Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided Update - Massive 2005 Updates and Beyond, Plus Bounty Hunters
It's been more than two years since the massively multiplayer game known as Star Wars Galaxies was launched. Even now, the game continues to let you play as a human, wookiee, zabrak, twi'lek, or other alien race, and go on adventures in the universe created by the original Star Wars Trilogy motion pictures, where the evil Sith lord known as Darth Vader hunts for his two estranged, fully grown children, and a wisecracking smuggler named Han Solo helps fight the evil Empire while swearing up and down that he's only in it for the money. But the game has changed greatly over time, and later this month, the game will undergo even greater changes to reflect the fact that Star Wars Galaxies, like other online games, is constantly growing and evolving. Senior director Nancy MacIntyre conceded that many of these changes "may seem extremely risky," but assured us that they're based on player feedback and the development team's overall goal to focus more on the rich fiction and trademark action of the motion pictures and less on highly complicated skill systems and interfaces. In terms of the development team's list of goals for the game, MacIntyre explained, "[LucasArts is] putting Star Wars at the top of the hierarchy."
The most obvious change to the game right off the bat is its revamped character-profession system. Previously, characters could choose basic professions, but could also learn any other skill in the game, from creating entertainment music to healing wounded players to capturing and creating wildlife pets with creature-handling skills. After the new changes are made, the game will have nine major character professions: force-sensitive, bounty hunter, commando, trader, officer, smuggler, spy, medic, and entertainer. That's right, you'll be able to start a new game right on the path to becoming a mystical Jedi if you care to. According to extensive research that LucasArts has conducted with its fan community, these professions, and the skills they possess, represent about 98% of all active players. Unfortunately, the extra 2% of players who use other skills, such as creature handling, will need to choose a different profession, because after the changes are made, all characters in Galaxies will belong to one of these nine professions. Though this may seem like a sweeping change, all character professions will still be able to learn other skills--with some exceptions. For instance, traders will be the only characters that can craft items such as clothing, weapons, armor, and architecture. However, the specialized skills that each profession possesses will offer special bonuses that will make them much more worthwhile.
For instance, the new profession we're revealing today, the new-and-improved bounty hunter, will focus on ranged and melee combat, bounty-hunting skills, and techniques to apprehend their quarry. Bounty hunters will be especially skilled with rapid-firing carbine-class weapons (rather than shorter-ranged but cheaper pistols), and will possess a number of special skills that will aid them in battle. For instance, the bounty hunter will possess special attacks like ambush, a very damaging ranged ability; razor net, which damages enemies over time while hindering their movement; and merciless onslaught, an exceptionally damaging attack ability.
Part of the reason behind this change of focus was the success of the recent Rage of the Wookiees expansion pack (and the positive feedback garnered from the fan community). LucasArts has asked the fans what they want, and its seems that a great majority seek the kind of cohesive, directed experience that the story-driven expansion pack provided. As a result, the revamped Star Wars Galaxies will feature a brand-new in-game movie engine that will allow for many more cinematic scenes in the game. Also, the game will actually have an extensive story arc, starting in February 2006 and going into winter of next year, in which you'll be able to revisit many of your favorite characters from the original trilogy motion pictures.
In addition, the earlier levels of the game are being completely overhauled--you'll be able to play a brand-new character through levels 1 to 10 in a self-contained tutorial area that will also let you sample everything that each of the nine new professions has to offer. Once you're done with the tutorial, levels 10 to 30 will offer a highly directed experience with numerous quests that will not only be more specifically appropriate to the profession you've chosen, but also span several of your character's experience levels and hopefully bring you closer to the story. These quests will offer much more feedback for players and not only give them more context about why they're doing what they're doing (for instance, meeting famed bounty hunter Boba Fett to receive an assassination mission on a wealthy merchant, rather than simply being assigned to exterminate a nest of alien critters). Characters that give out quests will also often spell out their rewards in advance, similar to the quests in World of Warcraft.