Today BioWare celebrates the 10th anniversary of Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), the game that is the foundation for Star Wars: The Old Republic. KOTOR was an incredible game and worthy of celebration, but today I wanted to recognize what would have been the 10th anniversary of another game from a galaxy far, far away – Star Wars Galaxies.
On June 26, 2003 many of us took our first steps into the much larger world that was Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). I’ve been playing MMOs for ten years now, and SWG was my first. My MMO journey has come a long way in that decade. For me, SWG transformed video games for recreation to a legitimate hobby. I now podcast about WoW, as well as, blog about WoW and SWTOR. As new MMOs come online, I enjoy giving them a look and appreciate that it is SWG that led me there.
Prior to SWG, I had never heard of an MMO before, let alone play one. A massive multi-player online role playing game; the concept was intriguing. Believe it or not the it was the RP aspect that gave me pause and made me hesitant to purchase the game. I was fascinated by the game, and excited about it being Star Wars.
In the Summer of 2003, the prequels were still fresh. Attack of the Clones was one year old, and we were still two years away from Revenge of the Sith. After a bit of a pop culture lull, Star Wars was cool again. Despite that I wasn’t sure if I could embrace the concept of role playing. Since I knew nothing about MMOs, I just assumed that everyone who played the game role-played.
I was eight years old when Star Wars came out in 1977. I spent a fair bit of my childhood running around the backyard infiltrating the Death Star with friends, and I didn’t need to do it again at 34. In the end it was Star Wars that drew me in, and the idea of a persistent Star Wars world, with other players, was too good to pass up. So I bought the game, and on June 26th, 2003, my MMO journey began.
I remember playing that first weekend. I was getting my butt handed to me by a womprat. Just as I was about to die, my health mysteriously started to climb. There beside me was a player name Ilsa, and she was healing me. That was my first true MMO moment when I began to understand the multi-player aspect of the game. Players could help each other.
Over time I learned more about the game, I tried various professions, joined a guild, joined a city, and made some friends. I could spend hours each night running “solo groups” earning credits and experience. I enjoyed exploring the world in my AV-21 speeder, randomly popping into players homes and admiring the creativity and effort that they poured into decorating them. The first amazing creation I remember seeing was giant X-Wing made out of random items from the game.
The pre-CU version of SWG is the one that most of us remember, but that incarnation lasted less than two years. In April of 2005 the Combat Upgrade (CU) dropped and then later that November came the dreaded New Game Enhancement (NGE). To its credit SWG lasted another seven and half years after the NGE, however, it’s those first two years that many of us remember with great fondness.
It was an MMO unlike any other. It’s hallmarks were the complex skill system, sandbox environment, in-depth crafting, and player generated content. Those were also the targets of much of its criticism. In the battle of a free-form MMO versus the more linear quest driven content, the latter has won out.
I’d like to think that someday in the future, there will be an MMO that combines the best qualities of both a sandbox environment and developer driven content, and maybe, just maybe that game will be Star Wars.
Happy Anniversary SWG!