Kotaku has a rumor up that Raph Koster has left Sony Online Entertainment to start his own game studio and that Lucan Arts will not be extending the Star Wars Galaxies contract with SOE.
IGN, reporting on that story, is implying that SWG will go instead to Bioware who will be relaunching it. They note that Bioware has recently opened an Austin Texas office but have not announced what it will be working on.
My two cents… I like Raph. I like his ideas; he is a great top level designer. He just needs somebody else to make sure there is more meat in his sandwich and somebody to make sure the people making the sandwich know what they are doing and aren’t making a mess.
Star Wars Galaxies had some great sandbox concepts but not enough tool and toys to play with. Sandboxes are a lot of fun when you have a bucket, shovel, some action figures, matchbox cars and other stuff. Without any of that you are just sitting in the dirt.
SWG also suffered from exactly the same type of mess that Ultima Online faced. For example at one point they announced in SWG that they were going to be placing new restrictions on players in an effort to reduce the number of objects in the world because they didn’t realize how much players would turn into pack rats. They claimed their item database was overloaded. This was the exact same thing they did over and over in Ultima Online which suffered from all the same problems. Why didn’t anybody learn?
Anyway Kotaku’s mole at SoE also suggests that the days are numbered for John Smedley, SoE’s president. I’ve spoken or was spoken at by Smedley a good number of times in my 8 months at SoE and I liked him too. I always was of the opinion that if Smedley was involved more in the day to day workings of what was going on at SoE things would be a lot better. He appears to know what he is talking about and when it takes the time to seriously look into what is going on in a project, he expertly nails what the problems are that need to be addressed.
The same thing happened at Westwood though, the more our two founders got involved with running the company the less time they had for what was going on in the company. You can’t have somebody show up for a meeting every three weeks, throw out a bunch of mandates and vanishes again leaving chaos and confusion in their wake. The games that were the result of these things suffered for it greatly and lead to the closing of the studio.