Life Moves Pretty Fast

Last month, I discussed how much I enjoyed participating in the Best View in SWTOR contest. I had an excellent time exploring the galaxy and taking a snap shot or two. Yesterday the winners were announced, and although none of my submissions were selected, I thought I should at least share them here.

First, however, I want wish a hearty congratulations to all the winners! I can see why each landscape was chosen and I look forward to putting their decorations on display in my strongholds.

As for my entries, I won’t waste your time with much commentary. If I’m being honest, I think most if not all of the winning submissions are superior to my own. Still, I am happy with my efforts. My favorite snapshot from my batch is the Zakuul oasis, but I can see how it is probably not an iconic view of the planet. I am also fond of the Tython and Tatooine landscapes. The Ord Mantell picture took some patience. Because of phasing issues, it seems the Smuggler’s ship is only visible to players in the outside world when someone else is just starting the Smuggler’s class story, the rest of the time the landing bay is empty. I had to be quick with the screenshot button when the ship phased into view! And, finally, yes, my Makeb vista was snapped in almost exactly the same spot near the infamous Makeb datacron as the winner’s. Great minds think alike!

Hutta

Korriban

Makeb

Mek-Sha

Ord Mantell

Ossus

Tatooine

Tython

Yavin IV

Zakuul

If your submissions are online somewhere, let me know, I’d love to see them!

There are many more worlds to visit, and I hope Bioware revisits this type of contest in the future.

 

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Who’s that Twi’lek?

Last Thursday, Bioware hosted a livestream to focus on the story of SWTOR‘s upcoming expansion  Legacy of the Sith. It was a short one, but they did not waste any time getting the news out. They shared some information about where we’ll be going and who we’ll be going there with. It was neat to see some old and new faces and places, but the developers also made sure to include two big pieces of information.

The first was entirely expected and long awaited: the expansion’s release date is December 14, 2021, less the one month from now! It will be an exciting race to the finish line. I think it would be generous to call the state of the game on the PTS “a work in progress” and I truly hope the team at Bioware will be able to get everything in working order for the launch with plenty of time to spare.

New Twi’lek, Who Dis?

The second big reveal was rather more unexpected, and I must tip my hat to the good folks in Austin for putting it out there and not remarking on it at all.

We caught our first glimpse of a mysterious new character in the lovely key art that will serve as Legacy of the Sith’ loading screen, followed by a few tantalizing frames at the very end of the teaser trailer.

Recently Bioware has been rolling out remastered versions of SWTOR‘s amazing cinematic trailers, and if you haven’t watched them in a while, it is worth it to revisit them in high definition to be reminded about what a breathtaking introduction to the game’s setting they are!

I thought the days of these types of cinematics in SWTOR were over. But when they revealed a new CGI model of Darth Malgus on the cover of Star Wars Insider, I started to wonder, but did not dare get my hopes up. However, one look at those big blue eyes, and it was immediately obvious that this shot was not rendered in SWTOR’s game engine. Something is coming, and I cannot wait to see it.

This past summer I took Bioware to task for not giving us enough to anticipate or wonder about for Legacy of the Sith, but with one loading screen and a few frames of video, they’ve excited my interest and got me asking questions!

The first and foremost is, of course, who is she? With my tin-foil-hat firmly in place, I have a theory. I think she is Darth Malgus’ daughter. While Eleena Daru came to a tragic end at Malgus’ hands, it does not strike me as impossible that she bore him a child. If true, this leads too all sorts of additional questions. Who raised her? Did Malgus know about her? Does she know who were parents are?

And I think there are some clues in what we’ve seen and heard already.

She carries a purple lightsaber, a color which Tau Idair’s voice actor Enuka Okuma aptly described in the livestream’s pre-show as a balance of the Jedi’s traditional blue lightsaber and the Sith’s red. Moreover, the figure wears black armor over white robes, imagery which again bridges the Jedi and Sith. I don’t believe any of this is by accident.

Is she Jedi? Is she Sith? Could she be neither? The notion of “Gray Jedi” is a contentious one. Personally it’s never appealed to me as a formal designation or coherent philosophy, but the concept of Jedi and Sith who exist outside their respective codes has long been a part of Star Wars and especially Old Republic lore. And Malgus’ voiceover in the teaser indicates a clear desire to break free of both the Sith and Jedi.

Is this woman part of his plan for that? His hope for that? His tool for that? And what does she think about her role in all of this?

I think the final clue comes in the name of the expansion itself. It may not be a metaphor at all. As the child of Darth Malgus, she would be the literal Legacy of the Sith.

Like I said, I have questions but no answers. And I love it!

Opal Vulpltilla Raffle

Finally, to celebrate this week’s announcements, I am lucky enough to be able to share with my community a chance to win an Opal Vulptilla mount. To enter this raffle, all you need to do is leave a comment below this post. Who do you think the mysterious Twi’lek is? What is your favorite Aurebesh letter? Will you redecorate your Manaan stronghold to reflect the war there? Which returning character will we be able to romance in 7.0 and why is it Darth Rivix? Let me know what SWTOR thoughts are on your mind! However, I must insist that you DO NOT post datamined spoilers from the PTS. I will delete and disqualify any such comments.

To enter, leave a comment below with the following information:

  • Your character name (be mindful of spaces and special symbols!)
  • Your faction
  • Your server

That’s it! I will accept entries for two weeks from this posting and will randomly select the winner on December 4 at 12 PM ET.

If you prefer not to comment publicly, I will also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com or through twitter.

There are no country or server restrictions on any of the prizes that will be awarded.

