The Origins of SWGEmu
Like all great movements, SWGEmu began simply as an idea. There was no official developer team, no funds, and the community was rather loose. But there was one thing on everyone’s mind:
“How the fuck do we bring back pre-CU?”
It was not long after the advent of the NGE and so there were many uncertainties on the legal aspects of what this “project” intended to do and whether it could survive the difficult task of running an entire MMORPG. Star Wars Galaxies, despite its shortcomings, was a large game with hundreds of thousands of subscribers at one point, and it wasn’t an easy task to handle even for a company like SOE, as history has shown.
The main focus behind SWGEmu is answered on the SWGEmu FAQ page on the official website. I first registered on February 10th, 2007, when the organization was still in its infancy age. The testing server was not playable that early. I did not set foot in the Star Wars Galaxies world again until 2010, and it felt like the first breath out of a coma. SWGEmu had a functional server but there was a lot of content missing. Certain professions did not have their full abilities implemented and complicated systems like player cities had a long period of testing before they were to be seen in-game. There were not that many players at this time but the developer team had learned a great deal through these trials and tribulations.
The technical history of SWGEmu and general timeframe of the major test server changes can be found here.
The Developers as of 2009
As SWGEmu is open source, a full account of who has contributed to the project is impossible. However, as of 2009, the Official SWGEmu Development Team consists of the following people, some only known under their aliases:
- Ramsey Kant (Ramsey)
- Jason Marion (Ultyma)
- Victor Popovici (The Answer)
- Akos Rajna (Oru)
- Tanner Kalstrom (Seaseme)
- Kyle Burkhardt (kyle)
- Joe Sylve (Bobius)
- Chris Rush (cRush)
- Todd Hooper (Thoop)
There were also many former developers, including:
- Michael Kuklinski (Antman)
A full and current listing of the SWGEmu team can be found on the SWGEmu Website.
The Technology Used
The SWGEmu’s server software, named Core3, is a dedicated gaming layer written in C++. Due to its basis in Unix framework, Core3 is able to be compiled for almost any *nix operating system, including Windows using Cygwin.
SWGEmu’s gaming engine, built from scratch by Oru and TheAnswer (SWGEmu’s Software Architects), is named Engine3. It is a closed source proprietary library written in C++. Limited public libraries are available for open source testing and development, which have a timeout of 1 hour and a maximum user connection of 20. These restrictions, however, will be lifted upon the v1.0 release of Core3.
Core3 utilizes CORBA technology (paired with an IDL) to allow for server clustering and distributed object brokering. It also uses a packet encryption method designed by Sony Online Entertainment, which was reversed from the client and used in order to communicate with the SWG Client (the client source code is property of SOE and unavailable to the public). Core3’s database compatibility currently includes only the mySQL open source server, which features the same compatibility options as Core3. In 2009, preliminary work began on converting Core3 to utilize the Berkeley Database architecture system for improved performance and management.
Scripts for Core3 are written in LUA to allow flexible content management without recompiling the source code.
Core3 is able to be compiled to target both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures (x86).
Core3, SWGEmu’s Game Server, is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), and is available for download from the SWGEmu Development website.
Asking the Right Questions
The task of re-building an entire game through reverse engineering with a ragtag team of volunteer developers sounded impossible. But was it legally sanctioned? That was the beaten to death horse.
Q. What is SWGEmu?
A. SWGEmu is an acronym/abbreviation for Star Wars Galaxies Emulator.
Star Wars Galaxies is a massively multi-player online role playing game introduced by Sony Online Entertainment in the year 2003. It is the game this project focuses to recreate at a specific milestone referred to as Pre-CU, or Pre-Combat Upgrade. The Combat Upgrade was a set of game changes which radically changed the game-play, to the dislike of thousands of players. These changes led to the founding of this project, in an attempt to “recreate” the game as it was during the Pre-CU era.
Emulator can be defined as “to try to equal or excel; imitate with effort to equal or surpass” (Dictionary.com). At SWGEmu, Emulator refers to the software the SWGEmu team is building. This Emulator is meant to imitate Sony Online Entertainment’s server-side software, which hosted the galaxies of Star Wars Galaxies during the Pre-CU era.
