An Empire Revisited: Witches, Beasts & Friends

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It’s been a whole year since I last did a new entry in this column. After hitting the level cap very early on in the year I hit a roadblock where I just didn’t know what I wanted to do in the game. I had a lot of other stuff going on at the time and the lack of any grouping tools just made the whole prospect of doing endgame stuff seem like too much effort. I wanted to jump back in when Bespin hit, but when it turned out that to begin the story you had to have completed the Hoth Heroic (group content which I had yet to get round to), I just bounced into a different game altogether.

Players can journey over to SWG Legends‘ Bespin, but they can’t begin the main questline until they have partaken in the Battle of Echo Base Heroic. For a non-story-driven game this kind of seems like an arbitrary design choice.

Around October however, I started to get the urge to return. The Galactic Moon Festival and Life Day feel as much an integral part of the holidays for me as putting up (real world) decorations and watching Home Alone, so that was a major contributing factor.

I did jump back into the game to check out the Galactic Moon Festival stuff, but I was still a bit lost as to what other reason I had to be in the game. The idea of getting back into the swing of things wouldn’t leave me though, so I decided to sit down and make a list of all the content I’d like to experience in the game. Some of it was stuff I had done years ago on the live servers and some of it was Legends exclusive content. There was a good mix of long-term, short-term, group, solo, and non-combat things on the list so I would never not be able to look at it and find something to do depending on my mood.

As “everything simulators”, MMOs can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming to play. Many modern MMOs have some kind of system in place to filter you into relevant content – sometimes however you have to make your own.

Alongside the list, another important discovery has got me playing a lot more – Discord. Yes ok, I recognise that I’m about five years late on this one. I’ve been using Discord for a few years now, but I’ve always been kind of against it in the sense that there’s a part of me that feels that it creates something of an immersion breaker between myself and the game. The reality is though that it’s a bloody helpful bit of software that, if nothing else, makes organising any sort of group content a million times easier.

Rather than wasting time spamming LFG messages in Mos Eisley, I can just plug in an event sign-up on my guild’s Discord server. We can all be ready at the allocated time and we can get straight into the content we had planned. It’s extremely efficient, and as you can see from my list above I’ve already managed to tick off a few boxes which require bringing along some friends.

I’ve finally been able to try some of the Legends exclusive content, including the Terentatek boss…
… and the fiendishly difficult Ancient Greater Krayt Dragon world boss.
When I’ve been playing solo I’ve been finishing up on a load of quests that have been hanging around in my journal and I’ve also started the Witches of Dathomir themepark. The lighting in these areas is some of the best in the whole game.

Life Day kicks off today and there’s an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the game’s sunset also taking place at the moment so I’m definitely going to spend some time checking those out in the coming days, but next up on the agenda is to do a few more Heroic runs to get my 5-piece jewellery set, then I’ll feel satisfied to take on Hoth and Bespin. On the whole, I really can’t overstate how happy I am to be back in this game and actively partaking in its community. 2021 has been a banner year for the SWG Legends server and I really can’t wait to see what the team have up their sleeves for next year.

The Old Republic’s Expansion Delay is a Necessary Disappointment

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A delay in releasing Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Legacy of the Sith expansion has seemed like an inevitability ever since it was announced earlier this year alongside a vague Holiday 2021 release window. Then, just three weeks ago, a developer livestream seemed to reaffirm that the expansion would be released this year after all. Well, it seems that a lot can change in three weeks, and with only one week remaining until the expansion’s announced December 14 release date, Legacy of the Sith has now officially been pushed back to February 25, 2022.

There’s no doubt about it – the immediate impact of this announcement is terrible. The team at EA/Bioware have done an admirable job of hyping this expansion up given that neither the studio nor the wider franchise marketing machine has seemed all that interested in boosting the game’s public profile since 2016’s Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion. The 10-year anniversary milestone is a major one which has evoked a lot of nostalgia for the game and the team hasn’t been shy in playing into that as a relatively cheap way of drumming up excitement for this new expansion.

