In the wake of the Chapter 9 publish for Star Wars Galaxies, we had the chance to pass a few questions to the game's producer. Lorin "Deadmeat" Jameson has been with the project for some time, weathering the storms as they've come and gone. Today we have his responses, looking back at the impetus for the new Chapter and Update system of patches and ahead to future plans.
Read on below the cut for Mr. Jameson's take on the success of the Exar Kun instance, hints at a new expertise subsystem on level with the Beast Master, and hope for a better future in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. "We have fixed a number of long-standing issues and have added some dynamite new systems and a slew of new content. It is our intention to continue this trend and I expect to be saying the same thing about 2008 in mid-2009. We know we have a lot of work to do to meet our players' expectations for Star Wars Galaxies, but it is a fun challenge to have and we are lucky to have such a committed and loyal fan base."
Massively.com Interview with Lorin Jameson
How do you feel the player response has been to the Exar Kun instance?
Lorin Jameson: The reaction has been great so far. There is no doubt that this is the most challenging heroic encounter we have released to-date and it sets a very high visual bar. Players won't simply be able to go in and just blast away. Rather, you will really need to think about the encounter and come up with tactical strategies to win.
Now that you've had the chance to offer your first content update, after moving to the "Game Update" vs. "Chapter" system, do you feel like the concept has 'delivered'? Were you able to get what you wanted out of the Chapter despite working on the game updates as well?
LJ: The chapter and Game Updates alternating strategy has actually been going well for us. It is definitely a trickier process to manage from a production standpoint, but the ability to keep new and exciting game-play content and improvements coming at a constant rate definitely outweighs the challenges. In some respects I believe we have upped the quality and quantity of game-play enhancements overall with this new approach and we plan on keeping this system for a while.
The Storyteller system is almost unique in MMOs, and you've made great strides supporting it. Where did the idea for the blueprints come from? Can we expect more feature additions to the Storyteller system like this in the future?
LJ: A player had posted a 'battle arena' that he had constructed from storyteller parts which was just amazing. There were so many pieces used in interesting ways that it boggled my mind. When I spoke with the designers about the possibility of adding something like the arena to the game as a pre-made item, they said, "Why not just give the players a system to save what they have already made?" It always works best to give the players tools and let them [the players] be much more creative over time rather than limiting them to one item or option. We hope to add more elements to the Storyteller system with each new Chapter.
With the addition of the Exar Kun and Star Destroyer encounters, what lessons do you think the designers have taken away? Without giving anything away, is there anything we can expect to see in future instances?
LJ: With each new heroic encounter, we have increased the level of sophistication. With Exar Kun we added a lot of dynamic behavior and divergent gameplay based on strategy. There are a couple of interesting puzzles in that heroic encounter that really force the player to think about what they are doing and understand what they are seeing when an NPC's behavior changes. In the future, we are hoping to add some even bigger encounters that have multiple 'viewpoints.'
You've indicated a connection between the collections and other new content, and how that is enhanced by the tools you're using. Can you broadly talk about what tools improvements you've made that allow this?
LJ: The collection system itself is relatively straightforward and data driven, which makes adding new collections fairly easy compared to systems of the past. Having the collection system in place allows us to use different methods in addition to questing to allow players to earn rewards and get interesting loot in the game. Players are also recognized server-wide for completing many of these new collections first.
The game was not originally designed for themepark-like content, so adding new quests, etc. has always been a challenge. We still custom script most content in the game.
The idea of server merges has been on the table but not in the plans for some time. In response to player discussion of the population issue, the next Chapter Update will have a number of advanced search functions. Can you give us a few more details about what that will entail? Do you see this as a stopgap measure? Are there a set of criteria in the works that will give you a firm idea of when server merges are a must?
LJ: We are very sensitive to the population issues that exist on a few of the servers. It is our hope that this new community search interface will help players who are actively out looking to find groups as well as helping to facilitate players finding others that share similar interests in-game. The new search mechanism works server-wide and will allow players to more precisely pinpoint what they are looking for with respect to player groups and shared interests in-game.
Our goal is to help players on the lower population servers by actively identifying the issues and challenges they face and presenting ways to remove obstacles to increased game-play satisfaction. We are looking at a number of ways to help mitigate these population issues. With a game like SWG, which has player housing and cities along with server unique resources, it is difficult to use a standard merge approach without causing a lot of controversy and inconvenience. Quite honestly I want to avoid that by adding positive, experience-enhancing systems to the game that address the challenges by offering positive solutions in a way that adds something for everyone.
The collection system continues to see development and additions through this Chapter release. Can we expect to see new collections in every Chapter? Do you have any sense of what 'types' of collections we might see in the future?
LJ: I think it is safe to say that there will probably be new collections included with each Chapter, although perhaps not as many as we have added lately. I am truly amazed at the variety of unique types of collections our team has designed and implemented in the recent chapters. It is our hope that we can continue to come up with innovative and fun new collections as we move forward in the upcoming chapters.
We found the Rattletrap ITV collection really interesting, in that the item itself is a major break with Star Wars Galaxies' original thinking. The collection was very simple, essentially making this item available to every character. What philosophy or development goal did you have in mind with this collection? Do you see other 'quality of life' improvements being released to the players this way in the future?
LJ: In the past, instant travel vehicles have only been available as a premium with the purchase of one of our retail products, and it has been a touchy subject that such a useful item was only available as a value-added bonus with the purchase of a compilation pack or digital download bundle. We wanted to eliminate the perceived inequity but at the same time we did not want to undermine the value of the premium items. We set the instant travel vehicle up as a collection reward because we get feedback from our players that they get more enjoyment and value and have more fun from earning items as a reward than to just have it handed to them.
Recently there was a reference by a player on the boards to the concept of a "Droid Commander", with the official response from your team being that it's on the table for later this year. Would this be something similar to the Beast training system, only with droids? Can you elaborate on what it might include and when we might see it?
LJ: We have wanted to revisit the droid system and add Droid Commander to the game since last year. While not exactly like Beast Master, since building droids would still be the responsibility of droid engineers, it would share some aspects. Like Beast Master it will involve choices. To be a powerful Droid Commander you will have to sacrifice expertise in your profession. But also as with Beast Master, a high-level Droid Commander will have a lot of powerful options.
Moving into the middle of the year now, how do you feel SWG is compared to April of 2007? What do you hope you can say about the game in April of 2009?
LJ: I think the game has shown tremendous improvement in the past year as we have added new enhancements, collections, heroic adventures and upgrades. We have fixed a number of long-standing issues and have added some dynamite new systems and a slew of new content. It is our intention to continue this trend and I expect to be saying the same thing about 2008 in mid-2009. We know we have a lot of work to do to meet our players' expectations for Star Wars Galaxies, but it is a fun challenge to have and we are lucky to have such a committed and loyal fan base.
Many thanks for your time, sir.
Source : massively.com