When you play an MMO for long enough they inevitably end up affecting your life in some unexpected ways. Not only will you be spending hundreds or even thousands of hours in the game itself, but you’ll also end up obsessing about it outside of the game too. Here are five times that Star Wars Galaxies (we’re talking SOE servers here, not rogue servers) changed my life and left me with lasting memories.
1) I really did quit school to play this game
I was a pretty directionless teenager. The typical “x is a bright student and could do so well if only they applied themselves” type of kid. I just about managed to scrape through my GCSEs, but with no real idea of what I wanted to do once I left school, I made the natural decision to carry on with education for another two years. At this time I’d been playing Galaxies for about a year or maybe a little more and that was holding my attention far more than school. I’d joined a guild and all the associated activities that go with it had begun to provide the purpose I was lacking elsewhere in life. I was relied upon to participate as a tank in group raids and to gather resources for our crafting endeavours. Everyone in my guild was quite a few years older than me and I was very desperate to impress them. Where I was very much an introvert in real life, in Galaxies I wanted to show off and be recognised.
When the Chapter 7 patch dropped in November 2007 it introduced a new system called Collections – a kind of achievement system which rewarded you with loot, titles, exp, credits etc. One of the big things about this system though was that many of the Collections also recognised the first person to complete them on each server. This meant that every time somebody activated that Collection in their log they would see your character’s name next to the entry. You also got an in-game badge and title to show off and there was even an official website which listed your achievement.
Surely, I thought, this was the true pathway to gaining success and respect in life. Leaving nothing to chance I didn’t bother going into school the day that the patch dropped so that I could nab myself one of these Server First’s before they were all spent. Still, I was pipped to the post on the first couple of easily completed Collections that I focused my attention on. I realised I had to redirect my efforts into something more obscure, something which would require nothing but just straight up no-life’ing the game. And so, 650 Skreeg murders later I was Bloodfin’s Server First Skreeg Demoralizer.
By this point it was several days after the patch launched and I hadn’t been back into school since. I was two-months into sixth form and was already somehow three-months behind in my workload. So I never went back at all. Now even the Flash-based website is impossible to access so the proof of my great deed is lost forever. Maybe in hindsight that Skreeg Demoralizer title wasn’t really worth it after all.
2) Regularly staying awake until 6am to do Heroics
Alongside Collections, Chapter 7 also brought with it Heroics, which were SWG‘s version of instanced raid dungeons. I was the guild’s tank so I felt quite the responsibility to be there for the nightly runs. The problem was that I had joined a guild whose members were all based in the US and I live in the UK. As such, the 7~ hour time difference meant that we usually didn’t even begin until about 2 am. As more Heroics were added to the game it became a common occurrence for me to stay awake until the very early hours of the morning as we ploughed through each one night after night. Truly epitomising the no-life MMO addict lifestyle I would sneak into bed and pretend to be asleep just before my dad woke up to go to work sometime around 6 am.
I can remember only a few of these runs – the time everyone else wiped in one part of the Exar Kun instance and I proceeded to solo the rest of the phase was a highlight, while the time I got chewed out over Ventrillo for accidentally aggroing every damn mob on the Imperial Star Destroyer instance was a definite lowlight. Mostly though I remember whispering “heal” into my mic to not wake anybody else in our small bungalow as the Sun was slowly beginning to rise. That and the time I heard something drop behind my computer chair only to turn around and find a goliath spider on my floor in the middle of progressing through the Tusken King Heroic at 3 am.
3) Hosting monthly camping trip events on the Bloodfin server
“So, you just sat there and it was fun?” a developer innocently asked players when the team were deciding how to reintroduce camps back into the game after they were removed with the NGE.
It’s a strange thing for players to be so passionate about, but running out into one of Galaxies‘ huge open worlds, laying down a camp and unwinding with a group of friends was something quite special.
Another thing that I loved about Galaxies was its robust player event support, led by Jason Ryan aka Pex. So, I combined the two.
I don’t remember much about the events themselves. I can’t even remember how many I organised. It might have only been a few, but I know there was a Life Day themed one, and another one where I had Pex appear at the event as a character from the movies (I think it was Obi-Wan’s Force ghost but I’m not 100 per cent sure).
What I do remember is how much time I would spend planning the events, advertising them in-game and on the forums, and even making YouTube videos to promote them (I deleted that old account some years ago so sadly those videos are lost to the digital aether). This all happened back when YouTube was relatively new and just the act of editing and uploading a video to the site was very much a novelty.
Which leads me directly to my fourth memory of the game.
4) The video of the lonely Ewok that introduced me to my favourite band
Everyone knows that famous music video of MC Chris’ “Fett’s Vette” set to SWG footage, but this one was a lot more personal to me. I remember this video of a lonely Ewok set to Electric Light Orchestra’s “The Way Life’s Meant to Be” being posted on Galaxies‘ official forums back in 2008. It’s a sweet little video, but what really blew my mind was the song, which made me fall in love with the band’s music. Sure I knew “Mr Blue Sky”, but after listening to Time – the album which this song is from – ELO became my all-time favourite band.
5) Winning a competition to design a SWG fansite
So bringing us back to my first memory, as you can imagine my parents weren’t exactly best pleased with me for having refused to go back to school. Quite rightly they were worried that their 17-year-old son was becoming one of those degenerate kids addicted to their Nintendos.
They insisted that I start applying to courses at the local college to begin at the start of the next academic year. I used to spend a lot of time designing forum signatures in a pirated version of Photoshop so I fancied graphic design could be a course I’d enjoy doing. The application required a portfolio which I didn’t have, but fate would have it that there was a competition being run at this time by one of the biggest Star Wars Galaxies fansites to redesign their web layout.
Brilliant I thought, design a website, have something for my portfolio and have something to brag about in my interview. As it happens I did actually win the competition… but I think I might have been the only one to enter. Still, I was chuffed to bits to see my handiwork up on the internet. Looking back on it now it’s a bit, well, rubbish. The course leader at the college must have thought so too as my application to the course was rejected!
On the plus side, I got a bit of money and a signed copy of the game for winning the competition so it wasn’t all bad news.