10 Years Ago, in an MMO far, far away

Ten years ago nearly to the day, Star Wars: Galaxies launched to the world. As a remembrance of the adventures I had there, I’m writing now about the game as it was in those days and the community that surrounded it.

As you read this, you may wish to listen to the playlist on YouTube that starts with the above video. It’s a wonderful collection of the music from the game, familiar audio glitches included.

The feature list on the original website, way back in 2001
One of the things I remember reading first about Star Wars: Galaxies was an interview with lead world artist John Roy about procedural planet generation, and how he would discover features of the landscape that were new even to the designers. That got me really excited about exploring these worlds that I’d only read about or seen on the big screen.

I’m not sure how often this technique is employed in modern MMORPGs. My impression is that the vast majority of current worlds are slowly crafted by hand by artists, which is why we have so many beautiful vistas but so few boring areas to contrast them with. If all we ever see is beauty, we start to tire of it and look for something better. I miss the rolling hills of Corellia where my first SWG toon “grew up.”

Another thing that I truly miss about Star Wars: Galaxies is the wait times at the starports. You could only travel to another planet if you bought a ticket for a starship and waited at a starport for one. They arrived in ten minute intervals, which means frequently large groups of players would congregate at the main starports while waiting to travel to another planet. It made for some great conversations, and new friends.

Something else I miss about Star Wars: Galaxies was the grind. As a crafter who played before the concept of “practice mode” was introduced, I would sit there and grind out components to level up my skill for hours. When I ran out of materials or empty space in my inventory, I’d make a backpack, shove the extra items in there, and head out to my personal harvesters for more materials. This was before anyone was able to build medium or heavy harvesters, so there were still vast fields of personal harvesters dotting the landscape.

The grind, at least for SWG crafting, meant long periods of sitting there doing the exact same motions over and over again. This sounds really boring, but frequently after about five minutes of doing this, I would hit a kind of altered state of mind – a vaguely pleasant feeling of just “being.” The only other time I’ve ever felt that is when practicing Zen meditation, and I sorely miss it.

Before vehicles were introduced, everyone had to walk everywhere. Shuttles and starports were jammed full of players on their way someplace. Player cities didn’t exist yet, but there were always massive collections of player houses exactly 1km outside of every major city. It made those cities feel a lot like real cities – you would always be passing by other players on your way either into the city core for transport, into the suburbs for shopping or socializing, or out into the wilderness for adventuring and hunting. Every city had its own distinctive feel, too, on my home server of Chilastra.

Coronet was where I first landed, and it’s where I spent the first few months of the game. It felt very rugged, like a city on the fringe.

Theed, on Naboo, was where the entertainers and image designers hung out. It was definitely a “pretty” city.

Mos Eisley was… well, a desert city. Because of all the difficult, unbuildable terrain surrounding Mos Eisley, it wasn’t nearly as dense as the others. I think the players more nostalgic for A New Hope landed there.

The other cities, like Restuss on Rori and the Imperial Outpost on Talus, had much smaller and more focused populations. Later, when they allowed players to build on some of the more advanced planets like Dantooine and Lok, more interesting communities started springing up.

In the end, Star Wars: Galaxies really was the best MMORPG experience I’ve ever had. The early months, even with all the bugs, network issues, and missing content (capes!?), are permanently etched in my memory as a wonderful time.

Rest in peace, SWG.

Build a Better Warrior in Rift

I’ve been playing Rift a lot lately, and the more I play, the better I understand the ins and outs of being a Warrior. This post has a few of my thoughts on the subject of tuning warrior builds.

The class is really versatile, but focuses heavily on two aspects – tanking and dealing damage. That much is obvious. What is less obvious is that there are several ways to do each of these. My personal preference is for dealing respectable amounts of damage to multiple enemies while being able to take a lot of punishment before going down.

My favorite ability for staying in the fight is No Permission to Die. It’s in the fifth tier of the Warlord soul, and it can be a godsend. If you die within ten seconds of triggering it, you are resurrected at 50% of your maximum health. Properly timed, it can really save your bacon. Also, it’s not on global cooldown, so it’s really hard to NOT time it right if you have a good sense of your combat situation.

My next favorite ability is Cornered Beast, which is the 32 point unlock for the Champion soul. It hits up to 6 enemies for a ton of damage over time AND generates Attack Points over time, making it a powerful threat-building ability. Awesome for tanks, and for area effect damage.

Along with Warlord and Champion, picking the Reaver soul allows for a ridiculous amount of survivability. It has a number of abilities that boost armor, endurance, and resistances. A balanced mix of the three souls, like the build linked here (Champion (32) / Warlord (23) / Reaver (21)), will give you a decent AoE tanking playstyle. You won’t win any DPS races, but it will keep you in the fight for a good long time.