Articles

Star Wars Galaxies Game Update 12

In Uncategorized on 2009-08-11 by Kyle Maxwell

Star Wars Galaxies, the MMORPG that wouldn’t die, released Game Update 12 today. Don’t let that low number fool you, as they’ve actually changed nomenclatures at least twice before (Publishes and Chapters), restarting each time.

This update focused on the Engineering subclass, which primarily produces droids, vehicles, and some assorted electronics.

Successes

SOE implemented several new droid appearances and a few upgrades, mostly relating to combat though they did implement a “hand sampling module” to improve manual resource gathering.

Controversially, Jedi can now equip armor, but this actually came about because of the other big addition to the game: craftable cybernetics. In addition to the arms already available, players can now equip cybernetic prosthetics for forearms, hands, legs, and even torsos, in most cases with newly-available appearances.

GU 12 also includes a new quest line for mid-level characters involving a droid factory on Corellia. Given the frequent complaints about content for this level range, SOE probably took this as an obvious no-brainer.


Players have two new vehicles available, the Basilisk War Droid and the Mustafar mining droid design that Anakin Skywalker rode when dueling Obi-wan Kenobi at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

Engineers also got an expertise revamp. Two, in a sense, because the first design sent for player testing received tremendous player opposition due to a total lack of attention to the feedback and requests lined up for years. SOE delayed deployment for another couple of weeks while they fixed this.

Failures

We shouldn’t really consider Jedi armor a failure despite the controversy. While some players fear that it will introduce imbalances, the most recent theorycrafting seems to indicate otherwise. And while certainly seeing Imperial Stormtroopers wield lightsabers and use Force Lightning will cause some immersion hits, at this point in SWG’s development that really just fits the game.

However, SOE made a major error in implementing combat increases only for non-combat characters (crafters). This means that characters created specifically for non-combat content get additional ability for content they don’t really pursue. While a few crafters need to clear NPCs for placing resource harvesters, for the most part they could already do that with the existing design. Despite the promises for years to implement a “droid commander” profession alongside “beast master”, some time ago SOE decided they simply didn’t have the time, resources, and commitment to follow through with it. So in order not to compete with BM, which requires expertise points (“talents” in other games like WoW), the developers have intentionally gimped droid usage.

Droids have always had very few uses outside of combat: limited storage, some uses for entertainers or hunters, and pilots (think R2 helping run Luke’s X-wing). GU 12 does very little to help this.

None of those things, however, fail nearly as hard as the last-minute removal of full cyborg / droid characters. When the update first went out for player testing, characters could equip cybernetic prosthetics for all parts of their bodies except for the heads (easily handled by armor or pilot helmets). At some point late in the process, one of the designers decided to restrict players from fully “borging out” because this didn’t strike him as immersive.

SOE doesn’t want players looking like droids but they do want Stormtroopers with lightsabers.

Does any doubt remain that SWTOR will beat up SWG, steal its lunch money, and kiss its girlfriend?

Side note: Producer change

As the development of GU 12 wound down, the SWG producer moved to another SOE project (apparently DC:UO). The technical lead, Teesquared, now will handle the producer role in addition to his current duties. SWG continues to shrink the team through attrition as the game throttles down over time, possibly due to a shrinking player base.

Then again, which came first: the crummy game or the players leaving?

SWG still has some things going for it, but they mostly revolve around providing an environment for roleplaying rather than the game itself. And as seen above, even that remains debatable.

Game Update 13 looks promising. But then again, so did 12.

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