When I first started playing Star Wars Galaxies, I noticed there were certain “hang-out” spots in each city. Even if you went to a different server, the hang-out spots were exactly the same. I thought it was weird because back then, you could choose to start in any city on any planet. There were no quest-hubs to draw anyone to any place in particular.
After thinking about what all the hang-spots had in common, I came to realize that gamers are very lazy creatures. If the game mechanics didn’t force a player to go somewhere to hang out, they would hang out wherever they loaded in. This meant the main hang-out in every city was the starport. The developers tried to force people into the cantina’s by giving them a nasty debuff called “battle fatigue” that could only be slowly removed in certain locations. They also tried to force people into hospitals to have their other crippling debuffs removed. But even if these locations were 30 seconds away from the load-in spot, people wouldn’t make the journey.
You can’t artificially create game-mechanics to force players to hang out somewhere. Oh, you can try, but leaving the load-in spot to go have a medic remove my wounds in the hospital was about as much fun as waiting in line at the DMV. If they really wanted players to hang out in the hospital, then they should have made the hospital the place you load into after you die. But they didn’t. You woke up as a clone, if I remember. A wounded clone…. or something.
By contrast, everyone hangs out inside the Prancing Pony in Lotro. Could the developers behind SWG believe that players use instruments to play music there on a daily basis without being forced to grind “entertainer xp”? The Prancing Pony has several reasons it’s a hang out spot. First of all, there’s a mile-stone right outside to make it a possible load-in location. Second, the beginning of the Epic quest line forces you to go there several times. Third, there are many amenities inside such as a barber, vendors, and a bard, so people can stop off there for multiple reasons. And of course, it’s a memorable location from the books/movies.
Star wars Galaxies, if you want people to hang out in a cantina, let me land on the roof! Put in bazaar terminals, mission terminals, bank terminals, and bounty-hunter terminals inside it, and then make the cantina the default place to land when coming from another planet. Basically, if you let me load in and get my stuff done without having to move my little virtual legs, then I might consider hanging out there.