Star Wars Galaxies

I remember there was a ton of hype surrounding Star Wars Galaxies well before it ever launched. It was enough for me to start getting interested and sign up for the beta test. I was lucky and got into the beta several months before the game was scheduled to launch.

Although I liked Star Wars well enough I was never a real die-hard fanboy of the fiction. I was surprised at how absurd some of the design elements were for the game. It had image designers, dancers and musicians among it's classes and a deep, complex crafting system. It had been my impression from the hype that the game designers intended to 'recreate the star wars experience' and, although my knowledge of Star Wars may be limited, I was pretty sure there were no hair dressers on the Millennium Falcon. Despite these oddities the game did have many familiar elements such as the empire and rebel factions, storm troopers and the races/planets from the movies.

The game seemed fairly enjoyable as I beta tested and I became familiar with things like cloning, resource gathering, crafting and combat. I liked the bits of the alien worlds we were able to see but it seemed very strange to be restricted to a tiny, 1 square mile, section of each planet.

As the beta progressed I watched the classes develop and mechanics get tweaked and they made a few changes I thought were detrimental to the game such as increasing cloning/insurance costs and restricting inter-planetary travel. As launch day approached it was also clear that the game would be published unfinished. Several classes were completely untested and some literally incomplete with important mechanics left out. Because of the obviously incomplete nature of the game at launch and the direction they were taking the mechanics of the game I never purchased SWG and although it had some interesting features I never regretted letting is slip by.

SWG has had a very turbulent history. The game has undergone several major revisions and thousands of smaller changes and in no way resembles the game I once beta tested. I downloaded a free trial a couple years ago to see what the game was like and I literally could not recognize any familiar elements.

What I did like about the version of the game I played was the crafting system. Resource gathering and item manufacture were somewhat automated. You would go out into the world(s) and search for the resources you needed with a kind of radar device that showed you a graph of the resource concentrations around you for a certain distance. You would go a ways in the direction of highest concentration and scan again until you found the highest concentration possible. If no one else had already built a harvester in that spot you would construct a mining machine of your own which would collect the resource for you. The machine would run on its own allowing you to return hours or days later to collect what it had gathered.

Manufacturing worked similarly. You could use a craft station and create items by hand or, if you had the means, you could create (or borrow) a factory to do the manufacturing for you. For some items such as houses you needed a factory to create a large number of materials that would be used in the final product. Other times it was just a convenient way of gaining experience. If you used a factory to create 100 widgets you would get the same experience toward advancing your craft skill as if you had created all 100 widgets by hand. I loved the way these two systems removed the tedium from the craft process but I also remember short sighted people screaming bloody murder that players were getting a free ride.
Perhaps they had nothing better to do than push a button for 10 xp an hour but I can think of better things to do with my time.

The final attraction of the craft system was the way in which resources and components combined to create the final product. The way most MMO's work a craft recipe will say you need 1 willow branch and 1 cat sinew to create a small bow. Every ingredient must be exact and the bow that is created is the exact same regardless of who does the crafting or how skilled they are. In SWG the recipe would be 1 wood and 1 sinew. It would then be up to the player to decide exactly what type of wood and what type of sinew to use in the construction and all the various types or resource would have slightly different properties that would effect the final result. By trial and error or clever insight a person may discover a set of materials or process by which the small bows they made were substantially better than those made by anyone who did not know the secret formula. There was also a fluctuating availability of resources so that even if you did know the best set of resources to create an item they may not always be available or their prices may be hard to predict.

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