Back in late June, Sony Online Entertainment announced that its sandbox sci-fi MMO Star Wars Galaxies would be closing on December 15 of this year. According to SOE president John Smedley, the decision to close the game had nothing to do with SOE's woes from the hacking attacks throughout April and May, but rather it was a rather non-specific sounding "business decision" between SOE and LucasArts.
A number of players from the game's active community are understandably upset by this decision, however, as they feel it was taken without any consideration of how they might feel about the whole thing.
"Everyone knows SWG has had its problems and we are not in denial of that at all," says Scottie Massey, a self-professed disenfranchised Star Wars fan. "To me the only problem with the game is it being mismanaged with a serious lack of communication with the fans -- but the fans have still rolled with unpopular changes because we always had our community."
Carl Arndt, another player, expands on Massey's words.
"The revamp that took place about 5 years ago was what really ruined the game to many players," he says. "We didn't want the change. SOE went ahead and did it anyways."
"If the game has to end then it has to," adds Christy Buck, a player of 6 1/2 years. "But nobody knows why it has to. Both SOE and LucasArts are refusing to answer any of our questions."
It's clear from talking to fans of the game that they're dedicated and passionate about not just the game, but the friendships and relationships they've struck up as a result.
Mark Oros, for example, has been allowing his daughters to watch him play for the last few years, and it's been a familial bonding exercise for him and his girls. His youngest turns 9 in November and Mark had promised them that they could play together when she turned 9. If SOE and LucasArts go ahead with their decision to close the game, his daughters would only be able to play with him for a month -- barely enough time to get started in an MMO as sprawling as Galaxies.
But it's not just within families that the game fulfils an important social function -- it's brought people together, too.
"I've had one specific friendship turn into a real-life relationship," says Christina, also known as Ena'Kai the entertainer in game. "I met him in game and we have been together for 4 years now."
"I never would have thought I would meet my one true love in an online game," says Jason, Christina's boyfriend. "But I did, and we are together in the real world and very happy with each other. It's not just another MMO to me, it's where I spent the last 8 years of my life when I had free time." Jason and Christina aren't the only couple who met in-game by any means -- in the last week we've heard from Elizabeth France, who met her fiancé in-game, as did Jim Brice, who doesn't feel that The Old Republic will prove an adequate substitute for what Galaxies offered:
"[The Old Republic] is male and youth-oriented only. It is a much narrower demographic than that to which SWG appeals," he says, citing the examples of SWG's non-combat professions. These allow players to enjoy the game and socialize while performing essential in-game roles and never having to lift a blaster if they don't want to. These roles, Jim says, particularly appeal to female players as well as those who don't want to engage in a combat-heavy game -- and are notably absent in The Old Republic's offering.
And therein lies the reason why the Galaxies community is so keen to save the game -- the diverse community, made up of male and female, young and old, hardcore gamer and people for whom Galaxies was their first and only game. While The Old Republic is looking to be an excellent game, its narrower focus on storytelling and heroism rather than simply being a resident in the immersive game world will disenfranchise those who enjoyed playing the part of, say, a cantina entertainer and had no desire to ever pick up a lightsaber.
In response to the closure announcement, community member Jason Swift stepped up to put forward a petition to SOE and LucasArts. Rather than the usual kneejerk approach to petitions, though, Swift's well-argued petition offers the companies a number of suggestions for how they may be able to keep the game running -- one of which is to adopt the increasingly-popular free to play model. The petition is, at the time of writing, 3,544 signatures strong. If you'd like to add your name to it, you can do so here, and find out more about the campaign to save the game here.
We've contacted SOE and LucasArts to see if they have an official response to the community regarding this matter.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Passionate Players Petition to Save the Galaxy