Sunday, June 22 2003 – 1:05AM (ScreenShot0121)
When the servers came back up, I had to remake Vroflus. You couldn’t use the same name as a previously used character, so I added an extra “s” at the end, and just hoped to run into some of the guys under a name that resembled what they used before the wipe. Now that I knew the deal, I ground out XP until I was barely capable of getting myself to Lok, and I without hesitation boarded the first boat I could afford to the only planet that I cared about.
When I landed, I was told that somewhat of a “supergroup,” had been formed near the starport. It was a group of 20 players, with a second group working in conjunction with it. The leader gave me a waypoint, and as usual… I started running. When I arrived, I was bombarded with my first true taste of the “SWG Experience.” It was night time in game, and I had my surround sound blasting irl. I’m not gonna lie, I was not exactly sober… so I’m sure that fact made things a little extra “surreal” if you get my drift.
As I drew closer, my senses began to differentiate between what initially sounded like muffled CDEF Blasters, and what turned out to be a symphony of laser shots entirely focused on Mature Snorbal Female. Every single person was grossly under equipped… skill wise as well as weaponry. It was the sheer number of willing participants, an overwhelming force working as a group, that kept one another standing.
I got into firing range, dropped to one knee, and took my place among the adventurers who beat me to the planet Lok that night. I made myself a promise that when SWG launched, no one would beat me to Lok again. Blaster fire screamed past my head, and I can honestly say that at that very moment, I fell in love with the idea of SWG. It all came together for me during that firefight. I was completely overwhelmed with everything the devs had put into the game. The flashing lights of 20+ CDEF’s in the Lokian night, the music’s urgency indicating the heat of combat, the way the players jockeyed for position, the way the ground just crashed when a dying Snorbal would splash into the sand. It was possibly the most unforgettable SWG Beta moment for me… and above all else, a total assault on how I previously quantified a great gaming experience.
Sunday, June 22 2003 – 1:49AM (ScreenShot0122)
I had work the next day but could care less. I outlasted everyone in my “secondary” group and was absorbed into the main 20-man group after about a half hour. Some big furball named “Grozby,” was the leader, and he had things under control it seemed. We pretty much mowed over anything we came up against. Everyone knew the deal. Let Grozby pull, concentrate fire on one target at a time, move on to the next.
Sunday, June 22 2003 – 5:52AM (ScreenShot0134)
About four hours went by, and at least 3 sun ups and sun downs had alternated on Lok. Our group dwindled down to a handful of exhausted guys who pushed on, hoping to stumble on a pile of bones. And of course, we got our wish. Normally Kimos were just too tough for a small group of lowbies to tackle, but we somehow managed. One of us would pull, and the rest of us would try to steal aggro off the puller. If he died, we’d repeat the process until either the Kimo died, or our group wiped. This went on until the server was about to go down… at which point we’d rush to the back of Nyms Cantina, and sit with Han & Chewie until the server shut down.
I went to work the next day without ever having gone to sleep. Just like that, I was hooked…
Monday, June 23 2003 – 12:13AM (ScreenShot0147)
I logged in the next day, did a /who on Lok, invited anyone I saw, and promised them XP. Every single person on the planet accepted my invite. We had Kusaks dropspawn on us, gave us some trouble so I had to drop a camp and bust out my horn to help everyone repair their fatigue… a game mechanic that was eventually done away with years later.
At the time, my template was able to be spread out. I was part scout, part pistoleer, part medic and part entertainer. So I pulled the group together, I could heal them, get them XP, and as long as they listened to me, we would never find ourselves on a corpserun. Pretty much the only rules were “let me pull, and always stay behind me.” I won the respect of every member of that group. It was beta, lots of people couldn’t figure things out… and since I was so obsessively playing, I was to these guys what Rowa, or Rock Forehead were to me just days prior.
