How Players Revived Star Wars Galaxies And EverQuest

I am standing in a place that shouldn’t exist. It shouldn’t exist because back in 2011 it was decided that this place and the countless others connected to it were no longer financially viable enough to warrant their own existence. Four years ago, almost to this date, thousands of players gathered where I am standing right now to witness the final moments of Star Wars Galaxies.

“When I was very little, I used to create trial accounts of the game for hours and hours just to continue exploring,” John tells me. “Even though I never made it off of Tatooine or past level 12, I fell in love.” That love is what inspired John, better known by his peers as Aconite, to get involved with the community dedicated to preserving and restoring Galaxies to what it used to be. He’s part of a growing trend of MMOs that find a second life through the reverse engineering, emulation, and sometimes theft of their biggest fans.

Eventually John secured enough money to pay the subscription fee and push himself beyond the first 12 levels. “I can’t tell you how many nights I stayed up 24 hours just to finish tweaking the decorations in my house for a guild event. I loved the game for the community, the events, and definitely the decorating.”

Standing here, in the sandy yellow streets of Mos Eisley spaceport, it’s hard for me to imagine what it must have felt like in those final moments. To feel that sense of loss when you finally disconnect from the server and stare at your second self in the character select screen one last time. I wonder how many players tentatively pressed the connect button just hoping that, by some miracle, they would log back in and not have to say goodbye.

Star Wars Galaxies will never live again as it once did. It is dead and gone and those relationships, interactions, and culture are little more than memories. But thanks to a persistent community of volunteers, the DNA of Galaxies lives on in the form of a dozen private emulated servers.

Though he has been involved in numerous Star Wars Galaxies emulator projects over the years, Aconite most recently served as a community manager with SWG Reborn, a project which he and two developers, Seefo and Light, started. It is probably the newest iteration of a Galaxies emulated server, starting up only a few months ago in September, but it has quickly grown to be one of the more popular projects partly due to being one of the only servers using the controversial New Game Enhancement and Combat Upgrade updates.

In 2005, Star Wars Galaxies underwent the two controversial changes that massively simplified many of the game’s more complicated mechanics. The updates were so divisive that even a decade later fans still argue over them. “The pre-Combat Upgrade version of the game has a lot of popularity,” Aconite tells me. “And rightfully so considering that to this day no MMO has made anything similar to its profession and combat system. However, the New Game Enhancements really sped things up.”

As video games continue to become more dependent on online connectivity, gradually shifting from products owned to services leased, preserving them is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. But it’s one that MMORPGs have been wrestling with since Ultima Online private servers first cropped up just under two decades ago.

The most painful hurdle to jump has to do with how the client program that players have installed on their computers interfaces with the servers operated by the developers of the game. While most of the heavy lifting is done on the player’s end, servers disseminate the information like each character’s individual location and inputs along with other necessary processes like storing character information (equipment and quest progress, for example). Grabbing the raw resources of the game can be as easy as ripping them from the game disk, but server code is almost never released to the public because it would allow players to circumvent any form of control developers could exert over the game—including their ability to charge subscription fees.

Without access to that precious code, these hobbyist hackers and developers are left with one solution. By studying the way the client code behaves, emulator developers reverse engineer and program software that mimics how the server interacts with the game client. Using programs called packet sniffers, they can peek inside the encrypted information being sent from the game to the server and make assumptions about that relationship. For your average game, the process might not be that complicated, but MMORPGs are massive and the sheer amount of interactions a client and server can share make rebuilding that relationship a monumental task. Few projects ever come close to fully replicating the games they emulate.

Adding further problems, this manipulation of the code is almost always a direct infringement of the terms of use and end user license agreement one agrees to when installing the game. Most of these projects exist in an uncomfortably legal grey zone where any day could put all that effort in the grave with the arrival of a cease and desist order. “It would be silly not to have concern,” Aconite says. “But we’re not using anyone else’s intellectual property for financial gain. So while it is possible I could be held accountable in some way, it probably wouldn’t be very major.” He adds that the entire team working on the project, around 10 people, has spoken with lawyers about their involvement. While Aconite and the others might not benefit financially from the project, the server costs are often covered by donations. At best, it’s a flimsy loophole.