While the Sith Emperor has been the game’s big bad up until this point, it is Darth Malgus’ masked mug which has been the literal poster boy for the game since its launch. As such, it’s convenient that he has risen from the grave just in time for all the anniversary excitement (I say “just in time”, but his dragged-out resurrection has actually been the game’s central plot point for the past three years now). Once again it is Malgus who looms large over the expansion’s key art, but it is also he who has been chosen to grace the cover of Star Wars Insider magazine’s December edition. Sure it’s only the exclusive edition that’s available in select comic shops (the regular edition has Vader on the cover), but it was this rare acknowledgement of the game outside of its community that seemed the biggest vindication of all that Legacy of the Sith was going to be a major moment for the game – a revival not unlike Malgus’s own.

Beyond the nostalgia pandering however we really have no idea where Legacy of the Sith is headed. Sure we know that we’re headed back to Manaan, as well as the new planet Elom, but there’s no exact sense of what we should expect from the game’s story. Instead, the major talking points surrounding this expansion have been its ‘combat styles’ system and UI overhaul. Both of which are (hopefully) great changes that will go a long way towards showing that Bioware are still in it for the long haul, but the game’s primary focus has always been on its story – it’s what the majority of fans care most about too, so why not give us a reason to get invested in that again?

This isn’t lost on the game’s playerbase. The top comment on a Reddit post making note of how little new content SWTOR has seen in 2021, decries the game for having “just given up on story”. While this is from Reddit and therefore tinged with hyperbole, the point remains not entirely untrue. The general consensus among other commenters that the slow drip-feed of new story content has diminished their interest in the game’s key selling point should be a worry for Bioware. Both the A and B plots of the game (the return of Malgus and the Mandalorian uprising respectively) seem to be reactionary turns in the story – after 10 years there’s a niggling feeling that the game’s plot is becoming a way to prop up its cash shop rather than to tell a narrative with any real impact. I don’t personally believe this is the case (Creative Director Charles Boyd’s passion 100% rings true), but that at least is the perception.

Players are desperate for a new cinematic trailer to usher in the Legacy of the Sith expansion. While expensive to produce they do a great job of generating hype for the game and are also a tool for investing potential players in the game’s story. A new cinematic would also be seen as proof that EA/Bioware/Disney are still committed towards growing the game beyond its existing playerbase.

Last September’s 6.2 update did a fantastic job of wrapping up the Emperor’s storyline in a satisfying way, but one year on from that we still have no real justification for why our character’s story should continue beyond this. From a narrative point of view, the team have painted themselves into a corner thanks to years of power creep, but it’s at this point that things should be dialled back to make way for more personal stories rather than another galaxy-level threat. This is something that SWTOR should be able to really succeed at, but the build-up to 7.0 has so far failed to invest us in such a way and instead seems to be pulling us into yet another galaxy-spanning war. The time for looking backwards should be done once the actual 10th-anniversary date has been passed. Now the team have the opportunity to head into the new year and build some momentum for our character’s stories which could propel the game into its next decade.

It has lately become a bit of a tired talking point that games should wait until they’re feature finished and polished before they are released, so there’s no real need to belabour that point. The Legacy of the Sith delay has rubbed the community up the wrong way and they wouldn’t be wrong for feeling like that – an announcement of a 2+ month delay only one week before its expected launch is just not a good look. But, it’s still preferable to shipping a broken, half-baked mess out the door right on the cusp of the holidays. By the time February rolls around all will mostly be forgiven and forgotten. Assuming the story delivers the goods, the combination of giving the game more time to bake and more time to drum up hype for the expansion itself rather than the game’s 10th anniversary (plus moving away from that other little MMO expansion which just launched) will undoubtedly give The Old Republic the boost it’s so obviously on the cusp of.

Star Wars Galaxies Rogue Server Roundup – November 2021

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Overall it’s been a pretty quiet month for SWG rogue servers as many of them proceeded to wind down their Galactic Moon Festival celebrations and prepare for Life Day. Still, a handful of servers have managed to push some new updates and others have teased things to come.

Be sure to also check out the Star Wars Galaxies Rogue Server Life Day Guide 2021 for all the latest updates on holiday events running throughout December.


An Empire in Flames (SWGEmu-based server)

Galaxies‘ most immersive server delivered a double whammy of roleplay additions in their November update, allowing musicians to shoulder their instruments, and players to communicate with each other via holocomm. The server already introduced weapon holstering and NPC holocomms earlier this year so it’s great to see them expanding that functionality. Sure this sort of stuff might not be a big draw to some Galaxies players, but item holstering was one of those things which was requested constantly during the game’s live operation, so to see a team of fan developers figure this thing out and execute it so well is majorly impressive.

