Thank you, Star Wars Galaxies

I was sad to find out that Star Wars Galaxies is being shut down in December.  For me, the experience ended many years ago when a major design decision changed the game entirely, but I still feel an emptiness as I think about one of the greatest Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games shutting down.  I do not type out the acronym for just any game.  SWG earns the right to be called massive and role playing.

To pay homage to such a great game, I want to list what I have learned and taken away from SWG.  In a sense, these are the things that have forever changed how I look at MMORPGs and attributes that would weigh heavily on me should I ever be in a position to orchestrate the design of such a game.

  • Sandbox games do work.
  • Let players live in the world and make it theirs: Player housing almost anywhere, harvesters gathering resources taking up space, and actual player shops created in actual player neighborhoods.
  • You don’t need levels to make a great progression game.
  • Being limited to just one character has major advantages.
  • Crafting can and should be an exclusive way to play.
  • The depth of Crafting in other games is only a drop in the bucket compared to what SWG showed me.
  • Crafters are important to Combat classes.
  • Shift the focus off the gear.  Let it break forever.  It’s just a blaster.   You can get a new one.  It’s how the game let you play with that blaster that mattered.
  • Community comes first and being an active participant in the community should be an exclusive way to play via non-combat / non-crafting classes.  Social classes matter.  SWG covered all the bases.
  • Giant monsters are fun to hunt.  Having to form a hunting party and actually head out to search for elusive giant beasts is fun!  After a long travel session, set up your tents and pull out the instruments while you await daylight.
  • SWG’s original skill tree is what I would use in my MMORPG.

Now seems as good a time as any to thank everyone ever involved with Star Wars Galaxies for giving me years of enjoyment and the opportunity to take  away so much from a single game.  There are so few games that would ever give me cause to stop and reflect on such a level.

If it has been done before, it can be done again.  That is the legacy that will live on.  That is what drives my passion to make it happen.

Update: Raph Koster’s thoughts are worth reading.

  • Id love to know how much they got paid as to make one star wars mmo on the market ….. Just kiddin obviously.

    The original galaxies was a bit of a mutant in the mmo world aka it would not have worked without the ip. Im thinkin Vanguard.

    Im currently in the SWTOR beta so lookin at the differences between the two is kinda surreal. Good or bad I will let people judge on release however lets just say bioware may just have a hit (not wow numbers but easily 2nd place)

  • Unfortunately, because of WoW’s success none of those things that worked in that game will be seen in any of the upcoming MMOs.

  • I’m going to disagree with you Keen on this one. All those things you wrote are great if they work as intended. They did not in many cases in SWG and were great ideas by Raph Koster who is an intellect no doubt. However, implementation of the game at launch and subsequently were poor to say the least. It was a sandbox with a lot of empty and broken.

    It was a lot like a Funcom product, great ideas on paper never to reach technical fruition in game. Some of the things got ironed out eventually and then SOE made more huge changes to wipe the game completely as you know.

    I believe it was a failure through and through with the easy win button of SW IP.

    On another side note, Lucas Arts must be telling us in some sort of read between the lines way that SWTOR is launching in Nov/Dec and cleared the decks.

  • good ideas, bad implementation, fine. Just got to hope the people (not us) who decide where MMOs are going to go realize that and don’t throw out those ideas.

  • @Romble: Weird, I think the things on my list were implemented flawlessly. The game itself wasn’t perfect. Combat was sucky and the mechanics for use of the 3 pools was really weird. Some of the skills were worthless and it had balancing issues. Not much more to say on it, though, if we’re in complete 180 disagreement.

  • Keen, don’t forget Jedi attunement. What an amazing design choice and one I will profoundly respect until my last gaming day.

  • Yep, sad to see. I loved the original SWG. iLkRehp’s post #4 pretty sums up how I feel about the whole thing

    off-topic but what the hell: Keen, I fall on the same side as you in regards to micro-transactions they are the debil!!

    any thoughts on the ongoing EVE shitstorm?

  • I think this is the one MMO where I disagree with you the most: I played it from launch and absolutely hated every molecule of it from then until I sold it a short time later.

