Massively multiplayer games continue to let players create a single character, go on adventures to fight monsters, gain treasures and experience levels, and socialize with many other players online. Star Wars Galaxies continues to send players off on romps into the alien wilderness of George Lucas' famous sci-fi universe...but very soon, players will be able to take to the sky as starship pilots. In our previous interview with lead designer Cinco Barnes, we discussed the ins and outs of space exploration and combat. We're back now with even more information on this promising expansion pack.
GameSpot: We've already discussed some of the particulars of space flight and combat, but could you tell us about the expansion's new pilot professions and what kind of skills and abilities players will pick up while mastering them?
Cinco Barnes: Each of the pilot professions affords very different abilities. The Imperial Navy leverages its vast arsenal to provide a special ability that allows highly trained players to call in a wing of bombers (for special situations). On the other hand, pilots in the Alliance Navy (who often patrol greater ranges in much smaller numbers) earn the ability to conceal themselves from enemy fighters by overloading the onboard IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system with a massive electrical spike.
GS: We understand that mastering the pilot professions will involve story-driven missions. Is this a similar system to the quests that are being introduced for Jedi right now? What differences will there be between the three pilot classes other than the factions they're affiliated with?
CB: There is a unique storyline for each of the piloting professions, and each story has its own locations, objectives, enemies, and rewards. The stories are also tied into the profession abilities so that the techniques and droid programs you earn will be really useful in your encounters.
GS: Can you discuss the changes that the expansion will make both to player crafting and to the economy? We know that spaceships will require costly equipment like weapons and shields, and we've also heard that space battles may yield fabulous treasures. How will these changes affect the larger game, and how will adventuring on terra firma be balanced out to make sure it remains worthwhile?
CB: The substantive change to player crafting (as it's known to Galaxies players) will be the addition of the shipwright profession. In general, the crafting processes will all remain the same. As for the impact on the economy, that's a matter of pure speculation...for the moment. One thought is that this will really open trade, making it much more efficient for people to travel to far reaches to find, trade, and buy rare resources and items. Another plausible addition resulting from Jump to Lightspeed could be intergalactic taxi and tourism services. Players are extremely opportunistic, and they've often found ways to make money and develop the economy that we never expected. Once folks start playing the beta, we'll know things (lots of them) for sure.
Loot is important (and lots of fun), but it doesn't damage the shipwright's role in our economy. This is mainly due to the fact that we've built a robust "reverse engineering" system that involves shipwrights extensively. Some of the very best, most exotic starship components will come from this process.
As far as keeping the ground game compelling, it's important to note that updates to Star Wars Galaxies after Jump to Lightspeed launches will include content for both the ground game and space. Jump to Lightspeed is both an extension of the game and the completion of the vision of the gameplay mechanics, but it is not a stand-alone game.
GS: We know that the expansion will ship with new spacecraft, but will players who don't own the expansion be able to board or use ships, like the YT-1300, that belong to their friends? The game already has Imperial ships that appear in the sky; will players be able to see other player ships in the sky?
CB: In order to get into space, you will need Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed. If your friend has a YT-1300, and you do not have the Jump to Lightspeed product, you won't be able to enter the ship. Along that same line, you will see and interact with the new playable species but will not be able to create a character as one.
We are not planning to have player ships visible in the sky, like the Imperial starships you mention, at the point we release Jump to Lightspeed.
GS: It has been revealed that the Ithorian "Hammerhead" is one of two new player species being introduced in Jump to Lightspeed. Will the team be including any items or abilities that are specific to that species, such as specific armor or weapons, or racial skills or abilities?
CB: Like other species in the game, the Ithorians have special innate bonuses. Specifically, since Ithorians are known for their love of nature, we're looking at giving them at least one Scout-related bonus. Because they are hardy and durable, they'll likely have some resistances to certain types of attacks.
It was a lot of fun to research Star Wars history on these guys and build their species perks. I'm really looking forward to players exploring the Ithorians with Jump to Lightspeed!
GS: Not long ago, the first instanced dungeon was introduced to the game. Will any of the new Jump to Lightspeed areas also be instanced? Are there plans to use much more instanced content in the expansion and in the future?
CB: We're not planning any sort of special instanced content when we initially release Jump to Lightspeed, but we're entertaining a long list of cool ideas that involve this sort of stuff.
GS: Got it. Thanks, Cinco.