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Hyperspace Beacon: TORWars gets candid for its 100th episode


Before its release, Star Wars: The Old Republic had one of the largest crops of fan sites that a single MMO has ever seen. But after most MMOs release, their fan sites diminish. Obviously, the same happened with SWTOR. But one of the sites that has weathered the storm of hate and boredom that follows any MMO release is TORWars.

TORWars stands out among its peers because of its fun, honest, and dare I say, professional atmosphere. Not only will you find some of the most enthusiastic SWTOR articles on TORWars, but those bits of news and editorial content are released daily by quality writers.

I wanted to get in on the site's celebration of its 100th podcast, so I asked hosts Jeff Hollis, Deirdre Hollis, and Brian Waggoner for an interview, to which they agreed after I bribed them with alcohol. We spoke for over two hours about the ups and downs of running one of the most popular SWTOR fan sites. Unfortunately, that's too much text for a single column, but I have grabbed the highlights, wrapped them up in a bow, and presented them here for you to enjoy. (The bribing with alcohol bit may or may not be true.)

Hyperspace Beacon TORWars gets candid for its 100th episode
Massively: TORWars has stood the test of time. A lot of the other fan sites -- even those whose reps attended the Fan Site Summit -- don't exist any more. As a SWTOR fan, I think it's great that you have stuck around and continued to push content out. What has sustained TORWars when some of the other sites have fallen away?

Deirdre (Dee) Hollis: From my perspective, one of the things that has made us stand out is not taking things too seriously but rather enjoying what we are doing. That also means playing the games that we cover and having fun in them. I would say that that's about 85% of the reason we stood the test of time. We aren't out there with an ulterior motive to take down everybody and be the number one site. That's not fun. What is fun is playing the game and writing about the game. I also think we haven't been pigeon-holed into a niche, which I think other sites have done and have felt forced to do. Strategically, we have not followed that.

Jeff Hollis: If I could piggyback on that a little bit...

Brian Waggoner: You cannot. You cannot.

Dee: It's not allowed!

Massively: This is going to be fun to write.

Brian: I apologize.

Dee: You have heard our podcast, right?

Jeff: I think that's a very good answer, and I also think that it's because this isn't our very first rodeo. I think that a lot of people get into the business and don't realize that there's a substantial amount of work involved. Your enthusiasm can only carry you so far. After a while, you just have to get things done. There are times when you sit down at the keyboard and it's not like, "This is going to be the most fun article I've ever written." I'm sure you can relate to this, Larry.

Massively: Ye-- I, mean, no! All my articles are fun. All three years of them -- that I've written about TOR -- are fun. Every. Single. One.

Jeff: There is a point for us where the rubber meets the road. We're adults, and we have to get this done. This article needs to go up today. For example, one of the things we have at TORWars is a publication schedule. I think we are probably the only fan site that has one. [Editor's note: There are other TOR fan sites that have publication schedules, but not many.] I know what's going up today; I know what's going up tomorrow. The editors communicate with one another. It's run like a business -- a fun business -- but it's at least structured and organized. It's not random and haphazard, which I think causes frustration and ultimately causes people to drop out.

Brian: For me, it's kind of hard because I see myself as kind of the Shemp of the TORWars team.

Dee: What about Curly?

Brian: No, I mean, it's hard for me to answer this because I've been a part of this officially only since March or April. It's still fresh for me. It's still exciting for me, so I don't have the fatigue that other fan site folks might have. I think that helps out a bit. I'm able to give a little shot in the arm because I've been able to come in and help with that. It's fun to me; it's an exciting topic. I like how professional the site is. That's kind of what drew me to it.

Dee: Be honest, Brian. You heard that we do drunken podcasting, and you were totally on board.

Brian: I'm not going to lie. It really is for the women and the booze. I should just put my answer down as that.

Hyperspace Beacon TORWars gets candid for its 100th episode
Massively: Let's go into a little bit of personal gaming experience. Listening to your podcast and reading your articles, I can tell you're not ignorant of the fact that TOR's had a couple of hard hits.

Brian: Woah. Woah. What?

Jeff: Huh?

Dee: Those are fightin' words.

Massively: Obviously, I still play, so I'm right there with you guys. I completely understand this. What's keeping you in the game? What makes this game fun for you?

Dee: I'd say for me it's the community and the people who come to our site. The desire they have to love something and to give something a chance, to hope for the best. I'm also attracted to the people who don't feel that but need someone to voice that because they don't know how to voice it themselves. There are definite discrepancies from what we were promised to what we were given.

