Not Knowing When to Let Go… A Class Action Suit to Save SWG

And the suit isn’t even aimed at saving the game, but merely to fight back against SOE shutting down those ever-so-effective internet petitions which have been springing up in the SOE forums and elsewhere in hopes of converting SWG to a free to play title.  You know those always get the job done!

Game Politics News and Kotaku are reporting that a group of 50 Star Wars Galaxies players are threatening a class action suit against Sony Online Entertainment because they claim that SOE is hindering their efforts to “save” the game from being closed.

Acting more than a few steps away from reality, the group is specifically suing SOE because they claim that the company has been locking petition forum threads (which along with poll threads, are explicitly forbidden by SOE’s forum rules) and banning those responsible, both pretty much within SOE’s rights and covered by the end user license agreement.

And the kicker is that SOE really has no control over keeping SWG alive.  LucasArts, which owns the Star Wars IP, has the final say on the subject, and they are never going to agree to anything but a full closure of the game, petitions or no.

LucasArts not only has a vested interested in supporting Star Wars: The Old Republic (and probably a contractual one as well), but they have a responsibility to protect the Star Wars IP and ensure that it is seen in the best light possible.  Letting SWG degrade over time, unsupported and with a population on the decline, does not serve that end.

Some seem to think that this is a nefarious plan to force SWG players to play SWTOR, something some are now claiming they will never do.  But a few subscribers (and few is the operative word here) isn’t the motivation.  It is protection of the IP and contractual obligations to EA and BioWare.

The writing is on the wall.  SWG is done, gone, will exist no longer after December 15, 2011.

Nobody wants to see their favorite game go away.  And people get especially attached to MMOs.  Emotions on the forums are running high.  But this whole assault on SOE is going to acc0mplish nothing.  There are more than five months left before the game goes away, use it.  Accept what is inevitable, make the time left meaningful, but be ready to say good-bye.

21 thoughts on “Not Knowing When to Let Go… A Class Action Suit to Save SWG

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Most delusional comment I have seen so far, referring to the power that SWG players hold:

    “Wow would have been just another MMO if the angry SWG fans had not made it what it was today.”

    Doesn’t that imply that SWG players left the game to go play WoW? Or did they use the force to make people from other games go and play WoW?

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  2. Aufero

    That’s… pretty delusional. Even if it’s a claim that angry SW:G subscribers made WoW popular by switching games, the timing makes no sense. The C.U. didn’t happen until five months after WoW was released in North America. NGE was a year after WoW release. (And even if the entire population of SW:G players had switched at once, I doubt it would have added more than 300k subs to WoW – about 7% of WoW’s subscriber numbers at the end of its first year.)

    The version with the Force makes more sense. (Except that anger leads to the dark side, and you’d think the first impulse of a Dark Jedi facing corporate stupidity would be to force choke the CEO.)

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  3. wizardling

    On a more serious note, the closure of an aging and once popular MMO always brings me back to the idea that MMOs should be built from day one to be updated and modernised. MMOs should never die because they become outdated, but because they’re no longer relevant, IMO.

    Obviously back in the early days it was hard to imagine MMOs like SWG lasting eight years, let alone EQ1’s 12 years, so it’s understandable they were not built to evolve. However nowadays I find it rather tragic that certain new MMOs are _still_ obviously not built with an eye to the future :-(

    Not every MMO can survive the test of time, but it’s a damned shame when your much loved virtual world closes simply due to outdated graphics and engine limitations (e.g. DAoC’s inability to render far away objects). It’s a pity so many of today’s gamers are obsessed with the latest and greatest graphics over gameplay. Though to be fair developers often don’t help help their case when they refuse to update even easily changed parts of their games, e.g. default control schemes such as EverQuest 1’s horribly archaic default keyboard-centric controls.

    So farewell SWG – you will be missed, both for what you once were, and what you could have been.

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  4. SynCaine

    Would you really be surprised though if somehow, the justice system sided with the players? I mean if OJ can murder people and get away with it, why can’t SWG fans sue for something as silly as deleted threads?

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  5. Genda

    You can sue for anything. Winning is a different matter.

    Fact is, this just points out how detached from business reality and how emotionally invested people are.

    Anyone thinking rationally would realize that;

    – This wasn’t necessarily Sony’s idea.
    – They have always been crazy strict on their forums. I think they lock every thread and have to manually unlock them
    – Sony is a very closed company, and isn’t going to give these people any more.
    – Nothing is going to change this decision.
    – Most importantly, nothing SHOULD change this decision. Like them or not, Lucas Arts is charged with protecting an IP and they would never let that IP be in the public domain, or become a running joke.

