We had to destroy it in order to save it.
After a while, the players who still remained with the game had managed to carve out a certain strange niche out of the half-understood mechanics. There was only one type of armor that was worth wearing – composite – so everyone looked exactly the same, apart for some color variations. There were only a few viable combat professions out of several. Players routinely found ways to exploit the template system to create virtually unkillable templates. There were duals that lasted for hours, as neither character could actually hit the other one. The absurd tripartite health bar continued to make no sense. Almost no one actually played dancers and musicians – they were instead taken over by automated programs, as they gave out buffs. The catch was that you had to sit and watch a dance animation and tinny music track loop for several minutes before actually receiving the buff.
I write this to help to dispel the myth that has arisen that SOE somehow made a mistake by destroying the game and chasing away their subscribers. Frankly, they were doing their customers a big favor, and likely improved their quality of life by leaps and bounds. As these activities were not terribly fun, the developers introduced a "Combat Upgrade" to great fanfare. Well, at least they wished that people actually cared about it. The CU foisted an entirely new system on an already cracked, ornery and hostile player base, and it was immediately rejected. You see, every player of SWG had by this point developed a platonic ideal of how the game should be changed, so anything that the developers actually did would just be rejected out of hand. There really was nothing that they could do that would satisfy their alienated customers.
So, in December 2005 SOE implemented the "New Game Experience," which transformed the game into a class based third person action-RPG. The remaining players erupted in fury, and the game experienced a great deal of subscriber churn as people fell for the marketing push and angry players departed. As of now, people still play the game, but the massive amount of negative coverage that the game received from the NGE change has spoiled its chances of ever mounting a significant recovery. The NGE was not unpredictable, as some angry people have purported. The development team was constantly wrecking the stability of their game with poorly considered changes from the very first day of release, and then just continued that destructive cycle until it created a critical mass of nerd rage the likes of which the internet has never seen before.
This post is part of the series: Star Wars Galaxies
- Star Wars Galaxies Emulation the Rebirth of a Legendary Game
- Great MMO Failures – Star Wars Galaxies – Part 2
- Great MMO Failures – Star Wars Galaxies – Part 3