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Astromechs, Friday Features & Other Stuff (2003-2005)

Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

Astromechs & Friday Features and other stuff from 2003-2005

 (Jeff Freeman Blog moved forward >> in the thread)

This is from a Astromech posted 19 August 2005 :
Least-played to most-played professions


Squadleader(Least played)


Force Sensitive - Crafting

Droid Engineer


Bio Engineer



Image Designer




Force Wielder






Force Defender

Force Enhancer

Force Healer

Light Saber Mastery

Creature Handler



Combat Medic





Force Sensitive - Senses

Teras Kasi



Force Sensitive - Reflexes

Bounty Hunter

Force Sensitive - Combat(Most Played)

GarVa wrote:

Got the List of Masteries (actual masters in listed skill trees) least to most again:

Force Sensitive: Crafting Mastery (Least Masteries)

Force Sensitive: Senses

Force Healer

Force Enhancer

Force Wielder

Squad Leader



Droid Engineer

Force Sensitive: Reflexes


Force Sensitive: Combat

Bio Engineer


Force Defender




Image Designer







Light Saber

Creature Handler


Combat Medic






Teras Kasi


Bounty Hunte
r (Most Masteries)


Beta Professions

From the beta boards. Before they merged some of the professions.


This profession combines skills from the architecture and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can build structures including player venues, installations, and municipal structures.


This profession combines skills from the armor design and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can create armor for players and structures.

Bounty Hunter

This elite profession combines skills from the investigation, slicing and combat disciplines. A player in this advanced profession can hunt down other players with bounties and is an accomplished combatant.


This profession combines skills from the cooking and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can create all kinds of foods. Foods are not necessary but are quite useful for temporarily improving a player's attributes

Combat Engineer

This profession combines skills from the engineering and combat disciplines. A player in this profession can both hold his/her own in a fight and repair items that are broken or damaged in combat.

Combat Medic

This profession combines skills from the medical and combat disciplines. A player in this profession can both hold their own in a fight as well as heal those who are injured in the field.


This profession combines skills from both the ranged and melee combat disciplines. A player in this profession is dangerous both at range and up close.

Creature Handler

This profession combines skills from both the combat and creature handling disciplines. A player in this profession can tame and train animals. A tamed animal can be sold to other players who have sufficient skill to control the creature.


This profession combines skills from the medical and chemical design disciplines. A player in this profession can cure all kinds of damage including shock wounds.

Droid Engineer

This profession combines skills from the droid design and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can design droid components, instruments and droids themselves.


This profession includes skills from the dancing and musicianship disciplines. A player in this profession can play musical instruments and perform dance routines for the benefit of others.


This profession combines skills from the linguistics, outdoorsmanship, and combat disciplines. A player in this profession can “solo” as well as translate for group members.


This elite profession combines skills from the farming and facility management disciplines. A player in this profession can grow plants and animals for foods and medicines.


This profession combines skills from the ranged weapons design and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can design ranged weapons and their components.

Image Designer

The Image Designer profession combines skills from the body customization and tailoring disciplines. A player in this profession can modify the way other players look as well as create clothing.


Jedi is a special case profession that requires considerable prerequisites (such as being Force sensitive). A player in this profession has access to considerable Force wielding skills, but they would be wise to keep that information to themselves as the Galactic Empire aggressively hunts the Jedi.


This profession combines skills from the ranged combat disciplines. A player in this profession is extremely dangerous in ranged combat.

Melee Weaponsmith

This profession combines skills from the melee weapon design and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can design melee weapons and their components.


This elite profession combines skills from the merchant, facility management, and general crafting disciplines. A player in this profession can operate vendors and run player-venues.


This elite profession combines skills from the mining and facility management disciplines. A player in this profession can extract valuable resources from the environment.


This elite profession includes skills from the politics and linguistics disciplines. A player in this advanced profession can run for office and manage a player city.


This profession combines skills from the creature handling, outdoorsmanship, and combat disciplines. A player in this profession can “solo” as well as find creatures for the food or taming.


This profession combines skills from the smuggling and ranged combat disciplines. A player in this profession can move “illicit” materials past “faction police” with greater ease and are useful to players involved in commerce.

Squad Leader

This profession combines skills from the leadership and combat disciplines. A player in this profession provides combat and movement bonuses to anyone that is grouped with them.

Teras Kasi Artist

This profession combines skills from the melee combat and melee tactics disciplines. A player in this profession is extremely dangerous in melee combat. Teras Kasi, or “steel hands”, is a Bunduki martial arts discipline focusing on weaponless combat.


More to come.... >>>


The Second Day Vet



  • SioBabbleSioBabble Eugene, ORPosts: 2,803Member

    Good stuff to have around.

    Particularly the Jeff Freeman blog post that displays just how cah-way-zee the SWG devs could get, and how they'd regret what they did.

    The rancid pile of rancor poodoo that is the NGE DID kill the social aspects of the game, and the community that had been created.  Levels suck, classes suck.

    CH, Jedi, Commando, Smuggler, BH, Scout, Doctor, Chef, BE...yeah, lots of SWG time invested.

    Once a denizen of Ahazi

  • suskesuske louisville, KYPosts: 714Member

    Oh man that is fun.



    proof of drug use at soe.

  • TookyGTookyG Warhammer Online Correspondent Alameda, CAPosts: 1,188Member

    Originally posted by suske

    Oh man that is fun.
    proof of drug use at soe.

    Indeed.  They were way beyond drug experimentation and were at the drug dependency stage.

    Until you cancel your subscription, you are only helping to continue the cycle of mediocrity.

  • AvosAvos Tulsa, OKPosts: 69Member

    Good stuff.

  • BushMonkeyBushMonkey Iron springs, AZPosts: 1,406Member

      Freeman's blog gives a glaring example of his own admission that the player's never even entered into the equation.   It was what they thought would  be "fun" and rammed it down our throats.

  • TillerTiller Portland, ORPosts: 4,896Member Uncommon

    Yeah I nabbed that Freeman blog back when he wrote it, then after I posted it everywhere.  His "get back at me" was to have me quoted in his new blog as saying "Jeff Freeman is a Morron" in his "what people say about me" track backs, or some shit he pulled off Raph Kosters site.... lmao.  Anyways good stuff right thur though.

    SWG pre-cu vet, elder Jedi, elder BH -Bloodfin

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Here we go again.... >>>



    Live Server Report Date: May 2004


    Galaxy Houses Vendors


    Ahazi 16,538 20,377 159
    Bloodfin 15,799 20,868 153
    Bria 19,233 24,618 183
    Chilastra 13,634 18,275 143
    Chimaera-European 12,718 14,547 149
    Corbantis 14,307 18,045 149
    Eclipse 17,077 24,686 158
    FarStar-European 9,661 10,900 117
    Flurry 11,783 13,956 108
    Gorath 16,554 21,862 155
    Infinity-European 4,090 4,354 69
    Intrepid 12,081 15,363 116
    Kauri 14,570 18,874 150
    Kettemoor 11,042 14,001 111
    Lowca 11,882 16,152 124
    Naritus 10,282 12,597 120
    Radiant 12,505 15,690 131
    Scylla 10,969 13,164 125
    Shadowfire 9,020 11,062 95
    Starsider 13,213 17,984 125
    Sunrunner 10,450 12,834 109
    Tarquinas 9,498 12,136 111
    Tempest 9,031 11,108 101
    Valcyn 10,084 11,839 96
    Wanderhome 9,869 12,873 105
    Total 305,890 388,165 3,162
  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member


    by Raph "Holocron" Koster

    Live Server Report Date: April 30th 2004

    MMO economies are hard. It's kinda become a truism by now. There's models for closed economies and open ones, there's terms lifted from real economics thrown around, and lots of theory about faucet-drain economies, mudflation, and whatnot. Why bother? Well, mostly because the game gets more boring when the economy is out of whack. If too much money is entering the system, then players tend to have more stuff than they should be able to afford, and that makes the game easier, which then can make it kind of dull. So the health of the game economy is something that we pay pretty close attention to.

    SWG uses what is called a faucet-drain economy. You can visualize a spigot of cash coming into the game, a big ol' sink where the money sloshes around, and a set of drains where the money goes out the bottom. When money comes in from the faucet, it's actually being "minted" - it's being created by the game system. The sink is basically the whole game. It's the bank accounts, the player inventories, all the money that is used for trades and transactions among players, etc. When money goes out the bottom, it's deleted from the system, rather than circulating back to a central bank.

    (Credits aren't the only thing that is generated, of course - a significant faucet into the game economy actually comes in the form of resource mining. Since the amount of money and the amount of resources coming into the game at a time both vary, you get small fluctuations in the price of resources as the value of both the resources and the currency changes. Plus, you also get different qualities of resources that affect the price. But we're not really talking about commodities pricing today, much as just about the value of a credit).

    We try to monitor the broad flow of cash in order to assess the health of the credit as a currency. There are other metrics for measuring the health of an economy overall - for example, the amount of transactions and the amount of currency that changes hands between players - but today we're going to just look at the flow of currency itself.

    The four biggest tools we use in order to assess the health of the currency are reports on the flow in and out of money, and the percentage breakdown of where the money comes from and goes. For example, have a look at this graph:


    What you see here is the raw amount of cash coming into the game over the course of the last month. It does tend to fluctuate up and down based on how many people are playing (which varies per day of the week), what they're doing, and so on. When we do major changes to the game (such as adding or removing a source of loot, let's say) the amount of currency flowing in tends to change.

    We mostly watch this one in comparison to the amount of currency flowing out, which looks like this:


    As you can see, the variety of outflow sources is much greater. We've been more successful at having a variety of ways for you to spend your money than a variety of ways for you to make money!

    Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed that in fact the game economy is running at a net loss, based on those two graphs. A while back we noticed that the game was running at a deficit, and yet there were none of the major effects we'd expect, such as currency becoming incredibly hard to come by, people going bankrupt, etc. Our conclusion was that a lot of the currency out there must have been "counterfeit" - in other words, we had a dupe bug. We promptly started hunting for it, and in fact we not only found it, but were able to mass ban a large number of folks who were clearly involved as well as removed trillions of credits from holding accounts, middlemen, etc. Running the overall currency flow at a deficit is effectively "eating up" the duped credits, and we'll return to the game economy to a more even keel when the total amount of cash in the system is something we're more comfortable with.


    The graph above shows the percentage breakdown over the course of the last month for where people get their money. As you can see, the vast majority of the money coming in enters the system via missions. Loot runs in a distant second place.

    Looking back at a long-term history of expenditures even lets you see when major features went into the game:


    The red appears when vehicle maintenance kicks in, the purple is the arrival of player cities, and the light blue is when we made adjustments to the cost of player insurance.

    In addition to these sorts of tracking, we also monitor things like large changes in wealth for individuals (often, but not always, a sign of cheating or duping), wealth distribution across the playerbase, and so on. For example, it's easy to see that just like in the real world economy, the chacteristic "Pareto Law" distribution of cash holds true: most of the money is in the hands of a few. This is a graph of just the top 2000 or so folks on Bria, for example - the highest folks are billionaires.


    This isn't necessarily something to be discouraged by - rather, we take it as a sign that the game economy is replicating characteristics of the real world economy. Since one of our goals was to have a game economy that can provide ongoing interesting strategy gameplay, seeing real world patterns manifest is something we were looking forward to.

    There's a ton of other types of data we track, and you've seen some of them in other features. But game economy is one of the most important, because overall health of the currency is one of the quickest ways to see if the game is going sour. You can even do some of this yourself - try monitoring the fluctuations in the prices of different items on a day to day basis, and build your own graphs. If you're a stats geek like me, it'll open your eyes to a whole new way of looking at online worlds.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Cries of Alderaan Act 3 Metrics

    This report shows which side is winning The Cries of Alderaan Act 3 as of February 19th. The winner is determined by the percentage of a Faction that completes the missions and gets the story badge (meaning the larger faction doesn't have a better chance of success). This act is scheduled to run at least until Publish 8, so there is still time to go out and sway the results.

    If the Rebels win Act 3: A modified Dead Eye will become a Rebel Perk.

    If the Imperials win Act 3: Dead Eye will become obsolete.

