Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided (SWG) was a Star Wars themed MMORPG for Microsoft Windows developed by Sony Online Entertainment and published by LucasArts. The base game, titled Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, was released on June 26, 2003 in the USA and on November 7, 2003 in Europe. Additional expansions have been released and together make up the Star Wars Galaxies universe. On July 24th, 2011 Sony Online Entertainment announced that the MMO would close on December 15th, 2011.
Between its launch in 2003 and the shutdown in 2011, the game was re-released in several different versions. Any physical copies of Star Wars Galaxies will work so long as they include a copy of the base game. This means that individual expansion releases and beta discs are the only ones to avoid (unless you want them as collectable items).
Star Wars Galaxies was a Star Wars themed massively multiplayer online role-playing (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows, developed by Sony Online Entertainment and published by LucasArts. Released June 26, 2003 to much critical acclaim, it spawned three expansions through 2005. The last expansion generated controversy as the game was completely overhauled, much to the dismay of many longtime subscribers. Despite these drastic changes, Star Wars Galaxies continued operation for six more years. On July 24, 2011 Sony Online Entertainment announced that the game would be closed on December 15, 2011. Despite outcry from subscribers and Star Wars fans, the servers shut down on December 15, 2011. Notwithstanding the game's closure, there are several private emulator projects in various stages of development that intend to allow users to experience Star Wars Galaxies in different incarnations of the game's existence.
On 16 March 2000, LucasArts Entertainment announced a partnership with Verant Interactive Inc. and Sony Online Entertainment to create the first massively multiplayer Star Wars online role-playing game. The then unnamed game would be developed by Verant with online play supported by SOE, the same team responsible for creating and supporting the popular fantasy MMORPG EverQuest, and LucasArts would be responsible for all distribution of the Star Wars online game. The announcement included an expected release date some time in 2001 and that the game would take place during the original trilogy era. LucasArts officially announced the brand name of the game to be Star Wars Galaxies on November 29, 2000. The announcement claimed the first round of testing was expected to start in late 2001 which would push back the official release date to an unknown time. The game's official information site was launched on November 30, in conjunction with SOE and featured frequently asked questions about the game and message boards fielded by members of the development team.
On 17 May 2001, even before the game went into public beta testing, the first expansion's development was announced. The yet unnamed add-on, which was expected to be available six months after the initial product release, would be a space simulation and enable players to own and fly starships which would allow interplanetary travel and space combat. The release date of the initial product, the ground-based component, was updated to the second half of 2002. The staggered release schedule of the space component of the Star Wars Galaxies series was said to benefit players because they would have time to establish their characters and explore different elements of the core game before adding the space layer. Traveling between planets would be accomplished through the use of public shuttles, which would ferry characters from world to world. A new official site was also released on the same day that put more of an emphasis behind the community of the game. It included new screen shots, movies, an updated FAQ, concept art, development team member's profiles, features about the game, and a new forum. The site reached 100,001 users by December 2001. Throughout the next year after the release of the new site, new content would be revealed. This content included information on species and locations, new images and movies of different game elements, and 360 degree QuickTime VR panoramas of different locations.
LucasArts officially confirmed a release date of April 15, 2003. They also announced on December 20, 2002, that the ground-based component of Star Wars Galaxies would be called An Empire Divided and that the game's online community had grown to over 400,000 users since its inception in November 2000. At the time, this represented one of the largest ever fan communities amassed for any game prior to retail availability. An Empire Divided would later be delayed to an unknown time, but on 17 June 2003, LucasArts confirmed Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided would be released on June 26, 2003.
The game has gone through two major downgrades: the \"Combat Upgrade\" (CU) and later the \"New Game Enhancement\" (NGE), its final form. Gameplay mechanics for combat and armor/weapon systems received a major downgrade in April 2005 when SOE released the Combat Upgrade that replaced a system that allowed players with combat professions to stack defensive abilities from various skill sets, while also fixing an exploit that allowed players to have their character attack freshly spawning non-player characters (NPC) and creatures while away from their computers in order to gain combat skill experience. The New Game Enhancements were implemented in November 2005. Major changes included the reduction and simplification of professions, simplification of gameplay mechanics, and Jedi becoming a starting profession.
The base game, titled Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, was released on 26 June 2003 in the USA and on 7 November 2003 in Europe. A localized version for the Japanese market was published by Arts Japan on 23 December 2004. Japanese acceptance of the game was low, and in November 2005 the servers were shut down and existing accounts migrated to US servers.
At the time of its initial release, the game was very different from how it is now. Vehicles and creature mounts were not yet implemented. While player housing was available at the time of launch, the ability to incorporate groups of houses into cities didn't come until November 2003. Each character and creature possessed three \"pools\" (called Health, Action, and Mind; or \"HAM\") that represented his or her physical and mental reserves. Most attacks specifically targeted one of these three pools and any action the character took also depleted one or more of the pools. When any one of those pools was fully depleted, the character would fall unconscious. Combat, then, required the player to carefully manage his or her actions to avoid depleting a pool.
Jedi were not available as a starting profession, or even as an advanced profession. The developers stated only that certain in-game actions would open up a Force-sensitive character slot. The actions required were left for players to discover. It eventually turned out that characters had to achieve Master level in random professions. At first the player had to complete four master level classes which were randomly chosen and unknown to the player. The developers then introduced Holocrons which would inform the player of the first, then after completion second master class required. At various times the number of master levels needed ranged from four to seven and the number revealed by holocrons varied from two to four. Because of the difficulty in obtaining a force sensitive (Jedi) character, the profession had many advantages in combat, often capable of taking on very powerful enemies or defeating entire groups of other non-Jedi characters in Player vs. Player combat. The first Force-sensitive character slot was unlocked on 7 November 2003.
This first expansion, Jump to Lightspeed, was released on 27 October 2004. Two new races were added: Sullustan and Ithorian. The expansion added space combat. Characters choose one of three factions in the new Pilot sub-profession: Rebel, Imperial, or Freelance. The playable sectors include the space surrounding the 10 planets of the game as well as Ord Mantell, Kessel and \"Deep Space.\" Combat is real-time and twitch-oriented like a first-person shooter and can be played with a joystick at the player's option. A new Artisan profession, Shipwright (now subsumed into the Trader profession as part of the Structures specialty), was also introduced. This profession created ships, shields, armor, weapons, etc. for players. They also have the ability to take looted components from space and reverse engineer them into better components. Players can construct their own ships with a base chassis, adding their own reactors, weapons, armor, shields, aesthetics and more, all of which visually change the starship's appearance. In many ways, this is the spiritual successor to the hit LucasArt's space combat flight simulator game X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, as the theme, interface and objectives are quite similar.
Reviews for the initial launch of the game in 2003 were mostly positive. The game was praised for its lush graphics (realistic character models, detailed architecture and lush environments), liberal use of the movie soundtracks, massive world size, character customization, creative creature ecology, complex skill system, player economy interdependencies and its sandbox approach. Reviewers criticized the overwhelming complexity of the game, combat imbalances of the professions, bugginess and lack of quest content.
Players who wished to play a Jedi character had to first unlock their Jedi slot by fulfilling an unknown list of criteria. The first player to unlock a 'Jedi slot' did so on November 7, 2003, four months after the release of the game. Players criticized SOE for the substantial time commitment to unlock a Jedi, penalties for in-game death of a Jedi character which was permanent after three deaths, and monotonous game play required to acquire the Jedi character. Developers responded by changing the penalty for death to skill loss in January 2004 and creating a quest system to unlock the character. 59ce067264