In honor of the geekishly glorious new Star Wars trailer, here's a story of the Star Wars MMO that very likely could have been, and almost surely would have been seriously cool - as related by game designer Raph Koster, who led the design of Star Wars Galaxies, the ill-fated MMO which launched in 2003 and which was way ahead of its time. (And which I interviewed Raph about for Salon at the start of my writing career.) Its chief challenge was trying to create a diverse world where every player wanted to be a goddamn Jedi, even though the MMO was set at a period in the Star Wars narrative history where Jedis were all supposed to be underground. Raph had a left field suggestion that sadly wasn't implemented, but in this era of permadeath popularity (think DayZ and so on), was again, ahead of its time:
Every player would have a special character slot available to them, distinct and parallel from their regular character. This character would be locked into one profession, one class: Jedi. They’d start out weak as a kitten though, untrained in combat or anything, and with barely any Force abilities at all. Luke without womprat-shooting experience maybe... So this pathetic Force Sensitive character would be able to gain better Force powers by earning Force XP by using the Force. They could also go off and learn other skills. But either way: if they died, that was it. They were dead. Reroll. Start over. It was that dreaded word: permadeath.
Now here's where it gets really cool:
The name of the game was survival, but it was rigged. You see, the moment you used Force powers within view of anything or anyone Imperial, or indeed any player, they could report you to the Empire. To Darth Vader’s Death Squadron in fact. And that generated someone to come after you. At first, just lowly Stormtroopers. Eventually, cooler characters, such as some of the bounty hunters like IG-88. Eventually, really cool ones like Boba Fett or fan favorite Mara Jade. These would be brutal fights. Odds are you’d just die. So hiding and training very carefully would be essential. But it wouldn’t matter, of course. As you advanced, your powers would get “noisier” and cooler. You wouldn’t be able to resist using Force Lightning in a crowd, or equipping your lightsaber in view of some Imperials. And eventually, after Boba Fett and Mara Jade and everyone else had failed, well, that would be when Darth Vader himself bestirred himself to take care of the little problem.
Read the rest to find out more, including what happened when Raph suggested it to the team. I would really love to see Disney create a new MMO with this feature, and I bet it would be massively popular. But Disney being Disney, I kind of doubt it would ever come to be. But maybe a new hope will strike back. (See what I did there?) And in that hope, let's watch Matthew Mcconaughey watching the new Star Wars trailer:
Please share this post: