Art of the Genre

A Return to Star Wars Galaxies: Part Five

First and foremost, I want to talk a bit about bots, or at least what I call bots, which is to say avatars set in place and unmanned to perform a service.  We never saw this ‘back in the day’, although you’d occasionally catch a crafter AFK running a free-mining macro.  In the EMU it is commonplace to find what I’ll affectionately call ‘poor, half-naked, bastards’ or PHNBs all over the landscape. I can’t help but wonder, with all the buildings and time since launch, why these PHNBs are necessary, and yet they never seem to diminish.

I once met a dancer from Naboo in the Wayfar Cantina and we did things to each other for a good hour that would make a Zabrak blush.  When we were done, the bartender actually tipped me…’ Jericho Knox

Still, they don’t harm anything, and I’ve kind of stopped paying attention to them, sort of like I do the avatars left in a certain locations to constantly kill mobs (these dot the landscape outside Theed and Coronet).  To each his own, I guess, but the real thing that troubles me are the buff bots.  You see, they are a double-edged sword.  On one hand, visiting Cyara in the Coronet Cantina and Mallorea in the Coronet Medical Center can get me buffed up in less than seven minutes no matter when I’m on the game.  On the other hand, what made SWG so incredibly addictive to me was the interaction I’d get talking to docs before a buff or more importantly the time I spent in cantinas where entertainers, you know, actually entertained!

I’m reminded of an old ELO song from their concept album Time called Yours Truly, 2095.  One of the lines concerning an artificial woman that has been given to the protagonist is as follows:

Although her memory banks overflow
No one would ever know
For all she says: "Is that what you want?"
Maybe one day I'll feel her cold embrace
And kiss her interface
'Til then, I'll leave her alone.

I hear this song every damn time I sit down in that chair across from Cyara or stand in the que for Mallorea until I can send her the trigger tell.

So then I’m faced with a quandary, do you sit and wait for a real doctor or entertainer and likely go hours without finding one, thus missing your chance to run missions, or do you just put lipstick on that pig and get what you want, tip a vending machine, and go on with your game?

I don’t know that correct answer, but I do know I miss entertainers and docs I’ve met in the EMU (who no longer appear on my friends list) that actually held a conversation with you before you entered the wilds or came back in from a deadly hunt.  Perhaps there are no more stories to hear or be told, perhaps the role-players are dead, or maybe being a lovely and alive entertainer these days is like cosplaying Red Sonja on a crowded Tokyo commuter train, too many hands and dicks to make it worth it.

Reading Note: If you enjoy the nostalgia of these blogs, you might enjoy my pseudo-take on my time in SWG with my Gunsmith series.  You can get a copy here.

 

 

 

Written by Scott Taylor — July 24, 2016

A Return to Star Wars Galaxies Part Four

So people sometimes ask me why I still play SWG.  It is a dead game after all, at least through SOE, and there are Facebook games with better graphics these days, but to me it was never about the game itself.  I’m a writer, you see, and I don’t ever view games like a sane person.  To me, every step my avatar takes is a story that plays out in my minds-eye, and I create all the detail I need to keep things alive and interesting.  I guess that is why I chose to be a crafter, as I wasn’t ‘in it’ for the combat, I was there for the story, for the people, and for what I could create in my own mind along the way.

I’ve dealt with the Hutts, who hasn’t?  Still, I think I’d rather hunt rancors on Dath than get too chummy with those oversized slugs, although I do usually agree with their taste in women…’ Jericho Knox

So I’m doing this Krayt Skull mission and it strikes me that if a kid viewed it over my shoulder they’d be like ‘WTF, this is lame!’.  You see, the Moenia cantina is in itself lame.  It is like every other cantina in the game, just less populated, and even the NPCs are scarce.  You walk in, go around the back of the bar, go through a door, and see a NPC mope like any other.  He gives you a quest line and you take it.  Still, you can walk right past him into a back room that is completely bare save a little turd looking Brovo the Hutt.  THIS is the guy I’m supposed to be wanting to see?  This is a terrible criminal overlord?  Well, if you look at it at face value you can see why people got sick of quests quickly in SWG

For me, however, the scene in my mind plays out rather differently.  Jericho walks into the Swamp Spirits Bar & Grill (Moenia Cantina), the place filled with sallow-faced locals, a few skinny gungans, and a bartender that reeks of illicit drug vapor.  He asks around about the Hutt, and is finally pointed to a rusted back door.  There, he gives the secret knock he acquired in a game of chance at Toshi Station.  It works, but inside is a hard-looking merc, one eye replaced with cyberware and a sliced pistol that looks big enough to ventilate a bantha. 

There is some banter, some underworld thieves’ cant, and finally the guy decides he likes this wayward newcomer enough to offer him a little job that could prove his worth to the great Brovo.  This kind of stuff continues, mission after mission, each one slowly getting Jericho closer to the curtain that separates the privileged from the beggars.   

Finally, after weeks of space travel, assassinations, distant planets, and money recovery, the true lair of Brovo is revealed, and it is a splendor of debauchery and ill-gotten wealth that the stories boasted of all the way from Tatooine. 

