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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Account Based Progression

Posted by MikeB Sunday September 30 2012 at 6:39PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight we're focusing on the thread, "SWTOR's great idea that games should be implementing" by strangiato2112. In the thread, strangiato2112 discusses SWTOR's account-based progression feature and explains why developrs should go this route with their games:

Lost in how disappointing the game was and how poorly this system was implemented, SWTOR really had an idea that any level based game should openly embrace:  the Legacy system.

But instead of focusing on the details of how SWTOR implemented it, lets call it for what it really is:  Account wide alternate advancement.  And this should be an MMORPG staple.

All level based games suffer from the max level syndrome.  Most games, once you hit max level, your character is 100% done with progression.  Then it turns into gear progression, which isnt improving your character at all beause once that gear is taken off the imporvement vanishes.  Its temporary improvement.

EQ was one of the few smart ones, it realized this issue and implemented AAs.  Problem is, and Rift with its watered down version of AAs has experienced this, is it makes people not want to play alts.  but account wide AAs?  Not only are you heling your main, you are helping your alt as well.

Now SWTOR chose the Legacy System to act differently, and a smart implementation of a non-character progression system can work for the right type of players.  RP types can have more options to unlock for housing for instance.  There always stuff like WoW's heirloom gear that can be tied to it for altaholics, or appearance gear.  The key thing is to give lots of choice so they can customize their account how they want to.

I hope more games jump on this idea.

Does the MMORPG.com community agree? Read on to find out!

VirusDancer can see the appeal, but it doesn't really do it for him:

Might have helped to link to this:  http://www.swtor.com/info/legacy  :for those that had no clue what you were talking about with the Legacy stuff.

That being said, hrmm - perhaps for folks with altitis that enjoy their own form of grinding alts, this would definitely be something of interest to them...perhaps not.  It might hit up the folks in between though - those that were looking for something between the single toon grind and the grinding alts thing.

In the end to me, though - it just reeks of there not being enough content - so here's another means to grind the same content.  It's the same poop wrapped in a different colored bow... might be a really pretty bow, but it's still wrapped around poop.

That's just my opinion of course - I prefer continued playability to replayability - I've done my fair share of seeking medication and counseling for altitis as well as grinding carrots.

Different folks - different strokes and all that; so I can see where some folks would definitely enjoy it in other games...but it's just not my thing.

stratasaurus is in agreement with our OP:

I have to agree some form of Account wide advancing should be part of every major MMO.  Alts are part of the MMO world now really almost noone just makes one main and calls it a day and some system to join that into the game is almost silly not to have and silly everyone has not thought about it and done it by now.

Chiram reminds us of the pitfalls of account-based progression:

I would just like to point out... that while a system that rewards how long a person has been "playing" on the account is good... it's a double edged sword. This system that has been re-worded and used in previous MMOs can actually keep away new or long absent returning players. The "achiever" crowd frowns upon systems like this because in their mind, they don't want to be playing 2+ years just get what someone "now" has. 

Me personally, I could care less but I have had friends I game with refuse to play MMOs that do this if they are new/returning players.

I personally loved SWTOR's Legacy system. Account-based progression is definitely an interesting feature that I can see fitting many MMO titles. The Legacy system in particular allows you to tailor each alts leveling experience to whatever activities you prefer to partake in on that character. Love doing warzones and don't care about the Jedi Knight's story? Unlock the Warzone XP bonuses and go to town! There are also a smattering of other convenience options to unlock and I can't really see them as anything but a net bonus.

How do you feel about account-based progression systems? Let us know in the comments below!

Pandaria: Day One

Posted by garrett Tuesday September 25 2012 at 1:16PM
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I got up early to play Mists this morning and begin my exploration of Pandaria. Undergeared and learning the new talents, I ventured forth. I wanted to list out the good and bad on my first impressions today. Also, I plan to continue tonight and work through all of Jade Forest and hopefully try some of the other systems.  I will say this, there are very certain game mechanics that have been introduced lately to MMOs that have really impacted my play in WoW. Let’s not even be coy about it, I’m talking about Guild Wars 2, and others like The Secret World, TERA, and even SWTOR.

