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Hyperspace Beacon: Nine years of Star Wars Galaxies


As you might have guessed from the title, I'm taking a tiny break from writing about Star Wars: The Old Republic this week. Although it might seem like odd timing to change the pace of my articles with Update 1.3 releasing today, I figured that the update will be here next week, but Star Wars Galaxies' birthday comes around only once a year. Last weekend, the first Star Wars MMORPG would have celebrated its ninth year in service.

Being the first Star Wars MMO will always be an honor Galaxies will hold. But that's not the only thing that drew so many people to the game. I often find myself thinking back wondering what could have been. Besides my love for Star Wars, that game held a lot of significance in my life. It was my first serious MMO and my first step into MMO roleplay. If Star Wars Galaxies were still around, would I still be playing? More importantly, what would I be doing in that game that I really can't do in the current Star Wars MMO?

Hyperspace Beacon Nine years of Star Wars Galaxies
I'm not sure that original developers of Star Wars Galaxies fathomed the level of creativity the playerbase possessed when they created Galaxies' housing system. Not only was a player able to carry every item from the game in his inventory, but he could also drop it in his house. This allowed for some amazing decorating of player-built bases, prisons, bars, and theaters. Groups like The Fuse actually performed plays with working set pieces and special effects.

My decorating projects were usually a bit more personal. I would decorate my house to actually look lived-in, or I would help build a restaurant or club for friends. Although other MMOs have tried their hands at decoration, none achieves the level of feng Force shui of SWG.

Hyperspace Beacon Nine years of Star Wars Galaxies
I said I would bring this up every chance I could, so I'll say it again: Star Wars: The Old Republic needs chat bubbles!

Some events in Star Wars Galaxies literally had hundreds of people all in a confined area. The chat scroll was beyond insane, but I never really noticed it nor had issue keeping up because I could tell exactly which character was saying what. Every word and every emote would appear above a character's head. I needed only to focus in on the four people who were sitting at my table...

Yes, sitting. Every chair in Galaxies could be sat upon. I know its a novel concept for the modern MMO, but there is a level of unexpected immersion when you see something in the world that you would naturally use and you are able to interact with it.

If SWG were still around, I would certainly pull up a barstool at my favorite cantina and chat with four or more of my friends. We would probably talk about Krayt dragons and drink Tatooine Sunshines.

Hyperspace Beacon Nine years of Star Wars Galaxies
In today's MMOs, it's crazy to think about having classes in the game that do not require combat at all or that have an economy so interesting that playing the market is the only thing some players want to do.

Granted, I was never a huge crafter, but I did love gathering materials. You might remember that before the developers nerfed it, a player could have administrative rights to fields' worth of harvesters. I was one of those guys -- I was a part of a cross-server lot exchange. A single character was allowed only 10 lot spaces, but if another player on another server agreed to give you his lots on your server, you could literally own hundreds of harvesters, all gathering materials for your crafters.

However, since that was not available at the end of SWG, I wouldn't be doing that now. But I could be gathering materials and selling subcomponents on the bazaar. I loved the interdependent economy, and I would love to be a part of it again.

Hyperspace Beacon Nine years of Star Wars Galaxies
While we're on the subject of non-combat classes, let's remember that dancing and playing instruments was not just a roleplay thing in SWG. There was actually an interesting and game-influencing minigame that came along with it.

When the game started, the entertainer professions could be botted. Personally, I had devised a completely legitimate macro that would invite someone to group, give him time to buff, then kick him from the group. I made my first million credits on that character.

As the game grew, so did the entertainment professions. They truly became something interesting and necessary to the overall game. A good entertainer was not just a handsome avatar who flirted with the correct soldier to get her attention; he would also be in tune with a majority of classes and be an incredible multi-tasker. Sure, a good chunk of players would know exactly which buff they wanted, but there were certainly those who were ignorant of the classes and what an entertainer could do to help them out. A good entertainer knew the answers to all the listener's questions.

Every morning, I would log on for a few hours to not only hang out but also help those players who happened to be on when the entertainment crowd was light. You bet I'd be doing that if the game were still live.

Hyperspace Beacon Nine years of Star Wars Galaxies
Lastly and most importantly, I would attend player-run and player-decorated events.

Toward the end of SWG's life, the developers introduced storyteller props, which were objects that players could place in the open world, adding to the already wonderful world of player cities. Players could have bridges, archways, and even NPC battles in their cities.

To show off what could be done with these tools, players on Starsider (my old server) ran an event called the Nomad Market. Multiple vendors would set up tents and then decorate in and around them, actually selling in-game wearables and other items. It was insane fun and gorgeous.

Players also established the Cantina Crawl, a roaming in-game party. Players (hundreds of them) would travel from one city to the next, visiting city landmarks, and naturally, cantinas. This was an opportunity for city residents to display their incredible decorating prowess. This was by far my favorite event, and I'd be attending one now if I could.

Does any of you have fond memories of SWG that you wish you could find again in your current MMO? Let me know in the comments.

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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