The Game Archaeologist: What Star Wars Galaxies life was like before the NGE

    
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SWG

A decade after Star Wars Galaxies’ “New Game Enhancements” hit the game, controversy, grumbling, and revelations still pop up about the notorious decision to overhaul the entire game. Some maintain that it ruined the game, while others acknowledge that what came after actually ended up being better.

As the 2003 to 2005 pre-NGE era is quickly vanishing into the distant past, I wanted to preserve some of the history of what the game was like before that fateful patch day. To aid in this project, I asked six Star Wars Galaxies veterans to share some of their memories and stories from that time. Here’s what they had to say about what in-game life was like in those first few years.

1. It was a true sandbox

Joshua M.: “I think the big thing back in the pre-NGE era was that the content was what you made it; it was a true sandbox. There were no concept of levels, just the skills you’ve learned and the weapons you were certified to use. You could spend the entire game never entering combat and still be just as productive as the one that did. There were 30+ professions in the game ranging from Politician to Teras Kasi Artist, a master of hand-to-hand combat. I once saw a character make a living in-game designing people’s house interiors. The ideas people came up with to make something as simple as a shop desk was astonishing.”

2. You had a massive amount of character flexibility

Michael: “This is what I remember most about SWG: I could do anything! I was a Pikeman (I think that’s what it was called) and a Ranger. I just preferred polearms and camp sites. I dabbled with Entertaining, Medic, and Manufacturing while making macros and placing harvesters. I really wanted to be a Bounty Hunter, but I believe it would have taken most or all of my allowed skill blocks. The important part is that I could have; the flexibility was the best part.”

Oliver: “One of my characters was PvP-focused. I had part of the Smuggler tree, which gave me CC abilities, and part of the Commando tree, which gave me splash weaponry, giving me AoE CC. It was a little overpowered, I admit, and I did get some hate messages — but it was great being able to customize your characters to that degree.”

Joshua O.: “I remember back when you started completely empty. Do you want to play as a crafter? A Bounty Hunter? A support? It was up to you. You could mix and match trees depending on your skill points to combine two trees in a way you see fit. Pistoleer Medic? Sure. Teras Kasi and Swordsman? You bet. Pick your classes and combine them to create a great composition. You started your journey out creating a combo of classes that you saw fit.”

3. Every day was an unpredictable experience

Michael: “I always had a twinge of excitement when walking out of the spaceport; I never knew what might be happening. One time I walked out to an AT-ST shooting at some Rebel players and ended up getting shot by a rocket. It was both fun and crazy. Another time I heard loud booms and went around a building to see a Bounty Hunter fighting a Jedi! What’s more Star Wars than that?”

4. The economy was the core of the game

Randall: “The crafting, auction house, and economy were great. With the right skills, you could travel all over the planets, searching for the perfect resource that had the highest quality. You would then build extractors and mark the map, returning every so often to collect the harvest. I love the feeling of accomplishing something even when offline! And the fact that most resources had a wide range of stats meant that the products you crafted would be different from the same item someone else made using ingredients from another planet.”

Joshua M.: “The economy was entirely player-driven, and there were thousands of resource types. The best gear was crafted, but not without killing the hardest creatures/NPCs in the game for components.”

5. The housing was second-to-none

Oliver: “The housing was the best I’ve experienced in an MMO. You could decorate houses as you saw fit without much limitation, as every object could be dropped into your house to become a decoration. Other than that, there were huge player-run cities complete with taxes and carefully decorated shops.”

Randall: “The housing was wonderful — the Tatooine desert style was my personal favorite. It could be built almost anywhere outside the cities. I remember spending a lot of time finding the perfect view and furnishing it just so. Standing on the balcony looking out over the sunset was so Star Wars-y!”

6. Becoming a Jedi actually meant something…

Oliver: “You could become a Jedi, but you had to work for it. The system went through a few iterations, but when I became a Jedi, it was a six-month journey through the Force village on Dathomir just to become a relatively helpless padawan. After that, I had to grind my way to master while trying to avoid being spotted by NPCs and players. If that happened, I’d wind up with a bounty on my head, as Jedi weren’t exactly allowed to flourish under the Empire. I finished with a character stronger than non-Jedi characters, but boy did I have to work for it.”

Joshua M.: “An early concept in the vanilla game was Jedi being an alpha class. This didn’t come with risk; as Jedi faced permanent death. This was quickly changed however and the process to become Jedi much less painless — but hard nevertheless.”

Joshua O.: “Those who wanted to become a Jedi, including me, sought out the path of greatness… and in most cases, a sign of complete badassery. My fondest memory of Jedi action, is seeing a Dark Jedi and a Light Jedi fighting in Anchorhead, with 50 people around them watching. It was nighttime, with their signature red and blue lightsabers clashing in the middle of a well-traversed town. The fight lasted a good time — I do not recall a victor — but I remember sitting back and watching.”

