In June of 2003, I began a journey in a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: Galaxies was a massively multiplayer online RPG set in the Star Wars universe, roughly between episodes IV and V. But really, the timing wasn’t all that important.
All that mattered was that the Galactic Empire was at war with the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and that you as a player could either ignore the war or embrace it.
Almost exactly one year prior to the retail release of the game, I joined a “Player Association” called the Galactic Conglomerate. We gushed about what the game would be like, and how much it would conform to canon, and what we would do once we logged in. Most of us didn’t have beta access.
At the time, I was living in New Zealand, so I wasn’t officially supported. The game wasn’t available when it was released, so one of my Galactic Conglomerate friends bought it and mailed it to me. To my shame, I don’t remember his name, though I did pay him back for it immediately with New Zealand Dollars.
Regardless, come launch day, I was in the game and playing. It was an experience to be remembered. My character was created as an Artisan, the prototypical crafter from the game. In those days, the game was based around a freeform skill system that allowed you to combine a variety of different “professions” to create your character. I strongly remember specializing in weaponsmithing and carbine use, a combination that wasn’t very popular at the time. I spent many hours speculating with my low-level mineral discovery devices so that I could gather enough materials to build the newest type of weapons and armor.
Over the next few months of release, I spent a lot of time building weapons and armor for my guild, and participating in guild hunts as a carbineer. I used my self-crafted automatic blaster weapons both as my own weapons and as those of my squadmates to take down such worthy enemies as Sharnaffs, which at the time were powerful NPC monsters.
When the day came that player cities were added to the game, I was ecstatic. I was the architect for my Player Association, so I was charged with building the City Hall that would allow us to create a city on Chilastra, our chosen capital.
It was a long, arduous process. When I finally hit the button that would complete our City Hall, I was greeted with a message that caused the bottom to drop out of my stomach: “Critical Failure: Assembly has Failed.” Normally, with any other crafting, this would mean that all the materials — including the sub-components — involved the crafting were lost. Due to an early bug in the city-crafting process, though, I was able to bypass the critical failure and complete our City Hall.
Sadly, we weren’t in time to claim one of the ten city slots for Chilastra. In a panic, we hurriedly rushed to Talus, one of the moons of Chilastra. We succeeded in placing our city there, and for the rest of the life of Star Wars: Galaxies, I would occasionally return to that fateful point and reminisce.
To this day, I think of that first city with a mixture of sadness and happiness.
On December 15th, 2011, Star Wars: Galaxies’ servers were shut down for the last time. I produced a video on YouTube to commemorate the occasion, but it didn’t really do justice to the memories I had of the game. No MMORPG since then has ever filled the same purpose, and despite the hardships and drama I suffered during the game’s life, or maybe because of it, I have never found a community that shares the same kind of experience.
Last year, John Smedley — the producer of Sony Online Entertainment, the company that made Star Wars: Galaxies — hinted that they were working on something that would make SWG fans proud. I hope that he’s right. Star Wars: Galaxies, for all its myriad flaws, was the best online community I have ever been proud to take part in.