I still say that the unique skill system in Galaxies was superior to anything we've seen in an MMO since, but the original combat system is slow and plodding, predicated on stances and spamming special attacks in a combat queue window. It was assuredly horrible when the New Game Enhancements wiped out character classes that subscribers had spent two years building up, but I kind of see where the developers were going with making the combat more engaging and immediate.
Changes were made to what may have been, in hindsight, the least important aspects of the game.
Perhaps when the Emulator is closer to being finished I'll spend more time there, but I've been more interested in getting to know all the changes to the retail version of Galaxies as it exists in the here and now. The character class Specialization system has brought much of the original variety and customization options back into the game. There's a lot in the current build of Galaxies that we might have killed for back in the day, like the modern Galactic Civil War system. Launch day veterans complained for years that player-versus-player combat was meaningless, and nowadays Rebels and Imperials can fight over worlds at a granular level.
What's really important is that even with Jedi proliferating and the Combat Upgrade and the NGE, there are aspects of Galaxies that were never touched by any of these changes to the game. Players can still be Crafters or Entertainers and socialize in cantinas. There's no player skill training, but plenty of dungeons and instances to inspire groups to form up and stay together. Player cities are still there, and the economy is still fueled by human efforts. All of the pillars that fueled the unique community of Star Wars Galaxies are still there, abandoned like they never meant anything, and all because changes were made to what may have been, in hindsight, the least important aspects of the game.
Galaxies was about a place where everything was made by a human being, not looted off a monster or bought from a merchant. It was about being able to play an MMO without ever lifting a weapon and being just as valuable a member of the community as anyone else. It was about not just playing a game, but shaping a world, and when Sony Online Entertainment shuts down the Star Wars Galaxies servers on December 15, 2011, they'll be destroying it. Touring the near-empty server of modern-day Starsider, however, I still feel its potential to be alive. While SOE may deliver the deathblow, the veterans who asked for refunds and canceled subscriptions are just as responsible for killing Galaxies. The world it represents didn't go anywhere. We did.
Dennis Scimeca is a freelancer from Boston, MA. If you would like to blame him for killing Star Wars Galaxies, feel free to do so on Twitter @DennisScimeca. He also assigns blame for things on his weekly column First Person for Village Voice Media and blogs at punchingsnakes.com.