One of the most important games of my youth was Star Wars Galaxies (when I say youth, I mean late teens, but stay with me), an MMO set in that galaxy far, far away. Produced by LucasArts and helmed by Sony Online Entertainment, the game originally started as a huge, unwieldy MMO where players could choose to become one of thirty-three (!) professions, combining the features of lower-tier classes to reach hybrid professions like Bounty Hunter or Bio-Engineer.
Besides having a class progression system from hell that was completely skewed (if you didn’t play as a close-combat character you were doing it wrong), Galaxies was unique in that it allowed players to set up their own towns on one of the game’s many planets, establishing new cities away from ones that might be recognizable to Star Wars fans like Coronet or Mos Eisley. This was one of the cooler aspects of the game to me, one that allowed me and my friends and guild-mates to set up huge player-run cities complete with a guildhall and all other sorts of interesting buildings, like faction specific bunkers.
When it originally launched, Galaxies was notorious for being fairly buggy and even several years into the game’s lifespan, this continued to be the case. My friend (GamerSushi user The Nage) and I glitched our way through several of the game’s dungeons, running a two-man team on instances that were supposed to take upwards of ten people to complete. We completed the Corellian Corvette missions by activating specific consoles while we were dead, or running across electrified floors before the game realized what we were doing.
Continue reading Mitch Reminisces About Star Wars Galaxies
Star Wars: The Old Republic is number one on my list for upcoming PC releases, doubly so because it has the delicious flavor of a BioWare Star Wars game and an MMO rolled in to one. I know that there was a Star Wars MMO previously, but that was Galaxies by Sony Online Entertainment, and my therapist has advised me not to speak of that relationship. Regardless of how Galaxies was handled, one of the few things SOE did well was the space combat, taking away the turn-based dance endemic to MMORPG ground combat and making a more twitch-based system that resembled the X-Wing games of yore. Before the special ships were introduced and ruined the space combat with their ability to stock the highest grade equipment, blasting around between the planets was great fun. Star Wars just isn’t Star Wars without extra-planetary combat, and it seems that BioWare feels the same way.
MMO mega-site Massively (via the upcoming October issue of PC Gamer) reports that the space segments of The Old Republic will be “tunnel-based” as opposed to the free-form combat of its predecessors. If you’re having trouble picturing this sort of gameplay, think StarFox 64 or the old Rebel Assault titles. BioWare is apparently doing this to create a “cinematic” feel for players. I’ll reserve my judgment until I play the game itself, but I’d rather see a X-Wing vs TIE Fighter scenario. Massively does mention achievements, though, so I’ll be easier to mollify if that’s the case.
What do you guys think about this? Down for some rail-shooting, or do you hope BioWare will break out the combat for the inevitable PVP arenas?
If you’re setting out to make a successful MMO, I imagine that there’s one undercurrent of thought running throughout the entire design phase: be like World of Warcraft. It seems like a sound plan, seeing as how that game pumps out more golden Ferraris than a Twilight movie release, but it may backfire on you sooner than you think.
According to Blizzard Lead Producer Shane Dabiri, more WoW clones are not what MMORPG fans want right now. While he says that Blizzard finds it flattering that so many companies want to emulate their success with World of Warcraft (imitation is the most sincere form of adulation, after all), trying to pull the same maneuvers may not lead to the big hit that most developers hope for.
He goes on to say that people who have invested a lot of time in Warcraft don’t want to do the same things in a different game. As a Warcraft player myself, I couldn’t agree more. Before I moved over to Blizzard’s digital demolisher I used to play Star Wars Galaxies, which, while it had its problems, was a fairly unique and engaging game. All that changed when the development team took a look at Warcraft and said “we need to do that!”
Soon after that all the hybrid classes were gone, the economy got thrown out the window and Jedi ran all over the place like a herd of ill-disciplined children. Star Wars Galaxies tried so hard to be World of Warcraft but fell so far short it was almost embarrassing. Game after game has bowed to the mighty MMO, but there are few titles on the horizon that may challenge the market by being different. The upcoming Star Wars MMO by BioWare is my current favorite to at least show some decent competition, but I can’t pretend that DC Online isn’t making a strong bid either.
What do you guys think? Has World of Warcraft ruined the MMO scene, or will future MMOs learn a lesson and try something new?