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swg-anniversary

If there was one MMO in my life that drained the most out of my day, it was Star Wars Galaxies.  It wasn’t my fascination with the lore, or my lack of friends, but it was the game’s dedication to player interactivity, deep character progression, and fantastic PvP mechanics.  Other MMOs funnel players into arenas for PvP conflict, create skyscraper monstrosities for groups, and build a glass ceiling out of loot.  Not SWG.

Granted, all of this was before the dirty combat upgrade or the piss-poor new game enhancements.  These two updates destroyed everything the game stood for, and are the primary reason the game is desolate today.  However, that topic has been drilled more than the middle east’s oil reserves. Let’s focus on the positives instead because, before that happened, Star Wars Galaxies was on the right track.

SWG had a brilliant leveling system.  Instead of choosing a focus at the beginning of the game, players learned novice professions.  These professions: marksman, brawler, scout, artisan, and entertainer, gave players the freedom to combine their classes as they choose.  It, like the upcoming Star Trek Online, was a pyramid system.  As you progressed, you developed a focus.  Players favoring the pistol would gain pistol experience and become pistoleers.  One-handed swordsmen became fencers.  And assholes became combat medics.   Thus, there were over 30 professions, ranging from fighters to merchants, and the combinations were limitless.

swg2

Talent trees are a weaker version of this.  Sure, you can pick whatever you want, but the tree is bound to the class you picked at the beginning.  You don’t learn to use any new weapons and gain a handful of new abilities. Instead, they enhance the abilities your character already has.  SWG trees gave players access to different weapons and stat bonuses, and combining them bestowed your character with a myriad of traits, weapon certifications, and perks. Instead of picking a road to travel down, players built the road themselves.

It sucks picking a class and playing for hours before realizing you hate it.  Too bad, pick a new one and start over. In SWG if you didn’t like a class, or a certain portion of it, you could unlearn it and start on a different tree. It would be like a warlock giving up the dark arts to become a paladin.  You always had to relearn the abilities, but I identified more with a malleable character, rather than one that’s primary identity was the class you picked at the beginning. You never had to create a brand new character unless you wanted to change race.

A unique trait of SWG was its affinity for player interactivity.  As players gained experience points, they had to find a trainer and pay to learn the skill, or find a player and have him/her teach them the skill.  To learn the master professions, players had to teach “younger” players the lower level skills.  This induced incentive for players to search out others instead of relying upon the trainer bot.

swg003

On top of this, almost everything in the game was player created.  If you wanted new items or armor, you had to find player vendors and buy the product from them.  This developed a bond between players as they established trust with the best merchants on the server.  Players would constantly swap way points as they searched for better deals and even better equipment.  The economics were not as sophisticated as EVE, but it was enough that players dedicated their career to the mercantile business.

If there is one thing I want to see make it into future MMOs, it’s the player cities.  SWG wasn’t a series of zones that players explored.  It was a group of planets with a number of points of interest, and everything else was simply landscape.  Guilds weren’t a list in a menu.  They were real cities with malls and houses.  There was nothing better than buying a house – from a player architect – and organizing all of my goods as I saw fit.  I could place my trophies on the wall and slowly carve my place in the galaxy.  Now, players meander homelessly from dungeon to dungeon in search of the loot of the day.

My favorite portion – and, ironically, my least favorite – of any MMO is its PvP.  I love testing my will and skill against other players, but this dichotomy is born from being forced into combat when I am trying to level.  SWG‘s system was great because players were never forced into combat.  You didn’t have to make a permanent, and possibly regretful, choice when deciding upon a server, but instead you told your recruiter you wanted to declare your status as a rebel bastard or an imperial snob.  There were so many intense moments waiting for the shuttle, proudly displaying my imperial insignia, when a group of heavily armored rebels would arrive.  They would instantly surround me as I counted the five minutes until shuttle launch.

swg

This system gave way to clubs and sections of towns that became the “cool” spots.  Rebels spent extended time in Tatooine’s cantinas, and Imperials found solace in the seductive dances of Twi’leks on Naboo.  Players would coordinate strikes on these hideouts and the subsequent firefights would last for hours before a concession was made.  There were times when I would see someone I had PUGed with sitting, overt, enjoying the music from a fellow rebel.  I loved not knowing who to trust.

But, I lament.  SWG is a mere shadow of its former excellence.  It has been drained by SOE of all its individuality, and exists now as a relic to remind me, and all former SWGers, that MMOs don’t have to be about getting as much loot as possible, or getting to the highest level.  It taught me about player cooperation and opposition, and not everyone in war is a soldier.  I can’t get Star Wars Galaxies back, but I sure as hell hope that one of these mechanics bleeds into a game in the future.

  1. avatar Randy

    Star Wars Galaxies was possibly the best game ive ever played. It was also the only MMO I truely ever liked and enjoyed. I’m surprised to see someone wrote an article on this and it makes me happy to know people still recognize it.

