Long before the floating citadel sprung into being and a long time before I met any of the fine people who I call my friends here I was a spotty young nerd enjoying his first forays onto the Internet. Back at the turn of the century the Internet was a very different place, blogs were virtually unheard of and BB forums were everything. There was no twitter, no facebook and no World of Warcraft even the LOLcat had yet to rear its feline head. Everquest was the big MMO of the day and Ultima Online was promising a successor. MMOs weren’t the dime a dozen they are today.
It was in this environment that yours truly heard news that there was going to be a new MMO and it was going to be themed around Star Wars, my favourite movies of all time. I signed up on the Sony forums when they were first around and saturated myself in the community. This was a game type I’d not really encountered before, my online activities had been limited to say the least.
To start with there was very little information to go with, lots of posts came up with things that people wanted to see and any release of information was lapped up. Early frameworks of guilds started up and I ended up in one that had a pretty awesome story based around Dark Jedi. I got to meet a load of people and play various online games through this guild before it split into two factions, one side to play Star Wars Galaxies and the other to play WoW which was in development at the same time. I can’t say this split was entirely amicable and it was probably my first taste of Internet drama.
However, I did get to beta test SWG before it was released and a few of us living in the UK even got a friend from the states to mail us copies of the game from over there so we could start playing straight away rather than waiting for the European release. It was around this time that I went into hospital for some minor day surgery. I came out and was consigned to bed to heal up, luckily (or unluckily depending on your viewpoint) this meant that I spent the summer lying on my side playing SWG on my computer.
I played the game for around 3 years solid from the point it was released and met the coolest bunch of people I have ever met online, some of whom I am still in contact with, one of whom also has been there through quite a profound change in my life. I stayed in the guild Malador throughout that time as was the co-leader, I took it upon myself to be the one to try to arrange weekly events that we could bring people too. As this was an MMORPG we actually bothered with the RP side of that and it was great. The sandbox nature of the game lent itself brilliantly to this kind of thing. I have fond memories of running across the deserts of Tatooine to get places. This was also one of the only MMOs to have player housing and it was brilliant. I remember us placing the first buildings in our “city” and watching the server crash after we had done it so we had to do it again. I remember moving that city to a better location (the picture at the top is my own personal Guild Hall that I lived in when I stopped playing). I remember cantina parties when Player Cities were introduced, I remember going to hunt Mandalorians as a New Year’s event with members of many other guilds from the roleplay community (which I organised). I remember spending countless hours just enjoying the game, sitting around chatting and not actually doing a lot, but not having the pressures of daily quests or rep grinds.
SWG truly was a visionary game, sure it took some liberties with the timeline and eventually the Combat Upgrade and the New Game Experience completely destroyed what it had originally been. But, for all its faults I cannot say that I have ever had a more satisfactory gaming experience than those years spent living on Tatooine among some really fun people.
So, why am I waxing all nostalgic? Well, SOE will be pulling the plug on the old gal this December. The Old Republic is on its way and apparently the licensing for SWG had run its course. I’ve not paid attention to SWG for a number of years, after all, it’s not the same game I played all those years ago. However, the fond memories I have from my time there are just as dear to me as those experiences I’ve had out in the real world, primarily due to the folks I was playing with. SWG was a game built on a community that enjoyed interacting. Sure it wasn’t always smooth sailing, there was a certain amount of drama that happened, however, as some people came and went the faithful core rode things out and stuck together. It was brilliant and so I am sad to see that something that has formed so many cherished memories, even though it is only a game, will be no more.
I have a few days left of the free time SOE gave me after their servers got hacked so I’m planning on popping in and having a last look around, check out my house (which you could decorate by the way) and maybe grab some last screenshots before it all vanishes.
While I am looking forward to TOR and all that it offers I am sad that we haven’t seen another game come out that does as much as SWG did, it had its flaws for sure, but there was so much potential there. If some of the changes had been rolled back and undone I can imagine there still being that community I remember. Some of them are still there, but there are characters long departed that I can’t imagine it being the same without.
So long SWG, you’ll always be a part of my past and a hope for what we can see in the future. I hope to see you one last time before the end!