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Samantha Koortyn 03-21-2006 02:26 PM

The History of Star Wars Epics
Star Wars Tales (founding members: Jack Solo and Skywalker Kenobi) was born on a site originally called Scifisites, which shortly thereafter changed its name to TheScifiVine. Scifisites itself was founded in 1997 as can be seen from the archived page above, and was one of many similar sites with different themes (science fiction, television shows) under one main parent site, Cybersites, Inc. -- AncientSites (ancient Egypt, Greece, etc.) being the first and most popular. Information being spurious at best regarding the exact date of inception for Tales, a best estimate is given at some time within the year 1999.

TheScifiVine was a uniquely interactive site experience for its time: one was given a selection of popular science fiction or fantasy names (Solo, Evenstar, etc.) and registered a first name, becoming a part of that "House" or "Family" (House of Elf, Skywalker Family, etc.). Then one could participate in "family" discussions in a specific location created for those who share the same last name, create a personal "home site" (four pages with unlimited image hosting) within the "Family", join message boards devoted to discussion of a wide variety of science fiction and fantasy topics as well as real life events, send and receive private messages to other users via popup "telegrams" (called just "grams" by the members -- a habit which would prove exceedingly hard to break for many), or public messages via personal mailboxes, and roleplay in the various sub-genre groups (Star Wars, Babylon 5, and Star Trek, as well as Cyberpunk, Fantasy, or even settings of one's own devise in special "admission only" groups).

Star Wars Tales was one such group, part of the Star Wars discussion forums. The two main forums of Star Wars Tales were the roleplaying area (run by Skywalker Kenobi) and Cloud City Cantina, a more casual area (run by Jack Solo). Han Antilles and Corran Antilles both joined around April or May of 1999, along with a few others, including Draven Darklighter, Tacita Evenstar, Jaina Jade, and Molly Gibson.

Corran writes:


A RL friend of mine had found it by accident, and thought I would like the SW community. Well, and there I was... a German, who had written English just in school many years ago. I had a good passive vocabulary because of watching movies or reading books and magazines in English, but the active one... that was something totally different. So you can imagine how nervous I was as I joined and posted for the first time in a forum. But suddenly a lot of people talked to me and we became friends. Among them a certain Han Antilles. My English improved as much as my character bio. First Corran was just a Corran Horn rip-off, but suddenly he evolved into an own character with a bio that is still growing every day.

On the Vine I met a little later Molly Gibson and through a former friend finally Sam.

Both of the original founding members had long since vanished from the site by the time Samantha Koortyn arrived (as Samantha Carter) in October of 2000.

In Sam's own words:


This was my first experience creating a character and pretending to be that character online. I had joined Ancientsites first, and resisted joining TheScifiVine because even at that time there were rumors of the site closing. So I very nearly didn't bother. But the whole idea of characters getting married, having families, and posting wedding announcements for people to "attend" was just too good to pass up, so I finally jumped in.

Of course, fancying myself to be an aspiring writer, I resisted yet again in joining the "in character" roleplaying -- I was saving myself for something I could publish and didn't want to "waste time" writing fanfiction. I was wrong about that too; my writing skills have grown considerably since 2000 and I owe it all to keeping my writing chops fresh, and receiving instant feedback from people with whom I have grown very close over the years.

Although some moderators were installed in place of the departed founders, they were essentially unofficial, due to what was to come next: Cybersites, Inc. came to the conclusion that their programming language of choice (RAGE) was becoming outdated, harder to debug, and generally cumbersome to manage. Rather than support this format any longer, they decided to combine their disparate "Vines" and launch TheVines, which would bring together all the various genres to one sharper looking, all encompassing website. Now, with one name, one could navigate all the "Vines" from the Scifi subdomain to the new Movies subdomain without registering multiple times.

Their gamble failed miserably. Neither Cybersites nor TheVines exist today in any form except for the archived pages linked in this article. The members, hating the new, improved interface, fled in droves, and when the original site finally closed (March 30, 2001), redirecting to TheVines, many had already set up shop on the then-fledgeling ezboard network.

Ezboard, unlike the more interactive TheScifiVine, was simply a message board network, with none of the frills the members had previously grown accustomed to, yet this is where "Vine Escapees" as they called themselves tended to congregate even before the TheScifiVine's closing -- whenever it went down, which became quite often toward the end. Duker Duck (Dukerduck Antilles on TheScifiVine) was the pioneer of this effort, encouraging several groups to make the jump and even coordinating a Hub of sorts, where all of the Escapees could post updates concerning their respective boards (a small representation of the various boards or sites created by Escapees is here - note that some may not exist anymore). Unfortunately, this Hub board has been deleted by ezboard.

Star Wars Tales was one such group, given a forum (called a "Colony") of a much larger science fiction / fantasy crossover board called Multidimensional Space (known as MDS), founded by Duker Duck and Dynath Kajira, and run by various other ex-Vine Tales members. Although both Corran and Sam adminned this board for a while, Tales stories were kept separate from the rest of the site, unwilling to allow crossovers between genres. It was during this time that Huntress Nekessla, Garrick Mikaelian, and JediRich (now Luke Halcyon) joined.