But SWG Reborn exists in a whole new legal realm compared to other emulator projects because SWG Reborn isn’t technically an emulator at all. Aconite tells me that back in 2013, several members of another server left the team after having contact with a former Sony Online Entertainment employee and formed a new project called SWG Reveniens. This employee, whose identity has been kept a secret, had stolen a 2010 version of Galaxies’ source code for the game server, client, and tools.

Due to infighting in the group, a somewhat mangled version of the source code was eventually leaked to the public a year later. Aconite was one of the members of a “United Nations-like summit” to decide how to best handle the source code, as fears that the entire community would be “wiped like Alderaan by legal teams of various companies” continued to rise. “But in the end,” he says, “Some of us were able to focus on the bigger picture and look past legal discrepancies with the larger goal of getting our precious game back.”

Talking with other developers and players, that sentiment of ‘whatever it takes’ is common. It’s a byproduct of an entire genre built on the social and emotional investment of its players. Where most games are lucky enough to consume a hundred hours of your time, it’s easy to find players who have invested thousands into an MMORPG.

Unlike many other games, MMORPGs are rarely made great based solely on the strength of their systems. At best, they are made great by the people who spend countless days of their lives populating those worlds and bringing them to life. In some ways it’s a tragedy that the ones who bring these worlds to life are those who, sooner or later, will gather to watch the virtual apocalypse together. No screaming or looting, no terror. Just the quiet resignation that something you poured a bit of yourself into is forever gone.

Or, in the case of Project 1999, an Everquest emulator, forever changed.

“Everquest’s third expansion, The Shadows of Luclin, changed the textures of all of the races and most of the NPCs, certain zones were completely revamped and lost to time,” Nilbog says. In 2008, he started Project 1999 as a way to reclaim his memories of playing Everquest before the game was significantly altered by the implementation of a new game engine. For him and many other fans of Everquest, The Shadows of Luclin also marks a distinct departure from the vision that they feel made Everquest great to begin with. “Most people agree that that third expansion was really the death of classic Everquest. Things changed so much.”

When most would be happy to play their favorite long lost game in any form, Nilbog and his community are so closely attached to that ideal of “classic Everquest” that they built a working model of it even as the official version continues to exist. It’s the “ship of Theseus” of game design; as patch after patch and expansion after expansion slowly add and tweak features, at what point is it no longer the same game you fell in love with? For fans of MMORPGs, it’s been a question without an answer as developers struggle to find new ways of keeping their worlds fresh and exciting. But the problem is steadily creeping into other genres as well.

Project 1999 is also special in one other way: In April 2015, Project 1999 entered into a written agreement with Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) that officially recognizes Project 1999 as a fan-based, nonprofit emulator project. Though the agreement has some terms which weren’t disclosed (they likely forbade Project 1999 from profiting from the server), it’s probably one of the only times a video game emulator received an official sanction from the rights holders. Even more interesting is the fact that it was John Smedley, then president of Daybreak Games, who approached Nilbog about the agreement. “He said that they don’t want to paint us as anything other than their number one fans and that we were ‘doing it right,'” Nilbog says. “It’s something that I never thought would happen.”

When I brought up the idea to Aconite that he was, in his own way, helping to preserve Star Wars Galaxies for everyone, he admitted it wasn’t really the motivation behind the project. For him, his work to keep Star Wars Galaxies alive is partly selfish. He wants to reclaim a piece of his own personal experience and it just so happens other players are a part of that. Nilbog, however, is acutely aware of how his work restoring classic Everquest is as much of an act of historical preservation as it is keeping his own ideal version of Everquest alive.

The team recently released their version of the second expansion pack, and Nilbog tells me they even have plans to match the original Everquest’s update schedule as it existed in 2001. “It’s quite complicated but it’s working out,” he says. “We do it on a month by month basis, so we collect all the recorded patches and changes and then implement them.” It’s a curious challenge, but Nilbog assures me it’s necessary to recreate Everquest as accurately to how it once existed. Where most emulator projects tend to exist in a form of stasis, Project 1999 has become a living, evolving historical monument. It isn’t about preserving a snapshot of a game as it existed in time, but the timeline as a whole.

As a historian of technology, Jason Scott is no stranger to how overwhelming a task that can be. In many ways, his life is spent looking at the past. When he isn’t filming documentaries about text adventures or curating his own website dedicated to archiving old bulletin boards, Jason works as an archivist and curator for the Internet Archive, a massive vault of digitized information including over 600 arcade games you can play in your browser—a project that Jason helped bring to life. Simply put, he is no stranger to the battle to preserve information.

