by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided
Summary * History * Company Line * Game Play * Plot * Graphics * Animation * Voice Actors * Music Score * Sound Effects * Utilities * Multi-player Features * Cheats, Hints, and Walkthrough * Journalists * References * Letters
Lucas Arts started their company in 1984 with the release of two Atari games, Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus!, both of which are on the shelf behind me. Contrary to all other indicators in the industry, Lucas Arts was a successful company from the first. The first blockbuster game was perhaps Maniac Mansion which released on IBM, Amiga, Atari ST, C-64, and Apple II and featured the genius of Ron Gilbert and many other talented Lucas people. Ron Gilbert would follow with the wonderful Monkey Island series of games. The history of computer games has certain trends and preferences that game players have overwhelmingly chosen and even demanded in their games. These features include content, the ability to pursue artisan crafting without impeding the growth of the character as a combattant, ease of play (includes interface and other features), interesting choices, etc. It is safe to say that many of these principles are violated by the Star Wars Galaxy game.
The game is basically a ground based individual combat, crafting, and entertainment game that supports dozens of professions. The six starting professions of Artisan, Brawler, Entertainer, Marksman, Medic and Scout can be used to access the 26 elite hybrid professions of Architect, Armorsmith, Bio-engineer, Bounty Hunter, Carbineer, Chef, Combat Medic, Commando, Creature Handler, Dancer, Doctor, Droid Engineer, Fencer, Image Designer, Merchant, Musician, Pikeman, Pistoleer, Ranger, Rifleman, Smuggler, Squad Leader, Swordsman, Tailor, Teras Kasi Artist (unarmed brawler specialist), Weaponsmith.
The premier profession of Jedi will only be opened up to a player who completes a series of unknown and unrevealed constantly changing and individual set of goals which will open up an additional Jedi slot on one of the other servers for the person. There is no guarentee that the Jedi slot will ever be opened to a player. And if the player jedi character dies a certain number of deaths, the jedi will remain dead, which they refer to as perma death. If you reach master jedi knight profession which is one of the elite professions of jedi, when your character dies, your character will become a blue glowy character like in the movies.
Anyone who wishes to play a jedi in SWG (Star Wars Galaxies) will most likely be disappointed. Faced with this grim fact over 475,000 addicts have signed up to play the game non-stop for 18 hours a day at a cost of $12 to $16 per month. This is without even a prayer that they will be able to play their favorite character, the jedi.
Skill points limits the number of professions and skills that you can learn. You are limited to 250 skill points. When combined with experience earned in game for various completed tasks, a combination of skill points and experience points or apprentice experience points are traded for a group of skills in the game or levels.
For example, An Artisan starts out as a Novice Artisan by trading no experience and 15 skill points for this starting profession. An artisan can survey for inorganic resources and sample those resources to build up a bank of resources used up in creating various items. Such as a survival knife. The novice artisan can then make many survival knives and garner about 30 crafting experience from making knives.
These survival knives and other crafted items are supposed to be saleable to players, but in reality the knives are deleted since their value is so low. Only when the artisan obtains an elite or hybrid profession do they obtain the skills to produce objects that players would be interested in purchasing. In order to fix this Sony Online Entertainment (Lucas Arts) added a practice button and give a small experience benefit for practicing, eliminating the need for deleting these items.
The items that you find on animals or non player characters that you kill cannot be sold to non player characters but must be sold to other players. Most players do NOT want to buy 99 percent of the junk you find on animals and non player character. The game does not contain an intelligent facility for converting items looted to cash like Asheron's Call 2. Again you spend a lot of time deleting items that you cannot sell.
Engineering I Tinkering is the first level of the Engineer track of the Artisan profession. It takes 2 skill points and 500 general crafting experience to become this first rank of engineer. This rank gives the engineer several things he or she can make, such as twelve, twenty and hundred sided dice (What do you need dice for?); wood staff; droid battery; muzzle; coupler (used in weaponsmithing); type 4 and 5 firework; food and chemical crafting tool; clothing and armor crafting tool; structure and furniture crafting tool; and weapon, droid, and general item crafting tool. The Engieering I Tinkering skill set also gives two skill mods: artisan assembly +10 and artisan experiementation +10. Each profession step provides increased proficiency statistics and craftable items.
