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Heroic Encounters
The other big draw for Chapter 7 is the combination of the Township of Aurilia and the multiple Heroic Encounters we implemented, which are started in the Township. Aurilia is our nexus gathering point on the planet of Dathomir. All the amenities of a major city are available there, and it provides a central point for players to form a group and launch off to the various Heroic Encounters. In the past, Aurilia was a village of outcasts struggling to create a foothold on Dathomir. We've moved the story of these outcasts forward; they've survived all the hardships, and have turned village into a thriving township. A large portion of the player base remembers Aurilia as an exciting place and are glad to see it return in a new form. Also, it's pretty rare and definitely exciting to see an MMO moving its story forward. Players remember the old NPCs in the village and the roles they had, and they are excited to interact with them again. Usually in an MMO, the NPCs you see at the launch of the game usually rarely change, but we have actually thrown this convention out the window and made their place in time shift forward.

For the launch of the Heroic system, we added three encounters: one deals with the Nightsisters of Dathomir, one with the rogue assassin droid IG-88, and the third places your team in the hot seat defending the city of Mos Espa against a Tusken invasion. Players learn the details of these encounters through a series of quests that come from the Township of Aurilia, which is also where you go to spend some of the rewards they gain through the successful completion of the encounters. In general, we see groups of seven to eight people successfully completing these encounters and walking away with some killer loot. In fact, there are several types of rewards from the heroics. One is the tried-and-true loot from the mob. Also, players are rewarded with a token of heroism for defeating the encounter, which can be spent on fabulous items in Aurilia. Finally, there is a kill collection for each heroic boss which increments every time the player completes the encounter. A key learning for us in Chapter 7 was in our methodology for creating the heroic encounters. Once we had the rough outlines of the encounter implemented, the SOE design team would play the encounters in the afternoon. Then we all huddle in someone's office and talk about how it went. Tweaks would be completed and checked in to the next day's build for even more play testing. This way we were able to quickly identify mechanics that didn't work. So while the team ended up spending a large chunk of dev time play testing, the encounters ended up in a much better place because of it. It also showed us other areas we should work on and various game systems received dev time because of it. For example, the ability to /invite a person to your group anywhere in the galaxy was implemented because of frustrations the dev team felt in easily forming our groups.

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What's Next?
Early in the year we polled players to see what they wanted in the game, and space-based content came in very high. Without giving too much detail right now, our broad goal is to provide content to SWG's space game, which really hasn't been touched much over the past two years. The Chapter gives us an opportunity to link the Collections and Heroic Systems to space content. We are already working on a new heroic encounter for Chapter 8, as well as additions to Aurilia to reflect the new heroic story. We have always been really proud of the way our space game looks; it's some of the more gorgeous scenery there has ever been in a video game so we are looking forward to getting players up there to experience it. We are also looking to add some additional space ships to Chapter 8, and there will be some unique ways in which players obtain them. We are looking forward to closing out the year with a bang and then quickly ramping up for 2008. SWG never sleeps and we are coming up on some players 54 month anniversary! Hats off to all of our players!

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