A Star Wars Galaxies private server, running as a Pre-Combat Upgrade patch emulator, may be worth checking out if you're destined to be one of the homeless when SWG servers shut down by the end of 2011. SWGEmu continues to update on a regular, weekly basis with a live test server, called Nova.
If you already mourn the loss of Star Wars Galaxies, download the SWGEmu client here. If you're not a Galaxies forum regular however, or maybe you've just never sat down at the local cantina, let's back up a moment and refresh our memory cores.
Everyone knows about Star Wars: The Old Republic from BioWare. Star Wars Galaxies is that other Star Wars MMORPG, released back in 2003 -- when we still called them "MMORPGs" instead of just "MMOs"-- under the title Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided. The expansion Jump to Lightspeed released a year later, with Rage of the Wookiees and Trials of Obi-Wan expansions both releasing in 2005.
The biggest schism for Star Wars Galaxies players came with the two patches associated with Rage and Trials; the Combat Upgrade (CU) and New Game Enhancements (NGE) respectively. These overhauls were criticized as simplifying the complex gameplay SWG was known for. Trust me, if you want something more complex than the standard MMO holy trinity of tank, DPS, and healer, you can see character skill trees pre-CU here.
In an interview with Massively.com, President of SOE John Smedley admitted that his company learned from the negative response that came from NGE. "There's really nothing we can do about it. We've taken some hard-knocks for SWG in years past with the NGE. We've apologized for it. It was a mistake, and not one we're going to make as a company ever again."
Creative Director of SWG Raph Koster meanwhile still held his baby proud on his blog, pointing out that, "...it gave us features that continue to amaze people who don’t realize what can be done: real economies complete with supply chains and wholesalers and shopkeepers, that amazing pet system, the moods and chat bubbles (anyone remember what chat in 3d MMOs looked like before SWG?), player cities, vehicles, spaceflight..."
"And dancing. Which everyone made fun of," Koster wrote. "But as far as I am concerned, it may have been the biggest and best contribution, the one that spawned a jillion YouTube videos and may well be the lasting influence the game leaves behind, an imprint on all the games since: a brief moment where you can stop saving the world or killing rats and realize the real scope and potential of the medium."
I personally couldn't agree with Koster more. Galaxies may have been unbalanced and lacking in constructed content. It was a player-driven sandbox MMO after all, not a dungeon-dwelling quest-crawler. But even so, more than any other game I have personally played before or since, I just plain enjoyed logging on and existing in that world. I had friends, regular customers at my business, and engaging repartee with fellow players. As Leonardo DiCaprio said in Inception, "We built our own world."
With SOE servers closing to new players on September 15, there was a great disturbance in the force. Now, with SWGEmu, those who still wish to travel and live in a galaxy far, far away still can.
Planning to join the SWGEmu project? Never tried Galaxies or veteran? Leave your thoughts below.