    Live server report date: Feb 19th 2004


    Rebel + Imperials = 100% of Factioned Players

    Rebel Badges + Imperial Badges = 100% of total COA Act 3 Badges awarded

    Winner = whichever side has the higher Badges to Members ratio

    Galaxy Rebels Imperials Rebel Badges Imperial Badges % of Rebels with Badge % of Imperials with Badge Current Winner
    Ahazi 58.85% 41.15% 54.98% 45.02% 4.85% 5.79% Imperial 
    Bloodfin 53.67% 46.33% 53.36% 46.64% 4.81% 4.87% Imperial 
    Bria 59.79% 40.21% 55.98% 44.02% 5.31% 6.26% Imperial
    Chilastra 59.78% 40.22% 58.02% 41.98% 6.07% 6.63% Imperial
    Corbantis 56.62% 43.38% 56.07% 43.93% 5.92% 6.17% Imperial
    Eclipse 55.33% 44.67% 49.53% 50.47% 5.06% 6.50% Imperial
    Europe-Chimaera 44.66% 55.34% 34.41% 65.59% 4.76% 7.40% Imperial
    Europe-FarStar 49.00% 51.00% 40.51% 59.49% 4.89% 6.97% Imperial
    Europe-Infinity 49.90% 50.10% 35.59% 64.41% 2.06% 3.75% Imperial
    Flurry 59.04% 40.96% 54.20% 45.80% 5.12% 6.37% Imperial
    Gorath 54.85% 45.15% 52.10% 47.90% 6.27% 7.11% Imperial
    Intrepid 60.61% 39.39% 56.26% 43.74% 5.70% 6.88% Imperial
    Kauri 57.14% 42.86% 49.70% 50.30% 5.70% 7.82% Imperial
    Kettemoor 59.09% 40.91% 53.91% 46.09% 5.54% 6.91% Imperial
    Lowca 59.46% 40.54% 60.87% 39.13% 6.40% 6.07% Rebel
    Naritus 63.02% 36.98% 59.60% 40.40% 5.35% 6.22% Imperial
    Radiant 60.41% 39.59% 56.62% 43.38% 5.57% 6.61% Imperial
    Scylla 56.30% 43.70% 52.91% 47.09% 6.38% 7.33% Imperial
    Shadowfire 56.08% 43.92% 51.70% 48.30% 4.85% 5.89% Imperial
    Starsider 58.34% 41.66% 55.56% 44.44% 5.53% 6.25% Imperial
    Sunrunner 60.65% 39.35% 57.00% 43.00% 5.27% 6.17% Imperial
    Tarquinas 58.62% 41.38% 55.45% 44.55% 5.06% 5.84% Imperial
    Tempest 59.11% 40.89% 54.11% 45.89% 4.77% 5.85% Imperial
    Valcyn 59.04% 40.96% 55.75% 44.25% 5.95% 6.84% Imperial
    Wanderhome 58.94% 41.06% 59.54% 40.46% 7.42% 7.34% Rebel
    Overall 57.53% 42.47% 53.94% 46.06% 5.39% 6.39% Imperials

    Currently the Imperials are winning Act 3 by a 1% margin. Rebels get out there and encourage your mates to complete the story arc!

    Note: Because the Rebels previously won both Act 1 and 2, the Rebel final mission was made to be more difficult than the Imperial final mission.


    Percentage of characters in specific factions

    Live server report date: Feb19th

    73.69% Neutral
    14.79% Rebel Covert
    10.69% Imperial Covert
    0.34% Rebel Declared
    0.49% Imperial Declared

    Stat notes: There are 10% more factioned players since the October Astromech Faction Stats. There are still less Imperials than Rebels, but that gap has been shrinking. The numbers of Overt seemed to decrease, BUT we have also changed the code such that logged out Overts register in our logs as Coverts (they become Overt automatically after the player has fully loaded in to avoid players getting killed while starting the game).

    This list includes characters that were created but potentially never used (it doesn't include deleted characters).

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Cries of Alderaan Final Act 3 Metrics

    Below are the final numbers from The Cries of Alderaan Act 3. The winner is determined by the percentage of a Faction that completes the missions and gets the story badge. While players will not be able to determine the outcome of the act anymore, they will be able to get their Act 3 badge until Publish 9.

    And the winner is....The Rebellion!

    In a hard-fought struggle, the Rebellion was able to protect their flora research stations from the Imperials long enough to develop an alternative version of Dead Eye. Once the new schematic is ready for mass production, Rebels will be able to craft Dead Eye using flora other than the rare Alderaanian Flora. When ready, the new schematic will be available from Rebel recruiters.

    Stats recorded from start of act thru April 5th


    Rebel + Imperials = 100% of Factioned Players

    Rebel Badges + Imperial Badges = 100% of total COA Act 3 Badges awarded

    Winner = whichever side has the higher Badges to Members ratio


    In looking at the numbers, you'll notice that many of the servers came right down to the wire. Though the Rebels did "come from behind" the February tally was quite close. For the final numbers on many servers to determine who won and who lost was less than 1% (11 servers were within .5%!). After looking at the numbers, it could have gone with either way right up to the end.

    Galaxy Rebels Imperials Rebel Badges Imperial Badges % of Rebels with Badge % of Imperials with Badge Current Winner


    Ahazi 57.58% 42.42% 58.61% 41.39% 9.38% 8.99% Rebel .39%
    Bloodfin 53.26% 46.74% 55.60% 44.40% 8.77% 7.98% Rebel .79%
    Bria 58.90% 41.10% 61.16% 38.84% 10.22% 9.30% Rebel .92%
    Chilastra 58.74% 41.26% 59.03% 40.97% 10.64% 10.51% Rebel .13%
    Corbantis 56.61% 43.39% 59.11% 40.89% 10.74% 9.73% Rebel 1.02%
    Eclipse 53.90% 45.32% 54.01% 45.99% 10.39% 10.34% Rebel .05%
    Europe-Chimaera 44.79% 55.21% 42.35% 57.65% 10.37% 11.45% Imperial 1.08%
    Europe-FarStar 49.58% 50.42% 50.36% 49.64% 11.32% 10.97% Rebel .35%
    Europe-Infinity 50.41% 49.59% 45.04% 54.96% 7.45% 9.24% Imperial 1.79%
    Flurry 58.10% 41.90% 59.11% 40.89% 10.32% 9.90% Rebel .42%
    Gorath 54.68% 45.32% 56.27% 43.73% 11.37% 10.65% Rebel .71%
    Intrepid 59.66% 40.43% 61.36% 40.43% 11.85% 11.04% Rebel .81%
    Kauri 55.96% 44.04% 53.10% 46.90% 11.13% 12.49% Imperial 1.36%
    Kettemoor 58.19% 41.42% 58.58% 41.42% 10.84% 10.66% Rebel .17%
    Lowca 58.30% 41.70% 62.04% 37.96% 10.66% 9.12% Rebel 1.54%
    Naritus 62.11% 37.89% 63.03% 36.97% 10.61% 10.20% Rebel .41%
    Radiant 59.87% 40.13% 62.24% 37.76% 10.13% 9.17% Rebel .96%
    Scylla 55.45% 44.55% 56.62% 43.38% 11.43% 10.90% Rebel .53%
    Shadowfire 55.13% 44.87% 56.51% 43.49% 9.84% 9.30% Rebel .54%
    Starsider 57.17% 42.83% 58.00% 42.00% 10.68% 10.32% Rebel .36%
    Sunrunner 59.63% 40.37% 57.71% 42.29% 9.90% 10.71% Imperial .81%
    Tarquinas 57.92% 42.08% 58.67% 41.33% 10.35% 10.04% Rebel .32%
    Tempest 58.13% 41.87% 59.28% 40.72% 10.41% 9.92% Rebel .48%
    Valcyn 57.51% 42.49% 61.90% 42.49% 13.06% 10.88% Rebel 2.18%
    Wanderhome 58.00% 42.00% 58.10% 41.90% 12.02% 11.97% Rebel .05%
    Overall 56.62% 43.38% 57.51% 42.49% 10.25% 9.88% Rebel .36%

    * This column represents the margin by which the winning faction on each server leads.



    Percentage of characters in specific factions

    67.95% Neutral
    20.69% Rebel Covert
    10.65% Imperial Covert
    0.31% Rebel Declared
    0.40% Imperial Declared

    This list includes characters that were created but potentially never used (it doesn't include deleted characters).

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member


    Live Server Report Date: Dec 17th

    Top Ten Solo Kills:

    1. meatlump buffoon 

    2. capper spineflap 

    3. kreetle 

    4. rill 

    5. flesh eating chuba 

    6. worrt 

    7. meatlump fool 

    8. ragtag kook 

    9. lesser desert womprat 

    10. minor worrt 

    Top Ten Group Kills:

    1. slinking voritor hunter

    2. dark trooper

    3. piket longhorn female

    4. piket

    5. huurton

    6. rebel medic

    7. piket plains walker

    8. worrt

    9. flesh eating chuba

    10. rill

    Top Ten "Raid MOBs":

    (group kills of the toughest critters in the game)

    1. canyon krayt dragon

    2. giant canyon krayt dragon

    3. giant dune kimogila

    4. peko peko albatross

    5. dark Jedi master

    6. nightsister elder

    7. dark Jedi knight

    8. krayt dragon ancient

    9. singing mountian clan councilwoman

    10. singing mountain clan guardian

    Top Ten "Raid MOBs" by soloists (!):

    (frequency of kills of the toughest critters in the game)

    1. canyon krayt dragon

    2. giant canyon krayt dragon

    3. giant dune kimogila

    4. dark Jedi master

    5. peko peko albatross

    6. enraged dune kimogila

    7. krayt dragon ancient

    8. blurrg raptor

    9. nightsister elder

    10. dark Jedi knight

    Top Ten Things Nobody Solos:

    1. stoneskin hanadak

    2. spider nightsister protector

    3. spider nightsister spell weaver

    4. warren AT-ST

    5. erran sif

    6. queen arachne

    7. hirsch sif

    8. queen merek harvester

    9. doak sif

    10. pubam battlelord

    Top Ten Things Nobody Group-kills:

    1. stoneskin hanadak

    2. tainted donkuwah dark shaman

    3. vile donkuwah battlelord

    4. ravenous rasp

    5. gungan kaadu rider

    6. shear mite hunter

    7. narmle major

    8. panshee ritualist

    9. mission gungan boss

    10. spynet operative

    Loneliest Creature In The Game:

    stoneskin hanadak. :)

    Top Ten Things That People Solo But Shouldn't Be Able To With Their Current Skills/Weapon:

    (red con solos)

    1. tusken captain

    2. tusken warlord

    3. tusken chief

    4. untrained wielder of the dark side

    5. dark force crystal hunter

    6. fierce piket protector

    7. dark trooper

    8. piket plains walker

    9. piket

    10. stormtrooper

    Top Ten Things That People Group Kill But Shouldn't Waste Their Time On:

    (green con group kills)

    1. kreetle

    2. huurton pup

    3. rebel medic

    4. rebel commando

    5. mission rebel surface marshal

    6. specops alliance free agent

    7. ragtag kook

    8. tusken commoner

    9. rebel general

    10. evil settler

    Commonest Even Matches For Soloists:

    1. vynock

    2. scavenger rat

    3. crazed durni

    4. womprat

    5. durni

    6. diseased bocatt

    7. diseased vrelt

    8. swooper gangmember

    9. mound mite

    10. rockmite

    Commonest Even Matches For Groups:

    1. dark force crystal hunter

    2. piket plains walker

    3. piket

    4. canyon krayt dragon

    5. tusken warlord

    6. untrained wielder of the dark side

    7. huurton huntress

    8. giant baz nitch

    9. dark trooper

    10. slinking voritor hunter

    Typical Solo Kills A Day: 2.5 million.

    Typical Group Kills A Day: 3.25 million.

    Average Number Of Ancient Krayt Dragon Kills A Day: 50.

    Average Number Of Gnort Kills A Day: 17000.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member


    Percentage of characters with specific novice skill

    Live server report date: Oct 20th 2003

    Starting Professions

    57.91% Novice Marksman
    51.66% Novice Scout
    36.47% Novice Medic
    34.84% Novice Artisan
    32.60% Novice Brawler
    17.93% Novice Entertainer


    Elite Professions

    8.66% Novice Creature Handler
    6.76% Novice Pistoleer
    2.58% Novice Bounty Hunter
    2.11% Novice Doctor
    2.01% Novice Merchant
    1.98% Novice Rifleman
    1.86% Novice Smuggler
    1.80% Novice Ranger
    1.68% Novice Architect
    1.55% Novice Commando
    1.53% Novice Weaponsmith
    1.47% Novice Teras Kasi Artist
    1.47% Novice Carbineer
    1.08% Novice Combat Medic
    1.00% Novice Tailor
    0.98% Novice Bio Engineer
    0.97% Novice Dancer
    0.93% Novice Armorsmith
    0.91% Novice Droid Engineer
    0.71% Novice Musician
    0.61% Novice Swordsman
    0.46% Novice Squad Leader
    0.35% Novice Fencer
    0.31% Novice Image Designer
    0.30% Novice Chef
    0.25% Novice Pikeman
    0.00% Novice Jedi Padawan

    Notes: This list includes characters that were created but potentially never used (it doesn't include deleted characters).


    Percentage of characters in specific factions

    Live server report date: Oct 20th

    76.06% Neutral
    13.59% Rebel Covert
    7.87% Imperial Covert
    1.09% Rebel Declared
    1.39% Imperial Declared

    Notes: There are 10% more factioned players than in early September. Rebels currently outnumber Imperials by 63%. We need to find ways to encourage more players to join the Empire as covert agents.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member



    Developer Structure Viewer 2003

    This article is to give you a little insight into one of our behind the scenes tools. Please note this tool is not available to players. We just wanted to lift the curtain a bit so you could see some of our processes.

    The Structure Viewer takes a snapshot of the locations of all player placed structures on all of the servers. With it we can at a glance determine where players have built their houses (black) and harvesters (blue). The primary benefit of the tool is for us to know where and where not to place more static encounters (red). To spread the players out we can easily find what portions of the worlds are underused.

    The side benefit of this tool is that is will help us readjust our server boundaries so that we can better manage load across the cluster. If too much is happening in one area, for example, we can tighten the server boundary. Additionally, this tool has helped us to track down bugs (we are currently using it to learn better ways of preventing lairs from spawning on top of houses for example).

    Across all of the galaxies we currently have over 90,000 player houses. Other structures easily double this number. This number grows every day.

    This shot shows Corellia with all galaxies selected, player structures only.


    Dantooine on the Bloodfin galaxy


    Dathomir on the Valcyn galaxy


    Endor on the Bria galaxy (of note: we limited what could be built on adventure planets, but ended up "grandfathering" structures built before we clamped down on it)

    Lok on the Ahazi galaxy


    Naboo on the Starsider galaxy. Can you point to Theed and its waterways?