This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with LucasFilm Ltd, BioWare or Electronic Arts Inc.

We’re on the honor system here, so one entry per person, please.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing everyone in Legacy of the Sith!

If you’re new here, I hope you’ll take a look around. I’ve been translating SWTOR’s alien languages for more than five years now and sharing commentary about the state of the game as I see it.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Iokath is Good, Actually

I feel like I’m overdue for a Dumb Top Five list, and while we have a moment to catch our breath between Legacy of the Sith announcements, I thought I’d pick a particularly hopeless lost cause to champion. For the record, I’m not trying to pick a fight with anyone in particular. The simple fact of the matter is that whenever anyone mentions Iokath, it is almost always in the context of how much they hate it.

However, long time readers will know that I’ve always offered at least lukewarm support of Iokath so, sure, if I’m gonna die on a hill, let that hill be the machine world run by SCORPIO. So as part of this project’s goal to spotlight parts of the game that some players might have overlooked, here are my top five reasons why Iokath is actually good.

Iokath is Just Cool

Questing across the inner surface of a Dyson sphere is one of those mind blowing scifi concepts that can be difficult to wrap our heads around.

Iokath dwarfs the largest sentient made structures in all of Star Wars lore. The closest thing to Iokath SWTOR players will have encountered is Kuat Drive Yards, the artificial ring around the planet Kuat, and that’s not even close at all. Iokath is a sphere whose perimeter is likely similar to the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun, and encloses and draws in the entire radiant output of a star! There are whole other planets orbiting inside of Iokath! Iokath’s surface area is several hundred million times that of the Death Star! It’s an astonishing notion to think about. Its makers are also responsible for the Gravestone, the Eternal Fleet and the pantheon of Zakuul’s Machine Gods, some of the most terrifying powers in the history of the entire galaxy.

So next time you’re on Iokath, look up and know that’s not sky you’re seeing. It’s an endless expanse of technology enveloping everything around you within an Astronomical Unit.

Iokath is Easy

This is probably where I’m gonna lose people. “Iokath is confusing!” “It’s a pain to get anywhere!” On my early visits, I certainly agreed, but whoever designed Iokath, I’d argue, did make it easy to traverse. Once I began to understand how the teleporters and trams connected across the zone, I discovered I had no problem getting from one quest area to the next. Armed with that knowledge, everything else came together.

The dailies lead players to two main areas: the Weapons Factory in the south of the main Expanse, and the instanced Docking Ring section near the Alliance Fleet Spire where players zone-in. There are other quests involving killing various types of droids, and those can be completed anywhere on Iokath. Otherwise there are a some other missions with objectives in the general Expanse area. These objectives are either near the faction bases, or accessible via teleport pads or tram stations.

Once I collect the dailies (Yes, I know. I’ll get to that later), I’ll decide whether I just need to turn around and drive back to the Docking Ring, or head to the Weapons Factory by quick-travelling to the Superweapon Command at the bottom of the map, then taking the tram to either Superweapon Command Entrance where the teleporter zaps me right next to another tram station that will drop me at the factory. It sounds more complicated than “Hop on your speeder and drive to the green arrow on the map,” but I get around Iokath quicker than I do Yavin or Section X.

I believe that having the missions spread out around the zone and questing be somewhat non-linear is fine, more than fine even. Exploration should be a part of the RPG experience and not every map needs to funnel players in a straight line from start to finish. It’s okay to let players find their own path or wander around a little.

Iokath is Fun

Fun is relative, of course, and in matters of taste there can be no disputes. The CZ-198 daily area is brilliantly designed to shuttle players through the zone in a non-stop frenzy of combat and quest object clicking, but sometimes I just want to do something different, and Iokath does a pretty good job scratching that itch.

I’ll concede that some people absolutely loath vehicle quests, but I don’t mind most of them. Rolling around as a seemingly harmless, chirping mouse droid and blowing an enemy walker to smithereens is good for a laugh. The turret daily is nigh impossible to fail and nice when I’m just looking to kick back and only press one or two buttons for a bit.

Above them all, I love the walker daily the most. I will never not enjoy stomping enemies into dust beneath my metal toes, blasting robots into next week with laser beams and raining missiles down on my foes.

If I just want to run around and kill mobs, SWTOR offers plenty of ways for me to do that, but I appreciate that Iokath at least wants to mix it up a bit with some oddball quests and and overall more relaxed pace. At the very least, the odds of having to compete with other players for quest objectives and mobs are significantly less on Iokath. If you in an anti-social mood, it’s the place to be.

Iokath has Good Rewards

First off, if you’re looking to score some Conquest points, Iokath will net you a bucketful. Assuming the values don’t change in 7.0, the weekly alone should still complete a character’s personal conquest.

In addition, the reputation rewards are nothing to sneeze at. The Iokath Annihilator armor set is, in my opinion, the best Sith themed reputation set in the game. The Republic counterpart, the Iokath Technographer set is a bit of an acquired taste, but its glowing piping and animated visor are as distinctive as anything you’ll find on the Cartel Market.

Each faction’s reputation vendor also has a decent selection of decorations. Personnel decorations are always useful for populating an empty stronghold, and I especially like the light cast by the Iokath Wall Lamp from the Republic vendor.

And if you want a big, pointy speeder to cruise around in, both faction’s vendors can set you up.

Iokath is Bad, Actually

In good conscience, I cannot gloss over the reasons people dislike Iokath. First and foremost, even though the weekly quest requires that we complete ten dailies, the quest terminal doesn’t actually offer enough quests to complete the weekly in one go. It seems, by design, Iokath is not meant to be completed in a single day.

