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Dev Diary: Thomas "Hanse" Eidson

Howdy, folks! I'm Thomas "Hanse" Eidson, a designer on the Star Wars Galaxies team.

It's been slightly over a year since I started working on Star Wars Galaxies. I've been keeping an eye on the message board and posting in threads on systems that I was working on at the time. So, if you kept an eye on developer posts, you've probably seen one or two of mine. If you haven't, then this diary and future ones should bring you up to speed on what I've been working on over the past year. I'll also include some insight into the publish contributions I've made.

I'll begin things by providing you with a little more background on who I am and how I became a System Designer on Star Wars Galaxies for Sony Online Entertainment. I've been a professional game designer for the past eight years. The majority of that time has been spent designing massively multiplayer games (MMO's). I've been playing MMO's (I consider hundreds of players online at the same time enough to technically qualify as requiring "massive" game mechanics), since text games in the 1980's (Multi-User Dungeons). I began developing games as a hobby after I was first introduced to computers in the 1970's (TRS-80's, Coco, Apple //, etc). So, I've been on the fringe and in the thick of the gaming industry for over 20 years (almost 30! Yikes!).

A System Designer on SWG has many responsibilities. The tasks I've performed for the past year have focused on balance, maintenance, modification, and much more. These ranged from small tasks of simple data changes, to larger data change overhauls, to the addition of brand new systems. We make changes to the game many different ways -- through programming, spreadsheets, text files, and proprietary tools. All of the designers on the team make some sort of systems change at one time or another. However, System Designers usually do not make additions of content (such as quests, storylines, world building, etc).

Our publishes follow a development cycle of brainstorming, design documentation, peer approval, development, bug fixing, release, and post release fixes. Over that cycle, we also have a list of bugs to fix. A previous "bug bash" publish would consist of trying to fix as many bugs as possible. I typically try to fix eight or more bugs per day when I'm tasked with doing bug fixes. Many of those are not discussed on the message board, due to them being possible exploits, oversights, or just plain irrelevant. However, I'm not averse to asking for opinions on the board when a bug fix may affect you adversely. Sometimes I get stumped for a day, but I try to solve all issues before going home so that they do not nag at me overnight or (heaven forbid), over the weekend!

I've worked on seven major publishes to the game. The first publish, I worked on NPC balance issues. After that, I worked on the Jedi expertise. My third publish, I added the Smuggler expertise system. Once that publish was released, I implemented the Commando expertise system. Over the holiday season, I worked on the Trader expertise systems. When the expertise systems were completed, I worked on a bug fixing publish. The latest publish included the Beast Master system and I was one of five designers that worked on beasts. In a future diary (or diaries), I will discuss the steps I took to implement each system.

Thanks for reading this first installation, and please be on the lookout for future diaries from me!

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