Star Wars MMOs – From Galaxies to SWTOR
I have been playing Star Wars video games for almost a decade and Star Wars MMOs for about 5 years now. I recently began playing Star Wars Galaxies, an old, pre-World of Warcraft MMO from years back and it is one of the most enjoyable MMO experiences I have ever had. All the time I’ve spent playing these MMOs got me thinking about my thoughts on Star Wars MMOs overall.
Star Wars Galaxies
To start off with, let’s talk about Star Wars MMOs have changed. Let’s look at Star Wars Galaxies and Star Wars:Old Republic. Star Wars Galaxies is an ancient MMO. In fact, that game predates World of Warcraft. SWG was developed by Sony Online Entertainment and released in 2003. I did not own this game on release so a lot of what I’ll be bringing up about the original community is what I know from people who played it at the time.
SWG was a truly massive and incredibly immersive game with a titanic number of options for how to play your character. You could play as almost any type of character ranging from a medic to an architect and could easily mix and match them. It was possible to create a character who was a medic and then run over to a nearby NPC, get marksman training and play as a combat medic. The mechanics were incredibly interesting and designed so that each class had a purpose, and playing in a group with other people was encouraged and gave you a benefit. More to the point, it actually encouraged roleplaying.
Sadly, after the release of World of Warcraft, the developers decided they wanted to make it like WoW and an update called the NGE (New Game Enhancement) gutted, in my view, all the creativity and depth in the game, replacing everything with six classes. This led to most of the player base leaving the game and the servers being shut down in December of 2011. I could never find a clear explanation of why the devs shut down their servers but my hunch is that LucasArts didn’t want Galaxies to potentially compete with Star Wars: The Old Republic, which released the same month SWG was shut down.
After SWG was shut down, a community of fans started working on creating an emulator to allow the game to continue to play the game on servers hosted by a group of dedicated fans.
Today there are multiple servers available in this fan run emulator that allows anyone who owns a copy of the game Star Wars Galaxies to play it. Today there is a massive and dedicated community with hundreds, if not thousands of players found on a multitude of individual servers for SWG.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Well, that’s it for Star Wars Galaxies, so it’s time to move on to discussing the more recent Star Wars MMO that I am aware of: Star Wars: The Old Republic. Star Wars: The Old Republic (henceforth, SWTOR) takes place 300 years after the events of the Knights of the Old Republic video game series and the novel Revan, and covers the events twenty years after the Great Galactic War during a period of time known as the Cold War. This was a period of tension and uneasy peace between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire.
One thing that this MMO did an excellent job at, in many regards, was atmosphere and storytelling. The thing with Galaxies is that it really didn’t have a story. The story in that game was what you made of it. Not so with SWTOR. This game was much more like Knights of the Old Republic in an MMO setting than Galaxies. To borrow a quote that I am quite fond of, Galaxies is more of a sandbox whereas SWTOR is much more of a theme park.
The stories in SWTOR are absolutely incredible and they spanned across a number of chapters with massive new storylines, among other things. Not to mention that the stories in SWTOR are all interconnected with each other. There will be a major event in one storyline that occurs and then another storyline will cover that same event and you will find out that there is somewhat more to this event than what you had previously thought.
The weakest part of SWTOR, in my view, is the fact that the design of some of the planets is somewhat lacking. Take Tatooine and Hoth, for example. Both these worlds have extremely sparse content and due to the aesthetics of these planets, objectives are extremely far apart and traveling from point to point is extremely boring as nothing exciting will typically happen on these long treks. Additionally, the game also has a lot of less desirable MMO characteristics such as backtracking to turn in quests and the fact that you had to do quite a bit of grinding to level up enough to keep progressing through the story at a reasonable pace.
Now, Bioware has since updated the game to make it so that experience could be gained at a much more rapid pace to make it possible to play through the story without grinding. However, they have also introduced several mechanics that I personally disagree with such as forced level reduction in areas where you are too low level. The problem that I have with this is that it does away with the hard work of players who have spent the countless hours and massive amounts of effort to reach the level cap earlier than the average player would. These players, in my opinion, should be allowed to tear through entire legions of imperial soldiers like they weren’t even there. If they put in the effort to be so much more powerful than the enemies they are going up against, they should be rewarded for that.
Well, that about does it for my comparison for now. There is one thing I want to mention before I end though; I have a lot more time sunk into SWTOR than I do in galaxies simply because of the fact that I was doing a playthrough of SWTOR on my Youtube channel and the fact that it was much more focused around a specific story rather than the more open-ended type thing that Galaxies is, which makes getting started much easier. Plus, I just don’t have a lot of time for learning a whole new set of game mechanics to get started in playing Galaxies so that game is one I have extremely limited experience with beyond watching other people play it. I just wanted to mention that because I probably came across as being extremely biased in favor of SWTOR since I simply have more time invested in that game.
Anyways, that’ll do it for me. Thanks for reading and enjoy yourself some Star Wars gaming.
May the Force be with you!