Let’s start with the good things however. Logging into the game I found myself back in Orgrimmar with a new quest for war. Heading into to see Hellscream the short cut scene was fun to watch. The Alliance found some new island in the mists? Go and destroy them! What a great approach; I am sold! Got on the ship and flew over to Pandaria to discover the Jade Forest and a huge battle with the Alliance going on as we got into view. The quick cannon quest was fun and then it asked you to rappel down from the ship to the temple where the Alliance camps were. Well I fell, who cares, I’m a shaman and can reincarnate. So up I go to check things out.

This is where the not so good begins. I realize I never completed the rappel quest from the ship therefore I cannot unlock any other quests until that one is completed. Hey what about open zones and events? Oh wait… wrong game. Luckily I found a portal up to the ship and was able to rappel down. Suddenly the camp unlocks and my quests appear. Now I have to go and destroy some ammo stores as well as kill Alliance. Up the temple steps I go to find other players destroying ammo and fighting Allies. I run over to start attacking a lion-shirted goody-good and suddenly realize his bar is grey. Someone else had pulled the kill from me and I wasn’t getting XP for the fight. But…but… why can’t we help each other?

These two simple mechanics came to light very quickly for me and I realized I was spoiled. I still had to contend with players for mobs and objectives to do my quests. Also, if I didn’t complete something to the letter, I could not unlock the zone quests further. It all seemed so linear. I began to get disappointed.

I completed the quests and followed the formula, but that was just it. The formula for MMOs has changed.  So now I had to be careful and make sure I finished all my quests. I also had to try and find places where players were not in vast numbers to achieve my goals. I soldiered on though and found the quests and storyline pretty interesting. I love the Sha and their Dark Karmic approach. It was cool to have them spawn when you hurt the land of Pandaria. Once I got through the initial quests we went into the storyline more and I was at Honeydew Village picking up more to do.

I have not yet tried the pet battles or any dungeons. I do look forward to exploring more in the open world first. I always like to at least be one level into the expansion before entering any instances. For me, Mists is still World of Warcraft. It is fun and I do love my shaman that I have since day one almost 8 years ago. I switched back to enhancement spec on talents to level and will keep restoration in reserve for instances. The overall experience was a good one, yet it was marred by some of the mechanics that Guild Wars 2 has built into its everyday game play and cannot break free from. The largest was not getting experience for helping other players. I never really thought about how important a feature like that truly is! Mists of Pandaria is definitely fun, and it breathes some life into an aging game, but I’d be willing to bet that Blizzard is watching its competitors and that with a few big patches we might see some changes that definitely would improve a few mechanics. Sorry Azeroth, Tyria has some great stuff to it. You’re just going to have to learn to share the spotlight. 

Community Spotlight: Old School Leveling Times

Posted by MikeB Sunday September 23 2012 at 8:22PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Am I the only one that misses leveling over years?" by Gravarg. In the thread, Gravarg laments the new school pace of leveling in MMOs and yearns for a time when leveling would end up being a six month process (or longer!):

I guess you could call me old school, or a grumpy old man, but I truly miss the old days when it took at least 6 months to level to max level.  In today's games it takes maybe a week, if you're slow, to get to max level.  I truly believe that in MMOs, unlike other games, the "end" should never be there.  Yes, today's developers add in content for capped characters to do, but it's just not the same as leveling up.  Take Guild Wars 2 for instance, I heard that a player leveled from level 1-80 in 2 days...really?  That couldn't be fun at all, and it misses the whole point of MMOs.  I think alot of developers (and players) have forgotten that in MMOs the "endgame" isn't what MMOs are about.  It's about exploration, discovery, learning new things, and yes killing.  Old MMOs had more to do with learning than today's MMOs.  Today's MMOs you can log in day one, and never have to go find some spreadsheet telling you which weapon is best for your level.  Today's MMOs you never have to go to a wiki, or heaven-forbid, buy an actual book with a map and how-tos, just so you don't get lost.

I know there will probably never be a game like old EQ or old DAoC or old Ultima Online or really old Neverwinter Nights, back when it took a minimum of 6 months to get to the end.  Heck, in the original DAoC it took longer to get the last 2 levels than it does to get to cap in today's games.  Alas, there is no real reason for developers to make games like this anymore.  The majority of players aren't like me.  They want thier rewards upfront and as soon as possible.  They don't want to spend hours on end killing things or doing quests just to get a single level.  They want 20 levels in that time.

