I was a fox called Alex Webster for about 2 months. I recently dug up my old Skyrates RP logs, and it got me thinking about it…
It seems like Skyrates is
more or less dead – at least as far as roleplaying goes. You can still log in, the server is still up but it’s… pretty quiet. [Ed: There’s still some activity over there, but all of the people I used to know have moved on]
It was a tiny semi-experimental persistent-world flash game where you played an anthropomorphic pilot in a world of floating skylands. The game was mostly trading and shooting things down, but the catch was that it took several real-time hours to fly from skyland to skyland. The idea was that you could drop in every few hours, shoot a few things down and set up your next few jumps and then get on with something else.
I haven’t touched this game for years. Literal years, the last time I logged in was 2008. What does this mean to me?
I’m really sad. I mean, I left Skyrates a long time ago, but thinking about it now… I really regret leaving when I did.
I remember seeing a picture of a floating battleship on RPS in October 2007 and following the link back to the Skyrates website. “This looks interesting!” I thought. “It appears to be free. I’ll give it a try”. It was quite an enjoyable little trading and shooting game, although the long-format, persistent nature took a little getting used to. It had quite a unique look and feel to it as well.
I remember finding that it had a very active roleplaying community. To date, it’s the best RP community I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. The Rotor & Prop – the bar that the RP channel spent most of its time set in and around – became my character’s home. Before very long, it became the game. I’d still play, but I primarily logged in to roleplay. My character was nothing special, an inexperienced rookie using one of my former aliases (Alex Webster). It was enough for me to bask in the brilliance of the tavern’s other denziens.
I remember Markus Jarnhann, a Colonel in the game’s military faction (the reds). He was my character’s mentor. He taught me to fly and fight, and was at least partially responsible for me buying what amounts to an autocannon on wings. This is the aircraft that prompted the sentence “So, good news! Firing my cannon doesn’t spin me out of control!” He shot people fairly often, but only when they were causing trouble.
I remember Mairi, who was effectively the heart of the roleplaying community at this time. She ran the R&P, eased me gently into the community while at the same time dealing with her character’s own problems. Markus was totally in love with her, but she ended up with someone else – Trystero, I think. Markus, Trys and Talon were all after her, she liked them all but that wasn’t really enough. She spent a lot of time feeling pretty terrible about the whole situation. Meanwhile, a couple of people nearly got killed in various incidents and the bar was temporarily set on fire. Through all this, she STILL managed to send me a smile, let me know how it all works and show all of us newbies how everything looks when there’s not a major disaster.
I remember Mahmoth. No-one messed with him. Once, when the RP channel was dead, he started singing. Mah had an incredible accent! I loved his accent. I once asked him if he wanted to go behind the bar (his customary position), and he replied “Hmn? Ach, nah, if y’self’s well b’hind’t, all’s salt.” That should give you an idea. Anyway, he’d been sitting on these Mahmothian lyrics for just such an occasion, and his character tapped out the rhythm on various bits of the bar. By the time he was finished, half the bar’s regulars had turned up. It was a brilliant gambit to get all the regulars who were lurking to turn up, and to get the conversation going. Mairi owned the place, but it was his bar, and no-one would dream of (or dare to) question that. He had a habit of appending ‘ling’ to people’s names. “Eyup, th’Ennling” for Ennia. I think he eventually took to calling me “Webling”. That was a mark of respect.
Mahmoth nods. “Seeming’s th’bugger’s t’be a lesson, next time about.”
I have just spent over an hour and a half looking back through my Skyrates chat logs. I have laughed out loud more than once.
I remember that four of us newbies turned up in the RP channel at about the same time. I was there a little earlier than the other three, Zekkass, Josiah and… I think it must’ve been Copper Cheetah. Zekkass and I quickly became a bit of a team, we both drank the same honey ale and flew the same planes for a long time. She joined the reds, the military faction and ended up working with Markus. Copper joined the blues, the science-y faction that Mairi belonged to. With Markus and Zekkass pulling me one way and Copper and Mai the other, I ended up staying neutral through sheer indecision. Markus once remarked that he saw Zek and I as his apprentices, and I suspect that eventually I would have gone red.
I completely forgot about this! Zek and I used to play cards, a game that only existed in the Skyrates universe. It was called Schellen. We had to work out and modify the rules ourselves as we went along. We didn’t have any actual cards of course, so we just played along with the help of notepad and calculator until we ran out of theoretical cards.
I remember Mai and Mah putting me behind the bar for the first time. My character was so proud, and spent as much time tending as possible. It marked my acceptance into this community, both in and out of character. I wasn’t even very good at it – I had a book of cocktail recipes stashed under the counter because people kept asking for stuff I didn’t know how to make – but I was earnest, and always did my best.
I remember the first time Talon Karrde came into the bar. He was one of the R&Ps most famous bartenders – in fact I think he originally owned the place. He disappeared for a long time, but it just so happened that he turned up again while I was active. “Have you met Alex?” Mai said. “He’s your replacement.”
I remember something dramatic and important happening. An assassin turned up and shot one of the major characters, and Markus went after him. I stayed up until about 0500 in the morning to watch it play out. I spent so much time in that RP channel, either participating or idling and watching things happen. Unfortunately, after I finally went to bed my internet connection broke, so I didn’t see what actually happened in the end.
I remember my Logitech G7 breaking – it was double or triple clicking every time I pressed the mouse button – but it would click multiple times in a fraction of a second. This caused flash-based things to break quite badly – they couldn’t parse the mouse clicks that quickly and menus and buttons would stop responding, necessitating a client restart. I stopped playing the game temporarily while I waited for the warranty replacement.
I never went back.
I never made a conscious decision to leave the community. I often regret it. I regret it right now. And with everyone else moved on a long time ago and the Skyrates server next to empty, it’s far too late to do anything about it.
I often wonder what happened to Zekkass, Markus and Mairi. What did they make of my character’s sudden disappearance? I sometimes toyed with the idea of going back and putting together some kind of story about being shot down ditching into the sea, being stranded for months and finally being picked up or repairing my craft. Months became years though, and the likelihood of anyone I knew still being around decreased. And then, there was the fact that I hadn’t even played the game towards the end, I was just there for the setting and that little RP window. Spending all day in there, staying up ridiculous hours – these were not good things. This little flash game was taking all my time up.
Even so, I regret that I couldn’t spend longer with that community (I was there only about two months), and I regret the manner of my leaving. Were you a member of the Skyrates RP community? I would absolutely love to hear from you.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting up my Skyrates RP channel logs. They’re incomplete in many places, but I don’t really expect to find a community like this again, and I’d like to show you why I kept these logs all this time. Maybe it’ll be therapeutic or something too…