  2. avatar Travis

    I loved that game for two years from it’s release until the CU. I have no idea why they tried to make it more WoW-like, but it completely ruined the game. I made an attempt to play again about a year ago, but I just couldn’t get back into it like I had when it was first released.

  3. avatar try the emulator

    google “swgemu” and go to their site. A dedicated group of people have spent years now recreating the pre-CU experience from scratch.. they’ve done an *amazing* job.

  4. I really wish I had played this when I had the chance.

  5. Although I’ve yet to play a MMO, this describes exactly what I would expect from one, instead of the exact same mechanics found in an offline rpg. I guess you can say the trouble with most MMOs is the fact that they derive far too much from single player games.

  6. My fellow Star Wars junkie friend and I spent an entire semester planning out what we were going to do in Galaxies, and how much fun we were going to have.

    Then it came out…and we were not amused. I quit almost immediately and went back to playing Ultima Online.

    • avatar pfft

      thats because your an idiot…..fuckin Ultima? ROFL dude go comment somewhere else.i dont care if it was half a year ago lol

  7. avatar Ruleroftheblind

    I bought the game just after Jump to Lightspeed, so I never knew it before the first CU. However, I absolutely adored that game. I played endlessly, mastering my marksman skills and becoming a master pilot so I could finally fly my YT-1300. I flew that ship once. Then the second CU came out along with the NGE. I almost cried.

    I have such high hopes for the swgemu project. There’s just so little information about it online. I’ve only heard rumors that they’re in alpha right now. So, here’s hoping.

  8. avatar Pejasto

    I played on Ahazi and poked fun at roleplayers by creating a religion that worshiped the melon. There were hundreds of us. I didn’t do anything but dance and fix the New Ein d’Or elections. Err, I mean, plan the city. Had much, much more fun than WoW.

  9. avatar NeeAnderTall

    I still use the NGE as a reference of what not to do in any MMORPG. I have hopes for Star Trek Online. Time will tell if it will surpases SWG in subscribers and years of reliable and engaging play.

  10. avatar edd

    At launch this game was so terrible it made me swear off of paid MMO’s to this day.

    If you like this game, then you are an example if George Lucas’s “Star Wars fans will buy donkey shit” philosophy.

  11. avatar edd

    Remember how you could damage yourself simply by shooting other people in the head from long range with the sniper? That makes perfect sense! Then you could walk for a long time to look at dancers in the cantina when you had to heal your wounds from shooting other people, since there weren’t any vehicles. When you got to the cantina, there might not be any dancers there! Wheee!What fun!

  12. avatar Rich

    @edd
    No vehicles?

    I seem to remember riding around on a speeder bike quite alot well before the CU and NGE

  13. avatar Inacurate

    My feelings and thought as well, exactly.

    I was lucky enough to not have to play post-CU due to unfortunate circumstances that I now thank, lol.

    I miss SWG though, it was a blast. The first and only MMO I ever purchased a retail box on day one.

    EVE has some of those elements, Darkfall has some others. But both those MMOs are constantly overlooked because they “Aren’t WoW” – Which isn’t the issue. The issue *is* WoW. Dumbing down mass expectations and just spoon-feeding BS to the masses who gladly eat it up!!

    Love live what MMOs like SWG, EVE and Darkfall represent!

  14. avatar MisterBronze

    I remember this game stealing the life of a friend and I for about a year. We were completely obsessed about it and we still reminisce about it to this day. Sometimes you would just hang out in canteenas for hours, socialising – you never felt the need to grind, level or quest to enjoy yourself.

    I love the fact that it was players that governed cities. SOE really gave this game to the players. It fell apart when they took it back and changed it.

  15. I got really excited when this game came out, but I got bored of it within a few hours. For me it was simply too buggy, too boring, and too complicated. I felt like a lot of reviewers were giving it high scores based on its potential rather than its then-quality as a game.

  16. avatar Jasyn

    I played SWG since just after the first release. It was one of the best MMOs out there. NGE made it essentially just another WoW clone. SWGEmu.com is working on recreating that. I’ve played it a few times. They have most of the combat worked out – its not perfect yet, but I have no doubts that it will be at some point.

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  17. I, like many other commenters, played this when it came out but not after it had been refined. I really wish I had, it sounds fantastic.

  18. avatar ncc

    Star Wars galaxies was the first and only MMO that I ever played so maybe my opinion is a bit biased but me and my brother had a great time playing it and played up until just before the JTL expansion came out. Planning your character was great since there were so many different combinations you could create.

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  19. avatar Jordan Garski

    Matrix Online and SWG seem to follow quite a similar timeline when it comes to when they were good and when the sucked.

    I also disliked the game once they made it ridiculously easy to become a Jedi.

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  20. avatar Alymon

    I played from beta to NGE/CU2 and even went back a few times after quitting soon after NGE.