Just my two cents from an old dinosaur lol.

How's the MMORPG.com community feel about this subject? Read on to find out!

Acidon is certainly in agreement:

Remember when they added the little blue line to the experience bar in EQ?  So that you could almost see your XP move, representing a fraction of one bubble? =)   That was back when there were still "hell levels".

Yes I miss those days.  It was about the *journey*.  It was about friends, huge guilds, player-made events, contests, weddings.

During the days of respect.  Of being responsible for yourself and your name.  With progression being as it was, if you created a bad name for yourself you had to live with it.

Yeah I'll stop, I'm already going off on tangents. 

Yes, I miss that type of progression.

And no, you can't go back.  Those games are just a shell of their former selves.  Leveling has been sped up considerably and you get free great gear that's amazing for your level.  No more loot rotting on corpses. etc etc.  Blah.

EDIT:  Yes I'm old.  But i've also changed with the times and currently enjoy two great MMORPGs.  Rift and TSW.

Starpower takes off the rose-tinted glasses:

I don't miss having to sit for an hour to get my mana back so I could get back in the saddle again, or waiting 20 minutes on a boat so I can get to an xp spot that is available and good, nor do I miss sitting on one spot while some puller pulls the same 5 mobs for 5 - 6 hours, or having to buy a second account so I can heal my warrior to keep downtime at a minimum..

All those timesinks and more I don't bother to mention, to slow levelling down to a crawl. I don't miss those. If a game can stretch out the leveling pace without throwing tons of stupid timesinks at me then I'm with the OP all the way.

Leogham offers a different take on the subject:

I don't miss leveling over years for leveling sake. What I miss is that journey actually meaning something. Even in games like EQ people could do nothing but play and hit level caps much faster than anyone else, but EQ wasn't originally desiged for that to mean anything but give people bigger epeens. End game wasn't the focus of the first few iterations of EQ. Now all games are designed so that 90% of the time and content is dedicated to end game, the journey to end game is ignored.

For me, it all depends. I'll use two examples: Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes. Arguably, my most fun adventuring in an MMO was in Star Wars Galaxies. While one didn't level in the basic sense of the word, there certainly was a grind to be had, but that grind wasn't the game itself. Options for progression went in many different directions, so while it did take a bit to get through any particular track, the gameplay experience didn't really suffer as a result. This is the "journey" argument that Leogham essentially brought up. For some people, an artificially long leveling experience forces them to 'enjoy the journey', but I disagree with this approach. If the gameplay naturally encourages you to enjoy the journey without hitting you with a brick wall of grind, that's probably the ideal solution.

In City of Heroes, it took quite a while to level a single character and trick it out such that it really felt super powered. This was especially frustrating to me because that game was all about having multiple characters and it was hard to really get a feel for how awesome a character concept was until you had really gotten through a good chunk of the leveling process. This ended up making the game really grindy and it really wasn't enjoyable when you wanted to work on more than one character at a time or found yourself with a neat new character concept.

So, as I said earlier, it all depends. In a game where you really only have one character, such as Star Wars Galaxies, and the core of the game itself is really about that journey, the long progression doesn't really bother me. However, in games that encourage you to make multiple characters with all the cool classes or races on offer, it's a huge turn off for me. I'm often excited for new character concepts and the long drawn out leveling process has been a huge block for me in pursuing them. If it's already going to take me six months or longer on one character, I'm much less likely to consider rolling up a second character afterwards.

How do you feel about today's MMO pacing? Do you yearn for the old school MMO experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: The Decline of Socialization?

Posted by MikeB Sunday September 16 2012 at 8:41PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we're focusing on the thread, "Socializing getting the shaft, from us the players?" by Dewm. In the thread, Dewm hits on a recent trend of discussions on the state of socialization on MMOs. Dewm feels socialization is on the decline in MMOs and pins the cause on the pace of contemporary MMOs:

So this thread is kinda in conjunction with the other socializing thread on the board here. But I didn't feel it was on toppic enough to post there.

