Working As Intended: Returning to Star Wars Galaxies – in 2018


If you’ve followed the Massively OP Podcast this summer or read any of my ramblings in Daily Grinds and WRUPs, you probably know that I fell into a nostalgia trap, the best kind of nostalgia trap because it’s not really nostalgia at all. In fact, it was one of you lovely readers who suggested during our Star Wars Galaxies 15th anniversary stream on the original SWGemu that we try out a semi-new emulator, an NGE emulator, one called Legends. I bookmarked it, and one bored day in July, I sat down and figured out how to get it up and running. I got logged in. I made a new toon. I slogged through the old tutorial. I didn’t really expect much, but I decided to give it a try, figuring at least I’ve have something to talk about on the next podcast. Research, you know? So I emerged on Tatooine, scribbled down a plan, and got to work.

And I haven’t really wanted to play anything else since.

We go back a long way, Star Wars Galaxies and me. I had been playing MMORPGs almost six years already when my guild landed in SWG in 2003. I was a big fan of the economy-centered sandbox design of Raph Koster thanks to Ultima Online, and if stanning had existed in the ’90s, yeah, that would’ve applied to me and the whole Star Wars franchise. With that combo, you could say that SWG was destined to be my game. I was absolutely obsessive about it until my guild lost interest, WoW happened, the NGE happened, and life happened. Even so, I eventually found myself back in the game again, fabulously wealthy, with piles of characters and stories and money and deco and resources and multiple merchant empires. If SOE hadn’t sunsetted the game in 2011, I would still be there. As I wrote that same year, not long before, while the original NGE was admittedly garbage, SOE did eventually coax the game back into something beautiful. By the end, it even had atmospheric flight.

In short, I genuinely believe that in spite of its many flaws and messy development history, it was the best MMORPG ever built, one of the last few to roll out without much of WoW’s influence, at the height of creativity for the genre, with my favorite PvP system, an intricate economy, and an engrossing housing situation. It’s been the MMORPG to beat for a very long time. A dead 2003 MMORPG is the sandbox to beat! It’s absurd that I am typing this, but here we are.

And yet I’ve always been meh on the long-running SWGemu. Even when I talked my guildies into playing with me again, the “this is a test server that will someday be wiped” fog hung heavy over it. Suncrusher, SWGemu’s live version, has been “just a few years off” for many years now. And critically, to me, the game is a time capsule. The gallons of content and gear and craftables available in the years post-NGE will never be in that emulator, by design. The developers, perhaps wisely, chose to leave those additions up to other server admins.

That brings me to Legends, which as far as I can tell is basically the next-to-last build of the original game from 2011, meaning it’s got nearly everything I wanted. Its devs have embellished a bit; I’ve spied perks like double resources and new housing, just for a start. A couple of readers asked me to do a video on getting started in Legends, but it’s actually too late for me because I’ve already rolled and “finished” my five allotted characters, so I can’t roll new ones and show you the tutorial and whatnot. The good news is that I can boil down getting started into a reasonably quick guide of how I went from zero to hero instead, and plenty of other folks have already done walkthroughs on getting the tech side up and running.

Deploy the fleet

The biggest hurdle to playing is finding a base copy of the game client. I am still using a copy of my old install, since I long since tossed my disks, but you can grab a set of disks from Ebay or dig around for a torrent. I can’t endorse a specific one since I haven’t personally gone that route, but Google can help. Then you’re going to need to download the Legends files. I’ve found that it’s simplest to use a different copy of the game for each emulator I run – don’t try to use your original SWGemu client for an NGE emulator. YouTuber Intrepid Dawn has a quick walkthrough of getting the client all set up, so no need to repeat that. The client UI tooks a bit different now, but it’s basically all the same options.

As I noted yesterday, no SWG emulator is officially sanctioned, so you’re playing at your own risk. However, former SOE devs have tacitly supported the vast SWG emulator community for years, so you can decide for yourself how legitimate the scene is for you.

Simple tricks and nonsense

You can have one account with five characters on the server, called Omega, with three logged in at the same time, meaning you can bot them around for harvesting, buff them, trade between them easily, pop them in the same guild, swap structures, and even run them all AFK surveying somewhere. This is probably the most contentious thing about this version of the game, as the final SWG build allowed only two characters per server, but in reality, multiple accounts were super common, and these devs are trying to mimic the SWG reality: Time was always the real limiting reagent in doing everything, not characters. If you’re a family needing more than one account, be prepared to jump through hoops to get one or risk a ban.

This is an NGE build, meaning you’ll be picking a class as you log in. You can change your class for free, once per month; additional changes accrue fees over time. If you need to delete a character and reroll, you cannot use the name of the toon you just deleted. Old names do not expire on this server as they did on SOE’s servers. Things I learned the hard way!

Mods are legal in this version of the game. The launcher itself includes options to run some graphical mods that are built right into the client – I can recommend them! – but players have also been working on restoring and updating (or at least archiving) other mods. I personally run the one that replaces the NGE UI with a more classic look and the one that allows you to choose from the full palette of options when creating a character, among others. Making some of my mods compatible with this version of the game accounted for most of my startup time (I really hate the NGE UI!), so maybe set this part aside until you’re really invested.

I strongly recommend doing the tutorial on Tansarii Point Station with at least your first toon. It is tedious and frankly a terrible introduction to the game (it still burns me up that the tutorial doesn’t take advantage of the remote questing system that SWG basically pioneered); however, it’ll get you to level 10 with a small stack of cash, which you are going to need. It’ll also remind you how to play!