    I think one of the players on Tarkheena’s server got it right when they named their character “SWTORpwnedSWGalready”.

    Business is business, folks. Games aren’t done for art or for any altruistic reason. They are part of someone’s business. Hopefully someone who loves games, but not necessarily so.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony. A judge finds some legal flaw in the EULA, orders SOE to allow these petition threads in its forums, the people behind it go nuts, and SWG closes anyway, right on time, because nothing they can say or do will change the mind of LucasArts.

    @Wiz – SWG was particularly annoying to bring forward as I understand it. They had to do a serious database revamp just to be able to do server merges. I guess during the design phase, EQ was just growing like crazy and nobody thought out to the day when they might need to cut back.

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  7. Dril

    I can’t buy the idea that LucasArts are doing this to protect the IP.

    I mean, I was looking at Wookiepedia to read up on TOR’s background lore…and some of the stuff on that site just struck me as downright awful. Hell, none of it was even about TOR’s era, it was all in the future, relative to the films.

    Solos and Skywalkers everywhere (seriously, you don’t need that buzzname just to make your story exciting, unless you’re a really bad writer) all becoming Jedi/Sith in a never-ending war between various incarnations of the Empire and Republic, all of which aren’t really all that interesting and don’t make that much sense in the first place.

    If that’s less of an embarrassment to the franchise than an ageing MMO, then I do have to wonder how looney LucasArts are.

    Wait.

    How much loonier Lucasarts have become.

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  8. Genda

    When I say they are “protecting” the IP I’m not implying that they are making good decisions about the canon.

    I’m talking about all the people petitioning to put the game in the public domain. That’s just not going to happen. That would put all of their trademarks at risk. That’s what I was talking about.

    Now, they may look at killing SWG before SWTOR comes out as protecting the IP as well, but I wasn’t talking to that point.

    At any rate, I don’t think you can argue that LucasArts wasn’t the one who killed the deal with SOE for whatever reason.

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Dril – The people who make up the IP… the people who thought that Christmas Special was a good idea for example… are clearly different from those who are responsible for protecting and licensing the IP as it stands, regardless of how looney it is. I am talking about the latter. The former are a completely different topic.

    Protecting the IP includes making sure it has real, tangible value and that LucasArts gets compensated for that value. As Genda pointed it out, making SWG free or open for public use, which some of the petitioners are requesting, is laughably unrealistic.

    LucasArts wants money and no doubt sees focusing people on SWTOR, and removing the distraction of SWG, as its optimal path towards milking the franchise for even more money.

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  10. Darraxus

    I feel bad for the players because it would be difficult spending 8 years of your life on something and then having someone saying, “Get lost”.

    I played SW:G when it came out for around a year or so. It wasnt all that impressive. I found it to be extremely grindy and not very streamlined at all (this was before they had speeders and you had to walk everywhere).

    Jedi were truely legendary at that time, and I believe they suffered permadeath.

    I came back and played a bit after the speeders came out, but still did not find it to be that fun. I think I completely missed the wowification as I had gone to EQ2 and then WoW.

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  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Darraxus – It can suck indeed, though I envy them their 5 months of notice. Sojourn/Toril MUD shut down operations on me twice in the last 15 years. Both times the notice was pretty much the fact that the server just wasn’t there any more.

    In that situation, there is no going back and exchanging out-of-game details or making plans. You’re just done, go home, play something else.

    And even when a group got together and put the MUD back online, not everybody came back. There is a list of people out there that I probably would have played EQ2 or WoW with that just disappeared.

    On another subject, does anybody find it odd that the original story which triggered the two stories to which I linked, is no longer up on Venture Beat? Hrmm… did common sense take hold, or was it all a farce? Usually Game Politics News is relatively conservative in their reporting.

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  12. Captainzero

    As a casual player of SWG I will be very sad to see this game go. People DO become very attached to their MMORPGs, you are right. Possibly because they’ve invested hours and hours and hours of time, as well as money into building up an empire, or a community of friends. These communities are united by their love of the game, so I think they generally fall apart when games go *boom*. Not everyone wants to move on to the same game.

    My answer is that after a game like that is shut down, that the company running it should release the source code to the public. Or to take it even further, convert it into a stand-alone client/server package that can be used to run your own server, either private or public. That way the company continues to make money from it after it is shut down, and the public is happy because they don’t lose their fave game.

