with more engaging random content. One can hope, anyway.

I had such hope for that game, sadly it went away rather quickly.

I very much agree with your assessment. The whole genre (is it even a genre, really?) has been set back years due to WoW's success; everybody's now chasing the same prize, which means they're looking for a big payoff for an equally big investment, which means that they're scared to death of doing anything that WoW doesn't do.

There's innovation to be found, but it's certainly not happening in any AAA studio. Things like Minecraft really tickle the brain with what's possible here, and some people are asking the right questions. It's just a matter of time.

One of the things I've believed about MMOs is that they've half the game the developer provides, and half the people you play with. I know just as I can never go back to some glory days of WoW:BC with the game I enjoyed at that time, I can never go back to the guild I was in, in exactly the state it was in at that time, as people change and move on. Or I can't go back to that old EVE corp and do mining ops with the same people.

Rose tinted glasses suck some times.

That said, as much as nostalgia is comforting, part of me finds it good that there is always a pressure to move on to try other, new things. Change is the only constant.

I think the success of WoW has really been bad for the industry in many ways. Carving out a profitable niche from the Blizzard monopoly has put a lot of games into an early grave. The flip side to that is that Blizzard itself has (in my opinion) gotten complacent and no longer puts out enough material to keep my subscription running without interruption. This latest expansion has been disappointing to the point at which a lot of folks that I've been playing with since the days of "vanilla wow" have retired. After a full year of absolutely nothing to do in the last days of the WOTL expansion, we all deserved better. I think it is going to take some real competition taking more of a market share away from WoW for Blizzard to get its act back into gear, but that simply hasn't happened.

I remain hopeful that Bioware's inclusion of story really adds something new to the genre.

While the game-play of TOR is of course heavily influenced by WoW and those that came before, impressions like Gabe's fill me with hope that the story really will matter in a new and meaningful way compared to the rest of the genre.

I can see myself coming to a complete stop at critical plot points, knowing there are no save games to fall back on and that my toon will have to "live" with the consequences of my decisions. Imagine playing ME2 where you get just one chance to choose how you will treat Jack. I believe that the Bioware devs have even said that they are recording metrics of critical plot points and that players are taking 10s of minutes and in some cases logging off and sleeping on plot decisions.

In contrast, while watching a recent developer walk through of GW2 of their underwater game-play, I was struck by the dev's rapid click through of a quest text. I think he even said something along the lines of, here is a quest, blah, blah, yadda, yadda.

I have spent more than 4 solid years playing LoTRO, a game that prides itself on its story; yet even with the game's rich IP and well written quest I find myself too often just clicking through the story.

I hope that story is indeed what I have been waiting for. If not, my days with MMOs might be numbered as well.

Elysium, if you haven't been taking a close look at Guild Wars 2, I urge you to do so. I've always been a big ANet fan, and everything they're doing looks like it will revolutionize the genre. If they can pull it off of course.

I also just wanted to add that in my experience, SWG was the ex-girlfriend who tried to torch my apartment and chased me with a knife until the cops had to taser her. In other words, I really have no rose-colored glasses on when it comes to that game. Or the ex-girlfriend.

Great article. Not to shill another, but I think it works with your point to a degree -- most of the games listed on the thread I've linked are all attempts to go beyond the designer and create player-made content to some degree and, in doing so, they add to the mythology of MMOs that already runs pretty deep within our gaming culture.

Oddly if you wanted to play online with others, MMOs were the only way to go, but now with all of the TF2s, RTS, and everything coming with online multiplayer capabilities to some degree, I think that MMOs went from something that was defined by its connectiveness to others online into something that resembles a gameplay style that Everquest made popular. Its an interesting evolution, to say the least and I think that when the focus of the MMO changed from playing with other people to playing a certain style of game with other people (Tank,DPS,Mitigator,etc) then it became something of a bastard of the industry that didn't bother to ever evolve because of a percieved notion that the users of the game had and their expectations of core elements that were necessary for an MMO, just as we demand certain things from our shooters or RTS or RPGs, we now demand certain things from our MMOs; its just that the genre never really accurately defined itself through itself.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-7-bi...

WoW has been a double edged sword for the MMORPG genre; it's success has been a boon, but it's success has also had a very negative effect, and I feel that SWG in particular suffered for that. It's easily one of the most innovative games that's launched in the last 6 years, pioneering player run economies, one of the best crafting designs *ever* and was really all about creating a world more than a game. It was, hands down, the ultimate realization of a table top player's greatest dream, that of a fully fleshed out P&P RPG in MMO format. Sadly, I don't think that we'll ever see a game with a design like that again, and we're honestly poorer off for it.

