Star Wars Galaxies Chronicles

Created in dedication to Vik Reddy’s old SWG guild, Star Wars Galaxies Chronicles is a reflection of the game in its pre-CU stage and focuses on its history as a pioneer in the early generation of MMORPGs. It explains SWGEmu, the now successful reverse-engineering project by gamers who brought the game back from the dead. Included are archived player-written guides relevant to major aspects of the game, from the process of becoming a Jedi to the player-driven economy. Star Wars Galaxies Chronicles stands as a permanent snapshot back in time for all SWG veterans and as a testament to one community’s willpower to bring back those memories.

A Guide to the Galaxy

When it was first announced over a decade agoStar Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided was equivalent to the holy grail. This was during a time when MMORPGs did not enjoy the mainstream status that they do today. Few developers explored this genre and made it accessible to a large gamerbase. That did not stop the juggernauts that pioneered the MMORPG genre shape it to the next level, like Everquest, EVE Online, and Ultima Online, to name a few. Star Wars Galaxies, despite a controversial run, remains one of the most memorable games in history.

We don’t have to win, all we have to do is fight.Mace Windu

In this section, Star Wars Galaxies Chronicles, I have outlined a detailed history of the game’s beginnings and the memoirs of my experience playing on the Chilastra server with the first guild I ever joined and helped found. Also listed are the best player-written guides for SWG in the various elements of the game, as archived by SWGEmu.  They remain great resources for people interested in getting back into Star Wars Galaxies using the SWGEmu client, no matter what server they choose to play on.

My goal is to preserve these memories using old collected screenshots and other sources from over 12 years ago at the time of this writing. Everyone who has ever played SWG in that generation has his or her own story to tell. Over half of my lifetime has passed since the release of the game, since we worked together and built something up from absolutely nothing, such as Crystal Valley, which became the first Metropolis-ranked Rebel city on the planet of Dantooine.

It is my hope that these memories will withstand the test of time and the stories of all SWG veterans will never be forgotten.

Crystal Valley

Taken on 12/13/03, during the early process of building Crystal Valley on the planet Dantooine. It was less than 1,000 meters from the Force Crystal Hunters Cave and became one of the fastest growing cities on the server.

A Brief History of Star Wars Galaxies


Fireworks

This is a shot by Moosacca with his character during beta testing. He was once Mayor of Trinity City and has been through all the hard times and the glory days of his guild. Trinity would be the guild I would later join when I started to play World of Warcraft in 2005.

I discovered what Star Wars Galaxies was in late 2001 when I played a couple of weeks of the Everquest trial for the first time. It was the first MMORPG I was ever exposed to and I was hooked on it like phonics. I was eleven years old so it was a bit mind-blowing to play something that had a persistent world that you slowly evolved in as a character. The social interaction with other players using the chat interface was another key difference compared to the games I was used to.

an empire divided

Star Wars Galaxies was being developed by Sony Online Entertainment, the same company that created Everquest. Raph Koster was the initial creative director of the SWG team.  He is a God amongst men and a true entrepreneur, and he was also the lead designer of Ultima Online (the influences are evident). The extensive profession skill trees and sandbox components like player-built cities were also relatively new features in MMORPGs during that era. Years before it was even released, the game amassed one of the largest fanbases in gaming history. Before alpha testing, player guilds (called player associations) planned out cities, chose either the Rebel or Imperial faction, and did some pretty impressive things. Again, this was around 2002-2003, before World of Warcraft came out. The genre had a stigma for being too “hardcore” and “neck-beard inducing.” Most people only heard about Everquest and the idea of a subscription-based model was a turn-off and inaccessible for the general populace.

iconic roles

The NGE’s goals in the wake of World of Warcraft was to give the existing professions a more ‘iconic’ feel that would resemble the archetypal smuggler, bounty hunter, Jedi, and so on. It was a pursuit to be ‘epic’ for all the wrong reasons.