7. …But taking out bounties on Force-users was almost as cool.

Oliver: Bounty Hunters could take missions to hunt down and kill Jedi players in exchange for fairly sizeable rewards. Once you took a bounty mission, you had to actually hunt your prey by sending droids out to determine which planet a player was on and then where on the planet they were. Once you found the Jedi, you needed to plan your attack carefully, both to avoid spooking them and to increase the chance you’d be able to take them down. It was a rush (for both Jedi and the Bounty Hunter) that no other MMO has managed to capture.”

8. Starports were an adventure unto themselves

Paul: “In the beginning, it used to take 10 minutes for a shuttle to arrive at the starport. So players would hang out while they waited, and sometimes you would see Doctors set themselves up offering buffs for a small fee. Using the shuttle required a ticket, and if you needed to travel to more than one planet, you would find yourself in a mad dash from where you landed all the way to the starport lobby to purchase a ticket and then back before (hopefully) the shuttle departed.”

9. You could take your home with you

Randall: “The first time my Scout was able to build his own camp, it was a thrill. The tent was like open housing that could be build almost anywhere and could be visited by any adventurer who wanted to stop by to chat (and get the associated camp buffs). Such a great feeling. I met the people of my first guild this way, and some of those people were MMO partners of mine for years after.”

10. You could live a combat-free life if you desired

Joshua O.: “Not everyone wanted to become a Jedi. You had professional crafters, where some players sole objective was creating a market for the game. Doctors would form orderly lines at spaceports for their buffs to help people on their adventures outside the safety of cities. What made it different? The fact you could choose to be whatever you wanted with one character. Nothing tied you down; you could be whatever you wanted. An Entertainer would dance in a cantina buffing war thrived patrons, and then after making a decent amount of credits made they could change over to a pistoleer. I absolutely loved being support without combat. I could place a campsite for players with amenities and safety. It was a great time without even having to engage in combat at all.”

11. The NGE devastated many players

Joshua O.: “The NGE was the sole reason I quit SWG. The game used to have the freedom and empowering force of the community. When NGE launched, it changed everything, leaving me and many other veterans wondering why they changed it. It changed a game that had a soul to a generic rock-paper-scissor RPG. Call it rose-colored glasses, but SWG pre-NGE remains one of the my favorite MMOs to date, and I have yet to see something come close to it.”

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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theblacklizard
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theblacklizard

levarrishawk Another child who thinks every game has to be nothing but PVP. All of your statements are wrong anyway. You weren’t forced to be only a single profession so people mixed trees and all professions got some use. I played almost every one of the mat some point and really enjoyed the PVE which far from being an afterthought was the best PVE fun I’ve had – non-static mobs which could ambush you and drop very varied loot rather than the crap farmed spawn points that define every single mmo now. Clearly you never ran the DWB either.

In my opinion the lack of balance was also one of the things making this game great. There was so much less of the cookie cutter boredom we have in every game now.

BlueDestiny
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BlueDestiny

Tethyss “Folks call that ‘sandbox’, I call it incomplete.”

That’s because it was incomplete.  That’s fact in history.  The corporate suits pushed its premature release before content was ready.  Put that in the mixer with ‘player complaints’, ineffective development zigging and zagging trying to deliver on a premature game with this patch and that patch absent a clear vision to bring it to “fully developed with content”, and an inability (fiscal, resources) to deliver on all of the missing content, the player complaints, and go-forward new content all at the same time = a colossal crash.  So yes, it was absolutely incomplete, from the first day it went live as a premature launch.  But the foundations of a great sandbox game were there, and no game has ever come remotely close to delivering on the MMO promise since.  Not even close.

Tsiya
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Tsiya

levarrishawk 
You obviously never went on a “No Fear” graul hunt. 10 entertainers in exotic leotards or hawt pants with vibroknucklers running missions on Dant. Again, you need to make your own fun. I never even bought buffs or wore armor. PvP was far from the focus of the game.

Tsiya
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Tsiya

LiquidElectron 
Amen. I never had any desire to be a jedi, but I made a mint selling grinding mats to those who did. Farming hides for my tailor friend, bones for the architect in the next town, and meat for the BE the next planet over. Escorting my merchant friends to the best resource spots. I did entertaining for awhile, loved it. Most people can’t make their own fun.