At the Game Developers Conference in 2015, Jason stood before a crowd of game developers and urged them to “steal from work.”

“Workplace theft is the future of game history,” he said. In the case of that one SOE employee and SWG Reborn, he was right.

“I strongly feel that MMOs are a special thing,” he tells me. “Trying to save an MMO’s history is like trying to save a festival.” For all the endless effort to get these games working again, Jason points out how little their architecture really matters. Instead, it is the organic and fluid culture existing between those playing, the stories of individual players and their collective histories that hold the key to what makes MMORPGs such a magical phenomenon. It isn’t the doing but rather the being. “And that’s, of course, the hardest part to capture.”

“For some people, they just need a piece of corn to remind them there was once a field,” he says. But as I stand in Mos Eisley spaceport, watching a twi’lek and a human as they enter the nearby cantina, I realize that, despite how they might try, no one will ever recover Star Wars Galaxies in the same clarity that they remember it. When I bring this thought up to Jason, he responds by quoting Peter Graham’s response when asked what the best era of science fiction is: “The golden age of science fiction is 12.”

The same truth can be applied to MMORPGs. The aching nostalgia that seems to permeate the entire community, a collective of nomads wandering from game to game, is for a time when MMORPGs weren’t quite so mundane. Each one of us is hoping to find some way to rekindle the feeling we had when we first stepped into Iron Forge in World of Warcraft and gaped at its immensity or when we logged into Star Wars Galaxies to find eager customers wanting to buy our specific brand of blaster. For some, simply knowing it happened might be enough. Others, like Aconite and Nilbog, reclaim that agency by toiling endlessly to return these games to life. But the fear is that, even if they survive the hostile legal landscape in which they eek out their existence, like Project 1999, and even if they manage to build that perfectly functional recreation of their favorite MMORPG, it would be little more than animating a corpse without the community that gave it a soul.

Maybe this is the wrong way to look at it. It might be impossible to reclaim that feeling of enchantment an MMORPG had over you, but what we can do is embrace the new experiences before us in the hope that one day we look back on them as fondly as we do our past now. So instead of just standing in Mos Eisley, staring sadly at the crowd, I click on the chat window.

“Hi, I’m new. Can anyone help me out?”

Mere seconds pass before I receive an answer.

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55 Comments

  1. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I would visit an MMO museum that let you log in and wander around a selection of “dead” MMO worlds. Look around Tabula Rasa. Take in the sights of a Warhammer: Age of Reckoning battleground. See places you used to care about in The Matrix Online. Put some distinctive NPC models up on screen and cycle them through their animations, with design notes and player anecdotes on placards.

    • int says:

      Curses I miss WAR. It wasn’t amazing but I really miss PVP, playing a Marauder backstabbing everything or as a Chaos Knight in all his dull armored glory.

      Yes I like your museum idea!

      • Bastimoo says:

        link to returnofreckoning.com

        You’re welcome. The PvE isn’t working well now, but PvP is pretty good and they have a decent population. You can play up to Level 30 at the moment as far as I know

        • int says:

          Wow thanks! Now downloading.

          • SaintAn says:

            Cool thing about that server is I’ve heard they plan to fix and release content that never was released when the official game was running once they get done with the main game. They’ve even been trying to find info on the Sylvania xpac that was in the early stages.

        • Yoofaloof says:

          Loved WAR. Thanks for the tip. Downloaded and playing again…fantastic!

        • Fushigi says:

          Citing some mad scientist : “It’s alive!”. That’s great news. A shame it’s so under the radar. Downloading now. WAAGH!

      • ludde says:

        RIP Mythic.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Another vote for the Custard Collection.

      I reckon you could drop me in Everquest’s pre-luclin Freeport and I’d find my way to Qeynos* without problem. I suspect I could even do it utilising the troll-friendly sewer routes.

      But I still need sat-nav to visit my own mother.

      * pop-trivia – Qeynos, one of two main starting towns is SonyEQ backwards.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Traveling from Freeport to Qeynos (as a low-level character) is maybe the most fun I’ve had in an MMO not called Ultima Online. Finding the route, dodging sand giants and other high level mobs…it was just an incidental thing in this large world, but what an experience.