There are many arguments and schools of thought on what became the eventual downfall of Star Wars Galaxies. As a true fan of the game even to this day, I’ll be blunt. The game had major problems. It felt like a rushed product at release with numerous bugs, server instability, and a slight lack of story-line driven content. Despite this, the developers heavily improved it and worked out the usual kinks that occur when a new MMORPG is released to the stress test of hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Though the game felt unfinished, the player-driven economy was a strong pro for guilds, and the idea of building up actual cities within the Star Wars universe with all its classic buildings (like the cantina) on many different planets was truly awesome. This lack of focus that SWG had was also what made it fun. You weren’t tied to a generic look and class forever, and no two characters were ever alike. It was the sheer potential of what it could have been.

The Combat Upgrade (CU) and New Game Enchancement (NGE)


To summarize what later happened in the game’s history, SOE implemented two major changes in 2005. The Combat Upgrade (CU) and the New Game Enhancement (NGE). They simplified combat mechanics and reduced the number of playable professions to just a handful of “iconic” classes. They also made Jedi a starting-class. Perhaps it was SOE’s response to World of Warcraft, which was taking the world by storm and popularizing the MMORPG genre.

For Blizzard’s first MMORPG, WoW was quite polished. Blizzard’s game was a foil to Star Wars Galaxies, with basic classes that did not require balancing every other week. While considered too casual at times, the game simplified many mechanics for people who were being exposed to the MMO genre for the first time, such as reducing the penalty for death. SOE’s new direction that followed, that every player is meant to be a “heroic” legendary dude, is what destroyed this once great game. The backlash from our subscriber-base was tremendous, but our protests fell upon deaf ears.

Not even being melodramatic but this is literally what happened to Star Wars Galaxies.

Not even being melodramatic but this is literally what happened.

An Empire Divided was about your character setting out in this open world and beginning his own saga, and the different ways one could influence the server was never limited to just combat. Your character wasn’t larger than life. He was just an ordinary guy trying to make his way in a universe on the brink of a civil war. It was an era in Star Wars where it was exceedingly dangerous to be a Rebel and the Jedi were considered almost mythical. The few that existed were being hunted down relentlessly by the Empire. For people that went through the brutal process of unlocking the Force Sensitive slot and becoming a Jedi in the initial years, it was a slap in the face. Ask a World of Warcraft player today what he accomplished in The Burning Crusade, and you would probably get a similar answer to what another player did in the same era, like defeating Illidan in the Black Temple. But if you were to ask  two players what they did in Star Wars Galaxies, their stories could have been wildly different.

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.Obi-Wan Kenobi

The game lost many subscribers after those changes. Although it went through several expansions, the servers were officially shut down on December 15th, 2011. Star Wars: The Old Republic, developed by Bioware, was also in development since 2008 so it was to no one’s surprise that it was going to end eventually. Its time had passed. Star War: The Old Republic, unfortunately, went down a similar route and tried to use the WoW-formula. The results speak for themselves. The sandbox and player-driven worlds of the past are simply that – the past.

The XP Gamer’s video, From SWG to ESO – What happened to the MMORPG?, offers a pretty accurate perspective. The Rise and Fall of Star Wars Galaxies gives an even more in-depth discussion of one gamer’s personal story, especially about his process of becoming a Jedi.

SWGEmu – A Few Good Men


The SWG community was so passionate about the game that it conceptualized the Star Wars Galaxies Emulator (SWGEmu). A team of developers would use reverse-engineering as the basis for re-creating the code of the game in its exact state before The Combat Upgrade (pre-CU) and bring back the world that we lost despite all our protests. It is 100% legal and much of the process is explained thoroughly on the SWGEmu FAQ. It is non-profit and is now being played by thousands of players regularly on the main Basilisk server. Development continues to go on. The SWG community is a testament to the magic of this game and the power of what a fanbase can do with enough willpower.