 Yeah, when I see Brovo, it is more like this!

So, THAT is why I always loved this game, because in my mind, it was something so much more than what the game designers could provide in their limited technology, time, memory, and money. 

Reading Note: If you enjoy the nostalgia of these blogs, you might enjoy my pseudo-take on my time in SWG with my Gunsmith series.  You can get a copy here.

A Return to Star Wars Galaxies Part Three

Do you ever wonder how many people have done the quests in SWG?  I once played a Bounty Hunter in NGE and did the criminal series that took me from Tatooine to Naboo and finally Corellia where I think I got to be a pilot.  This was in 08’.  It took me probably a week to play through that series, but eventually the coolness cooled and I dropped out.

I once had to find and retrieve a razor cat cub for Brantlee Spondoon at the Coronet Capital, but as hot as she was, that was unfortunately the only pussy I got from her for my troubles…’ Jericho Knox

I was in Moenia the past couple of days trying to bring back memories of how the hell I did the Krayt Skull Quest.  I remembered it had something to do with the cantina, so I found Brovo the Hutt in the back and then ran the missions on buffs I’d picked up in Coronet.

Side Note: Has anyone noticed that some lucky bastard knocked up Cyara at the Coronet Cantina?  Love that girl, so if you see her tell her Jericho appreciates every buff she provides and I envy her man.

Anyway, once I did the Coronet missions for Brovo’s goon, I was stumped for a day until I found I had the Brovo’s Money Briefcase in my inventory.  After that, it wasn’t hard to land the Tusken Rifle reward, which if I remember correctly you lose when you get the Skull, but Brovo sent me away with it so I’ll give the quest a day or two to cool, then start again hoping to level up to the full Skull Quest.

Last time I did this was 03 and I had a little human girl named Kikyo there helping me out.  We didn’t have buffs yet, but we managed it.  That skull hung in my various houses for two years until I left the game in 05, so a part of me wants it back.  It’s not the most sought after item I lost along the way, that would be the sweet rebel Endor trooper helmet I got in some early Rebel missions I did once I moved from Rori to Talus.  Not sure if that is even still in the game, but I’ll look for it once I join the rebellion again, but all things in their own time.

Anyone else playing any good quests right now?  I’d love to hear the choice ones and their starting points.

Reading Note: If you enjoy the nostalgia of these blogs, you might enjoy my pseudo-take on my time in SWG with my Gunsmith series.  You can get a copy here.

When Jim Holloway had a girl...

Yep, TSR alum Jim Holloway had a girl too.  No Jim would argue that point, saying he had lots and lots of girls, practically every one he's ever done being attributed to some girl from his past.  A girlfriend here, a mail carrier, a girl he shot images of from the upper windows of the old TSR building as she walked bikini-clad to the Lake Geneva beach. 

Still, I see a lot of the same girl in his 80s stuff, that sometimes flaxen, sometimes dark-haired and always round-faced beauty that broke my damn heart every time I had to see her.  So you tell me, am I wrong, or does she repeat again and again?

A Return to Star Wars Galaxies Part Two

I wonder sometimes why, with all the entertainment that we now have at our fingertips, we come back to Star Wars Galaxies.  I guess in my mind it is a story, every moment I spend in the game, even the grind, I can imagine as an alternate reality in which I’m part of a bigger epic.  At least that is what I tell myself when the hours slip away.

I remember friends that seem like I knew them an entire lifetime, and yet when I focus, I realize that it was only a matter of weeks or months that they were in my life before they were gone…’ Jericho Knox

I made a new friends list when I began the EMU because I wanted to at least have a connection to the place, even if the people I met weren’t truly my friends.  When I’d played the previous times, my friends list would be a wasteland and it always spun me into a melancholy mood when I viewed it.  However, this time around, I figured there would only be the hardcore players, the ones like me who refused to quit, so this list would always have ‘color’ to it.  Over the first week in August 2015 I collected about two dozen names on that list.  When I logged yesterday, as many days over the past months, not a single name was aglow.  The only one that lasted more than a month was a player from Turkey, and with all that is going on there I fear for him and doubt I’ll see him again even if he wanted to return. 

I looked at the houses, so many you can’t leave a city without entering another city, and wondered about all the folks who must have come back, built, adventured, and then left again.  I can only guess that they got credits, loaded the bulk in their houses, and then come back every nine months to put more money in so their shit doesn’t delete.  Maybe they are waiting for Jump to Light Speed.  Maybe quests (which BTW I was ecstatic to see had been added), or maybe they are geeky collectors who can’t let things go.  Whatever the case, I move around these towns and wonder at them.  I did this with New Mandalore yesterday on Talus, and couldn’t help but be both impressed and saddened by it.  When I played on Tarq all those years ago there was a town right where New Mandalore is called Twinloch that I called home for a time.  A good spot for a town I guess, but as dead as the rest, so I walk alone… the grey buildings reminiscent of my unlit friends list.

When Jeff Easley had a girl...

Of the ‘Big Four’ (this includes Caldwell, Parkinson, Elmore) from TSR’s AD&D glory days, Jeff Easley is certainly the least known for going cheesecake on you.  However, that isn’t to say Easley can’t do a lovely lady, or hasn’t gotten a few of them in fantasy works over the years. 

