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Star Wars Galaxies

Working As Intended: Niche MMOs vs. the everything box

Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG, Working As Intended

Umzugskarton by HornM201
The MMO industry has lately focused on niche titles, niche communities, niche gameplay. It's not one particular niche, mind you. It's lots of different niches, all being catered to in different titles: PvPers, sadistic gankers, raiders, dungeoners, roleplayers, crafters, explorers, achievers, soloers, storygoers, casuals, hardcores, builders, destroyers, the I'm-skipping-class-for-a-week-to-play-games kids, the I've-got-five-minutes-what-can-I-play parents. There's an MMO or two out there for pretty much every one of us -- and for almost no one else.

So we dutifully buy the one that beckons directly to us, one of these small-minded "MMOs" that offer rewards for a certain playstyle or two but wilfully disregard every other imaginable playstyle. We applaud these games for having the guts to embrace being "niche" because we are convinced that having lots of little niche games is diversity.

And then we wonder where all the players are.

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Working As Intended: Lessons from the history of MMO housing

World of Warcraft, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Vanguard, RIFT, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge, WildStar, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Working As Intended, Landmark

Hustis House - Daniel Case
Once upon a time, a subscription MMORPG sandbox had open-world housing, only there wasn't quite enough for everyone. Well, there was, but there wasn't enough of it in safe lands, so a lot of the people who wanted a place to live had to live in dangerous places they didn't like, places where they could be killed on their doorstep by other players. Even most of the plots in the safe lands were so remote or allowed for such small homes that they were undesirable. In fact, there were only a few housing plots on every server that afforded a strategic advantage in PvP or trade or storage, and if you didn't own one of those, you were at a distinct disadvantage. And when new lands opened up, scripters and gold farmers were first in line to grab the best plots and sell them on Ebay for hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of dollars. And legit players were pissed.

I speak, of course, not of ArcheAge but of Ultima Online.

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The Game Archaeologist: Ironman modes and elective permadeath

Asheron's Call, Dofus, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, RuneScape, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, Wizardry Online, Star Citizen, H1Z1

wizardry online
One facet of video games that's been around almost since the very beginning is the difficulty level. This has allowed the player to choose how hard or easy a game would be from the onset, influencing factors such as the number of enemies, hardiness of bad guys, fragility of the player character, and available loot (or lack of it). I used to love how some of those '90s shareware titles would mock me for picking easy, sometimes portraying my character wearing a baby bonnet and sucking its thumb. Real gamers, the devs implied, go tough or go home.

With a few exceptions, MMOs operate on a fixed level of difficulty for all of their players. Instead of assigning blanket difficulty client-side, the game world portions difficulty into areas, usually according to level or activity. Some games have instances with adjustable difficulty levels, but past that what you get is also what I get.

This might be changing. A very fringe but dedicated group of players have championed such ideas as elective ironman and permadeath modes for their MMOs, and at least one studio is responding positively to that desire. Would you choose to make your MMO experience harder than everyone else in exchange for nothing more than a bigger challenge and a more "realistic" experience?

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The Think Tank: Happy birthday, Star Wars Galaxies

Sci-Fi, Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Anniversaries, The Think Tank

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the launch of Star Wars Galaxies, an MMO whose untimely sunset at the end of 2011 continues to make sandbox fans sigh mournfully. This week, in honor of the anniversary, I asked the Massively writers whether they think we'll ever see another new Star Wars MMORPG (other than those we still have, of course), let alone another epic Star Wars sandbox. It's time to speculate!

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Raph Koster on Origin's Privateer Online

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, Star Wars Galaxies, Sandbox

Privateer Online team
Raph Koster's thrown up a fairly fascinating blog post detailing one of his Origin projects that never saw the light of day. It was originally codenamed Star Settlers and it featured procedurally generated planets, exploration, resource management, and more.

Koster's executive bosses "blew up a huge portion of the design" in favor of fitting the fledgling game into Origin's Wing Commander IP, several online versions of which were already in the works. "Some of them had gotten pretty far -- piles of artwork, design work, and even some tech," Koster writes.

