Jul 31, 2008

How to deal with Jedi in the new Star Wars MMO ?

Since the almost official confirmation of Bioware's MMO projet being a Star Wars Old Republic MMO, debates have started in various places about how the developers should deal with the Jedi issue. The way Jedi were implemented in Star Wars Galaxies brought a lot of problems. What can Bioware do to prevent playable Jedi from ruining the game experience ?

Here are some articles about this :


Aaron Miller said...

I just detailed my thoughts on the subject.

I realized while writing that article that Jedi don't have to be an either/or proposition. It's possible for many players to be Jedi without all of them having powers just like Luke and Vader. Let me know what you think.

Dr Chewbacca said...

Thank you for your message and article.

Random occurrence and hard cap on Jedi population are a good way to go, in my opinion, if they want playable Jedi in the game.

Jedi who are not "the ultimate hero" with uber powers have been tried as a solution in SWG, in the NGE. Though I quit the game just before the NGE launched, what I understood is that in making Jedi a starting profession, they were also making them more or less equal to other professions in terms of power. And from what I read on forums since then, there still seems to be too many Jedi in SWG.

Unless Jedi are actually handicaped when compared to other classes/professions, I think there will still be too many people wanting a Jedi compared to the amount of Jedi compatible with a certain degree of realism. The handicap could be permadeath on Jedi characters, but this is quite unpopular.

Another idea I thought about is that Bioware's GM could choose what players they want to offer the ability to become a Jedi, after observing players' behavior. This way, they would :
- control the population of Jedi (they decide how many Jedi they unlock)
- avoid having some stupid guys playing Jedi, and choosing only people able to actually play (in the sense of acting) a Jedi. They could choose good RPers, community leaders, etc.

Anyway, I think they will not reproduce the mistakes of SWG, which was ruined in a great part because of the way playable Jedi have been handled.

Aaron Miller said...

As always, what works depends on the specific game you're making. Having varying degrees of power would work in the sort of game I'd make, but perhaps not in a typical MMO.

Typical MMOs obsess over balance of power. I favor the Diablo 2 model, in which different player-characters can be vastly different in both power and versatility, yet players still enjoy grouping together. Players don't have to be equal in a multiplayer game.

In fact, another big mistake SWG made was to try to balance the Rebellion with the Empire. By trying to make the Rebellion as powerful, they not only abandoned a core premise of Star Wars lore but also removed the ability for people to play as the underdog... as rebels. SOE's obsession with power balancing further removed the game from feeling like Star Wars, making it feel more like any other MMO. It wasn't as bad at launch as months later.

Anyway, back to Jedi. I'm not sure how I feel about your idea of developers directly choosing players to be Jedi. On the one hand, you're right that it would make the game feel more like the movies, and it would probably be the best possible encouragement for players to behave kindly. But on the other hand, it would be a nightmare for community management. Every choice would be decried as unfair favoritism and disputed to no end. The controversy would probably make the feature a negative overall.

I doubt there's any easy solution to the Jedi problem, though.

Dr Chewbacca said...

The problem with unbalanced classes is that the current state of the market of MMO (which has become mainstream thanks/because of WoW) makes it that many people are just playing to be "the most powerful" or "the coolest". Jedi are considered as powerful and cool, and therefore are a very attractive choice for an important share of the potential player base. This leads to Jedi overpopulation.

I agree with the fact that all characters dont need to be equal, but only if the inequality doesn't lead to unrealistic population of each individual class (in most games this is not a problem because none of the classes is supposed to be very rare, unlike Jedi in SW).

Well anyway this is a complicated issue, I only hope Bioware will take it seriously and come up with a great idea to make the whole thing work, and I hope LucasArts wont mess it all.

Pani said...

This too has been on my mind. I've been blogging about it with this idea recently: Different Level Caps which I really think will work. I understand that there will be more people who want to play as Jedi but playing as a non-jedi character would be completely different gameplay and a way to tell a different story.

I'm going to go away and read all those articles now!

Thanks for the blogging, and keep up the good work!

Dr Chewbacca said...

(this is a copy of the comment I posted on Pani's blog as a reply to his article "Different Level Caps")

The issue with this solution is that ultimately, if Jedi has a higher level cap than any other profession (or class), there will be Jedi overpopulation. This is what happened in SWG. Higher level cap means more powerful characters. In the old SWG, there was no such thing as "levels", but Jedi were more powerful and more attractive to the audience playing to be "the strongest" (ie a lot of people, and not the most interesting people to play with in a MMO). Then they added levels. All professions could reach level 80, but a level 80 Jedi was on average stronger than a level 80 rifleman or level 80 bounty hunter. The problem remained.

The fact is that if there is an "alpha class", that is more powerful than the other ones, and if the incentives to play other classes are not strong enough, in the end too many people end up playing the alpha class. The game becomes boring (= too many people with same profession) and unrealistic (dozens of Jedi everywhere when they should be almost extinct).

Allowing people to have several characters and hoping that they will play both their jedi and, say, soldier characters could be an idea. The problem is that what needs to be taken in consideration is the number of hours played as jedi, and the number of hours played as the simple soldier. Then add up all the hours of all players. If Jedi are (1) more powerful and (2) longer to level up to max cap, I'm sure Jedi will be much more visible (much more total of hours) in game than any other profession. And this will suck.

They need other solutions :
- make Jedi a very difficult profession to play ; for example they could have permadeath, or huge penalties upon death (large amount of XP loss for example)
- have a hard cap on the number of Jedi per server (in that case they need to find ways to make the "Jedi slots" turn amongst players ; permadeath could be a way to do it)
- reduce the difference of power between Jedi and other profession (instead of Jedi beating the same level Bounty hunter 9 times out of 10, it could be 6 times out of 10) and give the other professions some really cool things that Jedi cant get
- have no playable Jedi