        There’s so much potential for a game that focuses just on the journey part of the classic fantasy adventure (and doesn’t just copy Oregon Trail). Forget stabbing things with a pointy sword, I want to pack my bags, navigate a swamp, and maybe sneak past some orcs.

        • Smoof says:

          MMO’s definitely miss this a lot these days and I feel like it’s because they’re all designed so everyone gets to be a hero.

          Quite frankly, if I wanted to be the hero, I’d play a single player game. Just drop me in the world and let me be just a person, wandering around, trying to live my own life, whether that be one of adventure or that of a quiet merchant.

          I want to live in these worlds and feel like part of them, it’s ok to be “bored” in games, because that’s when the most interesting interactions can happen.

        • Reapy says:

          I recall my level 4 beta cross trip with my bard. It was pretty damn exciting, especially in highpass. Finding that little cabin with the waterfall was a wonder. Dodging giants, really, really scary.

          I always say that it is somewhat of a shame that ‘younger’ people wont experience what EQ was. I also think it is great they wont experience what it was either. I personally would be really upset to see any game attempt those mechanics again, things like binding, corpse decay, or non instanced raid tiers.

          Still, it was quite the thing, back when mmo’s were trying to be a world rather than a game. I wish that idea hadn’t died, perhaps practicality has killed it, but the ‘dream’ that were early mmo’s has certainly vanished.

        • jrodman says:

          My closest experience was heading out to Light’s Hope Chapel as a level 9 rogue in World of Warcraft. That was effectively an endgame area at the time. Giant rot grubs larger than a house were chasing me out of the mountains etc.

          Realistically there wasn’t much tension since the penalties for dying in WoW are toothless, but in certain spots progress was dearly paid for in time, and imagined bars of the Benny Hill theme.

          I really enjoyed when my friend who intended to play with that character logged in and was in disbelief as to where that character was sitting.

    • Matt_W says:

      A buddy and I came up with this idea several years ago. It would be awesome. You could have player-curators and docents. I would totally pay for a month just to explore WoW’s environments (or even better for me: LotRO) without the gameplay. I’m not sure why this isn’t an end-of-life consideration for these games.

      • jrodman says:

        I’ve wanted to play as a tourist since turning on God-mode in Unreal.

        Some games have allowed me to approximate it. A guided experience might lose something, but I’d love to try it.

    • Danarchist says:

      Installed and played Asheron’s Call awhile back. Took me quite some time to get the controls back under….er…control, but it wasn’t long before the graphics got too me and I went back to finish my fallout 4 building project.
      You really can’t go home again.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Early 3D was a disaster. There’s a brief period (1996-1999?) where game developers were just trying to do too much. It was technically impressive at the time, but it always looked pretty rough. Those particular games are intolerable now.

        But when Quake III and Unreal Tournament came around, 3D tech had hit its stride, and so there was more than just low-res textures stretched over some very crude polygons. So you can go play Deus Ex (Unreal Engine), and it doesn’t look wonderful, but it does just about enough to suspend disbelief.

    • Malfeas says:

      Yeah, I’d love that, as well.
      Tabula Rasa had weird problems and as most MMO’s it’s endgame zones were bad, but it was a pretty singular beast worth having experienced.

  2. Phubarrh says:

    Last week, I signed on with a Burning Crusade-era WoW server…and I daresay the experience has been pretty incredible. The game lost me with the noisy chaotic changes wrought in Cataclysm, so going back to the era of exploration, discovery and challenge has been like settling into a giant feather pillow.

    • frenz0rz says:

      Gosh, that sounds marvellous.

      However I’m worried there’s too much truth in Steven’s quote, “The golden age of science fiction is 12.” From 14-17 years old I was obsessed with WoW, but I’m aware that much of the nostalgia I feel is wrapped up in all those ‘firsts’ that never come again. My first close-knit online community; the first time I experienced a huge fantasy world filled with other people; playing whilst first listening to the bands and artists I’d grow up to love.

      I’ve a feeling all it would do now is ruin the magic. Even so, I take solace that listening to stuff like this gives me nicest, warmest feeling:

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        I came to WoW in my 20s, after playing and loving many other MMOs. And I didn’t love WoW. But I promise you there was something special about the pre-Cataclysm world that actually felt like a coherent world.

        I can remember so many little touches from the dwarf/gnome newbie zone that got completely destroyed in the revamp, which made it a totally linear “cinematic” experience with no sense of advancement.

