On a Computer Screen Far, Far Away
Last Thursday I had an opportunity to watch a closed-door preview for Star Wars Galaxies, a MMOG expected to be released sometime in 2002 barring production delays that often accompany games of this scale. Also introduced was gameplay from the future expansion which will allow for space exploration and combat. Though the expansion has been under development for 9 months, it is unknown exactly how long it will be released after the initial release of SWG. The goal of the development team is to allow players planetary exploration for some time before the addition of features such as purchasing space vehicles and interplanetary flight.
From the moment the game was loaded I was blown away as were others who audibly gasped from the sights flickering across the screen. The game is stunning because of both the beauty and amount of intricate detail. No other PC game currently available or under development comes close to the graphic eye candy created by the SWG team. No tile of land has missed the artistic splashes of detail \’e2\’80\ldblquote the swaying grass is nearly photo quality, rust spots appear on Land Cruisers, droids shine as if polished with sunbeams, animations are fluid. The team wants a cinematic flavor and they have successfully achieved this goal. The environment also affects the landscape. Plants and grass sway in the wind and sway in proportion to the amount of wind blowing. Shadows and colors are affected by the time of day and it would be feasible to judge what time it is based on shadow length. In short, the graphics are amazing and far beyond what gamers have seen thus far.
The experienced SWG team is attempting to remove the tedium from gaming such as corpse retrieval and leveling. In fact, there will be no experience at all and skills will be gained in a manner similar to Magic: The Gathering. The goal is to cater to the casual and hardcore gamer and allow for both groups to interact with each other.
Each shard is called a galaxy and within that galaxy are an undisclosed number of planets to visit. One planet is approximately (if my notes are accurate) 4X the size of UO\’e2\’80\’99s world and 35% larger than all of EQ. There will even be underwater cities to explore! The world is seamless so players will not have to deal with annoying zoning issues. We were allowed to observe several different areas Naboo and Tatooine during the viewing.
There are 8 species you can choose from in Star Wars Galaxies. During character creation players will have the power to customize their character including facial deformation capabilities, body mass changes, and skin tones. The Zabrak species are adorned with customizable tattoos. Even hairstyles can altered by visiting a player with a hairstyling skill. The creators of SWG understand players\’e2\’80\’99 needs to stand out from the crowd.
At this time there are 80 emotes and full facial animation that will enhance roleplay and immersion. For example, when a player types :), their character will smile. Although there are many languages throughout the world, players will be able to learn languages using the language skill or with the assistance of language translators. Each character will have their actions tracked continually \’e2\’80\ldblquote only the most diligent will reach Jedi status and every in-game action will reflect that.
Currently there are 100 creature models and variations to these with varied AI (including fear), shading and texture. Everything is done to scale and spawns will be random instead of static. Players will be able to speak to some animals and get a response from them. Others can be tamed, trained and ridden. We were also told that certain animals can breed.
Players will be able to build and program their own droids. Droids will be similar to pets but will have additional abilities such as guarding items and possibly language translation.
Players will be able to flatten terrain to build small towns or large empires and can elect mayors, create laws, customize houses and build furniture. Mayors of towns will get special structures for space port travel. The developers believe in the need to keep communities distanced from each other but don\’e2\’80\’99t want to be overly restrictive on travel. You\’e2\’80\’99ll also be able to purchase vehicles to cover ground more quickly.
Think before you build in an area because it is possible to mine out all the minerals. Other mining areas will develop over time. There will be safe and dangerous areas but the SWG group was not willing to discuss non-safe zones at this time.
Quests, or missions as they are called, are one of the ways to gain skills and missions may require a specific skill set before a player can attempt them. Players can also create missions for other players by placing their missions on the mission boards.
Information is just beginning to come forth on the development of SWG but with the dedicated and skilled team and the lore of Star Wars, this game is sure to be a winner.