    Rori on the Corbantis galaxy


    Talus on the Gorath galaxy


    Tatooine on the Intrepid galaxy


    Yavin 4 on the Radiant galaxy

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday Feature Pre-launch


    Creature Creation Part 1: Star Wars Zoology

    The Star Wars galaxy teems with an amazing diversity of inhabitants. Creatures can be found just about anywhere, from thick swamps to cold gray asteroids in space, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In a game like Star Wars Galaxies, the task of creating the critters that are integral to the Star Wars flavor is great, and the team assembled to tackle the job is equally great, in both talent and number.

    Star Wars Galaxies currently has more than fifteen artists and animators whose jobs are to re-create (and in many cases, create) the rancors, gackle bats , gnorts , dewbacks and dozens of other lifeforms players will encounter as they live the Star Wars movies through their characters. To get a good idea of how creature creation works in all its stages, I consulted with the team responsible for putting the skin on Salacious Crumb and the jelly in Jabba's belly laugh. However, this article ballooned as I began to see why the project requires so many artists!

    So Many Creatures, So Little Time.

    The process begins much like the planet building process, with hard choices: What creatures will make it into the initial release of the game, and which will not? In fact, the choice of planets helps determine which creatures can be included.

    Haden "Shug Ninx" Blackman, producer for LucasArts, brought his vast knowledge and resources to the decision-making table to help in this respect. "We knew that Corellian slice-hounds are native to Corellia, for example," he explains, "so, we knew that we could include them. The wildlife of Tatooine and Yavin 4 are extremely well-documented. In the case of those two planets, where we probably couldn't include every creature ever mentioned, we started with the creatures that would be most recognizable and then moved to the creatures that filled a niche-as enemies, or pets, or whatever."

    The design of the gameplay has an important influence on the decision-making process. All creatures to be included must fill a niche in the game, or have a "purpose" in the overall gameplay. The design team decided what these niches would be early on, and these included types such as predators, flying predators, herbivores, fish, mounts, and many others.

    There is ultimately a limit to how many creatures can be put into the initial release, and with limited time available in which to finish the game, development efficiency is of primary concern. It fell to Joe Shoopack and Jake Rodgers to devise a system that would maximize creature variety and fill the required niches, while managing development time.

    Once a creature has been given the green light, the artists can begin working on bringing it to life in the game. In many cases, the creatures come directly from the Star Wars movies, and it is these films that serve as the artist's primary reference. Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace proved a particularly rich resource for creature references. But there are many creatures you'll see in the game that did not appear in the movies, and this is where concept artist Arnie Jorgensen comes in.

    Star Wars Galaxies. From clothing, to creatures, to furniture, if it needs initial visualization, Arnie can create it.

    "Concept art begins at the design stage," Arnie explains. "A designer will come up with something he or she needs for the game that has never been seen before, and then they pass the idea on to me and the lead artist. I will take a look at it and approach the piece in different ways depending on what needs to be done. There are all sorts of rules and restrictions placed on the designs by the game engine. If it's a building, I know that I must keep in mind this rule, or that rule, and if it's a character, then I must keep in mind a different ruleset. Once past these challenges, I can really settle in to making it an interesting design. Normally, I rough out a sketch in pencil and then scan it into the computer to color."

    Arnie doesn't spend time re-inventing the wheel in his concept work. Those creatures that have already been seen in the movies don't need a redress. However, if a dewback needs a saddle, then Arnie will concept it. "You'd be surprised how much concept art like that needs to be done," he says. "We have four movies and a mountain of "The Art of..." Star Wars books to look at, and yet there is still plenty to design."

    Many examples of Arnie's concept work for creatures and characters have appeared in the "Creature Contest" and the "Guess the Species" contest hosted on this site.

    I asked Arnie what are the most enjoyable and most difficult parts of creature concept design.

    "The best part of this work is when I see the concepts that I've done fully modeled and textured in the game. When we're walking around in the game and look up at a giant dinosaur type creature that has never been seen's fun.

    "The toughest part of all this is to make designs that look like they 'fit' into the Star Wars universe. I can come up with an idea that I think looks great, but then when I step back and picture it next to a Wookiee or a Hutt and it just doesn't fit, I trash it."

    "It's a Gut Thing"

    Bringing together as many different artists on a single project as Star Wars Galaxies does, you inevitably end up with a wide range of artistic styles. As Arnie mentions, one of the hurdles the team faces when creating the creatures in the game involves "fitting" them into the Star Wars universe. Jake Rodgers, the art director on the project, and Haden Blackman take up this important responsibility.

    "Mainly, it's a gut thing," Haden explains about reviewing newly created creatures that have never been seen before. "The creature has to look like it belongs in the Star Wars universe. There's no real formula for that.... I guess I'd say that the creature needs to look possible. It should, in some ways, remind us of creatures that we are familiar with, but still look alien.... That's a tricky balance. If the creature is too bizarre, then it won't feel like it belongs in the Star Wars universe, which is a very realistic place, in my mind. If it doesn't have any strange qualities, then it will seem too mundane.

    "Fortunately, the concept artists on Galaxies are pretty amazing. I think they intuitively know what fits in the Star Wars universe."

    Jake gives credit to Arnie for creating those creatures that make both Haden's and his own guts happy. "We discuss relative size and ferocity, eating habits, background like that, but then Arnie goes to work on coming up with some amazing ideas. I stay out of his way for the most part. Sometimes he will come up with something and we work on the idea until it is more of what I think of as the essence of the creature we're making, but usually Arnie surprises us with something different than we were expecting, and it ends up working better than we thought."

    When the concept art is done for a creature, the concept is handed off to the team of artists who will create the 3-dimensional "mesh" of the creature and give it skin through texturing.

    Twelve artists handle the modeling and texturing process for creatures in SWG. They include Don Alexander and Dan Borth, who both do a considerable amount of animation work as well; Minoh Kim, Bill Daly, Nick Zuccarello, Jason Minor, Kris Taylor, Damon Waldrip, Andrew Collins, and Jeff Jonas specialize in this kind of work. There is a fair amount of crossover between the art jobs on the team, so even though one of these artist's primary task may be to create textures, they can take on other tasks such as animation, too.

    Who gets to do which creature in Star Wars Galaxies? Obviously, some critters will be very popular picks, and so Jake Rodgers and Joe Shoopack took requests and tried to assign tasks the artists would enjoy. "Some of them get handed to you, a few you get to pick," explains Minoh Kim, the texture artist and modeler whose work you've seen in the krayt dragon. "A year and a half ago, they asked what creatures we'd want to work on, and we submitted a list. I asked for the rancor and the [Emperor's] Royal Guard. I got those two."

    Much of the work is done in Maya, but not all the artists came to the team with Maya experience. Again and again, the team echoes how important it is for the prospective game artist or animator to have a solid art background. "What has been my biggest asset from my past that has helped me in this industry," explains Jason Minor, "is my training in traditional art. Anybody can learn a piece of software, but without a basic knowledge in art, you're sunk."

    "That Lived-In Look"

    Modeling a creature can begin with something as unexceptional as a box. Minoh gives me a quick lesson in the basics.

    "I work with primitives," he says, indicating the plain dark gray box on his screen. "I take a simple polygon shape, then I extrude polygons from it to get a basic form." With his mouse, he pulls at the edges of the box and a polygon extends like a rectangular wing. He angles two opposing sides until this wing looks like a pyramid with the point cut off. He does the same to the opposite side of the original box. With a few more example adjustments to the box, he begins to move faster.

    "From there I make something that resembles the shape of a dog's head." There's no question about it, it looks like a dog's head, a Doberman to my eye, all from a boring box and in the span of less than a minute.

    This process creates the "mesh" of a creature, which looks like just like it sounds, a mesh netting that seems to wrap skintight around the model, taking its shape down to the small details.

    The Mysterious UVs

    The next step involves making what are referred to as "UVs." This seems to be universally one of the less popular tasks, and involves a variety of techniques particular to each artist. To create the skin of the creature, or the texture, the artist basically paints it on. That's not as simple as it may sound.

    So, what's a UV? Asking that question is apparently akin to asking for an explanation of pi.

    "I forget what U and V stand for, if anything."

    "This is really too hard a question!"

    "I actually wondered what the hell a UV is myself, even after I learned how to UV a model."

    Attempts to explain to me what "UV" means meet with resistance in my brain, like tossing a nickel against a brick wall. But eventually, I got the gist: The U and the V represent two axes of an editor grid (X and Y are already used, so, logically, U and V are next). The editor allows the artist to "unwrap" a model, flattening it out so he or she can paint on the texture. And that's all the explanation of a UV you're getting from me!

    Each artist seems to have a favored way of creating UVs. Jason maps the vertices as they are, then pieces together the UV's and flattens them out. Bill Daly generally uses the flattening style and fixes his seams in DeepPaint3D. Nick Zuccarello also flattens out his models, while Minoh, who sits directly across from him, generally leaves the model intact and separates it. No matter how they do it, the final product is exceptional.

    Next, the artist works on the texture, which is essentially the creature's skin. This is where a whole new level of detail comes into play and an artist's observational skills, sense of color and texture are great assets. This is also where artistic savvy can overcome technological limitations to achieve a creature that looks realistic.

    Bill Daly explains: "I usually spend more time on my textures than on the model, since that's where all your detail is. The model has to be low poly so you really can't model all your detail. Instead, you rely on the texture to fill in where the poly count leaves off. Creating a good texture is very important. I find that spending a fair amount of time on an under painting is very helpful. I start by painting all the muscle definition, skin folds, wrinkles, etcetera, in shades of gray. So my initial texture looks like a primered model with a decent amount of detail. From there I use photo reference of various animal skins, rusted metals, marble patterns, etcetera, as overlays. At this point, things really start coming together. Add in a color scheme and spend the rest of the time flushing out the texture to give it that worn, lived-in look."

    The final result appears very much like a stretched out animal skin, with each body part marked out on the hide. It almost looks like the clothes patterns my mom used to order from Sears that she'd cut into leg, arm, and torso shapes according to the guides, to pin down on her chosen material. The artists even "sew" up the seams of their critters, too.

    Mom never sewed up a pair of krayt dragon slacks for herself, however.

    Given such diversity in technique and style among the artists, one would think getting that consistent "look" Jake and Haden strive for would be a very difficult task.

    On that point, one would be right.

    A big part of Jake Rodgers job is to ensure what is produced for the game not only has a consistent look, but a consistent Star Wars look. How does he bring it all together, with so many artists at work on the project, each with their own artistic styles?

    "It isn't quite there yet, actually," Jake admits. "We are currently working on another consistency pass on creatures. This usually involves adjustments to make all the creatures have the same relative feel of realism, brightness, contrast, and saturation. We don't just look at them individually, or in groups. They need to be in the environment they will actually be walking around in, with player species around, and with different lighting situations. Since the lighting in our game changes with the position of the sun, it's got to work in many different types of light and weather. We can't gear them for a real dramatic lighting situation like a film. It's more like making them for a zoo.

    "Well, more like a petting zoo, or in some instances, a full-contact zoo."

    The quality that Jake looks for in the Star Wars creatures they create is just a few notches back from photorealism. "Photorealism necessarily means complicated to me. I want to keep the textures as simple as possible, only enough detail to get across the idea, yet not so stylized as to be 'painterly.'

    "The models need to be done with basically the same idea-enough to show what we want to show. The animators like little details, like an ear twitch, or a blink, or a good scowl, so Joe [Shoopack] and I try to allow as much as possible without affecting the player's performance too greatly."

    The Krayt Dragon Revision

    As Minoh Kim shows me a few samples of his work (one is a staggeringly HUGE critter that could swallow a bantha whole, and of which he is justifiably proud, but he says probably won't be in the initial release; so, I can't reveal what it is), and we come across his familiar krayt dragon.

    But this time, it's not so familiar. Something is subtly different. I ask about this, and Minoh explains that the krayt dragon has gone through a small bit of revision based on the release of a recent Star Wars art book called The Wildlife of Star Wars : A Field Guide, by Terryl Whitlatch and Bob Carrau. This book is chock-full of new artwork depicting Star Wars creatures of all types, one being the krayt dragon of Tatooine. The Field Guide version is a little different from the original created for Star Wars Galaxies. It's more lizard-like in stance, with it's front section and head hanging much closer to the ground.

    The team revisited their version of the krayt dragon and tweaked it to make it a bit more like the one featured in the Field Guide. The krayt still has his fearsome appearance, but now he looks slightly more...sinister.

    "One of the great things about Star Wars is that it supports the visions of multiple artists," explains Haden Blackman. "No two artists are going to draw the krayt dragon in exactly the same way."

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday Feature Pre-launch


    Creature Creation Part 2: Animation

    "Here's a good quote for you," says Brad Constantine, an animator on Star Wars Galaxies. "Animation is never finished. It's only abandoned." He laughs, but the sentiment about the complexity of animation is serious. "You can sit and noodle something forever."

    Bringing a Star Wars creature to life can require a lot of noodling by artists. Even before the meshes and textures have been finished and handed off to the animators, the animators go to the zoo. Sometimes they go watch videos. Other times they may go read a book or surf the Internet. It's all homework done to prepare them for animating their projects (and you thought you'd escape homework once you were out of school-not a chance).

    "I do a lot of homework for any animation set that I do," explains Brad. "When I know a character is coming up, I start studying this stuff ahead of time, to get a feel for how they move and how the bones fit in the body. A lot of these creatures are hybrids of creatures that you find in the natural world here on Earth. So, I'll find creatures that are similar to the ones I'm working on. In the case of the krayt dragon here, I've got a whole video of Komodo dragons. Even just things like the attitude that his body's in when he's walking, things like that are helpful."

