I’m sorry, mind still boggled

I was writing down some notes so I could wrap up more in details my thoughts later on. But there’s so much to discuss, so many perspectives. The impact of these changes on the rest industry whether good or bad, the reaction of the players, how SOE is handling this change (timing, reasons, details), in particular from the point of view of the communication, wonder what Raph is thinking, how he feels about his work being erased and compromised with one simple gesture, why he isn’t ranting about how SOE is handling the transition like he did in the past (And not limited to this example). And finally the design, of course.

It’s just overwhelming and writing about everything just would require too much work. So I’ll just copy the notes as they came out naturally without trying to cover all the points.

To begin with, my biggest surprise and doubt is about how this whole thing is being handled. In particular the letter from the producer sounds so artificial and distant from the actual perception of the players. With a so big change incoming that is going to sweep the whole game like a tsunami, you just cannot pretend to exhibit a good smile and state that everything is going to go well. That’s really just not appropriate. The PR fluff in these cases is useless. Let’s talk about what the hell is going on, instead. Why so much work has been put in the expansions and CU when now all is going to be wiped. Let’s talk about this sudden decision with just a two weeks forewarning. Let’s talk about the complete isolation of this shadow ongoing development from player’s feedback, correspondents and general discussion. Let’s talk about all that was written till today that clearly contradicts the new stance. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

The communication of this whole transitons lacks efficacy. There are way too many doubts and incoherencies. This is a complete U-turn. But what is surprising isn’t about the new changes. What is surprising is an overturn of the whole attitude, something that needs a reason that cannot be limited just to the game. This is a radical change for SOE as a whole that must be excused in a way or another and there must be something going on that we don’t know.

The reaction, instead, is nowhere surprising (mixing randomly those points I consider valid, mostly Haemish):

You all know how much I hate SOE. But I have to give them props, this is the gutsiest thing I have ever seen an MMOG developer do. They have gutted the entire game, which has the HUGE financial risk of alienating their entire current player base, and it sounds like they have started from scratch. If it works, they will have redeemed themselves in my eyes. If it doesn’t, it was still gutsy, it’s just worthy of ridicule.

Gee I’m glad you guys are impressed. The rest of us, like me, that rebuilt this apparent shithole from the ground up after they gutted the playerbase the first time basically logged in today to watch most of my 390+ member guild discussing quitting.

I’m not surprised that the communities we’ve made over the past 2 years mean shit to SOE, or this venue apparently. My only hope is that Haemish will hire on to shoot me in the fucking head if I ever pay SOE another cent.

Julio Torres, refused to listen to the customer base for 2 years straight. To date, they’ve barely addressed the Top Whatever Lists of items the community is telling them over and over and over again are their concerns. The number one thing that consumers have begged for are standards and content. At the end of the day, their answer has continually been to destroy the work and efforts of the playerbase and rewrite everything (especially the ruleset), again. Disdain for their players has been a rampant theme from every CS or programmer I’ve met, easily three sentences into any conversation

The community of Star Wars DID just get shit upon. But, and I’ll try to be clear, it’s become painfully obvious that the size of the community for SWG was not what either SOE or Lucasarts wanted. You weren’t bringing in the money. It was a dying game, dying way too soon before it’s time. No one official has said it, but it’s the feeling that has been out there for a while. Lots of things have been tried. They released the Jump to Lightspeed. More Wookies. A completely revamped but still MMOGy combat system. None of it seems to have made enough difference in the wallet.

My thoughts are that if this DOESN’T work long-term, SWG will be dead in a year. This is the kind of all-or-nothing change that will either work or kill the game for good. I’d guess that a quarter of the player base will not like it just on principle. Some of them may like it once they play it (if it doesn’t suck monkey balls). But keeping on the current pace was probably going to kill it in a year or two anyway. These games, despite what people would have you believe, do not have infinite life cycles.

They were listened to? Is that why the community reps — the correspondents — have never heard of this? Is that why many of them logged in yesterday to learn that the profession they represet no longer exists?

There were volumes of posts in what needed changing prior to the first CURB. The system they had WORKED. It needed tweaking, not re-writing. They strung along the CU “Alpha Testers” for months, and eventually pushed the first CU on the player base (after changing direction on it halfway thru it’s development) so fast that it’s a wonder it got tested at all.