This "Colony" proved to the the board's most popular forum, and around September of 2001, Tales members realized the group had become too large to remain humbly ensconced inside such a small space as one forum on an otherwise low traffic board. The decision was made to set sail and make Star Wars Tales into an independent ezboard.

Corran remembers this era:


Without Sam I would have never the courage to start Star Wars Tales as own ezboard. Sam and I were both annoyed by behaviours of admins of other sites / forums we have been and we wanted to avoid all these things like arrogance and rudeness towards members, especially newbies and the lack of interest a lot of admins showed for their boards. Well, and the rest is history...

So that month, Corran, Sam, Draven, and Molly cast off from MDS and founded Star Wars Tales. (Han was heavily involved adminning another ezboard called Star Wars: New Horizons, also populated by ex-Vine Tales members, during that time, and didn't join Tales as a permanent member until January of 2002. New Horizons met its demise shortly thereafter.) Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, the entire Tales Colony was deleted from MDS several months after parting ways; however, one can find a sample of the roleplaying here -- in this 36-page thread one can see the slow move toward longer, higher quality posts by those who would later depart for greener pastures.

Star Wars Tales remained on ezboard until May of 2005, growing slowly but steadily throughout the years, improving in form, vision, and function as the admins learned HTML, CSS stylesheets, and ezboard-specific coding, as well as what does and doesn't work on a roleplaying board in terms of diplomacy and community relations. During this time the member count soared to over 1,100. Valued members who joined the ezboard include Cal Stravin, Cyan Madine, Jerva Kutac, Matheron Thayer, and Davin Corros.

Cyan remembers her first encounter with the board thusly:


I still remember how timid I first felt on Tales... there were so many people and I felt way out of my league. ^^; I didn't stick around when I first joined, but about a year or so later I tried again, and I'm still here.

Matheron remembers his experience:


I first came to Tales stalking a dreaded blond smuggler (Sam) who impressed me by opinionated opinions back around other ezboards. I was still a sithy Gungan back then, by whom she unexpectedly stood und who felt mucho grateful for that, and my first experience around was.. pleasantly daunting.

I landed up in the freezone at first, right in the balancer's (Corran's) private booth. Imagine! As a serious Gungan that was, a pretty conservative, xenophob ambassador of the greatest of all Gungan Armed Forces (an ezboard I'd founded) and inspiringly enough Sam, Molly and other great people soon joined our conversation. It was an adventure to write with them, already in that -small- freezone setting.. and I don't actually remember how it came, but eager and afraid at the same time to participate in one of the greater storylines I accepted when they asked me write for the poor Gungans the evil Darth Sythis incited against their fellow Nabooians back then. So.. I participated as a kind of living NPCs for a while, still intimidated but having great fun.

And so it came--I withdrew to OOC after that for long, hung around as a man of other timelines, yet the fascination lasted. For years. Till one Sith vixen cooed one singer to life, and Han a smuggler, and Kix a trooper, and Admiral Dodonna one for the propaganda, and thus the transformation was complete. Gungan to... three times worse, intimidated to fooling around freely.

Another Epics success story--thanks to the wonderful people who manage and mingle!

Then came the Great ezboard Disaster of May 31, 2005 (details have been removed from ezboard but can be found here -- Epics does not necessarily share in the opinions presented by that site, only the facts), during which the entire ezboard network was hacked, with many boards losing some or all of their data, never to be retrieved because of the network's negligent backup procedures. Tales was somewhat lucky; only half of the roleplays and discussion posts disappeared (along with more than half the member list). However, ezboard's lack of concern for all the lost data, and their refusal to refund anyone's money, soured many to ezboard's quality of service. This, in addition to the announcement that ezboard, just like TheScifiVine, had also decided to cease support of its original programming language and database system (Smalltalk with flatfiles), in favor of creating a new, improved network from scratch, was not very encouraging to long-time Tales members who had already watched the same exact venture fail spectacularly once before.

So, after much deliberation, taking place over a period of two months, and a little math which proved that ezboard had grown too expensive for the services it provided, the staff decided that Tales needed to move off the ezboard network, and try to make it as a truly independent internet entity. Despite some misgivings that the site would lose ezboard's precious member base, Tales set off yet again in August of 2005, to its own domain and website, Star Wars Epics, renaming itself to prevent any legal issues that might arise from the Dark Horse comic book of the same (Tales) name. Although many other ezboard owners who jumped ship around this time chose similar message board formats like Invisionfree, or for those more technologically savvy, phpbb, Epics staff opted for the superior (though considerably more expensive) forum software of vBulletin, combined with vbPortal, with a PhotoPost image gallery added in early 2006, all seamlessly integrated. Currently, the site is free, and there are no plans to begin charging users to participate, although non-registered members may find their viewing privileges limited in such areas as the upload/download section and image gallery.

