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Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow!! - The  Early Years

Equinis Strikes Back
Written by Benjamin A. Oliver
Screenshots © LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment
Star Wars: Galaxies
March 14, 2004

Note: All of the images except the first are linked to full-size versions. The full-size images average around 150 Kb each, more or less.

EquinisThe Horse Will Be With You… Always.

Last August, I really did have no idea what I was getting into when I started playing Star Wars Galaxies. Apart from boiling away a bit more time than I really had to spend, it was still an unforgettable experience. I made an unusual character, he picked an unusual gun-slinging, hem-sewing path, and eventually became a legend among a small group in a backwater planet in the game. I made some friends, established a minor empire, and tore it all down at the end. What could have been more fun than that?

Well, yes, obviously it could have been a lot more fun to write more NETTG or work more on the other storylines that I've had around… or perhaps even learn to program GDM a bit better; but the RPG was still pretty fun, and helped obscure in my mind just how traumatic last semester really was, school-wise. Other than contemplating "might have beens", I actually got a pretty happy ending: a 4.0/4.0 for the semester with 15 credits, Christmas soon afterwards, and a legend born. I soon afterwards took over the lead programming position for GDM, and while I didn't get very far without my brother's help, it was a start. Not too shabby, really.

But, like I mentioned in a previous article, MMORPGs have this strange pull that keeps calling you back, and like many a good legend, this one deserved a sequel. There was this free trial period where all the cancelled accounts got reactivated for a few weeks….

I'm Alive!

From the second I logged on, I was bombarded by tons of messages from people that I'd known before. I couldn't exactly hide my return on this game, especially when so many people had me on their friend lists. It took me a few minutes to reorient myself to what was going on, and I replied to the many "tells" as fast as I could. Then I ran off to where a collection of friends were.

I'm alive!Onward, Onward!!!

He's Baaaack!I had enough resources to build myself one of the spiffy new speeder bikes that had come out with one of the patches, and I did… but I couldn't call it, since I had chosen to "die" out in the middle of the wilderness. What's more, I didn't have the presence of mind to construct a camp, which would have allowed me to call it and make my journey ohhhhh-so-much quicker. So I ran the whole way, shouting out to the world and heralding my return.

The mall was right where I left it. I ran in and announced my return.

Reea-flystalker, now the mayor of town, just about fell out of her seat when I came back. I took a few minutes to look around and talk with them. Reea hadn't followed me to my quasi-final resting place, and here she explained to me why: it was a "wake" of sorts. Waiting up for the dead, just in case the dead decided to return.

It couldn't have gone over better than if I'd somehow scheduled my return during a seance. They were incredibly happy to see me. It was hugs and giggles all around the place. The only real downpoint of it was that some asked if I was back to stay. I made it clear that I was only going to be back for a little while—about a week, until the free trial period gave out. Perhaps I wouldn't stay very long at all. After all, I had school and the comic to think about. The game held no obligations for me other than a quick visit with friends. Plus, I'd neglected my writing plenty long enough what with all the other stuff I'd been working on… but Esa seemed to have been gone for the time being. My writing wasn't going anywhere, and my artist was out of commission, incommunicado, and incognito for the time being. I'd just barely asked someone to be my backup plan for an artist, should the worst be proved true…

HarrierThose I knew in the game asked me to attend a wedding—the wedding of Youngie Makashi and Lyka Olin. I remembered Youngie from when he was a rank amateur: a novice medic whom I helped along with some bioenhanced medical clothes here and there. He'd started a full-on business with another acquaintance, Harrier Arkantos, whom I'd encountered when he was a newbie as well.

While I considered sticking around for a bit, Reea and another known as Derado showed me the sights around town. There was still the town hall, where Inki Gumbin had been made mayor, and he'd been threatened to be lynched and ridden out of town on a bantha if he didn't do a good job.

Well, as it turned out… he didn't do a good job. My tailoring successor had disappeared the same night I left, and hadn't been seen or heard from since. His house disappeared, destroying everything I'd left for him, and… it was kind of over for him.

