The End Of Star Wars Galaxies
We explored the game world of the 8-year running MMO in its final days, and took video of our experience as the game came to its conclusion.
After being away for almost seven years, it was a surreal experience returning to play Star Wars Galaxies in its final days. Sony Online Entertainment was kind enough to provide me with a temporary account and some high-level characters with which to bear witness to the end of its long-running MMO.
I took some brief videos of the experience, and I talk in detail about it with fellow editor Andrew Reiner in the video below. After the video, scroll down to read our complete interview with Linda Carlson, director of global community relations for SOE. As a player of Galaxies from the beginning, she had some interesting insights to share about the game.
For more on my time in Star Wars Galaxies' closing days, check out our article on the subject in issue 226 of Game Informer.
What is your name, and what is your role on the Star Wars Galaxies team?
Hello there, I'm Linda Carlson, Director of Global Community Relations for SOE. I also played Star Wars Galaxies from very early beta until today, the last day for all. As a Twi'lek or Bothan, I've played Entertainer, Tailor, Merchant, Politician, Teras Kasi and, years later, Jedi.
We understand you started playing Star Wars Galaxies before you were working on the game professionally. Do you recall what first excited you about the game, why you started playing, and your early impressions?
I've always loved the idea of Star Wars. I saw the movie on opening night, back in 1977 and never quite lost the secret desire to somehow live in that universe. With the announcement of Star Wars Galaxies more than two decades later, I knew that chance had finally arrived. The community was already very strong in beta, and I joined an amazing guild called "The Consortium," who took the universe very seriously and sought to dominate the economy. Yes, the economy. Not battles, not factions...ours was primarily a crafting, building guild, something completely new to my experience. This could only work in a game as crazily robust in crafting/harvesting/building as SWG was.
Even in the early days of beta, I was captivated. We played very, very long hours, because SWG provided an incredible social environment and opportunities to build your own game within the game. We all did just that – lived the game. Guild plans and planetwide politics, the drive to create the very best goods, to take and hold territories and to build entire cities...amazing times. It felt right. It looked right.
[NEXT UP: Carlson describes the many changes that Galaxies faced over the years]
There have been some huge changes to Galaxies over the years. Can you walk us through the most significant of those revisions, and what was exciting about those changes?
The first exciting change was the implementation of player cities. Our guild had our site scouted and the entire area fully subdivided and occupied well in advance of the cities actually going in. We had an entire "zoning department" that helped players set up their housing along a very orderly city planning structure. The morning cities went live, I trained as a politician, flew back to our site on Lok, and set down the guild hall in what was shortly to become the metropolis of Consortia. It was a very proud day for our entire guild, as well as hundreds of other guilds across all the galaxies.
Mounts came in on the same day and suddenly travel became much easier. My first mount was an enormous Brackaset, a gift from a creature handler friend. I admit that I always preferred the creature mounts to the much faster vehicles, although I did use a swoop for harvesting.
Toward the end of 2003, Jedi started to appear in game, unlocked via a long series of tasks revealed by mysterious holograms.
2004 saw the introduction to Corellian Corvette adventures (space-themed instances), the Death Watch Bunker, and revamps to the Jedi resulting in the Light and Dark sides of the Force taking effect. In October of that year, long-anticipated space combat was introduced in "Jump to Lightspeed," the game's first expansion. This was a huge change and welcomed by a large cadre of players who were dying to show off their piloting skills. While I was never terribly good at it, I loved hearing the tales of dogfights and pursuits. Sullustians and Ithorians were also brought in as new player races.
I remember that the Galactic Civil War started in earnest in early 2005, an epic battle for planetary control which culminated in today's game-ending events. Shortly after, the Combat Upgrade changed the way fighting worked in game, an interesting topic of debate among players to this day.
Rage of the Wookies was the second expansion, adding Kashyyyk to the list of planets players could explore in 2005. Later in the year, we saw the third and final expansion, Trials of Obi-Wan, introducing Mustafar to Galaxies players.