But in the discusion people were talking about whether grouping is the same as socializing, which quickly turned into a thread about why you like or dislike chatting in groups and what not..

... my view/question would be:

    Is chatting and socializing getting the shaft because games are quicker these days. Here is what I mean, it used to be in the old days, it would take 10minutes-1hour to get a group togeather and in this meantime you would be sitting in a partial group chatting it up, and then you would go to said zone and start killing mobs, now the attacks were slow enough you could quickly get out some chat in the meantime "Mob behind you", "don't pull the rabbit" "buff please" etc etc... and then the whole group would have a 20 second cooldown before the next pull/attack.. Lots of time for chat.

But nowdays everything is so fast paced, you join a random group, 1-2minutes.. you get auto transported to the begenning on the dungeon, you zone in...start kiling stuff and all of the skills happen so fast and have fast enough of a cooldown that not many people chat and there is no communications, which not only leads to less socializing but also less communications leads to more mistakes = more disasters.. frustration etc..

so I guess I'm wondering what your opinion is.

Is Dewm correct in his assessment? Read on to find out what the community has to say!

Aerowyn certainly agrees:

I agree with the OP ...fast pace of games definitely attributes to the feeling of lack of socialization for some people.. like the OP said back in the old MMO days you generally had time to talk during fights and the pace of everything was much slower in many games. Nowadays I don't see this type of game really getting mass appeal anymore as obviously the more "action based" combat systems seem to be taking more center stage... but think of it like CS or CoD.. all very team oriented online games that require teamwork and coordination to do well yet no one types anything because to be productive you NEED to really be on voice chat.. voice chat is much much bigger nowadays than it was in the past and this as well can attribute to some people feeling games as being less social.

evolver1972 sees what Dewm is seeing, but has a number of different theories as to why things are the way they are these days:

Mama told me never to talk to strangers.  I think that's a big aspect of the anti social behavior in many games today.  It used to be that only a certain type of person (usually geeky teenaged males - no offense, just telling it like it was!) tended to play MMOs, or even RPGs in general.  So, most everyone had a common passion that came out quickly in most interactions in the game playing.  That common ground was a natural ice-breaker for many people, so it was easy to build a fairly tight-knit community especially within a guild setting.

Then comes WoW.  If nothing else, it put MMOs into the mainstream.  But now that means that many people no longer have that common ground at first.  The new people to MMO gaming didn't have that passion for RPGs and MMOs, they had a curiosity about a game and then maybe developed a passion for that particular game.  Some of those people have branched out to other games and may be a little more social than the freshest MMO noob, but are still not as social as the old school players.

Fast forward to today, and most people are living fast paced lives, so they don't have much time to devote to slowing down and talking to people.  They also have a heightened sense of security which brings them right back to the "don't talk to strangers".  I think many people shy away from talking to others online, even in a game, because they just don't know, and hence don't trust, the person on the other computer.

Khaeros is perfectly happy with the current MMO climate:

As a guild leader, I prefer the current MMO climate.

Back in the so-called "good old days", people were forced to socialize in order to progress.  To some people on here, being forced to socialize sounds like a good idea, but let's take it apart a bit more. 

If players are forced to socialize, then the people who don't want to socialize have to look for a guild.  When they decide to join my guild (which is based around social events, hosting world events for all gameplay types, and generally being a respectful force that strives to leave the community better than it was), they fill up my guild roster and don't show up to all the stuff we focus on - except the events that reward them with the loot they need to go forward.  I do not want this kind of player in my guild.

These days, if players want socialization, they are forced to seek it out themselves.  Therefore, almost everyone who applies to my guild is genuinely interested in socializing and being a positive force in the community.  Because the people who are solely in it for the loot have other options, I now have no doubt that anyone who expresses interest in my guild has the 'right' reasons for doing so. 

The only people who can't find socialization in the current MMO landscape are people who are plain bad at socializing.  This is exactly how it should be, and my guild has prospered because of it. 

If you want to play socially, find guilds like mine.  Hit up the forums.  Get involved with the people who act as caretakers for the server you are on, like the people who often get their posts stickied.  Join user chat channels and actually talk to people instead of whining on MMORPG.com about it.  Don't be awkward. 

