Correspondent: The First Rule of Star Wars Galaxies PvP
MMORPG.com Star Wars Galaxies Correspondent Jef Reahard writes this article discussiong the lack of attention that the PvP system in SOE's Star Wars Galaxies has received and why PvP should have been an integral part of the game.
The first rule of Star Wars Galaxies PVP is you don't talk about Star Wars Galaxies PVP. The second rule of Star Wars Galaxies PVP is that you don't talk about Star Wars Galaxies PVP. Okay, so maybe that's a stretch, but given the player-versus-player system's status as one of the most often-neglected game systems in the history of the five year old title, it’s not a stretch to imagine Sony's developers doing their best Ed Norton impersonations while turning a blind eye to the cries of the naysayers on the official forums. While ignoring PVPers isn't always a bad thing, (continual cries for 'balance' have ruined more MMOs than they have helped), the cold war between developer and player is, in this case, emblematic of the general disconnect that is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to Sony's troubled Star Wars game.
What if they made a Star Wars game where nobody fought? Sounds pretty silly, I know, what with 'War' prominently featured in the title of every Lucas licensing product in history, as well as the conventional wisdom of basing games around some sort of competitive conflict. That said, Star Wars Galaxies is a game where virtually no one fights, at least in the near-mythical Galactic Civil War (GCW) that is purportedly happening around the galaxy during the timeframe in which the game takes place. Sure, players run around in Stormtrooper armor, members of the Rebel Alliance are a common sight, and nearly everyone packs heat and dresses in heavy armor, even if they're only out for a stroll to the local bazaar terminal or cantina, but none of these folks have to fight if they don't want to, which begs the question of where they're getting their factional hardware, and more importantly, why they need it.
Some months ago, the powers that be decided to copy the PVP system from World of Warcraft, setting up Rebel and Imperial players on a tiered point tree that grants military rank titles, equipment, and special combat abilities in return for earning a certain amount of points in a week's time (ostensibly by killing players of the opposing faction, more on this in a minute). The earned rank begins to decay after you've reached the rank of Lieutenant, meaning that if you don't log in and kill your allotment of bad guys before the weekly update, you'll find yourself busted down a rank, losing your abilities and titles (but not your previously rewarded/purchased equipment).
Where the system breaks down is in the phenomenon known as 'base- busting,' wherein certain enterprising players use their alternate characters to set up attackable factional bases, then invite hundreds of their factional friends to come and destroy said base, gobbling up a good chunk of GCW reward points in the process. The kicker is that players don't have to actually do anything to earn the points, as long as they're a declared combatant (attackable by factional NPC's), they can stand outside the base and watch the GCW points pour in (and many people even leave their computers during the long, tedious busts, returning some hours later to find their rank and rewards either rising or, at the very least, maintained).
In terms of actual conflict, Star Wars Galaxies features very little of it, and even less of the flavor and variety that a Star Wars fan would expect after seeing the films or reading the hundreds of books and comics that have fleshed out the universe. PvP in Star Wars Galaxies generally happens in and around the city of Restuss, a small town featuring a couple of faction bases and an endless supply of cannon-fodder NPC re-spawns. Outside of this environment (which renders a player 'red', or attackable by the opposing faction, upon entry), the only place PVP happens (other than space-based dogfighting) is when two or more players agree to duel each other; a clumsy mechanic not at all conducive to the galaxy-spanning super war that is prominently portrayed in the majority of Star Wars fiction.
Perhaps the most violent conflict in all of Star Wars Galaxies appears on its official forums where a small but vocal group of GCW alpha- male types continually complain about the broken system while fending off the flaming attacks of SWG's target audience, casual players and fans who delight in being able to dress up in their faction duds without having to worry about the consequences of flashing the Rebel crest on their armor in the face of the nearest Imperial officer.
While the situation has stagnated due to months of neglect, it remains a source of irritation for both Star Wars purists and fans of PvP gameplay. Worse, there are no easy answers. Dedicated PvP servers are more than likely out of the question, and PvP zones such as Restuss are yawning pits of boredom completely removed from the general population as well as any meaningful impact on the game world. Forcing folks into the GCW at large would no doubt result in the final nail being hammered home into Star Wars Galaxies' coffin, as most of the players still actively subscribing are collectors, roleplayers, and virtual world/sandbox enthusiasts who can't get their fix from any other MMO on the market, but who also wouldn't be caught dead willingly exposing themselves to PvP gameplay.
While the exact percentages are unclear, the PVP play style is a minority preference across the broad spectrum of the various MMORPG player communities, and, while the kill 'em all crowd is typically extremely vocal, they are more than likely not representative of player bases as a whole. Sony no doubt realizes this, and seems to be content to do nothing to correct the flaws inherent in the system. The most recent comment by a developer on the subject of PvP came from new lead producer Dotanuki in June of 2008:
"We still hope to address PvP in a future update, though I can't tell you for sure which update that is going to be." These types of PR-speak non-answers are the norm, but there is some small solace in an actual acknowledgment of the existence of a problem. Prior to that, the last time a developer actually interacted with players on the GCW forum was October of 2006.
With such a conflict-heavy license, and a sprawling game world which lends itself to skirmishes, as well as planetary control games, it’s really a shame that no one seems interested in Star Wars Galaxies PvP. If ever there were a licensed MMO that demanded an innovative player-versus-player system, Sony's Star Wars sandbox would be it.