[MUD-Dev] Changing Midstream (SWG's New Look)

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Wed Nov 23 12:16:13 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


If you aren't already painfully aware, Star Wars Galaxies has
recently gone through and is still going through a process of
completely revamping the game called the new game enhancements
(NGE). It's practically a whole new game, which I think most people
agreed needed to happen (in theory).  However, the backlash against
this change is significant and my ability to discuss the whole thing
publicly has been met with something less than intelligent
discourse.

I've been reluctant to bring it up on this list, mostly because I
don't like starting new threads, but also because I know that some
of you either work on SWG or have worked on it, and it might not be
appropriate or prudant to discuss such a thing. It's just that
changing direction midstream with an entrenched playerbase like this
is unprecedented (as far as I'm aware) and I think there is a lot of
good and bad to take away from this.

After SWG's first combat revamp, I've noticed several other MMORPGs
also having revamps, but not making the same mistakes. Could the NGE
lead to other MMORPGs recreating themselves now that the sacrificial
lamb has taken one for theam? Rather than launching sequels like
Asheron's Call 2 or Everquest 2, could it be a smarter decision to
simply rebuild old games in a new image than segment a playerbase
that may not be able to support both?

And what of the community aspects of changing what is essentially
the foundation of player social connections? To some extent, this
already exists in games that balance and rebalance live
games. Someone who was a needed healer today could be a worthless
party member the next, changing their social standing from leader to
pariah in the space of a single patch. Characters that are
overpowered hate losing that social power of being kings of the
game, and any nerf (even the balancing kind) is met with
characteristic contempt.

If you suddenly changed EVERYTHING, the very foundation of society
changes fundamentally, and people are forced to seek out their new
positions in the ensuing chaos. Is there a way to make this
transition softer and more guided? Or perhaps, maybe such a hard
transition could be a great equalizer, resetting the ingame caste
system for players who haven't been ingrained since beta?

It's all quite fascinating, and there's plenty of good discussion
there.  There's no shortage of frustration and anger on behalf of
the playerbase, while those in favor of the changes prove "lukewarm
defenders" in classical style. Because of this, it's impossible to
have this conversation with people who play the game and get their
self image from the communities that have formed in it.

So, I apologize if I'm stepping on anybody's toes or bringing up a
subject best left unspoken, but I really think that we can learn
more about MMORPGs and their players from this event than anything
else before it or yet to come. THIS is the best time to see what
MMORPGs really are to people.

- Sean
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