This is fundamentally at odds with how nearly everyone, including myself, approaches daily areas. We want to get in and out all in one trip. People already don’t want to go to Iokath in the first place, expecting them to go back at least twice a week is silly.

To make matters even more confusing, the selection of quests offered on any given day rotates on a daily basis so that I may not be offered enough quests in a specific area to make going there a good use of my time.

My strategy when approaching Iokath is to collect quests early in the week and then check back later as the selection changes so that I get not only enough missions to complete the weekly but enough in the areas where I want to go. However, this tends to leave my mission log clogged to overflow when I’d prefer to leave room for others I want to complete that day.

To put it mildly, this is not at all player friendly design. If it were up to me, I’d put all the missions on the board and let players pick and choose the ones they want to do. At the very least, there should always be enough quests to complete the weekly, and if not every quest will be available, the ones that are should share common objectives and destinations to make completing them efficient.

Is Iokath good? No, but it could be. It should be! Players should not be expected to jump through extra hoops just to complete some dailies. Instead of keeping things fresh, the narrow and random selection of missions causes frustration and works to make visiting Iokath feel worse than it needs to be. Let players choose which dailies to take. Yes, someone will math out the most time-to-credit efficient path to take to complete the weekly in the fastest possible time, but I think that’s preferable to almost no one ever going there at all. And if other players want to mix things up and discover the joys of crashing around in a walker or grab a couple friends and take on the Colossus Droid, so much the better.

I like Iokath. I really do. When I manage to score a good mix of missions, it’s one of my favorite weekly areas. And if it could get out of its own way, I think more people might like it too.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Welcome to the Hype Train

This week, I’m honestly not sure where to start!

Let’s take it slow and begin with a quick look at this sign seen outside the shattered Zoo enclosure at the center of Axial Park on Corellia. If you participated in the recent Feast of Prosperity event, you likely came across the sign on your way to fight Lucky the Rancor who an was objective of one of the World Boss ingredient daily quests.

At first glance you might think this sign is written in Aurebesh, but technically it’s not. Instead it uses “Galactic Basic” a font, which better matches the script glimpsed in Return of the Jedi. That text from the movie also inspired the official Aurebesh, but the two fonts don’t fully match. So while the fonts are similar, I’d say the are more step-siblings than directly related.

If you mouseover these signs near the Zoo, a pop up with alternate text appears. The literal translation indicates this is a welcome sign and its design with arrows and credit symbol are likely meant to point to a ticket booth, but the in-game translation turns this into a warning sign. In context, this make sense given that a dread-corrupter Rancor has broken from its cage, and it’s probably telling that that any authorized personnel who did enter the enclosure are no where to be found.

Legacy of the Sith Hype

The big SWTOR news is that after months of relative silence, a torrent of Legacy of the Sith information has been released, Bioware has made numerous posts about how various games systems will look in the next expansion, and SWTOR is even getting some welcome media exposure in advance of its tenth anniversary.

I should confess that I haven’t spent much time on the 7.0 Test Server. I was fairly active during Onslaught’s testing period but decided to lay off this time around so that I can go into the expansion with fresher eyes. That said I have been vicariously following the news and controversies roiling around the PTS. Nevertheless you shouldn’t consider my takes so much hot as tepid.

Some of the changes have me confused and asking “But why?” In general, however, I think I see what Bioware is aiming for, and I hope they’re able to hit their targets.

Among experienced players, the class changes have been the most fraught. I’m not up to date enough to go into any detail, but when it comes right down to it, ability bloat has become a real problem in SWTOR, and I can’t blame the developers for trying to rein it in. I don’t think we need three rows of buttons to play the game, and the sheer number of confusing and often redundant abilities makes learning the game intimidating to new players and even some veterans learning new classes.

I don’t envy Bioware this task. We’ve gotten used to having all these options, and for skilled players pushing the hardest PVP and PVE content, many if not all of those buttons find their use. Since the ability cull seems to be focused on defensive cooldowns, I’m not surprised tanks and pvp players are worried about what this means for their favorite characters.

This week saw lots of information for how Bioware intends gearing and itemization to work in Legacy of the Sith. I can’t possibly summarize it all, but basically different types of content will reward different qualities of gear. This marks an end to Onslaught’s “play your way” Spoils of War system. The last two expansions made it relatively easy for anyone to acquire the highest item rating gear, but they also fostered negative gameplay loops in that have lead to SWTOR’s group finder being dominated by Hammer Station and Toborro’s Courtyard. It’s not the player’s fault. To gear up fast of course people will run the easiest content for the best rewards.

But it’s not fun, and it’s not a great experience for new and veteran players alike who want to experience the breadth of SWTOR’s diverse group content only to be funneled into the same things over and over and over.

More difficult content will soon reward better gear. This is a good thing. I progressed through Veteran Mode Dxun and Nightmare Mode Explosive Conflict operations this year, and every single piece of equipment I got was ground into tech fragments. Honestly, it’s not a great feeling when collecting loot is more a bag-clogging nuisance than a reward for overcoming a challenging encounter.

It’s probably not an accident that Bioware has dusted off the Tionese, Columni, and Rakata names for the tiers of raid gear, since the expansion’s system is somewhat more old school in design. If you kill a boss, someone on the team gets an upgrade. There’s a reason that’s a tried and true model.

