When I began this series, I thought that it would be dominated by NGE and nothing else, yet the responses I've read tend to focus on the positives of the title instead of that one ugly month. It might not have been the Star Wars experience everyone wanted, but if one looks hard enough, apparently there's something for everyone in SWG. Sam Schneider encapsulated many opinions perfectly with this: "Despite its problems, and what I believe people mostly remember it for (and I certainly do), the game did allow you do truly create your own Star Wars experience. You weren't Han Solo, you weren't Luke Skywalker, you weren't Leia -- you were YOU."
Unfortunately, I could only interview a small fraction of the people who wrote in, so I randomly chose a handful of players to represent the (mostly) pre-NGE crowd for this week, and a handful of (mostly) post-NGE gamers for next week's column. This week we're talking with Adam "Vayde" Mostel, Jaume "Tsotha Lanti" Sabater, Kate "Syena Runningrider" and Paris "Iweos" Wright.
The Game Archaeologist: When did you first start playing Star Wars Galaxies, and what drew you to the game?
Adam: I started at launch. I'd been following the game since its announcement, which was just a few months after I'd been drawn into the genre by EverQuest. Once I had started playing, however, it became apparent that it was different from anything I had played before, and I'd imagine that's exactly why so many people pine for it now.
Jaume: I started playing the 13th of August, 2004. I had always been a Star Wars fan and a roleplayer. I was interested in playing an MMORPG and a friend of mine was already playing it, therefore the choice was easy.
Paris: I started about a week after launch. I am a huge Star Wars geek, so I was waiting for the game and had a few friends playing it. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, bought it for me as a gift.
Kate: I was aware of the game for some time via the media. A friend at Babbages gave me an employee copy.
What's one of your most favorite memories from SWG?
Adam: The first day the servers were stable, I rolled my first character: a Bothan entertainer in Mos Espa. I immediately headed off to the cantina where I and some other starting entertainers formed a makeshift band. About an hour into the show, I got into an RP fight with another player which eventually spilled out into the streets. The result was a firefight dodging behind buildings and walls as we each tried to whittle away at one another's health with our newbie pistols. The sounds, the music, the visuals, and the adrenaline all tied together to make a clear statement that this was, without a doubt, Star Wars.
Jaume: I would say some of the roleplaying sessions I've had when my main toon was a Spec Ops Rebel soldier. The guild I was in at that time was plenty of awesome roleplayers, and we had very immersive campaigns, with a lot of depth, very rich plots, and dialogue that would make us laugh out loud often.
Paris: Launching into space for the first time during the Jump To Lightspeed beta. It was great, and when I do play I still spend as much time in space as possible.
Kate: I was roleplaying a Stormtrooper. We had a full group of us in armor walking in formation with an AT-ST pet following us. Felt VERY epic. Felt Star Wars.
What did SWG do that made it unique or better than other MMOs?
Adam: I don't think it's possible to pinpoint any one feature, because it really was a combination of many game elements. You had a game that for all intents and purposes left itself to the players: offering players social roles, letting them carve out their own niche, and giving them a reason to be out in the world.
Jaume: Its sandbox style. The quests have always been the worst part of it, but the sandbox style plus the capacity of entering and leaving the PvP mode (Special Forces) at will is very enjoyable. The sandbox style allows for great roleplaying experiences, and the storyteller system is a great companion.
Paris: I think that how well the combination of land and space made it better than most MMOs. I always enjoyed the missions that combined both aspects of the game. I think the most unique thing about SWG was the sandbox style of play. You could level anything you wanted and pick what skills you wanted to use.
Kate: The sense of freedom. Even now in the NGE, I feel more free in SWG than any other MMO. Most games make me feel very shoe-horned into an experience. On the flip side, sometimes I log in and have no clue what I wanna do. That can get frustrating.
CU and NGE were controversial changes to be sure -- looking back, do you think the controversy was overblown and that the NGE ultimately redeemed itself?
Adam: I don't feel that the controversy was overblown, nor has the NGE done anything to "redeem" itself. To take a game, diminishing thought it might be, two years into its run and completely redesign to that extent is simply unfathomable. To do it with less than a week's notice and immediately after sales of an expansion advertising for features which wouldn't even have a purpose in the NGE only made it more unacceptable. Zero care or concern was given to the existing paying playerbase throughout the entire fiasco.
Jaume: As a concept, NGE was not a bad idea, specially combat-wise. As with everything, it has its good and bad points, same as the CU. The problem was that it was not properly communicated to the paying subscribers but pushed into their throats in a rush. And that it was in an alpha state. It felt like going back in time but without getting your money back.
Paris: About a week after the CU I actually enjoyed the changes to the game. It was more fun and fast-paced to me. However, I do not think the controversy of the NGE was overblown at all. They took a game that had no path and let you do whatever you wanted, and changed it to nine classes and told you what you wanted to do. The servers were crazy, players were quiting left and right. The mass exodus of players should have been a huge hint that something was wrong.
Kate: Yes, overall I feel the controversy was way out of proportion. At first I was one of those people. However the SWG of today is a huge huge improvement over the pre-CU or CU.
When was the last time you logged in to Star Wars Galaxies, and what was it like?
Adam: I last logged in some time after the server merges. It was nice to see the population thriving a little more, but it isn't the same community that embraced the game at launch. Still, it isn't like any other game out there has much different to offer nowadays.
Jaume: I logged in yesterday night and decided to grind a bit the pilot skills of my third character, a Twi'lek Mandalorian smuggler. JTL was a great expansion to the game, but it is still completely separated from the ground game, which is a shame.
Paris: I logged in right after the Hoth update went live. I do think that they have fixed some of the problems of the NGE but overall the game is just not the same. The servers are dead.
Kate: Today! I was on my Jedi, roleplayed with a few friends, and made a new contact as a friend.
What's the best change to come to SWG over the years?
Adam: My personal favorite are the heroic instances. While I don't agree with the itemization, nor am I happy with them being an NGE-era addition, I do think they added an important PvE element to the game (and a Star-Warsy one, at that) which was always missing.
Jaume: Hard to say. Prior to NGE, it would be JTL, but I also liked the other two expansions and the CU. Post-NGE, hmmm... the storyteller system, heroics, Restuss, and battlefields were also a great addition.
Paris: JTL! No contest. That was the best thing they ever did for the game.
Kate: Hmmm. I would say the GCW overhaul and the way it now includes the PvE. The invasion mechanic is a lot of fun. Nothing like defending Bestine from hordes of Rebel scum!