SWG: Legends (Custom NGE rogue server)

Just sneaking in at the very end of the month, LegendsNovember update brings sweeping changes to the game’s existing weapons system. If you’re a weaponsmith, a smuggler, or if you play the game’s meta then you’ll want to read up on the exact details of what is going to be changing, but in essence, the new system will allow for all weapon appearances to be made endgame combat viable. Hooray for more character customization! There’s a raft of other QoL adjustments in this patch too including a much-requested respawn timer reduction on the Emperor’s Hand.

SWG Restoration III (Custom CU rogue server)

As they gear up for their 1.0 release the Restoration III team has dropped a big update this month which features a whole bunch of bug fixes and QoL adjustments. They’ve also detailed changes to the way they handle AFK’ing in a Developer Diary. As somebody who is quite vehemently opposed to AFK gameplay I feel that what they’ve proposed is fair and in line with the game’s original design ethos, so kudos to them there.

SWG: Beyond (Custom NGE rogue server)

If you’re one of those people who like to start celebrating the holidays super early then Beyond has you covered. Their Life Day seasonal event is now live as of this past weekend. They have seasonally themed events planned throughout the coming month so keep an eye on their Discord for those.


SWGEmu (Pre-CU vanilla emulator)

You can guarantee that most servers will be getting in on the Life Day action next month and it seems that SWGEmu will be the next to follow Beyond. Their Life Day celebrations have been announced as running for the entire month. That’s not all the server has coming up in December though. The mysterious Visions of the Past, Dreams of the Future event has been teased on the SWGEmu forums and YouTube channel, promising entirely new content. Details are pretty vague, but this sounds more akin to the kind of content that was envisioned for the game early in its development cycle – a limited-time event rather than static, permanent content. It’ll be running for 10 days, lasting from December 5th-15th.

SWG RPG (Unreal Engine 4 remake)

In this month’s alpha client you can now spawn a working Landspeeder to zip around Tatooine, which is looking even better thanks to some changes to visual details.

ProjectSWG (Custom NGE emulator)

Nothing of major interest this month, but a double drop of updates proves that progress is ticking along nicely.

SWG Expanded (Custom content for SWG Source servers)

The “partial open source project” which creates custom content for servers running the SWG Source code has some interesting new items in its November update, including some deep cuts from Star Wars lore.

Star Wars Galaxies Rogue Server Life Day Guide 2021

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Ever since the game’s launch in 2003, Life Day was an annual presence in Star Wars Galaxies‘ content calendar. New rewards and content were added each year, with players relishing the opportunity to decorate their houses and cities with all manner of Wookiee-related paraphernalia. The rogue servers which have popped up in the wake of the game’s demise (which happened 10 years ago this December) continue the tradition.

Two-page spread from The MMO Folklorist’s Guide to Galaxies – reprint available this December!

This list will be updated throughout December 2021 as each server unveils their full plans for the holiday event.

SWG: Beyond (Custom NGE rogue server)

SWGEmu (Pre-CU vanilla emulator)

Sentinels Republic (SWGEmu-based server)

SWG Restoration III (Custom CU rogue server)

An Empire in Flames (SWGEmu-based server)

SWG: Legends (Custom NGE rogue server)

Sunrunner II (SWGEmu-based server)

SWG: Prophecy (Custom NGE rogue server)

5 unusual memories from my time playing Star Wars Galaxies

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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.

My “If my house were on fire I would risk my life to rescue this” item

GALAXIES: AN EMPIRE REMEMBERED reprinted as THE MMO FOLKLORIST’S GUIDE TO GALAXIES – Available December 2021

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Back in 2018 when I published my book about the history of Star Wars Galaxies I was very conscious that I was treading a thin line with regards to making the book look as professional as possible without it appearing to be an official, licensed publication. There are of course obvious things to avoid when it comes to this sort of thing, but there are also no firmly established guidelines as to what you can get away with. More so than the interior content of the book, the cover art is a primary area of concern when it comes to avoiding unwanted attention from IP holders, and myself and Simon Bennett – who illustrated the first edition’s cover art – went to significant lengths to evoke imagery from the game which Star Wars Galaxies players would recognise, but which fans of the wider Star Wars IP would not. Similarly, I felt that the comic book aesthetic aided in the obviousness of it being a fan publication.