purewitz
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purewitz

Walah purewitz I know they didn’t renew the license, but it was a shutdown though. Also full disclosure I beta tested SWTOR and I’ve been playing SWTOR now for over 3 years. Its not SWG NGE, but its got one thing going for it that SWG never really had and that is good storytelling. Its funny I played SWG from 2004 until the very end and I always thought to myself that it would be so cool.  If the professions had their own personal stories and what did Sony give us, one mainline story that sometimes forked with an imperial or rebel mission. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy the Kashyyyk story and the Mustafar story, but the rest of the Legacy Quest Series was bland at best. Although it was better than not having any story at all pre-NGE.
I played through the pre-cu, cu, and the nge. The nge just happend to be my favorite combat system for SWG, but at the end of the day though. I played SWG and I now play SWTOR for one main reason and that one main reason is they are Star Wars MMOs. And I wanted and still want to play as my favorite Star Wars archetypes in a MMORPG setting and to me that’s all that really matters. I’m just glad I got to play in that galaxy far, far away in SWG and I still get to today in SWTOR, but just in a different war era.
And that’s just the 2 cents of a lifelong gamer (Been gaming since I was 4 in 1982 on the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64.) and Star Wars fan (First saw the original trilogy on VHS cassette back in 1985, when I was 7).  So everyone on here can keep on argue over the same stuff that’s been argued about for over the last 10 years.  I’m done.
Peace Out! *Drops Mic*

JimGriffiths
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JimGriffiths

breetoplay Sorenthaz purewitz Yeah we are so nostalgic that another game being developed is stealing our thunder by claiming to be SWG 2.0. lol    http://divergence-online.wix.com/divergence-online#!

Quinnocent
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Quinnocent

Yeah.  I found SWG amazing when I played it.  I had never seen a MMO with some of the features it had.  I have never seen one since, frankly.  That doesn’t mean the game was perfect. I found it amazing for the ways in which it was unique, but I hated actually playing the game.  I was out of there in less than a month.

People have rose-colored glasses regarding pre-NGE SWG.  The game was rapidly bleeding huge amounts of subscribers when the NGE hit.  It was dying.  There were already servers that were ghost towns.  That’s the why of it.  They needed to change it.  Was the NGE a horrible failure?  Definitely.  Did they need to do /something/?  Definitely.

Combat in SWG simply looked and played horribly at launch.  Balance sucked, though that can be forgiven in a game like that.  Worse, animations sucked and pacing of combat sucked.  The CU–the Combat Upgrade which shortly preceded the NGE–was better but still awful.  SWG had a lot of amazing and well-executed ideas, but when you get down to some of the core aspects of its gameplay, it was far short of what people wanted.  I don’t necessarily blame the dev team.  A lot of those levels of production values were acceptable when the game started development, but it was a transformational time in game development, and those flaws aged very, very poorly.  As a result, in the face of more recent launches, the game started to lose all appeal to new players.

Meanwhile, veteran players weren’t having a great time of things either, hence the massive loss of subs.  The game was incredibly buggy and had incomplete or poorly implemented systems.  People don’t seem to want to remember, but the forums of SWG players were filled with constant calls to massively overhaul certain systems.  The NGE and CU didn’t happen in a vaccuum.

I think the real lesson of the CU and NGE is not to bundle your changes and release them without feedback.  If you were actually around back then, you’d remember a constant refrain of SOE when players complained of bugs or flaws in the game.  “Wait for the CU.”  Wait for this.  Wait for that.  You had an enormous amount of changes and fixes which kept getting pushed into two piles.  You ended up with two massive game-changing updates that completely redefined the game.  Worse than that, they never really tested any of these changes, unlike ARR which essentially received a whole new alpha-beta process.  The result?  They didn’t give players a chance to get accustomed to the changes gradually and give feedback about what was and wasn’t working.  Who knows how things might have different if they rolled out these changes gradually and pulled back on those with negative feedback.

Tethyss
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Tethyss

It’s unfair for me to say this game sucked.  Personally I just hated it — the animations were clunky and gameplay was horrible. JTL was the same, only the music was good.  Everywhere I went people were just standing around singing and dancing and buffing and healing.  They loved doing this.  Their entire gameplay was centered around crafting and entertaining.  I thought it was the most boring thing possible.  I could travel to a planet and find no one else there with nothing to do.  Folks call that ‘sandbox’, I call it incomplete.

I read a lot of comments about folks saying ‘NGE sucked’ and ‘NGE killed SWG’.  What they like to ignore is all the articles here about how SWG was dying and they had to make a change.  Unfortunately it didn’t work out.

So just because you thought this was the best game ever made doesn’t mean everyone else liked it, nor that it could be financially prosperous.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

Sorenthaz purewitz SWGemu, like most emus, didn’t get any mention on the old site because we weren’t allowed to cover it. We cover it here intermittently and have streamed it as well as a number of our staffers play, but as has been explained before, we’re not exactly in any great hurry to bring so much publicity to it that it’s shut down. It’s less likely to be than other emus, but let’s not tempt fate.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

Sorenthaz Archebius purewitz Yeah, Koster has said the biggest exodus was from bazaar changes, not the NGE.