Topic-icon Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two

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2 years 5 months ago - 2 years 5 months ago #38494 by Kazara
Kazara created the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two
Another brilliant SWG blog from Raph Koster. The insight into the development of SWG has been a real eye opener for me. It also makes me happy to know that $OE and LEC/LA are no more. I can't shake the feeling of sadness of what could have been and what could have been still here today. I can only hope that another MMORPG with the depth and complexity that even a broken, incomplete SWG delivered may one day be developed.

I know that combat was the main feature of SWG, but it was all the non-combatant content that truly set it apart from other games - - in fact, it was the reason I decided to jump into SWG at launch. Sadly, this area is largely ignored in most current MMOs and I believe such content could really expand player retention.


www.raphkoster.com/2015/04/22/designing-a-living-society-in-swg-part-two/

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So, for the sake of a larger audience, we made the counter-intuitive choice to go with RPG combat rather than action. Bear in mind that during this time period we had quite an active group playing Unreal Tournament in the office after hours, and two team members were veteran FPS people: Nick Newhard, designer from Monolith, and Justin Randall, programmer from Ion Storm. These two guys each reached the number one ranking on different worldwide leaderboards in UT during SWG’s development. We also had a bunch of Wing Commander veterans and we had, as a team, actually recently implemented network-based space combat on Privateer Online.

I spent a few weeks reading up on military tactics for snipers, for assault teams using semi-automatic weapons, and (since pistols were obviously important to the setting, even if somewhat obsolete in modern warfare). Worse than pistols, of course, we had to account for the license’s affection for swordfighting and martial arts, which extended well beyond Jedi and into things like vibroblades and Teras Kasi, a Star Wars martial art.

swgcombatBased on those materials, I tried to set up as many rock-paper-scissors relationships as I could. Each of these things — melee, pistols, carbines, and rifles — got a different “optimal range” for their combat. Like, rifles were actually pretty useless at carbine range and below. Even pistols were useless when closed at by pistols. The deadliest thing a rifleman could or should expect was a vibroblade between the ribs, as a commando snuck up on him while he was in a sniper’s nest.

To help this along, there was an inverse relationship between mobility and optimal combat distance. Rifles were great at huge distances, but they were most effective if you couldn’t move. Melee or pistols needed to keep moving, chasing down enemies because their range wasn’t great.

To accomplish this, we added a system of “stances.” These would play into a set of attacks which were based around forcing the opponent into disadvantageous stances. Sniping was best when prone, for example.

Lastly, given that we had those three sorts of mana/hp, Health, Action, and Mind, I tried to push each of the combat professions towards one of them.

The result should have been not unlike a tactical card game: executing specials targeted at trying to undermine your opponent, pushing into stances, getting skills that allowed you to tumble from prone to standing quickly again, and so on. Riflemen standing well back, sniping carefully into the melee, with stealthed commandos sneaking around back to take them out. As you burned through your bars using your specials you made yourself briefly vulnerable, as your HAM bars bounced back up quickly, so an attacker looked to hit your weak spot right after you did something cool; basically, every attack you could make “lowered your shields.” And as you were hit, you’d gradually run out of ability to use specials, as your HAM bars’ maximum shrank from actual “wounds.” If someone hit zero, they were only temporarily stunned, and others could run in, drag them to safety or stim them back up with some quick field medicine before an opponent rushed in to give a killing blow.

swgmeleeRight about now, to any player of SWG, what I have described in tandem with the “bouncy” nature of HAM as I originally pictured it, is probably sounding completely unfamiliar to them. And that’s because combat in SWG was a disaster.

With the loss of long-range server updates (the result of a lack of CPU power on the deployment servers), the distinctions between the professions turned to mush. HAM never had any bounce, and timing attack made no sense. You could incapacitate yourself with a special.

We never paper gamed combat. We never prototyped it and built it up from first principles. Like so much in SWG, it was over-designed on paper, because we had to give a 500 page design bible to LucasArts (it was glossy and full color, very pretty). To be honest, I am not sure that any of the people who worked on combat actually liked the system and its ideas. We held testing sessions, and we limited ourselves mostly to seeing if stuff worked at all. Looking back, I feel ashamed and incompetent. The very first item in the vision document was, after all, exciting adventures and thrilling battles.

