Sunday, July 31, 2011

Silly Durni, Tricks Are for Kids!

Every pet had two tricks that it could perform. A Creature Handler who learned the proper commands could coax their furry (or scaley or leathery) friend to put on a show that was sure to get a rise out of passers-by.

Unlike the beasts who were born of test tubes in the final version of SWG, the pets under the Creature Handler rules responded to words detected in the spatial channel.

For example, while Cyra was fixated upon a strange visitor in northern Coronet, Vincer was all ready racing on to the next adventure. It wasn't a simple button click or macro that would urge Amber to join him, but literally the text "Amber, come on girl". Upon hearing those words in spatial, Amber would stop what she was doing and race to her handler.

So the commands could be quite varied and tailored to the personality one might want to apply to their pet and also to the relationship between the handler and their companion.

Amber could either balance herself on her front paws as seen here just after Vincer learned this particular ability from the Creature Handler trainer in the background...

Or she could hop up and down on her hind legs, shown below in the same location but on another day...

More then just showing off, this cured the pets Mind score and prepared them for more action. But as you know by now, little Scruffy would not see any combat. Rather, Scruffy was a lady's durni, more likely to win the hearts of lovely dancers then any battles.

One did not give Scruffy a command, but gave him the spotlight that he may command our respect. None could resist his charm, those flapping ears, or those soft feet. "Scruffy, command respect" would be his cue.

And he took it from there.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dress for Success

Before the galaxy became smaller with reduced shuttle wait times, build-a-buffs, speeders, pick-up shuttles and even global vendor searches, one needed to actually travel to a given location and enter shops and malls to see what was stocked and desired.

This sort of mechanic became a point of frustration for the generation of gamers to follow; the instant-gratification kids who didn't want to immerse themselves in another universe; who felt that any time spent not earning experience was time wasted. SOE listened, and steadily increased the speed at which SWG was to be played.

This accelerated pacing hurt the game, in my opinion. SWG worked best when it allowed us to set our own speed, shifting up or down as it suited our needs.

This trip down Memory Lane focuses on taking your time to find that special shop; your favorite trader. The better traders still managed to make a name for themselves despite the lack of a global search. Word of mouth and quality of service were the advertisements. And so was reputation. For example, most folks knew that a Cephalapoda weapon was a quality piece of work.

And many people knew of Jonalynne Rosewood, the tiny tailor who setup a shop just south of Coronet in what would ultimately become a sprawling urban island in and of itself.

Jonalynne kept up her inventory, and any visit to her shop would guarantee that something new and interesting would be available. My inventory was packed with gear she had made, and it was in her establishment that I landed those tipless gloves that I had always wanted.

Well, to be honest, it was Nikki who made the purchase and gifted them to me. As they were an iconic piece of Vincer's wardrobe - remember he was an offline Pen-and-Paper character from as far back as 1993 - he never took them out of his inventory; even to this very day.

Nikki herself, was after far less functional gear.

But though she looked more prepared for a Victoria's Secrets Fashion Show, she was still a spinning sparkplug of brawling bad-assery in her pink nightie.

Clearly Nikki was a "dude at the wheel".

What was really special about a trip to Jonalynne's was that she was usually found within, and ready to take custom requests on the spot. "Let me check my patterns," she'd say. And within a few moments, there you were with some shiny officer or a new muscle shirt.

Jonalynne wasn't just a source for clothes, but also income. She would offer - if I remember correctly - a 3 credit per unit of hide deal. That was a nice haul for your efforts. Just offer them to her vendor and within a few days, she'd purchase what you listed. It worked in her favor because any hide drop off meant I'd leave with some new clothes.

Yes, everyone knew and loved Jonalynne's store. Even the hard-edged bounty-hunter-to-be, Mileena/Shakkara couldn't resist softening up a little bit in a Jonalynne Original.

And that is something worth noting.

Here's to you, Jonalynne. Wherever you may be now, I hope you still get to flash that unique and creative style that made you everyone's favorite tailor.

Friday, July 29, 2011


I did not think of my pets as extensions of my abilities, tools, or weapons to be pointed at the enemy. These were my digital friends, with personalities of their own. I took my role as their handler seriously.

And why should I not?

Many pets would come and go through my care, but one would remain a constant; one that I would reach for whenever I needed a spark of life or immersion; one that I felt was as much a part of Vincer as his particular style of dress, or his appreciation for the fairer sex, or his fear of sandstorms mussing up his groomed head of hair.


I randomly came across her on a return from a squad hunt on Naboo. A little baby amongst her pack. The rest of the squad ran on, but I wanted to be selfish for a moment so I stopped to tame the kitten.