Unlike Elmore, who readily went to live models once leaving TSR, or Caldwell who seemingly always had a live model to work with, Easley has never ceased to use imagination when doing the ladies of fantasy.  There was a story once that Todd Lockwood told me concerning his first days in the TSR pit of the late 1990s.  He was ecstatic to get to make art with Jeff right there in the same room, and they were given a sea-based project and Jeff was to do a painting with a shark.  Todd, being ever curious, watched Jeff, sans reference, start painting away, and to Todd’s eye, the shark wasn’t anatomically correct so he found an image of a shark, printed it out, and took it to Jeff’s table and gave it to him for an assist.  Jeff took the image, looked it over, said thank you, and then went right back to painting without changing anything on the shark.  Classic Easley!  Jeff does what he does, and guess what, you get an Easley, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always true to the artist’s vision.

So, when it comes to Easley’s girl, she’s evidently been in Jeff’s mind since the 70s, because she always seems to come from that era.  Be she blonde or brunette, she’s of two styles, groovy feathered hair or long straight tresses.  She’s typically curvy, with an hourglass figure, ample breasts, and one of two rather distinct facial structures, the hard jawed tomboy or the pointy chinned doll mouth.  Whatever the case, they are certainly throwbacks to a time when ELO ruled the dance floors and made for TV science fiction movies were based around the acting talents of Jan Michael Vincent.   

Written by Scott Taylor — July 21, 2016

A Return to Star Wars Galaxies Part One

I’ve been writing about Star Wars Galaxies since its release, but never in a regular blog format (although I’ve written about it several times on Black Gate).  Still, I figured if I’m motivated to do so, and have my own site, why not.

I felt the rain for the first time on Rori, and sometimes I think I can still hear it, see its oily presence on my skin, and taste it in the air I breathe.” Jericho Knox

I was ‘born’ on Rori, of all places, but not this third time around.  The EMU wouldn’t allow it, so I generated on Corellia.  Not a bad place to spawn, and from the first moment back I was both reminded why I loved this game and why I left it.  Good or bad, yin and yang, it is what it is.  Nonetheless, I took what credits I had, jumped a transport, and headed to Rori through the junction stop at the Theed starport.  I had to see my ‘home’ again, that was on the ‘first things first’ bucket list. 

It’s what you do when you try to reclaim a life.  Along the way I tried reactivating my old memory synapses.  I played with the menu options, brought up screens I’d long forgotten, got my POV working, etc.  It was a bit like trying to walk again.  I’d completely missed the CU, but on my second ‘life’ I’d played the NGE, so that overlaid what I was trying to do a bit, but eventually I found my ‘legs’.

Speaking of NGE, the fuckers that made it blew up Restuss, my home town, so you can imagine my delight when it was still there upon my arrival on Rori.  I remember walking around the destroyed version in 08’ with extreme melancholy.  I also remember spawning here on June 26th 2003, and the place was hopping with folks.  Not so much on this trip, but there were some poor bastards, half-naked, being used as mining ‘bots’ around and a dude on a speeder bike flew past a couple of times.  More folks than were here on my last visit, certainly, but still reminiscent of those doldrums years around 2005 (or my late stage NGE experience in 2008 before the Tarquinas closure in 2009). 

So my feeling now?  Infantile in my avatar, daunted on the grind to master weaponsmith, happy to get a chance to play again, uncertain if I’m playing to play or playing to create a endorphin buzz from dredging up the memories I once had.

When Larry Elmore had a girl...

Larry Elmore had a girl, once, long ago before he moved out of the TSR pit and became a freelance artist.  She was lovely, with small pouting lips, pointed chin, and eyes that would look right through you to the horizon.  She was replaced by models, hundreds of them that have entered his work over the past thirty years, but this inorganic girl, the one from pure imagination in the early 1980s is still my favorite.  She was Larry's muse, or at least I'll argue that, because you find her in all his ladies of that era.  I miss her...

Written by Scott Taylor — July 20, 2016

10 FANTASTIC DRAGON MAGAZINE COVERS

You all should know by now that after art directing for Gygax Magazine, which was the doppleganger of Dragon Magazine, I decided to develop The Folio as a similar product to Dungeon Magazine.  Thus, I obviously have a love for how they did their covers, which I try to replicate with my current product.  I hope you'll enjoy some of my favorites from this great adventure-based periodical.

I can't get enough of chess, or Drelzna!

Space Dragon, YES!!!!

Daniel Horne doing classic 70s style, love it!

Displacer Beast, my favorite D&D creature!

Brom babe, what could be better if you like pale skin?

Tony DiTerlizzi Planescape for the win!

How about a little tech in your game?

This always felt high fantasy to me, which is a plus.

Jim Holloway cover, of course!

Jeff Easley Dungeon cover, check!

How about a dragon razing a castle to get your juices flowing!

Do you see the running theme for D&D NPCs the I love?

How can you not love the classic Keith Parkinson dragon?

I hope you have enjoyed these covers, and remember AotG needs your support with our current Folio adventure Kickstarter.  Please help our cause for here!