There are four career tracks in each profession which provides skills in a particular area which may enhance other skills within the profession. There are four levels to each of the four skill tracks. For example: The Artisan profession has the Engineer, Domestic Arts, Business and Surveying tracks.
If you complete all four career tracks in your profession you can become a master in that profession. For example: completing the engineer, domestic arts, business, and surveying tracks allows you to become a Master Artisan. The entire process takes 31500 general crafting experience, 18,000 surveying experience, 77 skill points, 45,000 credits and 620 apprentice experience. Apprentice experience is gained by training others in your profession in their career tracks. Credits are gained by completing missions or by selling crafted, foraged, or looted items to other players.
It is the economy, stupid! Well the economy does not work and Sony Online Entertainment/Lucas Arts will not fix it. Why doesn't it work? Let me give you an example: You buy a set of bone armor, which is barely effective in protecting you against harm, in fact you will not even notice any protection afforded by this armor is you are a melee character. The armor costs you about 4000 credits. You run into the cloning facility to insure these items so that when you die, you do not have to run to where you died, about a million meters fromt the closest cloning facility, and get your stuff. You find that it costs you 14,000 credits to insure your items. The insurance cost is totally out of line with the cost of the items.
The game has been out for about a month now (we add content to our articles over time) and Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has eliminated the droid engineer and creature handler from the economic system. Droids are no longer strong combattants and can be easily destroyed by the monsters on any of the higher difficulty planets. Their armor was vastly reduced by the "update."
On August 13, 2003, Creature handlers went the way of droid engineers and also do not have anything valuable to sell to players anymore. Creature handlers can only sell low level animals to players. High level characters can only be used by creature handlers who could have tamed them.
And even creature handlers are limited by the creatures that they can control. A weight limit is placed on the creatures the creature handler can control so that no longer can they have three full grown rancors controlled. This really means that the creature handler cannot handle or control more than one worthwhile combat monster at a time.
Similar to everquest SOE has altered the agression during combat of enemies in that the enemy will attack the player controlling the creature. This player has very little in the way of protection and dies quickly and easily.
Watch and see over the next few months SOE will effectively remove all the advantages of all combat professions, weakening them substantially so that they are harder to play and advance in the game. Like everquest those that come to late to the game will be me with "you should have been here" and "you really missed it." comments in respect to character advancement.
The whole idea of insurance is to save you the run to your body when you die. Then why make the cost so high that no one can use it? This is an example of another non existant feature that 475,000 game players are praying that Lucas Arts and SOE will fix in the next few months.
In game design when the coding team cannot get the designed feature to work, they often delete the features that they think they can get away with. Deleting the feature is cheaper than fixing it. SOE continues this tradition online with their games. In most all cases they would rather delete a feature or nerf it until it is a non feature rather than fixing the broken feature. Nerfing saves money and gives "life" or "legs" to the game, so they nerf first and add features and content if money or time permits.
The track history of SOE is not a good one. In fact many players feel that SOE loves to torture players. Just ask any Everquest player and they will tell you.
January, 2004: I was talking to another massively mulitplayer online game player of long standing about star wars galaxies. I asked why he did not like the game. He said, "any game that makes you gimp your character to participate in trade skills will never make it."
Early on many people told Verant-SOE-Lucas Arts that they need to have two systems for skill points one for combat and one for trade skills. Each system should have at the very minimum 250 skill points. This would allow each character to be both a combattant and participate in trades.
A very good friend of mine was a cook, who loved to manufacture food and drink. He got a very nice cook outfit and stood behind the bar in the cantina. This wonderful cook decided to go overt empire faction. After he was trashed and humiliated a number of times by other players who were overt rebels, he decided to become a bounty hunter. He abandoned his trade skills and those of us who had come to depend upon him had to go looking elsewhere.
Very soon the same phenomenon happened to all trade skill specialists, both in my guild and in other guilds. The trade skill people made lots of money and now they wanted to have fun so they traded in their trade skills for combat skills. Soon very very few traders were playing and the essential items needed to play the game became harder and harder to get and more and more expensive.
