Though the space expansion to Star Wars Galaxies was announced years before Star Wars Galaxies itself shipped, LucasArts has finally started to show details on this exciting, new direction for its online RPG. We had a chance to take a good, close look at where the project currently stands, and we spoke with one of the add-on's developers about some of its finer points. If you've ever been a fan of games like X-Wing, TIE Fighter, the Wing Commander series, or other such space combat games, then this expansion should definitely be of interest to you.
Jump to Lightspeed looks completely different from Star Wars Galaxies, since it's all in space. And it looks really impressive thus far. Each of the ships we saw, which included classics like the X-Wing and TIE Fighter, as well as the Y-Wing, TIE Interceptor, TIE Bomber, and the Millennium Falcon (or a ship that looked just like it), featured copious amounts of detail, realistic lighting, and shadowing effects. We also got to see some larger vessels, namely a tag team of Nebulon-B frigates, which player teams will get to do battle against in the Star Wars Galaxies' equivalent of an EverQuest-style raid. Despite the fact that this all looks as though it's taken from a whole 'nother game, Jump to Lightspeed does use the same graphics engine as Galaxies, so it's not like you'll need to quit Galaxies to run the expansion content or anything like that.
On the contrary, the expansion should tie in quite nicely with Galaxies. In short, while you'll now be able to spend much time in space, you'll still need to get back down to earth in order to do such things as conduct repairs of your ship or heal your character. Docking bays around the gameworld will enable players to transition to and from space. By the way, you won't be able to have your ships permanently destroyed, as you may have expected if you play online games.
Players who get the expansion will automatically start with a basic ship of some sort--consider it a newbie ship. It cannot be upgraded, but better ships can then be bought and augmented with better weapons, armor, shields, systems, and more. The developers are trying to make the space-based gameplay far more action oriented than the existing combat in Galaxies. Many of the designers on the project previously worked on the Wing Commander series, so you can expect this team to bring a lot of experience in making sure that the core gameplay out in space is fast and intense, which should make for a refreshing change of pace. As previously reported, the game will support keyboard-and-mouse and joystick control options. Additionally, players will be able to view the action either from a first-person cockpit view for added realism, or a third-person, behind-the-ship perspective. Larger ships will even serve as mobile player housing. If you work your way up to a Millennium Falcon-style transport, you'll also be able to furnish it to your liking, and so forth.
Incidentally, the gameplay promises to be action oriented without being dumbed down. The developers are using the classic X-Wing and TIE Fighter games as the model of what the gameplay here ought to be like, so expect to have options to manage your ship's power distribution, and to be able to target and disable specific systems on enemy vessels as well as other complexities of that nature.
We weren't permitted to get any hands-on time with Jump to Lightspeed, because the gameplay itself still looks like it has a way's to go. We hope it'll shape up as LucasArts intends, because Star Wars Galaxies seems like the perfect context to introduce or reintroduce gamers to the space combat genre. We'll be bringing you more updates on the game as it develops.