I love a GDC postmortem, with Fallout and Diablo advancements as classic examples of the form. The latest all-digital version of GDC this year put Star Wars Galaxies on the slab, so creative director Raph Koster and executive producer Richard Vogel could dissect what went wrong with the famous MMO. As the initial screening put it, "This is the story of the worst game ever to become a classic and the most infamous patch in the history of video games."
Star Wars: Galaxies may be fondly remembered today for their craftsmanship, player-based economy, house customization, dance, and focus on relatively ordinary characters, but at launch it was a disaster. According to Koster and Vogel, much of this was reduced to the rush he had, with the developers' request for an additional six months before launch reduced to a single month of crisis.
During this month, one of the features that was cut was a tracking system of how players could unlock the possibility of becoming a Jedi. The plan was that you would have to complete a set of random activities, although you would not be told what they were. You should explore, learn, and try everything until you are suddenly told that you have a connection to the Force. Instead, in the last game you should use five randomly selected skills from the huge number available, though they wouldn't tell you. That was "a very fateful decision made at the end of a crisp 14 or 16 hour day," Koster said.
The result was what the developers wanted: the Jedi were rare and mysterious and most people played other characters. On average, a third of the players on each server had a store. It became a game where you had fun, ignoring the rudimentary missions to play a role, organize beauty contests, or make music videos.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z9XTeeA43o [/ embed]
This is a hard angle to sell, though. Warriors with lightsabers are easier to put on posters. As Koster explained, “Marketing tells us,“ You know what, to make a new marketing boost we need Jedi in the game. We want Jedi for Christmas. ”First they added a holochron that told players what to do next to unlocking the powers of the Force and soon those players left their stores en masse to grind skills and become Jedi. It turned out it wasn’t fun, but the completeness is impossible to stop.
Back then, the New Game Enhancements patch only added Jedi as a class option, while revising and removing many of the existing systems. It alienated the community that had looked beyond the hard throw because a game about crafts and dance and economics, home decor and pets was what they really wanted. They were unsubscribed in large numbers.
When Star Wars Galaxies closed in 2011, that was their case in the last hours there was a outpouring of love for the infamous MMO, with the players starting the session for the last time. As Vogel says, "they created their own stories living in the Star Wars universe and that was what made it special for them."
Previous GDC postmortems have been posted to YouTube, and I hope it’s close.