Today’s announcement of Star Wars Galaxies shutting down on December 15 is shocking but not totally unexpected. The Old Republic is due out later this year (most likely in October or November) and Lucasarts likely only wants to focus on one hardcore Star Wars MMO with Clone Wars Adventures catering to the casuals, and Sony’s license with Lucasarts expires in 2012. With those two big factors in mind, the shutdown doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
My history with Star Wars Galaxies actually begins in 2002. Back then I was working for IGN and can remember seeing the amazing Star Wars Galaxies behind-closed-doors demo at E3. As the game entered closed beta, IGN PC editor Steve Butts and myself went up to Lucasarts to check out the beta with the Lucasarts Producer for SWG (at the time) Hayden “ShugNix” Blackman.
Hayden showed us around Tatooine with his Bothan avatar and showed us a guild hall that he placed outside of Mos Entha. At that time, the guild halls were just what would become the Large Tatooine House in the game. There were some players running around the area, so he spawned in some Krayt Dragons and the players scattered and eventually took shelter in the houses. Back then Krayts couldn’t be easily soloed as they could later in the game.
We were asked if we wanted in the beta, which at the time was Beta 2 if I remember correctly, and we jumped at the chance. Hayden gave us his install discs for the beta, and we rushed back to San Francisco to frantically install and patch up what was, at the time, the most anticipated MMO ever.
After playing the beta a lot, as a Wookiee on Tatooine, the EverQuest Fan Faire made its way to San Francisco. As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, I had to find some way to work on the game. So while at the Fan Faire, I tracked down who at the time was in charge of the EverQuest GM department (as CS/GM was the fastest way in the door) and began making inquiries. This was in November of 2002, and the game wasn’t due out until the following year, so I had to wait a while.
May 2003 and E3 rolled around, and that’s when I got the word that they would be staffing up for Star Wars. I flew down to San Diego and was hired on as one of the first SWG CSRs (BTW, we called SWG “SWiG”. That’s just how it sounds when you try to pronounce “SWG”). There were many CSRs at the end of Beta 3 and into launch, and many didn’t even make it past the first day. When the June 26 release date was announced we knew we would be busy as the game needed a lot more time in the oven. For a while following the launch, probably until August or so, we were working seven days a week and twelve hours a day.
Those early months of SWG are sometimes a blur. The game was a lot of fun back then, a pure sandbox…
One of my favorite memories is when Jason, while working as a CSR on the same team as me and two seats away, got trade scammed by a kid while he was playing on his lunch break. Jason had the kid slice one of his weapons and the kid claimed the weapon was destroyed while it was being sliced, taking Jason’s credits.
He knew that was BS, but he had to follow the rules and submit a ticket about it. A different CSR handled Jason’s ticket and talked to the kid in-game about it while looking at the logs. The logs showed that the weapon was destroyed at the very moment the CSR initiated contact with the person who took it. Uh oh. That’s a trade scam right there.
I also remember a group of players who set up a sex club in their player city. They had pole dancers, a bed with a camera facing it, and vendors full of items with interesting names. I still laugh when I remember the CS Manager at the time overlooking a CSR’s shoulder and saying “Wookiee condoms? Ok, that needs to go.”
The sandbox nature of the game produced some great fun. Most of the CSRs played on Corbantis, and one had an overweight and bald character named Buba. Buba would track down the absolute best crafting components for his T-21 so he would have the most uber one on the server. He’d spec as a Rifleman/Combat Medic, toss uber mind poisons at people, and then head shot them.
I actually took a break from SWG in 2004 when I went to work for Blizzard as one of the first twelve World of Warcraft GMs during the open beta for the game. When I returned to SOE in 2005; the NGE was looming.
There’s been a lot said about the NGE, and there’s also a lot of false blame flying around about it. I don’t intend to go into that here or try to clear anything up as over the last five years; people pretty much have their mind made up about who’s fault it was or wasn’t. But I will say the CSRs were just as blindsided with it as most only learned about it a couple weeks before the November patch.
Despite Star Wars Galaxies’ rocky past, it’s shutdown does make me a bit sad. The game was a huge part of my life for nearly five years, and to see it go away for good is a little depressing. I’ll likely be there on December 15 to see the suns set for the final time on Tatooine and to say goodbye to Star Wars Galaxies.