The advantage that 7.0 has over SWTOR’s earlier vertical progression systems is that everyone will have access to the same gear. No more will a solo player grind commendation tokens to buy gear with poor itemization and no set bonuses, gear which was worse than lower rated loot from operations. All players will be able to get Legendary items with “set bonuses,” and everyone will be able to collect and upgrade their equipment. There is no downside to everyone having access to good gear, and I just don’t see that changing.

But, yes, players engaging with the game’s most difficult content will have first crack at the best loot. That’s okay. Raiders make up such a small slice of the player base; let them have this.

I know some solo players are concerned about being left out in the cold. All I can say is that I’m not planning on doing much Nightmare raiding in Legacy of the Sith, so I will be in the same boat as them. I was most active raiding during the Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan expansions, and at no point did I ever have even a single character in a full set of best-in-slot gear, but I still killed lots of Hard Mode bosses, completed every flashpoint and had no problem running dailies and completing story updates. I will do the content I enjoy, collect the gear I get and upgrade it as best I can. I’m not worried.

If you are a solo player worried about gear, then let me encourage you to dip your toes into SWTOR’s truly wonderful flashpoints and operations. The group finder is not for everyone, no doubt about it, but running flashpoints with friends and guildmates is the best part of the MMO experience. There are lots of guilds that welcome players looking for a place to play at their own pace and are more than happy to introduce them to group content. Every weekend my guild hosts world boss hunts and operation runs, and we are always glad to teach folks new things. It’s never been easier to jump into SWTOR’s storymode operations, and seeing that notification when someone gets an achievement makes me smile every time.

This leads me to the announcement that Legacy of the Sith‘s new operations will not have 16 player modes. I have mixed feelings about this. I hear of few, if any, teams that progress on 16 player mode first. It’s almost always done after and only for the achievements, so I can see the value in focusing on the version of the operation that most people will actually experience. That said, I think its worth keeping 16 person modes for Storymode. Even my small guild often has more than eight on our Storymode nights, and we will bump things up to 16 person so that everyone can participate. Going even further, I’d love to see SWTOR swipe “flex raiding” from World of Warcraft for its Storymodes so that those operations could dynamically scale depending on the group size from 8 to 16 or potentially even 20 or 24!

Finally, we are racing to SWTOR‘s tenth anniversary, and still no release date has been announced. I am definitely looking forward to Legacy of the Sith, but the promised “holiday” release is looming ever closer, and it still seems like a lot of things are yet to come together. For now, I’m crossing my fingers, closing my eyes, and punching my ticket for the hype train.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Legacy of the Sith, Uncategorized

A Billion Here, a Billion There…

The topic of inflation has come to a head recently in the SWTOR community as Hypercrates and other high value items have increased in worth beyond what the game’s auction house, the GTN will allow them to be sold for. I’m no game developer or economist, but I thought I’d add my two cents to the discussion, which in this economy won’t go far.

Inflation is a common problem in MMOs where credits are generated out of thin air and often never leave the game, but it’s been compounded in SWTOR where there have been in the past exploits allowing free credit generation and content lulls where there is little else for players to do but accumulate wealth without having much to spend it on.

During Onslaught I have made billions of credits casually selling excess crafting materials on the GTN. I typically post between two and five auctions when I log on, and then at the end of my session or the next day collect the proceeds from sales and replace what’s been sold. I’m not selling high value items, but have been making bank at a steady pace throughout the expansion.

And I’m not alone, I know many other billionaires, and I’m certain the “tres comas club” is hardly exclusive company anymore. I doubt SWTOR’s current credit sinks are making a big dent in the economy these days. The problem of how to drain trillions of credits from an artificial economy has got to be a tough nut to crack without drastic measures that enrage the rich and punish the poor.

However, there are steps that I imagine Bioware might take to cool things off in the forthcoming expansion, Legacy of the Sith.

First and almost most certainly, the day-to-day cost of doing business will increase. Expect to pay more for repairs, profession training, crew skill missions, pulling mods, and rerolling amplifiers. This is standard practice in SWTOR already, but I wouldn’t be shocked if those costs increase closer to the pace of the inflation we’ve seen. Should Tacticals and class set pieces sold by the Spoils of War vendors cost 10 million credits or more next time around, I won’t be surprised.

I make my own augments and stims, and it’s not worth it to run missions for the supplemental materials that are necessary for crafting. Instead I’ll pay a vendor hundreds of thousands of credits for the cloths, flux and recombinators needed to craft even a small stack of purple components. I bet the cost of crafting stims and augments will skyrocket in Legacy of the Sith. Likewise, if they add more craftable dyes and color crystals and other cosmetics (remember when Cybertechs could build speeders?), plan on needing expensive supplementary materials for those as well.

This is all fine. Credits are pretend money, and they’re meant to be spent and not gather dust in my Legacy bank.

I’ve also seen it suggested that the game could use more credit sinks. It is already significantly more expensive to unlock the newer strongholds than the old, and if they add new ones, opening all the rooms will surely not be cheap. I didn’t need to spend any credits catching up with Galactic Seasons, but I also didn’t hear of many people spending more than a few million on that themselves.

Would people crack open their piggy banks if Kai Zykken offered extravagant and expensive loot on an extremely limited schedule? There is some precedent for this. After game update 1.1.5 back in 2012, SWTOR added a limited time vendor that sold white color crystals for the then princely sum of 2.5 million credits, and I remember the fear of missing out was real as people scrambled to save up before the vendor went away.

I agree with the notion that Bioware would not offer Cartel Market items for sale for credits at any price, but there are rare and in some cases no longer available items from PVE and PVP content they could offer as replicas or reskins. But would that be enough to tempt a significant number of players to spend enough to the point where the economy cools down? Would you pay a billion credits for replica Wings of the Architect?