Too bad, really. But I guess there really was something fishy about him after all. I should have trusted my instincts and had some fried Mon Calamari… Ah, well.

But yes, they showed me the town hall, which had been decorated for the upcoming occasion. It was actually quite nice. The developers had allowed architects to construct decorative features, which greatly livened up the setting. Finally, the developers got something right. Sure took 'em long enough. ^_^;

Map of the cityCity Hall seatingCentral fountain

Mayor's officeThey also showed me the office of Reea-flystalker, the mayor of the town. From what I discussed with various people in town, there were rumors that had I stuck around in December and picked up the new Politician class, I probably would have been elected mayor in Inki's place… if for no other reason than, unlike some other players, I could type in complete sentences. In the land of the 1337 speakers, the amateur fanfic writer is king. Reea, as our informal leader (now formal), would have been the next logical choice, and so she was.

The mascotThey also introduced me to the new mascot of the town of Lashan: a giant Kimoglia. Say what you will about what happened to the last mayor, but his remains were never found. It makes one wonder, with that creature wandering around. ^_^

Next up, they had a very nice surprise for me. Youngie Makashi had named his medical facility in my honor. He had mentioned something about doing that when I left, but I didn't know he'd actually carry it out. What's more, inside he had some relics of what I'd given him in the past.

Equinis Medical CenterThe Holy Relic

We all had a nice, long pleasant talk about it all. About the past, about the present, and about plans for the future. Seeing all these things made me think about what I wanted to accomplish here before I departed once again, perhaps this time indefinitely. I agreed to come to Youngie's wedding and make some stuff for it as well. I requested resources and a factory to start crafting stuff. There wasn't enough time to make any more bioenhanced materials, but that's not always what it's about.

Sometimes, it's about giving people the right look so that they can play the game how they want to.


A far cry from the past, Youngie was now a Master Combat Medic, and Harrier was pretty advanced as well. At the medical center, I also met the bride, Lyka. She was a Commando; a very adventurous sort as well.

They wanted me to make the rings they'd use for the ceremony later in the week… so that was another reason to make preparations and stick around.

The deal was sealed, Derado, Reea, and others gave me the stuff I needed to work with, and I revved up the factory, getting to work on it all.

As a side note, for Christmas, the developers had given everybody a Jedi Holocron or two that, when used, would give a clue on what a character would need to do in order to unlock the force sensitive character slot and allow that player to become a Jedi. Let it be said that the Jedi system was totally messed up. The requirements were different for each player, but using the Holocron would spout off a random requirement—a class that had to be mastered before the progress on the way to Jedi would be complete. My brother-in-law used his, out of curiosity, and got Master Image Designer… which had absolutely nothing to do with the style of gameplay he really wanted to pursue. Since when did being able to perform cosmetic surgery and do great hairstyling have anything to do with Jedi Knighthood? They might as well have just told us that we were too old to begin the training—with the first stage of Jedi training being potty training. Now how messed up is that?

I mulled it over and without looking back, I handed over my holocron to Derado, who was working toward becoming a Jedi. I didn't plan on sticking around for long, and he'd certainly have a use for the object.

With my factory going and plans all completed, I mounted up on my speederbike and started tearing up the countryside with it. This beat running around, hands down. A horse riding a Hog… who would have thought it? No worse than riding a duck, I suppose.


A visit from a "ghost"I had the chance to spook a few people who were shocked that I was back, especially after I had gone to the trouble of leaving with style and making such a big ceremony out of walking into a giant pyre last time I left. Ah, the joys of coming back from the dead!

As the week wore on, I met up with more and more people. My fame had spread only a little ways, and that was fine. People have games to play, y'see, and can't be troubled by a little Talusian legend, especially a short, equine Bothan one. I even got some tailoring done for someone I'd helped a long way back: Valornian, who'd gone on and learned a few more things. He confirmed something that I'd suspected: character design and color matching seemed to be a lost art among many MMORPG players. A good tailor was hard to find. And without a good tailor, it's difficult to be a proper hero. Maybe you could get by with armor, but that's no look for a dashing Han Solo type!


