Role Playing... This would seem like a very important part of a MMORPG right? I mean it is right there in the acronym right? Massively Multiplayer Online ROLE PLAYING Game... Who in their right mind would even think that there would even be a need to discuss the role playing aspect of a MMORPG? Yeah well, as a long time player in the MMORPG game genre, if I had to pick one thing that's quite often missing, I'd have to say common sense. But really, lets be honest here, there's only so much of it we can blame on the games themselves and on the developers behind the game. Everyone really has the right to play the game in the manner that is most enjoyable to them; as long as they're not breaking the rules and Code of Conduct. The problem is how to provide the people who want to RP the ability to do so and also protect them from the people who don't want to RP; and vice-versa.
It seems that the best way to solve this problem is to have RP specific servers. Several games have done this, actually officially labeling the servers in the server list as RP Only; and then being more strict on the out of character activities which take place on those servers. This system makes so much sense to me. Everyone gets what they want with no real cost to the developers. They don't need to create extra servers to do this, simply affix the title "Role Playing" after the server name. But alas, things are not always as they should be... SWG chooses not to take this route. Of course as with any game which doesn't have officially labeled and sanctioned RP servers, the players tend to choose their own "unofficial" RP servers. This kind of initiative on the players part helps somewhat, as it groups a good number of the RPers together allowing them a better opportunity to find others to RP with. However this does not protect them from having to deal with other non-RPers on the same server. SWG does its part to provide all the elements needed for a player to effectively role play to their heart's content. With all the character customization options you can pretty much create the character you want. With the skill based system you're not limited to being a "Warrior" or "Healer"; you can spread your points out and take a little from here and a little from there to make the character with the exact abilities you want. And with the Entertainer and Merchant skill sets you can be a non-combatant character without being forced to be a crafter if that's your cup of tea.
The player run cities and governments definitely add to the toolbox of goodies which aid people who want to role play. The ability to run your own player city with a group of friends or your guild is great fun. This really gives the people who like to play non-combatant type characters, and role play them as well, something to do other than standing around crafting. Add in the player run government system complete with politician skills and you have just about anything anyone could want as far as tools to role play are concerned. It's just such a shame that with all the tools available to make role playing possible, there was not more effort put into encouraging it.
As I stated many times previously, this is my second foray into the Star Wars Galaxies universe. Obviously if I quit playing the first time around it wasn't worth my money then. And to be quite honest I don't feel it is now either. Granted many changes have been made to the game, it is a much better overall product. But I have to say the changes that were made were too little too late. While playing this time around I could not help but to notice how very few people I came across; and I even purposely picked a popular server: Eclipse. The difference between early release and now as far as players online goes is just astronomical. I used to absolutely hate going to any major town because of the huge crowds of people I knew I'd find there. Now it's almost like ghost towns, and a good number of the people I do see are AFK macro shouting about some vendor or player city somewhere. It seems that a lot of people felt like I did initially and left the game.
Maybe the changes being made to the Jedi system and the upcoming expansion will bring some of those people back. I definitely feel that the space expansion will add an enormous amount to the game. It will definitely give it a more Star Wars feel, because really, how can you have Star Wars without epic space battles and chases? The only question is whether or not it will add enough to the game to bring the people back. And in the long run, even this expansion, as nice and helpful to the game as it may be, is just another example of one of the biggest problems with the game. Many of the patches and such throughout the course of the game have almost seemed like they were giving the player base treats to distract them from the major issues with the game. It's like they were almost coming out and saying "Here, have some vehicles and player cities, and forget about the extremely flawed Jedi system for a while." Oh well, we'll just have to wait and see if the expansion and other planned changes will have the affect needed to bring the players back to the game.