Focus On Cough Unofficial Servers

Private Servers.

Unofficial implementations of an MMO have been around for a long while, existing in a space somewhere between “informally ignored” and “actively sued” by the games companies who developed the games they’re now emulating.

But are do they actually provide a valuable service for the MMO community? Here are two bloggers who think that they do indeed.

  • Syp looks at the MMO abandonware world, showcasing five projects that aim – very successfully, in some cases – to keep MMOs that have been killed by their parent companies alive. From Star Wars Galaxies to Shadowbane, it’s a fascinating list.

    Read “Five Emulators That Are Keeping Dead MMOs Alive” »

  • And Ardwulf looks at the role of private servers as “retro” servers for still-existing MMOs, allowing WoW players (for example) who miss the good old days a chance to go back and relive them. Note that you won’t get any links to these dubiously-legal services here – just discussion of the theory.

    Read “Retro Servers And A Light At The End Of The Tunnel” »

Read more →

How one man helped destroy Star Wars Galaxies

Before SWTOR, there was another.

Star Wars Galaxies was one of the earlier MMORPGs out there, launched in the pre-WoW days when MMOs were much more of a niche interest. It dwindled in recent years, partially thanks to some ill-concieved attempts to revamp its system and gameplay, and was shut down just before the release of SWTOR last year.

A couple of days ago published a really fascinating piece from someone who had more than a small involvement in the game – a trading player who ended up playing the trading game so well he essentially owned the economy on more than four servers. He tells his story from first hearing about SWG to the time when he shut his empire down, sick of the changes that had been made to the game – and in doing so, more or less shut down the servers on which he ran his shops

“I clearly remember the day that I realized I had done it. It was maybe two or three months in, and I controlled not only the land around Coronet, but Theed as well. It was mine. People used my vendors because they were closer, and for no other reason. Slowly I increased my prices, 2%, 5%, 10%… and they lined up to buy. People were hologrinding and didn’t care what it cost. It was a full-time gig just keeping the vendors supplied.

Six months in and I realized I had more money than I could ever possibly spend. I needed to off-load it, and I needed help. Enter the Thai.

His name was Tan, and he needed a reliable stream of credits. See, Tan worked for a re-seller and my little enterprise was making his job difficult. He had no problem on other servers, but on those that I was on, his percentages were way down. Why not work together? Why not indeed. After a week of negotiations and arrangements we were set and money was changing hands, with an interesting side-effect.

The same people who were buying my credits from Tan were turning around and using them at my vendors, usually with more of their own credits as well.”

Yep, this guy supplied gold farmers, and for that reason you might find his story unpalatable – or not, since he also wasn’t involved in any of the shady dealings usually associated in the media with gold-farming enterprises.

But nonetheless, this is a fascinating tale with a number of ramifications for other MMOs – including WoW. It’s really interesting to discover just how much an MMO server – which is interchangable with the game itself for many people – can be controlled and affected by just one person.

I know at least one guildmate of mine who has a similar stranglehold over a large section of the WoW server I play on – and who has been talking about quitting the game. When he does, it’s going to be close to impossible, at least for a while, to buy goods in the areas in which he traded, and where he has very successfully driven out most competition.

I wonder if the next stage of MMORPG evolution will involve games companies realising the power individual “super-players” can have on their servers – whether they’re running the economy or organising raids? Perhaps we’ll see a situation similar to that on poker sites, where the heavier and more influential the player you are, the better the rewards you get, up to the point where you’re actually being paid to play the game?

What do you think of all this?

Read more →

A World Dies – the end of Star Wars Galaxies

After more than a decade of massively multiplayer games, it’s a very rare event still for a game to close its doors – and a very sad one. Whether the game was a success or a failure commercially, thousands – sometimes millions – of people have invested themselves in the virtual world any MMO creates.

With the single press of a command key on a distant server somewhere, that world ceases to be. More than likely, forever.

Yesterday, Star Wars: Galaxies shut down. Here are some of the posts that hit the blogosphere mourning its passing:

  • The Ancient Gaming Noob was there to watch the end of the game, and to find out how it all ended“A couple of other people showed up, choosing Jabba’s palace to be their final resting place in SWG. I listened to the players, long term veterans of the game, talk about the game while we were reminded every minute that the server was going down and that we should go some place safe to log out.”
  • Third Age Films recorded a tribute to the game’s many sights and sounds. It goes on a bit, but it’s stirring none the less, and is a great reminder that even compared to today’s games, SWG had some pretty stunning moments
  • Ardwulf mourns SWG and the way that he feels it was forced into conformity“Eight years ago Star Wars’ place in the MMO space lie with a game too revolutionary for its own good, so innovative that the Lucas goons had to put a boot on its neck to force it to conform.”
  • Massively interviewed the maker of Third Age’s tribute (above) about what she’ll remember from SWG“Once we discovered who among us was being hunted, several of us went down to make small talk with the Bounty Hunter. Meanwhile, the target remained upstairs, stocking up on every buff and enhancement imaginable. Before long, he came outside and proceeded to teach the Bounty Hunter a lesson in front of at least a dozen spectators.”
  • And I’ll close off with an old link to my own first introduction to SWG: the Machinima film Fallen, which I first featured on when the game came out, many years ago. It’s fantastic work, and captures much of what’s great about any MMO

I’m not sure we’ve ever really seen something similar to the closure of an MMO in the recent history of art. Sure, series end and books are finished, but we can always go back and watch them again. But with the closure of SWG, no-one will ever be able to experience that art again – barring an unofficial and possibly illegal fan-server. It’s a throwback to an age before recorded media, almost, where the death of a musician or storyteller meant no-one would ever hear their stories again.

It’s strange, and sad.

Update – “No. There is another.” – check out the SWG Emu project . I may contact these guys about an interview soon!

What are your thoughts on the closure of Star Wars Galaxies?

Read more →