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Last Edit: 2 years 5 months ago by Kazara.

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2 years 5 months ago - 2 years 5 months ago #38513 by Shayde
Shayde replied the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two
HAHA Raph mentioned delivery services never panning out.

Well, it did. The Underworld Parcel Service (UPS) delivered all over Intrepid and made quite a good living at it. Their reputation didn't need an ingame system, it was above reproach because of word of mouth.

In the end, I was a proud member. Even though I never did much delivering. :)

Of course I was always an Agent, booking entertainers across the galaxy. Another profession that was never in the design books.

P.S... "had combat been stellar and none of this in the game, it might still be running" I highly doubt it. I've played games with great combat, but combat alone doesn't keep me coming back, doesn't make me miss my place in the galaxy.

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Last Edit: 2 years 5 months ago by Shayde.

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2 years 5 months ago #38518 by Kazara
Kazara replied the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two

Shayde wrote: P.S... "had combat been stellar and none of this in the game, it might still be running" I highly doubt it. I've played games with great combat, but combat alone doesn't keep me coming back, doesn't make me miss my place in the galaxy.


I couldn't agree more Shayde. It was all the other non-combatant content (game provided or player made) that attracted and kept me addicted until $OE mutilated SWG beyond playability at the command of the evil LEC/LA overlords. There were a lot of players that never even bothered with combat that constantly played the game. I spent probably 90% or more of my time weapons crafting and doing other enjoyable noncombat activities. The social aspect of this game was nothing short of magnificent!

If it wasn't for the non-combatant sandbox-y goodness of SWG pre-CU, I wouldn't have stuck around long at all. I think Raph maybe seriously undervaluing the importance of such roles and activities in player satisfaction and retention.

I remember the UPS delivery group! I had friends that used you guys and were grateful such a service existed. I recall you booking talent, but what was the name of the guy who set up the Groovefest player events? Keltrien?

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2 years 5 months ago #38521 by Temploiter
Temploiter replied the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two
Maybe he meant that the CU and the NGE wouldn't have happened, flushing further subs down the toilet and hastening the shutter date.

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2 years 5 months ago - 2 years 5 months ago #38522 by Shayde
Shayde replied the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two

Kazara wrote: I recall you booking talent, but what was the name of the guy who set up the Groovefest player events? Keltrien?


Yup. Still a facebook friend.

It took a visionary to come up with the concept of Groovefest, and a visionary like Raph to give us the tools ingame to make it happen.

Shayde
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Last Edit: 2 years 5 months ago by Shayde.

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2 years 5 months ago - 2 years 5 months ago #38524 by Kazara
Kazara replied the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two

Temploiter wrote: Maybe he meant that the CU and the NGE wouldn't have happened, flushing further subs down the toilet and hastening the shutter date.


I think Raph meant if combat was great, the game may have still been around even if they didn't get to the non-combat content, which I highly doubt. As I have said, it was the unheard of new mechanics that attracted me to SWG and without them, it would have been a shadow of what even the buggy unfinished SWG pre-CU was. I may not have even bothered with it to begin with. Now if the combat was great (the way Raph had intended) AND we had all that wonderful sandbox-y non-combatant content - - then maybe we all would be still playing today. Maybe Raph needs to don his creative hat and start at least contemplating the possibilities. :)

[Edit] I just wanted to add that SWG was essentially ruined with the addition of Jedi and the Jedi grind. If enough Jedi were running around, I wouldn't have bothered staying with the game. Jedi was a self-reliant Alpha class that had no business in SWG IMHO.

Racist: [rey-sist] noun; 1. Someone who wins an argument against a Liberal. 2. Anyone who doesn't completely share Liberal ideology.
Last Edit: 2 years 5 months ago by Kazara.

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2 years 5 months ago #38529 by Shayde
Shayde replied the topic: Raph Koster: Designing a Living Society in SWG, part two
To be fair, pre-CU they weren't THAT much of an alpha class, especially to a buffed player with great gear. I know many BHs who took down full jedi masters, and many who could PVP toe to toe with them.

It was harder to solo a Krayt.

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