Star Wars Galaxies – Memories
January 14, 2012 § 5 Comments
It was almost a joke – three days before Christmas day, and one of the most eagerly anticipated MMO’s ever was released. Yeah, Bioware, like we don’t have enough to do in the run-up to Christmas. Now we have to juggle present-purchasing AND saving a galaxy far, far away.
Festive-shenanigans aside, it was a surprisingly smooth launch (for an MMO), with only a few minute-long log-in queues to hamper the Force-flavored joy. Even those had cleared up by the time I joined in the fun (the Thursday evening), and I settled down to play, in the hope of finding some respite for that Star Wars Galaxies-shaped hole in my gaming soul. What I actually found, was something I didn’t expect.
I joined Star Wars Galaxies just as the much-hated Combat Upgrade was being rolled out. A fair amount of rage has been written and yelled aloud about how much better the game was pre-CU, but I missed it, and to be perfectly honest – I was having a blast anyway. Ektan Elloe was my name, and I had aspirations of becoming a ruthless bounty-hunter (but with a heart of gold; I like conflicts of interest) and started on my journey with gusto. Along the way I encountered a friendly creature-handler named Latana (I think, I may have spelled it wrong – its been some time…), who became a sort of tutor, explaining the local amenities and the best way to gut banthas. It was brilliant.
Star Wars Galaxies was my first MMO, I hasten to add. The concepts of forums and wiki-pages was something I simply hadn’t discovered at that point. So we whiled away many a happy evening exploring, fighting and doing what passed for quests in SWG – mostly murdering the local wildlife and talking to trainers. Sooner than expected, we were cordially invited to join a settlement by a friendly local and we set up shop in the Tatooine town of Deadwood. A rustic, backwater place, but friendly and comfortable. We were each given homes, and directions to the local cantina where there were nightly concerts, dancing and a whole lot of drinking – in and out of the game. I decided I liked these MMO games.
Of course, this being pre-NGE, becoming a Jedi in SW:G was an arduous and lengthy task – requiring time and more than a little travel. Visiting special places that allowed our characters to become more and more sensitive to the Force, these tended to be on the dangerous outskirts of many planets. So one evening, after a few beers and a show at the cantina, Latana (I hope I’m spelling this correctly) and I decided we would take the plunge into Jedi-hood. As a bounty-hunter, my job had been primarily to hunt down and kill Jedi all over the galaxy – it would be nice to try it from my prey’s perspective. So, we set out, completely unaware of the monster lurking just out of sight… a monster that would destroy everything we held dear.
November 23rd, 2004. World of Warcraft was released to the unsuspecting (but still foaming at the mouth) masses.
And overnight, Deadwood died. The whole galaxy, it seemed, was flocking through the tunnels of the internet to this new, gaudy and shiny world. A world of tribal, shamanistic Orcs; of righteous and racist Men; and of squeaky and hilariously mis-proportioned gnomes. I felt the notions of migration like all the others, but I was strong. I was half-way to becoming a Jedi, after all, and to be perfectly honest – my PC barely coped with SW:G, I held no illusions to it handling this new, far more fleshed out world with any degree of stability. So, I stayed. For a week.
In my defense, Deadwood became a ghost-town – most of our regulars had up and left. There were a few still kicking around, but even these were logging on less frequently. Worst of all, Latana had decided to go. It was a tearful goodbye, you don’t spend six months fighting and talking and questing with someone and not develop some kind of emotional bond. Besides, she was the first girl I had ever met in an online game (CS 1.6 doesn’t seem to be a female-fave for some reason)… not that that’s relevant of course. We said our goodbyes at the burnt-out homestead of the Lars (where Luke began his journey), and promised to meet up again in WoW one day – on the Aggramar server. Alliance. In the sleepy village of Goldshire.
Little did I know, I would never see Latana again.
I left for pastures new in World of Warcraft, and started a sharp little Druid called Aragus on his road to glory. Within a week or two, I had worked my way across the sea to the little down of Goldshire, and spent a worrying amount of time there asking passers-by “Are you Latana?”. I eventually gave up my search and carried on my own journey, for what it was. Six months of questing – alone – later, I finally gave up on WoW. I found it an unwholesome experience, with no social benifits outwith random idiots yelling incomprehensible nonsense like “LFG 4 ZUL!!!”; no homes, no communities, no point. I actually remember thinking to myself, “This isn’t an MMO, it’s a time-waster…”. I was a smart lad. Shame I was apparently wrong.
Of course, time has proven that World of Warcraft, and its attributes, are what it takes to be a successful MMO today. Fighting with number keys and a constant focus on loot and numbers is what MMO-gamers want, it seems. I’m not being bitter, I simply have never understood the attraction. But a tiny, quiet part of my gaming-psyche still looks at these MMO-lite games and wonders – what happened to those nights spent sitting in an MMO simply talking? I remember countless evenings in SW:G, logging in and spending hours just chatting with my fellow Deadwood locals in the cantina. Getting to know each other. Having a laugh. Even talking about other games we played and what we did for a living in Real Life. This kind of interaction, it simply doesn’t seem to have a place in MMOs any more.
Star Wars: Galaxies is gone now. It shut its doors last month. And, after reading about the its last few moments on PCGamer.com (read it here), I honestly felt a little broken-hearted. So, on the rebound, I purchased Star Wars: The Old Republic. And it made me worse… this is a game cut from that bastardized and over-used cloth we saw way back with World of Warcraft. It’s a good game, full of Bioware cleverness and lightsabers, but…
I want my Deadwood back. And Latana… I still miss you.