For two years it seemed that the above assignment had been nailed, but late in 2020 the book abruptly vanished from the Amazon storefront. Earlier this year I received several emails from Amazon communicating the reasons behind their removal. To avoid getting into any unnecessary legal hot water I won’t go into any further detail with regards to this. Needless to say, I’m not the first person to have trouble with their videogame fan publication, nor will I be the last.

I had considered letting sleeping dogs lie with the knowledge that most people who wanted a copy would have gotten one during the book’s first print run, but throughout this year I’ve had quite a few people messaging me to say they would still love to buy a print copy. Well, I’m happy to announce that the book will be available again from next month.

To make the book more obviously unofficial I’ve designed a very minimalist new cover art and have given the book a new title. The interior however remains unchanged save for a new editing pass. Therefore those who have already purchased the original book will have no need to repurchase the new edition. I’ve always been adamant that I didn’t want early copies of the book to become obsolete with later editions and that if I had new stuff on the game that I wanted to write about then it would be in an entirely new book (or on this blog). Some of the information towards the latter end of the book where I discuss the emulation scene has become a little outdated now, but that’s just a fact of physical publication and regardless, it accounts for a small and really quite insignificant part of the book.

I loved the book’s original name and I especially loved its cover art, but sometimes compromises are necessary in this game and I’m happy that people will once again be able to put this thing that I spent two years of my life writing up on their shelves. The new name also places the book within the new “The MMO Folklorist’s Guide to …” imprint under which I will publish future yet-to-be-announced titles in the coming years.

A release date and accompanying press release will follow sometime in the coming weeks, but rest assured the book will be available once again before the game hits its 10-year deathiversary on December 15.

Star Wars Galaxies Rogue Server Roundup – October 2021

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The Star Wars Galaxies Rogue Server Roundup is a new monthly feature at MMO Folklorist, gathering together all the news from across all of the Star Wars Galaxies rogue servers.


SWGEmu (Pre-CU vanilla emulator)

The crawl towards 1.0 moves ever closer for SWGEmu as the Basilisk server this month received its first publish since July. Publish 10.5 is a pretty sizeable mini-publish with a whole host of fixes across the board.

This month also saw some original holiday content come to the server with the launch of its “Something Wicked This Way Comes” event. After a brief delay the event is running from October 23rd until the end of the month with a special finale event planned for Sunday, October 31st, 2021 at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT/1am UTC.

ProjectSWG (Custom NGE emulator)

While still pretty barebones, ProjectSWG continues to make gradual progress towards becoming a feature-complete custom version of end-of-life Galaxies. QA Release #22 is the test server’s first patch since June and adds the Avatar dungeon to the game as well as some new dialogue choices for NPCs.


SWG: Legends (Custom NGE rogue server)

Continuing their biggest year of content yet, SWG: Legends brings back their Galactic Moon Festival with even more content and events than ever before. The big addition this year is the spooped-out version of the Tusken Invasion heroic, which is offering new seasonal loots – if players can handle the increased difficulty. All of the server’s previous annual additions to the festival remain too, and there are also several live events running throughout the month. As always, Napyet has a great video roundup of the festival which you can check out here.

SWG RPG (Unreal Engine 4 remake)

October has been a big month for this ambitious one-person undertaking to rebuild SWG in the Unreal Engine, and players can now download an alpha version of the game. This is a very early version of the game, but significant progress has been made in getting Tatooine ported into the engine. It looks pretty dang beautiful.

SWG Awakening (SWGEmu-based server)

One of the very oldest SWGEmu-based servers celebrates its seventh (!) anniversary early next month so it has announced a weekend-long event (November 5th-8th) where players can join in on a host of live events with the opportunity of winning some rare items.

SWG Restoration III (Custom CU rogue server)

A new website has launched this month, which will facilitate a more robust help ticketing system in future. The Galactic Moon Festival has also been activated, and a mid-month patch has brought along a host of fixes. Two live events also took place on the server this month: the R3 Galactic Home Show, and Jabba’s Costume Contest.


Sunrunner II (SWGEmu-based server)

After suggesting earlier in the month that the server may be relaunched in the new year, server admin Takh backtracked and now it seems efforts have been refocused on the long-running server’s original roadmap. On the heels of that, a new update to the server has revamped the luck stat and offered players a glimpse into what is coming to the server in 2022. Mandalore has been teased once again (check out a new screenshot above), a PvP revamp, a custom Jedi system, and a “revolutionary” mystery system are all on the cards as well.

