SWG: I’m nobody special

Now that the new Star Wars trilogy is complete, I feel comfortable in saying that the First Order never really felt like the threat that the Empire did in the original trilogy. I mean, the Empire wasn’t fully explained or anything, but it made a lot more sense than the FO when you sit down to think about it. And everything the new trilogy did was really just a “bigger, more threatening” version of the original movies. Like Star Destroyers. Such a simple shape, but they still look so menacing when viewed orbiting overhead on Tatooine.

I might be no one special — aww, where are my sympathy hugs? — but a tutorial guide sees potential in my weird fish face anyway. Quick, Future Hero, go find out where the cantina is! And the bank! And the auction house! The fate of the Rebellion depends on it!

The sight of various players clearly enjoying their favorite MMO home is what brought a spark of warmth into my heart as I ran around. It’s all loud and chaotic, but gosh darn it, there’s some fun being had.

Lots of guilds recruiting, too. If I was planning on staying for longer than a month, I’d probably sign up for one. Don’t want to get their hopes up, though! They’d be so broken if I joined just to leave.

At least Star Wars Galaxies transcended the tired tropes of MMORPG quest design, what with your “kill ten rats” and all…

Remember that part of A New Hope where Mos Eisley was evacuated because of the rat problem? Remember that? It was in a deleted scene, I could swear.

At least I got to cruise around in my purple-and-green landspeeder, admiring some views of the town from the hills.

The main quest line, so far, is nothing too out of the ordinary for various MMOs. At least it’s reliable and relaxing — go toward the shining pillar of light, click on some stuff, and kill everything. I still can’t get over how disconnected the combat is from what’s happening on screen, but it’s functional enough to be serviceable if not enjoyable.

SWG: On to Tatooine

Obviously, I don’t know a lot about Star Wars Galaxies and enjoy going into this relatively blind, but one thing that tripped me up is that I have no idea if planets are level-agnostic or if you’re supposed to get a choice or something at the start? All I know is that when I talked to Han Solo, he brought me straight to Tatooine without any other option. I guess that’s okay; it’s an iconic Star Wars planet (though not my personal fave).

And at least the spot right outside of the spaceport was positively bustling with player activity, especially compared to the quiet newbie station. There were even two Jedi fighting some oversized Stormtrooper, with the Rebels declaring their comradery after the battle concluded in their favor. Another Stormtrooper was recruiting for a guild and everyone looked far more fashionable than my fish-lady in a turban.

I figured that the best thing I could do to get my footing was to continue to follow questlines and take encounters as they came. As the above picture demonstrates, I’m still trying to figure out the con system in this game. One would think I could take on these little bug-things, but nope, they wiped me out in two hits. The Tuskan raiders? I was swarmed by three and lived, so go figure that power ratio.

I was very appreciative that this first quest chain resulted in the gift of a landspeeder. Nostalgia! Hey, it’s nice to get a mount right away in this high-tech universe, and even more nice when the next quest gives you the ability to change your vehicle’s colors:

I wanted it to match the purple-and-lime green of my Mon Calimari. Hey, at least it makes me happy, even if it blinds everyone else.

I wanted to take a break from questing for a minute and just, y’know, hang out with the community. See what this famed SWG scene was all about. But the map overlay in this game is… well, you can see it above. It’s perfect for giving one headaches but not ideal for actual navigation.

Even so, eventually I found the Mos Eisley cantina, sadly lacking in lightsabered-off arms and Wookiees in dark corners. But there was a rocking party going on, and I spent some time checking out the sights and pontificating on how you don’t ever see this many players in MMO taverns elsewhere. Guess that’s what you get when you actually design a game’s systems around socializing.

I… may have danced. A bit. Just trying to fit in, you know?

So is this a guitar or a hookah? I was too intimidated to ask this Wookiee for clarification. At least it was a fun show and a good respite for the evening.

SWG: That classic Star Wars feel

One thing that I definitely love about Star Wars Galaxies is that this — despite coming during the prequel movie season — feels totally like old school, original trilogy Star Wars. With the new movies and SWTOR’s Old Republic setting, I’ve missed the classic setting. Going into a cantina on the starter space station and hearing the familiar music ripped right from Mos Eisley tugged at the heartstrings.

Another neat touch is that the next set of quests I get seem to revolve around my class, encouraging me to get to know my role as a medic. I just thought we tossed people into giant lava lamps and called it a day, but I can spray people with magic pixie dust if need be.

I found a room filled with Black Sun slicers and went nuts for 20 minutes or so, getting a feel for SWG’s combat. It’s… a bit old and a bit janky and way too clicky. Similar to DDO, this is pseudo action combat where you keep having to click to attack — and in the beginning, that’s all you can do. Target, clickclickclickclick, and hopefully win. At level 4, I got a Vital Strike skill that gave me a nice opening attack. Think I’m a good doctor? Think again. I do harm all over the place.

I don’t know if it’s just the Legends emulator or this is how SWG used to be, but the enemies float around at times and occasionally stutter and get wildly crazy. It’s definitely not the smooth type of MMO combat I’m used to, but more in line with, say, Anarchy Online.

After proving my worth as a medic — and getting some pristine white duds as proof — the next step is to try to get off the station. That means helping Han fix the Falcon, a problem which is exacerbated by the presence of Fan Service. Er, I mean, Boba Fett, who is just hanging out in the cantina like he’s a level 1 noob with no idea where to go. For the record, I’ve never been the biggest Boba Fett fan, although the Mandalorian is pretty awesome.