    Why should the game become shelved when others could continue to enjoy it? It doesn’t have to go away completely does it?

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  13. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Captainzero – See the above discussion about LucasArts and protecting and extracting value from the Star Wars IP. That is the main unsolvable road block. Won’t happen until the sun grows cold or when trademark law lets Luke Skywalker and Mickey Mouse enter the public domain. You cannot convince me of which will come first.

    Second, what you suggest, making it a stand-alone or easily deployable package would be a not inconsiderable amount of work. There can be an amazing amount of dependencies on outside tools and third party applications in an enterprise level application, each of which would require permission from the owner or have to be written around, stubbed out, or substituted for another product. It would cost money and take up resources that a company like SOE is already short on.

    Third, you cannot let the community do the work because few companies want to share their source code with their competitors. SOE clearly does not want any, “Oh, that’s how they did it” moments that they will come to regret. Sony will never release the source code, it would be economically insane to do so. Sony would get sued by its shareholders for giving away an asset with value that might potentially hurt them in the market place down the road.

    So while your sentiment is noble, this isn’t going to happen with SWG. Things like Ryzom are rare, and somebody still had to fork over the money to buy the source code before making it open source.

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  14. Captainzero

    Hmmm I guess that is what you would call “Pwnd”?

    I certainly can’t argue with those statements. The cold hard truth hurts, but there’s nothing you can do about it. When you sign up to play a game like SWG, or any MMORPG for that matter, you know your time in the game is going to be finite. You can’t exactly complain when it ends, because they ALL will end eventually. Just like a coin-op game at your local timezone. You play for as long as you can, but in the end the screen still reads “Game Over”.

    It’s just a shame that there isn’t some other way…

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  15. bhagpuss

    Are there no illegal, private SWG servers already? If not, doesn’t this make it likely there will be some in future?

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  16. Captainzero

    Yes there are 2 major server emulators in development. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to put links here, so I won’t. Shouldn’t be hard to find them though.

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  17. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Captainzero – I don’t know about pwnd, more a matter of reality being a cast iron bitch in this case.

    SWG is like the worst case scenario for any wish to get a free/open source version of the game sticking around. Too many vested parties and too much money wrapped up in the IP.

    Vanguard will hang around for years so long as SOE doesn’t need to put any resources on it and it pays its own bills. There is a certain amount of community good will to be earned there. And look and Planet Side. How many people play that? But the Star Wars IP is immersed in greed.

    Which all means that there is considerable pressure on BioWare to make it big or LucasArts will yank the IP at the first opportunity and let somebody like Zynga run with it. LucasArts wants to get paid.

    You can put the links in a comment. I have to approve all comments with links, so it might not show up right away.

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  18. Captainzero

    OK well here are the 2 that I know of, and as mentioned they are both still only in the development stage, but seem to be nearing completion. They are both emulators of the pre-cu version:

    http://www.swgemu.com/
    http://www.swganh.com/

    The difference with the 2 is that swganu is making their server software open source, so we can all run our own servers. As far as I can tell it is closer to completion than the other as well. Apparently both these groups were 1 big group originally, but split in 2 after some kind of argument.

    How legal these emulators are I do not know. I imagine Lucasarts would already know about them, as they have been around a while and don’t seem to worried about being busted. Unfortunately they are our only hope for being able to play SWG in the future…

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  19. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    The real trick will be the client I think That seems to be difficult bit for the EQ emulators. They can make their version of the server, but you have to get the client which has all the art assets and such.

    But EQ is readily available. When SWG goes away, nobody is going to have the rights to distribute the SWG client. LucasArts might not care about the server emulation, but anybody who tries to distribute the client, which is chock full of trademarked assets, a cease and desist order will be quickly forthcoming I would wager.

    We’ll see how people work around that angle I suppose.

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  20. Anonymous

    Nice article but theres no documentation anywhere showing any of this to be true.

    Sure people get angry and threaten to sue for just about anything but as far as any legal team representing any SWG player over hindering communication: There is No documentation of any kind.

    Hey I heard SWG players are threatening to sue because SOE wont come over and wash their cars. Theres another article for ya.

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  21. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Anon – Yeah, and you will note in comment #11 I stated that the original story appeared to have gotten pulled.

    So what’s your point?

    It isn’t as though the rest of the discussion about the realities of the situation suddenly became invalid.

    Like

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