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Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided (PC)

Game Stats

Platform:  Windows
Game Type:  MMORPG
Developer:  Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher:  LucasArts
Release Date:  Q4 2002

Last year at E3, when we first laid eyes on Star Wars Galaxies, it felt as though we has just been a part of gaming history in the making. Our heads popped like pimples. The invisible hand of the Force dramatically reached across times long ago and galaxies far away to grip us and it still hasn't let go.

Star Wars Galaxies will allow players to step right into the middle of the galactic civil war depicted in the original trilogy (Star Wars through Return of the Jedi.) In this massively multiplayer opus, your characters can either side with the Rebel Alliance, the all-powerful Empire, or the loosely organized smugglers tentatively known as the "Hutt criminal empire." There will be eight playable species and between eight to 12 fully populated worlds at launch. Explore the beautiful grasslands of Naboo! Conduct seedy business in the sweltering cantinas of Tatooine! Bitch-slap some stormtroopers ... wherever you like!

This year we got to see more of the game in action, including the combat engine, character creation, some of the social tools, in-game missions, and even a glimpse at the kinds of things players will be able to build.

Socializing With Aliens

Character creation is an involved process giving people immense control over their appearance. "Our goal was to make every character individual and unique," explained producer Haden Blackman. Sure, all Mon Calimari are bug-eyed fish people, but that doesn't mean all of them will look alike. The shade of the skin and proportions of the face are all configurable.

Once you're in the world, you're immersed in what Blackman describes as "a very social game," and the interface behaves appropriately. When you talk to other characters, word bubbles appear above you. You can also "think" aloud, with a thought bubble appearing above your head for all to see. For instance, as we played, Creative Director Raph Koster typed "I don't think I trust this guy...", 'thinking' it in plain view of everyone in the middle of a conversation. The mechanism will allow for some fun role-playing. Characters also have a wide variety of poses and gestures, of course.

You'll also be able to chat with NPCs via a simple pop-up menu of options. "They're there to tell you a little more about the world or to give you missions," Blackman said, while on the screen behind him, Koster chatted with various grungy characters hanging around Mos Eisley. He eventually tracked one down who gave him a mission (see below.)

Look at that water!

Interaction won't be limited to computer-controlled NPCs. One of the most exciting features in Galaxies is the addition of "pets" of every type. Yes, you can have alien critters to follow you around and call your own. You can also own (and program) your own droids! At this point, it also seems like players siding with the Empire will have some awesome options of their own -- imagine you and your friends being able to build a base and then man it with your own personal contingent of stormtroopers and AT-ST walkers. It's unclear how much of that will be available in the final version, but the developers are playing with it.

Because the game is so socially oriented, there are plenty of options for play. For instance, as we walked through the Mos Eisley cantina (yes, the infamous music was playing), Koster pointed out that you could be anything in the room. You could be a musician and learn to play the instruments. You could be a dancer. You could build your own cantina, own it and make money from attracting customers. The possibilities are immense! "Our intent is to allow people to formalize themselves as cities," Koster pointed out. You'll be able to form little governments with other players in backwater parts of the game worlds, hopefully evolving over time into a bustling (and completely player-created) metropolis.

How do you build things? Resource harvesting is an important part of the game, but not an all-consuming one. You don't have to stand around and click on trees or mountains in order to gather something. Instead, gathering could be done while you're offline. Koster gave the example of a moisture farmer building his collectors and then logging off for the night.

Next:   Missions and Combat

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