The Great Jedi Purge

Raph Koster (Google him) wrote a fascinating narrative on how the entire SWG Jedi fiasco unfolded. Although quite long, and honestly not saying anything particularly new, it’s well written and a much better explanation of why SWG failed than what Gordon Walton threw together.

Jedi ruined SWG. This isn’t news. This isn’t something MMO news sites should be announcing as a reveal. If anyone out there thinks CU or NGE were what killed SWG then they weren’t actually playing SWG at the time. CU and NGE were why we quit, but Jedi were why SWG was put onto a failing trajectory. Raph does a nice job of accurately explaining why.

I’m one of the people who loved SWG in its launch to shortly after launch state. Yep, I was one of the people building a crafting empire with my own employees and supply chains. I was one of the people enjoying playing a musician and socializing in the cantinas. I was the mayor of a glorious player city. I was even one of the people who enjoyed the broken combat. SWG gave me an opportunity to embody each of the Bartle-types — and I loved every second of it.

I was also one of the beta testers. While I wasn’t one of the people flown out to talk with the dev team, I was still actively involved with the community and I can remember how shocked we all were that the game was going to launch. Still, as Raph said, we supported them because this game — this game set in the Star Wars universe — allowed us to create a character and thrive in almost any way we desired.

I remember the rumors we would all whisper while playing. I definitely remember the conspiracies about player councils and electing Jedi. For a while we thought that we might even become Jedi by visiting these special caves off in the corner of dangerous planets where force-sensitive witches would reside. Honestly, the speculating was great fun.

There’s this sentiment floating around lately about “the game that could have been.” Yeah, that “game that could have been” sounds fun. That’s the game we were wanting too. Hardcore Jedi were one of our conspiracy theories. The more action-oriented SWG with Jedi and all of that set in a different point on the timeline is another game we wanted. You could have made that game, but you didn’t. We got SWG. It was awesome — flawed, but awesome. What I don’t like to see are the after-the-fact reveals about what could have been. Those types of retrospectives make me wonder if instead of focusing on making what you had better you just floundered around thinking about how to make it something else. Focusing on trying to make something else is why we all quit.

  • That was an interesting read, all the more so because of the internal perspective and how that was sometimes at odds with how the fans felt about things. And it reaffirms the very first thought I had when I first ran across the game, which was that everybody would want to be a Jedi and that the game would have problems because of it.

    I really liked the point where the estimate for the first person making it to be a Jedi with the original system was at some time during 2012, especially since the game went down in December 2011.

  • Ya, that would have been awesome. Honestly, what we wanted at the time was for one person to become a jedi at a time and have them be the ‘hardcore’ experience he explained. We all thought it would take months or even a year to become that one Jedi. It would have been cool.

  • It is a really good read. He tells it well.

    One thing that interests me is the population numbers Raph gives. He says “Our day one sales of the game were a one-to-one exact match for the registered forum population”. He says that there was a lot of churn because of the unfinished state of the game but that SWG was still “the second biggest MMO outside of Asia, behind EverQuest”. I think I’ve heard SWG’s subscriber peak given as 300,000.

    I clearly remember the announcement of SWG. I was paying very close attention to any upcoming MMOs. I don’t remember anyone else I was playing with, in EQ or DAOC discussing it or paying any attention to it. Prior to the NGE, after which you would hear angry ex-SWG players bringing up their grievances on the forums and chat channels of every MMO, I don’t recall anyone even mentioning it.

    Compare that to DAOC, about which almost everyone I spent any time with in-game speculated constantly. Or EQ2, which, naturally, was hotly debated in EQ. Or WoW, which, soon after launch, became the only thing anyone wanted to talk about (either to praise it or condemn it). SWG, by comparison, was almost invisible.

    As think back on this it seems even weirder. I’m by no means a big Star Wars fan but I did go to see all three prequels at release. Episode II came out the year before SWG but while I remember very clearly going to see it I have no memory at all of SWG’s launch the following year.