SWG Arenas (SWGEmu-based PvP server)

This new PvP server which only launched just last month received two patches in October, adding totally unique PvP systems to the Theed and Wayfar areas of the game.

An Empire in Flames (SWGEmu-based server)

For the duration of the Halloween season players can take part in a haunting new heroic – “The Temple of Exar Kun”. This month’s patch also laid the groundwork for the server’s upcoming “utility objects” system, which has been teased on EIF’s Twitter account. It certainly looks as though this will add a whole new layer of immersion to the game.

An attempt at defining the study of folklore in MMOs

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For a blog called MMO Folklorist, I’ve so far managed to go almost a year without writing anything which could confidently be described as a study of folklore. The truth is however that neither myself nor anybody else that I can find has made an effort to define how folklore studies can be applied to the sphere of MMOs (and online games in general).

I am by no means a qualified folklorist, but it’s a field of study which I returned to for many of the essays that I wrote during my Literature & History degree. As such, I feel that I have enough of a grasp on the subject to begin to draw a line between what counts as MMO folklore and what doesn’t.

The term ‘folklore’ itself is a somewhat nebulous field of study which Simon J. Bronner describes in Folklore: The Basics as “bridging humanities and social science perspectives, a hybrid discipline”. Exact definitions and specializations differ between the field’s practitioners, and as usual with these sorts of things, it can all get very granular and unnecessarily (for the layman at least) academic.

In tracing the history of folklore studies, Bronner quotes the Victorian writer and originator of the term ‘folklore’, William John Thoms, whose definition integrated the studies of “manners, customs, observances, superstitions, ballads [and] proverbs”. This list has expanded considerably over the years, and modern folklore studies have embraced aspects of digital culture, particularly the proliferation of memes. Anybody who has played an online game can likely see where Thoms’s list alone could easily intersect with the behaviour and habits of the communities in those games.

There does exist a limited literature on interactions between folklore and videogames, but none of it quite manages to bring the two together in a satisfying way. There are articles about how games can integrate original folklore into their worldbuilding, and articles about games which use real-world folklore in their worldbuilding. While both are interesting articles, they’re about narrative technique rather than the identification of ‘real’ folklore in the sense of it being something which proliferates organically.

Academic folklore studies journals contain a handful of similar articles, with only one article that I could find touching on folklore in online games. Ben Gillis’ “An Unexpected Font of Folklore: Online Gaming as Occupational Lore”, from Western Folklore is a 2011 article which compares the behaviour of World of Warcraft players to that of the American work ethic. The article however seems more concerned with marvelling at the dedication of MMO players than exploring actual evidence of what Thoms would have described as folklore, and the whole thing has that usual sneery veneer which is inherent in non-videogame studies looking in on what they consider to be a lowbrow medium.

At this point, I should confess something: I didn’t just conjure the name MMO Folklorist out of thin air. The idea came after my book on Star Wars Galaxies was used as an example of videogame folklore in an article on Wired, We Need More Videogame Folklorists. The focus of the article is on another book which was published at the same time as my own book, Wes Locher’s Braving Britannia: Tales of Life, Love, and Adventure in Ultima Online. Locher’s book (and its sequel) stand alongside Andrew Groen’s epic two-volume Empires of EVE as perhaps the truest examples of MMO folklore that have been written to date.

Ultima and EVE prove to be the perfect vehicles for such stories. In the wild west early days of the genre, not only were MMOs designed around emergent gameplay and storytelling but player behaviours which are now a given were not yet established. As such, every play session had the excitement of the unexpected in the sense that an impromptu in-game visit from a GM might disrupt the game world, a game mechanic may suddenly be exploited in a way which changes how everybody plays the game until it is fixed, or a roleplaying group may pull your character into a story which was happening only at that moment and would never again be repeated. Such things can still happen in the themepark MMOs which became the standard of the mid-late ’00s onwards, but they’re far less likely.

World of Warcraft was the mould into which all those later MMOs squeezed into but even that game has its own, very famous examples which could be counted as folklore: Leeroy Jenkins, and the Corrupted Blood incident. Like Ultima, Star Wars Galaxies was the kind of sandbox game which led to many happenings that could be classified as folklore. The mysterious method for unlocking Jedi was a source of many of the game’s superstitions and behaviours that in hindsight seem ridiculous, but was, at the time, accepted by a playerbase who were willing to try anything to achieve their coveted prize. One example of this was elder members of the community telling new players that typing “/qui gon jinn” would unlock the path to Jedi. A sort of ‘newbie hazing’, the command would actually boot players out of the game, with the system having interpreted /qui as a shorthand for the command /quit.

