To the Developers,
While I cannot claim that I speak on behalf of the entire community, I do believe that my comments here will reflect much of what most of the veterans of this game feel at the release of the upcoming "game enchancements" information today.
To start off, for those who don't know me, I am a veteran SWG player. I tracked the game prior to release, and pre-ordered the Collector's Edition on the first day. I have played this game since day one. I own three accounts, all of which I have leveled myself. One is a Jedi, the others are non-Jedi characters. Two of those accounts are currently active (for the time being). I served as the Scout Correspondent from July 2003 until February of 2005, being the second longest serving Correspondent in the game. I attended the first Fan-fest in Anaheim (I live in Washington, DC) and I attended the Correspondent Summit in Austin, where I met Julio, Tiggs, and reintroduced myself to many of the rest of the design team that I had met at Fan-fest, including Thunderheart, Keldarin, GreenMarine (no longer with SOE) and many others. I alpha tested Jump-to-Lightspeed, and beta tested Rage of the Wookies and the Trials of Obi-Wan. I do believe that all of these experiences lend significant emphasis and credability to the opinions I want to express here.
I have reviewed the FAQ, as well as Julio's letter to the community. While it took a while to understand the magnitude of what is happening here, I have come to grips with it.
These game changes, in my opinion, represent a serious breach of trust with the community and fail to take into account the efforts that the veterans of this community have made in the game.
It is a slap in the face to announce these changes - changes which may take effect within three weeks or less to the game - ONE DAY after a new expansion that many of us have purchased copies of, some multiple copies of, was released. The dust has not even settled on The Trials of Obi-Wan, and now we are being presented with changes that will completely change the way the game looks, feels and is played. In my mind, this is little better than a virtual bait-and-switch perpetrated on the entire community.
I am well aware of the development process, thanks to my work as a Correspondent. I know that these changes must have been in the pipeline for months, particularly if all of the coding will be completed in less than one months time. The Combat Balance/Upgrade/Revamp that I assisted with and helped to shape in Austin at the Summit and throughout the process took over a year and half to develop, code and complete. Yet this entire process was done in secret, including all of the PR preparations made by Tiggs and the SOE Community Relations staff, and sprung on the community without an inkling two days after the expansion was released.
In real life, I'm a lobbyist, and I've been working in Washington for 10 years. So I've seen a lot of conspiracy theories come and go. And If I were a cynic, I would say that this was a carefully timed announcement, designed to hit the community right after the expansion was released, so that SOE and LEC could have gotten the money for the expansion from as many veterans as possible, hoping that that capital would keep the game going through the massive wave of cancellations from those same veterans when changes of this magnitude were announced. And once all the veterans are gone, marketing could focus on bringing new players to the game, who had no knowledge of the previous two years and wouldn't have a problem with what you've done here. I hope to God that that's just the anger talking here, because if any part of what I've said is just true, it would represent the biggest rip-off of an entire gaming community in the history of the gaming industry.
I feel cheated and ripped off. And I think I speak for a large portion of the community when I say that.
And this is how I feel strictly based on the timing of the announcement. The actual changes you are proposing are worse.
Changes of this magnitude, less than 6 months after changes of a similiar magnitude, make it hard for me to accept that this game will still be Star Wars Galaxies. If anything, these game enchancements seem to be attempting to turn SWG into some kind of amalgamation of World of Warcraft, Planetside and Knights of the Old Republic. This isn't why I play SWG, and isn't why I've stuck with this game for two years.
And while I recognize that we veterans will receive "elder" buffs and status in the game, that's not enough. How do you begin to repay someone for the hundreds and thousands of hours they've spent playing this game, building up credits, skills, guilds, equipment, etc. and then wiping away everything they've accomplished in less than a month? I can't tell you the number of days I've taken off work to play SWG, or ignored a deadline or got an extension on a project just to stay out a bit later in a great XP group. All of that is for naught - you are invalidating most of what I've accomplished in the game in two years and in return, I get a special buff. That's not enough.
Rangers were promised a complete revamp less than a month ago, with outlines and changes that got many of them excited about the game again. Now, Rangers have been removed. The profession that I advocated on behalf of for nearly two years, Scout, is gone. The hours and hours I spent writing and rewriting guides for the community on the profession are now worthless.
And worse than the fact that the changes can't begin to compensate for what I'm losing, you're destroying what has kept most people in this game as long as we've been here - the community.
And its already happening. I recently cancelled my World of Warcraft account (even after the news of their new expansion) to come back to SWG full time, and one of the main reasons I cited was the community. My guild on Bloodfin, which is comprised of approximately 60 players with probably close 150 accounts all-together has almost fallen apart IN THE SPAN OF FIVE HOURS. Just looking through my ventrilo, I see people with comments of "5 accounts cancelled", "3 accounts cancelled", "Anybody want to buy 100 mill credits", "3 Jedi for sale cheap, will take food for trade". These are all veteran gamers, guild leaders, beta testers, the kinds of players that MMO designers listen to and make games specifically for - and they're all unhappy. Not a single person I've spoken to is happy right now.
This entire process is fatally flawed. It's flawed because there have been consistent promises made to this community by the Community Relations staff that major changes to the game would be discussed in the community and that we would have some kind of say over them. There's a reason why there are "In Dev", "In Testing" and "In Concept" forums on these boards. But they weren't used here.
Do you even understand the magnitude of what you're doing? If you don't right now, you will when you get the metrics back on how many accounts were cancelled today.
Stop this process now. Get community feedback. Ignore the focus groups and the exit polls and LISTEN to your community. Focus groups and polling is all well and good - I use it myself. But nothing beats getting out in and amongst the actual people who play this game and hearing what they think about this. Make these changes gradual. Do them a little at a time, so that people can get used to them and integrate them into their playstyle. The game was made in a day, it doesn't need to be remade in a day.
Better yet, don't go forward with the changes at all - save them for Star Wars Galaxies II - The Search for More Money. (I hope you all get the reference).
For the sake of all of us who have put so much into this game, and even for those players who simply log in once in a while, kill a few stormtroopers but pay their $15 a month for it, reconsider these changes and allow the community a chance to respond and contribute to the process.
This is our game. It is our money and it is our free time. Respect us. Give us the opportunity to affect this process in a meaningful, cooperative way. It is the very least that we have earned through our dedication and loyalty to this game.