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Some Assembly Required: SWG housing extravaganza

MJ Guthrie

The sunsetting of Star Wars Galaxies. Beyond the obvious, that statement holds more meaning for me, something deeper and more personal. See, throughout my years in SWG, I would often stop whatever I was doing just to sit and watch the Tatooine suns set. Honestly. Just a simple act of sitting upon the plateau -- sometimes alone, sometimes with friends -- quietly watching one of the universe's greatest pleasures inside an MMO. It was amazing to me how vibrant this galaxy was, filled with so many little details that breathed life into it in a way that I think is still unmatched. Details such as sunsets made the world real, but what really made it "home" was the housing.

Few, if any, games can claim the mastery of housing that Galaxies attained. Quite frankly, it is still the standard by which I measure housing. And there is almost no way to sum it up and do it justice in one short article. Despite this challenge, Some Assembly Required dedicates this 12th issue to immortalizing (and hopefully prodding future developers to emulate) one of the greatest housing systems ever and highlighting the very thing that made this great feature phenomenal: incredible player ingenuity and creativity.

But don't just take my word for it. A number of readers joined in and sent in screenshots of and waypoints to these expressions of creativity. So step on over the threshold for our tribute in word and image to SWG housing and the player creativity it engendered.

SWG screenshot
As we bid adieu to the game next week, many of us are thinking fondly of the many memories and great features that make Galaxies such a home away from home. I personally could ramble on incessantly about the incredible life-long friends, the amazing stories, and the impressive demonstrations of player creativity that were a part of it all. But I will have to content myself with this short memorial to my favorite feature -- player housing.

Location, location, location
Or more accurately for SWG: location, style, size. When embarking on your quest for home ownership, you have to take into account all three of these factors else you might end up disappointed. Not only do you have to decide what style and size of house you want, but you have to make sure your style is acceptable to place on the planet you want.

SWG screenshotIn the beginning, there were three styles of housing: Tatooine, Naboo, and generic. However, as the years have passed, significantly more types of housing have been added. From merchant tents to sandcrawlers to cafes to bunkers to Kashyyyk trees... this list goes on and on! And that doesn't even include the specific buildings that can be added only to cities, such as cantinas, theaters, and medical centers!

Once you have your housing deed in hand and your planet selected, you have to find the perfect place to construct your new abode. Unlike many games where housing is instanced away from main traffic, Galaxies housing is actually dropped right out in the landscape for all to see (or run their speeders into if they aren't paying attention). While there are some terrain and proximity restrictions -- such as not too close to an NPC city and not within a player city's borders without permission -- you can just plop it down when you find a place you like. In this way, a player truly does have a permanent effect on the game world, a feature that is oh-so-enticing.

Once the house is placed and situated how you want (and you are sure to load up on maintenance costs), it is time to decorate. And here is where Star Wars Galaxies shines even brighter!

Decking the halls
Decorating is where SWG blows the competition out of the water. How? Let me count the ways. For starters, almost all items that you loot out in the world can be placed in your house. Pick up a cool-looking trash loot called a broken communicator? You can place that on your workbench instead of vendoring it for a few credits. The same goes for a large number of odds and ends that add real flavor to decorating.

SWG screenshotAs if that weren't enough, all crafted items in SWG can be renamed, allowing for endless expressions of creativity. Paintings can be named "ceramic tiles" and flipped to create a shower floor, while a fountain is tilted to allow the water to cascade down. And it isn't just finished products but the sub-components of every crafting profession that can be renamed and utilized in countless ways. Creative folks rename weapon staves "closet rod" or "microphone" and skirts "curtains" and then incorporated them into their decorating. Speaking of crafted items, I should note that Galaxies has a large selection of furniture items made by crafters -- and many of these items can also be color-customized.

Although SWG lacks a couple of features I have been spoiled by (resizing and the ability to move items around before placing them), the game still has the most precise movement system for arranging furniture. To drop an item in your house, you use the radial menu in your bag, and the item drops where you stand. From there, you can use the radial menu to adjust the position; however, the slash commands offer more options. Using the commands, you can manipulate the object on all axes (x, y, and z) as well as twist and turn it using pitch, roll, and yaw. With movements allowed in increments of one, placement can be fine-tuned with exactness. Unfortunately, this method is very time-consuming and even frustrating; most serious decorators quickly make macros of these commands in various movement increments.

SWG screenshot
Add to these features the number of veteran rewards, quest rewards, and other assorted decorating items available and players can really demonstrate astonishing creativity!

Our town
More than just letting us kit out personal abodes, Star Wars Galaxies gies players another avenue to express their creativity: player cities. Each habitable planet has a cap on how many cities are possible to prevent a Coruscant-type sprawl from developing and choking out all adventuring space. Some cities are haphazard scatterings of random buildings, and others are intricately planned out, but all are unique. On one server, one Dantooine city serves as the personal home and compound of one couple (thanks to friends placing structures for them to decorate within their city limits); another Lokian city is a base; and other assorted cities are hives of scum and villainy or proud centers of commerce.

SWG screenshot
Player meccas become hubs even beyond the NPC towns as many amenities are offered in player cities, including banks, mission terminals, medical and cloning centers, and cantinas. Different levels of cities have access to different amenities. Whether a city is artfully arranged or just grows organically, there are specific outdoor decorations that can be placed as well, including statues, braziers, flags, gardens, and lights.

After so many years, it's inevitable that some houses would be abandoned by those who moved on, and although houses can become condemned and locked when the owner is MIA too long and neglects to pay the maintenance costs, at some point unused structures simply start clogging up the valuable real estate where new and remaining players want to build. The solution? Why, ships coming in to destroy them, of course! Although the buildings are actually only packed up into the owners' data pads should those owners ever return to the game, I admit it is quite a rush to see the ships swoop down and blow up the abandoned structures!

It's alive!
For all of the incredible features that Star Wars Galaxies offers, it's the players who really bring the game to life. From funny to fancy to functional to touching, players have been taking the tools available and running with them, providing a smorgasbord of creativity. In my own travels, I have seen aquariums, homemade fireplaces, secret rooms, bath houses, museums, restaurants, safe houses, aviaries and zoos, pilot lounges, a memorial placed for a lost comrade, indoor tree villages, inns, and so much more dotting the landscape. Buildings are private homes, public establishments, and businesses. There is really no limit to what players construct. And it is exactly this show of creativity that I am going to seriously miss.

SWG screenshotI wish that I could have visited every home on every server, but sadly the light will be going out in only a week. Even if I had a year, I doubt I could experience them all. I am very grateful to you readers who supplied pictures, coordinates, and even links to so many stunning works of decorating art. And I am grateful to everyone who had an unlocked door, allowing me to wander around a bit and just marvel at all of the great ideas and talent. The following gallery is the compilation of my recent journeys and reader submissions.

SWG, you will always hold a very special place in my heart for starting me on the road to MMOs and giving me the best memories. You also brought me some of the most important people in my life. For that, I thank you. And I will most certainly miss you and your glorious housing. In the words of Issmir, "Here's to ya, SWG! You weren't always perfect, but you were always memorable." I couldn't agree more.

Gallery: SAR: SWG housing extravaganza | 173 Photos

Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of 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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