If you can't find social players, then there's something wrong with your approach

 

I am seeing a lot of what Dewm is seeing, as well. I do think a lot of it does have to do with the pacing of MMOs these days, but at the same time, I don't necessarily want to go back to where MMOs forced socialization down your throat.

All my favorite MMO memories are social ones, especially those in Star Wars Galaxies, but if I take off my rose-tinted glasses for a moment, I really only had time to do most of that socialization due to SWG's pacing. There was a lot of prep involved in adventuring in Star Wars Galaxies and it was that pacing that encouraged players to talk to each other. Sitting around in a camp buffing before taking on Ft. Tusken, getting entertainer buffs at a nearby cantina, these all took long enough that you'd be inclined to talk to other people in the vicinity. I enjoyed all of that socialization quite a bit and I've made friends that I game with to this day as a result of it, but would I want to play an MMO today that was slow enough in pace to encourage the same levels of socialization? I'm not too sure.

I have a full-time job now and my own social circle on voice chat that it's become a bit less important. I think this is probably true for a lot of us and that combined with the current breakneck pacing of most MMOs is likely the culprit for the lack of traditional socialization.

I feel many developers have recognized this over the years and that's why instead of trying to go back to the way things are, MMOs have evolved to make playing with others seamless and accessible. Implicit grouping via Public Quests, RIFTs, or dynamic events seems to be where the trend is heading and it's this sort of content design that encourages players to get together and play, even if most of these relationships are transient in nature. I guess you could say that these designs further enable the current trend of things, but I don't think going back to the designs of old would even work today. Players just wouldn't play those games. I know many of us here at MMORPG.com might, but looking at the broader market, I don't think an MMO with the pacing of say, SWG, would really work in  today's MMO landscape.

MMOs still offer the potential for a great deal of socialization, but as Khaeros said, it's more up to us to seek that out specifically if we want it.

What do you think of the state of MMO socialization? And why are things the way they are? Let us know in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Favorite PvP Memory

Posted by MikeB Sunday September 9 2012 at 8:01PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "What is your fondest pvp memory?" by Thebigthrill. In the thread, Thebigthrill shares his own favorite PvP memory and asks the MMORPG.com community to offer up theirs:

I was in my couch this morning thinking of pvp and how the new pvp battlegrounds in mmorpg's have ruined pvp.

I was thinking of what I missed and thought of Asherons Call 1 and how much fun I had in it.

One  thing that happened to me in that game that I still remember to this day.

Some of this is a little sketchy since its been so long since I played.

1.I had a mage or some kind of caster. I was around level 40 something and I entered a dungeon I would guess for level 15 or so players. My toons name was Doxx.

I remember a group of 4 entering the dungeon , I went to the middle of the dungeon waiting for them.

A few minutes later they appeared and this is somewhat what the chat looked like.

Random toon: Hey look theres someone in here

Random toon2:Hello

Doxx: It is time

Random toon: Time for what Doxx?

Doxx: Time to die!  (I threw out a fire aoe killing the group)

Random players: Wtf! Assh***

Random toon1:Assh***!

(A few minutes later they appear again)

Random Toon: Hey Doxx can we finish this dungeon please?

Doxx: No! (Boom Fire Aoe , they die again)

(A few minutes later I see them appear in chat again)

Random Toon: If you keep this up , we will call in more people.

Doxx: Im sorry , you all may finish.

Random toon:Thank you

Doxx: Do you know what today is?

Random Toon: No Doxx whats today?

Doxx: The worst day of your life! (Boom fire Aoe , they die again)

(About 10 minutes later they appear with a friend a level 30 something)

Random toon whispers me :Hey this is funny shit do you mind if I watch you please dont kill me?

I whisper back:Sure np , stand to the side and enjoy.

Random toon 2: Ok everyone charge at him , hey where is random player 1 going? Why is he standing next to Doxx?

(Random player 1 starts to laugh and taunt the other players, random player 1 is now my friend)

(They all charge me)

Doxx: No one can stand the fire power of Doxx! (Fire Aoe nuke , they all die again)

(This continues for the next hour me and random player 1 become friends)

A few months later I run into random player 1 , he is now 5 levels above me and much more powerful.

