Star Wars Galaxies
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If There Was a book on how to bork an MMO, Star Wars Galaxies would be the prime case study. In the space of two years it went from being the most eagerly awaited game of its time, to one that saw players leave in the thousands.
Sony Online Entertainment got the development gig for Star Wars Galaxies on the back of the success of Everquest. During the three-year build up to its release, canny marketing saw 400,000 joining Galaxies' online community before the game was released.
Simon Jeffery - then the president of LucasArts - saw this player involvement as being vital: "We firmly believe that consistent and open communication with fans will be one of the keys to the success of the Star Wars Galaxies experience." So when An Empire Divided- Galaxies' core game - was launched, expectations were sky high. But when they logged on for the first time, players were landed with a confused mess.
A New Goof
There was no doubt that An Empire Divided had its fine points. For its time, it was a beautiful game, including accurate recreations of iconic locations like towers of Naboo and Jabba the Hutt's Palace. And one of the most praised aspects of the game was character generation. By allowing players to take skills from any of six core professions, follow 24 specialist careers, and develop a highly customisable avatar, each player was assured their character was unique.
Interestingly, one of the professions had nothing to do with combat Artisans were entertainers or created items -anything from ray guns to buildings -that could be sold to other players, and so could earn experience as professional traders, builders, dancers or musicians. While this was innovative, it wasn't Star Wars. It was dull. This was one of the things SOE aimed to change with the Combat Upgrade.
On the 27 April, 2005 players found fighting in the game had been radically altered: grouping became important-combat levels were no longer an underlying mechanic; and powers, weapons, armor and buffs were all rebalanced. The result - an improved system that encouraged team play - was controversial amongst players, and thousands cancelled their subscriptions, believing Galaxies had changed from a unique game to a clone of other MMOs.
Despite this dissatisfaction, SOE didn't react to the players' concerns. And six months later they introduced the New Game Enhancements, turning Galaxies into the game it is now. The NGEs massive, sudden and unannounced overhaul of Galaxies was a fundamental shift from its origins. People who loved the original Star Wars movies because they were fairy tales with ray guns. But for all its depth and complexity, but the original Galaxies lacked soul. And Jedi (see A Plague Of Padawans'). With the NGE Galaxies regained the excitement of Star Wars, gave new players an easier way into the game, thanks to a massively simplified character generation system, and the chance to be jedi from the outset.
These changes angered old-tim players who were forced to alter their characters to fit the limited nine-class structure SOE had introduced. Again, another massive subscriber walk-out occured. This time player-created cities were emptied as entire communities left.
A Wrong Move
With the NGE, SOE planned to increase Galaxies' player base by simplifying the game. Instead they delivered a critical blow to the MMO, and tarnished their own reputation.
When SOE took over the MMO Vanguard in 2007, John Smedley - SOE's president - stated: "We've learned a thing or two with our experiences with the NGEand don't plan on repeating mistakes from the past and not listening to the players." An admission that SOE's attitude was the polar opposite of LucasArts' aims for the game.
Today, Galaxies is still running, but its time is limited. Despite being the only Star Wars MMO and a well-polished MMO, unofficial estimates places subscriber numbers at under 100,000, and SOE closed 12 of its 24 servers this month. It's telling the game itself is only available from a few online stores. But the real death blow will likely be The Old Republic, being made by Knights of the Old Republic developer Bio Ware.
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There are some people who still regard Star Wars Galaxies as one of the best Star Wars games ever made. I worked in a video game store when this was first released and I remember people being super hyped for this. While the game would ultimately die, some die-hard fans have managed to keep it alive.
Help Me Obi-Wan You Are My Only Hope
The first thing that is worth noting about Star Wars Galaxies is that in this game you do not actually play as one of the iconic Star Wars characters. Do not worry though as those characters you love like Luke and Han are in the game and do play a part. Instead, you need to create your character from one of many different classes.
You can be a regular character like a human or something more awesome like a Wookie. There is a nice selection here and the character creation suite is very easy to get to grips with. Once you pick your class, you can then pick your profession. Star Wars Galaxies for a game released in the early 00s has a lot of choice in this regard. Jedi, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, and Officer are just some of the professions you can be.
As this is an MMORPG, you do have plenty of skills to work with. It is up to you what you want to focus on, but the skills are things like combat, crafting, pilot, politician and so on. So, you can really get into your character in Star Wars Galaxies and that is one of the things that people loved about it.