    Raph proudly says he’s “very proud of what we accomplished there … there was a sense that we were all in it together. Our day one sales of the game were a one-to-one exact match for the registered forum population”. I wonder if that wasn’t a big part of why the game didn’t take off the way LucasArts expected. Inside the bubble everyone was one big team, being brave and making the best of things, but outside the bubble no-one was really interested enough to cut one more unfinished Star Wars video game much slack.

  • @Bhagpuss: My DAoC realm was all abuzz about SWG. Lots of entire guilds moved over to it. You’re right, though, in that SWG had almost no buzz at all for the magnitude of what was happening with the Star Wars property back then. It’s probably related heavily to the fact that even back then, despite being 2003, MMOs were not mainstream. They were still looked upon with a “huh? You do what online?”

  • There was definitely outside buzz — it got Best Game at E3 one year, and Best RPG the next. And it was on the covers of several magazines. But there was no ongoing marketing campaign, perhaps because of how rocky the launch was.

    I do think it attracted a very mixed audience, between Star Wars fans and MMO players. Unsure what the split was, but my recollection is it was about half and half.

    These days people forget what the pre-WoW world even looked like…

    Anyway, I have two other posts up about how SWG worked now: one on TEFs and one on the terrain system. I have a few more stories to share, including one with stats that may reflect on what you discuss above. 🙂

  • Ah SWG. I played at launch, but my life was not prepared for a MMO at that time. I went down to Electronics Boutique and bought the CE (they were sold out of the regular). I went in knowing practically nothing about the game.

    I didn’t quit because of the game, I just did not have enough time to properly devote to it. It was an awesome few weeks.

    I came back years later and still had a good time with crafting/housing/space.

  • Very cool to see him post here as I’ve followed his blog for years. The more interesting thing though is why he suddenly feels compelled to write all this. Looking forward to his next project.

  • @Raph Koster: Thanks for stopping by Raph. I remember now that you mention it about the E3 stuff and the magazine cover. All of that said, EQ had, to my recollection, a decent amount of marketing behind it — surpassing even SWG. With it being Star Wars… the marketing behind it was relatively non-existent. I hope to see you blogging more! I have thoughts on TEF and things I’ll share tomorrow.

    @Werit: SWG was a fascinating mix of deep sandboxian elements while at the same time remaining so accessible. I think Raph even mentions in the post about how SWG was really a game people logged in to but didn’t have to spend tons of time playing.

    @Baba black sheep: Yeah 🙂 Raph’s blog is great and I’m glad to see him posting again. He’s stopped by here in the past I think. We have lots of devs lurking and stopping by to occasionally share their thoughts. I’m curious about the sudden increase in discourse about SWG days.

  • @keen I had just bought a house with my girlfriend (now wife) , new job, new state and so on. It just wasn’t the right time for me, sadly. While I enjoy SWTOR for what it is, I do miss a lot about SWG. From my short time playing, I remember picking my starting planet, doing some hand sampling, crafting some bone armor (I think), and just getting into doing some missions. I never thought, “I wish I was a Jedi” or “I wish this was more iconic”. It felt just right.

  • Similar to how the original plan for Jedi was to make them hardcore mode and rare (great idea), I’ve always wanted games to have legendary weapons that are truly unique. Only one of each legendary weapon exists on a server/world. Ownership of them would be similarly hardcore. Have some sort of requirement on how often they must be used to maintain ownership of them before they go all One-Ring on you and start searching for a new ring-bearer. You could then have a leaderboard on the web showing who currently owns which weapons, or which weapons are currently “lost” and capable of dropping as a world drop or somesuch.

  • I never got around to trying SWG. I am a big star wars fan and loved EQ and EQ2. I thought it would be really cool to play in an MMO in that setting. I had a friend who was playing it at the time and everything I read online all said the same thing…wait to try it, way too many bugs. Over time I kept seeing that over and over again so I never gave it a shot. I know wish I at least tried it but I just remember a lot of SWG players on different forums all saying to not bother.

  • Gali, you should have played AC. Although they didn’t have any unique weapons that I recall, they did have unique armor that was story based. AC had an ongoing story that was updated each month. The reward for the first person to do or finish or kill certain things in game to complete the story gave them a unique item.