Communities are what make MMOs as great as they are. From World of Warcraft to Star Wars Galaxies, games lose their flavor over time, but players stick around because of the friends and communities that have been built through the MMO space. The game has not even announced a release date yet, but Star Wars: The Old Republic already has one of the strongest and dedicated communities. The paragraph above is part of an inside joke that some people who attended PAX will understand, but it's these bonding moments that make a gaming community what it is.
At PAX this year, SWTOR fan sites from across America gathered not only at the Boston Convention Center but also at many places in downtown Boston. Although I will not be able give you all the gory details of Zach's griefing adventures -- you'll have to get that directly from him -- if you follow after the break, I will give you some of the inside scoop about other high-profile community members and the community team of BioWare.
First, Eric Musco of TOROCast is a terrible, terrible person, and you should never listen to his podcast nor read his articles, especially Pick Me I'm Viable and Taral V -- Kind of a Big Deal. (Disclaimer: Eric Musco is really a fun person to hang out with if for no other reason than that you can use his head as an elbow rest while waiting in line to get into the SWTOR party. And read his posts on TOROCast.)
If you were to listen to the buzz of the forums, you could get the impression that these fan sites are in grueling competition with each other, fighting for the biggest piece of the Community Team pie. In fact, the craziest rumor I heard was that every member of Darth Hater hated every member of TOROCast. However, those who believe that nonsense would be shocked to have seen Sam and Musco with Dover and Pete at the Times Irish Bar making jokes then making plans to be on each others' shows. (That last part is a secret; don't tell anyone.)
Speaking of the Times Irish Bar, I should say that there are very few experiences like a bar full of Star Wars nerds. The bartender was just lucky no one showed up in Stormtrooper armor. That could have been messy. I arrived a bit late, so Pete Trerice of Darth Hater needed to catch me up on drinks. Then Lord Hammer of the TORSyndicate sparked some conversation with Eliot, because we all know our multi-talented Storyboard/City of Heroes/Final Fantasy columnist needs some education about Star Wars. However, the coolest experience of that evening (next to Zach's griefing confessional) had to be talking MMOs with Lethality of AskAJedi and Donna Prior, who used to administrate the SWTOR official forums but now works as the community manager for Gods and Heroes. As it turns out, Donna was a member of the Kreetles. If you were a roleplayer in Star Wars Galaxies, you have to know that the Kreetles were an in-game roleplaying band -- one of the best in the game.
One quick note before moving on: Do not stand in front of a dart board in an Irish bar. People actually play that game. Who knew?
The community bonding didn't end with the Community Cantina. Although the SWTOR community team severely underestimated the dedication of the community, the team members did a wonderful job of being fair to everyone. The party was scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. and then run to 9:00. As any good host knows, you don't expect every invitee to actually come, so the room for the party was not quite big enough to handle the number of people. (In fact, the hotel security was at the door counting the number of people who came in just so we didn't go over the allotted number.) However, BioWare was a gracious host. The two-hour party was divided in half, allowing everyone who had a ticket to get in.
There is so much to be told, but I think in the spirit of building the community, I'll direct you to the other sites that attended the SWTOR events. Mos Eisley Radio will probably have its podcast out shortly. Darth Hater has a bunch of excellent videos on its site. Pete missed half the conference because he was up in the media room editing. AskAJedi informed me that it also has a good chunk of video interviews for you. And I am going to be a special guest on Corellian Run Radio this weekend. Although Kathy and I were at the same conference together, I really didn't get a chance to talk to her and Roxanne at all this weekend, so be sure to catch that coming up soon. And be sure to catch the TOROCast podcast (in spite of Musco!) next Sunday night. Eliot and I will have our own write-up of our thoughts on SWTOR's PAX performance coming later this week!
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!