Of COURSE you’d devote one of your three only floors in a space station to a giant garden with flying things. That’s just common sense.

To its credit, the game does give you a choice to leave the station after fixing the Falcon if you’re antsy, but I chose to stay on for other missions. Don’t make me leave my safe little bubble just yet!

Actually, after running through a few of the ones offered on the station, I found myself growing restless. They really aren’t anything to write home — or you! — about, and the station/cave aesthetic struck me as pretty dull. I wanted to get a planet under my feet, so I ran over to Han and said, “Han, old buddy… PLEASE GET ME OUT OF HEREEEEEEE.” It’s amazing what blubbering begging from a giant fish-creature will get you.

SWG: A disturbance in the Force

For January’s floating MMORPG pick, I let my MOP Podcast co-host Bree choose for me. I don’t know what I was expecting, since every other sentence from her either references Ultima Online or Star Wars Galaxies, but here I am in Star Wars Galaxes Legends, a post-NGE emulator that picked up the game after SOE abandoned it (or was forced to abandon, to be fair).

My only previous hands-on experience with SWG was a couple of sessions in 2010 — a full decade ago! — for an article that I wrote about somesuch or the other. I wasn’t really sold on the GLORY and MAJESTY that was Star Wars Galaxies back then, and there was SWTOR on the horizon, so I didn’t get much past the tutorial.

This month? I’m going to see what I can see, but I do want to root around in a galaxy far, far away and see what I can make of myself.

Getting Legends set up took more doing than your average live MMO. I had to download a whole bunch of files from an abandonware site, finagle my computer to accepting them as “discs,” set up an account, patch up, fiddle with administrator rights, and then… then I was logging in. To Star Wars Galaxies. In 2020.

What hit me right from the start was not only John Williams’ incredible score but the fact that SWG has a waaaaay better racial selection than SWTOR. Most of the picks are the more exotic alien races, including the somewhat disturbing Bothans (above).

Me? I had to go with ol’ Fish Eyes here. I ended up with this purple-and-lime pattern that I actually dug. It’s not a trap, it’s a fashion statement! I even watched all of the very old class videos before selecting Medic. It seemed self-sufficient for my purposes.

Here’s Syp Squid in her first moments of life, learning how to walk with the aid of the almighty WASD. I love how she looks like she’s in a blind panic all of the time.

Since this was after the NGE revamp of the game, the tutorial was redone to deliver a lot more in terms of fanservice. You get C3P0, R2D2, Chewie, and a Han Solo voice impersonator. They took me on the Falcon because I get VIP treatment in every MMO these days. Flying with the stars, I am.

While Han kept yelling at me to get into a gun turret to fight off some TIE fighters, I ignored him and enjoyed sitting in the captain’s seat for a few minutes. Random thought: Wouldn’t it be hard to free-fly the Falcon since the cockpit is off-center?

Another random thought: turret combat actually works. Space combat is something that SWG managed to pull off, and for the time, that was pretty impressive.

After the short tutorial, Syp Squid was plunked down onto a station and Han basically told me that he didn’t care if I helped the Empire or the Rebellion. Which seemed to be an odd statement, considering how we just gunned down Stormtroopers and TIE fighters. Maybe he likes stirring things up.

So check out this inventory screen, eh? Constantly rotating 3D objects and no paper doll. It’s… interesting if somewhat ugly.

Blasting off into Star Wars Galaxies sunset

If you weren’t aware, today is the absolutely last day that anyone can sign up for Star Wars Galaxies before SOE locks new registrations and allows the current batch of players to enjoy the game up until its December closure.  SOE also, in probably maybe possibly who-knows NOT a coincidence, released a much-anticipated atmospheric flight patch today, which will probably be the last big game update SWG will ever see.

And, no, I didn’t sign up for the service, but I was thinking about how weird it would be to go into a game knowing it would end at a set point.  All games end, of course, but we operate under the illusion of gaming immortality — that the game will always be there, our characters always be there, and we will always have the option to go back.  In this case, it’s not true; SWG is a “dead MMO walking,” as are all of the characters within.  It changes the rules.  It forces a new perspective.

People who are faced with a real-life death sentence — say a terminal illness — often report just how much it changes the way they live each day.  They appreciate things more, they get out of their routines, they take more risks, and they enjoy stuff we typically take for granted.

I’m certainly not saying that playing a condemned video game is equal to this, but there is a parallel to be seen.  Already we’re seeing players put a lot less into the accumulation of wealth and hoarding in the game, and more into giving stuff away and doing things for the sheer fun of it.  You can’t take anything with you, after all, other than the memories, relationships and screenshots, so those are what becomes the premium currency.  Everything else is the small stuff.

For someone to jump into the game for the first time today with that few month lifespan, it’s got to be totally bizarre.  Progression almost seems pointless unless you simply want to see areas you couldn’t otherwise.  It might be an idea to latch onto a veteran guild and let them sweep you through the ups and downs of the last month.  For some, this might be a good way to take the edge off the wait for The Old Republic — and yes, despite what some people assert, I’m quite certain that some TOR junkies are more than willing to get a different kind of fix from SWG just because it shares the IP.

Anyway, in a very real sense, today is the beginning of the end of SWG as the lights slowly go out, one by one.   The only thing left is to make the best of the time left.