    Empty, broken sandbox is a fitting description: I remember my missions involving walking for AGES over empty terrain to kill some butterflies….crafting was broken from launch…combat was terrible.

    I got out before the big update so that’s one area where I can’t comment.

    Maybe I did not give it enough of a chance but a mate was offering me full price for it because he’s an even bigger fan of the “franchise” and I think he wanted to stop me ranting about it.

    Shortly after buying it he contented himself with “watching a train wreck unfolding in slow-motion” with the player’s response to the NCE update.

  • I’m a reader but dont really ever post, but this game (to me) is the best MMO ever made. When it was announced I was about 15 and followed it like nothing else, then beta tested it and played it off and on even after the NGE. This game is the ultimate sandbox in my favorite galaxy, and it is today still fun if you are in a decent guild and can find and make your own fun. Which is the difference between the games that holds your hand like WoW, and the worlds you live in with your friends like SWG. Ill miss it, for sure.

  • This is one time – the first time in a good long while – where I agree with Keen completely. I had no personal horse in the SWG race and played comparatively little of it, and while it had many failings, a failure to innovate wasn’t one of them. It was one of the very few games to actually expand what an MMO could be and do, instead of contracting it. You can call it a failure, but I say that’s a very narrow way of looking at a game that ran for eight years, was profitable the whole time, and was healthy and beloved even when it was sentenced to death by decree. It was a very special game, and will be missed. And I certainly hope that some designers of the future will take its lessons, both good and bad, under advisement.

  • I always regret not getting into SWG. It always looked really cool, and I just never got around to trying it out, much like Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot.

  • SWG was a fun game in it’s early days and had one of the best mix and match character skill systems aside from Asheron’s Call. But it died the day they implemented the NGE and should have been closed down back then.

  • SWG died way before NGE, why do you think they launched NGE? To copy WoW, implement levels, introduce starting classes from the beginning, much like the way SOE changed EQ2. originally in EQ2 you didn’t pick a main class till later. The very things people here talk about loving about SWG; no levels, etc., was the very thing people didn’t like. You gotta remember, if SWG was such a huge success they never would have changed it, they gambled, and lost.

  • I extremely sad at the news of SWG shutting down. Everything Keen said above is spot on.

    As far as the reason why it’s shutting down, it’s not about the sub numbers or the money it’s been bringing in. It is about LA not renewing the license. The obvious reason for that is TOR coming out soon. SWG still had more than enough subs to meet SOE standards for keeping a game running, look at Vanguard, it has maybe 1000 subs now? Not to mention SOE was making a mint off the trading card game that was tied to SWG.

    @Trimethicon SWG did not die before the NGE, sure subs were dwindling, but it was not a mass exodus like we have seen in games to come after it(WAR,AION). I agree that SWG would have never had the mass appeal that WOW had/has, but I don’t think there has ever been a game that touched so many people so deeply and invoked so much passion. The only way your statement has any truth is if you are comparing to WOW sub numbers in the strictest sense. Quantity does not equal quality.

  • I’m kinda sad to hear about SWG too. Do we think it was a license issue? Or just that SOE recognized that it could never stand up in the face of SWTOR?

    Oh well, maybe one day someone will make another original trilogy Star Wars sandbox MMO…

  • Great post Keen, I agree with many of your points. This game will forever live on in our memories as I feel it was truly ahead of its time. Hopefully, MMO’s return to this level of gameplay, mechanics, etc in the upcoming future.

    Here is a FB page I created to share your thoughts and memories about SWG.

  • @We Fly Spitfires: Lucasarts did not renew the contract. That essentially ends the game’s existence. Makes sense that SWTOR is the reason, but it’s obviously on Lucasarts’ end.

  • @ MMORefugee – I wasn’t comparing numbers, and quality/quantity do go hand-and-hand to some extent. My point was; people were lamenting about how awesome the original version was before NGE, but NGE was done in a direct response to dwindling numbers, the prominence of WoW, etc. Everyone is all nostalgic after the fact, I’ll bet you that 99% of these people stopped playing long before NGE.

  • *Pulls out her lute and plays one last concert in Theed*
    I buried SWG a long time ago, what exists now is a mere ghost, it is good that it is finally laid to rest