Retrospective: Star Wars Galaxies

A long time ago, in this galaxy right here...

These moments made the game, and with how scattered and mysterious the whole game was, it made it all worth it. Before the appearance of World of Warcraft, forcing every game to imitate the formula, Star Wars Galaxies was taking chances. If it were presented today, it'd be chased out of the boardroom with a match and gasoline.

Let me stop and insist that Star Wars Galaxies was, by no means, a perfect MMORPG. It was actually riddled with problems and bugs and clunky (if visually cool) stop-and-go combat. It's not just the spoiled part of me that says that World of Warcraft is and was objectively better, it just was. WoW was a better time. I could spend hours grinding Imperial faction on Tattooine, or I could level up my night elf rogue and keep discovering new locations and regions and bad guys to fight. Gee, I wonder which was more interesting?

Sony, however, didn't seem to understand what made their game fun. WoW had just landed in beta form, and it was making a huge ripple, and more of the changes were looking like they couldn't not have those features, despite that they were two radically different games. World of Warcraft had 10% durability loss on equipment on death – Star Wars Galaxies put it in too, despite that items at 0 were destroyed, repairing had to be done by players, repairing ran a risk of lowering the item's durability, and making one with identical stats was near-impossible. Instead of a method of forcing players to pay pocket change for their mistakes, your items got closer to being permanently destroyed.

The trend continued, too. Jedi were highly sought after, not just for their legendary status but for their incredibly powerful kits. Holocrons unlocked only a single slot, and if they died, they died permanently. After (fair) complaints that it was frustrating, they removed permadeath. Then they made Jedi easier to unlock. Then they re-did the unlocking method entirely to make it both less grindy and more easily conveyed, removing the mystery and difficulty. Then, Jedi became numerous, and suddenly the game wasn't fun for anyone who wasn't a Jedi. PvP was just a matter of how many one side had.

The mismanagement and confusing changes continued with the newest expansion, Trials of Obi-Wan. On the surface, it looked interesting, providing more lore, but too much of it fell in as a promotional gimmick. Episode III was out at the time, and everything – from the new Mustafar planet, to Obi-Wan's quest – was all tied into the movie. And, worse yet, right after it was out, Sony announced they would overhaul the core classes, removing the multiclassing and repurposing it into what they dubbed the New Game Enhancements, practically undoing many of the changes it brought. Galaxies became, essentially, World of Wookiecraft.

And, really, it wasn't just the removal of the core engine that prompted the backlash. What Sony had done was made everyone's characters invalid. All the work and effort that went into a class like creature handling was ripped out bodily, and not for game balance reasons, but because they wanted to be more like the popular kid on the playground. And for what reason? Directly competing with Blizzard's juggernaut – even at release, it was a monster of a game – was incredibly foolish.

Instead of the NGE, they could have just worked for class balance. Jedi were already highly sought after and demanded – if they just made them a core part of the game, and balanced them in with the rest of the it, Jedi would be seen as a kickass status symbol and highly sought-after prize, rather than an overpowered tactical nuke to the game's combat. Or just add them to the game as an exclusive profession. Sure, it'd mess with the canon to have hundreds running around, but who cares about that? Everyone killed Drizzt Do'Urden in Baldur's Gate.

It's really unfortunate, too, because Star Wars Galaxies – a strange, grindy, mismanaged mess – had a lot of potential. And it could only have been created back then. If Star Wars Galaxies were created today, it'd be a free-to-play title, lacking completely in the open world canvas or the profession system. It'd have big, colorful, cartoony graphics, with lots of fanservice. Cantinas would be packed to the brim with dancers in full Stormtrooper armor purchased with real money, performing for Rebels before they all went to fight a Rancor with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

So, with all of this said, what's the likelihood we'll get anything like it ever again? Sony is deep in the forge, smelting the bones that will create EverQuest Next. And while it will definitely contain some of the open-world house construction and lots of crafting, and Smedley has outright stated Galaxies inspired a lot of the additions, I get the feeling Galaxies is too different from classic EverQuest to possibly take any of its other features.

I don't know if Sony will ever embark on a crazy experiment like Galaxies again. It's the sort of game that feels like it could only exist before World of Warcraft landed and showed everyone how to pack raw fun into an online RPG title. Maybe one day they will take the best aspects of SWG and try to pack them into a new game. Hopefully some sort of sci-fi IP that would allow them to bury hidden professions and more tightly balance all the aspects of the game, without the big new titles intimidating them into changing the core mechanics.

All I can do is hope someone still remembers some of the best aspects of Star Wars Galaxies, and one day, we'll see some of the most creative aspects of the game again. Maybe it'll be from Sony, and maybe it won't. But I hope nobody has forgotten it. 

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Those good old days
# Dec 08 2012 at 12:09 PM Rating: Default
83 posts
I still remember the first time i played an MMO it was this one.
And the first day i started playing this wookie helped me learn ALL the languages in the galaxcy which actually took quite awhile lol. I found it fun and funny at the same time to have such a nice community interacting together to make something so great. Sadly i couldn't pay subscriptions and i didnt even know those existed when i played the game and after 1 month of free trial i was unable to continue ):

But during that 1 month i remember seeing a jedi meditating in the middle of town and i was like "OH my god... SO cool!" I was tempted to try attacking him because yet too afraid to haha...

Those were the days when MMO to me was so immerse compare to now where nothing seems to be as much of an community.
Fond Memories of SWG
# Dec 04 2012 at 9:53 PM Rating: Decent
Thank you for the great article. I still have some very fond memories of the game and miss it a great deal.
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