I was somewhat predictable this day would come. In some respects, i’m surprised it didn’t arrive earlier…
$OE have announce that on December 15, 2011, Star Wars Galaxies will shut it’s doors.
As long time reader of this site may know, fellow Geektowner Daryl and myself were huge fans of SWG. D had been playing since beta, and I joined a few months after launch. The original SWG was my first experience of MMOs, and, unlike a lot of modern MMOs, SWG wasn’t just some leveling treadmill that you played with lot’s of other people. It was a genuine virtual world/galaxy, and set in the Star Wars universe. What more could a Star Wars fan ask for!
You could build your own villages. And i don’t mean like in most MMOs that have player housing where you stuck in a predefined area. You could ride out on your speeder into the countryside, stake your claim to a spot of land, and build a community. And in those early days, people did that in large numbers, creating huge cities, each with there own houses, mansions, shopping malls, garden areas and shuttle ports.
SWG was set in a time period between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. The idea was to put you right in the middle of the Empire/Rebel war, allowing you to fight on the side of Vader and the Emperor, or Luke, Han, and their merry band of rebels. This means Jedi were extremely rare. It was possible to become a fabled Jedi warrior, but not without an awful lot of hard work. For most people, they would be playing characters such as bounty hunters, rangers, creature handlers, or scouts. You could also take on professions to help support the player run economy, such as architect, entertainers (people even formed bands), droid engineers, doctors, or farmers. What was unique about SWG was the skill system. You didn’t level from 1 to 60 in one pre-selected profession. You had a pool of experience points, and could pick and choose pretty much any combination from any of the skill trees. Want to be a droid engineer that’s quite handy with a pistol? No problem! Sure, your not going to be as adept as someone that dedicated their time to pistol training, but then they don’t have a bunch of cool droids following them around!
The first expansion – ‘Jump To Lightspeed’ – added space combat into the mix. This not only gave you a brilliant ‘X-Wing v TIE Fighter’ style space battles, but also meant you had your own ship to explore the galaxy in. A ship you could also walk around in, and customize with player crafted furniture. You want your own X-Wing, luxury space cruiser, or even Millenium Falcon, that was all possible.
Then came the cursed NGE (that stands for ‘New Game Enhancements’) patch $OE inflicted on the community. This was Sony’s attempt to turn a unique and interesting sandbox MMO into a more level driven World of Warcraft model. It failed… horribly… and in the process alienated a large portion of the player base. Partly due to the fact that they added Jedi as a ‘starting class’, meaning there were suddenly enough Jedi across the galaxy to have brought down the Empire in no time at all… What made it worse was this was actually the second time $OE had screwed over players, having made a massive change to the combat system with the Combat Upgrade (CU) patch only a few months earlier. For many, the NGE was the final straw.
Over the following years, D and I would get tired of whatever MMO we were playing, and one of us would suggest going back to Galaxies. We’d load up the game only to be really saddened by what was there. Once thriving player-made cities, now nothing more than ghost towns, with empty shops, and not a soul in sight.
In all the years i’ve been playing MMOs, i’ve yet to find a more immersive online gaming world. I’m in no way saying Star Wars Galaxies was perfect… It had some dodgy mechanics, server problems, and other glitches. However, I salute it for trying to be different, at least in the initial pre CU and NGE game design. There is another Star Wars MMO on the horizon of course, in the shape of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I am very much looking forward to, despite the fact I suspect was the last nail in SWG’s coffin. As good as I hope SWTOR is, it will be a very different game to the one SWG was… I’ll leave you with a quote from a little green friend of mine…
“Soon will I rest, yes, forever sleep. Earned it I have. Twilight is upon me, soon night must fall.”