Definitely what keeps me going and what keeps me playing and what keeps my finger on the pulse of TOR is the idea that these people are my friends and my community. Because they come to us for the knowledge and the camaraderie, I feel that it is not only my duty but a positive sacrifice to say, "I'm with you on it. I'm on the frontlines. And I'm holding the line. And here I am with you." I'm not out for a buck. I'm not out for whatever. I'm here because I have a passion, and I love this game. I love the gaming community.

I've always been attracted to the sociological aspects of gaming communities. We are a tribe unto our own in the end. I guess you can say that I often take a scientific approach to gaming, but it's definitely from a social aspect.

Brian: For me it's about finding a way and a place to kind of get lost. For me I play games as a kind of escape from the real world nutty-isms. I guess that's not really a word, but we will say that it is.

Massively: I will have to look up how to spell that.

Dee: I believe it's with a Y.

Brian: There's a silent X there somewhere. For me it's really easy to log in and kind of get lost in the story. It's easy for us to say -- and I'm not dogging Dee on this...

Dee: Yeah, right. You're dogging me; I'm feeling it.

Brian: Bark, bark. For me it's kind of just to get sucked into an MMO. You can do that with single-player RPGs. For this, it has Star Wars and BioWare storytelling. Those two things on its own are enough for me to just get pulled in. But it's tough to keep going all the time with that. For me it's seeing what's coming down the line also gets me excited; new features and new content gets me excited, too. But for the most part, it's just being able to get lost in a world like that. It's being able to sit down at 6 o'clock and all of the sudden it's 11 o'clock. Where did all that time go?

Jeff: I will agree with both of those things. You are playing in the Star Wars universe, and it's fun having other people around. I think that's what draws people into any MMO. Combine those two things: It's an MMO, it's a very social experience, and you're playing Star Wars. You're playing a role in Star Wars that you've probably wanted to play since you were a kid. I really enjoy that element of it. Another part of it for me (and I think, for Brian and Dee Dee also) is that we started very early in this process, and along the way, we've made a lot of friends. We're genuinely good friends with Carla from Corellian Run Radio. We are friends with a number of people who actually got hired on at BioWare. Some of them are still there... ahem, sorry... despite the layoffs.

Brian: It can't be a discussion without Jeff putting in his digs on that.

Jeff: Still mad about the layoffs! We are friends with the people that worked there before. Stephen Reid and I still stay in contact. David Bass and I still stay in contact. There is the in-game community, then there are these greater peripheral friendships that grow out of that. I like that aspect as well, and I think that keeps us going and keeps us moving forward.

Hyperspace Beacon TORWars gets candid for its 100th episode
Massively: I'm going to close this out with one final question.

Brian: Boxers.

Massively: All right. That answers the question. I'm done.

Dee: I don't wear any.

Brian: And I wear what she should be wearing on my head.

Massively: What can we expect to see from from TORWars the website in the future? Any big plans? Anything we should look out for? Anything we should wear tinfoil hats for or duck and cover from?

Dee: Yeah. Semi-naked fight club.

Brian: Erotic roleplay.

Jeff: Oh god, here we go.

Dee: Semi-naked erotic roleplay fight club.

Massively: That is definitely going down in the column. Have you got a date for that? Are we thinking soon, this fall?

Jeff: I think we're going to go with the hardcore, naked Wookiee porn. We're going to go with that as soon as free-to-play drops.

Brian: Let's be fair, though. There is a lot of softcore Wookiee porn out there.

Dee: With Cathar, please.

Massively: I don't think you're going to need a site for that. That's already going to be out there.

Brian: I think a fair answer (and I can only speak to the podcast side) is that I'd like to see us bring more interviews into the podcast. While I know that people like to hear us talk about stuff like we did for the last 30 seconds, I'm looking at post-100 being a TORWars podcast 2.0 or even 3.0. I guess I called it 2.0 when I took over. I want to see us expand out to make it more of a reflection of the site. I'd like to bring more class experts on. I'm not saying every week, but just bring in more varied viewpoints of people on to talk about things like this.

Dee: We will be seeing many more interviews from the developers directly, voiced for podcast or written for print, and much more open. I'm encouraging Eric Musco and all those guys to get the developers to open up and give us more information. I do believe they are lacking, and I don't know if they know how to solve that problem. The best way to do that is to use your fan sites, and they don't. They don't utilize us very well. We are essentially a window to the community. You can see your community clearly by looking at any fan site.

Brian: There's a lot of peeping Toms in that window, I'm just saying.

Jeff: I want to applaud my compadres and ride out on those answers.

To find out more about these avid fans and friends to the SWTOR community, be sure to visit TORWars! Thank you, Jeff, Dee, and Brian for chatting with me.

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 Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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