If even a loose definition of MMO folklore is to be made, then it stands to reason that certain topics can be ruled out as being within the parameters of such a study. Articles about a game’s mechanics, for example, how combat works, or how say, quick travel impacts gameplay is obviously not folklore. Nor is industry analysis, for example, an article on the popularity of a game, or a review of a new patch or expansion. Slightly more sticky territory is examples of New Games Journalism which delve into online games. Take for example this article which is a kind of POV report on Planetside. This brand of gonzo reporting, which was briefly all the rage in games journalism, but has mostly faded away now is a bit too inorganic to classify as folklore, but there are glimpses of wider player behaviours on the periphery.

The idea of videogame folklore, particularly where it concerns online games, seems to be a fairly wide net then. So why hasn’t there been more writing which falls into the category? Well for one thing it’s difficult to pull together sources. My original intent when writing a book about Star Wars Galaxies was to gather stories of players’ experiences in the game and compile them in a manner not dissimilar to that of Locher’s book on Ultima Online. When it came down to it however most of the stories I received from players were generic in the sense that they were about a fun dungeon run or PvP battle. Good stories, but essentially ones which could be happening in any MMO at any given time. As such I chose to litter examples of the game’s folklore throughout the book, which became more of a visual history than a recounting of specific personal experiences.

Coaxing stories out of players requires the skill set of a journalist, while the act of seeking out elements of folklore oneself requires the skill set of an anthropologist – observing the behaviour of others from just the right distance, knowing when to be in the right place at the right time. Needless to say, the vast majority of MMO players do not have such skillsets. But what of those writing about MMOs on genre websites and blogs? MMO folklore is interspersed in their writing, but it’s often an unintentional addition. Most of us are just hobbyists, sharing our experiences of the games we play and our thoughts on the genre as a whole.

Little of what counts as folklore within the online games we play would warrant an article all to itself, let alone a whole book. There surely can’t be any harm though in trying to be a bit more observant of those small things which happen in our favourite games, and preserving them in some way, whether as an aside on another blog post or article, or even in a quick tweet. The purpose of folklore is ultimately to prevent cultures from losing their heritage. They allow us to celebrate and marvel at the everyday happenings of the past – of how things change and how they stay the same. Online worlds change, and eventually, they fade entirely – we could all be better served by trying to preserve memories of more than that patch that nerfed our favourite class.

Easy mode 4 lyf

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Right now the internet is in the midst of its annual videogame difficulty discussion, this time thanks to the news that Psychonauts 2 will feature an invincibility mode. On the one side, there are those who are adamant that all videogames should be a brutal gauntlet where only the strong survive. On the other side, there is a somewhat more nuanced argument to be had.

Whenever I see this discussion flare up again I feel totally baffled by its continued existence. Growing up I instinctively chose the easiest difficulty mode available whenever I started a new game. It simply never occurred to me that videogames should be a challenge. While I may not have realised it at the time, games were always about the simple enjoyment of immersing myself in a different world, playing as a cool-looking character, and having FUN.

I can still vaguely remember a conversation I had with one of my friends sometime in my early teens where he told me that he completed all of his games before buying new ones, often 100%-ing them. This came as something of a shock to me. I had by this time played dozens, if not hundreds of games across three generations of consoles, but I could probably count the number of games that I had completed (and by that I mean reached the end of the main story) on one hand.

This revelation genuinely made me consider whether I was some sort of pretender, while my friend was living among the pantheon of the “Real Gamers”. Still, I never really changed my habits. Usually, I’ll play on the default difficulty setting these days to get what I would consider “the developer’s true vision of the game”, but I’ve no qualms in flicking the difficulty down if it’s a choice between that and banging my head against a wall.

The truth is I’m not good at videogames. I have awful hand-eye coordination, pitiful reaction times, and my brain just isn’t wired to figure out logic puzzles. I could probably improve at some of those things, but I don’t particularly care to. I just want to enjoy the world and story that the developers have created, and sometimes simply mess around with the game mechanics.