Lately I’ve been asking friends what would they spend a billion credits on, and no one has an easy answer, and I doubt there is a single magic bullet that would appeal to all players. The folks I know seem to be willing to pony up those credits up for something that has a long-term benefit to their characters or their guild. What that might be, I can’t say. A multi-passenger mount? No cooldown rocket boots? Legacy hood toggle?

Come the expansion, we might see a mix of expensive Legacy unlocks and cosmetic items added to any new Reputation vendors (and maybe some old ones as well), but I don’t know if Bioware would actually offer a billion credit item for sale, but if they do, I hope it’s spectacular.

Finally, I think it is possible that Bioware might follow the example of other MMOs and offer a way to turn credits in to Cartel Coins or game time. Since these transactions would be happening outside the GTN and player economy, Bioware would, in theory, be controlling the price and insuring that the value of credits never sink below a certain dollar or Cartel Coin amount and thus slowing inflation.

Some games allow players to purchase their version of Cartel Coins with in game credits, but I doubt this is a road Bioware would take. Perhaps instead we might see a SWTOR version of World of Warcraft’s “WOW Token” an item which can be redeemed by the owner for subscription time or cash shop credit. The Token’s real money cost is more than the regular subscription price, but it can be sold to other players for in game gold through a Blizzard controlled marketplace, not the auction house.

This allows players who are rich in the game to fully subsidize their subscription through the real life purchases of other players who don’t mind trading dollars for gold. I don’t know if this has meaningfully slowed inflation or gold selling in WOW. If I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of the WOW Token, and I’d be reluctant to see my SWTOR credits be tied to real money. It’s pretend money, and I think it’s meant to be spent on pretend things. I don’t want to feel like I have to choose between blowing a few millions credits for a cosmetic item on the GTN or saving a few bucks on my subscription. If that means inflation is a thing in the game, then so be it.

But I have friends who play WOW who do like the Token since it allows people with more free time than money to play, and people with less time to drop a few dollars and come away with enough gold to stay ahead of WOW‘s own inflating economy. As always, I do not ever want to tell people how to spend their money or their time, and it would be foolish of me to think my outside impression is correct.

My gut feeling, however, is that SWTOR won’t go down this path. At the very least I doubt Bioware has the infrastructure in place to smoothly and securely set up such transactions. But they have at least acknowledged the problem, and I hope they’ll be taking steps to address it as best they can. Who knows what the future holds? I surely don’t! Still, just to be sure, make certain you’ve got plenty of walking around cash when you get there.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith, Onslaught

Small Cheer and Great Welcome

SWTOR’s Feast of Prosperity event has made its second annual return. The Feast was a pleasant surprise at the end of last year, and once again I’ve fully engaged with the event.

First off, since there are numerous and generous Conquest objectives associated with the Feast, for the next couple of weeks I can take a break from my heroics, dailies and flashpoint routine but still score buckets of points for my guild. That I can play a few mini games and join a world boss hunt at all hours of the night and day is a refreshing change of pace from the usual busy work SWTOR typically has me doing.

For the most part, the Feast’s content and presentation have not changed. Because of the circumstances of last year, no original dialogue was recorded for the event and all the story interactions are presented in the “KOTOR style” in which our characters are silent and everyone else speaks Huttese or other alien languages. Given the focus of event, this makes a certain amount of sense. However, I am on the record as not loving this format of storytelling in SWTOR and since I’m running through the event again on alts, I don’t feel any guilt about spacebarring through those scenes this time around. That said, if it’s your first time, I do think it is worth it to read through the subtitles of the event’s entertaining story.

Aside from the story, the Feast is mainly structured around collecting ingredients from world bosses and their environs, and completing a pair of mini-games based around cooking meals and serving meals to hungry feast goers. These games are by no means difficult, but two harder versions of each game do require some concentration to successfully complete, at least by me, anyway.

The Cantina Rush dailies have the player take control of a serving droid, and race around a feast hall delivering meals to ravenous patrons in an occasionally hectic race against time. Although SWTOR’s quest tracker does not monitor your progress, the game’s setting does. An Aurebesh display in the back of the kitchen keeps track of how many dishes you have left to deliver in the round and how many mistakes you’ve made.

It might take a second or two to adjust your camera to properly spy the display screens, but if you can spare the moment, it might be worth it to know that the end is in sight!

Translating the Aurebesh scoreboard could not be easier, because it actually doesn’t need translation. Numbers in Aurebesh can be written using two very different styles, and in this case the designers smartly chose the version that can easily be read by readers in both this galaxy and in one far, far away.

Before you think me a complete slacker, the name of the banquet hall has some actual Aurebesh for me to translate. It’s an amusing name for a restaurant, but I would hope that meals served here digest a bit quicker than ones served at its namesake.

Finally, I must commend Bioware for adding a few new rewards to an already well-stocked event vendor. Having a reason to save up more tokens for some decorations and a cool ninja mask gives me plenty of incentive to revisit the Feast of Prosperity. Indeed, it is long overdue that the rewards of SWTOR‘s other recurring events get some attention. Most if not all of those old events have not been updated in years and years, and they could all use some attention to encourage veteran players to participate again. How about a life-sized Xenoanalyst decoration, a miniature Eyeless pet, Swoop team dye modules, a Bounty Broker weapon tuning, Pirate themed weapons, and Life Day color crystals? I honestly don’t believe any of that is too much to ask.