AnimeJ wrote:

WoW has been a double edged sword for the MMORPG genre; it's success has been a boon, but it's success has also had a very negative effect, and I feel that SWG in particular suffered for that. It's easily one of the most innovative games that's launched in the last 6 years, pioneering player run economies, one of the best crafting designs *ever* and was really all about creating a world more than a game. It was, hands down, the ultimate realization of a table top player's greatest dream, that of a fully fleshed out P&P RPG in MMO format. Sadly, I don't think that we'll ever see a game with a design like that again, and we're honestly poorer off for it.

I think you are exactly right; we aren't likely to see anything like SWG was when it was released in 2003. The initial time in SWG really felt most similar to UO to me. Perhaps this is because the game wasn't divided into "zones", but it really felt like a "world" to me in which you could just head out from "town" in any direction you wished and just explore the world. Granted, there wasn't a whole lot out there, but it still felt a lot more "realistic" than traveling across Norrath and knowing which zone you are in, and exactly what to expect there. A lot of my time in early SWG was spent seeking out valuable minerals to mine, and the joy of getting my mining processors in place before anyone else could lay claim to the site. This far exceeds the joy of flying my 240% flight speed mount and dropping right down on a mineral deposit in WoW before the other guy can grab it. Making my own houses, clothes, weapons...It was all really very satisfying. Not to mention the social interaction with those players that took non-combat skills, such as dancing/music/image design. Of course this really hasn't been present in SWG for years, as they long ago panicked and decided to switch to a class-based system. I always hoped to return to SWG some day, but that day never came, due to the changes made to the world. I'll give the upcoming Bioware game a try, but I can't imagine that I'll really enjoy it if it is a WoW clone with more tedious leveling, as Rift is.

I remain hopeful that Bioware's inclusion of story really adds something new to the genre.

While the game-play of TOR is of course heavily influenced by WoW and those that came before, impressions like Gabe's fill me with hope that the story really will matter in a new and meaningful way compared to the rest of the genre.

I can see myself coming to a complete stop at critical plot points, knowing there are no save games to fall back on and that my toon will have to "live" with the consequences of my decisions. Imagine playing ME2 where you get just one chance to choose how you will treat Jack. I believe that the Bioware devs have even said that they are recording metrics of critical plot points and that players are taking 10s of minutes and in some cases logging off and sleeping on plot decisions.

That should be very interesting having real choices that impact your character beyond the superficial. Over time Blizzard removed so much of the permanency of your decisions. At the same time I do wonder how story can ever really impact an MMORPG in a meaningful way long term. With a system designed to keep you playing the same content over and over a unique storyline can't really repeat itself. It's one and done. So if SWToR is really just a run through the story once and then a end level grind fest of rep and gear what did we really get? A 40 hour enjoyable leveling up experience?

TheGameguru wrote:

With a system designed to keep you playing the same content over and over a unique storyline can't really repeat itself. It's one and done. So if SWToR is really just a run through the story once and then a end level grind fest of rep and gear what did we really get? A 40 hour enjoyable leveling up experience?

This remains one of my biggest questions about SWTOR, and I think it highlights a fundamental problem with all WoW clones: it's in their best financial interest to keep you playing longer, and that imperative can be at direct odds with well paced story, or good gameplay.

How do you make people play more? With WoW clones, you tend to spread out the goodies more, make plot elements less frequent, power upgrades more subtle, etc. You basically make the game objectively less fun to play for the sake of stalling people out on content.

SWToR promises to be the next KOTOR (and "all future KOTORs forever"), but unless they drastically rethink their subscription model I just don't see it. How many hours of gameplay are in KOTOR? Would it be anywhere near as good if you got to a certain point, and then had to grind in order to level up in order to get to the next plot element?

Bioware's fundamental choice is: better pacing, thus letting people finish the game faster and making less long term revenue, vs worse pacing and the potential to keep players spinning their wheels longer. It's hard to vote against the money.

I think that heavily story based gameplay is fundamentally at odds with the goals of the subscription model. Player generated content, PvP, and procedurally generated environments seem to have a lot more potential for long term playability than "story" to me, which is why I think KOTOR is just barking up the wrong tree here.

That's not to say that Bioware won't make bank off of this game, of course. This kind of trick might just work - for a while.