Finally a Privateer Online team was assembled, and it cranked out a prototype featuring "radically different" procedural planets, multiplayer space dogfighting, fractal ship customization, modular planetary settlement capabilities, and "a huge pile of lore" written by Wing Commander vets. Though Privateer Online was cancelled in favor of Earth & Beyond and its design docs were burned in a bonfire at Origin's shut-down party, Koster says that many of the developers went on to make Star Wars Galaxies which contained some of the same ideas.

One Shots: Agents of S.W.O.R.D.

Screenshots, Star Wars Galaxies, One Shots, Champions Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, Miscellaneous

Ugh, every time I see a great Champions Online screenshot I lament to the universe how such a good-looking game flopped so hard. Shouldn't have been that way. Or maybe it's not; maybe it's the best-kept secret in MMOs and I don't know it.

Reader Sean sent in this picture of his team, the Agents of SWORD: "I used to play quite a bit of this game from closed beta through about four months after launch. Before the dark times. Before the patches. At any rate, I loved this game with a deep passion--mostly because the costume designer was near limitless. But then I was also able to run the game at max settings at 1920x1080 and it was glorious."

We have more gloriosity (go with it) for your starved eyes after the break!

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The Daily Grind: Do alternative server rulesets wreck PvP?

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG

A commenter conversation a while back got me thinking about how server rulesets can make or break the PvP in a game, and not in the way you might expect. I've found that when a game offers separate PvE and PvP servers (be those PvP servers factional or open), the middle-ground players are left without a home. My World of Warcraft guild, for example, was opposed to the idea of a PvE-only server where people could flag but rarely would do so, and so we ended up on a PvP server, where smallfry ganking, rather than the Dark Age of Camelot-esque RvR we'd hoped for, is tediously and irritatingly commonplace. Neither choice is ideal because the populations are split along too sharp a line.

In Star Wars Galaxies, by contrast, the servers were PvE with factional-flagging consensual PvP, but because there were no full-PvP servers to bleed away the more hardcore PvPers, the population was mixed, and the PvP situation wound up being far more interesting for more players. PvE gamers who wouldn't dream of flagging for PvP in a game like World of Warcraft would see the Galactic Civil War being waged by PvPers all around them in SWG, and even though they could have stayed safely civillian and free from risk, that visible PvP made them much more likely to jump into PvP themselves willingly -- and isn't that exactly what MMOs should strive for?

What do you think -- do alternative rulesets divide playerbases and wreck PvP? Are mixed-use servers a viable way to involve more players consensually in side activities like PvP?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

The Daily Grind: How important is the setting of your MMOs?

MMO Industry, Star Wars Galaxies, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

Massively reader dirtyklingon recently wrote to us with an interesting observation. He was surprised at the backlash that was generated when SOE's John Smedley teased a new MMO for Star Wars Galaxies fans but then revealed it would not be Star Wars but a survival-based contemporary sandbox setting -- by most guesses, zombies. I don't think most people really expected Star Wars Galaxies II (or Star Wars at all, for that matter), but I was pretty disappointed. The setting of SWG wasn't essential, but I expected something much closer to it in theme from the new game, something a bit more space cowboyish without the Star Wars name. I'll tolerate a lot of settings to play a good sandbox, but a few are real turn-offs and can actually be dealbreakers. Like, you know, zombies.

What about you, Massively crew -- how important is the setting of your MMOs? Can it make or break your experience?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Perfect Ten: My favorite MMO April Fools' pranks of all time

World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest II, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, RuneScape, Guild Wars 2, Humor, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous, Neverwinter

There are two types of people on April 1st: those who are annoyed and indifferent to the tomfoolery going on all around them, and those who gleefully embrace the zany antics and baldfaced lies. For the record, I am of the latter crowd. I love April Fools' Day and the humor and creativity that it inspires. While this day is by no means contained to our neck of the woods, MMOs have a long-running streak of trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

I think a good goof has to have several qualities to make it truly memorable. It needs to be original. It needs to be actually amusing, whether or not you "fell for it." And it needs to tweak our expectations and understanding of how MMOs work. Sometimes there are even important ideas that emerge from these jokes that could, indeed, make these titles better.