        • frenz0rz says:

          That’s an interesting perspective; it’s not often you see someone who was older and more versed in MMOs reminiscing about World of Warcraft c. 2004-2008, since (as you can see from the other comments here) they tend to dwell on the likes of Ultima Online instead.

          You’re bang on about that something special though, and despite my bias I feel it’s comprised of more than all those ‘firsts’ a lot of people went through.

          The world building was supreme. It was conceived as a translation of the Warcraft 1-3 universe into a multiplayer roleplaying world, and as a result it felt like it had existed for much longer, since for most of us it had. The stories and places were a continuation of everything we’d known thus far; the Thrall’s orc settlers fighting over logging rights with the night elves in Ashenvale; the Alliance struggling to contain the spread of the Plaguelands beyond Tirisfal. It was the next page of the story, except now we were in it!

          If I could name one thing that made it feel more like a world to me than any other though, it would be the apparently ‘useless’ areas. Azshara. Deadwind Pass. The Blasted Lands. Even the Burning Steppes or southern Winterspring to an extent. Whole zones, remote places with little-to-no quests, no settlements or perhaps even flight paths, that were HUGE and hand-crafted, but served very little purpose (either by design or neglect) other than world-building. These distant, often harsh, nasty places made the world seem much more real to my teenage self.

          When you sit back and look at some of this stuff, it’s no wonder so many tried and failed to replicate it. A lot of how and why it felt special to me is very difficult to put my finger on. I’m not sure whether I just grew up, or whether the post-Cataclysm era, whilst necessarily making the game much more accessible and arguably more polished, took something away that was much harder to define.

          I mean, I recall once as an orc, getting a quest to visit the Badlands. I had to run, on foot, across the Thandol Span in Arathi Highlands, through the heart of enemy territory in the Wetlands and Loch Modan, and find out for myself where the bloody hell I was supposed to go every step of the way. No present-day game would ask such an epic journey of you for a random side-quest. And yet, it was one of a few scant moments in my gaming history where I truly felt like an adventurer.

          • Bob9009 says:

            It’s worth a look at link to primalwow.org if you fancy an old WoW fix.
            It’s a private server progressing at original speed (up to ICC anyway). Pretty bug free too for a private server.
            The server opened early this year and Blackwing Lair has just been released there, ICC in 5 years or so.

          • Smoof says:

            MMO’s used to do this.

            I also came to WoW when I was about 20 and despite playing many MMO’s and loving Everquest, WoW was the first game to really capture my heart. I have many fond memories of EQ, but WoW distilled it into an awesome world, coupled with “easy” progression, where I felt like I was moving at a respectable pace (Everquest included: Waiting for HOURS, trying to find a group in some of the better leveling areas and even if you did find one, it meant hours simply killing mobs for exp and maybe a fancy item that someone might ninja loot (FBSS)).

            I still play on occasion in the form of emulated servers for Vanilla WoW, but unfortunately, it just isn’t the same. I don’t have the ability to commit my time to it, nor is the world particularly populated enough to have interesting interactions; that time in my life is over, unfortunately.

          • Reapy says:

            Just want to jump on the ‘rare’ person here. I did a bit of UO, EQ, DAOC, asheron’s call, Shadowbane (there was an almost great thing), but I have a lot of great WOW memories. I thought I was done with MMO’s which is why I sat on WOW for a bit after release, but really ended up coming back to it several times over the years, enjoying each time period in it.

            I know I posted above about the joy and horror of EQ mechanics, but WOW was the one that blasted through the darkness and made MMO’s more approachable to people that didn’t have 5 days a week and the luck of knowing 100 other good players.

            It was just a joy to play, and the world you played in was really rich and interesting to boot. I still think wow is quite the thing, I’m just, well, over the MMO at this point.

  3. PancakeWizard says:

    I can get that the CU might be the preferred ‘base’ to build on, but the NGE? Gutting the Legacy Quest from it maybe, but the profession wheels were ghastly.

  4. ZippyLemon says:

    Runescape has had a very interesting time of it. A project engineered by two brothers in relatively early days of the internetz, it acquired a unique flavour, culture and economy, and was extremely player driven.

    Then at some point it got sold to an apparently soulless corporation, who started doing microtransactions and created a daily slot machine plugin and embarked on a grand quest to blandify the lore and story (which hitherto had been extremely cobbled together, with wild variations in tone and writing quality making something inimitable).