Maybe it’s just because the expectation for results for the genre is on a much broader scale. Give me fifty hours in a shooter and I’ve probably had the opportunity to experience everything the game has at its disposal, and I’ve begun to feel like I’ve accomplished something for my time. For MMOs on the other hand, fifty hours is still considered to be exceedingly casual and barely enough of a time commitment to have made a dent in the game. MMOs measure their players’ success on the scale of months and years spent in game.

^^^ This... basically.

I've only dipped my toe into the MMO waters with a free introductory play of EveOnline. I have to say I like the concept, I love the way the game looks, and I'm fascinated by what I hear of the way the game is played at the highest levels... but I just cannot face the prospect of putting in the time necessary to get there. There's absolutely no irony in the term 'grind'.

What I find lamentable is the fact that the MMO approach seems to be permeating the rest of online gaming. Achievements, trophies, badges and whatnot are turning what in my view should be exciting three-month blasts through a new title into exercises in masochism.

Perhaps it's my age. When I first started gaming, playing a handheld was all about 'clocking' the game and seeing HHH in the score box. Similarly, playing an arcade or console game was about achieving a high score. Now it's about completing an endless series of almost entirely arbitray tasks. Sad...

I could point to the East Asian online gaming marketplace for Mr. Sands and other gamers here to consider, but would it be welcome, and are you guys at all interested in checking them out?

Before SWG featured player-run economies in MMOs, it was introduced by Lineage in the Korean marketplace, and unlike SWG, Lineage is still running strong.

There are a variety of MMOs in East Asia, counting among them: Perfect World, Ragnarok, Lineage, Ran Online, Khan, Flyff, RF Online, and so on.

The variety of online massively multiplayer offerings for East Asians does not stop with the RPG format or the FPS format, since not all players like to hang out playing WoW or playing an FPS. There's Grand Chase, Maple Story, Freestyle, Dance Battle Audition, and so on.

As I've hinted above, the question isn't whether or not the genre should evolve. The question is whether gamers who are jaded on WoW gaming would actually like to try out something new online. There are options, but all you're looking for is a close WoW evolution, then you're going to have to look to WoW itself to evolve.

LarryC wrote:

As I've hinted above, the question isn't whether or not the genre should evolve. The question is whether gamers who are jaded on WoW gaming would actually like to try out something new online. There are options, but all you're looking for is a close WoW evolution, then you're going to have to look to WoW itself to evolve.

But aren't we talking about one and the same? The reason WoW players are jaded are because of the current state of WoW, and by in large, the remainder of the MMO market. Trying something new only delays the same jaded feelings that the player received from WoW earlier. Once the romance is over, there is no long-term love.

I don't think that we'll have to look for WoW itself to evolve, whatever that means. I don't even know if this genre can evolve at this point, which was the point I think I tried to make with my ramblings earlier.

My main point is that it depends on what you mean by "genre." If what you mean is exactly something that's identical to WoW, then the definition itself precludes any kind of meaningful evolution. Any real evolution would be viewed as "not-MMO."

However, if you're looking for varied online experiences, then there's a plethora of multiplayer online games that are absolutely not WoW at all, so I don't think it's fair to characterize this category of game as stale.

Star Wars Galaxies worked because it dangled that Jedi carrot on a string. I remember when I finished the first part of the Jedi quest and gained "Force Sensitivity" or whatever that first step was. It didn't really do anything, if I recall, but it was very exciting. The idea that the Jedi quest was going to take awhile (much like the epic quests of EQ) really fit well into the MMO genre. I think having one big quest to work on for months or years is good to have because it gives you something to strive for (and its good for the devs because it keeps you subscribed for a long time).

The varied and branching advancement trees was deep and interesting, even if some choices were unclear in their usefulness.

Granted, SWG had plenty of flaws, like the original combat system, which was just strange. You mean I have to use up my health to hit something? It never clicked for me. The first big combat upgrade made more sense.

Also, what was with the dancers? Realism is fine, but when it's not fun, what's the point of putting it in a game?

The best time I had playing that game was right after the first combat upgrade, which was about the time I started the Jedi quest. That sense of this great challenge ahead of me was truly entertaining.

Then they changed the class system and suddenly everyone could roll a Jedi from the get go. Boooring.

I hope Bioware gets their game right.

Mixolyde wrote:
The development and maintenance of these games is such a risky and complicated procedure that reckless, or even risky, innovation is just impractical.

I think we may see a move to more and better procedurally-generated content MMOs. Think Realm of the Mad God, but bigger and better. Or Hellgate: Lodon, but with more engaging random content. One can hope, anyway.