So let's go through my favorite MMO April Fools pranks of all time, as catalogued by yours truly!

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The Daily Grind: What would you pay to leave a dying server?

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, Economy, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG

One hundred and thirty-five bucks -- that's what Lord of the Rings Online charges for six character transfer tokens to move your fleet of alts from a dying server to one with a bright future. Nevermind that you weren't the one who turned the server into a ghost town and that it's entirely within a studio's power to make merges happen some way or another; you're the one who foots the bill to escape a dead server.

And sometimes that bill is just not worth paying. I admit to shelling out a huge amount of money (a few hundred dollars) to consolidate and transfer my old Star Wars Galaxies accounts and characters, and it was worth every penny because it was my favorite MMO and I played it every single day and needed a vibrant server and economy to have a good time. But when it comes to an MMO I play as casually as Lord of the Rings Online, I have to draw the line. Especially as a crafter, I just won't pay that kind of money (or ask my guildies to do the same) to move my alts, which often means I don't go back at all and the game gets nothing from me.

What about you -- what would you pay to leave a dying server? How much do you have to love the game before shelling out for transfers is worth it?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #20-11

Age of Conan, Darkfall, Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Allods Online, Blade & Soul, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2, Defiance, Jukebox Heroes, Dragon's Prophet, Music

We're growing ever closer to my top picks for MMO theme songs, but we're not quite at the end yet. This week we are on to the third part of our Top 40 MMO main themes countdown. To repeat my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31 and #30-21. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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Smedley: SOE's new unannounced MMO is dedicated to SWG players

MMO Industry, New Titles, Star Wars Galaxies, Sandbox

Star Wars: Galaxies binary sunset
It's been a roller coaster day for fans of SOE and the firm's MMO catalog. Earlier we learned that four of the company's titles, including the flawed but much-loved fantasy title Vanguard -- will be shutting down later this year.

CEO John Smedley took to Reddit to answer questions following the announcement, and while it makes for a sobering read if you're a Vanguard, Wizardry Online, Free Realms, or Clone Wars Adventures fan, there was a hopeful nugget buried in there for sandbox lovers and more specifically, fans of Star Wars: Galaxies.

"SWG players, our next game (not announced yet) is dedicated to you," Smedley wrote. "Once we launch it... you can come home now."

The Soapbox: MMO 'nostalgia' isn't nostalgia

Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, The Soapbox, Sandbox

Elizabeth Montgomery
Here's the Merriam-Webster online dictionary definition of the word nostalgia.

\nä-ˈstal-jə, nə- also nȯ-, nō-; nə-ˈstäl-\
: pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again
1 : the state of being homesick : homesickness
2 : a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition; also : something that evokes nostalgia

And here's where I tell you that nostalgia is the most misused, overused, and overly simplistic word in modern MMO discourse.

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Some Assembly Required: Pre-NGE SWG's proper sandbox PvP

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required architectural plans
A few weeks ago I ranted at indie sandbox devs who continue pumping out poorly conceived FFA PvP games. I didn't have any wordcount left at the end of that novella to propose any solutions, so I'm going to do that today.

And hey, it's pretty simple, at least conceptually. All a dev team needs to do is iterate on Star Wars: Galaxies' pre-NGE PvP system.

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Jukebox Heroes: Reader request 3

Aion, Final Fantasy XI, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, RuneScape, Miscellaneous, Jukebox Heroes, Music

jukebox heroes
Since it's our very last Jukebox Heroes column of the year on the very last day of the year, I thought it would be most appropriate to open up the reader request lines once again and feature MMO tunes that are your favorites. If you'd like to put in your own request for the next time I run one of these columns, please list your favorite MMO music track in the comments along with an explanation as to what you love about it!

So check out what your fellow soundtrackophiles appreciate and stay tuned for a totally rockin' 2014!

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