In what seems to be a direct response to Westwood's upcoming Earth and Beyond, this morning, LucasArts announced plans to publish an as-of-yet-unnamed expansion pack to Star Wars Galaxies, its forthcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Star Wars Galaxies and the expansion pack are both being developed by Verant Interactive, maker of the extremely popular online role-playing game EverQuest.
The add-on's tentative title is simply Space Expansion, and it will give Star Wars Galaxies players the ability to purchase starships, which will let them actually travel through space, explore other planets, and engage in combat with other ships. Up until today's announcement, Star Wars Galaxies was going to be primarily a planetary-based game. That is, players would have only been able to interact with each other and with non-player characters on their own planet's surface. With news of Space Expansion's development, the Star Wars Galaxies universe will now expand to cover a near-limitless span of space.
"We view Star Wars Galaxies as a collection of massively multiplayer experiences that combine to form a multifaceted perpetual universe," says Simon Jeffery, president of LucasArts. "Hundreds of thousands of gamers around the world will be able to choose whether to base their Star Wars alter egos on ground or whether to take them up into space--for exploration, combat, or even to attempt the legendary Kessel Run. We know from our community boards that fans want to play Star Wars Galaxies in space as well as on planets--we're happy to say they'll be able to do so."
Space Expansion is planned for release approximately six months after Star Wars Galaxies becomes available for purchase. Galaxies is currently scheduled for a mid- to late-2002 release. We should have more details shortly on both of these games from the show floor of E3.