Monday, June 23 2003 – 12:30AM (ScreenShot0151)
“You can lead a horse to water but you cant make him drink,” the old saying goes. Well I promised this group I’d lead them to Kimos, and believe me, they drank. They were such a perfect match for my style, and looking back, it was a monumental day… as Kastor Nuktan, Ciale Yhagai and Rampage Savage were in that group. I didn’t even have to tell these guys anything. They knew the right way, hell they were PVE powerhouses period.
I couldn’t come close to matching their damage output… and there was never a day that I could after that, either. They were sure of themselves, and any single one of us could’ve led the group… but they were cool with me doing it. The mutual respect was abundant between us from the first second. We all brought something to the table. As Kimo after Kimo dropped, I learned something. I didn’t have to hit the hardest, I just had to do my part. And from that day on… my “part” was being the “glue.”
Monday, June 23 2003 – 1:35AM (ScreenShot0158)
As usual I’d bring everyone back to Nyms Cantina at the end of the hunt. We sat down, Ciale, Ramp and I, and knew right then and there that we’d found who we’d been looking for since beta started. Getting the right people together for the job became my calling card from that moment on. Information would be my strength. Reading players, knowing who’d be compatible together, knowing who I could trust. And more importantly, knowing how to gain someone’s trust.
These weren’t the type of guys to need me (or anyone). These were the type of guys who went on to solo Krayts after the launch, or duo the Corvette together somehow. I never understood it and never will. They could somehow stack templates and items in a fashion that made them totally unstoppable. And the honesty of it all, was they’d do anything for one other, and for me. But none of us ever had to ask. This was all established that first day together, that first hunt. We could count on one another through thick and thin. It’s rare in the Galaxy to find friends like that.
Wednesday, June 25 2003 – 1:10AM (ScreenShot0169)
Two days later was the last day of Beta. SWG would supposedly launch the next morning. Kastore, Ramp, Ciale and I decided to give Lok a rest, and headed to Tatooine looking for a good time. We first came across the marker of “Captian Moraj.” Moraj was an avid poster on the forums who died in a car accident (if memory serves). The devs put up a marker outside of Bestine (which still stands), and when beta 1 launched, that flag was where the players “landed.” I think it was a warm moment for the four of us… we were reminded that things might not last forever, and the Galaxy didn’t revolve around us. It also foreshadowed our own future together, as Ciale would pass in real life… shocking anyone that was lucky enough to spend time with him in game.
Wednesday, June 25 2003 – 1:40AM (ScreenShot0173)
Ciale was the real deal. He was the meaning of the word “friend.” He never backed down from a fight, he was never under gunned, and he had your back no matter what you got yourself into. When you sat in the sand with Ciale, you didn’t worry about Tusken Raiders or Imperials. You watched the twin suns set and sometimes didn’t say anything at all. You didn’t have to say anything if you didn’t want to… Ciale just “knew.”
Wednesday, June 25 2003 – 3:05AM (ScreenShot0181) – My last Beta Screeny
Ramp and Kastore headed to bed, after I got their contact information of course. I already had the “Trans” guys contact info, and I had “Noxs” who ended up being “Zox Denosis” at launch time. Ciale and I pressed on, picking up the occasional straggler along the way. The idea was to make it to the Sarlacc Pit before the devs brought the server down.
Most of the beta population were in the major cities setting off fireworks… but of course leave it to us to avoid the party (and the lag) and run as far as we could from civilization, getting our asses kick by every Tusken Raider along the way. It was gruling, took hours, and was nothing but laughs and good times all night.
But in the end, I almost fell asleep at my desk. I got Ciales contact info, promised to get in touch with him at launch… and told him the server we all agreed on. You can see the conversation we had in spatial chat in the screenshot, and you can see me hugging him in the picture itself. Lemme tell ya, it takes a lot for a fish to hug a human, but Ciale was the exception. Ciale was your brother out there…
And that was it for beta. Ciale pressed on without me, and of course… was the only one of us to actually make it to the mighty Sarlacc that night. Months later, in the back of some smokey cantina, he admitted that he jumped in with a few minutes to spare before the beta servers shut down…