All the players have ever wanted were meaningful professions that actually did what their name represented (smugglers who SMUGGLED, for example) and a less buggy game. SOE seems to want to use the existing community as some kind of fucked up Pavlov’s Dog experiment for all of these different game engines and mechanics. They clearly don’t give a crap about the communities that the players have built over the past 30 months.

To add to what Shockeye said, yes, this was a pigfucker way to announce it to the audience. There would have been whines no matter what, but to say “Here’s an expansion, SURPRISE BITCHES!”

That’s some good, quality pigfucking right there.

My considerations, instead, start from a comment by Krones:

While the combat system sounds far more promising than the previous incarnations, it may be a little too late.

I don’t agree with that. Many players will be back to check how this will go. If the game is actually good (the “twitch” idea is at best a superficial envelope, what will matter is below) they will stay and drag in more and more players. If the game *deserves* a success, the success will come, maybe slowly but steadily. The problem is simply whether a complete redesign and a shift of pace could still lead to a good product that is coherent, consistent and valid. Not compared to the previous version, on its own.

In fact I think I don’t agree with anyone this time. Darniaq wrote how these changes follow the same binary of the discussion on Grimwell but I don’t really agree with that. My principle while discussing there was again that the aim should be about *valorizing* and streamlining what the game had already. Concisely: build on top of what was before, moving parts of the design so that they could be more consistent.

This is why I suggested to not separate the roleplay professions, the same that Darniaq wrote in his recap but that isn’t actually present in the new design. In fact I clearly remember that this was my very own idea. Darniaq proposed to consolidate the professions into one, while I was fighting to demonstrate that the “roleplay” professions should be an added layer accessible to everyone, instead of an exclusive focus cutting out the other “hemisphere” of the game (mostly the combat). Today we see that Darniaq’s idea got accepted, while mine wasn’t.

The same basically happened with the combat. Darniaq and Sky strongly supported a twitch based combat inspired to Planetside while I didn’t see this as something viable and I proposed a middle path. A compromise that again was aimed at streamlining what it was already available instead of alienating the current mechanics to overturn everything and replace it with something completely different. My idea was rather simple: keep the RPG combat but integrate it with more concrete and believable elements (compared to fancy icons and sparkle effects). Like the arcs of fire, Line of Sight, taking cover behind objects, smoother and natural controls etc…

And then I proposed to streamline the PvE, the LFG tools and so on. All ideas that were just discarded. Now I’m not whining because Darniaq’s idea were appreciated while mine rejected (my real goal would be to have them discussed, that’s what would make me really happy). But again I cannot say that I support what is happening to the game. For sure I’m excited and I anticipate these changes. For sure this is way better than no ideas and changes at all. But it’s still not something I would have personally suggested and that makes me rather bewildered.

I didn’t expect SOE to work behind the scenes on something like this. It’s sort of hard to believe it was a project going on from more than one year. It looks way more like a “coup de main” also considering all the work wasted on the CU and the two PVE expansions. What I mean is that this doesn’t seem anywhere planned. It seems instead extemporary and impulsive and I really cannot believe that it’s all smooth and there isn’t some sort of drama involved behind the scenes with people running and screaming “I quit!” along the corridors of SOE headquater. It surprising to read that this change will be rolled out in two weeks and not as an optional server, but as a definite choice that will be imposed to everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, I *strongly* support the determination to make radical choices instead of branching the game into optional rulesets that go nowhere and just make the game even harder to maintain and improve. Those choices and their courage is fundamental to create good games. But then these are those fancy thoughts I keep raving about and despite I strongly believe in their validity I also don’t expect them to be accepted by bigger companies. Instead they are doing this and I’m positively surprised. They aren’t sitting on their asses while watching the game sinking in its problems, nor they are gliding on the surface, scared to do anything else. Instead they go more radical than how I would ever expect. And this is good. This keeps things alive, good or bad, but alive. It rises the interest, people talk again about the game, polemize. This conflict fuels the creativity and puts the premises about what will follow. This disquietude is always good, no matter about the actual design or my opinions about the details.

So, while I could still criticize the design and how SOE is handling this transition, I do appreciate that there’s the will to dare and keep things alive and kicking. And even if this will end in another colossal clusterfuck with fireworks, it will still be better than drowning in a monotonous mediocrity. Enjoy the ride!

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