For the Fans
One of the things that was great about this game was the fan service. A ton of stuff was added to the games during its run. You have many different planets that you could go and explore. These are iconic locations such as Tatooine and Kashyyyk. The planets are a lot of fun to explore and when you do encounter a well-known character from one of the movies. Or even a lesser known one from the expanded Star Wars universe it makes things even more exciting.
Is the Force Strong with This One?
In terms of the gameplay, Star Wars Galaxies when it was first released was very rough around the edges. Some people got it right away, but this was one of those MMORPG style games that certainly got better with age. New planets were added, epic space battles, more things to do and dealing with famous characters was given more attention.
The actual gameplay of Star Wars Galaxies does require some serious time to be put in so that you know exactly what you are doing. If you expect to jump straight into this and be running around swinging a lightsaber within two minutes you are going to be very disappointed. If you are a Star Wars fan you will probably be a lot more forgiving and get more into the game. As I said there is a ton of fan service and coming across a new character or a new planet that you know is a huge part of the appeal.
While the official servers are long dead for Star Wars Galaxies, fans have kept the game going strong and that is awesome. I would not say that this is one of the best MMORPG games I have ever played. However, as a Star Wars fan, I must admit I did have a lot of fun with it. I feel that if you are a Star Wars fan, you need to check this out. Just know that you do have to put some serious time into it in order to get the best out of it.
When Star Wars Galaxies was first released many Star Wars fans felt that this was the Star Wars game they had been waiting for. While it had some die hards in the early days, the original Star Wars Galaxy was a bit of a clunky and frustrating game. However, it did greatly improve over the years and each expansion that was added made the game a more fun and complete Star Wars experience.
You Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder!
Let’s start with the main thing you want to know, who can you play as in Star Wars Galaxies? Well, you cannot actually pay as Luke, Han or Leia, but they are in the game. You do though have an impressive choice of species to base your character on such as human, Wookie, Rodian, and Ithorian. There was also a lot of professions in the game that you could be as well. These were quite varied and included professions such as smuggler, Jedi, bounty hunter, officer, medic, spy and so on. These different professions each had their own skills and abilities that you could make use of and upgrade as you progressed through the game. It was actually pretty complex when it came to its progression. Each profession had three different things in it, combat, crafting and entertaining and it was up to you which one you would really focus on or if you would try and be more balanced. You could if you want also pursue three other “skills” pilot, politician and chronicler if you wanted.
In A Galaxy, Far, Far Away
As you would expect, Star Wars Galaxy was bursting just like Jabba the Hut’s gut….. when it came to fan service. By the time the game officially came to a close, there was a ton of different planets that you could go and explore. Tatooine, Naboo, Kashyyyk, Corellia, and Endor are not even half of the planets that you can go and explore. Also, there are so many famous Star Wars characters in the game that it will make your head spin. They even reference the two Ewok movies in this game when I saw that it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen in a Star Wars game. Most of the planets also have a space system as well which you can fly around and get into space battles which is also a lot of fun.
So How Does It Play?
This is kind of hard to answer as like many MMO style games Star Wars Galaxies when it started was a very, very different game by the time it came to a close. I think that they really got it on the right track. It did have a very steep learning curve, but the combat both on land and in space was excellent and really did make you feel like you were in a Star Wars movie. The different missions and quests that you could go on were fun. Of course, some were more fun than others and those quests that did have you going to a more well-known location like the palace on Naboo or dealing with a character like Luke Skywalker really do make you giddy with excitement. At its heart, this is a typical MMORPG that just so happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. At the time it was released, people were not too kind on the game, but they did right the ship and those that stuck with it enjoyed it right until they closed the official servers.
While the official servers for Star Wars Galaxies may be closed. There is plenty of fan-made ones that have kept this game alive. If you like the idea of a Star Wars themed MMORPG, I do feel that it is worth looking into how you can give it a try. I will say that in order to get the most enjoyment out of this you must have a real love for Star Wars.
- Lots of famous Star Wars locations to go to
- You can pilot many awesome ships and vehicles
- Combat is a lot of fun
- Plenty of iconic Star Wars characters to come across
- There are still ways to play it to this day
- The official servers are long dead
- Does require that you love Star Wars to look over some of the flaws