    The game had its flaws in the beginning but once they added player cities, vehicles and JTL, it was one of the best games I ever played.

    It truly is a shame what they did to it. The leveling system prior to NGE was so awesome. Now it’s just like every other MMO out there, except with few people still playing it.

    The game still has the best crafting system of any MMO.

  21. avatar SWG_fan

    I greatly miss the wonderful dynamics and diversity that was bread into the original mechanics of SWG. Keep in mind that Lucas Arts dictated to Sony Online Entertainment to make the changes – both parties share equal blame.
    Due to what LA caused, and what SOE developed, I avoid games from both camps. The competition is so good that I’ll be playing better games that will never put a dime into either of their greedy hands of malcontent. I encourage everyone to avoid both SOE and LA products, there are too many legitimately good games out there to bother with their garbage.

  22. avatar shadowguma

    i remember back in the day before the NGE, I was on the verge to becoming a jedi, I knew everything that needed to be done and I was being helped by another player who had already achieved jedi status. THEN THE NGE CAME OUT. now any asshole who stated a new game had the option to start as a friggin jedi. I PUT DOZENS UPON DOZENS of hours into achieving my jedi and before i could, they just had it over to everyone

  23. avatar shadowguma

    btw i also loved jump to lightspeed, i even got a millenium falcon of my own and was flyin it around. but sadly not anymore…..hopefully the old republic will be my saving grace

  24. @edd
    “Star Wars fans will buy donkey shit” is far from even fitting in the category of a philosophy. The word you failed to utilize is “theory”.

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  25. avatar Starry

    @NeeAnderTall

    I am sure even in Open Beta that there are far more players currently in STO than there are now left in SWG. The engaging play stopped on 11/25/05 and reliability has never been a term associated with SWG.

  26. avatar LJ

    I remember making TKM in the Tusken Village and the friends I made leveling there. I remember taking time out to just sit and watch the sunset next to my Wookie friend. Learning languages from other players. Running from one city to another before speeders. Those were the days.

  27. avatar Neo

    SWGEmu… relive the saga

  28. avatar Anonymous

    I still keep screenshots of my creature handler/ranger looking out at the sunset from her house on Tattooine. Sigh. RIP SWG… 5 years later and I still grieve over it.

  29. avatar Anonymous

    i am sad to say that i still play the renmants of this game lol

  30. avatar LONG LIVE PIRATES ONLINE

    Maybe SWG got messed up but pirates of the caribbean online is awesome! yall really should try it instead of cryin bout SWG

  31. avatar RP

    I severely miss this game. I can’t remember how many times I’ve searched “I miss star wars galaxies” on Google. @LJ, I completely forgot about learning languages… I stuck around too long after CU and NGE :(

  32. avatar Rick

    I was in the game between the first CU… the NGE was what made me leave. Like the other person who commented, I had put months into trying to become a jedi. It took me months because certain training periods were timed to only be available every few weeks and I couldn’t always be in the game. Then NGE comes out and they start handing out lightsabers like candy..

    I miss the way the game used to be. I haven’t gone back in almost 5 years now. Think about it from time to time.. I miss my house on Rori, my pet dewback named Spot, and my BARC speeder.. I know that stuff is all gone now though since SOE is famous for getting rid of your stuff if you havent played in a while… the memories..

  33. avatar eez - bria

    Thank you for the article. SWG pre cu and nge was an amazing game. I agree with whomever said it still has the best crafting system, and agree with the author that player cities are still overlooked in modern mmo’s.

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  34. avatar pfft

    It was the perfect idea shit on and ruined.The way that becoming a jedi was outstanding.you got glowy doing POIs that for a long time no one knew exactly what they were.then it took forever to grind out the trees.so only people who busted their ass got to be jedis and they were awesome too,but you deserved it if ou made it that far.it wasnt just given to any 12 y/o wut…nub….lawl…. crowd.and then the bounty hunters were hunting you constantly like it was supposed to be in that time fram.

    you could be rolling up into town and then you get searched and if found a rebel sympathizer you get blasted and become overt.well to get that fixed as a rebel you have to roll up into a cantina which are loaded with imps getting buffs or wounds taken care of and boom your at it again lol.i was a well though of game.but along comes a new CEO that doesnt know jack shit about the lore and wants everyone to have a piece of being a jedi or what not.fuck the people who worked 6 months to become one lol.

    • avatar Wawakung

      I don’t know about location. The Rusty Scupper seuivvrd there for years. I never heard too many good things about SWG, plus I think the Crab Shell’s party atmosphere in the warmer months took away the younger crowd (back in the day, young JR, the Scupper was the waterside meat market of Stamford).

  35. avatar Seedcake

    Puttin’ in another good word for SWGemu which has been around for years and years now and has steadily gotten better. It’s the pre-CU, pre-NGE game, 1500-2000 players online every day. It’s bustling!

  36. avatar Mike

    (google) Star Wars Galaxies Emu

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