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Some Assembly Required: Issue #3 -- Building a base with SWG's Storyteller system

Jef Reahard

So... yeah, MMO story. It's a giant buzzword nowadays. Funnily enough, MMO story isn't a new concept. Dedicated MMO storytelling tools are quite rare, though, and the means to build story-related set pieces are rarer still.

Enter Sony Online Entertainment and its seminal Star Wars Galaxies sandbox. There are many reasons to dig this particular game if you're a fan of player-generated content, but among the most important is the Storyteller system. Yeah, I know SWG is on borrowed time. There's still plenty of time to enjoy it though, and if you're a Star Wars fan, a sandbox fan, and especially a player-generated content fan, you're going to love it. Join me after the cut as I show you how to create your own makeshift starship base, complete with starfreighters, starfighters, Rebel pilots, and even a few Wookiee commandos thrown in for good measure.

Oh yeah, this is all in the live game-world too. No instancing here.

Gallery: SAR: Star Wars Galaxies - Storyteller | 20 Photos

Before we get down to it, I need to stress that while this article may seem a bit like a guide, it's really a guide to getting started. The Storyteller system is incredibly versatile, and will likely seem complex (possibly even overwhelming) when you sit down to create your first set. It's really not, though; the hardest thing about it is deciding what items you'd like to use.

My goal for today is to show you one possibility and point you in the right direction; if you're looking for an exhaustive how-to article, you should peruse this excellent guide on the official forums.

With that out of the way, let's put on our hardhats and get to work.

The Storyteller system is basically a set of GM tools, much like those formerly used by SWG's live events team. You can spawn many of the static objects you see in the game, including all manner of vessels and vehicles, decorations, dwellings, and even NPCs. These NPCs can be given movement commands, they can be assigned levels and made attackable for players in your story group, and you can even give them items for your players to loot.

Rebel commandosStoryteller boasts a huge number of options when it comes to props as well as persistent and one-time environmental effects, and players are limited solely by their imaginations when it comes to building unique sets and event staging areas.

All it takes is a little time, a quick read-through of the in-game help interface, and a few hundred thousand credits to create (or recreate) your favorite Star Wars-flavored scenes. If you're new to SWG and worried about the fact that I just said "a few hundred thousand credits" like it's nothing, don't sweat it.

You don't have to spend tons of money on Storyteller. Creative players can get a lot of mileage out of a couple of well-placed R2 units or an aerial dogfighting effect (both of which are available for cheap), and saving up enough coin to pimp out your dream set is a worthwhile newbie goal for those of you just getting into the game and looking for something to do apart from progression.

One caveat to keep in mind is that your grand designs will eventually disappear from the live game world (props and NPCs usually last up to 16 hours depending on where they're placed). Thankfully the blueprint feature allows you to save elaborate setups and re-deploy them on a moment's notice.

Yeah, the system really is that cool, and no, I don't have the foggiest idea why no one else in the MMO industry can code something like this.

Anyway, a good story starts with a plan, and the plan for this article is to create a ragtag squadron headquarters facility. Being the good Rebel Alliance sympathizer that I am, it seems prudent to put my rogue squadron HQ in an out-of-the-way section of an out-of-the-way planet, and I've chosen an ideal spot on the backwater world of Dantooine (south by southwest from the Agro Outpost, if you're curious).

Pex the Storyteller vendorFirst, though, I need to visit an event promoter NPC. These guys are spread around the galaxy, usually in the back rooms of the hotels that dot all the major cities.

I traveled to the city of Moenia on Naboo to find one, but you can go to any major city you like and there will probably be an event NPC in the local hotel. From the Moenia starport, I headed southwest and found the right building, then clicked on the event promoter and settled down for a bit of menu-diving.

When it comes to figuring out the Storyteller system, patience is the order of the day. The options are broken down into seven major categories and it will take some time to see what all is on offer.

All of your purchased props, NPCs, and effects will show up as tokens in your inventory after you've handed over the requisite payment, so be sure you clear some bag space before heading to the event promoter.

It's also worth noting that you can pick up a Storyteller vendor token from the event promoter (under the Flavor NPC sub-menu), and this token is basically a mobile form of the event promoter NPC itself. I highly recommend grabbing two or three of these prior to leaving the event promoter's hotel
(the tokens will set you back 19,000 credits each). You can deploy your Storyteller vendor token in the same location you're deploying your props, and it will save you a lot of travel time in case you don't know exactly which of the hundreds of items you'll need.

