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A Farewell to Galaxies

Dennis C. Scimeca | 8 Aug 2011 13:00
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Returning to Star Wars Galaxies for the first time in five and a half years, I couldn't help but think that all of us launch day veterans stayed in Galaxies for all the right reasons, and then left the game for all the wrong ones.

If we're going to assign blame for who killed Galaxies, however, the people who fled the NGE in a mass fit of pique might have to accept their rightful share.

There's nothing unfair in arguing that Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts didn't understand what made Galaxies special when they released the New Game Enhancements in 2005 and pulled the rug out from under the 200,000 subscribers who had kept the game alive and vibrant. If we're going to assign blame for who killed Galaxies, however, the people who fled the NGE in a mass fit of pique might have to accept their rightful share.

When Star Wars Galaxies was released in the summer of 2003, I was working a dead-end administrative job at a college in Boston, MA. Planning for the future wasn't an immediate concern. Working through some serious medical issues was, and I desperately needed a distraction from that struggle. Galaxies fit the bill by providing the most engrossing and complex virtual reality I'd ever experienced.

When I heard the announcement that Sony Online Entertainment would be closing the Galaxies servers down on December 15th of this year, I had to go back. Imagine finding out that your home town, of which you had fond childhood memories, was going to be razed to the ground in six months, with nary a brick or foundation left standing. You might want to go back and take some pictures by which to remember the place. In this case, I wanted some screenshots.

Galaxies has been called a "sandbox" game by critics, but that doesn't do the game justice. A sandbox is a place where we play; Galaxies was a world where people lived. It was all about community.

The cantinas were always packed because watching Dancers and listening to music provided by Entertainers provided healing and stat bonuses. Everyone needed something to do while the wounds faded and the buffs took effect, so they talked and shared and laughed like you'd expect to find in any popular bar or club out in the real world.

The best way to learn skills was training from other players. Major transportation hubs like starports weren't a place to breeze through on your way to something better. Lag-inducing knots of characters were omnipresent, with scores of people /shouting out the skills they needed, and social butterflies flitting around the edges of the crowds while they roleplayed.

When player cities went live, they sprung up like weeds. Guilds couldn't wait to build their private megalopolis, declare residence and start elections for Mayor. Merchants and Craftsmen moved into those player cities and set up shop, providing constant traffic and an endless stream of passers-by.

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