When you first land on Tatooine, waste no time and get your free stuff: type /flash and /segoggle to snag a free speeder and googles for your toon. You can also type /claim to see what other goodies you can get; there’s an ATV, for example, that is usable on every character and will help you travel faster. Likewise, the free yacht will allow you to use your own ship to insta-travel to other planets. After about 10 days, you get vet rewards too, many of which are salable. Probably the best reward available early on is the free level 90 booster – don’t waste this on anything but a combat class!

An analysis of the plans

So here’s what I did. The first character I made was an Entertainer. I ran her through Tansarii to level 10 and emerged with about 10,000 credits, which I used to buy an instrument I liked and some nice clothes because I am bad at taking my own powergaming advice and really just wanted to look cool. No regrets, though. Then I got her set up in Mos Eisley cantina – the back, mind you, where she wouldn’t interfere with the live acts – and began the macro to 90. Occasionally along the way, I’d run out to the Entertainer mission terminals and pick up a few that were located inside that exact cantina, then go back and continue dancing to make a few thousand creds for nothing, rinse and repeat. Make sure to spec for buffs as soon as you can and buff your own experience gain along the way! Even if you have no interest in Ents for legit performance and tips, having an Entertainer on your account to pass out buffs – say, inside your own house – is handy. You can also go the Combat Entertainer route to do missions, though on this server, it’s not necessary.

As that was going, I also rolled a Structures Trader. If you know you want to make a crafter, save yourself some pain and just start as Structures; you can respec later to what you’d really like to do, and Structures is the fastest to level. A lot of folks will use the old fountains/gungan heads speed macro to grind it out in a few hours, but since I was starting with no resources or money, I parked my Structures gal on an ore spot and started hand sampling for days.

While those two characters were going, I then rolled my Smuggler and applied the level 90 booster. Pick any combat class; it really doesn’t matter at this point (again, you can switch). I went with Smuggler for two big reasons: I am super familiar with it from live, and I wanted to take advantage of mission terminal slicing for extra cash. The trick is that while you’re level 90 for nothing, you don’t get free level 90 gear. So for the first week of play, I took that character out, got her buffed, and carefully took on combat terminal missions; your first 16 every day, starting at 3 p.m. EDT, will pay out in full, so you can make some decent cash this way, either quickly (taking humanoid missions, selling junk) or slowly for even more cash (creature lairs, selling hide and enzymes). As I scored mission money, I bought capped armor, a sweet pistol, and food, all from player vendors, which made the process even easier.

Eventually, doing this every day while macroing the other characters on the side, I had enough dough to fund my Structures Trader; I bought her cheap resources and harvesters so that she could amass serious resources and really get her grind to 90 done, which I accomplished by hand-crafting factories and selling them on the bazaar – again, making money rather than blowing it grinding the fast way. Remember, when you’re angling to place harvesters, check out SWGCraft or Galaxy Harvester to figure out the resources worth getting. People do update these for the emulators! SWG Aide still works too, and I flat out won’t play without this lovely tool!

At the 10-day mark, your vet rewards flow in. My recommendation would be to research the going rate of each tier of reward and then sell them accordingly using your new Trader. You should be able to pull in millions of credits this way, particularly on items like the Resource Crate. In fact, a really lazy player would skip all the above, just roll characters and wait 10 days and come back for the free stuff to sell it, but I wanted to play and get an even bigger head start.

I happened to take my other two characters and also make them Traders, since the economy is why I play and I knew I wanted to get back into crafting. Clearly a lot of people on this server are into combat and PvP and would prefer to have a bunch of combat characters instead. A Medic or Officer for buffs and supply drops, for example, would be handy, and of course most people will probably roll up one of those glowstick-wielding sorcerer types because it’s Star Wars. If I weren’t so into crafting, I’d probably reroll my Medic/Beastmaster from live and start winding through the Legacy questline for fun (I still might!). Another route might have been to go straight into piloting, which always makes a ton of money if you’re really good at it.

One thing I do want to note: As I’m primarily an economy player in a sandbox, the health of the economy is paramount to me. I see claims that the game has 6000 players and see 1000 accounts logged in most of the time, which initially seemed low to me. But truthfully, I would not have been able to get as far as I have without a respectable economy, given that most of the money I’ve made and nearly all of the items I’ve bought have been from players directly in trade. I could certainly hope for an economy akin to Starsider at its peak, but I will say that so far I’m cautiously optimistic about this one compared to other emulators (for SWG and other games) I’ve played.

That doesn’t sound too hard

Is there a better way to do all of this? Probably! But this is what I did, and it worked, and I now have a bunch of functioning toons, a growing bank account, a fleet of factories and harvesters, and a trove of resources to help me craft, plus a replica of one of my houses from live, decorated pretty close to what I had there, which was sort of my original goal all along. I’m obviously not at the point of having billions of credits and resources and rares as I did when the lights went out in 2011 – yet – and since this is a player-run emulator, the lights could go out tomorrow and everything I just did this summer would be for naught. But I’m shocked that I was able to get as far as I did in less than two months. More importantly, I’m not bored (just the opposite!) and I’m tickled to see that the game holds up through the nostalgia.

And if I can do this, starting over with nothing but knowledge? Then so can anyone else who’s feeling the pull of a true Star Wars sandbox. I’m just feeling foolish for not giving it a serious try before now.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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