If you’re the kind of player that enjoys completing games on Nightmare difficulty mode, or takes pride in figuring out impossible dungeon puzzles without reading a walkthrough then more power to you. I wouldn’t want those things to be taken away from you and yes, I am impressed by your skillz. When development teams are ploughing an impossible amount of hours into building their stories and worlds, however, maybe don’t begrudge them for letting as many people as possible experience what they’ve crafted. And please, don’t berate people for wanting to play a game a different way from you.

The alternative May the 4th

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Somehow the whole “May the 4th be with you” joke has become a real thing which Disney continues to embrace more and more each year. This year the date sees the beginning of a new animated series over on Disney+, while gamers can bag themselves a cheap deal on the extensive catalogue of Star Wars titles available on digital games stores.

Outside of a few tchotchkes being handed out to players of The Old Republic and Squadrons however Disney isn’t really offering gamers anything new. That’s where the fans step in. Here are four Star Wars Galaxies rogue servers who are offering players something a little different on or around the May the 4th date.

Legends: City in the Clouds Expansion

After years in development, Bespin is coming to SWG Legends. This is by far the most ambitious content drop on any SWG rogue server to date and from my early impressions back in January the claim that this is a full-fledged expansion seems absolutely justified. Players of every profession will have something new to do and there are sure to be plenty of surprises that we still don’t know about. It’s pretty likely that the release of the expansion will see the server flying past the 3000 concurrent players mark sometime next week which is an incredible feat, but it’s yet to be determined how this will affect the gameplay experience with so many players scrabbling over the new content at once.

Play SWG Legends

Restoration III: The First CU Rogue Server

The history of Star Wars Galaxies can be divided into two distinct eras: NGE and pre-NGE. Between those two however, the short-lived Combat Upgrade overhauled the game in a somewhat less severe manner than the NGE. As the CU-era lasted less than six months it doesn’t quite have as many fans as the other two eras, but there is certainly a contingent which argues that it was the best version of the game’s combat systems, and would’ve resulted in a stronger game had LucasArts and SOE stuck with it. As Restoration III is based on the same source code as SWG Legends, the server will also feature the Jump to Lightspeed expansion as well as lots of custom content. It’s not quite ready to launch yet, but a release date is set to be announced on May 3rd.

Play Restoration III (currently in testing)

An Empire in Flames: Schisms of the Force Update

One of the longest-running pre-NGE servers, An Empire in Flames is celebrating its fourth anniversary by releasing the Schisms of the Force update, which promises to bring Jedi to the game in an all-new way. Although concrete details are scarce on just how the system will function, the server’s Discord and Twitter channels have given an exciting visual preview of some of the new items and abilities that players can expect to find in the update (including Inquisitor and Ahsoka-style lightsabers!). Considering the ways that Halyn and the team at EiF have been able to push the limits of the SWGEmu code, players can be certain that this system will have plenty of unique features that set it apart from other servers’ implementations of the glowbat-wielding alpha class.

Play An Empire in Flames

Sunrunner II: Mandalore

Empire in Flames‘ twin server has been around for a couple of years now, and while the two share a fair amount of content, their server manifestos are quite different. Where you’ll find post-ROTJ content and experimental systems on EiF, the focus on Sunrunner II is to attempt a continuation of the game in line with the live development team’s original concept for the game. Lead developer Takh and his team have repurposed a lot of the post-NGE content into a form which suits the pre-NGE game, but they’ve also created several new planets. While it won’t be coming on May 4th, the latest planet, Mandalore, has been well into development for a few months now and should be ready to launch in the not-to-distant future. It promises to be “the most detailed custom planet” on the server so far and will feature new quests, collections and instances.

Play Sunrunner II

And for those looking for something a little different…

Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds: Expanding Fronts Update

It’s been well over a decade since a new RTS set in the Star Wars universe has been released, but the modding community for both Galactic Battlegrounds and Empire at War have flourished in recent years, filling a gap in the market which Disney has otherwise ignored. The Expanding Fronts mod was first released back in 2016, but a new update is set to be released on May 4th. There aren’t any update notes yet, but players can expect balance and AI improvements, graphical improvements, and all new units based on the sequel trilogy and expanded universe, as well as The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Mandalorian television shows. As the base game will be on sale this weekend, now would be a great time to check this out if you’ve been itching for some Star Wars real-time strategy.

Play Star Wars Galactic Battleground: Expanding Fronts (base game required)