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A Farewell to Galaxies

Dennis C. Scimeca | 8 Aug 2011 13:00
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Jedi in Galaxies had started off as a rare unlock, and could be permanently killed. This was meant to balance out how powerful a Jedi would be compared to all the other character classes. Due to the constant noise from a small but extremely vocal portion of the playerbase who wanted their Jedi, Sony Online Entertainment removed permadeath, and made it easier and easier to unlock Jedi characters, who soon completely dominated Player versus Player combat. They were like the nuclear weapons of Star Wars Galaxies. Whichever side had the most Jedi "won," but in the end almost everybody lost, because PvP combat stopped being much fun for anyone who wasn't a Jedi.

Returning to Galaxies renewed my appreciation of the game just enough to wonder if the NGE changes themselves or the mishandling of their implementation finally caused so many veterans to leave the game after years of it being mismanaged.

The changes to the Jedi system took place gradually over two years, but in April of 2005 the Combat Upgrade went live. Galaxies players hadn't been ambushed by the CU; in fact they had been invited to preview the changes on the Galaxies test server. Even so, the Combat Upgrade was a major shock to the playerbase as it constituted not only a major overhaul to the entirety of the combat mechanics but also changed how armor and experience systems worked, and introduced an entirely new system for rating creature difficulty.

The New Game Enhancements may have felt like the last straw because not only did this patch arrive without fair warning, but was also instituted two weeks after the Trials of Obi-Wan expansion was released. Many players reacted like victims of a bait-and-switch, demanding refunds - which SOE provided - and then immediately cancelling their accounts. Had the NGE been released with warning and at a distance from the new expansion, the wave of anger over the New Game Enhancements might have been prevented, or certainly lessened.

Returning to Galaxies renewed my appreciation of the game just enough to wonder if the NGE changes themselves or the mishandling of their implementation finally caused so many veterans to leave the game after years of it being mismanaged. I wanted to know whether the changes were really worth leaving the game over, and the only way I could attempt to answer that question was to try the Star Wars Galaxies Emulator.

The Emulator is an attempt by a volunteer group of coders to recreate the pre-Combat Upgrade Galaxies by reverse-engineering Sony's server-side software. It requires an original set of Star Wars Galaxies game discs, and the download and installation of the Emulator software, after which players can step into the past of Star Wars Galaxies.

The Emulator is far from complete. There are only basic vehicles, and no space expansion. There are no player cities, and all of the expansion worlds are missing. What the Emulator does have is tons of players in all the major cities. When I entered the Emulator, I found hordes of people harvesting resources for crafting. Dancers and Musicians were performing in packed-to-the-brim cantinas. Mobs of players were training each other outside major starports. I didn't take much time to socialize, but rather focused on re-acquainting myself with the original combat and character class systems that had been egregiously altered in the minds of so many Galaxies veterans by the Combat Upgrade and New Game Enhancements.

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