Wednesday, December 3, 2008

End-games are important

Tobold has an interesting post on his blog this morning, that made me recall some principles I learned from Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) back in 2005 and was at least in part responsible for me switching to WoW. Although not exactly the same, SWG is much like WAR in that the games end-game is player created and largely revolves around mass PVP. Unlike with WAR, SWG had absolutely nothing else to do at end-game, outside of a wonderful crafting system which I still look at as the pinnacle of crafting systems I've yet observed in the online games I've played.

I recall toward the end of my SWG playing days in Dec 2004-Mar 2005 that I would troll around the Bria server for hours looking for PVP. I would run the towns on the various planets looking for Rebels to snipe (I was an Imperial Master Rifleman/Doctor), but unfortunately there often times were very few to be found. As the weeks passed by I grew more despondent of the situation and utter boredom quickly set in. I did have a second account which was a Master Droidsmith and I spent more and more time attending to my Droid business and collecting materials I needed. I enjoyed my Droid business, but that isn't what the game was meant to be in its entirety. You simply needed something more to do.

Of course there were city and base raids in the evenings, and while great fun could be had, was also an illustration of a problem area for games centered on player created content--Lag. On Bria in 2003 through my leaving in March 2005, the Imperial faction was dominant. And we prided ourselves on our organization and impregnable fortresses. The main Imperial guilds created a council and coordinated our joint effort in fighting the Rebels. In this way the placement of Imperial bases was also controlled, making defense easier. We didn't have bases strewn about willy-nilly through Bria. Instead we'd have perhaps 2-3 main base complexes on a couple planets, and perhaps an odd base on others. We'd form defense units on the vulnerable evenings and guard these, with the remainder of the Imperial guilds being on call to come to the aid of any base or complex that was attacked. Bases and complexes were not attacked during every vulnerability period however, so those evenings were often times passed in conversation on teamspeak or ventrillo.

There would be periods of time where the Rebels would attack regularly--sometimes more than once in an evening at a given complex, or at multiple complexes. But there were also periods where there would be no activity at all. We of course would also attack rebel bases when we weren't forced to guard ours but there were long stretches where rebels guilds refused to place bases leaving us nothing to do most nights. It was a serious source of friction between the Imperial council and the various rebel guilds and caused much drama on the official SWG Bria forum.

I did play WAR for a brief period after it was released. I played many hours during the first week, though that lessened during the second week and didn't play at all after that. I quickly saw what I had come to hate about SWG. And that was that if you weren't leveling you were completely out in the cold if there weren't enough people to conduct scenarios as they are called in WAR. From reading various blogs I saw that that became more of a problem as time passed.

Tobold relates the end-game in WAR as being problematic because of LAG. Its the same LAG I experienced in SWG, and its something that is completely outside of your control. Because both games rely on player created content you have no idea how many are going to show up for raids. We'd often see 40 or more attackers at our complexes, and we'd of course have a similar number of defenders. And there were many nights where there were even greater numbers involved. Even with somewhere around 80 people in a given zone horrible lag was experienced by all. We'd all be frustrated by it and would joke on Vent that we were living the "power-point", meaning you would see a screen update every now and again and that was about it. And that was if we didn't crash the server to begin with.

As people started to leave SWGs in the run up to the first Combat Upgrade in March 2005 PVP came to a near stop anyway, but on those occasions where we were able to get something going it was beyond frustrating to have it ruined by this phenomenon.

WoW on the other hand has a completely different end-game. It's provided in the form of dungeons. While there is also a PVP centric end-game, it is also largely controlled via the use of instanced battle-grounds. Lag is controlled by controlling the amount of participants. And by focusing on developer content instead of player created content there is almost always something to do.

I didn't continue playing WAR because I didn't want to relive the experiences I had with SWG. While lag is still something to be contended with it is nothing like I remember in SWG. All I can say to the WAR brethren out there is have fun while you can.