All your flaming worldly possessions

I spent last weekend trying to decide the best way to end it all — in Star Wars Galaxies, that is, which we learned will be shutting down in less than six months. Star Wars Galaxies was and is a brilliant sandbox game, which I loudly proclaimed in “The Uncle Owen Paradox” Soapbox rant column just two days before I sat down to talk to Smedley for Massively to hear the awful news. For the record, crow tastes terrible.

We’re calling it a sunset, but maybe it’s really a sunrise. When you only have six months to “live,” you have to prioritize your activities, and you’re freed up to do things you couldn’t or wouldn’t before. I have a list of things I wanted to see and do before the end, like set up a base for my guild when it returns for the end-times events, maybe work out a small plotline, check out the new dances, tool around in my YT-1300, zip through the recent themeparks, and finish off my Ithorian medic (go Ithies!). Primarily, I mean to craft a whole crapton of stuff. SWG’s crafting is unsurpassed, so play with it while you can — now I have an excuse to use those top-end resources I used to hoard, too afraid to use them. How liberating! Of course, I used to craft food and armor and droids to sell; I’m an unrepentant market-PvPer. Nothing is selling now, so instead, I’ll give it away for next to nothing. Might I be tanking the market for “real” crafters? A month ago, yes. Now? What market, exactly? The money means nothing. We’re giving up the condo life and all our flaming worldly possessions. Why not make some noobs or nostalgic returning vets happy? What else am I supposed to do with billions of credits and resources and rares that will blink out of existence on December 15th?

Still, I can’t help but feel a sense of deep sadness at the loss of the game, not just for me but for the genre — like when an underappreciated prodigy dies too young. We’re all robbed of what could have been.

The SWG drama was counterbalanced by the good fortunes of another of my top three MMOs, one that released less than a year after SWG itself: City of Heroes. Last week, Paragon Studios announced it is taking CoH free-to-play in one of the more palatable Western conversions I’ve seen to date. I had some suspicions along those lines, given the recent store sales, Freedom server stress-test, and the success of the booster packs, but I had just as many fears that the game would be sunsetted itself. NCsoft is not known for letting average games linger on, and I worried that Going Rogue might be the game’s last hurrah (especially when so many Paragon employees were reportedly laid off after the expansion’s launch). Instead, I’m forced to praise NCsoft’s vision to stick by an older game that doggedly triumphs in spite of multiple superhero competitors. Someone at NCsoft must love the hell out of the game to have first pumped money into an expansion six years into the game’s life and now pump more money into massive overhaul-cum-conversion. I’m sure it’ll make money, but I’m not sure NCsoft wouldn’t make more money doing something else. That sort of dedication to unique IPs and long-term investment into the game isn’t seen much. SOE’s EverQuest franchise ranks up there, I suppose. Those games seem to have never-ending development and expansions.

But LucasArts hasn’t got that vision. In fact, it’s being terribly reckless with its fanbase. LA is taking me for granted, and that’s irksome. I will still buy SWTOR; most Star Wars fans will. But I’ll love it a whole lot less, and I’ll be much less inclined to live and invest in that game now that I know LucasArts will cavalierly and heartlessly strip licenses from unique and profitable games on a whim. In eight more years, it’ll be EA’s turn, and I don’t want to be the sucker mourning SWTOR.

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2 Comments

  1. Demuse says:

    Is there ever a good way for any MMO to come to an end? The whole genre is just young enough that all the biggest successes are still going, and only games with acknowledged flaws have ever shut down. SWG is arguably the most criticized of the A-list titles (justly or not) so it’s no surprise that it didn’t outlive WoW, for example. But many of the best are showing their age: UO, EQ, AC, AO, CoH, WoW, GW, etc. Can they continue indefinitely, with updates and expansions? Should they? How long is a good run? Whether they last 8, 10, 12, or 15 years, is there any good way for an MMO to finally end? Should they quit proudly while they’re still ahead, or fade and wither and linger for years? Or is there another option?

    We invest so many hours, it’s painful to think it will all come to nothing. But that’s life, too. I’m reminded of my parent’s house, an 80-year-old character home, lovingly renovated and immaculately maintained with a spectacular garden, all but bulldozed by the developer who bought it. We often motivate ourselves to build or accomplish something, whether it’s a house, or personal fitness, or wealth, or a max-level character, with thoughts that once it’s done it will last for a long time and bring vast enjoyment in the future. But life is a journey, not a destination.

    I think EVE is perhaps the best example of a game that keeps growing and expanding and improving. It gets better every year and doesn’t show its 8 years of age, in its graphics, gameplay, or economy. On the other hand, the presence of 8-year veterans with their accumulated wealth, power, and knowledge, is so intimidating that it deters me from starting now. As the industry continues to evolve, can an entire game engine be updated to keep pace for ever? Can any game economy be healthy and stable indefinitely, so a new player can join 10 years later and enjoy the low-level experience as much as the launch-day pioneers did? Should a game linger for years with a dwindling population of aging veterans if it doesn’t capture new players?

    Growing old is terra incognita for the MMO genre. But the new wave of highly anticipated, revolutionary titles like SWTOR, GW2 and TSW will nail shut many more coffins in the next few years, I’m sure. SWG is the first real giant to fall, and I’m curious to see how it lives out its last days, because it will set the precedent. And when GW2 finally explodes on the scene, it will be interesting to see how ArenaNet and NCSoft treat GW in its golden years.

    • ArcherAvatar says:

      @Demuse
      I will be very surprised if original GW is affected at all by the success of GW2 once it is released.
      Taking a “bottom-line” point of view (as all developers/publishers will be prone to do) it’s simply a matter of whether or not income from GW continues to meet expectations for a game of it’s age. To say that they have made back their investment on development is an understatement of profound proportions but, that aside, it’s really just about “is the game making more than it costs to maintain it?” That’s bottomline for any game really.
      It really cannot be overstated how very, very different GW2 is from the original as well. Other than the lore, the two games bear almost nothing else in common. Completely different systems, and game mechanics. So, there will still be a crowd that the original appeals to more.

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