    I don’t know what happened to the net player count, but many pined for the old days and pirate retro servers kept getting planned and not delivered. There were several outright scams. Eventually Jagex cottoned on to this, and Runescape is now split: there is “Runescape”, and there is Oldschool Runescape, with its own splinter dev team.

    OSRS is a reboot of the 2007 code, which was the oldest Jagex had in the attic. Since its inception, it’s been updated more or less democratically, with additions to the game requiring a 50% majority to pass. This obviously has not been without controversy, and has also led to OSRS basically taking the same development path that Runescape took (no doubt largely due to the fact that replicating old updates requires about 5% of the work original content would need, so these updates were quite pushed by the dev team).

    Something that became apparent after a while, however, was that 2007 Runescape could never be reborn. The vast majority of people interested in playing it had got older and smarter and today have less spare time than they did. OSRS went on to be coloured by rampant efficiency, and the rate at which players maxed out (a colossal achievement in Runescape – perhaps the grindiest game of all time, with skill ceilings that the original developers did not expect anyone to reach in the game’s LIFETIME) far surpassed that of old Runescape. The old social groups and fun clans were not reborn, and minigames that were not time efficient to play languished, deserted.

    In fact, many people “play” OSRS these days entirely for the income they can earn from it. In the duel arena, in its own little pocket of the game world, is a warpzone where people gamble maximum cash stacks – multiple times what average players dream of accumulating – plus exorbitantly expensive items to bump up the value of the bet. In fact, the highest level gear has been subsumed by this economy, its gold value inflated well out of the means’ of normal, legitimate players. Of course, cash stacks of this size and items of this value can carry substantial real world price tags as well.

    I myself have had no vice more empty than Runescape, and have thankfully quit. I did get sucked in to OSRS, though, and lost more adult hours than I care to admit (though they were played for fun, not for profit; I cannot figure out if this makes them more or less wasted). Ultimately it was the reintroduction of the old trading house which made me reject the game again – the ability to rapidly trade commodities in huge bulk warped the aforementioned player driven economy, transferring the vast majority of wealth to a minority of merchant players and manipulative clans and pyramid schemes, making an organic and unhurried playstyle much less profitable, much slower, and much more like the labour Marx abhorred. Just like in real life, really. It was very bizarre to witness this evolution of the game’s soul twice: first as an unwitting child, then in high speed as an adult as the matured playerbase raced to capitalise on the foreknown consequences. It killed my fun again, faster.

    Yeah, it’s given me a lot to mull over, that there Runescape. Don’t get me started on what it has to tell us about “coolness”, shame, nostalgia, Asperger’s tendencies, addiction vs compulsion, or corporate cynicism.

    • LogicalDash says:

      I would like you to get started about those things. And maybe publish them. Boss Fight Books would surely be interested.

  5. LacSlyer says:

    SWG was the first MMO I ever tried, and I will forever have fond memories of it for various reasons. But the lone single instance I inform people of when the game is discussed is how on my first day of playing another player who was playing a Wookie came up to me while I was killing some random mobs and helped me with them and afterward taught me the Wookie language so I could communicate with them. It was one of the most defining points for me for an MMO and is why SWG will remain a special game to me that was completely ruined by SOE.

  6. SaintAn says:

    Hope FFXI pre-Abyssea gets this treatment one day. Hate what Abyssea has done to the game.

    • Nosada says:

      You’re very lonely here, so let me make you less so:

      link to nasomi.com

      I’m guessing you, like me, miss the classic 6-man “everyone-do-their-job-or-we-die-horribly” parties? I haven’t found the time to really get into it, but seeing how the game went back to being a nightmare to solo in, I’m guessing those higher levels must have worked together somehow?

      • Nosada says:

        And I just wanted to add: pre-abbysea BRD and COR were the most fun I ever had in any game, ever, in the history of my gaming career. I desperately miss being a support class that had little to no offensive capabilities, but still could have a huge impact when played well.

        Buffing an entire party with 4 songs, fighting one Eruca, have one slept in camp and one in the field that would wake up and come at you any second … best. fun. ever.

      • SaintAn says:

        Thanks! Looking into it now. Been having the urge to play FFXI again because of the songs in Final Fantasy Theatryhithim, but miss the difficulty and social aspect of leveling, and even competing with other parties over mobs from pre-Abyssea. Hope they have PUP and BLU working well.

