Saturday, December 03, 2011

8 Year Star Wars Galaxies Veteran Gets His Feet Wet in SWTOR (Finally)

In June of 2003 I began playing Star Wars Galaxies. Having been fascinated by the Star Wars Universe since I was a child, and being a very avid console game player, I had played just about every Star Wars console game title released to that point. PC games were still quite new to me however, as most of my gaming had been done on the Sega Genesis, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sony Playstation. The thought of playing an online game where I would interact with others was very new and exciting to me.

At the recommendation of a friend, I decided to give Star Wars Galaxies a try. Being a console gamer, I had no idea Star Wars Galaxies was even in development, let alone set to be released soon. I had played games like StarCraft and Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, but this was my very first experience in the MMORPG world, and the first game that actually had a monthly subscription attached. It was Star Wars, I simply had to be there I told myself. To my delight, I was completely amazed with the game itself and seeing hundreds of other players in just one area, moving about like ants, doing their missions, forming massive battles. I was very impressed. I spent countless hours and endured alot of sleepless nights attempting to unlock my Jedi character slot, which I finally accomplished on Mother's Day of 2004.

Throughout it's very checkered history due to unwanted changes in the combat system, a massive player exodus when World of Warcraft was released, the shutdown of SOE services for nearly two weeks due to intrusion by hackers back in April of 2011, and countless game updates attempting to restore the game to it's former glory, I had maintained 5 accounts until the very end. September 15th, 2011 was the last day subscriptions to the game were accepted.

I cannot even begin to list all the people I met during that time from all over the globe. I even learned that one of my cousins in Australia had been playing it for years as well. The game was simply amazing. I had put much time and effort into my characters I had created, which equaled thirteen in total in the end.

June 24th, 2011 will be forever remembered as one of the most depressing and disappointing days of my life. Sony Online Entertainment released a statement that all Star Wars Galaxies services would be closing down on December 15th, 2011. I was simply heartbroken. My characters had become an extension of myself. I knew of Star Wars the Old Republic long before the shutdown was announced, but I simply did not want to abandon the work I had done in Star Wars Galaxies, even though the writing appeared to be on the wall already when SOE has laid off their entire Denver Colorado office staff on March 31st, 2011.

I resisted. I became one of the very vocal players who voiced their unhappiness with the decision to shut down SWG. I posted on the SWG forums, Lucasarts forums, SOE's Facebook pages, and even helped circulate a petition that was created by another player in an attempt to alter this decision to shut down the game. We had reached close to 5,000 signatures, but it became apparent that our efforts were falling upon deaf ears. I became angry and frustrated, and even voiced my displeasure towards Star Wars the Old Republic, blaming it as the main cause for the game I loved being taken away. My friends and guildies stopped logging into SWG, perhaps sharing my frustrations, and the game lost alot of what had made it so special to me.

In July of 2011, Pre-Orders were started for SWTOR. I had come to the realization that the best way to continue on was to take my legacy and guild to another game. I pre-ordered the collector's edition for SWTOR. I came to terms with reality and accepted the fact that SWG would not be around forever.

While waiting as patiently as I could, in August 2011 the same friend who had introduced me to SWG asked me to try World of Tanks with him, a free to play battlefield type game with World War II tanks. It helped pass the time perfectly, and I still am playing it to this day. It is a very quick and action packed game which reminded me of some of the console games I had played in earlier years. My best description of it was "Twisted Metal with WWII tanks". My guildies and friends started playing it as well. There was video game life after SWG I realized.

After months of checking through my email, and very jealously listening to a guildie who was in the permanent beta describe the game, I finally recieved an invite to the beta test Star Wars the Old Republic last weekend, which began on November 25th, 2011.

I was not disappointed. I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of things to do in the game. It really did make Star Wars Galaxies seem very small and redundant. People had said the graphics were "cartoon-like" and "outdated" which I fully disagreed with. I heard that the questing became tiresome, which I did not find to be the case either. I was also concerned how the game would run on my PC, being that it was a little bit older. Smooth as silk I found when I logged in the first time.

By Friday evening I was completely hooked on the game and very engrossed into my character's storyline. Each day I played I kept learning new things about the game and progressed to level 22. I tried the other classes for a short time to get a small feel for them but simply could not stop wanting to play my Jedi Knight. No need for 5 account subscriptions, as the game allows a total of 8 characters to be made on any given server. This alone made the game seem so much more rich to me with content.

I am now a firm believer that everything in life happens for a reason. Star Wars Galaxies was on the decline for years. My guild which used to consist of hundreds of members who would log in on a regular basis, became just a shell of it's former self, with under 20 people logging in regularly. I was losing touch with them all and the game had lost it's appeal to alot of people.

Star Wars the Old Republic will be around for quite some time, and I suggest that any Star Wars fan completely embrace it for what it is. The music, while not composed by John Williams, follows in the same tradition of the movies. It has that very epic Star Wars tone to it and I am very happy that I will be getting a copy of the soundtrack as well with the Collector's Edition.

The combat is much more complex than I had ever thought, almost to the point of being on par to some of the console fighting games I had played like Namco's Tekken series. There are counters, combos, and enough of a challenge to make me keep wanting to come back for more.

The character story kept making me want to see what happens next, with enough side quests to keep my progression on par to handle alot of the content on my own, while I was overwhelmed at the amount of Group Missions and Heroic Encounters that I would need to call upon my guildies to complete. None of which seemed necessary to pass a certain point and I never got stuck to the point where I could not progress. There is so much to do that I could not possibly squeeze it all into one weekend, or see everything it has to offer.

The space combat was very action packed and fast. It did remind me of StarFox for the Nintendo 64, like many people have said, which I always had loved. After a few upgrades to your spaceship it should be alot of fun and enough of a challenge to make you want to come back for more.

Another thing I noted that was unlike SWG was that there was nothing your character did to leave a lasting impression on the server. There is no player housing to be tied down to, or player cities. While I did not like this idea at first, I come to realize now that when the game launches there may be close to 50 servers running for the game. Who knows what might happen say maybe five years from now. It should be a very painless transition should they have to merge servers, close servers, or introduce character transfer. Many of my frustrations in SWG were rooted in real estate squabbles, not finding enough room for my structures, or simply getting there too late to take advantage of resource spawns or prime spots for housing. Not to mention also that some of the less populated servers became ghost towns, before SOE finally allowed free character transfer to a more populated server of our choice. This service was previously charged at a whopping $50 or more per character, depending on whether you wanted to take your items with you or not.

Every game ultimately is defined by how well the Player vs. Player aspect is done, and how much content there is after reaching maximum level. While I myself did not try any of the Player vs. Player Warzones, the jubilence of my guildies who did participate in them over our Teamspeak server assured me that this game has gotten it right in pretty much every aspect.

I very much look forward to the game's launch and sharing my experiences with you all. It's going to be a very fun ride. Star Wars Galaxies was indeed a very good game for years and years past, but I feel we are in good hands with BioWare and Star Wars the Old Republic.

May the Force be With You!

Stephen Cefai
Guild Leader of Eternal Empire

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