TaiaoI'd also met up with some other people. Taiao, for example, was a wookie that needed a new look. I gave one to him.

Reea-flystalkerI also had the chance to chat a bit more with my wookie friend, Reea-flystalker. She'd started to give up on Architecture and moved on to the Chef class, which was soon due for an overhaul and would actually become useful after a future patch. She was also concerned about some upcoming work she had in February. She knew as well as I did about the time risks of some MMORPGs. She was closing the mall we'd founded so long ago, and trimming back her other responsibilities to make time for… well… real life. Those of us in the fanfiction "industry" know the perils and demands of real life. Experience as much escapism as you please… but real life will eventually have to be faced, and if it's not… it will pass us all by and leave nothing in its wake.

DeradoI also had the chance to sit and chat with Derado, who was busily grinding away at his next Jedi requirement. He was still glad I handed him my holocron. It made things easier deciding which class to master next.

Even if it was going to be Dancer, Image Designer, or Part-Time Garbage Collector, it was good to know for sure that it had to be pursued.


The houseI also visited my house, which Reea and Gnibadab had maintained for such a long time. Everything was how I had left it. It was all as threadbare and utilitarian as befitted a tailor who never, ever really visited home.

SostrataAnother friend from long ago visited as well. Her name was Sostrata, and she was a very busy one, gathering badges from all over the galaxy and mastering untold professions. She also had ambitions as a tailor… but more on that later.

RestingIt was a tough week getting everything set up, and for my master plan to be fulfilled. I had to take a breather every now and again.

I scoped out some more sights, and pretty soon the time for the wedding and subsequent party had come. Lyka had only one request for her wedding present: I had this set of bioenhanced clothes I'd left as an artifact in the old mall. It was the blue one I used to wear around all the time (see the previous Extra). She wanted a set that looked exactly like it, so I sat down in front of it and matched the colors as precisely as my eyes could discern.

Some of the women I designed clothes for often had very specific things in mind for the colors they wanted. They seemed surprised that I didn't know the difference between "sky blue", "egg blue", "royal blue", or "emerald". When they say "egg blue", the first question that pops into my head is, "What kind of bird are we talking about?!" The eggs I know are white, so I wondered if that could be some sort of ultra-polite way of asking for white clothes. Then, when they noticed my confusion, they tended to say such things as, "Oh, that's right. You're a MAN." Somehow, my brain just isn't wired for this level of specificity. I tended to navigate the spectrum by shadings of "brighter" or "darker". You could have told me an electromagnetic wavelength number in nanometers and I could probably match it better from memory than telling me to do it in "egg blue". And if a color needed to be matched, I had to see the article in question and stare at it… but I made sure I got it right.

LykaBut Lyka got her outfit, and seemed to like it a great deal. Somebody had already done her wedding dress, so I didn't need to worry about that particular detail. But I did make rings for her and Youngie. Youngie said it was so that he could have a piece of me with him, always.

The wedding went off well with Harrier as the minister—disappearing momentarily as his connection faltered—but after that, it was smooth sailing.

The wedding

NybaccaI met back up with Nybacca, one who had stayed in contact with me even after I'd left, and told me how things were going. It was great to see him again, and we talked about old times. Funny how things like a game can make one nostalgic….

The party after the wedding went off great. Say what you will about other events, but Reea and the others sure knew how to throw a proper party. I met up with some more old friends and talked to a couple other Master Tailors about the benefits of bioenhanced and a few other things.

Sostrata had just barely taken up Tailor as a class. I'd been told the difficulties of finding a good tailor. Most of them were typically women, and for some reason female tailors had a much tougher time giving other girls what they wanted in attire. I believe that was one of the big reasons Sostrata took up tailoring: to do it thoughtfully and right. She asked for a factory. I gave her the one that I'd been given for the week, and my work in the game was almost finished….