    Dem Bones

    Just as the artists who make the meshes are limited by technology to a strict number of polygons, so too are the animators similarly limited. Instead of polygons, however, they are limited as to the number of bones they can put into a creature. Brad shows me the bantha he has been working on. It is an enormous, elephantine hulk of swaying hair with a large mouth and great curving horns. "I'm only allowed a certain number of bones. The bantha here comes in at about 54 bones. The most we'd want to do for a large character like this is 60. The krayt dragon was a bit over, I think."

    Back at the beginning of development, the designers decided on which creatures they wanted to include in the game, based on the planets they planned to have in the initial release, "niches" each creature would fill in gameplay, and other criteria. The list was long. It was the job of Joe Shoopack and Jake Rodgers to find a way to create them all within the development time available. Sacrificing quality for speed was not an option.

    Their solution for animation was simple and efficient. Because so many of the creatures of Star Wars can find their physical roots in real Earth creatures, Joe and Jake were able to break down the list into skeleton types.

    "We devised all the different types of skeletons," explains Joe, who begins clicking through the many folders in his computer, "such as goat, frog, giraffe, elephant, dinosaurid, canine, finch-type birds, and giant-type birds. We use some mythical skeleton types, too, because on Earth we don't have, say, a four legged giant flighted creature. We finally categorized approximately 40 skeleton types."


    With a manageable number of groups in hand and most of the creatures divvied up into their proper group (some creatures, like the Great Sarlacc, are so singular in shape and function that they defied categorization and so were treated a bit differently), the animators could generate a basic skeleton for each group. Joe comes to the tusk cat file and opens it to show as an example. The "tusk cat" you saw in Part 1 of this article is not actually a tusk cat but a great plains tusk cat. With the release of The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide, the "tusk cat" was revealed as a mount, which differed considerably from the tusk cat the team had already designed. Rather than scrap the work, the predatory great plains cat-a cousin of the tusk cat-was born. "If you take the flesh off a cat, they're all very similar at the skeletal level, though they may be structured more muscular or thinner or sleeker," says Joe.

    One might assume this would just lead to lots of the same critters running around in the game with different names and skin colors, but ultimately the same body. It crosses my mind briefly, but that assumption is quickly dispelled as Joe opens creature file after creature file to show me examples. Certainly, varying skin color is one way to introduce some variety, but it's limited compared to what the team is able to achieve through creative modeling, texturing, animation, and even specialized changes to a basic skeleton itself.

    But we're jumping ahead a bit.


    The Difference Between a Squill and a Squall

    Along with coming up with the skeleton categories to help make creature creation efficient, Joe Shoopack and Jake Rodgers also came up with an animation list that would include the basic actions and reactions all creatures in the game need. "Everybody has to locomote with at least two different speeds; everybody has to turn left and turn right. Everybody has to have an idle," says Joe. "Beyond that they're all pretty different. The predators have multiple attacks, where the standard creatures have one attack. Predators can get into combat position, and have a combat walk that is like a sneak. These aren't necessary for a dewback. Fish, especially small fish, do not generally require a lot of these animations either."

    Both the skeleton categories and the animation list provided a structured plan and jumping off point from which the artists could build hundreds of unique creatures efficiently.

    Joe is still popping open creature files. His screen is jammed full of things you could only meet in a game like Star Wars Galaxies. "'He seemed to scroll forever down the unending list of imaginative Star Wars creatures,'" he quips in a writerly tone, as if he were reading it from the page of my future article. "'I was blown away by the sheer variety.'" We both laugh. I think to myself, there's no way I'm going to write that.

    He stops at another peculiar looking beast. It's furry with a long body and short legs. Its head look vaguely like a giant fruit bat, but this thing doesn't fly. This is an example of a creature that uses the lizard skeleton as a base, but isn't lizard-like at all. Though a creature's skeleton may be one of the 40 basics, labeled "the lizard skeleton," or "the elephant skeleton," for example, it can drive anything that has its general posture.

    Speaking of heads: "The secret with the heads is, all you really need on a head is the location of the jawbone and some eye movement. But this jaw can be like this," Joe shows me-something, I don't know what it is-with a hideously extended lower jaw, "or this," he points out another thing with a stubby beak, "as long as its pivot point is fixed." Neither creature looks anything alike, yet they share a common skeleton. This same principal applies also to things like ears and tails, too. As a matter of fact, a tailless creature could use a skeleton that has a tail. The bones still exist, but aren't seen be because there's no mesh weighted to them. Again, even more opportunities for variety.

    A knock at Joe's office door interrupts us. Someone on the other side jiggles the handle but it's locked. I get up and open it. It's Senior Artist Jeff Jonas.

    Jeff: "On these hair things, can we just assume that we're going to do all the hair and start doing them on all of our creatures that have hair, so you don't have to send out the pink slips?"

    Joe: "Yeah, if you want to, go ahead and do it."

    Jeff: "Why don't you email everybody to start fixing the hairs so you don't have to deal with that?"

    Joe: "I do that because when I email people they'll say, 'I don't have anything with hair.' If I email them a specific list, they'll say, 'Oh, yeah that. Okay.'"

    Jeff nods and leaves. Waiting patiently behind him is Tim Webb, an animator. I start to feel like I've been monopolizing a valuable resource with this interview.

    Joe: "Hey Tim."

    Tim: "I have a really difficult question for you. Now, is it the 'horned kreval' or the 'horned krevol'?"

    Joe: "Let's check the list. These names are all approved by Haden Blackman our producer content supervisor guy. Let's is...the horned krevol."

    Tim thanks Joe and closes the door behind him. Joe resumes the creature slideshow on his monitor. He seems to scroll forever down the unending list of imaginative Star Wars creatures. And despite my earlier declaration, I admit that I am blown away by the sheer variety.

    He finishes by offering a bit of ominous zoological advice to future players of Star Wars Galaxies: Know the difference between your squills and your squalls. Your life may depend on it.

    The Illusion of Life

    Once the skeleton categories and animation lists are done and the many creatures to be included in the game are parceled out to the artists (individual requests for certain creatures by the artists were considered as well), work begins. When a creature's mesh and texture are created, they are handed to the animators, who include Alan Pickett, Brad Constantine, Tim Webb,Kris Taylor, Nick Zuccarello, Don Alexander, and Dan Borth. Some of the artists, such as Don and Dan, do it all, from modeling and texturing all the way through animation to the final product. Don has even done some concept work as well.

    Both Alan and Brad are veterans of 2D animation, and Joe Shoopack looked for artists with experience in this area. 3D experience along with computer knowledge was also valuable, but candidates with solid 2D animation background had definite appeal. "The software is only a tool," says Joe. "It's one thing to know how to use the software, but you need the traditional animation skills behind it."

    "I still apply all the same techniques and methods I used as a 2D animator now to 3D," says Alan. 2D animation background can provide a sense of how things move (movement in 3D is driven by the bones; this is referred to as "weighting"), which is a very valuable skill.

    The animation list, which is prioritized by ratings-one being the most important, two being secondary, and so on-helps the artists and the producers ensure that they cover all the actions necessary in the game. But within those specific animations, such as walk, run, gallop, attack, take damage, idle, etc., there is a great amount of creative flexibility for the animator. How will the creature walk? Does it lope from place to place? Does it dart about? Even when it is standing still, doing nothing, a creature is doing something. Otherwise, it doesn't create the illusion of life. How they do these things is largely up to the artist.




    As mentioned, the animators do their homework, studying books, videos, and even real animals. If they're working on something that has been seen in one of the Star Wars movies, these will serve as terrific references-what better way to figure out how a rancor walks than watching Return of the Jedi?

    Animating a creature is best tackled in stages. "The first thing we usually do is a walk," explains Brad. "The walk is a great way to start testing a character out. A walk kind of sets the tone for how a character will move size-wise.

    "A lot of people don't know where to start on an animation. They start with the feet, and they're worrying so much about what the feet are doing that they're not thinking about the rest of the body. Generally I start with the body in a walk. I have a bone at the base of the spine, kind of a tailbone. I usually start there and think about what the whole body is doing. Then I add one thing at a time. That's why it's important to really understand what these things are doing in real life. And that's where having the video tape comes in handy."

    A great example of the stages of an animation can be seen in the walk of the great plains tusk cat. The team has provided seven short movies of these stages, from beginning to end.


    The computer is a tool that makes animation much easier and faster for the artists. A final animation can consist of about 60 frames. However, the artists need not hand-set every single one of those frames. Instead, they set what are called key frame poses. As an example, Brad shows me the krayt dragon's animation for taking a hit. "About seventeen frames is all I need to get him into the major poses to do the animation. I don't worry about getting from here to there. I let the computer do all that." In the action (or reaction in this case), the krayt takes a hit and rears its great head, tracking in a bent ellipse. It actually appears to be in pain, so effective is the drama in its motion, until it finally brings its head back around to face the fool that dealt the blow. Now it just plain looks furious. All that from just 17 frames blended into 60 by the computer.

    This helpful technique performed by the computer is called blending, and makes animation efficient and flowing.

    Another valuable tool is simply referred to as "the viewer." The programmers on the team developed this piece of software. "Our programmers in Texas are awesome," admits Brad. "What they've done is emulated the Maya window, so the same controls I use to navigate the windows in Maya are the same in the viewer." The viewer lets the animators adjust lighting, load up animations, and more so they can see just how their critters will look in the game.

    When all the noodling of a creature's animation is complete (remember, no creature is ever finished!), it is reviewed by Joe Shoopack and Jake Rodgers. They make sure animations are smooth and there is no foot-sliding or jitters. But all the artists are professional, so issues like those are corrected before they ever get out.

    The artists I talked to expressed similar feelings on what makes their job enjoyable: The challenges.

    "Technically, the most difficult animation to do with our particular set ups is the death of four-legged creatures," explains Alan Pickett. "It is usually very difficult, though not impossible, to get the creature down and then back up again realistically. The creature usually doesn't want to cooperate."

    This is a challenge Tim Webb particularly enjoys. "The locomotions are fun, but I think I like doing deaths," he says, laughing. "I mean, you can have a creature die, or you can have a creature DIE! As a player when I kill something, I wouldn't want it to just fall down and go limp. I think it'd be more fun to watch it try and fight for life a little bit. Of course, you have to worry about file sizes and stuff, but you can put a little extra in there, and I think it's definitely worth it."

    Nick Zuccarello found some challenge in a "creature" composed of only nine bones. It isn't a creature at all, but rather an Imperial Interrogation droid. The metal ball hovers with one extended arm while a central band seems to spin within it, independent of the rest. "It's got two different skeletons in it," Nick explains. "That light you saw spinning in the middle, that's a layered animation that will be layered on top of the other animations that are playing. The spinning part's independent. It's a special case. We had to take a separate skeleton and attach it to the other. The game sees it as two skeletons, one following wherever the other skeleton goes."

    Alan enjoys animating the established creatures from the movies. "So far, my favorites have been the rancor and Jabba the Hutt," he says. "I am now animating Salacious Crumb. You know, the little creature that hung around on Jabba's lap. I really don't like him in Return of the Jedi. I am enjoying the opportunity to really bring this character to life in SWG."



    So, You Want to Be a Game Artist

    The SWG art team is always willing to give advice to young artists who want to break into the gaming industry. It's not easy, but the rewards are many. For one, the pay for a skilled artist is often good. Plus, working in the gaming industry has considerable cool value.

    Alan recommends you go to college, "preferably one that teaches both classical and computer animation. Try to hook up with people who know what they are doing so they can look at your work and give you pointers. Most people are decent enough and will help you achieve any goal you may be working for."

    When you're applying for a job, present a solid portfolio that shows off your skills. "If you're focusing just on animation, it's probably a good idea to balance it out a little bit. Show a good sense of timing and the basics. Show that you can do cycles well; I think it will be a benefit for game or film. Get at least a quadruped in there, shifting its weight and walking with a little bit of character. It definitely doesn't hurt to put in presentational stuff. If you end up doing cycles all the time, it's boring. People want to see that you can do cycles, but deep down I think they want to see a little fun. Show them a couple different types of set ups. The models don't have to be perfect, it just has to move well."

    "The most important thing a person can have in this industry is a love of learning," says Damon Waldrip, a senior artist. "There are so many ways of doing things that you can never know them all, and technology inevitably marches on, so you have to keep up. The second most important thing is persistence. This means believing in yourself. Nobody starts out any good. You can only get good at something by actually doing it. Talent can only be realized through practice."

    So there you have a glimpse into animation on Star Wars Galaxies. This is hardly even the tip of the iceberg of all that the artists do day after day. SWG is a tremendous project. But stay tuned to the Forums, as the developers keep the community up to date on what's going on behind the scenes, and look for more articles in the future. E3, the biggest gaming convention in the world, is coming in May, and there's bound to be more great peeks at the game to come!

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday feature Pre-launch


    Mo-Cap: Bringing Games to Life

    "That was a little twisted. Let's try it again."

    A voice hidden behind a large black bank of controls says, "Ready," and after a moment, "Action!" Then-

    Whack! Crack! Stomp! Swoosh!

    I enter the large, rectangular room. It's a rather drab, gray and black place. Several dingy blue mats lay heaped against the left wall. Han Solo stands back there with the mats, blaster drawn. Boba Fett guards this door, just to the left, arms crossed. They're both made out of cardboard. Who knew Boba Fett was so short?

    This is the motion capture studio on the campus of Sony Computer Entertainment America, located in San Diego. Right now, a group of Star Wars Galaxies designers and artists is in the process of capturing all the emotes, actions, and reactions a player character will make in the game.