SWG Emu

John Smedley, the president of SOE, had admitted that things should have been managed better, and more recently, he did an AMA on Reddit. The Star Wars Galaxies generation would continue to be remembered as one of the greatest in MMORPG history. It was the game that really opened my eyes to the genre, and the friends I made in my guild would drastically influence which games I would play next, years later.

A New Saga – Early Days Before Launch


6

I was never lucky enough to have a proper computer growing up. All of my shots in Star Wars Galaxies were taken with the GeForce 4 MX 420 64 MB. We’re talking Stone Age shit here. Despite all that, the game had beautiful graphics, even today.

The official Star Wars Galaxies forums was the place to be back in 2002-2003. It all started with one thread by a poster named RobotConstructer. He basically asked, “So who wants to build a Rebel city on Naboo?”

There wasn’t much more to it than that. The idea grew fast. We came up with the concept of a Rebel city called “Grandor City.” With over 50 benefactors within the first few days, we knew this was something that could be serious. It was early during SWG’s development so we didn’t have a wealth of knowledge to draw from on how cities even worked. However, it was an awesome time brainstorming about what to build, how our government should work, and our stance with Imperial players within our city grounds. It was overkill sometimes but that was part of the fun.

grandor city logo

Grandor City Logo by Psbyran, circa 2002

Psbyran, a good friend of mine back then, created the official Grandor website and opened it on August 11th, 2002. It’s still up today, although it hasn’t aged well. Even still, it was good shit. We had an active forum and created a set of laws. We also created a militia squad and an elite-operations squad. The Internet Wayback Machine archive site is useful because many of these sites are now defunct.


Welcome to the website of Grandor! Grandor is a planned city for one of the most impressive mmorpgs called Star Wars Galaxies. This site is dedicated to those who want to join and who are alredy members of the city Grandor. Grandor was originally thought and planned by Jonas Grandt a.k.a his forum name, RobotConstructer. You may look at this site and say it’s not the best but I’m no graphics designer, so if you want to some cool images on here that you made, send them to me.

Psbyran, 8-11-02


Unfortunately, individuals had real life things to take care of during the development months of SWG. A few months doesn’t seem like much but it’s a substantial amount of time when waiting on a game that kept being delayed. RobotConstructer just quit one day and there was a large shake-up. Our following had grown to well over 100 active players. There were already rifts beginning to take place.


The idea man himself had the greatest idea, and that was to create Grandor. Where would I be, what happen to this PA, would I still play swg? Robotconstructer quit Grandor simply sending me a message on ICQ today. I forgot to save it but he said, he doesn’t want to play swg no more and he doesn’t have the time. I would like to thank Robo though. Without him, this PA would go nowhere and in fact there wouldn’t be a Grandor. I, the mayor of Grandor, still remain by its side as its best leader. Whatever it takes, I will never leave this PA until the day I die or swg 2 comes out :-).

-Psbyran, 10-15-02


Yil Geivan was the leader of Exodus and was the main war strategist for Crystal Valley. He is one of my best friends from that time and he also recruited me into Trinity (who I played WoW with). Trinity would later be the reason I got into EVE Online in 2010.

Yil Geivan was the leader of Exodus and war strategist for Crystal Valley, when all three of our brother guilds collaborated in Fall 2003. He is one of my best friends from that time and he also recruited me into Trinity (they were then split between World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies). Trinity would later introduce me to EVE Online in 2010.


Oath of the Peach Garden

Grandor split into three separate ways by the end of 2002:

  • Paragon Federation <TPF> (council leadership, Borg Iskaw was the last acting leader)
  • Crimson Republic <CR> (led by Jarel Elus, formerly Jaron Elus)
  • Exodus <EXO> (led by Yil Geivan, formerly Dax)

All three would become independent guilds (although the original Grandor founders would continue to remain in contact) and go their own ways on launch day. We operated our individual websites and forums. I was a part of Paragon Federation. My twin brother (named Gotep Vegitunks), who was also following the game at the time, went with Crimson Republic. No troll. So we definitely knew each others’ guilds well. We often called ourselves “brother guilds.” <TPF>, <CR>, and <EXO> were essentially made up of the original founders of Grandor.