In the meantime, I’ll make the bold claim that the Feast has become my overall favorite of SWTOR’s events, and I’ll gladly spend the next couple of weeks collecting weird ingredients, frying them up in sauce pans and serving them straight into the bellies of hungry celebrants from all over the galaxy!

 

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Does This Look Jedi to You?

This Week in Aurebesh turned five years old just a couple of days ago, and to celebrate my choice of translation subject was an easy one. One of the most recent of many Mandalorian themed additions to SWTOR recently was the “Hired Gun’s Decoration Bundle” which includes the very large “Outdoor Jedi Temple” decoration.

Although interactable decorations are nothing new, this one sports a unique and cool feature because only Force using characters can fully discover all this decoration has to offer. When a Jedi or Sith click the stone in the center of the temple, the ancient runes light up and a swirling pillar of Force energy erupts into the sky. This item is clearly meant to recall the Jedi ruins on Tython visited in the episode The Tragedy from the second season of Disney+’s popular series, The Mandalorian. While the runes inscribed on the stone in the TV show do not seem to be translatable, the ones in SWTOR‘s version can.

The writing inscribed on the pedestal shares the same alphabet with runes players will have encountered on Ossus, and those familiar with this runic alphabet may notice that I’ve reversed the position of the phrases on the inner ring. The question of where and how to read text on a circular baseline is surprisingly complex. My personal impulse in this case is to start at the bottom and work my way up to the right and around on the left, so that’s what I did here, even if it means my recreation doesn’t track exactly with the original. For the outer ring, in the interest of bringing balance to the Force, I did match each phrases’ position around the circle.

The content of the text is very similar to what we saw on Ossus, and both refer to the Jedi code. The code cited here is once again an earlier version, rather than of the one most commonly used both in SWTOR and Star Wars lore in general. Personally, this fan has always found the particular version of the code we see here to be more in keeping with the themes of my favorite Star Wars stories. The “regular” Jedi code’s negation of emotion, ignorance, passion, chaos and death strike me as somewhere between confusing and foolhardy. If the Sith literally exhorts followers of the Dark Side to break free of these notions, it seems to me that the Jedi are better served by seeking to strike a balance between them.

Metaphysics aside, this is truly a neat decoration, and one that quite honestly should not be limited to just player strongholds. I very much hope that the designers find away to incorporate this temple into the open game world. It would be entirely appropriate to place it atop some out of the way hill or mountain on Tython. It would be a very cool easter egg for players to discover by accident or to seek out for roleplaying or just fun.

The Best View in SWTOR

On a related note, I do want to mention The “Best View in SWTOR” Contest that is in its final day as I post this. While I have been active in the game recently, working to get Marcus his first Nightmare operations clear (and my first in several years), and helping the good folks in the Ootinicast guild complete the operation on Dxun for the first time, I have also been journeying from one end of the galaxy to the other taking screenshots of the many, many breathtaking views the game has to offer. I have always loved the exploration aspects of MMOs and find the simple act of traveling around on a favorite mount and seeing where I can get to be an extremely relaxing way to pass the time. In SWTOR, revealing hidden corners of the maps, finding lore objects and collecting Datacrons have all been activities in which I am eager to engage.

Moreover this contest is also an opportunity for a few lucky and keen eyed players to directly affect the game, even if only in a small way. I don’t imagine that this is something that happens a lot in many games, especially a Star Wars game. I don’t expect to win, but I am glad to have had an excuse to revisit some favorite locations and uncover a new vista or two I missed the first time around.

I thought I’d finish up with this view from Tython. Even though it was not iconic enough to be my submission, it is nevertheless my favorite snapshot from my travels this past month. I wasn’t even trying to get this specific view, instead I had climbed a ridge to get an overview of the valley below, when I turned around, the sun was shining through the leaves at a perfect angle. Ten years in and SWTOR can still surprise me with a quiet moment of beauty.

And that’s pretty much why I started this blog five years ago, to remind myself to stop and look around and take a closer look at things I might normally race past on the way to the next boss or quest objective. It’s something that I hope is good advice both in this game and this life. I am immensely grateful to everyone who has stopped by on this journey, and I hope we’ll continue to find some new wonders to discover in a galaxy far, far away.

 

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Star Wars: Visions Review

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any Star Wars tales outside of SWTOR. Although I generally liked The Mandalorian and Bad Batch, I didn’t come away from them feeling like I had much to offer to the conversations around those shows. But having finished Star Wars: Visions this week, I did want to put some thoughts down while they’re fresh. I will, for the most part, avoid spoilers since I feel like we are still within the window of letting folks watch at their own pace. I don’t follow anime as much as I used to, but I did grow up with some of the series that made it over to North America in my youth. A French translation of Captain Harlock was my first exposure to anime, and, as a kid, I was enthralled by Starblazers and then Robotech, which in spite of how the original shows were truncated and transformed for western audiences, were clearly unlike any other cartoons on my TV. I had no interest in He-man or Transformers, but to this day I can still sing every lyric to the Starblazers theme song. When anime exploded in popularity in the US in the 90’s, it was cool to be able to easily see (often even in the theater!) films like Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke. But aside from the odd movie or series here and there, I haven’t watched as much I used to. However, from the get-go, Visions seemed neat, and I certainly was gonna check it out.

To start, I’ll just lay my cards out on the table and get my one spoiler out of the way. Watching someone surfing on the nose of an X-Wing as they cut a Star Destroyer in half with a lightsaber is the Star Wars content I’m here for. I’ve always preferred it when Star Wars bends towards the mystical and weird, so I connected with many of the stories told by Visions. More space rabbits, laser umbrellas, outrageous duels and metalhead Hutts, please.