You see all items in Star Wars Galaxies break when you try to repair them. And all the items that are used show progressive deterioration due to use. Eventually, about 10% to 50% of the time the item breaks. Once the item is broken it disappears. This includes the hyper expensive armor, weapons, shields, and other items.
Certain items are used up and must be constantly replaced. I had a master medic, master doctor, and master pharmacist who would go with combattants and keep them healed. Each time you heal or buff someone, the item must be replaced. The pharmacist needs to visit his or her harvesters and harvest the raw ingredients needed for manufacture.
The best scenerio is to have a friend accompany you to harvest to kill the monsters. You both get experience and harvest the harvesters. Then the pharmacist needs to sit in his house and manufacture heal stims, statistic enhancing packs, and other medical items to support the raid for several hours. The medic/doctor/pharmacist must also visit food manufacturers for identicle manufactured food or own their own chemical factory. Harvesting and manufacturing components so that you can manufacture medical supplies so that you can heal and buff the group requires hours of work for one four to eight hour evening raid.
A combattant such as a teras kasi master must be healed by a medic/doctor and a musician/dancer. Medic/doctors are required to heal the health and action portions of the ham (health/action/mind) bars that are damaged by battle. The medic/doctors are hard to find, but the musician/dancers who are needed to heal your mind portion of your ham (health/action/mind) bars. You get mentally fatigued by conflict which requires that musician/dancers heal your mind.
When you go into cities there is no one there, certainly not musician/dangers. But if you don't play in the most populated cities, you will not find anyone. If verant/SoE/Lucas allowed people to become tradesmen/musician/dancers with no penalty on the combattant classes the game could work, but as long as they require you to gimp your characters to use tradeskills the Star Wars Galaxies world is doomed to failure.
Even more importantly, it does not seem that Verant/SOE/Lucas listens to the game players. And even if they patiently listen with their ears, they do not seem to listen with their minds. The players and quitters are telling them these things. The exit interview is multiple choice and does not have a category that allows you to explain this type of problem to the game designers so people send emails to no avail. If they are listening and understanding, they certainly are not taking any corrective action.
Another online comment, "Now that people are becomming Jedis the players will be getting bored fast." This person was predicting a quick death sometime this year for Star Wars Galaxies. It is a real shame to see a game with so much potential die the death of boredome due to a few simple design errors.
The plot is: kill everything that you can(if you are a combattant) and get experience for it so you can get more skill so you can kill more powerful things.Do what you can to avoid dying. If you do die run, you are respawned at a cloning facility, if you had the foresight to clone yourself for 1000 credits. Then you run to the place you died to retrieve your items, because you cannot afford to insure these items so that they will appear on your clone when you are restored to life on death. BTW (by the way) Jedi cannot be cloned more than a certain number of times, I think it is 10 times. Got to keep the Jedi population down. The story goes something like this: Everyone wants to be a Jedi. Everyone wants to be the only Jedi or one of very few Jedi. So that what happens is that everyone demands that no one else get to be a Jedi. And if you happen to luck out and find out how to be a Jedi, the game designers will make sure that your Jedi character dies and that you cannot clone beyond a certain point, so that you will no longer be a Jedi. This really makes sense that anyone would love to play this game? Why did 475,000 sign up in the first week?
There are several plot driven quests in the game. These plot driven quests are in locations that are out of the way and almost impossible to get to. There are no shuttles into these areas and the areas are so remote that they are virtually inaccessable to convenient services of a medic or entertainer. You cannot get wounds healed or battle fatigue healed by medics and entertainers except in the most lucky cases. In order to do this you must hike thousands of kilometers to an inhabited city.
When you complain about the inaccessability of the plot areas, specifically the rebel base on Corellia, the emperor's retreat on Naboo or Jabbas fortress on T66atoine, the developers Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) points to their expansion which will involve rideable beasts and vehicles wh6bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb7ich will reduce the time needed to go from a town to these locations. But the bare facts are that the game is still unplayable on this level with any amount of convenience.
The John Williams movie score is often the music that you will hear.
The sound effects are the great Star Wars - Industrial Light and Magic sound effects we love from the feature films.
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