And all good things must come to an end, but it doesn’t make saying good-bye any easier.

http://forums.station.sony.com/swg/posts/list.m?topic_id=1220299

I honestly never thought this day would come. I have been a loyal Star Wars Galaxies subscriber since 2004 about 8 months after launch and, despite the ups and downs, I have loved every minute of it. I’m even a little surprised at how this is effect me, not quite like losing a friend or pet but like realizing a toy you grew up with and would always look for when you’re feeling down was gone for good. I’m tearing up a little. It goes beyond the game, I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but its really more than that. Galaxies has had an oddly profound effect on my life, it was one of the defining games that made me say “I want to learn to program. I want to make games.” and principles in its design are some that have influenced me, and I will keep for the rest of my life in whatever I work on. For me, Galaxies represents much more than a simple game in a lot of aspects, it was an experience. I made real friends in that virtual world, some I kept up with outside of the game but have ultimately lost touch with, and I have never had that experience replicated in any other MMO or game community I have encountered. The support and comradery of the individuals within was something that really made Galaxies what it was.

Experiments with design that came into play with SWG created a special experience with the way people interacted with each other in the game sense that expanded the traditional thoughts of games at the time or even since. Systems that SWG had are even now coming out in other games being heralded as these innovative features and ones that differentiate the game from its competitors.

SWG encouraged a cooperation and interaction between players. Today that looks like a dying principle in MMO: cooperation and reliance. I think that’s what made it so much fun for me. It was social in a way nothing else really was. Everyone could work together in such a beautiful harmony. The interactions were so deep, someone actually wrote a thesis paper on them — for a Sociology class:

http://swg.mrap.info/star_wars_galaxies_and_the_division_of_labor.pdf

That’s one thing that made the game rewarding and made me feel like I was important, I could influence other people through my actions and aid them in a real way. A simple example was crafting, anything good was made by a player. I remember a player initiated PvP event, the rebels were trying to protect a base in a player made town. I got a message from a friend to show up and help the push, when I arrived I was gifted with a new set of armor from the resident armorsmith, who was probably one of if not the most well known crafter on the server. He happened to be a rebel. I don’t know if that armor helped out or not, but it couldn’t had hurt. The tools presented in the game made the community stronger because of the depth of interaction it offered.

Freedom of play by design is something I harp on all the time. Constrictions that keep a player from playing how they want to play are something I want the industry to steer away from. Its something that made SWG such a beautiful thing to behold. The tag line “Now begins the greatest story in the galaxy… yours” that something that I think has been lost in RPGs, especially MMORPGs. They want to force you into a set allotment with no way of breaking a mold. SWG let you march to the beat of your own drum. Craft, be social, be combat oriented, just do what makes you happy.

Star Wars The Old Republic is right around the corner. It does looks interesting, I will probably be playing it the minute it comes out. It wants to offer you your own deep story and role in the world. But narrative is only one part of the puzzle; that principle of individuality and personal experience has to be expanded outward not just in your character but your effect on the world that everyone shares. SWG offered depth in all aspects from combat to crafting, something most other games take for granted or something throw away. You defined yourself the way you wanted to and from that the way you played the game and how other players would interact with you changed and it wasn’t a simple artificial change but something you could cultivate into a large effect. Placing a house, building a city, taking part in an actual society within the game; you defined yourself in a way that other people could see. I doubt there will ever be a game that can offer the same sort of depth of play that expands into a community driven spirit.

I could talk for hours and write for miles about SWG. I truly love the game. I hope that its spirit lives on and that it has inspired others to push boundaries, especially as games mature. I’ll close this with an excerp from Raph Koster’s blog about SWG closing that illustrates what I’ve found profound about the design: “an imprint on all the games since: a brief moment where you can stop saving the world or killing rats and realize the real scope and potential of the medium.” Realize the real scope and potential of the medium, if nothing else, that has succeeded with me. There is so much to offer in this space and Galaxies really taught me that.

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