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Remembering Star Wars Galaxies

My eyes shot open as I heard a knock on my bedroom door; the telltale sign that I had overslept through my alarm. I‘d been up late the night before fighting Force-sensitive witches on Dantooine, so it certainly wasn’t out of the question. “Come in,” I croaked, swinging my hand towards the nightstand to find my glasses.

“Hey, um, you should get up,” my dad said, walking into my bedroom. “You don’t have to, but… there are some Rebels in Mos Eisley. They’re running around killing the Imperials, and I thought we should kick them out.”

I cleared my throat and looked at the clock. It was 7 a.m. Also, it was a Saturday.

“Yeah,” I replied, “I’ll log in now.”

Star Wars: Galaxies was the first MMORPG I played, and I’ve no problem admitting that it was because of Star Wars. The idea of fighting alongside Jedi and traveling around the worlds from the movies brought me in, despite never dabbling in the genre (unless you count Diablo, of course). I lucked out and was invited to an early beta for the game, and played with my friends and family for several years until the developer implemented massive changes that drove me away.

Since getting hooked, I’ve played hundreds of hours of World of Warcraft, DC Universe Online, Rift, Lord of the Rings: Online, Dungeons & Dragons: Online, Age of Conan, and dipped a toe in just about every other MMO to be released. But even after all these years, there’s no question: Star Wars: Galaxies was the best MMO I’ve ever played.

Above: Massive battles made SWG feel more important

SWG was innovative in so many ways, and it pains me to see that much of what made it unique was stripped out and replaced with generic drivel after the game’s failures were blamed on its differences from other MMOs, instead of the true errors in its design. Even worse, developers of other MMOs seem to have completely overlooked SWG’s best ideas, ignoring the elements that made it unique when cherry-picking concepts to use in their own games. The leveling system was truly customizable, letting players pick and choose skills from over a dozen different classes to perfectly make their characters. The crafting system, too, was years ahead of its time, and featured a level of customization I still haven’t seen repeated. Even the faction system was perfect – players created a character of any race, and joined the Republic or Empire at their leisure. You didn’t know what faction someone was unless they made it known, you weren’t defined by your political association.

Even more important was the sense of scale, which was absolutely massive. Each planet was huge, and full of interesting things to find and explore. Even though the game itself left much to be desired when it came to actually giving players stuff to do, it did a fantastic job of making them feel like a part of the world. I’m consistently amazed that developers have, for whatever reason, been shrinking MMOs instead of making them larger. I remember getting in a group of 20 to fight monsters on Lok just because. There was no “oh, this creature has a 30% chance to drop a rare weapon!” or “if we grind these guys, we’ll level faster!” Everyone seemed to be in it for the fun of it, a concept that’s been replaced with spreadsheets and percentages over the years. 

Above: Seeing a Jedi was a "screenshot or it didn't happen" kind of thing

It also showed more restraint than most other MMOs. At launch, players actually couldn’t be Jedi – that’s not the story the developers wanted to tell. It took place between the A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, so there really couldn’t be Jedi running around willy-nilly. Eventually, through luck and patience, players began to find their path to the force, and it was genuinely exciting to find. It was a reward, not a status quo. Stumbling into a Jedi in the middle of nowhere was something you told friends about – the developers made it important. Some might say that it’s one of the things that damned the game, but I think it’s one of the things that made it truly special.

And now, as the sun rises on BioWare’s The Old Republic, so it sets on Star Wars: Galaxies. Though many poke fun at the first Star Wars MMO, we should be looking at it with respect, and thanks. Thank you, Star Wars: Galaxies. Though your bits and bytes might be lost in the digital wind, you will never, ever be forgotten.

Above: It's a time of celebration, not sadness

Oh, and for the record, we totally kicked those Rebel scum out of Mos Eisley, and chased their asses all the way back to Anchorhead. You’re welcome, Empire.

Topics

MMO Star Wars

19 comments

  • CyberChrist - February 10, 2014 1:09 p.m.

    I used to play on Bria, with ma daughter who was at that time 9-10 years of age. She preferred not to engage in combat so she would dance in our guild's cantina and heal the combatants. The game allowed for her chosen play-style, as well as mine, which was a more traditional in-your-face bounty hunter approach. I had many friends who focused just upon being the best armor-smith on the server, or the best miner. I remember pulling guard duty - just standing around for hours waiting for some joker to attack our player city - and it was fun. I've yet to see any game even approach this l;level of complexity and immersion. RIP SWG
  • yonderTheGreat - December 16, 2011 11:13 a.m.

