There aren’t many games where the player can be a club dancer, strapped-for-cash and performing for tips in a sleazy bar. There are fewer where that bar is filled with fish people and space bears.
When Star Wars Galaxies first released in 2003, it did so under the tagline “Live in the Star Wars Universe.” A simple slogan that could initially be read in a number of ways, but one that turned out to be diametrically opposed to the rest of the Star Wars game library over the title’s lifetime. As opposed to the epic quests of games like Shadows of the Empire or the previous year’s Jedi Knight II, which could perhaps be summed up with “Save the Star Wars Universe,” Galaxies billed itself as a more personal take on the familiar space fantasy world. Players could still play out those movie-inspired dreams of being smugglers or bounty hunters, yes, but these more glamorous callings were only able to succeed because of the player-driven socioeconomic systems propped up by a whole in-game society stretching far beyond the fantasies of kids playing Han Solo and Boba Fett in their backyards. As the motto implied, this was a large-scale world inhabited by players who, if they so desired, could simply live meaningful lives on the small scale. In a way, Star Wars: Galaxieswas the Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru simulator we never knew we wanted.
Rather than relying on a simple variation of the basic warrior/thief/mage class structure so common to other games of the same type, Galaxies instead debuted with a multi-tiered profession tree of over 40 different jobs, each of which could be mixed and matched to a player’s content so long as they had enough skill points to invest across them. Among these jobs were combat professions like commando or Teras Kasi Artist, but also titles like politician, chef, musician, tailor and image designer. Players who didn’t like the idea of adventuring through the mud could instead focus on running cities, cooking healing items, helping other players with status-improving songs, crafting clothing, or changing the look of other players’ characters … all for a fee, of course. Those who were good enough at it could even open up stores of their own and become famous as brand names. It wasn’t uncommon for combat-oriented players to have a trusted armor guy or spaceship parts guy, regularly making pilgrimages to their shops, which were all set up in player-built housing within player-built cities, which were themselves run by a mayor who could take taxes as needed. You could essentially open a mall in the Star Wars universe, which proved to be more compelling than you might think.