Q. Does SWGEmu use any of Sony Online Entertainment’s code?
A. The absolute and short answer is no. Every bit of code developed at the SWGEmu project has been written from scratch by freelance developer’s committing their time and effort to the SWGEmu project without the benefit of financial gain.
Q. Has SWGEmu ever seen Sony Online Entertainment’s code?
A. Absolutely not. In fact, Sony Online Entertainment persists that they have lost the code entirely. Not only does this make it impossible for SWGEmu to utilize the code as reference if Sony Online Entertainment was kind enough to grant permission to do so, but it makes it impossible for Sony Online Entertainment to release classic Pre-CU servers to rival what SWGEmu aims to accomplish.
Q. How does SWGEmu develop the software without Sony Online Entertainment’s code?
A. SWGEmu’s software is written through a process known as Reverse Engineering. By applying the Scientific Method, SWGEmu’s developers observe game-play, and then attempt to recreate it’s experience through programming.
Q. If SWGEmu writes all of it’s own code, why does the game feel so much like Sony Online Entertainment’s version?
A. This is the objective of the project – Imitating an exact replica of Star Wars Galaxies at the era of Pre-CU. This simply is testament to the fact that the SWGEmu developers are doing a fantastic job writing code which emulates the same game Sony Online Entertainment once provided. Furthermore, if you are using Sony Online Entertainment’s client application to connect to an SWGEmu server, then this will only reinforce the nostalgic feel.
Q. Is SWGEmu legal?
A. This question pops up about once per month on our forums, but the never changing answer is simply, yes. Understand, there is a fine line which SWGEmu has yet to cross. Since SWGEmu doesn’t distribute any of Sony Online Entertainment’s copyrighted material, it does not break any copyright laws. SWGEmu works very hard to stay within it’s legal right to produce it’s software, and will do it’s best to never include copyrighted materials, or infringe on any software patents.
How to Install the SWGEmu Client
To setup SWGEmu, you will need an ORIGINAL Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) client, yes ORIGINAL Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) client. You can not use 14 day trial client or any other trial client, you can not use client obtained through torrent or warez sites. So if you don’t own an original client, SOE’s digital copy or original CD’s, get yourself one. You can buy original CD’s cheap on e-bay or amazon.com. There are quite a few versions that have been released over the years and any version of SWG will work.
The process of installing the game is explained step-by-step in the SWGEmu Installation Guide on the main website.
A Few Good Men
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of losing all hope in the face of a tyrannical oppressor. My character’s life in Star Wars Galaxies was short-lived so I was saved the full brunt of losing everything I ever owned in this game when the servers closed in late 2011. However, the game “died” years before that. The closing of the servers was more of a mercy killing at that point.
You can’t win, Darth. Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.Obi-Wan Kenobi
The greatest casualties were the countless guilds that devolved into inactivity as core members of their groups left the game in frustration. To put it simply, the changes that were meant to improve the game instead led to the downfall of the organizations that have taken years to build up. I hope that SOE understands one day, the full extent of the consequences that took place because of their decision.
Because of SWGEmu, game developers would never look at their respective communities the same way again.
Our love for the game was strong, despite a rapidly progressing genre and the constant threat of the game being doomed to obscurity because of its age. It was never about the looks – it was about the depth of it all. The social interaction, the sandbox, and the choice of following your own free path are timeless features of an MMORPG and no amount of time will ever change this. The SWGEmu team is living proof that there are good men in the world who will never back down no matter how hard the struggle becomes. Our community continues to back these volunteers’ efforts and there’s no telling what we may see another few years from now.
Basilisk Server – The State of the Game
Mobyus summarizes the important details of the state of SWGEmu (as of Publish 5) in this video. The project now has a ticket and even a Live Support system. It is free to play but donations are always welcome to help the efforts of bringing the game to completion – and beyond.
At the time of this writing, the Basilisk server has 2,045 players online right now. It is remarkable how far the game has come from literally beyond the grave. Such things can only come out of a strongly rooted community. The strength of the memories we’ve all made together over the years served as the inspiration to bring back Pre-CU Star Wars Galaxies. It is a testament to the fact that video games, as foolish as they may seem, have the power to bring humans together and lead them to do amazing things.
Many players and guilds who lost contact after quitting the game more than ten years ago were brought back together. Seeing players share their individual stories and re-building their old guilds is priceless. The SWGEmu team has made it possible.Back to Star Wars Galaxies Chronicles