Star Wars Galaxies had great potential. Unfortunately, they have not carried through on that potential. Here's where I think they went wrong. Roughly.
All games have investors that want to see a return on their money. SWG is no exception. Just like a company will make short-term decisions to meet stock prices, so SWG made som short-term decisions to satisfy their investors and got the game published. This rushed the release of the game. In June 2003, the game was not actually ready for play.
2. Short Term Strategy
The goal of SWG was to get a working game up. They did, and they spent their next six months finishing the game. They added mounts and houses. After that, the game stalled. They had a short term vision of the game. Once they met that vision, they had nowhere to go.
3. Long Term Vision
They had a poor long-term vision. Much in this game could have been improved simply by playing the "continuously add something" game. They had vast worlds out there, but no plans to fill them with anything. They added few new quests. They added few new items. For a while, they added big "dungeon" style additions. These were great for groups, but only elite groups. They needed missions and dungeons for solo players and groups of all levels. The playground that they designed never got filled out with new adventure.
4. Those Pesky Players
The design of SWG predicted that players would act in certain ways. These predictions were wrong. Once the players learned what was important, they went pell-mell towards "effective." The designers assumed that because the game mechanics were balanced, the play would be balanced. Unfortately, players are smarter than that. For example, the designers believed that few players would ever have the best armor. When the armormsiths learned how armor creation worked, and they identified resource quality as critical, they responded by hoarding all the best resources that came along. Soon, every suit of armor was amazing.
The developers rightly placed a higher priority on fixing real problems over game polish. That works in the short term. In the long term, the game is the polish. This lack of polishing began irking the game community as much as the critical bugs. It is here that the lack of polish became a detriment to the game, as much as any big bug. In my experience, the big stuff matters. It effects everyone. The small stuff matters. It effects the quality of play. It effects the perception of the game experience.
7. Community Relations
SWG, more than most games, is community based. The game economy is a free market. Players set up their own cities. The freeform game style allowed for less quest running, more interaction. To meet this, the game needed an equally robust communications department. Both Thunderheart, then Tiggs, did their best to fill these rules. Unfortunately, community relations is not an add-on. It's not something that you do after the fact. Community relations needs to be there from the beginning, before a single line is programmed.
8. Content Creation Tools
Quit simply, the SWG scripters don't have good content creation tools. Their missions are always too filled with errors. They take too long to create by hand. These quests of very problematic. These all come from inadequit tools.
That's a rough outline of my current thinking. You will see no smoking gun there. What you really see in a line of cause-and-affect. To me, this all boils down to having no long-term vision for this product. Without this vision, they lacked a vital tool to shape their decisions.
9. Star Warsiness
The development team never achieved Star-Warsiness. Quite honestly, this was a tough goal. This "look and feel" needed to be in from the get-go, not added in later. They put too much attention on "virtual world" and not enough on "adventure story".