Spiral Knights is pretty fun for a free game. And it uses some templates to vary up the levels. Not exactly procedurally generated but randomized maps for the most part. Even after a few weeks of playing though I am starting to see some familiar parts here and there although the paths are still usually different. Nothing is perfect, but it's an interesting attempt to vary things.

I could point to the East Asian online gaming marketplace for Mr. Sands and other gamers here to consider, but would it be welcome, and are you guys at all interested in checking them out?

It's a legitimate response, but my comments are comfortably regional. I'm no more talking about the Asian MMO market than I'm talking about the Japanese gaming industry in an article about the dominance of modern warfare shooters.

Sure, Elysium, but the Japanese gaming industry is a nonstarter with regards to modern warfare shooters, because hardly anything in that market is a modern warfare shooter.

I'd argue that a regional article about MMOs concentrating on the North American market is rather like discussing modern warfare shooters from the point of view of only the Japanese market. I don't know why your market's not conducive to MMOGs, but MMOGs have not fared there as well as they have in East Asia, and not in as great of a variety.

It's not like we don't know about WoW or are uninterested. We can play WoW, and many of us do. We just think that there are better offers on the market depending on variety and taste.

However, if you're looking for varied online experiences, then there's a plethora of multiplayer online games that are absolutely not WoW at all, so I don't think it's fair to characterize this category of game as stale.

idk....most of the Perfect World F2P I've tried are still essentially EQ clones or WoW clones.. or whatever clone you want to call them.. they do little to differentiate themselves other than with graphics..some tweaks in gameplay/character design but essentially they all follow the same mold.

The holy grail is player generated "content" I use quotes because the content could be anything.. could be combat related.. economy related..anything. As long as the "story" is written largely by the players then you can have a game that can be something beyond a WoW clone.

TheGameguru wrote:

The holy grail is player generated "content" I use quotes because the content could be anything.. could be combat related.. economy related..anything. As long as the "story" is written largely by the players then you can have a game that can be something beyond a WoW clone.

City of Heroes has the Mission Architect, player created instances, with story, dialog, custom enemy groups... it was pretty sweet the last time I tried it. And I guess the game is still going, new box expansion earlier this year, free updates every 3-4 months still. But I haven't been back.

I'm just in a fatigue position where I won't pay $15 a month for anything, no matter how fun it is. I did my time in WoW, and in CoH/V... and I let all the other games I bought sit on my shelf and ignored them because the MMOs were paid for. Won't get sucked in again.

TheGameguru:

You must forgive my ignorance. I don't play WoW. What elements of an MMO are the fundamental aspects that make it into a clone of WoW? Is it the crafting? The world exploration? Character customization? I truly don't know.

Perfect World International, of course, came out of the huge success of the original Perfect World, whose claim to fame is the ability to sport highly detailed and accurate face modeling for your avatar - in a fantasy WoW-ish game environment. Hence the name, "Perfect World." Which aspects of Perfect World make it a WoW clone? Isn't it sufficiently different?

I'm a one-time internet cafe shop manager, so I only know what I know from second-hand information. Several of my past customers swore by Perfect World and wouldn't touch WoW with a ten foot pole.

From over-the-shoulder observation, I get the impression that Grand Chase, for one, isn't at all like WoW. Definitely, Dance Battle Audition isn't, since it's a dancing game.

Essential point:

What I'm saying is that MMOs that depend on F2P to draw in population and market share are going to want as many attractive features as possible. A gamer's game experience is drawn from which of the game's features and game sets he chooses to play.

Example: in RF Online, you can choose to play the Artificer class whose chief powers relate to, well, crafting. He's not an especially powerful combatant even with his crafted items, nor an especially powerful support character, even with his crafted items. He's there to make items for other characters - you make items and generate virtual money through trading with other characters. Essentially, the game's like Drug Wars more than it's like an RPG.

Is the crafting and player-run economy of WoW robust enough and interesting enough to support this sort of gameplay?

AnimeJ wrote:

WoW has been a double edged sword for the MMORPG genre; it's success has been a boon, but it's success has also had a very negative effect, and I feel that SWG in particular suffered for that. It's easily one of the most innovative games that's launched in the last 6 years, pioneering player run economies, one of the best crafting designs *ever* and was really all about creating a world more than a game. It was, hands down, the ultimate realization of a table top player's greatest dream, that of a fully fleshed out P&P RPG in MMO format. Sadly, I don't think that we'll ever see a game with a design like that again, and we're honestly poorer off for it.