And so the stage was set. Star Wars Galaxies was released on June 26th, 2003 to worldwide critical acclaim (and a ton of bugs). I was unfortunate and wasn’t able to sub until much later after launch day, but the game was insane. All three of our guilds chose the Chilastra server and decided to be Rebels as per the original plan. The pieces were in place and history was about to be made. In the end, we were just a few ripples among the colossal waves of impact that the community had in this player-driven economy. We didn’t even know that our brother guilds would eventually cross paths again and build one of the greatest cities in the game’s history. Just one among many.

Everyone had a story to tell.


A Tale of Three Rebels

In the following memoirs, screenshots are used from three different characters’ perspectives:

  • Spawnarak’ <TPF> – my sole Trandoshan character under Paragon Federation (Chilastra server)
  • Gotep Vegitunks <CR> – my twin brother’s Human character under the Crimson Republic (Chilastra server)
  • Moosacca/Aice Eavie <TRNTY> – a Wookiee and the leader of Trinity Republic in its golden age on the Starsider server, who has given me permission to post his screenshots on behalf of our guild. Aice Eavie’s pictures (his alt) are from the Beta testing period (Starsider server)

Through these snapshots in time between two different servers, I hope to portray the things that made this game so timeless, and why it continues to inspire millions of people to this day.


The Paragon Federation – Chilastra


My character was a Trandoshan named Spawnarak'. My earliest professions were Marskman and Scout, the pre-requisites to train in the Bounty Hunter profession. This is an old shot of my character chilling near the city hall around when he was working on Pistoleer skills to augment the pistol Bounty Hunter skill tree.

My character was a Trandoshan named Spawnarak’. The story of Paragon Federation is the story of my journey in Star Wars Galaxies. I was one of the original founders in our movement to split from Grandor in late 2002, and I took a large part in the effort to bring our guilds back together for our original vision, the dream that RobotConstructer once had – build a damn good city on Naboo.

A Guide to Guilds


Hunting and Exploration


Hunting and Exploration

The world size in Star Wars Galaxies was quite large. The bestiary had all manner of NPCs and monsters. The great thing about hunting and exploring was the social interaction. Going on long treks from the nearest shuttleport with your best friends, setting up camps, skinning, and taking down end-game level creatures for loot and XP was interesting no matter how many times you did it. SWG didn’t hold the player’s hand and point him exactly where to go. The developers created many secret areas in the game that players had to find for themselves. The sheer size of the planets made you feel quite small among the ongoing events across the galaxy.

A Guide to Exploration


Deadly Planets


Deadly Planets

The difficulty levels varied across the planets in SWG. Greatly. Planets like Dathomir had difficult terrain and held some of the most powerful NPCs in the game, like the Force-Sensitive Nightsisters. It was also home to the Rancor, whose babies could be trained by skilled Creature Handlers. Each planet had its unique creatures and environment, and there was no level-based heiarchy that forced you to go from one planet to another in a particular order. A newbie would get his shit wrecked by Dathomir, but the game still allowed that freedom of choice. Traveling with a more experienced group of players opened many doors for you that would have otherwise been closed.

A Guide to Getting Paid


Player Cities – Crystal Valley, the First Metropolis on Dantooine


Crystal Valley from the City Hall

Player cities were one of the defining features of Star Wars Galaxies. The pinnacle of my short time that I played the game (before real life obligations) was bringing Paragon Federation (my guild), Crimson Republic, and Exodus back together on the Grandor project, which ultimately became Crystal Valley. Its mayor would be Jarel Elus (leader of CR), and he spearheaded the architecture and blueprint of the city with our help.