    Joe Shoopack, the character team lead, is here, stationed at a long folding-legged table, tapping the keys of a laptop. He wears his BYU ballcap and scrolls through a list of nearly 750 different animations. Over the next three days, he plans to get motion capture data for every single one of them.

    "Next is parry high right," says Joe. His list is full of names like this: parry_high_left, parry_high_center. Many are much longer; the precise naming system is key to keeping everything clear and understandable. It also helps to ensure they cover all the animations they want to record.

    Jake Rodgers, the art director, is here, perched in a tall director's chair, swinging a cane in front of him as he intently watches the moves of the figure at the center of the room.

    "Idle one is breathing normally," he says. "Just standing. Really, don't do anything. You're calm. Then we'll do a version where you're kind of-" Jake begins panting, breathing heavily in an exaggerated fashion-"worn out from combat. We'll be able to blend between the two depending on how tired the character is."

    The figure in the center of the room is Hiro Koda, a martial arts expert and stunt man with Action Specialists. Hiro is wearing a skintight flexible black body suit, and a snug stocking cap. Positioned all over his body, head, and shoes are marble-sized reflective balls. He nods.

    "Action!" is yelled again, and he stands calmly until the take is complete.

    "Same thing for idle two, only exhaustion from combat," says Jake.

    Hiro doubles over, his hands on his knees, gasping for air.

    "Not like you're going to throw up. But very winded. So you're breathing like-" Jake pants again.

    Hiro gets it, and starts breathing like he's just completed a marathon. I get winded just watching.

    Jake laughs. "Don't hyperventilate."

    This process will be repeated for each animation in Joe's list over the next few days. Some animations will be cut, but many new ones will be added. Despite the immense number of motion capture animations-the most in any single online game ever made thus far-the artists and technicians will move quickly through them thanks to their experience, and that of the talent hired to swing the lightsabers, dance seductively, use Force powers, breathe heavily, and execute the amazing multi-move combat combos.

    I notice the last of these combos in Joe's list and my jaw drops. The staggering five-move combo is scheduled for later today.

    Mo-Cap Part 1, Page 2

    Joe Shoopack has done motion capture (mo cap, for short) for a while, beginning when he worked for Blue Sky Software, through his work at Sony's 989 Studios, and now with Sony Online Entertainment. World Series Baseball, Total Control Football, and Game Day '99 PC are all titles on which he's done mo-cap data work. He's the perfect person from whom to learn how it all works.

    It began months ago with that long list of animations, put together initially by Anthony Castoro and his team of designers. Back then it wasn't a list of around 750 animations. That list numbered literally in the thousands.

    "We start off with a big list of every conceivable animation we want to do in the game," explains Joe. "It's far more than we could implement. We narrow that list and start removing anything that is lower impact, things that are duplicates of others. For example, lets say we have several different types of laugh, a belly laugh, a pointing laugh, and a cackling laugh. Some of those things are near visual duplicates than can be accomplished through text feedback variation from the user."

    Many of the proposed animations are what the team refers to as "ambient" animations. These are all the fidgets, head turns, emotes and simple actions that characters will do when not engaging in more elaborate actions. There are over 200 of these, and though they may sound trivial in importance next to a lightsaber moves, they are the subtle touches that make a character live. This is an essential aspect of the game, says Joe. "A larger chunk is going to be devoted to these than in the past, because the social aspect of the game is really important."

    That leaves 550 animations for the "other stuff." One might think, watching the many combat moves, that the other stuff will make the game mostly a fighting game, but Joe corrects that assumption.

    "On Star Wars we wanted to capture the fighting, which is one of the cool things about the films. And though we're not making a fighting game-fighting is just one aspect of it-we want it to be cinematic enough that it will still convey Star Wars. So that's one of the reasons to add the flourishy combo moves. But it's definitely not going to be primarily a "twitch" fighting game where it's just punch, hit, kick, punch hit, kick."

    Those flourishy combat moves are challenging to create, and require very skilled actors who can perform them with not just the precision necessary to re-create the "look" from the movies, but to perform them in such a way that they are believable. When you plan on creating 5-move combos, you can't afford any less than the best.

    That's the next step in the motion capture process, finding and hiring the right talent. By now, the team has whittled the huge list down from several thousand animations to a manageable number. "I contacted several Hollywood and LA stunt associations," says Joe. "We requested tapes from everybody and reviewed them, picking the talent that was appropriate to the type of moves we're shooting. So, for all the combat and martial arts moves we got a stunt and martial arts expert. For the emotes, and some of the other standard game animations, we tried to get someone who has experience with motion capture. That's one reason Cosmo Hom is top of the list."

    Cosmo Hom is a motion capture veteran, having done work on over 40 games. He is scheduled to perform the last day of the shoot, working on actions for ranged weapon and dance moves.

    Wait, dance moves?

    SWG is pulling out all the stops to make sure the game really feels like the movies, all the way down to dancing like Oola in Jabba's Palace in Return of the Jedi. Sabrina Fox, who also works for Sony Online Entertainment as an artist for EverQuest, will be performing the female dance moves. She and Cosmo have worked together before on Siphon Filter 1 and 2.

    Of course, dancing won't be for females alone. Male characters will have their own smooth moves, which Cosmo will perform. But that's later in the week.

    Today is all about combat.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Mo-Cap Part 1, Page 3

    "Hiring the right talent is pretty critical to getting a successful shoot," says Jake. "If you don't have somebody really good at martial arts, or someone who is even just so-so, it won't be enough."

    Action Specialists, located in Valencia, California, does mostly movie stunt work. Mark Dirksei, president of Action Specialists, says that, right now, probably 10% of their work is motion capture for games, but the demand is growing as the needs of new games become more and more advanced. They've been doing game motion capture for six years.

    Mark is on hand today to help with the complex combat moves. The move they're working on now isn't quite up to Mark's standards.

    It involves a slash, a round kick, and a final, solid slash to the back. Mark has been playing the opponent for Hiro Koda. Hiro has worked as a stunt man and a coordinator on many movies, including Blade, Ghosts of Mars, and the forthcoming Time Machine, Blade 2, and Windtalkers.

    "It looks too compressed," says Mark, referring to the final slash to his back. "I'll give you the flat of my back."

    Everyone pauses a moment as they watch. Though the weapon Hiro is wielding is a wooden sword, it still looks formidable.

    "Hit you?" asks Hiro.

    "Well, pull the blow, but yeah."

    Mark takes the blow, but even with Hiro pulling it, it looks like the hit smarts just a bit.

    Throughout the session, Hiro slashes, twists, leaps, falls, and kicks often, but at the beginning and end of every move he has to return to a default stance. This is often a "T-pose," in which he stands straight, looking forward, chin up slightly, with both arms held out straight from his shoulders like the wings of a plane. This is very important to getting a clean capture. Several people edit the animation, and having these start and stop positions offers a helpful framework.

    Not all of the actions need to start in the T-pose, however. As the team records a set of similar actions, a series of one-handed slashes, for example, Hiro can actually start in an action-ready state. When all the data is captured and the artists go back to Austin to start implementing them, these common states will allow them to blend between different actions smoothly.

    "For example," says Joe, "standing_climbing_rope starts out in the basic stand and ends in a state where the model is hanging onto a rope. Climbing_rope begins and ends with the hanging-on-rope state. Climbing_rope_up_to_ledge begins in the hanging-on-rope state but ends in the basic stand again. This assists in blending between animations."

    Brian Rausch, who directs the technical side of the process, heads the SCEA motion capture studio. The facility uses optical capturing technology to record animations, which is extremely accurate. Positioned around the perimeter of the room, hanging from the ceiling, are 16 high-resolution cameras. Another 4 cameras hang in a tighter square nearer the room's center. Brilliant red lights are attached to each camera. All are focused on the marked foot positions where Hiro stands.

    What the cameras are watching are the small marble-sized reflectors attached to the Hiro's suit. Each of these is wrapped in a highly reflective white tape. "It's set to reflect at about a 3 degree angle," says Brian, "so it gives almost an exact reflection back to the cameras."

    Despite all the fluorescent lighting and the flashes from our photographer's camera, none of these interferes with the data capture. "A filter in the camera is set to gather that particular color light," says Brian, indicating the bright red strobe rings around each camera. "That's how they're able to differentiate between the reflection of those lights and the fluorescent light's reflection."

    Brian's monitor reveals a green grid that represents the floor of the room. At the center hangs a whorl of white dots, vaguely in the shape of a human.

    "All those markers that are on the guy are reflecting data back at the cameras," explains Brian. "A tvd file is created, which is basically a 2D television data image. What I'll do over on this machine is process that, and actually turn it into three dimensional data. Then I go through and label the points. Right knee, right wrist and forearm, so on and so forth."

    As the points are labeled, a framework of lines begins to form, until suddenly the whorl is now a definite human figure. Brian sets the image in motion, and suddenly the inanimate drops of reflected data spring into fluid life, leaping and kicking about the grid plain, striking at an invisible opponent with a long polearm.

    "Okay, next is the five-move combo," announces Joe. I thank Brian quickly for the technical info and dash down from the control box to stand beside Jake Rodgers.

    I'm not about to miss this.

    Mo-Cap Part 1, Page 4

    "We rely on the expertise of the talent a lot when doing those combos. We can ask, What is a common three-move combo? And they offer solutions like, Well there's this, this, and maybe a sweep."

    The five-move combo is requiring some extra choreography. Several practice runs leave Hiro in awkward positions by the third or fourth move. It all looks very deadly and quick, but reaching that last move requires extra maneuvering that drops the feel of the action from deadly to staged.

    Jake studies each run intently as they work out just exactly how they're going to get five moves out of this. "I'm looking for the content of the motion," he explains. "I spent a lot of time with the designers of the game covering what they wanted to see, what they needed to happen from a system standpoint. So I need to know that the motion is going to solve the gameplay function."

    Hiro begins another move, slashing, spinning, and slashing again. His and his trainer's wooden swords smack together. Hiro's in a low position, so he goes with a sweep. That's four...

    But then he's too low, and the momentum of the action dissipates.

    "Obviously, there's the concern of whether the move is interesting or dramatic enough, and consistent with this style," continues Jake. "We kind of know the type of moves that would make sense, but not necessarily what makes sense in that discipline. When we did three-move combos, for example, the talent said, 'we can do this and a sweep,' and we said, Is there one you can do with a kick? We suggest moves so it will look different. They said, 'yeah, we can do an arc kick, and a spin." So, they sort of invent the moves with our help. That's why having the guys with the martial arts experience is important. They are able to bring a lot more information to it."

    Then, the team gets it.

    Crack! Smack! Crack! Swish! "Hoouh!"

    360x240 avi - 3.4MB

    400x300 avi -541KB

    Five fluid moves, three slashes, a kick, and a final coup de grbce with a reverse thrust of the sword to his enemy, and it's over....

    For the first day anyway. During the next two days of the mo-cap shoot, the team will record a host of other moves, including ranged weapons, force powers, and, yes, dancing! Stay tuned for part 2 of the look behind Star Wars Galaxies motion capture next month!

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Mo-Cap: Part 2: The Dance

    Neither the team from Sony Computer Entertainment America nor the Star Wars Galaxies Team has done anything like what they're about to do today.

    The set up and preparation before the motion capture session moves along smoothly. The highly sensitive cameras are calibrated successfully, a procedure the SCEA guys have to go through each morning to ensure precision. If even a single camera is off by a hair's breadth, the data gathered could be useless.

    This session will be devoted to capturing the force power actions and dance moves for Star Wars Galaxies.

    Dan Legg begins the "subject-cal" as they call it, short for subject calibration. He sits behind a bank of dials, buttons and monitors, the top of his head just visible from where Sabrina Fox, one of SWG's motion capture performers, holds a T-pose at the center of the room. To Dan's left rests a rack of high-tech video equipment and computers. "Have her kind of hold her head up a little," he calls out over the top of the bank, never taking his eyes off the monitor. The cluster of pixels and lines on the screen shifts slightly. Each point corresponds to a reflector attached to the suit Sabrina wears.

    This subject-cal is a little different from what Dan's accustomed to. For one thing, two of the markers are in the wrong spots. "You get used to looking at it and having it look a specific way," he says, pointing to several points that normally would be knees, but are much higher on the leg to accommodate a whole different range of human motion that will be captured today. "You adapt." Sabrina has moved into the proper position. "Yeah. Now, hold it...okay, thank you. Perfect. We got it."

    The conglomeration of dots and wires and numbers appears chaotic on the screens to the layman, but to the Sony team that runs the studio day after day, it's like perfect prose. "How geeky is it when you can look at numbers and say, that data is a little noisy?" says Brian Rausch, the director of the motion capture studio. "You can look at a ticker and decide whether a move is going to be pristine or not. Mom would be so proud."

    Brian is a wisecracker, and tells a story about a particularly rough football capture session he took part in a while back. "The guys were just killing each other all day long. I was actually worried someone was going to get hurt. Then one of the guys gets up, groaning. I'm thinking, oh great here we go."

    Then something completely unexpected happened. On Brian's monitor, a stream of pixels began pouring out of the wire-framed football player, bouncing and scattering across the floor plane. "This guy's got a handful of markers he's been carrying the entire time and holds them behind himself and drops them, so it shows up in the data."

    The fun doesn't slow the work progress. The calibration phase is completed and everyone's ready to begin the capture phase, ahead of schedule.

    The performers for the dance moves are Cosmo Hom and Sabrina Fox. Both are experienced motion capture actors, and have worked together in the past on titles such as Syphon Filter 1 and 2. Both are trained dancers, proficient in many different dance styles, which will be called upon for the moves Jake Rodgers, the art director, and Joe Shoopack, the character team lead, want for SWG.