Little did I realize I had found Vincer's best friend this side of Cyra. I named her for the color of her eyes.

Amber was not like the other cats in the game. Her gentle face, the quiet nature, and the soft pad of her feet. If you ever dabbled in creature handling, you might already know how the other breeds were louder; with raspy, frequent grunts or other noises.

But not Amber. Her quiet reserve gave her a life, as if she had a higher level of existence then her feline peers. She seemed smarter, almost haughty. She conducted herself as a little lady, one fit to be by Vincer's side.

Despite her tiny size at first (and the pictures above were after she already started to grow), Vincer let her off the chain to attack enemies; a tiny torpedo in the "water", speeding in to attack her papa's foes.

Her coat grew lighter as she aged, and her claws grew sharper. She was as much a member of the squad as the others, and maybe moreso as she was there when no one else could be.

Shown below is Vincer and Amber discovering a part of the old Mos Espa Pod Racetrack. We were going to follow it through to the end, but we ran smack into a nest of dragonettes which changed our mind. We lost the trail, but survived to tell the tale. One of many.

Whether fishing, instructing the squad, waiting for a shuttle, or watching the entertainers in the local establishments, Amber was there.

Whenever Vincer did anything, it just didn't feel like he was doing it properly if Amber wasn't somehow involved. Whether flying ships, blasting Imperials, building furniture or running cities. Amber was there.

When creature handler was removed from the game and she became a mere icon in the datapad Amber was there, waiting. And despite all evidence to the contrary that the ability to have a pet would return; Amber and Vincer waited, separated by the inane decision by SOE to keep them apart.

But we all know how the story ends. It finishes like a all good stories do. Happily ever after.

After countless months apart. Amber was there.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Pet Project

Becoming even a Novice Squad Leader was not an overnight task, despite what Nikki must have thought with her daily "Didja Make Squad Leader?" queries.

And then, in one character-altering moment, I received the message: "You have qualified for Novice... Creature Handler???"

That was unexpected, but would prove to be exactly what I didn't know I wanted. With a few dedicated marathons to go on combat experience to get to Squad Leader, I figured "Why not?"

And so began my very temporary diversion to distract me from time-to-time while I worked on all of the aspects of the game that I wanted to focus on. I mean, I'd only be a Creature Handler for - what? - maybe a few weeks? Maybe even less.

Uh huh.

And this bridge here is only $4.99.

Creature Handler worked different then the Beast Mastery sub-profession of the later incarnations of the game. And to be perfectly blunt: it was much better. One had to find babies to tame right out of the wild, making you one with nature, using your skills as a scout to locate what you wanted while avoiding what wanted to eat you.

My first experiment was to tame an always dangerous, terribly mysterious, durni baby in the senses-shattering tall grass of Corellia. (Hey, it's my memory, not yours!)

The tiny, furry, - and for whatever reason eyeless baby - agreed to join me. I named the little guy Scruffy for no other reason then it fit his personality. He quite literally impressed us and commanded our respect. (More on that some other time.)

Scruffy became my stalwart companion, but one whom I didn't want to risk in the trials of combat. Thus I needed to find another to join me. And so I was off and running as a Creature Handler, and enjoying every moment of it. My second pet was a humbaba that I dubbed Humbaby. I shouldn't have to explain that one.

Sending Humbaby into combat was a lot like letting a roller-skating dromedary out of the back of a slow-moving tractor trailer. Though he was only with me a short time before I released him back into the wilds, I have fond memories of him as my first true combat pet.

Humbaby turned out to be a fun and necessary stop-gap. My next companion was the one that would never leave Vincer's side for eight-plus years, through thick and thin; through the removal of the entire profession and it's rebirth as Beast Master, through to the end of the game itself.

No matter what the galaxy would throw at Vincer, he would face it alongside his second favorite girl.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Send in the Clones

In the early days of Star Wars Galaxies there were no "levels" to categorize toons, NPCs or creatures. You used your best judgment and hoped to live to tell about it.

But naturally, the trial-and-error method led to several "gosh, darn its". (Typically, the language would become more colorful as the evening wore on.)

There were two ways to really die. One was getting knocked out and then having a death blow delivered by whatever it was that attacked you (some creatures would always death blow, others... well, maybe a person could get lucky. "Oh no! Here he comes! No No! C'mon! Get up! Get up!!")

The second way to die was being KO'd a certain number of times in a certain number of minutes. I think you were allowed two in ten, but the third was a trip to... the Cloners! Usually when this happened, a person would feign shock, or claim that it was a game bug. Pride exists, even in pixel form.