There needn't have been any worry about ezboard's built-in member base, as Tales, now Epics, has grown geometrically if not exponentially since leaving ezboard, gaining more members in the first eight months (approximately 315) than normally registered within an entire year while the site was on ezboard (approximately 275 per year). The site's newest additions include Haika Vibrose, Leto Tariq, Val'kia Navin, Lady Syren, Jola'Edana Kahlid, Maxwell Gandel, ISB Agent, Dac Starborn, and many many more.

Val comments:


Almost 3 years ago, I was very new to RPing and followed a link from another RP site I was involved in posted by Samantha Koortyn for an ezboard called Star Wars Tales. To say I was impressed would be a huge understatement. The writing was phenomenal, the sense of camaraderie was obvious, and the maturity level was exceptional among sites I had visited in the past.

I can also add honestly that I was rather intimidated both by the quality of storytelling and by the scope of the board itself. As a result, all I did for about 2 1/2 years was lurk around Tales without ever making so much as a peep.

In August of 2005 I finally decided what the heck, it can't hurt to at least give it a try so I made up a character and bio, submitted it and jumped right in and I have been having a ridiculous amount of fun ever since. I have met a great group of new friends and fallen in love with writing all over again. The only regret I have is that I did not get over my shyness and join long before I finally did.

According to Leto:


Although I had visited Tales a few times, I didn't truly come to Epics until after Tales had moved to its own site back in August 2005. I registered to congratulate Epics on their new board and wish them luck. But instead of leaving, I began lurking about, making the occasional OOC post.

I was, only after moments of joining, ensnared. While the great writing to be found played a part, I believe what really drew me in were the members of Epics... the comraderie to be found, the healthy writing environment, the feeling that there were, in fact, actual people behind the screenname. It wasn't just words and coding, it was a community. At the time, I found it a little intimidating.

I finally decided to create a character for this board and begin writing. After much discussion with Han Antilles, one of the admins of the site, "Yuri Ninx" was born. Since then I have I have become hopelessly addicted, met many great people and friends, and found an enjoyment in writing that I realized was lacking before.

Joining Epics was a decision I am very, very glad I made.

Today, Star Wars Epics is setting the bar as an independently owned and operated, unofficial, not-for-profit, roleplaying-centered Star Wars website, and will continue to do so as long as there are fans of George Lucas' fantastic galaxy who are willing to write quality stories together, while enjoying a blossoming, flame-free fan community.

Tacita Darklighter (formerly Evenstar) writes:


I once thought that the ScifiVine was the best place online to be, EVER. And I continued to think of it that way for a long time. I was wrong. Epics has won out.

The name "Epics" is no misnomer nor unfounded claim: the original members from 1999/2000, and everyone that has joined since 2001, can trace their characters from their first "introductory post" through one continuing massive story, up to today -- a story that currently has no end in sight.

Luke Halcyon 08-21-2009 01:40 PM

Re: The History of Star Wars Epics

That's all I can say. I was there for it all, and yet seeing it written out like that was really sobering. I mean, I remember the decision to go to ezboard. I remember the crash of 2005. I remember Sam bugging the crap out of me to change my USERNAME when I came to Epics (jk, love ya Sam).

But through it all, Epics served as something more. It was a home, a haven if you will. For someone who while growing up, didn't have many friends. In fact, there were great lengths of time where I had none at all. When I joined this community, we were all much younger, :), had little experience writing (I hated it in english class actually), but we all had this love for the characters and moments in the Star Wars movies that initially brought us together. Over the years we not only grown, but flourished. I mean, my god, I could never have dreamed of writing 10 page fanfics for FUN 10 years ago. But, times change, and I changed. My writing grew as I did. We all grew, and the writing here I am convinced could be put into any novel and be read and enjoyed by any star wars fan VERBATIM. It's that good, and that is a true testament to everyone to writes here.

Over the years, I've gotten to know some of the people on these boards very well, the three admins especially. Reading this post, reminded me of all the stuff that they helped me through when I was in college, and afterwards when I was struggling in love and employment. No matter what happened to me, no matter how trivial, I could always come "home". It was my "cheers", where everyone knew my name, and where i could go to vent or just when I needed a kind ear. Epics helped me through break ups, work interviews, hirings, firings, When I was force to take an announced break for a few months, when I came back, it was as if I'd never left. It was "Welcome back", "missed you", and "When can you write?". The dicotomy in that reaction versus the same one from other boards that I had been forced to leave who did not welcome me back, was just so welcome, and really made me see how different the "family" aspect of Epics was compared to other sites.

It's been an exciting and funfilled 10 years here. I'd like to thank everyone who made this site possible, and for those who keep it going. You have been my confidants, my friends, some of the first REAL true friends I ever had, and are counted among the closest members of my cyberfamily.

For all the above, and for all that I know is to come, Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything.


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