SOE’s Matt Higby Talks Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures
Well, Sony Online is betting they’ll gravitate to Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, its upcoming online virtual world. The new game rests in between the hardcore Star Wars MMO market and the more social and casual Club Penguin demographic.
Built as a destination for younger players, Clone Wars Adventures features online casual games based around the Clone Wars cartoon. There are also public and private chat areas with social perks like customizable Star Wars avatars, player trophies and houses. We recently had an opportunity to talk with Clone Wars Adventures Developer Matt Higby about the game and it’s goals.
“We’ve gone to great lengths to avoid calling our game an MMO, much to the people on MMORPG’s chagrin. They are constantly calling us an MMO. We’re a virtual world.” Higby says. “The reason we are making the distinction isn’t so much because we love the term “virtual world”, it’s because we absolutely are not an RPG.”
“When you call yourself an online game, a lot of people think MMORPG. We don’t have any of the tenets of an RPG. We don’t have leveling up or stats or overall character progression, and that’s definitely intentional.”
Players log in and create an avatar to explore the game’s virtual environments. Customizing your characters or adding features to your player housing is done by playing arcade game scenarios like “Starfighter” or “Lightsaber Duel”, which are based on characters and settings from the Star Wars universe.
Higby explained that the games are meant to simulate those interactions with popular figures. “Each one of our games has a place in the world and characters who are associated with it who you interact through. So if I’m playing the Starfighter game, I’m talking to Anakin [Skywalker]. When I’m flying those missions a lot of times Anakin’s popping up as my wingman. So it gives you the chance to fly through those missions with the iconic Star Wars characters, but it’s not really about questing or doing things for them. It’s more like playing more arcade-style games.”
The game is also meant to create a safe community of players and encourage competition and playground conversations for bragging rights. “We have a whole social backend where, your friends, as they play games, you get updates on their game scores and things like that. Which is kind of analogous to Facebook’s asynchronous multi-player sort of stuff. You beat my Bejeweled Blitz score and I see a notification for it. Now I want to log on and beat your score.”
“We have that built-in throughout all of our mini-games to try to encourage players sense of competition and encourage the “I beat your score” at school the next day sort of conversations. We’re trying to incorporate many elements like that into our social game. We also have the overworld where people can show off their pets, character customizations and chat – things like that.”
Players can access a lot of the game’s content for free, but when it goes live Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures will include a subscription option which unlocks member-only content like avatar pieces, and more levels for the publicly available games. Higby was careful however to clarify that subscription or not, roughly 70% of the customization content for avatars, pets and housing can all be purchased with the coins earned just through playing the game.
This is a Star Wars game, and tied to the only Star Wars show currently in production. Higby was proud that thanks to a relationship with Lucasfilm, the game is closely tied to content players will see each week during the show’s upcoming third season.
“We’re super in line with the show and with Lucasfilm. We’ve already seen the 3rd season so we’ll have content ready to launch as soon as the episodes air. That’s kinda unprecedented in terms of what people do with online worlds.”
“We’re able to launch new games, new areas and new customization content themed around the content of the new shows right as they arrive. So, a new space battle shows up in an episode Friday, and Friday night I can log in and play a game through that space battle potentially.”
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures is currently in open Beta. Players can sign up at the Clone Wars Adventures website. The game is scheduled to go live the date of the Clone Wars Season 3 Premiere – Friday, September 15th. Monthly subscriptions plans have yet to be announced. Look for our impressions of the game and its minigames in the next few days leading up to launch.