If you died, and you were smart, you'd have already registered your clone data in the nearest Cloning Facility. If you were really smart, you'd have insured your gear as well. It could get expensive, but that was just more incentive not to kick the bucket. It was very important to take care of these basic points.

Our old friend IceFalkon taught us to clone every time we travelled.

It was a risk you took: either not registering your clone data, or fighting on after you had already been knocked out recently. Credits still had value, and gear wasn't readily available. It wasn't a stiff penalty for becoming a stiff, but you wanted to avoid it.

And we did learn how to do just that. We learned when we shouldn't have tried in the first place:

And we learned that discretion really was the better part of valor:

But we learned it all together, like in this picture below where the squad met a very quick and ugly end at the hands of a single Bothan brigand who was swimming in the water outside one of the outposts on Dantooine. We literally ran out of the Outpost, all gun-ho and rarin' to go! Rah Adventure! Hey, let's kill that Both-

On second thought. I'm not sure we learned very much at all. The picture below is from the first or second day after launch. It looks strangely familiar.

The more things change...

It was probably that infuriating squill again. Or maybe a game bug. Yeah. Probably a bug.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lost and Found

A computer crash left me with many missing SWG screencaps. Those I had were low resolution copies that I had on my iPod. I still had my memories, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

This past weekend, while looking for something else entirely, I came across a CD backup of my old, defunct website. I perused the disk, hopeful to find something from SWG... and to my delight, I did. Higher quality images of those I've already shared in the Memory Lane entries, as well as pictures that were thought lost to wherever missing digital data goes. (I imagine that it's somewhere near where socks gone AWOL in the dryer turn up.)

Some of these memories have already been documented. So for today, I'll link to those and share the images that were once lost... but now found.

Discovering the Rebel Base in "Getting There Was Half the Fun"

Here's the gang posing with Artoo and Threepio. The fussy protocol droid didn't seem as interested as the little astromech droid.

Cyra was obviously quite moved by her visit to this location, as evidenced by the many pictures she shared from her day.

Nurse Cyra? I certainly hope not. She was better at sending people to the Med Center, not from it.

Meeting Leia was the highlight of the trip. She was tiny, but she had a presence about her.

While we were all impressed with meeting Wedge Antilles, Nikki seemed to really fall into line at the bottom of the chain of command. I also see Who Dat had a name: Gwek. How quickly we all wanted to forget.

The Semi-Permanent Stay at Dathomir in "Things That Go Bump in the Night, Sister"

First,  a few higher quality images from the story of our trip to Dathomir in beta.

Dathomir was very spectacular. In a spooky sort of way.

After Vincer got "stuck", I took a pic of him from the character loading screen, figuring that it was the end of the road for him.

Higher Quality Images from "Finding the Way"

This picture will always be one of the my favorite defining moments in Star Wars Galaxies. It represented everything that could be right about the game. I am very happy to have found the better quality version.

The Final Moment from "For Beta or Worse"

A bittersweet moment to say the least as we said good-bye to our beta memories.

But as you can see, we started on all new ones. And there are many, many more to come; good, bad and indifferent.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

Previously on "High School: The Drama", Shakkara and IceFalkon had a falling out that put Vincer directly in the line of fire as a convenient fall guy. Meanwhile, Nikki and Phantom really couldn't care less and let all the events unfold without being affected.

The details of it all are still a mystery; and frankly I really didn't want to know. I was there for some Star Wars Galaxies entertainment, not a game of "She said, SHE said, and then HE said." I guess that's why Charlie never expanded his team beyond three angels.

Shakkara's plan continued as we helped her delete her toon and create a new one: Auera Seena. The concept of the plan was to make IceFalkon think that Shakkara had left the game, or something. I guess. I mean, your guess is probably as good as mine, even now.

Now instead of having Vincer, Cyra and Shakkara running around together, it was Vincer, Cyra and Auera running around together.

Yeah, it was pretty obvious. To everyone. Even IceFalkon, I suppose. Pictured above, you'll see Auera. There's a few more snaps with her in future installments, but she wasn't around that long.

With far less drama, but no less mystery, Auera Seena was deleted. Another toon re-roll gave birth to Mileena.

At this point, the rest of us were just taking it all in stride and waiting for things to settle. Mileena was always a tumultuous member of the squad, a short-tempered person from her real-life stories, but she seemed to have good intentions. Eight years later, I'm struggling to properly describe the confusion and, to be blunt, the immaturity.

We all put the drama behind us. I'm not sure Phantom ever really understood what the heck was going on. I'm positive I didn't have a handle on it all. We never saw much of IceFalkon after it all settled.