Shortly after, the Starter Kit (NGE) was introduced, revamping combat and reordering professions. Love it or hate it, the game changed significantly at that time. The Dev team embarked upon a series of hefty game updates in the years to come, called Chapters. There were eleven in all, and these set the stage for continued updates based largely on player feedback...including the Beast Mastery system, bringing back many aspects of the beloved old Creature Handler profession.
Subsequent Game Updates appeared regularly and were a testament to a small and dedicated game team communicating and responding to a very engaged and constructive player base. It felt more player-driven to me, as one of those playing the game, not privy to what went on behind the scenes at that time.
One of my favorite all-time additions to the game was the Chronicle Master system in 2009, which allowed players to create their own missions to share with others. As a player, I thought this was a stroke of genius. As someone who just joined SOE, I was happy to see the very strong, supportive player feedback on the feature.
Even after the sunset announcement was made at the 2011 Fan Faire in August, development continued, taking the Galactic Civil War to space, adding atmospheric flight and combat, and setting the stage for the final conflict taking place today.
I'm sure I've forgotten something important – there was just so much to this game over eight years that it is almost impossible to list it all – so be sure to check on the SWG site on December 22, 2011, for the Memory Book. It'll have everything!
[NEXT UP: Carlson describes plans for the end of the game]
If you've been playing since launch, you've undoubtedly put an enormous amount of time and energy into the game. Do you know how many total days/hours you've been in-game?
I have absolutely NO idea and I am scared to ask. A lot. Next question!
How has the game community of Star Wars Galaxies changed over the years? What is that community like now, at the close of the game? Do you get a sense for what some of those community players are planning to do next? Will they stop playing MMOs, or move to another game?
The SWG community is incredibly diverse, and I suspect that post-sunset, their desire to explore, create and participate in online worlds will take them to the far corners of many different genres. It's hard to shake off the sense of accomplishment and belonging that an MMOG affords, but as everyone has their own play style, and therefore will engage in a variety of game mileus. PvP folks might go to FPS games, roleplayers will go to other MMOGs, builders will go to new sandboxes and so on. SOE has offered the SWG players free trials for all of our games as well (member status in our F2P games), and I hope to see some old faces in new places soon. I plan on being deeply immersed in the new Dungeon Maker feature in EverQuest II, myself, and waiting impatiently for the PlanetSide 2 beta!
Independent of your role working as an employee connected to the game, what are your emotions about the closure of Star Wars Galaxies?
I am deeply and truly saddened. This interview has brought all that emotion back to the surface that I thought I had gotten past already, darn you! SWG allowed me to explore a style of gameplay that I'd never seen before, across incredibly fashioned worlds, in many guises and many roles. I have met some of my finest friends there, and collected a tremendous number of memories from these past eight years (more if you count beta and pre-beta!). It's not something one can give up easily. I think many of us have gone through various stages of emotion since the sunset was announced; disbelief, anger, grief, and finally...acceptance. It was a wonderful time and we'll never forget it.
It sounds as if there are some big plans for the actual days surrounding the end of the game. What's the mood within the game surrounding these game-closing events?
Everyone is sad and excited at the same time. The final battles for the galaxy take place today, and no one knows who will win each server, the Rebels or the Empire. In an end-game driven entirely by the players, they will determine their final destiny. People want to be a part of it all, to see the final moments, to witness, to share and remember. We are putting the final touches on the Star Wars Galaxies Memory Book as well, a lasting memento that players will be able to download before Christmas.
What made Star Wars Galaxies unique from other games for the players who have enjoyed it for such a long time?
Particularly in the latter years, SWG was a game driven and sustained by the player community. With the incredible social and economic networks, variety of playstyles (many people never even touched combat), mind-boggling achievements in player housing, and astonishingly well written player events...I think it's fair to say that this is a game in which players are personally invested. It set the stage for many features in our other games (notably housing in Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, and EQ II), and player-generated content (Dungeon Maker in EQ II).
I sense that the legacies, lessons, and achievements of Star Wars Galaxies will live on in many ways as online games evolve.