We talk about that day , we become best friends in game for the next couple of years.

Read on for some awesome PvP tales!

Keller shares a tale of PvP in Darkfall:

It was in Darkfall. The city of our allies got sieged. Basically our entire Alliance was in their city; 700+ players. The enemy had even bigger numbers as 2 alliances worked together to get this city. Bored in town, I volunteered to scout. I went up a mountain and right before I reached the top, they came over it. I turned around and was followed by 400+ mounted players. Racing down the hill and over the open, desperate to reach the city gate. Then a hailstorm of arrows, manabolts (standard attack for all players) and the cannonball from city's cannons came down on me. I had to dodge friendly fire, but managed to get to the gates. No time to "pocket" my mount, I used my launch spell which did not fail and flew to safety on the citywall. Luckily my allies saw I was a friendly and did not knock me back down.

Never a dull moment on Nilfheim (at least not during the first 6 months after launch).

Quirhid's got some competitive GW1 experience to share:

Some epic GvG matches in GW1's ladder, events and tournaments.

For example, during the E3 of 2005 Arenanet had the unofficial Korean champions playing in their booth against top ladder teams from around the world. During the 3 days of E3, none of the top teams had beaten the Koreans Then finally it was our turn. We were the last challenger; if they beat us they would leave E3 undefeated.

No one had heard of us, we were completely unknown to the world-wide GW1 community. The day before the favorites, some American team had lost in an embarrassing match which was also filmed and uploaded to Youtube (can't find it anymore tho).

...and we beat them.

Not only did we beat them, but it wasn't even close! If I remember correctly, none of us died during the match - ending in a flawless victory. And 4 out of 8 their characters were reduced to 60% death penalty, meaning they had died enough times they no longer respawned. That was a big boost for us. Its a shame our match wasn't filmed because I guess they thought we'd lose too just like the rest. I would've liked to hear the casters.

Open world PvP has left me cold by comparison.

jacklo's favorite PvP encounter was in Star Wars Galaxies (post-NGE!):

My favorite memory was in SWG on Chilastra.

It was during the NGE and as a Rebel Bounty Hunter I tracked a mark to Theed. I headed to the square right out of the starport and there he was. A Jedi I'd never beaten in a fair fight before. He looked AFK so I scanned the area because I was combatant and Theed was full of high level Imperial NPC's who would shoot me on sight.

I decided to open fire and within a few seconds he retaliated, obviously back at the keyboard.

Shit he's hitting hard I thought... before realising someone else was hitting me. A tag-team of 3 Bounty Hunters had appeared from nowhere and my health was critically low.

I quickly hit my shields and ran for the med center, trying to get out of their line-of-sight. I ran around the outside dropping traps at each corner to slow them down and give me time to get my act together. Fortunately my mark whispered that he wouldn't attack and stood their watching the fight.

The whole thing lasted maybe 5 minutes, but felt like 30. Luck must have been on my side because with some nifty trap work and conserving my stamina, I managed to take out 2 of the 3 bounty hunters, finally losing to the 3rd, but even that was so close only one shot was in it. I had also started taking damage from NPC's in my kiting attempts.

That was the ultimate adrenaline rush I ever had in a game and I was a hairs width of coming out of it alive.

Fun times in SWG.

My favorite individual PvP memory took place in The Matrix Online. It wasn't so much a single event, but it was more the freedom of the setting. Hunting other players down in an open world is a lot of fun with three faction PvP, but it was being able to leap from rooftop to rooftop and chase players down the stairwells of buildings that really made me feel like I was in The Matrix films when doing battle in MXO. The verticality of the zones and the ability to enter pretty much any building made the cat-and-mouse game of open world PvP that much more exciting.

Most of my favorite group PvP memories come from Star Wars Galaxies. There are probably too many to count, but Star Wars Galaxies really had some great large scale battles, both in space and on the ground. Invading an enemy guild's player city, coordinating to blow up enemy faction bases, or just taking part in weekend space PvP dogfights on Starsider are some memories that are really exciting to think about.

How about yours? Share 'em with us in the comments below!