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I wanted to post my opinion of where things went wrong and try to boil down why the NGE happened. Cut through all of the bologna that was filtered through to us, the end-users and try to look at many of the issues which caused this tragedy to happen. I don’t know what purpose this will serve other than food for thought, but hopefully it will at least help those that are supporting the game now understand how we feel and why they are met with such derision when they post here.
Let me start by giving you my background as I rarely (never?) post here. I read the mmorpg.com SWG forums everyday, though, and have kept an eye on what is happening. I have played nearly every major mmorpg (and several minor ones), but I have spent a majority of the last 9 years playing Ultima Online, Everquest and SWG. I have also spent a considerable amount of time in WoW, Asheron’s Call and DAoC. In SWG, I had 3 accounts active when the NGE hit and I enjoyed playing all of them. I haven’t done any PvP’ing since UO (and I didn’t do much then…mostly ran a shop, made scrolls and fished up treasure). My 3 accounts in SWG were a Bio-Engineer/Creature Handler, a PvE Bounty Hunter (loved the missions and the tape drops)/Ranger, and a Master Chef/Merchant. I ran a modest shop on Wanderhome just outside Bestine. Money flowed like a river and I had something new to look forward to doing every day. I give you this information as background only. There is nothing there to be overly proud about. Pre-CU/CU didn’t really have too much effect on my play style. I liked Pre-CU and CU just about equally. I was just a normal, every day player.
Here are the contributing factors that I think made this game spiral to the point it is now. Let me preface this by saying that I think Raph Koster is a genius in every sense of the word. I have read his blogs extensively and IMHO, he is the most gifted world creator that we have on the planet. This doesn’t mean, though, that there weren’t some fundamental problems with the way SWG was designed. No matter how much he insists that the Single Character-per Server (SCS) concept was primarily put in to help with role-playing (we mustn’t have Imps and Rebels knowing what the other side is doing), I feel that it had almost nothing to do with that. It was put in to limit exposure for their support and development personnel and sell extra accounts. The game was a monster, the likes of which the mmorpg community has never and probably will never see again. The amount of data that had to be stored for one bio-engineered pet, for instance, was immense (just one example). The coding was more detailed and complex than any other game and they also added in the most elaborate housing system in the industry so that you could store hundreds of different resource hogs (items) per character. That’s what Thunderheart is talking about when he says (paraphrasing) that he can’t imagine how the EMU team will be able to re-create the environment. It’s not the combat which will be that difficult to emulate…it’s the incredibly complex crafting system and all of its interdependencies.
Another contributing factor that led to the NGE was Jedi. I’m probably going to catch some flack over this one. There are really two separate issues here. One is balancing PvP and the other is having an Alpha class. Unfortunately, I can’t speak very extensively on this subject as I never really had the desire to play a Jedi. I went through part of the village just to check it out and figure out what it would take to get that coveted 2nd character slot, but I wasn’t interested in hauling around a lightsaber and slicing/dicing. I wish that Jedi would have been put in as NPC’s which were end-game content. I know that this isn’t very iconic of me and would have ruined the game for some, but it would have taken much of the difficulty out of balancing the game. If they felt that it was absolutely necessary to include Jedi, then hopefully we can at least agree that it should have been very difficult to achieve (which I understand it was in the early days) and very risky to run around as a Jedi. This is probably why the Pre-CU is thought of so fondly. I’m sure it was also a nightmare to balance ALL of those combat professions for the so-called GCW. Nightmarish, but not impossible to fix. If the devs would have concentrated on fixing the core game rather than constantly trying to add new content, it would have held onto its player base and probably even slowly increased. There was not a better mmorpg on the market. What caused them to make the decision not to fix the product, we will probably never know. Whatever the root cause, it proved fatal.
I’m not completely sold on the idea of NGE being a reaction to WoW. I believe that plain and simple, they were starting to lose money on SWG. It took too many developers and too much support staff to maintain. The sad fact is that they could have just fixed the bugs in the original program and settled nicely into their niche as #1 Sci-Fi and #3-4 in the whole mmorpg market. But alas, they were either too greedy or too vain to keep their Star Wars fans happy. Now they have a few happy gamers which don’t cost much to support. I hope it was worth it. I know that they did manage to do one thing that not too many people have managed to do in my 39 years. They brought a tear to my eye after I read the NGE announcement. Cheers.