It was still not over, though. I had thought to slip away quietly into the night, as any ghost worth his own ectoplasm should… but there were some more details to take care of. My old house was kind of in the way of what would make a perfect road for the city. I needed to take it down or move it or something. Ahh, city planning… bulldozing the historical district to make room for the freeway! I agreed, but I'd need help. My house had grown quite full in the past couple of days, you see….

Shrine to Tailoring

When Reea saw what I was putting together, she changed her mind about me moving my house. I had put together a sort of Shrine to Tailoring, chock full of examples of outfits that were available—a valuable resource for prospective heroes and aspiring tailors alike. How can you ask for something if you don't know what it will look like on you? Reea loved it, and wanted to keep it all for display and for posterity's sake. This was, it seemed, my great work for the group I'd grown to love months ago. Who knows how long it'll last…? But that's my gesture, and I'm sticking with it. ^_^

GoodbyeTime grew short, and the moment came to leave.

But before I left, it was there in my old house that I talked to Reea about what I'd been doing while not playing Star Wars Galaxies. I was trying to get a comic pieced together, I was trying to learn how to program right for a game based on that comic. I was trying to muster up some creative capacity and finish all my long-untouched works of writing. I was finishing up a Bachelor's degree and applying for a Masters degree! There were all these things and more that I had to worry about, and wanted to worry about.

Reea thought my words over. She noted that she really didn't have anything that she'd rather be doing. All the creative energies she poured into designing the look for the city and for interior decorating in the game really didn't have any alternative. She didn't tell me about any long-unfinished magnum opus that she'd neglected by playing video games, and she didn't know what else she'd be doing to pass the time. I don't know… perhaps she didn't have very many friends outside the game, either. Some responsibilities, yes, but nothing that would keep her from playing a game now and again.


And that gave me pause to think. Perhaps, for some people, an outlet for extra time—perhaps stressful time—is a good thing for MMORPGs. The game, even as a glorified chat room with graphics and level-ups, helped her to meet people and become part of a community. Maybe this allowed her to meet people and friends that she would never have otherwise encountered.

For some, these kinds of games really are a horizon-broadening experience.


Sometimes, I wonder what I might have done had I never sought out the FFML and came up with "Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow!!" Would I have met Jason Hanks and had such a great time bouncing story ideas back and forth?

Certainly not. Would I have encountered Jussi Nikander, who made me realize the importance of proper grammar, syntax, tenses, and other critical story components? Definitely not. I'd never have met him, since he's way off in Finland. Would I have had any concept of what it's like to have fans of what I'd written and have gained the confidence which comes with that? I don't know.

Would I be working now with such great people as Esa, Joe, and Larry if I'd never pursued some crazy online community after finding out about fan fiction? I doubt it. How far would I have written without the help I got with the group I found? Probably not nearly as far. I'd likely have had made a secret hobby of it and written trite pieces that never could have gotten published…. I still may never write something that's worth publishing professionally, but I'm a lot closer than I would have been without all that practice.

Would Reea have known what it's like to be a community leader and manage the concerns of a diverse online group had she not logged onto Star Wars Galaxies and become an Architect, and later a Politician? Who knows…? I don't know where she works, or many details of her life. All I know is a very pretty wookie who forms very deep commitments and feelings about getting things done, and who has a decent fashion sense. I feel I've benefitted by meeting her and others on the game, and I can imagine that their lives have been made just that much brighter for having met some others as well.

For many, the game was no more a waste of time than a season-long soccer tournament would be considered a waste of time. I consider a lot of sports a waste of time, but a lot of people idolize sports and call playing video games a waste of time. Which of us is right? The answer is both, and neither: it depends. If you can find a fulfilling experience out of something, I'd find it difficult to call it a waste of time.

Right, then! Back to work with me. ^_^;


By the way, I never did get a chance to try out that busty Twi'Lek entertainer I mentioned in the previous article, did I? Ah, well. Maybe next time. ;)


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