  7. Myanacondadont says:

    Ahh yes, the creation of multiple trial accounts subsequently because daddy didn’t trust the internet with his credit card, I remember it all too fondly.

    Eventually I found people who were willing to transfer my items onto the next trial character, in the end I looked like Boba Fett with a pistol fetish. I never reached past the 1st Master rank (or something, it’s been a long time).

    And oh boy, the 10k credits buff (paid to and provided by player-doctors) that made you basically invincible, allowing you to fight creatures 100x stronger than you for ages until you finally killed one. It literally took me hours to kill one!

    I also remember the SOE-hatred when they introduced the Combat Upgrade and basically killed the game for most people, by introducing a level system (instead of the awesome skill based system) and changing the then seemingly impossible journey to becoming a Jedi into “Weekend at Luke’s”.

    • The Council says:

      Those buffs helped fund my Master Doctor / Teräs Käsi Master. Applied to myself, I was untouchable, a veritable hand-to-hand master able to dodge blasters better than any measly Jedi.

      What a great game. How I miss it so. What I would give to visit my lakeside homestead on Naboo once more.

  8. Myanacondadont says:

    Anyone here who remembers Rubies of Eventide by any chance? Never have I ever been more enticed by the sheer openness of an MMORPG. It was a 3D skill-based MMORPG in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons with turn-based combat and (very) extensive crafting. Instead of becoming a warrior, you could simply spend you days as a weapon/armorsmith crafting and selling your goods.

    • SyrusRayne says:

      Oh god, RoE. Yeah, I remember it. I roamed the first area or two, never getting too far. On my rig – and with my connection – it had massive load times that I could only mitigate somewhat by, I recall, deleting the speedtrees folder. So the game looked like a desolate wasteland. I remember liking it, though I can hardly remember anything about it.

      Hell, I don’t think I ever saw more than three or four other players on screen at once. Not that I was inclined to seek them out anyway, at the height of my anxiety as this was. I feel like it had a whole bunch of different skills, and a lot of character creation options.

      Now I want to play an MMO…

  9. Timbab says:

    The SWG aspects of this article are insanely flawed/skewed/not fully accurate and fails to mention the actual emulation scene to any great depth that has existed for the past 10 years. Not a single mention of SWGEmu and the thousands of hours that were put into rebuilding SWG by people in their spare time.

    It focuses on SWG Reborn, directly links to it and only paragraphs down buries that it’s actually stolen source code, while at the same time, trying to brush SWG Reborn off as somehow being an ’emulator’ part of that scene.

    As someone who’s been deeply involved in that scene for the paste decade, articles like these are painful to see.

    P.S. SWG Reborn also isn’t at all what is in the article anymore, never really was, nearly all of those listed as ‘members’ aren’t even members anymore, and/or involved in a constant power struggle versus actually developing anything.

    • The Council says:

      “nearly all of those listed as ‘members’ aren’t even members anymore, and/or involved in a constant power struggle versus actually developing anything.”

      This right here is precisely why I have no interest in bothering to join an emulator community. I just want to be able to play the game I remember and make some new, positive memories. Instead, I feel as though I’d just be entering a well-developed, tight-knit community (perhaps not as welcoming to latecomers) seeking to maintain “power” in the little world they’ve developed.

      • Timbab says:

        It’s not am emulator community or a proper team. The team is bloated by people who can’t code and simply want to ride it for profit/eFame.

        There is literally no legit developer on SWG Reborn.

        There are actual emulators in the scene that have been drama free and hard working for years.

    • NephilimNexus says:

      And it’s exactly this “Our server is the One True Server” elitist/competitive attitude among all the SWG server teams that drives people away and keeps them from making any tangible progress.

    • makute says:

      Thanks dude! Reading the article I was like: “Who the fack is SWG Reborn and why in hell is not SWGemu even mentioned”.

    • Devan says:

      I have similar thoughts. I closely followed the early emulation scene for SWG as early as 2006 when there were various coding teams starting up here and there, thinking the job could be done in a year or two. The only project that has really stood the test of time is swgemu, and I’m pretty sure that’s the one that deserves to be discussed here. There are a few others like swganh which seem to be still active. There is a lot of history from that time and many critical participants who are no longer involved. I’d love to see that kind of information in the article.

      Ps. In case any old friends find this, I was part of the Galaxies Reborn community.

