So I started playing Star Wars Galaxies about 6 years ago (6th grade, right after the NGE). It wasn't the best game by any means (The NGE apparently killed a lot of the fun), but it defined several years of my adolescence. I resubscribed on and off over the years. I never did max out my character's level, but I had some of my best gaming times in SWG. From pissing around as an annoying storm-trooper middle schooler to my times in an AMAZING Roleplay community, I had my fair share of fun. The Roleplay community was the best, however.
It was attempted two or three times, and fizzled out each time, but proved fun for everybody. The first two, Project Uncle Owen and Project Normal Homestead were the ones that nearly succeeded. In essence, we didn't want to roleplay as soldiers in a war of Jedis and Stormtroopers like pretty much the whole rest of the game. We wanted dynamic, interesting characters we could relate to who were "regular" people. The community decided on a server, and we set out on our Roleplaying adventure. We spent about 3 or 4 hours roleplaying along from a major city on the planet Tattooine to the most desolate location we could find on the map. We built a player city up from scratch. Our own economy developed, and dozens of individual story arcs took hold between our couple dozen characters. The complexities wove extremely deep. I really can't explain it properly. Most roleplay is just "Oh, this is fun. Thanks for escapism guys!" This was like we had a whole other life, and was some of the best gaming experience I've had. (If anybody from PUO or PNH happens to read this, this was brandonman on the forums, jolinar/jolinaya the criminal in-game).
Besides these RP communities, I spent a lot of my free time roleplaying a storm trooper and constantly socializing on the Europe-Chimaera server. I learned quite a bit of European cultural nuances (I use summat and innit quite a bit nowadays!). I made many friends despite my middle-school age. I even had one of my best real-life friends start the game around when I did. Eventually, he quit playing the game and moved away. All of us from town lost contact with him a few months later by email and have never heard from him since... (Alex Clarke, if you see this, hit me up!) I digress. SWG gave me some of the best gaming experiences in my life.
Fast forward to the end of 2011. I heard that it was going to be cancelled in December and got myself resubscribed by the deadline. I planned to max out my character's level in the last 2 months of the game and have some fun on the last day. Well, it turned out, when before there were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people on the Euro-Chim, there were now *maybe* 15 active at a given time (That was European PRIME TIME!). I was disheartened and didn't attain my leveling goal. Well, the last day came on a Thursday... And I saw the date and logically assumed it would be a Friday as the last day... It wasn't... I missed getting to say goodbye to a game and community that influenced me so much... :(
On to the comparison. I started SWToR with one beta weekend play, and pre-ordered and started it a few days before release. So far, I am EXTREMELY disappointed in this "Successor" to SWG. Everything is ridiculously linear. The story line runs in a line. The planets are a collection of buildings connected by straight closed off paths. SWG was whole planets to explore... Even the SPACE COMBAT is linear. It's seriously like playing a rail-shooter in an arcade. 8 or so years after the initial release of SWG, and this is the best MMO's have to offer? They've digressed in my opinion.
The community aspect has also been poor so far. Several instances split up each planet. Nobody really communicates in any way except "Join my party to finish this quest up". There isn't that sense of allegiance to your server like we had in SWG. We don't really know anybody else on our server. There is no player housing like SWG. We can't have anything like the PUO and PNH projects, which defined two whole summers of beautiful evenings. We can't build our own cities to create camaraderie in guilds or friend circles, or set the scene for fantastic role playing, or even just provide one with a sense of pride in his self or guild. No nothing. The community is just a collection of people running around doing quests and killing each other in PvP here and there.
The game mechanics are completely standard and unimaginative for 2012. Completely linear in my opinion. No sense of community. I'm likely going to drop my subscription as soon as I've maxed out and tasted the end-game... I myself will be keeping an eye on the SWGemu project. Any old Euro-Chim players of SWG, hit me up!