Speaking of deployment, once you've selected some interesting props and your vendor token(s) you'll need to select your virtual set. Storyteller props can be placed basically anywhere in the wilderness provided there's no mob lair spawns or points of interest (POIs) nearby. Props may also be placed in player cities assuming you're either the mayor or a citizen with build permissions.

So, it's back to Dantooine I go, and out to my remote wilderness location where I'll construct my starship base. First I had to do a bit of housekeeping since you can't walk 30 paces on Dantooine without coming across a quenker lair. Once I finished raining fiery hot Smuggler-powered death down on the local wildlife, I decided to start my base with a landing pad attached to one of my pre-existing houses. I threw down a couple of stage props (2,500 credits each) to make the base of my landing pad. I also forgot that props are initially placed relative to whatever direction your character is facing, so I had to make use of the Storyteller command line tools to move the first one into position.

Rebel troopersTyping /storyteller in the game will bring up the system's help dialogue, and you'll find plenty of info on /storyObjectMove and /storyObjectRotate, both of which will become your friends in short order -- and yes you can make macros. Also be aware that you can hit the enter key followed by the up arrow to repeat your last text entry, and this will save you a ton of time when fine-tuning prop placement since you can control rotation through a full 360 degrees.

After I finished with my stage/landing pad, I threw down a couple of Incom T-65s (those are X-wings for you Star Wars newbs), a pair of generators and supply pallets, and even an astromech ready and waiting to be popped into the droid socket behind the starfighter cockpits.

Something was missing though, and after a few moments of head-scratching, I figured that it might be nice for my theoretical grease-monkeys to have a couple of industrial-strength work lamps, the better to light their way while they wrench on my starfighters all through the night.

Moving on, I placed a couple of Corellian freighters in the trench in front of my house, as well as a couple of shuttlecraft, a few swoop bikes, and a gaggle of NPCs milling around them. These included 24 Rebel troopers, six Rebel commandos and two officers, and six Wookiee commandos. Oh yeah, I also plopped down a couple of Rebel pilots (complete with those eye-catching orange flight suits) for the aforementioned X-wings.

Messing around with the placement commands is half of the fun here, and I spent a good while arranging things just so and generally having a ball by experimenting with stacked objects and figuring out the limits of the system. After I had it right, I purchased a blueprint token from the Storyteller vendor and saved the entire layout with the click of a button. When my props disappear over the next 12 hours, it'll be a simple matter of deploying another vendor, examining the saved blueprint as a sort of shopping list, and re-purchasing the tokens needed to re-deploy the scene. Once I've bought everything required, voila: Instant starbase!

At the end of the day, I spent close to 500,000 in-game credits -- which is a paltry sum for anyone who has played SWG for more than a week -- and had hours of fun putting the thing together. Also, I didn't even touch on holoshroud costumes (basically one-hour buffs that allow you to look like any number of famous Star Wars creatures or characters), nor did I delve into setting up swoop races, using the jukebox feature, firing off environmental effects, or making NPCs and props attackable by players in a story group. In short, Storyteller is designed to keep creative types entertained for quite a while.

Also, as you can see by the article screenshots and the gallery above, I'm not the galaxy's greatest exterior decorator. I basically plopped down a few ships, NPCs, and smaller props, and barely scratched the surface of Storyteller's potential. Players can and do go absolutely nuts with sprawling, mega-detailed creations, so don't limit yourself to what I've done for purposes of this article (speaking of which, if any of you SWG fans would like to get your creations preserved in Some Assembly Required, drop me an email via

So that's SWG's Storyteller system in a nutshell. It's well worth subbing to the game simply to check it out, particularly if you've got any sort of interest in player-generated content.
Dev-driven stories may be getting a lot of press lately, but player-generated stories have much more staying power (and you don't have to put up with grind, progression mechanics, or a scripting language to partake of them in SWG). My advice is to take your time, be creative, and most of all have fun with the genre's most unique content creation tool while it's still available. There really is nothing else like it in the MMO space.

Until next time, happy building -- and don't forget to let us know about your creations!

Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of sandboxes and player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!

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