    Sabrina is the first to perform today.

    Mo-Cap Part 2, Page 2

    Sabrina Fox wears another hat, so to speak, besides the snug-fitting stocking cap with four shiny reflectors she wears now for the mo-cap session. She is a game artist on EverQuest, and has worked on EQ since early development of the original release. She began as an intern, creating textures, designing 3D dungeon levels, and applying lighting effects throughout the game.

    Sabrina is a self-proclaimed "D&D nerd," having played the roleplaying game all through junior high and high school, and admits she was not a big Star Wars fan at the time. "I like dragons and unicorns and magic spells. Star Wars was cool aliens. I was more into the fantasy side." So work on EverQuest fit well with her. It was on EverQuest that Sabrina did her first motion capture work.

    "They needed someone to do some walking motion captures, and a couple fighting movements, things like that. I had a karate background, so I thought, well, I'll give it a shot. It turned out okay. They were the original movements, so there was a lot of tweaking that needed to be done."

    Some of that original work can still be seen in the game. One of the better known is the rude gesture, which was done mostly as a joke at first, but made its way into the game. The SWG team has its own share of secret and sometimes funny captures. It remains to be seen which will make it into the game!

    Sabrina looks a little nervous today, standing alone in the middle of the big studio with a room full of men looking on, but remains focused as Jake explains each move. To help her concentration and loosen the mood, one of Sabrina's music CDs is put into player. Sabrina has brought a wide selection of music types appropriate to the many different styles of dance she has to perform.

    "We ended up going with mostly lyrical jazz, basic jazz, and a lot of Eastern Indian," she says of the dance styles SWG is drawing from. Much like the combat moves in the Star Wars movies, the dances will be hybrids of different styles. "I do tribal belly dance, which is Eastern Indian, not the typical Turkish shaky stuff. A little West African, too. We wanted the rib and arm movements."

    Sabrina is hypnotic as she performs the East Indian dances. Her arms seem to take on a life of their own, no longer a part of her body, but slow moving serpents charmed by the pulsing, exotic music that fills the studio. Her fingers trail her arms, waving like silk ribbons; her hips rock and pivot as if her waist were balanced on the tip of a pin, shifting opposite her arms but in smooth rhythm with them. Her head floats on her slender neck. Her expression reflects the serene place the music has inspired within her, the only element of her dance that the cameras cannot capture. There are murmurs of awe among the onlookers after each move.

    This is Sabrina's favorite dance form, and seems perfect for Star Wars Galaxies. "I think it's very feminine, so I enjoy that the most. And I think the movements can be used for alien creatures very easily, because your hands and your feet and your neck move very independently of your body, so it looks very alien."

    Not everyone is a dance expert like Sabrina and Cosmo, which goes for your SWG characters as well, so not all of the dance captures are serious. Equal effort is devoted to creating movements for characters of average dance skill, and even some for those with absolutely no dance skill at all.

    The Elaine

    Damon Waldrip sits at a folding table at a desktop system hooked into the big black bank of studio computers. He reviews each capture as they come in to make certain they satisfy the design needs of the game.

    "What I want is to make sure I'm getting the in and out motions to make the cleanup later easier." It's kind of grunt work, Damon admits, but very important. "I need to notice if something didn't quite go right, or if the pose is off, and let them know to reshoot it." Back at the studio in Austin, Damon will continue work on the captured data, ironing out technical issues with the other artists and assisting with animation and skeleton set up.

    Damon is impressed by Sabrina's work on the novice dance moves. He shows me these on his screen. The wire figures stumble, trip, misstep, flail and fall in hysterically funny parodies of the refined moves we watched earlier. "This is the goofy moonwalk," he explains as we scroll through the many moves, "and then there's the slightly better moonwalk."

    Then I notice one, a single-word description of a move: Elaine. I ask Damon what that is all about.

    "There's this Seinfeld episode that showed Elaine dancing. She was just awful. So that's where this one got its name."

    This move alone is worth becoming a newbie dancer. It defies description

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Mo-Cap Part 2, Page 3

    Mr. Roboto?

    The dance styles for the male are similar to the female, but the moves themselves appear very different. Cosmo Hom is the performer for the male dance moves, as well as some combat actions, like ranged weapons, the Force powers.

    Cosmo has done motion capture work on over 40 titles, including Tribes and Syphon Filter 1 and 2 as the main character, Gabe Logan. Cosmo has an incredibly varied performance background.

    "I've been performing since I was twelve," says Cosmo. "I used to be a clown at Ringling Brothers. One of my side jobs is teaching circus skills in the summertime, tightwire, walking globe, Spanish web, unicycling, and balance routines. I've studied Jazz, tap, and ballet. I've done a lot of specialty dancing shows. I've been dancing for a long time, since I was 16."

    Cosmo is a unique and fascinating individual. That's how people he has worked with with characterize him. Not only has Cosmo worked as both a circus performer and professional dancer, but he is also an accomplished photographer, a mime, a martial artist, an actor, a stuntman, a rigger and lighting designer for theater productions, a puppeteer, and knows quite a bit about the technical side of computer graphics and animation. Cosmo has a confident and relaxed presence, but isn't too serious. He's a cutup, and with all of those performance skills at his fingertips, you never know what he's going to do next. Every so often, he breaks into a mime routine, like "Man Walking Against the Wind," and despite the joke about everyone disliking mimes, it's absolutely impossible to dislike Cosmo.

    The dance styles the SWG team and Cosmo draw upon include jazz, ballet, lyrical, and even some more contemporary pop-n-lock style. Dare I hope to see a hint in the final game of my favorite 80's dance, the Robot? I dare!

    Speaking of robots, or more accurately, droids, Cosmo just missed his chance to play one in The Phantom Menace.

    "I was very disappointed because I knew someone who was working on Episode One, and they were actually looking for me to do the droid animations, and I found out about that a year after it came out. He said, we were looking for you.

    "I could have been a droid!"

    Jedi For a Day

    Each of Cosmo's moves today is performed masterfully. His lyrical and ballet styles, executed with elegance and precision, are remarkable to watch, but aren't simply stock moves performed as directed. Cosmo is always offering suggestions on how each can be altered to achieve the exact results Jake Rodgers is looking for. This process of hybridization produces distinctive styles that will give SWG it's own flavor.

    Besides dance moves, Cosmo also performs some combat and martial arts moves for the game, including actions with ranged weapons like rocket launchers and blasters.

    And, of course, Cosmo gets to be a Jedi for the day, too.

    Force powers have a whole set of special motion capture actions associated with them. Jake spends extra time working with Cosmo on these. As has been said, one of Star Wars Galaxies' goals is to allow the player to feel as if he or she were a part of the movies. Capturing the right amount of drama for each Force move is crucial.

    Many Force moves are recorded, including one of the best-known Ben Kenobi moments, the Force Suggestion. In fact, Cosmo even says the line each time he attempts the action: "These are not the droids you're looking for."

    Jake and Cosmo work a while on another Force action, which calls for Cosmo to carve out a wide protective circle, stretching his arms to their limits behind him to close a wide circle around him. For one of the aggressive Force actions, Cosmo arcs his taut arms through the air as if he were gathering an unseen energy, focusing it before him. His arms tremble with the invisible Force as they reached a center point in front of him. Then, with a great thrust, his arms seem to fire the energy at his enemy.

    Mo-Cap Part 2, Page 4

    The Work Has Just Begun...

    The motion capture sessions lasted three days, and everyone involved judged it a huge success.

    "These guys jam," Brian Rausch says to me of the SWG team. "You should write that down. They're a very fast group, very efficient. They know what they want. Sometimes guys don't know what they want."

    Joe Shoopack feels likewise about the SCEA team that runs the studio. "Those guys are great to work with. We couldn't get this much done in this amount of time without their talent. They've been doing mo-cap for games since the earliest Playstation titles, so they've got a lot of years invested in doing it. They're the best in the business."

    "It all looked so good, I just can't wait to get back home and see it on a character," says Jake. "Of course, we now have wearables. I want to put those with some of the East Indian dances. It's just going to look amazing. I think people are just going to flip when they see this. No pun intended."

    This is only the beginning of the work on the in-game characters. An enormous amount of data was gathered from just these three days of work, and will take months to review, edit, and implement in the game. Much of that work is taking place right now in both the Austin and San Diego studios.

    It didn't take too much coaxing to get the SWG team to release a sample of the character movements. They're as excited about showing it as you guys are about seeing it. Here is a live video of a West African dance style performed by Sabrina Fox, and a special treat: A Rodian female model from the game performing the very same dance move. This is a unpolished, work-in-progress animation. As work continues on the model, more animations will be added, such as hand and finger movements.

    Here is a special first glimpse of player character animation. I'm betting you'll never look at a Rodian the same again.


    --Clayton Kroh

    613x224 - 10.88MB

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday Feature Pre-launch


    Planet Design: Building Worlds

    When we last left our planets, we saw how terrain artists John Roy, Jeff Dobson, and William Kier (with the help of the exceptional artists Andrew Collins, Chris Douglas, Rob Cuenca, and Devin LaFontaine, who create flora, buildings and structures) gave each planet geographic character. The team's brushstrokes produce planets with soaring mountain peaks, deep oceans, thick forests, and more.

    Now, the planets move to the world building team who will sow unique, intriguing, and exciting adventures throughout.

    But the world building team hasn't been sitting idle, waiting for the terrain artists to finish with each planet so they can begin work. On the contrary, there's a step even before the terrain is created that requires the knowledge and planning of the world builders.

    Bib Fortuna's Lollipops

    The world building team is made up of three members. Cinco Barnes leads the team with a wealth of experience in game design. He has a seemingly boundless reserve of energy, and a drive to pull players into the Star Wars universe with the best thought-out and engaging adventures possible.

    Jeff Freeman is a quiet but seriously dedicated designer who, when you coax him into talking about design, leaves the listener with no questions about his expertise-Jeff has been designing games for many years.

    Todd Bailey is the newest member of the team, and comes from a strong gaming background that began in the trenches of customer service and testing on several Wing Commander titles. Todd worked his way up to writing and running adventures for players on Ultima Online. He was soon working as c0-lead designer alongside SWG's own lead systems designer, Anthony Castoro.

    The world building team begins by creating a planet map. Much of a planet's geography is generated through intricate algorithms, but there are areas that are carefully designed from the very beginning. These are sometimes based on Star Wars continuity, while others are created and placed by the team members themselves for future adventure locations.

    "The geography," reveals Cinco, "is designed to provide interesting choices for players as they travel through the world. Will you take your speeder through the bog, dodging tree branches and deadly steam vents? Or, will you hike through the jagged quartz forest at risk of being sliced apart or taking a lethal spill?"

    There's a large amount of preparation behind this phase of development, which includes a lot of research and movie watching.

    Sounds like a hard job, doesn't it? Don't be fooled; it can mean long hours, and it requires attention to the minutest of details. Remaining true to the continuity is a full time job, as Haden Blackman can attest, and is a responsibility every member of the Star Wars Galaxies team shares.

    Todd Bailey can attest to that, too. "One of the things I do is take all the information that's available about a planet, from, say, the Expanded Universe, and from the movies, and write up a document that covers everything that needs to be there. For example, I went through the movies, the comic books, and the novels and found all I could about Jabba's palace, Mos Espa, Mos Eisley, the cantina, and all the characters that appear and live on Tatooine--Momaw Nadon, Wuher the bartender, Bib Fortuna, et cetera. Then I wrote up a document on Tatooine."

    Such a detailed cataloging ensures that nothing is missed, and so, as Todd says, "we don't do anything really dumb, like have Bib Fortuna standing on the street handing out lollipops."

    If there's so much focus on remaining true to what has gone before in Star Wars, is there any room for creativity in the planet map phase?

    Definitely. Though there's lots of information on places like Tatooine or Naboo, there are just as many-if not more-places in the galaxy that have very little documentation.

    "On some planets we can take more liberties than others," says Todd. "We're not going to make Tatooine a jungle, because it's in the movies. Everyone's seen it. When you come to planets that no one's ever seen, then you have a little more freedom to say, 'Hey, this lake is nice, let's do something with that.' And then you get planets where the only mentions are one-line descriptions in a book somewhere and you get to go, 'Ok, let's go nuts with this.'"

    As soon as the planet map has been handed off to the World Art team, quest development begins. No rest for the weary in game development.

    Planet Design, Building Worlds, Page 2

    The objective of the team in the Quest Development phase is to create interesting and believable situations with cool objectives and surprising obstacles for the players. "We develop characters and their issues," explains Cinco Barnes, "with all relevant motives and resultant behaviors, and spin tales of Galactic Civil War."

    In Star Wars Galaxies, there are two major quest-types players will encounter, referred to by the team as "Theme Parks" and "POIs."

    Adventures in Dizzyland

    Theme Parks are the goliaths of quests, and are aptly named because they are often tied to a specific location and encompass a collection of adventures around a central theme. These are places like the exotic and "multicultural" experience of Jabba's Palace, or even the temple of the Dark Jedi, Exar K'un, where mystical paths can be followed to powerful and terrifying ends.

    Theme Parks are also the havens for the Star Wars celebrities you might encounter in the game. Cinco rattles off a short list of a few famous names: "There's Jabba, Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, Leia, Lando Calrissian-you get to play against him. Bib Fortuna. Boba Fett, Han Solo and Chewbacca are all there."

