The Star Wars Combine is a free online player-based simulation revolving around the Star Wars universe. First conceived in 1998 it was the brainchild of Frederic Weymann, Jehan Snyers d'Attenhoven and Mario Dominguez, and grew out of the demise of the 'Star Wars Sim' that had existed since 1995. Since its inception in 1999, it has been in a constant state of development, having passed to the hands of d'Attenhoven, a student at the UniversitÃ© Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels).
The Combine is not affiliated with LucasArts in any way, and stands as an entirely fan-developed game. One of its most unique features is that it is developed largely by its players, and in October 2008 it had around 4,100 active members.
GameplayOriginally realized simply through role playing, in February 1999 a Java-based client called Combine Commander, or CCom for short, took over much of the gameplay and allowed a client-based game. By April 2000, the game had grown and evolved to the point where two new programs came in to replace the old client, ICIS and HoloCom. These would serve as the main force behind the Combine until the loss of several key ICIS developers and slow development forced the administration to begin looking to adopt a new client, if the game was to envelope new features. In late 2003, Darkness was released, replacing the downloaded components of earlier versions, it is a My SQL based web client that allows far more immersive gameplay than its predecessors. An additional advantage to using a more open development platform was the ability to add new developers with far less time spent on training.
CommunicationsThe Combine's most varied attribute is its communication lines. The first is the in-game messaging system. It complete name is Combine Comm. Yet, it is known simply as the Darkness. The Darkness is widely used by players but gradually used less and less as players progress.
The second line of Communication is the Internet Relay Chat. It is used by many, many players and is used as its ability to bring together many players. In fact, the Galactic Empire developed its own set of rules for the IRC.
The third and least commonly used is instant messaging systems. This includes AIM, MSN and Yahoo's messaging systems.
The last and most commonly used is forums. Everybody in the Combine has, at one time or another, written in the forums. Yet, the Combine's forums are not the only ones, each faction usually has one. This goes as far as the smallest information faction, to the Empire itself. The forums are the most interchangeable distributor of mass information and reliable communications.
FactionsOne of the Combine's greatest strengths is its broad diversity of factions that players can join. Each faction is player-created and while some encompass the canonical world of Star Wars, such as the Rebel Alliance, Trade Federation and the Galactic Empire while, others exist solely in the Combine such as the Eidola Pirates, the Anzatan Commonwealth, and the Falleen Federation. There are typically 50-100 active factions ranging from medical factions, to pirates, banks and droid producers. Each faction comprises at least 10 players banded together to pursue their in-character goals; however there is no limit to the number of players in a faction and some larger factions include over a hundred members.
EconomyThe Combine boasts a self-sustaining economy that overarches just about every action in the game. Players are now required to mine raw materials through mining factions and then process them through individual production factions in order to build ships, vehicles or any other in-game entities. These are then bought, sold and destroyed between the player-base.
The ability to produce ships, droids, vehicles and other assets was released belatedly in mid-late 2006 allowing a new influx on assets into combine and sending prices falling (there was much rejoicing by the players who were sick of high prices).
The Economy has two major sources of direct income: Facility income (provided when you manage certain types of facilities) and Taxes (only available to government type factions. That is the main source of money flowing into the game, the money is then distributed (theoretically anyway) to all other groups through the trade and purchase of goods/services.
CombatOne of the long-standing thorns in the Combine's side is its lack of player-vs-player combat usually seen in other MMORPGs. Originally not wanting to release any form of combat that could be seen as potentially biased to particular factions due to an incomplete feature being abused, the development team has recently begun releasing and discussing quick-fix patches to allow some form of retribution between players.
AcademicsIn addition to its gaming aspects, the Combine is also a significant academic tool and testing ground for new ideas. It has been host to several studies by students studying psychology, and it has been used to test emerging web technologies in a fairly large-scale environment. Several studies have been conducted in the past two years and include a study designed to test the feasibility of web services designed to allow 3rd party management of characters and the associated trust/security risks, such as cheating. A number of faction websites currently use web services to provide streaming feeds of the Galactic News Service (an in-game news service) to their members, and the original Galactic Market used web services to verify accounts.
ControversyDeveloped by a regularly changing group of volunteers, the Combine suffers from many bugs and inconsistencies that have regularly hindered gameplay for its members.
This game provides examples of
- A Commander Is You: There are dozens of factions in the game, of all types and flavors. And if you are successful enough, you can become a leader of one, or even form your own faction, if you manage to get enough players together.
- Anti-Villain: A possible interpretation of players who choose to align themselves with the Dark Side supporting Empire, but who are otherwise fulfilling the role of average pilots/soldiers/civil servants. Can also apply to players belonging to other morally dubious groups such as the Black Sun crime syndicate.
- The Alliance: The Galactic Alliance- an affiliation of factions that oppose the Galactic Empire arguably headed by the New Republic.
- The Bad Guy Wins: The present Galactic Government is the Galactic Empire, meaning they are the dominant faction within the galaxy- controlling the majority of systems and planets therein.
- Character Level: Players gain experience points and reach new levels. With each new level they get points to spend on their skills. It is worth to note, that you can build a competent character at the start of the game (see Point Build System below), and the level-up improvements aren't very impressive.
- Deep Cover Agent: The majority of major 'Government' type factions maintain an intelligence branch of some description. Several of them utilize double agents and the like to infiltrate opposing factions for the purposes of sabotage and information gathering. The big two are the New Republic Intelligence Service and Imperial Intelligence, serving the New Republic and Galactic Empire respectively.
- Final Death: You die in this game and you'll have to start a new character.
- Internal Affairs: Many factions employ these sort of organisations, sometimes overtly, sometimes not. The Imperial Security Bureau serves this purpose for the Galactic Empire while the New Republic utilizes an entire justice system for prosecuting internally.
- Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
- Money for nothing: Averted, as the developers are making a considerable effort to make the economy as realistic as possible. Money is generated only in two ways: collecting taxes (available only to Governments), and managing a profitable facility (taverns, factories, museums, etc.)
- Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: Averted absolutely. In this player-driven economy the prices jump up and down. And becoming a successful merchant is very much possible.
- On the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness it scores at World Of Phlebotinum
- Point Build System: All characters are created by spending the same amount of points according to same specific rules. BUT force sensitivity (aka becoming a Jedi/Sith/whatever) is determined randomly (probability depends on your race).
- Rooting for the Empire: As mentioned before the Galactic Empire is arguably the most powerful in-game faction as of this edit- mainly due to a significant amount of players doing this.
- Space Cold War: Because in-game combat isn't currently an active feature the conflict between the Empire and Galactic Alliance (and various other conflicts among smaller factions) is technically this. For now.
- Space Pirates: The mandate of many in-game factions. Perhaps the most infamous of which are the Eidola Pirates. Members of the group have consistently engaged in hostile action against galactic governments, up to and including kidnapping Republic Chairmen and Imperial Executors.
- SWC Academics
- The Star Wars Sim (SWSIM), the now-defunct game out of which the Combine grew
- The Unofficial Star Wars Combine Wiki (Compedia)
- The Official Star Wars Combine OOC Wiki
- Holocron (The Official Star Wars Combine IC Wiki)