After an eight-year run, Sony Online Entertainment has officially pulled the plug on the subscription-based MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies. The virtual epic adventure across George Lucas' Force-themed universe came to a close today thanks to the end of a licensing contract between Lucas and SOE. It also conveniently shuts down operation as a newer, BioWare-developed Star Wars MMOG prepares to launch next week: Star Wars: The Old Republic.
According to several different reports, the virtual Empire-ridden universe went offline following various closing events in the early hours of the morning. The developers even participated in these events, deploying a host of X-Wing fighters and shooting off fireworks similar to the show seen in The Return of the Jedi. PC Gamer actually provides a lengthy insight called "Inside the final hours of Star Wars: Galaxies" which paints a bitter-sweet goodbye to a universe carved out by developers and subscribers alike.
"The death of a player-driven MMO like SWG is different to that of a more prescriptive game," PC Gamer writes. "What is being lost is not just the accumulated experience and credits of thousands of players, but the cities and sculptures that the advanced object manipulation system allowed players to create. Pod-racers created from hundreds of tiny parts; a custom starport built from the ground up. Unless Sony open the game up to the community, all of these are gone forever, beyond the reach of archeology."
Star Wars Galaxies producer Tony "Teesquared" Tyson also posted a lengthy letter to the SWG community on Friday, offering his sincere thanks for sticking with the sci-fi MMOG for all these years. "Looking back on Star Wars Galaxies and all these years I am so thankful for being able to be a part of the Star Wars Galaxies community both as the Producer and as a fan," he writes. "It would not have been the incredible experience that it was without you, the players and fans, the dedicated team of people who worked on it over the years and the fantastic Star Wars galaxy itself, which offered us a very unique and compelling place to explore, fight, play, make friends, and build our homes.
"This is a book of memories, so let me start with a few of my own..."
The game had a rocky path to travel from the start, launching in 2003 with a mixed reception from both the critics and Star Wars fans. On a visual level the game received a thumbs up, but most of the negativity stemmed from the game's overall instability, the overwhelming complexity of the gameplay, combat imbalances of the professions and more. The number of subscribers gradually dropped over time, forcing SOE to completely redesign the gameplay mechanics for combat and armor/weapon systems. Soon after, SOE overhauled the entire Star Wars MMOG in 2005 with an update called "New Game Enhancements." This "upgrade" simplified the gameplay and reduced the number of player classes, but it also caused a huge backlash from the majority of existing subscribers.
But despite the troubled waters, Star Wars Galaxies became part of the foundation that has made online PC gaming what it is today. You may not have been a subscriber, but you knew what it was and where it could be played. You knew all about the drama stemming from the revisions, and may have even wanted to give it a test run at some point. Like EverQuest, Ultima Online, Asheron's Call and Dark Age of Camelot, it has left its mark in PC gaming history, and for many, will be truly missed.
"On behalf of the Star Wars Galaxies team, thank you," SOE stated. "We have truly enjoyed getting to know you - our dedicated players - over the years. From in-game events to Fan Faires, we appreciate your continued loyalty and support. It would not have been possible without you."
Who here needs a tissue? (sniff)