    The team develops the stories and quests collectively, working in a kind of "bullpen," batting around ideas, developing plots, then making cuts and changes in order to come up with yarns that will draw players into the fiction. "Our group spends a great deal of time talking through the story with whiteboard outlines that are constantly erased and rewritten as the tale unfolds," says Cinco. "This allows us to play the quests in our minds from a variety of perspectives, illuminating a wide range of possible scenarios."

    Of course, the Emperor and Darth Vader exert their dark influence through theme park quests, and are two of the most powerful driving forces behind the over-arching storyline.

    "You're pretty much guaranteed to have those guys around," Cinco admits. "Darth Vader is certainly a big deal for Jedi, but it's a big deal for us in that he's kind of a surprise guest star in a couple of different theme parks. You might get killed."

    Cinco pauses a moment and I can almost see him running the storyboard of an adventure involving Darth Vader behind his eyes.

    Then: "You'll probably get killed. If you see Vader, there's like a seventy-five percent chance you're gonna die."

    Taking part in theme park quests can affect how NPCs and other players in the game view you. We've been told of three different factions, or "sides," that will be in the game: The Imperial faction, the Rebel faction, and the Hutt faction. You can become a "sympathizer" with any of these sides through your actions. If you perform missions that are helpful to the Empire, for example, you will edge closer to becoming one of their trusted agents. Conversely, Rebels and Hutts may begin to regard you more skeptically.

    Ingratiating yourself to a particular side could bring you into contact with such important figures as Jabba the Hutt, or even the Emperor, which can put you on track to interesting-and often more difficult-adventures. Of course, if you're performing special missions for Jabba himself, you're probably not getting a personal invite to the Emperor's birthday party. But does that mean your character won't ever be able to cozy up to the Empire and perform fun missions for them?

    Not at all. Theme parks will be open to players of all factions, so becoming a sympathizer or a declared member of a particular side isn't going to preclude you from enjoying the different stories and quests available in other theme parks.

    Of course, you won't be able to mosey in and immediately get an audience with the head honchos. For them, you still need to prove yourself trustworthy before they'll admit you to their inner circle of agents.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Planet Design, Building Worlds, Page 3

    POI stands for "Point of Interest," and describes a wide range of shorter random encounters that might occur anywhere in the galaxy for players. These are the adventure meat-and-potatoes of the roleplaying genre, the ubiquitous hoi polloi of encounters that affect the game universe on a smaller scale than the grand theme parks, but are no less important in creating an immersive and enriching play experience.

    The experience Cinco wants the player to have when encountering a POI might go something like this: "As your party pushes through the dark, steamy jungle, you come across a team of enemy soldiers erecting a secret listening post. One of them turns to wipe sweat from his brow...and sees you! 'Halt!' he cries. Weapons are drawn. Blaster bolts squeal through the mist and chew into the bark of neighboring trees."

    The "enemy" in this situation can be based on your very character's affiliations.

    "We know that you're Rebel-aligned," says Cinco. "Thus we're going to spawn a number of Imperial officers and a contingent of Stormtroopers who are trying to install a piece of hardware out in the wilderness. As soon as you get in range, there's going to be a fight."

    One of the goals of the POI is to link together the gaming community and inspire interaction between its members, but not just in the traditional "get a group and go out hunting" fashion. Where theme parks are great for individuals and small groups of people, the POI can involve an entire network of players.

    The rewards from a POI might be schematics, or equipment components. These would require either a character with an inordinate amount of skill, or, more likely, the involvement of a variety of characters with differing skills from the community to gain the full advantage of the final reward.

    The variety of rewards seems nearly limitless given the wide range of skills in the game. A reward could even be a load of a unique resource that isn't obtainable anywhere else. In the hands of a skilled player craftsman, it could yield a something no one else is going to have in the game unless they encounter the same POI.

    Urban Planning

    The theme parks and POIs have been storyboarded; the World Art team has finished building the high-priority planets. What about the towns and cities?

    The sites for important settlements have already been established at the beginning when the team created the planet maps. Now they begin filling in these areas, starting with municipal structures such as ports, hotels, banks, and important NPC houses and shops.

    One of the purposes for settlements in Star Wars Galaxies is adventure support.

    "I don't want the cities to represent gameplay obstacles to the players," explains Cinco. "I really prefer them to be places you can drop off your speeder, put your stuff in the bank, grab a drink at the cantina, and meet your friends outside the hotel and decide to hit the starport to go someplace else."

    What the team doesn't want is a scenario in which a squad of Stormtroopers jumps you and your party on the way to that starport. This creates a barrier to the players' objectives and can be a frustrating setback, especially when they have certain goals they want to accomplish during a limited amount of real-life playtime.

    Placement of important structures such as starports and banks isn't a slapdash affair. Careful consideration has been given to crowd issues, which have presented problems in the past for massively multiplayer online games. Banks, for example, can become flashpoints for crowds all seeking access to their stored belongings. These are places all players will visit, so a kind of "urban planning" becomes an important task for the world building team.

    "One of the important things we're looking at is the traffic flow of cities, to make sure there aren't spots where people get stuck," says Todd. "We may have multiple banks on each side of a city to try and cut down on traffic, as opposed to one bank and 5000 people standing around it trying to use it."

    Simply spreading out these structures isn't the best answer, either. Balancing structure proximity in order to ensure buildings remain close enough to provide immediate support for players is as important as cutting down on crowds.

    "Our philosophy is that a city should be useful and fun, easy to navigate and obvious in its traffic layout. They should be logical, organic, immediate and rewarding," says Cinco.

    Planet Design, Building Worlds, Page 4

    The God Client

    As always, there are vital tools a game development team uses to make their jobs more efficient. The world building team is no exception. They use what is referred to as the "God Client."

    The God Client is a tool that allows the team to manipulate assets in the game world, such as buildings, walls, non-player characters and more. With it, the entire team is able to meet on a planet and work out gameplay solutions.

    "Imagine that you were in the EverQuest world before anything has been built," explains Cinco. "You and your friends are there, staring into the open lot, deciding where the walls will be, where the guards will spawn, where the fountain is. It's amazingly cool!"

    This tool allows the team to "set the stage" so to speak for adventures. Much like movie directors, they place the actors and props, and assign roles and actions based on the many adventure documents the team put together in the quest building phase.

    It is through the God Client that the world builders attach behaviors to NPCs, giving them the things to say, imbuing them with a layer of artificial intelligence. "For instance, Jabba the Hutt probably won't spend much time talking with a player solely aligned with the Empire that is bent on the elimination of the Rebellion and crushing all 'criminal' forces in the galaxy," says Cinco. "However, Jabba is very keen on cunning, inventive criminals who earn the trust of his lieutenants and gain reputations in other systems for being clever and resourceful smugglers, assassins or enforcers. All of this functionality is wrapped up in the God Client and a small array of supporting tools, like a text editor and various proprietary compilers."

    Of course, behind the handy tools used by the design teams are the amazing programmers responsible for making everyone's lives a little easier. Along with John Watson, Eric Sebesta is chiefly responsible for the world building team's God Client features.

    However, Cinco explains that in the world of massively multiplayer game development, no individual or group functions in a vacuum. "The vast majority of the technology staff has had something to do with our good fortune. Justin Randall, Steve Jakab, the lead server programmer Chris Mayer and others have been critical to the success of tool development."

    As you can see, many people work behind the scenes to bring to life just a single planet in Star Wars Galaxies, and planets are only one aspect of the game as a whole. Over the next few months, we'll take a closer look at the creatures and characters that are literally the "life" of the game world, and the talented animation teams behind them.

    --Clayton Kroh

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday feature Pre-Launch


    Everything you've ever wanted to know about sound in SWG!

    Lead sound designer/engineer Todd Davies was kind enough to take a breather from his hectic SWG work schedule to answer our questions.

    Are you using Miles Sound System (premier computer sound system featuring 2D and 3D digital audio available for Windows and MacOS) for SWG, or are you using a proprietary system, or a combination of both?

    Yes, we are using the Miles Sound System in Star Wars Galaxies. We have also developed proprietary tools to streamline the process of getting audio files and related audio parameters into the game. These tools also allow us to fine-tune 3D positional audio volume and effects; balance groups of sounds; and specify how sounds are played in the Star Wars Galaxies game

    How are you matching character movements with sound? Are you using video at all for this?

    Yes, we do use video clips as a timing reference for animations. It is a huge advantage. We can then create individual sound effects based on specific character moves from the video clip rather than using verbal descriptions. It is similar to scoring sound for a movie, but on a smaller scale. The in-game animation files have trigger points embedded in them that can call the individual sound effect files on the fly.

    Does Galaxies feature 3D audio? How about occlusion?

    Star Wars Galaxies utilizes 3D positional audio. The system is not only left/right directional; but front/back filtered as well. When a player is facing a sound-emitting source in-game, such as an ore mining facility, the player hears that sound with full frequency range. When a player turns away from the ore mining facility, a low pass filter is applied to the sound making it slightly more muffled. This filtering effect is even more apparent in quad or 5.1 speaker setups.

    The Galaxies audio engine does make use of occlusion as well through software volume reduction and filtering. This creates the impression that the sound source is being heard through a wall. This effect is quite apparent when a player is indoors and there is blaster battle happening outside.

    Galaxies also supports environmental reverb. This effect is most apparent when a player transitions from an outdoor to an indoor environment, such as player houses, spaceports and government buildings.

    Approximately what percent of the game sound comes from the Star Wars movies?

    A small percentage, actually. There are, of course, some classic sound effects which players will expect to match the movies. In this regard we make sure that they do.

    If you only use a small number of sounds from the movies, where do you go to get the original and/or ambient sounds? Are they synthetically generated or do you go to a source and get natural sounds?

    There are currently over 1800 Sound effects that have been created for Galaxies and a high percentage of these have not been heard before.

    Ambient sound effects for Galaxies come from all over the place; some are common, some unusual. The source of these sounds depends on the environment we are trying to create in the game. For example, the sound of a broken air conditioner may go through some off-world processing; get mixed with some complex computer generated waveforms; and end up as a blaster factory ambience. Stranger things have happened!

    Another example: I have a small espresso machine in my office that I fire up every morning for some concentrated brew. One day I noticed that over the course of the water being heated to the steaming point, the machine produced an amazing low volume, low pitched rumble that built over time into a loud, higher pitched steamy type sound. The espresso machine mixed with other audio sources made an excellent transport ship sound! This low rumble was especially apparent when the ship takes off. I won't say which ship it is, you will have to tune into it. I will say good luck finding it!

    We utilize natural and computer generated sounds as well as combinations of other sources to achieve a desired ambient effect.

    Is John Williams' score the only music that will be used in the game?

    John Williams' Star Wars music is heard throughout Galaxies, and is effective in highlighting and enhancing important events for a player. Players can also acquire musician skills in the game. Musician players can form a group that can learn and play different styles of music depending on their skill level.

    Are any or all members of the Sound Team music composers, and/or musicians?

    Most of the Sound Team here at LucasArts are composers/musicians of varying degrees.

    What compression techniques are you using for the sound?

    Audio file compression for Galaxies is fairly standard. We are using MP3 format for music. Sound effects ultimately end up in a bulk binary data file.

    Can you tell us a bit about how EAX sound technology (sound effects creation product) will be used in the game? Why did you folks decide to use EAX for the game?

    EAX adds immersion to Star Wars Galaxies. We are using reverberation models inside buildings and obstruction/occlusion for simulating walls and other obstacles the player encounters. The actual implementation is completely transparent to the player, but the result is a much more realistic-sounding environment. We are supporting EAX 2, as well, for even better environmental control and sound definition. The decision to incorporate EAX support was made for two reasons: it's relatively easy to weave into the game code and..... it sounds cool!

    How was the music created for the Musician characters? Is it original music created in-house?

    Heh heh, this is a fun aspect of Star Wars Galaxies if you choose to play as an Entertainer. The music for the player-profession was created as many small individual parts designed to be played together as a group, or (played) individually. The player-created groups can each sound different based on the instruments the players have in their inventory and the number (of sound parts) in the group. The particular piece of music that a player performs depends on the instrument (selected); which song the bandleader decides to play; and ultimately your skill in the musician-profession, because a player needs to learn the music before playing it. There are currently over 500 song-pieces that make up player-performed music and, yes, it is all completely original.

    Todd, how did you wind up at LucasArts? Have you always been a gamer? Are you a musician?

    Well, I started life in the game industry at a company called Nintendo in 1988. Prior to that, I was an Audio Engineer for a Seattle-based Recording Studio. In those dark times, most people I knew didn't know what a Nintendo was and I found myself explaining it a lot.

    It wasn't until I started testing out Super Mario Brothers in earnest that I really decided I liked to play games. In fact, the first time through the third stage in Super Mario Brothers is when I became a full-fledged gamer. Currently, when I'm not previewing or dropping-in sound for Galaxies (which has become a rare occurrence), I load up a game and play whenever I can. My wife is a gamer too and we usually play together as a team. I also built a game PC for my daughter who is 1 year old and she should be playing any minute now.

    I might call myself a musician, but in a loose and non-traditional sense. My main instrument is a computer; though, I haven't had much time to compose in the last year or so. This makes me enjoy listening to music even more.

    Star Wars Galaxies is the most awesome game project I have worked on to date. It is also the most sound work I have seen put into a game so far. Being such, the audio programming team has been awesome in supporting the massive influx of sound assets and audio code control into Star Wars Galaxies, and it's coming together nicely.

    Are you working in your dream job, or does your dream even go beyond SWG?

    It sounds like you are implying that there is life beyond Galaxies? Ha ha, I will be supporting Galaxies beyond initial launch and into the space expansion, and I'm really looking forward to it. Beyond that? It's hard to see what the future will bring....