We wanted to do something that’s never been done before. RobotConstructer’s dream of the ultimate Rebel city was what drew us to this game. The amount of organization we did on the level of government, commerce, and military was overkill in hindsight. But when the patch that allowed player cities to be built was implemented, our city quickly made history. In the dangerous and remote stretches of land far away from towns, a well-built player city made life significantly easier for thousands of people on the server every day. Although renowned on the server, many aspects of Crystal Valley were overshadowed by great cities from the other servers, at different points in time.

A Guide to Player Cities


Player Housing


Spawnarak's Mansion

The game had extensive options for player housing and furniture. Other MMORPGs also had housing but not to the extent of SWG. Owning a piece of real estate actually meant something, especially when it was in the middle of nowhere on a backwater planet. You could log in and say “Hey let’s go chill at this dude’s house at the Commercial District” and you could drive a landspeeder there and check out all the newest items he used to decorate his rooms. Owning an expensive commodity made your name well known. Weaponsmiths and Armorsmiths used their houses to display their craftsmanship, as well as base their operations with vendors. My mansion was weak compared to most people but I had a few rare things of my own, like a living pre-nerf bio-engineered Kimogila.

A Guide to Player Housing


Player-Driven Economy – How to Start a Business


Shops and Vendors on Dantooine

The player-driven economy in Star Wars Galaxies set it completely apart from other MMORPGs. All the professions were dependent on one another. A Doctor’s medpacks, a Weaponsmith’s rifle, a Tailor’s specially crafted uniform, and all other types of items all originated from players at some point. Among Weaponsmithing were sub-specialties like melee weapons (vibroknucklers), heavy weapons (for Commandos), pistols, rifles, and so on. It was a remarkably complex crafting system. It wasn’t as pure of a player-influenced economy like EVE Online is today, but it was one of the early pioneers of the concept. The same type of item could have drastically different stats and bonuses based on who actually crafted it, and his specific methods. The best weapons and armor were made by players, not obtained from loot.

Certain players became famous for being the best, like  Stettin Palver the Weaponsmith, and his shop, X-Force Weapons. Anyone who ever played on Chilastra would never forget his name. I owned a few of his weapons myself that can be seen in my screenshots. Operating vendors and fueling the industry was intricately connected to player cities and their attractions. My own PA, Paragon Federation, had a few famous individuals that helped spread the commercial influence of the city from within their own respective crafting careers.

A Guide to Crafting


The Galactic Civil War


Operation Rancor Mission Debriefing

This was an era when the Empire held thousands of systems firmly in its control. The Rebellion was just exiting the primordial soup of its creation, and there was yet to be a spark that would ignite an all out Galactic Civil War. Jedi were extremely rare and they found themselves with even fewer allies. With the Empire after them, the best bounty hunters in the universe would track them down to the end of their days in hopes of great rewards.

Within these screenshots are moments of the Galactic Civil War between the Rebels and Imperials captured as they happened, from both Moosacca’s perspective (Starsider) and mine (Chilastra).

A Guide to Planetary Control


Krayt Dragon Hunting


Canyon Krayt Dragon

Krayt Dragon hunting was everyone’s favorite past-time. Deep in the deserts of Tatooine, the Krayt Graveyard was home to the highest concentration of these gargantuan beasts in the entire game. The Krayt Dragon Ancient, not pictured above, was one of the most difficult end-game creatures to kill, if not the hardest. Its strength rivaled the Dark Jedi Master. To reward the high risk involved in taking these critters down, the loot drops were incredibly valuable. Krayt Dragon pearls were used in the construction of lightsabers. Just because they were few did not mean the Jedi didn’t exist at all.