 Maybe she moved on to another server or game. That would happen a lot in the months ahead as Star Wars Galaxies evolved. But not for our squad. The core five squad members were now officially set: Vincer, Cyra, Mileena, Nikki and Phantom.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ice, Ice, Big Baby

Now before it gets completely confusing (for those following along, and me, too) let me do a brief roll-call on who is who. Because it's going to be a whirlwind for a little while where one player is concerned. If you think changing colors from red to blue was hard to keep up with, just you wait!

So we had Vincer Kaden (a scout working towards Squad Leader), Cyra Sedaris (a smuggler with droid engineer dreams), Nikki Tikki'Tavi (an entertaining brawler), Phantom (the walking arsenal), and Shakkara (the blue, formerly red, bounty hunter in training and doctor).

Here's Shakkara when she was still red, posing with Nikki on the night we met the little dancer. Shakkara had already started contemplating where to find an Image Designer for a recoloring when we joked that they had looked like sisters. She had been so proud of picking a color that she thought no one else had! We took great delight at playfully teasing her. She hated it.

Shakkara introduced us to a few others she met in game, among them was IceFalkon, a dancer and creature handler. As I recall, Ice was a nice and helpful player. She had lived on the bay in northern Naboo, and reminded us all to update our clone data whenever we switched planets. (She said she had a post-it note attached to her monitor. I believed her; she never forgot.)

Here's Ice taking care of our battle fatigue in someone random house that we found to be unlocked.

The nightly adventures continued, from Corellia to Naboo, Tatooine, you name it. Sometimes a few of Ice's friends would come along. It was almost unmanageable, but we found fun and success anyway.

Our group wasn't growing by another member, however. Maybe that's what would have happened, but you see... Shakkara certainly had a way with people.

To this day, it is still somewhat of a mystery. But what is known is that Ice and Shakkara had a rift. Shakkara hashed some two-part plan that would set things back to just the five of us again. I suppose she was afraid she was replaceable. Trust me when I say (in the nicest way possible) that we came to learn that "Shakkara's Feelings Management" was a full-time job that none of us wanted.

Anyway, for Part One of her plan, Shakkara told Ice that I was angry at her and didn't want her to come around any more. On the flip side, she spun some yarn to us that made us not really want Ice anyway. I can't remember the details, but they're probably not important.

For Part Two of her plan, she was going to pack up all her belongings, trade everything over to us, then delete her toon and roll anew.

I know, I know: Sounds crazy, right?! See what I mean when I say: we didn't want this job? Shakkara meant to simply disappear from whatever problem she had rather then face it directly. It wouldn't be the last time she did that, either.

Ice took it upon herself to contact me to see if I was mad at her. Honestly, I wasn't, and I told her so. She learned the truth and the air was cleared between us. Shakkara disappeared and returned as the Zabrak Auera Seena.

Shakkara got her way, even though Part One of her plan didn't really work out.

In fact, Part Two didn't work out either. Which led to a Part Three. Which will talk about in Part Two of this thread.

Told you it was going to be confusing.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Ghost from the Past

In Everybody's Lost But Us, I talked about a story for another day. Well, today is that day!

Nikki and I were both beta testers, invited into the Bria server by SOE. Every beta tester could invite a guest along for the ride. Cyra - complete with a shiny new Alienware PC - became my guest, while Nikki invited her father to play the game before it launched.

He eventually joined up in the live game as "Phantom", naming himself after the car he once owned. After being re-introduced to him by Nikki, I was sent this screencap to prove that I had met him before.
That's Phantom on the right, with some rather direct commentary about Vincer's current state of smell. But hey, look at my HAM bar! It was obviously a rough day out under the twin suns. I like to think he meant /wave instead of /waft. Only he knows for sure.

Phantom was a former military man in real life, and his Star Wars Galaxies persona followed suit. His disciplined approach to tactics and combat suited our squad's emerging style and probably helped it mature into a stronger strategy.

Phantom was quiet, but would occasionally drop a one-liner that would crack us all up. In other words, he was a perfect fit. Like the time I dropped down one of my camps, and the poor gent found himself inside one of the tents.

Cyra found it funny from her computer, as she took almost the same pic from her point of view:

As a side memory to this, I'm reminded of the old "butt slide" bug when people sat. Cyra was famous for it. Gathered around in a camp for a bit of R&R and in the middle of a conversation, Cyra would go sliding away into the wilderness on her rear.

Who says camps in Star Wars Galaxies weren't fun?

The group of four grew to five. We would grow much larger in the coming year, but this core five would remain a constant.

Well, except for Shakkara. I suppose we'll get to that drama soon enough.