June 29, 2003
It's a struggle to tear myself away from Star Wars Galaxies. I bought two copies Friday, but Jane's Vaio laptop won't do hardware transform and lighting so I'm in here alone. Well not quite - somehow people on the fence about massively multiplayer online games have been lured by the mythology and promise of this title; I played because my friends were playing - I played because I expect a wide range of novice and experienced players to mess with and mess around within that gaming system.
One of the reasons I signed up early is because I had a talking to from Timothy Burke my college history professor. Across a table with a light in his eyes, he alluded to a smart interface and a dense economy of craft. He felt obliged by the beta-tester's non-disclosure agreement to avoid specifics. But I bet on his enthusiasm and joined him the first day I could.
The game so far is a great pleasure. There are massive problems, mostly due to popularity. I can't log in sometimes. Then I'll log in and something major will be broken. Like right now my list of online friends has gone away, and I can't send messages to anyone not standing nearby. To be expected for launch month of the most mainstream of the massively multiplayer online games.
Star Wars Galaxies crackles with potential. Maybe it's that way for the first three days of any online game - thousands of people all exploring the possibility space at once. Can we do this? Yes! How? People showing each other things. Star Wars Galaxies has a brilliant system where you learn your skills from other players. So if you've practiced surveying for resources enough to qualify as an expert in surveying, you must seek out another player who has come before you. The computer-run characters might charge thousands of credits for the skill upgrade, but players will nearly-always teach you for free.
So there's all this casual sharing between new players - not just skills, but languages. There's a half-dozen-odd races, each with it's own dialect. Sadly, it doesn't figure in play much (excepting the fact that no one can speak Wookie except Wookies), but it's nice to be able to teach other things. Player to player. It's like file-sharing - being able to give away something that doesn't deplete. Another example: there's an "entertainer" career path. Any activity in the game builds a fatigue that can only be relieved by watching people dance and play music. So there's a rythym to the game - every few hours of play, everyone ends up in the cantina, relaxing and bantering and taking the edge off.
The game is so new that not everything has been unleashed yet. The market is a good way to judge. The game has a robust in-game auction system. It won't help you cash in your hours of play for dollars, but it does provide for the ready distribution of goods throughout the game system. When I started, the first day, there was no armor for sale there - it was too complicated to build. Now, by day two, people have learned how to build basic bone armor, and there's just a few suits available for tons of credits. In time, there will be tons of armor for sale - wtching the pieces of the market assemble.
But still, no one has yet reached the limits of play. The beta-testers know what to expect from the game, but everyone is wandering the world at about the same level. There are locations and bad guys and skills and clothes and outfits that emerge as the hours go by. Most items in the game are playermade, so people are gruadually, quickly over the course of these days, figuring out how to reproduce the galaxies as they were designed.
It is formula, and a heavily licensed formula at that. Not open to total player-policing. After the second Star Wars trilogy effort, I was ready to discard enthusiasm for the mythology. But Star Wars Galaxies is a rebirth of Star Wars as an attractive piece of pop culture, because they've created an entertaining place to inhabit and play.
Julian Dibbell and Tim othy Burke have inspired me to want to participate in the economy so I'm playing a craftsperson. I'm harvesting the land for metals and chemicals and gasses and then I'm combining them into items to sell on the market. Tim has pointed out that there's a massive amount of animal life on the planet, different species who interact with each other and you in complicated ways. Some come up to you and sniff you, without attacking. Others attack each other. There's a lot to look at and explore.
Just now, the sounds of tie-fighters overhead just started up. I wonder if that means the Empire has taken over this planet? The world is growing around me and I love living in it.Posted by justin at June 29, 2003 11:04 AM | TrackBack
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