    "letting players pick and choose skills from over a dozen different classes to perfectly make their characters." When did you play? When I played there were 32 professions. One of the many, many, many things that made it awesome before Sony murdered it. RIP SWG... you died many years ago.
  • GR HollanderCooper - December 16, 2011 1:29 p.m.

    At launch, when there were 32. I just didn't remember the number.
  • ThisIsMyFuckingThirdAccount - December 16, 2011 2:47 p.m.

    Poor Coop. Hey buddy, you're an awesome addition to the TDar line up! I hope you're feeling at home enough and not bothering with the trolls.
  • Sharkbot - December 16, 2011 9:34 a.m.

    I used to play SWG as a kid, one of the best MMOs i've ever seen. R.I.P. SWG - One of the best MMOs to ever be released.
  • AwesomeMan - December 16, 2011 8:45 a.m.

    It's rare these days to find someone who had such love for this game as I did. It was my first MMO as well and will always hold a special place in my heart. It was different from other MMO's and really made you feel like you were a part of the living breathing universe. Player cities and space yacht parties are just a few of the good times that I sorely miss from this game. It's sad to see it go but the memories will always live on.
  • jmcgrotty - December 16, 2011 7:35 a.m.

    "Eventually, through luck and patience, players began to find their path to the force, and it was genuinely exciting to find." I left the game pretty early in it's lifetime (I might have had too strong of expectations for it. I was really wanting the game), so there obviously could have been (and probably were) changes in the process, but I had thought it was figured out that all you had to do to be a Jedi was to just keep mastering professions. This alone would cover everything needed.
  • Ramstein - December 15, 2011 8:57 p.m.

    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you. It summed up everything I believed about the SWG experience, pre-mess-ups. It was also my first MMO and I've since gone on to play almost every MMO I could get my hands on and I still hold them to the high standards set by SWG. Goodnight sweet prince.
  • profile0000 - December 15, 2011 6:45 p.m.

    I throughly enjoyed this article. I didn't really think anyone believed Galaxies to be the best MMO they ever played, but I'm glad someone said it.
  • ThisIsMyFuckingThirdAccount - December 15, 2011 6:41 p.m.

    This sadness kinda ruins my boner.
  • Longnuts - December 15, 2011 4:12 p.m.

    I saw my former roommate playing this often, but I never picked it up. I was playing Planetside at the time. But I will admit, all the times I watched him play, it looked really awesome. I think one time I saw him with about 15 people all trying to kill a huge rancor or something. It was big. And it looked like everybody there was having a huge amount of fun. Most anything star wars is automatically cool though.
  • Jdub9064 - December 15, 2011 4:05 p.m.

    I never got a chance to try this game, my pc back in the day was.....well TERRIBLE.
  • maxw144 - December 15, 2011 4:05 p.m.

    Don't forget the name generator, which gifted me Veetiglik Grico, which I've seen fit to use in every mmo I've played since. Soloing at high levels may not have been as achievable, but as mentioned, due to the customization, my smuggler/creature tamer/doctor/scout managed to do quite well on his own for the time I spent playing. Sadly I quit after the NGE when I lost the ability to creature tame. (basically fuck speeders when I can ride a pet I own)
  • Mooshon - December 15, 2011 3:48 p.m.

    SWG was my first MMO so I remember it fondly too. Great game and community. The eventual inclusion of the path to becoming 'force sensitive' was a master stroke in my eyes. It really did feel special getting that secret invitation to try and become one of the first jedi. I left before those sweeping changes though. What killed it for me was the general reliance on group play. To even attempt soloing most missions meant starting your session searching (and then queueing for) a player doctor to trade you a stupidly expensive 2 hour buff to level the odds. It became a galaxy full of dancer/musician bots and rookie players begging for buff money to join in.
  • Dmancapri - December 15, 2011 3:48 p.m.

    I could only afford the free one week trial, but that was AMAZING
  • RedHarlow - December 15, 2011 3:32 p.m.

    Pre-NGE Galaxies was brilliant. A lot of good times in that game. I saw a single Jedi the entire time I played, and I remember it being so cool.
  • mockraven - December 15, 2011 3:23 p.m.

    Excellent article. It really conveys how I felt about Star Wars Galaxies. The game was truly ahead of its time in many concepts. I played it longer than any other mmo and really enjoyed it up until the entire game was essentially remade into... whatever its current incarnation is. I'm hoping The Secret World is modeled somewhat after the original SWG skill system.
  • ButtleSkutt - December 15, 2011 3:15 p.m.

    Quite a touching article, makes me wish I'd played it, but at least we have The Old Republic to fill the void it will leave : )
  • MasterBhater - December 15, 2011 3:12 p.m.

    SWG was before my time, but still, like with any game that goes offline, it will be missed.

Showing 1-19 of 19 comments

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