I think overall WoW's success also benefits the MMO industry in how they differentiate their games. The WoW formula, "borrowed" from EQ (which was previously borrowed from Meridian 59) has created a great template of basic ideas, UI, gameplay/etc for any group of designers to get a half-decent MMO up and running. The problem is, "half-decent" usually means certain death when you have a crown of titles fighting for your cash and attention. Also, why bother with half-decent when you can play WoW?

On the plus side, this need for differentiation has forced innovation from developers who want their MMO to at least survive, even if they admit their game probably won't be a "WoW-killer" (Notice how nobody uses that term anymore, even Bioware?). Vanguard's diplomacy mode. Rift's Rifts. Age of Conan's starting zone and boobs, D&D online's Free-to-play model (which many of us scoffed at initially). These are just a few examples, and this doesn't even account for the non-fantasy games. Or the other multiplayer experiences being explored by Love, Minecraft, and yes, even the Zynga Facebook games.

The exception to this is LOTRO, which basically took WoW's model, adjusted it to their purposes, and remained true to the story and simply built a good quality, long-lasting MMO. It's enjoyed a solid steady ride with very few mistakes. In short, LOTRO is the Honda Accord of MMOs, and that's just fine with Turbine.

For me, yes, there's definitely a lot of same-old, same-old. But I'm still playing.

BTW, while I wrote this, I continue to download of Age of Conan's new "F2P and Unrated" version of their game.

Star Wars Galaxies rocked, far more than WoW.

Ok, now that I've gotten your attention - let me clarify. SWG rocked when it first came out. I hit a new server and wound up on one of the most desolate uninhabited planets. No one had money to get off the rock. There were only a handful of us, struggling to start an economy. No one knew that resources would disappear every week and be replaced by randomly-named new ones. No one knew how the professions worked. There were no speedos, and barely a usable weapon to speak of. We could barely communicate. And started to build an economy and a community.

This died almost immediately, within about 2 weeks. But it was the best part of any computer game: rich in possibility. Requiring cooperation to advance. Exploration of the rules and the environment.

Later, it became impossible to carve out a niche for yourself - the only rational thing to do was go on megahunt after megahunt, trying to build up cash to buy from overpriced 3rd party vendors to buy equipment to help the grind to make it up to Jedi.

I've always thought that that original stage had potential. LIMIT the size of the universe, in population and time. Let the worlds go stagnant and start all over. Keep an economic model where individuals can contribute without forming guilds or cabals. Keep people spread out and isolated in pockets where they can solo or form small communities - don't reward people for clustering at the hub. (They'll do it anyway.)

But that's just me, pining for the time I could make a small piece of armor and potlatch, hoping to get a better gun.

Nathaniel wrote:

SWG rocked when it first came out. I hit a new server and wound up on one of the most desolate uninhabited planets. No one had money to get off the rock. There were only a handful of us, struggling to start an economy.

That sounds like MULE: the MMO.

From my outside-rarely-glancing-in perspective, SWG seemed like it never had as strong a hook as it should have. In the early days of MMOs, the fantasy games were all more or less D&D via the Internet -- so I knew that if I got into Everquest or Ultima Online or World of Warcraft or whatever, I'd spend my time killing monsters, getting loot, and leveling up. The impression I got of SWG is that it was about being an ordinary person, probably with an ordinary job, in the Star Wars universe. And that left what I'd be doing in the game, and why I should want to, rather vague.

I don't always agree with Sean Sands, but when I do it's practically verbatim.

misplacedbravado wrote:
Nathaniel wrote:

SWG rocked when it first came out. I hit a new server and wound up on one of the most desolate uninhabited planets. No one had money to get off the rock. There were only a handful of us, struggling to start an economy.

That sounds like MULE: the MMO.

From my outside-rarely-glancing-in perspective, SWG seemed like it never had as strong a hook as it should have. In the early days of MMOs, the fantasy games were all more or less D&D via the Internet -- so I knew that if I got into Everquest or Ultima Online or World of Warcraft or whatever, I'd spend my time killing monsters, getting loot, and leveling up. The impression I got of SWG is that it was about being an ordinary person, probably with an ordinary job, in the Star Wars universe. And that left what I'd be doing in the game, and why I should want to, rather vague.

SWG definitely left no room for ambivalance; you either loved it or hated it. Yes, it was all about being relatively normal folks. However, there was a chance at being something great, like a Han Solo or Boba Fett. Personally, I had a blast playing my Rifleman/Creature Handler; there were probably 2 or 3 types of mobs in the game I couldn't solo. I definitely managed to carve out a decent niche on my server between leading hunts and scouting for minerals; I was probably one of the two or three best on the server at both.