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A Star Wars Galaxies history lesson: From launch to the NGE

Michael Zenke

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Star Wars Galaxies' launch. This day in 2003, thousands of people crowded the login and registration servers, all eager to carve out their own piece of the world Lucas had wrought. The reality today is very different, and despite celebrations over the new Empire Day event and recent chapter publishes, something lingers in the air - a sort of dark cloud on the SWG player's horizon.

Today and tomorrow we're going to chart the path that has lead from there to here. We'll reflect on the game's early days, some of the early patches that added groundbreaking content and systems to the game, and even mull over the biggest change to hit the MMO scene, ever - the NGE. Tomorrow we'll discuss how the game has changed since the New Game Enhancements went in, and look to the future of the title. Join us for a galactic history lesson that begins "A long time ago ... "


To say that the launch of Star Wars Galaxies was hotly anticipated would be an enormous understatement. Hype for the game ran very high in the early summer of 2003, even on the heels of a rocky Beta period. Tester writeups seemed to indicate a highly unpolished game, but for the most part their reactions weren't visible beyond official and community forums. Sales were high as fans of the Galaxy Far, Far Away lined up to jump online. SWG launched in the days before the importance of MMO polish was fully understood, and as a result the early days of live service were marked by instability and constant patching. Most egregious, from the player perspective, was the near inaccessibility of the service on the first day of launch. While the servers themselves were prepped to receive players, the login, registration, and billing system was overwhelmed. Players who had taken the day off to play the game wasted their time hammering uselessly at unresponsive servers.

Once the server situation was stabilized, players quickly grew to appreciate the strangely quirky title. Built heavily on Raph Koster's concept of an open world, players were given the opportunity to interact with the online environment however they chose. A skills- (rather than level-) based advancement system rewarded exploration of both the game and the environment. Unique socialization-focused classes allowed more passive players a reason for interacting with the more achievement-focused hunters. The game's launch was rocky, and there were certainly numerous problems with the game, but the future looked bright for the new title.

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