  10. Budikah says:

    Does anybody on the RPS staff remember Ultima Online?

    I always felt like the black sheep of the MMO world – Ultima was one of the first MMO’s I played. I remember buying the game before I knew what it was, and before I even had the internet. I sat in my 5th grade class and read the instruction manual with a sense of wonder over and over again for months.

    Anyways, the game is really quite something to behold – even if the graphics are dated. The “freeshard” community that has sprung up really has kept the game alive.

    Servers like UO: An Corp, UO: Forever, and UO: Second Age each keep the game alive in their own way with their own custom additions and flavorful mutations to the gameplay. Despite being dated, the PvP and open world experience in the game is top notch. Being part of an Ultima Online server is much like being part of your own private little world. You’ll get to know the good guys, the bad, the economic power players, etc. You can build an empire on murder, trade, or alliances. You can become a pirate on the high seas, or simply just a dungeon crawling warrior.

    I can’t speak highly enough about the game. I’m sad to see that it seems to get very little love or acknowledgement anywhere nowadays. All you hear about is Everquest – but for me, Ultima Online was the ultimate MMORPG experience that has not been surpassed to this date.

    • jrod says:

      Yes! All of this… UO brings back such fond memories. I still think the PVP system in that game (before they ruined it with second age) took more skill and timing and was more satisfying than any game I have ever played since.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      When my spirits need a minor lift, I go and take a look at the Ultima Online homepage.

      The fact that it’s still a going concern after all this time indicates that at least something is all right with the world.

  11. Viral Frog says:

    One of the most popular servers is one that uses the CU and NGE? I can understand playing with the CU. That was actually a really decent move on the devs part, and brought me more enjoyment than pre-CU. But the fact that they tacked on the NGE makes me mad. The fact that people are willing to play on a server that deployed the update that literally killed SWG is beyond frustrating. Why play the pitiful excuse of a wannabe WoW-clone when you could play on a pre-NGE server where the game is actually enjoyable?

  12. Malfeas says:

    That last part actually made my eyes water for a moment.
    Well written, damn you!

  13. syllopsium says:

    Can’t say I’d agree that the golden age of science fiction is 12. True, some media at that age makes a large impact, and I suspect that Planescape:Torment (which I played in my twenties) would still be awesome, but not quite the same now.

    I might also feel differently about MMO, as I’ve never bothered, growing up with 8 bit computers networking was a distant dream.

    Still, KOTOR was bloody good when I played it a couple of years ago, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a load of sci fi recently, including John Scalzi. So, no, sci fi etc was awesome, and still is awesome.

  14. itsbenderingtime says:

    I usually don’t like to point out grammar-related stuff, but I must say this made me giggle.

    …MMOs that find a second life through the reverse engineering, emulation, and sometimes theft of their biggest fans.

    So how do the MMO’s biggest fans feel about that? I wouldn’t appreciate being reverse engineered, emulated OR thieved! (thefted?)

  15. TheMasquerader says:

    I have two words for you: Divergence Online ;) The pre-NGE spiritual successor to Star Wars Galaxies.

  16. Urk says:

    I grabbed a copy of SWG on Ebay just so I could play on a private server. It was fun, but I’m not prepared to do the whole MMO thing for half the game. Too much time spent grinding and building relationships. I will most certainly, however, jump on board the first server that successfully incorporates the Jump to Lightspeed expansion.

  17. slash213 says:

    First, I’d like to say that I have deepest respect towards people like John for the passion and effort they put into something they love. I’m literally happy people like that exist.

    Second, I think this quote of his:
    “I loved the game for the community, the events, and definitely the decorating.”
    speaks VOLUMES about SWG and all the reasons behind its failure.

  18. montorsi says:

    A very nice piece of writing, Steven. Thanks.

  19. chris1479 says:

    Level 37 WE Dru LFG in Iceclad!

    Oh yeah my dad changed the password on my account and I lost Sonnex the Druid forever. I created my Ogre SK in 2004 and still have him today but I miss Sonnex, and the fact that the douchebags at SOE want the ORIGINAL credit card that was used to open the account. Ergh need to forget about it.

    Anyway EQ was my first and last MMO love really, despite playing various other MMO’s over the years including Warhammer Online, DAoC etc. I still feel a somewhat painful pang or stab of nostalgia for those days, I’ve played P1999 quite a lot (40 Ogre warrior) but, those days are never coming back.