    Are you a longtime Star Wars movie fanatic?

    I have always loved the Star Wars films, but I didn't really fall into the "fanatic" category. However, that may be changing. Maybe now that I know about Merr-Sonn Munitions Inc, Borstel Galactic Defense and Kuat Drive Yards, the fan-meter is approaching the red zone. Seriously though, the Star Wars universe is incredibly rich and detailed, and fascinates me often, particularly while doing background research for Galaxies.

    What exciting developments do you see coming up the road as far as game sound technology, and gaming in general?

    Well, on my wish list I would like to see hardware-based acoustic modeling, convincing computer-generated speech, a killer commercially available sound processing unit, and more sound RAM for consoles. It seems that cutting-edge graphics cards take the limelight most of the time and rightly so, but it would be cool to see that kind of competition in sound cards sometime. Oh, and (I would like to see) overclocking utilities for sound cards.

    Games are just going to get cooler as technology advances to the point of Holodeck-level simulations (I hope). The game industry is already rivaling the movie industry, so it would be very cool if the two merged into a big Holo Sim. After that happens it's anybody's guess. : -)

    What are the most interesting sounds that you put together for Star Wars Galaxies? Is it possible to send us some example sound files to place in this article?

    Sure, I had fun working on the Krayt Dragon because of its immense size and galactic significance. Check out a few of the sounds associated with it. It's a good thing (that) you don't have to hear these sounds within the Galaxies game; because, if you did, it would mean (that) you were about to die a horrible death. Don't forget to turn your speaker system way up.

    : -)

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday Feature July 18th 2003


    Story Arc FAQ

    The Cries of Alderaan is an episodic Story Arc broken into three acts. In each act, there are two possible outcomes that can occur. Players effectively "vote" by successfully accomplishing special story objectives. Players who accomplish the stated goal during the act receive a Story Badge for that act. These objectives can be completed at any time during the act, but they can only be done once each per player. When an act is over, players can no longer participate in it.


    How big are the story events?

    Consider the Story Arc to be icing on the cake. The real Star Wars Galaxies stories happen between you and your friends within the game. The Story Arc provides a series of high profile activities that will give all of you a collective Star Wars experience. Expect at least a couple hours of game play each act.

    Will they give out huge rewards?

    Do not expect Uber Loot. In addition to receiving the special badge, a player's prime reward is the direct participation in the direction of a galaxy's story. Note that there may be some other rewards and potential additions to the game, such as new schematics or in-game locations.

    How hard with they be and are they for all professions?

    These story activities are meant to be "Star Wars" adventures. They may involve conflict, combat, and travel. All players are welcome to participate, but these activities are tailored more for the well-rounded character than for specific professions. The difficulty level may vary per player.

    After The Cries of Alderaan will there be more Story Arcs?

    Potentially, however we've changed our publish structure. Going forward, we will have a theme for each major publish, such as The Imperial Crackdown and Droid Invasion. There will be story missions and live events to accompany these themes. Additionally, we intend to open a new "dungeon" between major publishes (mini-publishes). In the future, we may add more three act story arcs.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday Feature August 8th 2003


    Player Cities

    By Brandon "GreenMarine" Reinhart

    One upcoming feature under development in the Star Wars Galaxies secret design lab is the Player City system. Under this system, players who build houses and other structures near each other can incorporate them into a city through a city hall.

    A player city is, in effect, a hierarchy of structures and a hierarchy of players. Any structure placed by a player within the borders of a city becomes a part of the city and any player who has a declared residence within the borders of a city becomes a citizen.

    Benefits of a Player City

    There are many benefits to building within a player city or becoming a citizen of a player city.

    Services. The city mayor can purchase and place special service buildings that help settle the wilderness areas of the Star Wars Galaxies universe. Structures like banks, mission terminals, and others can be placed to make the adventuring life easier. Instead of having to return to a major planetary city, these services can be just outside your door.

    Business. The city also has the ability to manage business related structures like hospitals, cantinas, and shops. Eventually, players will be able to run these businesses themselves and profit from the close proximity of other players. Aspiring merchants will be able to host their wares directly outside banks and trendy cantina owners will have easy access to the thirsty masses. Over time, new businesses and business structures will be introduced to the game.

    Security. The mayor can assign members of the citizenry to the city militia. These players gain the ability to freely enforce the law within the city's borders. Militia members can ask troublemakers or enemies to leave with the new /warn command. If the warned player doesn't leave the city quickly, they will become open to attack from members of the militia. Militia members can also deny undesirables access to city services through the /ban command.

    This allows faction aligned players, PAs, or unaligned and unguilded players with a common interest to defend their territory and define a part of the world as their own.

    Achievement. No benefit is greater, however, than having contributed to a significant part of the Star Wars Galaxies universe. Player cities will grow in capability as players build in them and contribute to them. As a city's citizenship grows, its "city class" increases allowing for new types of structures to be placed within it.

    The Mayor & Voting

    The task of running the city is entrusted to the city mayor. Each week, a vote is held for the position of city mayor. At the end of the week, the candidate with the most votes is elevated to the mayoral seat and can begin to put their policies in action.

    In order to be eligible for the mayoral seat, a player must be a member of a new profession: the Politician. Politicians gain abilities as they advance in four particular categories of city management: fiscal policy, urban policy, martial (defense) policy, and civic politics. Politicians earn advancement experience for getting votes in weekly elections.

    Once elected to the position, the mayor is able to manage the city in many ways. They can place beautification structures like parks, set taxes, manage the treasury, appoint militiamen, or poll the citizenry on critical issues.

    Only a city's citizenry is allowed to vote in an election. This means you must own your declared residence within the borders of the city in order to affect policy.


    The cost of maintaining the services and structures of the city is withdrawn from the city treasury each week. As a city grows, the expenses of managing services will quickly add up! In order to offset the cost of services, the mayor has the ability to levy taxes in three different sectors:

    • Citizenship Tax: The city can charge a fixed, weekly tax from the citizens of the city.
    • Property Tax: The city can charge a property tax for every structure in the city.
    • Sales Tax: The city can charge a sales tax on items sold through the bazaar.

    Notices of changes in taxation will be sent to the citizens and property owners in the city. Think your mayor is charging too much? Vote him out of office! (Then /warn and shoot him for good measure. ;)

    Building Up the City

    All of the new structures for player cities will be craftable by players. Parks, hospitals, and even the city hall will all be available to the new Urban Planner profession. This is an 'elite-elite' profession only available to those few who have mastered the Architect profession. (More 'elite-elite' professions will become available in the future.)

    As the city's resident population increases, the city can upgrade in rank (city class). A Rank 1 Outpost becomes a Rank 2 Village up to a Rank 5 Metropolis. Each rank provides access to new types of city services and expands the borders of the city allowing for more structures to be placed in the city.

    Room for Growth

    The player city system will be introduced to live servers in progressive stages. The design has been planned to be modular so that the initial system can be rolled out to players as quickly as possible. The team has plans to develop and introduce additional city structures, services, and systems over the months following the introduction of player cities. Many of these additional features will be driven by YOUR feedback. Get out there and start meeting your in game neighbors...soon enough they might be trying to vote you out of office.

  • Vortex500Vortex500 Big townPosts: 392Member

    Friday Feature August 15th 2003


    Travel Guide

    Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things... but you do! Here we present ten cool adventure locations. These aren't themeparks, battlefields or random missions, they are places to go and kick some tail.

    Zicx Bug Bomb Quest

    Overheard in a cantina on Rori:

    "It's Goru something, not sure of the name. He went into hiding a long time ago. He used to be some kind of hotshot weapons designer before those problems started. Apparently, both sides of this war wanted a piece of him. Anyway, I think he's the only one in the galaxy who can build the Zicx bug-bomb... What's the Zicx... uh, I probably shouldn't have said anything. Just forget it okay. Trust me, it's more trouble than you want to deal with."

    Naboo Kidnapped Royalty

    Transmission picked up on Naboo emergency frequencies: 

    "I repeat we are located at coordinates -1500 by -1730. Please send help. These pirates are holding several members of the royal family and intend to execute them if their ransom is not met. They believe their base is still secret. I repeat, send help to coordinates -1500 by ..."

    Nighsister Spider Cave

    Legend told around scout camps at night:

    "It is unknown how a clan of Nightsisters came to inhabit a cave so close to the lands of their most hated foes, the Singing Mountain Clan. Those few who have ventured into the area and lived to tell the tale speak of large gaping spiders working as companions to the Spider Clan Nightsisters... helping with such things as daily chores and guarding the cave. The deepest recesses of the cave are home to the largest of the gaping spiders and even the Spider Clan witches rarely dare those depths. Only the web dancers venture into the deeper areas when in search of new spiders to train, but even they don't know what awaits in the darkest corners of the cave. Some say the cave is near -1200 6250."

    Captain Hassk's Rori Gungan Swamptown

    Message from Captain Hassk in the Gungan Swamps of Rori:

    "Yousa Gungans no wanna deal with them Imperials no more? Yousa tinken them Naboo Gungans actuh like helpless nuna? Isa say we take Rori. Meesa camp isa located at -2060 3300. If yousa tinken Gungans need to be more war like, yousa come see me and bring weapons. If yousa thinken wesa Gungans should be saddled like kaadu, then yousa come see meesa so Isa can spit on you. Ptuh!"

    Erran Sif and Company

    From the Bothan Spynet:

    "Alert, interesting information leaked from Empire. Subject Erran Sif, known Rebel. This individual was in fact a spy for the Empire sent to infiltrate the Rebel Alliance. Imperial agents gave us her identity after learning that she sold Rebel AND Imperial information to the Hutts. Her identity exposed, she has fled from Corellia to Talus. Our spies indicate she is in the vicinity of 2150 - 5625. Beware, she's hooked up with a mercenary crew that includes a number of scary Trandoshans and along with Erran's two brothers: Hirsch and Doak, two very powerful soldiers."

    Pygmy Torton Cave

    Excerpt from biologist article on the Holonet:

    "Many years ago a female torton, her growth naturally stunted from birth, found her way into a cave not far to the Southeast of Narmle (-1815, -4530). She found the cave an environment suitable to her needs: the passages were easy to defend, the proximity to the swamps allowed bountiful hunting, and the interior depths of the cave were a perfect place to incubate eggs. Due to the lengthy lifespan of the species many people say that the matriarch is still there, and since the many years have past, an impressive bale of tortons must inhabit the caves by now. Biologists, take caution when conducting studies for this interesting species."

    Fort Tusken

    From a personal voice recorder found in a Jawa junk sale:

    "We've finally managed to fight off the remaining Sand People from Fort Tusken. As the last one fell, I was overwhelmed with profound pride as the fortress had at last been recovered from the hands of the foul murderers who have soiled its halls for so long. I look forward to sending word to... what's this... another wave of Tusken Raiders has appeared! They seem to fight with renewed vigor and have reinforced their numbers with much more powerful warriors this time. Perhaps my thoughts of victory are far too premature..."

    Rebel Occupied Imperial Base

    Intercepted Rebel Transmission:

    "... repeat, the small Imperial Base in the deep southern hemisphere of Yavin 4 coordinates 4030 -6220 is now under our control. We have little hope of defeating all of the Imperial forces on this Yavin moon, but at the very least we've disrupted their ability to search for others of the Alliance who are stranded here. We intend to hold this base for as long as possible and weaken the Imperial position here as much as possible, but we've already had to defend against a patrol of stormtroopers. Please advise on the availability of reinforcements!"

    Mordran, Borvo's Champion

    Overheard by Borvo the Hutt:

    "Foolish Gungans will now know what becomes of those who cross a Hutt. I have dispatch my most feared champion, Mordran, to bring pain and wisdom to those traders who thought they could back out of a business venture without proper compensation paid to me. Their Sacred Place will be of no protection against Mordran. There is none who can stand up against him and save these Gungans. Ha ha ha. Mordran shall bring me my payment ... in Gungan hide!"

    Giant Fynock Cave

    Recovered Travel Journal Entries Description:

    Day 12: "We had trekked about 2500 meters to the northeast of Dearic when the storm hits. Luckily Trenrel found a cave, so we've taken shelter inside. The cave's eerily silent at the entrance and for some reason we're hesitant to venture much further into the darkness. We safe from the storm, though, so we stay and try to sleep."

    Day 13: "We've decided to investigate further into the cave. The path we follow is dark, but it's also large and fairly easy to navigate. It opens suddenly into a vast cavern, and we decide this would be a great place to set up camp. Once the tents are set and a campfire is crackling, the cavern almost feels comfortable."

    Day 14: "The attack was sudden and without warning. Several scuttling creatures overran our camp while large flying creatures dove at us from above. As we tried to gather ourselves, I saw Mitsh and Trenrel fall, unmoving and instantly covered by a swarming mound of chittering, insect-like creatures. One of the flying ones struck Yill'uop as she turned to run, but that's when terror took hold of me. In panic I burst down the path to the cave entrance. As I left the cave, I stopped and turned. Two others had been behind me... Heitop and Frann, I think... but there was no sign of them now. I waited nervously just outside of the entrance for what seemed like hours though it was probably only a few minutes. No one else from my group emerged from the cave, but none of the creatures did either. I slept, sporadically, in a tree near the entrance."

    Day 15: "Somehow I found the courage to return to the cave. My friends were all dead, but I was unwilling to just leave them. I found some stones and fashioned them into grave markers. Then I began the task of laying my fallen comrades to rest. I only managed to collect and bury two of them today, but at least I have all the grave markers ready. Tomorrow I should be able to finish and then leave this place."

    Day 16: "..."

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