Raph Koster on SWG

Raph Koster has been writing a series of reflections and explanations on early Star Wars Galaxies. It began with reflections on TEF and Jedi, and has now branched out into world-building for an MMO.

It’s a fascinating read. Oddly enough – and encouragingly – much of what he’s written about, particularly in the last few posts – line up with the framework An Empire in Flames is using to build a unique Star Wars Galaxies emulator. While I won’t say we’re building the Raph Koster version of SWG, it’s good to see our ideas mirrored by a professional.

Particularly of note is the concept of enabling players. Most modern MMOs try to limit players and keep them on rails for an “experience.” Star Wars Galaxies, and An Empire in Flames, attempts to enable players to make the universe their own with systems that reward players for playing the game in a variety of ways.

If you are a Star Wars Galaxies fan, take the time to read it.


Friday Feature: A New Take on Professions


Star Wars Galaxies launched with a profession system that is best described as “revolutionary.”

32 classes allowed for an incredibly complex number of character builds, covering all types of combat, support, and crafting. To this day, that freedom for character building still draws players back to the Star Wars Galaxies emulator.

Ultimately, the devs found the 32 class system to be really unwieldy – balance problems plagued the original system, and were partly addressed by the Combat Upgrade. Less than a year later, the development team replaced the entire system with the nine-profession New Game Experience – a move that drove off massive parts of the playerbase which were alienated after losing the incredible customization that had made SWG so much fun in the first place.


The emulator has exposed some further problems with the original 32-class system – namely, that only a handful of builds work for high-end content. Some classes are virtually unable to compete at the high end (like pistoleer and Teras Kasi Artist), which makes that complex character building largely superfluous.

An Empire in Flames is taking a combination approach to allow for more freedom in character builds – more useful builds.

The EiF system begins with the original launch SWG system, and flavors with the Combat Upgrade’s specials system, and tops off with the New Game Experience’s professions.



An Empire in Flames allows customization in new ways. Under the pre-CU and NGE versions of Star Wars Galaxies, smugglers used pistols and only pistols in combat. (The NGE also had a separate melee line later in development.) It’s based on the Han Solo archetype – he carried his trusty DL-44 throughout the original trilogy, after all.

Under An Empire in Flames, however, smugglers have a unique set of specials that can be used with all ranged weapons, not just pistols, similar to the Combat Upgrade’s far more flexible system. For the purpose of an example, the smuggler in question is also a Rifleman. Those smuggler specials still work even though the smuggler is using a T-21 instead of a DL-44.

In this case, smuggler is the profession; rifleman is a skill.



What does this mean in practical terms for a player?

Skills can be trained in any mix-and-match combination, and use skill points up to the 250 point cap. They are weapons skills and proficiencies, crafting skills, entertainment skills. Professions require no skill points, but a player can only have one profession at a time. They provide supplementary skills and open up new content options.



Star Wars Galaxies, in its varied forms, provided a small amount of profession-specific content. Most notable (and long-lived) was the bounty hunter’s unique mission system, allowing players to hunt marks across the galaxy in every version of the game. Late NGE gave smugglers what were derided as “pizza delivery missions” – smuggler-specific content that included both ground and space. Jedi had the other end of bounty hunter missions and the Force Ranking System.

Other profession-specific content was more subtle. Galaxies crafters (and later, NGE traders) were unique in their ability to have a fulfilling game experience in running a shop and producing goods. Creature Handlers (and later Beast Masters) spent endless hours searching for rare creatures and training up pets.

beast master

By differentiating between professions and skills, the Empire in Flames team can focus on providing more unique content and experiences for each profession.



Stay tuned to find out. We will be featuring both professions and skills in the upcoming weeks.

Player Housing: Old Problem, New Solution (Part I)


Player housing is one of the best features ever implemented in an MMO, and Star Wars Galaxies took it a step further than most – allowing players to put their structures down in the world for all to see. Not only did players directly affect the world, but they could and did build cities, populated with players and filled with the amenities other players needed.

The downside was the “Coruscantooine” effect. Star Wars Galaxies proved extremely vulnerable to urban sprawl. Major NPC cities like Coronet had “the housing line”, with a virtually unbroken wall of player structures on the edge of its no-build zone.

The longer a server runs, the worse the effect becomes. Given a long-enough run, it becomes immersion-breaking, with supposedly-desolate planets like Tatooine filled with seas of houses.

An Empire in Flames is taking a modified approach to player housing – an approach that was unavailable to the original SWG team at launch.

Player housing will now be restricted to player city limits. (Note: this does not affect placement of harvesters or factories.)

This addresses several problems. First, this allows players to still build cities and decorate homes without the eventual problem of overwhelming a world. Second, it encourages player interdependency – players must work together to build and maintain a city. Third, it prevents hostile city takeovers; no longer will players be able to setup housing outside a city’s limits and wait for it to “expand over” them.

Stay tuned for news on the second half of the upcoming player housing changes in An Empire in Flames!

An Empire in Flames

In a handful of days, one small group of Rebel outlaws destroyed order in the galaxy.

The death of Jabba the Hutt at the hands of Princess Leia Organa, daughter of famed Senator firebrand Bail Organa, put the underworld into chaos. Pirates, smugglers, and would-be crime lords scramble for the scraps of the Hutt’s enterprises.

On Tatooine, Lady Valarian has declared war on Bib Fortuna, the deceased Hutt’s majordomo. Entering into the war for the Tatooine enterprises is a third party who has thus far remained anonymous, but is clearly angling to destroy both usurpers.

In the broader galaxy, the Rebel Alliance destroyed a second Death Star over the forest moon of Endor, demoralizing their Imperial foes. The deaths of the Emperor and his right-hand man, Darth Vader, reportedly at the hands of self-proclaimed Jedi Luke Skywalker, have shattered the Empire. Within days, dozens of Imperial military leaders and governors have begun vying for the Imperial throne. Interfactional warfare has broken out, pitting the awesome firepower of the Imperial starfleet against itself.

The Rebel Alliance has taken advantage of the distraction, marshaling its forces and adding to its fleet at Endor, preparing to launch an offensive to liberate the galaxy…