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Star Wars: Galaxies

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2003). Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). Designed by Raph Koster (forename is a short form of Raphael, not Ralph mistyped). Platforms: Win.

While the milieu of Star Wars: Galaxies was licenced from the eponymous film series (specifically, it was set in a frozen historical moment between Star Wars (1977) [1977] and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back [1980]), when it was launched the game represented the cutting edge of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game design. Players were offered a wide range of character types, including supportive options such as artisans (who created weapons and equipment) and entertainers (such as musicians and dancers), as well as the more conventional adventurers and medical experts. Character types were designed to be dependent on each other, requiring players to interact; for example, adventurers needed to relieve their "combat fatigue" by employing entertainers to relax them. Other aspects of the game were derived from previous MMORPGs, including a system which automatically generated missions for players to complete similar to that used in Anarchy Online (2001). As is common in large persistent Online Worlds, death in Star Wars: Galaxies was made into a temporary inconvenience, and players were only able to attack each other under special circumstances. Community formation was encouraged by such means as allowing players to elect their own Mayors to run virtual cities, and the simulated economy was centred on the artisans, who were the only individuals capable of making many valuable items. While it was possible for characters to become Force wielding Jedi, the ultimate heroes of the films, the path players had to follow to reach this goal was initially kept secret, lending its eventual achievement the mystique of a true hero's journey.

However, while the game's skilled evocation of the tone of the original trilogy of Star Wars films and the striking visual designs of its planets were widely praised, Star Wars: Galaxies proved to be considerably less popular than its developers had hoped. It remains unclear whether this was due to a somewhat imperfect initial implementation or to a fundamentally flawed conception. Certainly many players found the roles of entertainers and artisans less varied and stimulating in practice than they had hoped. In 2005, the "New Game Enhancements" radically revised the gameplay, eliminating many of the available character types while reducing the value of some of those remaining and the strength of the links between them, as well as making Jedi status far easier to achieve. While initially popular with some players, this new version of the game was also not met with long term commercial success. It was, perhaps, too conventional and too similar to previous MMORPGs such as the fantasy-based EverQuest (1999 Verant Interactive, Win; 2003 Mac) designed by Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover, Bill Trost. The lead designer of Star Wars: Galaxies left the project after the 2005 revisions, and the game entered a long decline; it was eventually shut down in 2011. Ultimately, Galaxies was judged by its backers to have failed as a commercial venture, and was replaced by Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011), another MMORPG based on the Star Wars licence, but this time set in the derivative milieu of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic rather than that of the original films.

Related works: The main game was released as Star Wars: Galaxies – An Empire Divided (2003 SOE, Win) designed by Raph Koster. There were several expansions: Star Wars: Galaxies – Jump to Light Speed (2004 SOE, Win), which gave players the ability to fly their own spacecraft; Star Wars: Galaxies – Rage of the Wookiees (2005 SOE, Win), which included the homeworld of the eponymous race, and Star Wars: Galaxies – Trials of Obi-Wan (2005 SOE, Win), in which players could perform various missions for the titular Jedi Master. Star Wars Galaxies: Trading Card Game (2008 SOE, Win) was an associated Collectible Card Game which could only be played online. The Ruins of Dantooine (2003), by Voronica Whitney-Robinson and Haden Blackman, is a Tie to the game. [NT]


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