Whenever the topic — the argument — of Star Wars MMOs arises, the debate is usually between the merits of the sandboxy Star Wars Galaxies and the themeparky Star Wars: The Old Republic. While opinions and passionate feelings whirl into the atmosphere on these games, I can’t help but think how fortunate Star Wars fans were to get not one but three Star Wars MMOs.
Three? Oh yeah, there was another one, wasn’t there?
For the duration of its existence, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures operated in the shadow of the two bigger Star Wars online RPGs — yet it helped to onboard many members of the next generation of MMO gamers. Before it completely fades from memory, I wanted to take a look at what this quirky kid-themed MMO was about and why it might have been the choice of adventurers to this galaxy far, far away.
Cloning a clone
After the conclusion of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005), LucasFilms continued to ride the wave of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s adventures in other formats. One of these took shape in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated TV series that originally ran from 2008 to 2014. Despite taking place in the divisive prequel setting, the original Clone Wars series gradually grew a fanatical following thanks to its better writing, larger cast, and serialized storyline. It proved to be so beloved that when Disney+ came out this past year, it ushered in one final season of The Clone Wars that wrapped up several plot threads left hanging six years prior.
The property seemed perfect for a video game setting, and when it came time to consider who would develop and handle the Clone Wars MMO, there was only one logical choice at the time: Sony Online Entertainment.
No, really. Back then, SOE had proven itself as a knowledgeable MMORPG operator and had both a kid-friendly MMO (Free Realms) and a Star Wars MMO (Star Wars Galaxies) under its belt. An agreement was signed to give SOE the rights to develop an MMO with the visuals and sounds of the TV series using SOE’s ForgeLight game engine (which was also used for Free Realms, PlanetSide 2, H1Z1, and the EverQuest Next projects).
When it arrived on June 1st, 2010, Clone Wars Adventures was positioned to grab as many younglings as possible. For starters, it was a free-to-play browser title, meaning that anyone could access it and run it. And instead of being a sprawling galactic adventure or a confusing sandbox, the MMO took the Free Realms model of creating an online framework on which to hang many minigames.
In the game, kids — and their Star Wars-loving parents too — could create their own unique avatar (choosing between Human, Clone, Zabrak, Pantoran, Togruta, Trandoshan, and Twi’lek species) and head out to socialize, buy pets, engage in space battles, and fight battle droids.
Most of the setting was confined to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, where players could experience the 30 or so minigames and earn credits for different rewards. There were lightsaber duels, racing, card games, and even a couple of zones with standard MMO quests and combat.
In 2012, SOE introduced battle classes to the game, giving players a more defined role. It was in this that the game’s F2P model was most pronounced, as only the trooper was free for all, while the Sith and Mercenaries required a purchase and the Jedi class was completely locked behind a monthly membership fee.
This being a SOE game, of course it had a housing system. It wasn’t quite up to Star Wars Galaxies’ level of extreme customization, but Clone Wars Adventures’ housing was pretty full featured and proved to be a big hit with the game’s community.
A new hope
In the first few years, Clone Wars Adventures actually was pretty successful, reaching 10 million users by 2012. Topps even created a physical card game based on the MMO’s in-game Card Commander minigame.
Unfortunately, the Force did not remain strong with this one. In 2014, the same year that the TV series wrapped up its initial run, Clone Wars Adventures became one of four titles (along with Free Realms, Wizardry Online, and Vanguard) that SOE shut down in quick succession. The studio did enable Jedi access and made almost everything in the cash shop cost practically nothing in the lead-up to that sunset. And so it was that on March 31st, 2014, Clone Wars Adventures came to an end.
Happily for fans of the game, there was an effort to keep Clone Wars Adventures alive via a rogue server project. CMAEmu is still out there and offering all of the Clone Wars fun to be had while hopefully avoiding the gaze of Disney’s Imperial Lawyers.