Hyperspace Beacon: The Star Wars MMOs and communities beyond SWTOR


Time flies: I am now coming up on nine years of covering Star Wars: The Old Republic professionally. Of course, I was a Star Wars and Star Wars Galaxies fan way before that. Not only have things changed in the game over that many years, but the sites that covered the game have all changed, and even the crew from this site moved from one venue to another. The famous editor of the daily newspaper Le Figaro, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, once said, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Like many things around SWTOR, this column is going to change up a bit, but in some aspects, it’s going to remain the same or even return to its roots. When this column launched, the two Star Wars games the site covered were Star Wars Galaxies and Star Wars: The Old Republic. One had not launched yet. Since then, our overall coverage of Star Wars games hasn’t really changed much. We still cover SWTOR and recently the SWG emulators too. This column should reflect that.

Star Wars Galaxies EMU

Since SWG officially shutdown in 2011, I haven’t covered much if anything that’s happened to the community. And if you haven’t been paying attention along the way, then you won’t know that the SWG community is still alive and doing pretty well. The emulators are thriving. In fact, I am surprised at the number of emulators out there, but it only makes sense given that the emulator code is open source. Heck, there was even a point in time when I considered opening an emulator myself.

I don’t think the emulators are going to go anywhere soon unless they become a real threat against what Disney is doing with the franchise. So I have decided to start covering them in earnest. There are emulators of many different flavors. SWG had three different combat systems; all are represented in some fashion. Some are actually expanding beyond what the original game offered.

In the coming weeks and months, I’m going to explore the different types of EMUs and give a rundown of what they offer. Of course, as someone who played SWG since its beta, I have seen everything that the original game did, so I will give you my insights into what the EMUs are doing — and how they are better or worse.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

The content schedule has clearly diminished since the days when SWTOR would release new information about the game every week, but there is still a stream of content worthy of being covered here.

SWTOR has promised to return to its roots, including bringing back some very noteworthy characters, like Malgus and Gnost-Dural. Of course, the BioWare team also promised to give us more of the Republic-vs.-Empire fight we have longed for since Shadow of Revan started combining the storylines.

I should be clear that this column will not cover Anthem, even though it’s made by the same studio. But I am interested in what some of the SWTOR influencers (BioWare’s words, not mine) are doing to keep content alive. If we look at someone like Vulkk, we can see that his content is expanded to games like the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, pop culture, and Anthem, of course. I have always been a community person, and I will always track what’s happening to some of my favorite fanbases.

Online roleplay

Much of the success of Star Wars as a franchise leans on its roleplay community. Of course, there are those players who like to dance on top of a table in whatever the latest Star Wars game is and call it roleplay. Fine, that is roleplay too, but the roleplay community for Star Wars stretches much further than that. Star Wars big-wigs like Pablo Hidalgo started in the Star Wars roleplay community before books like Heir to the Empire were a thought in Timothy Zahn‘s head. Hidalgo, if you weren’t aware, is part of the LucasFilm Story Group, which controls everything that is considered canon for Star Wars.

MMO roleplay stands as a pillar of why I like to play online games. And I’d like to spend some time focusing on those communities. Some people believe it is odd or a waste of a perfectly good game to emote or roll in-game dice to determine your actions, but I don’t. “We’re looking not only for roleplay but to be entertained even when there isn’t actual live roleplaying going on,” MMO roleplay legend Brian “OddjobXL” Rucker used to say. “We like actually seeing our characters and their worlds, too!”

With the number of Star Wars online games out there, I’d like to discover and embed myself into some of the roleplay communities that go with them. I’m interested in finding out what makes them tick – and how they have survived and thrived.

Other Online Star Wars Games

There are many other online Star Wars games, that I would like to talk about here. I never once talked about my Battlefront experience. Despite the controversy, I did believe that it was a smooth and decent game. And although my MMO time started with Ultima Online, my online gaming experience started at a little bit faster pace with Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. The PvP in that game blew my mind. (I liked Force Choking people and dropping them off the edge of catwalks!)

Despite its closure of certain studios and the games that came with them, EA does still hold the license to Star Wars game development and does have at least one game in the pipeline. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is still a thing, right? Of course, there is Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes that still has a loyal community.

Yes, there are going to be some changes in focus here on the Hyperspace Beacon, but as Karr said, the more it will stay the same. To me, it’s returning to what I had originally envisioned the column to be when I started it back on Massively-of-old: a place to read about and discover your favorite online communities built around my favorite intellectual property Star Wars.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic and beyond the posts in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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