A Guide to Krayt Dragons


Trinity Republic – Starsider


Reeling it in

Trinity Republic would be the multi-gaming guild that Yil Geivan (my oldest friend from my time in SWG) would recruit me to after I returned from a long break from gaming due to studies in 2005. Crystal Valley, Paragon Federation, and everything I’ve known back then had collapsed due to inactivity, especially after Jarel Elus (mayor of Crystal Valley) quit the game. Trinity Republic would see me through the entirety of World of Warcraft from 2005 to 2010, in between several stretches of breaks. Trinity also brought me to EVE Online, a game that I still play today.

In 2003-2004 I had no idea what Trinity Republic was, as I was caught up in the daily dramas of my own server, Chilastra. Trinity was a tight-knit family type PA on the Starsider server, the winner of the server’s Nym’s Scavenger Event, and a force to be reckoned with in its prime. We stay in touch to this day. Even though all good things come to an end, these memories should never be forgotten. The screenshots taken in this section are from the perspective of Moosacca (aka Moose), an up and coming Wookiee who eventually became mayor of Trinity City and one of the guild’s most prominent leaders. He led it through its golden age and its most turbulent times.

I remember Yil Geivan telling me “these guys have seen the tough times, and they started out just like we did.” I knew it to be true from the very first day I joined Trinity. It was a twist of fate that the seemingly small choice of choosing what server you will play on from day one could cause you to miss an entire lifetime of good times and old friends.


The Jedi and the Force


The Holocron

Gotep Vegitunks was my twin brother’s main character. He followed Crimson Republic in the months leading up to Crystal Valley. The leader of CR, Jarel Elus, would become the first and last mayor of Crystal Valley itself. Gotep Vegitunks used a holocron here for the first time, and was given his first task on the path to becoming a Jedi.

Before the New Game Enhancement (NGE), becoming a Jedi took a dedicated player several months just to unlock the Force Sensitive slot. In the earliest days of Star Wars Galaxies, it was said that there were only a few Jedi that existed per server. When a Force-sensitive slot was unlocked, there would be a global message on every players’ screen. The path of becoming a Jedi was a perilous one, as bounty hunters shadowed your every movement and the punishment for death was cruel and unusual. Your entire game was based on secrecy. It should have stayed that way.

Months after launch, the developers created another way to unlock the Force-sensitive slot. The rare and expensive Holocrons would become an influental part of the game. It was also a large economic motivator in building Crystal Valley on Dantooine, near the Force Crystal Hunters Cave.

A Guide to Becoming a Jedi


Teräs Käsi Artist


Teras Kasi Artist

Spawnarak’ went through several different professions during his relatively short-lived career in Star Wars Galaxies. My first goal was Bounty Hunter, which required the mastery of both Marksman and Scout. I focused on the pistol and heavy weapon trees in Bounty Hunter while dabbling in Pistoleer. Becoming a Jedi was one of the last things I wanted to do, especially when there were so many other great choices available. I later trained as a Creature Handler and eventually made the decision to become a Teräs Käsi Artist. It was somewhat a FOTM profession after it got buffed out of oblivion. Martial arts was a major element in the Star Wars universe, like Vaapad, Echani, and other forms.  Also, the ability to solo three full-grown Enraged Bull Rancors at the same time without any armor appealed to me.

It would be the last profession I would train before I had to quit Star Wars Galaxies for good in 2004.

A Guide to Teräs Käsi Artist and Brawling


The World We Wrote


There is not much more that can be said to describe the extent of what this game did. It brought us together, it taught us how to create guilds, fight through difficult obstacles, and captured the human experience in a way we could never imagine within a universe we loved so much. For many of us, it was a period of great growth, both physical and mental. It’s easy to look at the game in hindsight and bash its graphics (even though it was state of the art at the time) and talk shit about its old bugs and imbalance issues. But it was truly a pioneer.

It has influenced many games that came out after it and it continues to be a stark history lesson for those wise enough to look back and learn from one of gaming’s greatest mistakes. My story in Star Wars Galaxies was ultimately dwarfed by others, but to me, it was the world entire. Playing the game with my friends, many of whom I will never see again, even for just a couple of years, was worth it all.