Clocking in at around 15 minutes each, the episodes don’t have a ton of space to breathe, so the breakneck pace didn’t do some of the stories any favors; maybe too much was left implied and unresolved. I ended up watching the whole series in one or two episode batches over a weekend. Not surprisingly, the installments share many of the same themes, symbols and even story beats, and had I binged the whole thing at once, it might’ve felt repetitive. At the very least, hearing “I have a bad feeling about this” every 15 minutes would’ve gotten old. But taken on their own and with some separation between them, I think I was able to get into each episode a bit more and appreciate the stylistic approach each team brought to the table. I have never been a purist when it comes to the sub vs. dub debate in anime, but in this case I do think that the episodes tend to sound better in the original Japanese with subtitles. Often the the English dub falls into the clichés of anime dubs in which English dialogue is awkwardly verbose and delivered very, very fast.

Given the focus of my blog, I would, of course, be remiss if I did not call attention to the appearance in the episode The Village Bride of an XS Freighter which every Smuggler in SWTOR will know and love as their class ship. The XS is a neat mashup of the Millennium Falcon and the Ebon Hawk, and it’s cool to see it pop up in an unexpected setting. If I’m being honest, the class ships have been neglected in SWTOR lately, so I’m glad at least one can get in on the action again. And additional points to the animators at Kinema Citrus for making an Old Republic reference to something other than Revan, who might be as close to overexposed as anything from that era can get.

Overall, I enjoyed Visions. If nothing else, I found it to be at least interesting. And if not every episode was great, each story’s individual approach to the material and setting gave me something to think about. I can see how the show might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but projects like this keep Star Wars fresh for new and old audiences alike. The answer to the question of which Star Wars movie or show someone should watch first does not have a simple answer these days, but Visions covers a lot of ground, and I think any kid or kid-at-heart can find at least one or two episodes to kick back and enjoy whether they’re coming at it as an anime fan or a Star Wars fan. Ultimately, I think Star Wars: Visions successfully accomplished an anthology’s job of leaving me wanting more, but not needing more.

But I can hear you asking the important question: what about the Aurebesh? And, yep, its all over Visions too. Its most prominent use comes in the episode T0-B1, and fortunately its translation is not a spoiler. Somewhat to my surprise, the Aurebesh does not translate into Japanese or English, but into Spanish. And while I’m not 100 percent certain, I am confident that the holographic text displayed in the episode is snippets of lyrics from the Latin flamenco pop song “MALAMENTE (Cap.1: Augurio)” by Rosalía. I have never been of the opinion that Aurebesh should be used strictly literally. It functions mainly to establish the flavor of Star Wars‘ space fantasy setting whether the translation makes sense in context or not. This blog is filled with numerous references to my favorite songs, so I heartily approve of the animators slipping in a tribute to music they like as well.

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back in a couple of days to celebrate this blog’s fifth anniversary!

 

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Maps and Legends

Well, things sure got exciting this week for fans of the Old Republic era of Star Wars with the announcement of a “remake” of Knights of the Old Republic.

Remastering, remaking, reforging fan-favorite video game classics is common these days and it seemed inevitable that KOTOR’s turn would come sooner rather than later. Indeed rumors have been kicking around for quite a while already.

Details are scant, so this is a great time to indulge in all manner of speculation and hysterical over-reaction. What is the difference between a remake and a remaster? Is the story changing? Is the gameplay changing? Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, it’s probably better.

But baseless speculation can be fun, so I will indulge myself and wonder what Knights of the Old Republic, the remake means for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

In the short term I suspect, very little if anything at all. The remake is a couple years away, at least, so if SWTOR intends any direct cross-over with KOTOR, it will likely come at the end of the Legacy of the Sith expansion’s life cycle or as part of the next, next expansion.

Nevertheless, KOTOR casts a long shadow over SWTOR, and even though Revan seems have gotten their last hurrah at the start of this year, the setting of Legacy of the Sith’s forthcoming operation clearly evokes the mass shadow generator from KOTOR2. Still, if I’m being honest, I hope SWTOR doesn’t wade too deep into the KOTOR nostalgia pool. At this point, it would feel like going backwards to dig up Revan yet again or bring back Malak or Bastila. These days, I am far more interested in learning about Malgus’ interest in Darth Nul than knowing if Nihilus’ spirit is still rattling around somewhere.

There is also speculation that the remake will allow Disney to backdoor KOTOR into the official Canon. While there have been allusions to Revan here and there recently, KOTOR hasn’t quite made the jump into the “Canon.” Long time readers of this blog may have noticed that I rarely mention “Canon” and “Legends.” This is because in my mind there is literally no difference between the two. The Star Wars stories I like are the stories I like, and I do not care on which side of an imaginary line they are supposed to lie.

That said, the line does seem to matter to many fans. If Lucasfilm declares that the KOTOR Remake is “Canon” and SWTOR gets to slide in on those coattails as well, and if this encourages someone who otherwise would not to try either or both games, then I say, “Great!” I hope the KOTOR Remake is a success for the people who make it and the fans who play it. I hope it appeals to new and old players alike. And if it leads players who want to continue to explore the Old Republic era to SWTOR, I say again, “Great!”

There are many terrific Star Wars stories to be found in the Old Republic setting, and I hope as many people as possible get to experience them.

Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

Finally, let’s take a look at the star map featured in the brief story beat “Whispers in the Force” included as part of the latest game update. This holographic display depicts the route Heta Kol seems to be following through the Minos Cluster to the very edge of the galaxy. Before I begin, I do want to say it was nice to see Akaavi Spar again. I always found interactions with her fun on my Smugglers, even if they rarely saw eye to eye. After her disappointingly brief return during Fallen Empire, I feared she wouldn’t get any screen time again. However, her Mandalorian background makes her a logical choice to use in this stage of the story for both Republic and Sith aligned characters, and I’m always glad to catch up with an underrated favorite.

As for the map itself, some of these worlds will be familiar to even the most casual Star Wars fan, but there are others whose lore stretches back to the very earliest days of Star Wars‘ Expanded Universe. If you’re a fan of West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game, you might recognize Elrood and some of the worlds mentioned here.  In the time of the movies, Eraidu is known as the homeworld of Grand Moff Tarkin. The shipyards at Sluis Van were a target of Grand Admiral Thrawn in Timothy Zahn’s first trilogy of novels. In the Old Republic era, Karideph was visited by both Jedi Master Orgus Din and Havoc Squad under the command of Harron Tavus prior to the events of SWTOR, so there is no shortage of rich history associated with this corner of the Galaxy.

Does this mean, we will be visiting the Force Nexus on Dagobah or massing our fleets near Sullust? No, probably not. But the story seems to leading into a part of the galaxy were weird stuff has been known to happen, and I don’t think they just pulled the Rimma Trade Route out of a hat, but we’ll have to wait a bit more to find out for sure where Heta Kol is headed. It should be interesting.

 

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Here’s Where the Story Ends

Despite SWTOR being in an end of expansion lull, there is a lot of stuff worth discussing happening in the lead up to the Legacy of the Sith expansion, and I’ve been struggling to snatch one notion out of the ether to discuss. Prompted by Shintar’s recent review and motivated by a desire to get my own hot take on the record before the weather turns cold, I’ll start with a long overdue look of the flashpoint, Secrets of the Enclave. Beware! There will be some light spoilers ahead.

Secrets of the Enclave is a lush and loving tribute to one of the Knights of the Old Republic era’s most famous locations, the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine. Abandoned for centuries, nature has begun to reclaim the complex, and it’s fun to explore the ruins like a Star Wars equivalent of Indiana Jones.

The flashpoint is not long, but players will move through a remarkably diverse series of environments, starting outside among Dantooine’s rolling hills, then down into caves leading into the ruin, and finally through the crumbling libraries and halls and council chambers of the enclave itself.

The previous flashpoint, The Spirit of Vengeance was criticized for its copious trash packs and over-tuned bosses, but Secrets dials those issues back, and players in all modes should have no problem making their way through. I especially appreciate that power-ups have made their way from Uprisings into the flashpoint, even if they are not necessary to overcome any of the challenges facing the players. An experienced group should not have any problem with the flashpoint even on the Master Mode difficulty, with the optional bonus boss presenting the flashpoint’s greatest challenge.

All of Onslaught’s flashpoints have experimented with new mechanics and graphics to telegraph special attacks, and it’s cool to see the trend continue. Secrets may be the first time SWTOR has used a fear mechanic in the game and seeing friends react to it was most amusing! I hope to see more of these types of innovations in future flashpoints and operations.

Like other recent flashpoints, Secrets has plenty of weird achievements and unique decorations to discover. However, this time around, the drop rates for the decorations is quite low on Story and Veteran modes. If you want to farm those cool decos, you’ll have to start running Master mode!

Regarding the story of the flashpoint, I think it’s interesting that while Darth Malgus is the MacGuffin driving the action, Secrets is more about what happened to people Malgus has left in his destructive wake. Aryn Leneer and Darth Krovos are quite literally haunted by Malgus, and it’s fascinating to see their differing reactions, from Aryn’s fear to Krovos’ denial. Likewise the supporting characters get moments to shine as well. For Republic players, it’s satisfying to see Arn Peralun coming into his own as a Jedi. And on the Sith side, I kind of adore Darth Rivix. He clearly has his own agenda and has no interest in being another Alliance flunky. Figuring out how my characters want to deal with him and watching other players’ reactions has been a treat. Secrets continues Onslaught‘s tradition of also taking time to revisit characters from SWTOR‘s rich history. I was happy to see the return of Leeha Narezz from the Jedi Knight story, but not surprisingly the years seem to have burdened her with a great deal of anger towards the Sith.

All that said, however, if Secrets of the Enclave is to be the conclusion of Onslaught’s story, it feels lacking. If you’ll forgive the metaphor, Onslaught seems to be ending on an ellipsis instead of an exclamation point or question mark.

Compare Onslaught to SWTOR’s previous cliffhangers. Shadows of Revan’s climax has us saying “Oh, shit! The Emperor’s back, and he’s pissed!” The final chapter of Knights of the Fallen Empire asks, “Did we just make things worse by allowing Vaylin to claim the Eternal Throne?”

Onslaught, by comparison, is ending with open-ended questions.

Darth Malgus is out there, and he’s up to something…

Heta Kol is out there, and she’s up to something…

Heta Kol remains a cypher, and Malgus’ motivations are opaque. I feel like we needed at least one more story beat to bring either or both of those plot threads into focus or together to build excitement for the next part of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, Secrets of the Enclave is a terrific addition to the game; it is arguably the strongest of Onslaught‘s new flashpoints, and whether or not you’re a KOTOR fan, it’s worth a visit.  But Legacy of the Sith is still a ways off, and storywise it feels like we’re just cruising towards it, and I wish Onslaught‘s finale accelerated the stakes a bit more in the lead up to our next big adventure.

 

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