If That Orobird Won’t Sing: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Pets

“Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” When I started compiling “Dumb Top Fives” I knew that this was one list that I would inevitably have to make, but I put it off again and again because paring it down to five was sure to be a herculean task. There is a veritable stampede of plastic pals, fuzzy friends and good boys and girls that can be collected from nearly all aspects of SWTOR gameplay, and, in the end, I’ve come up with five categories of pets that can be found without ever spending a single Cartel Coin.

 Exploration/Flashpoints/Vendors: Orobirds

There was one family of fine feathered friends that was always guaranteed a spot on this list: Orobirds. There are four Orobirds available as pets in SWTOR, and none of them come from the Cartel Market. The easiest of these to acquire is the Crested Orokeet that can be purchased for 50,000 credits from the Cartel Coin Concierge in either Fleet’s Cartel Bazaar. The Galactic Command Light Side Vendors in the Fleets’ Supplies section will trade you a gray Orochick for a mere 5 Light Side Tokens. To ensure a proper upbringing, however, the vendors do require that the bird’s new owner to at least have a light side alignment of level 1. The last two Orobirds are rather more tricky to locate. They hatch from eggs which players must carefully tend before cracking open. The Unusual Egg, which can be found in nests on Alderaan, Republic Taris and Imperial Balmorra, is the source of the green Orokeet. Finally, the royal blue Orosquab, hatches from the Mysterious Egg that Doctor Lorrick sometimes drops as loot in the Master Mode flashpoint, Lost Island.

Achievements: Nerf Herding

Next up, are the Nerf calves that can be acquired by achievement hunters willing to explore the green hills of Alderaan, the snow capped mountains of Hoth and the dark heart of Voss. Included among the rewards for locating the Arctic Nerf Calf, the Nightland Nerf Calf and the Hill Nerf Calf are a painting of a Nerf to hang in your stronghold and the “Nerf Herder” legacy title, appropriate for stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking scoundrels everywhere! As long as you’re high enough level to visit these planets, I definitely recommend completing these exploration achievements, my favorites in the game.

Reputation: Gree Data Core

Nearly every reputation vendor has a pet or two available to folks who enjoy the essential task of filling up reputation bars. To me, the easy standout is the Gree Data Core. This miniature, floating wonder of Gree technology seems to draw inspiration from both the Bit from the movie Tron and the companion cube from the video game Portal. The Core requires Newcomer standing with the Gree Enclave and is sold for 50,000 credits by the Gree reputation vendor who can be found in the Cartel Bazaar or on Ilum during the Gree event .

Honorable Mention: There are so many neat reputation based pets that I had to include an extra: the Drink Server Probe, which is offered by the Freelance Gear Merchant in the Cartel Bazaar. It will set you back 39 Completed Bounty Contracts which are awarded during the Bounty Broker Event and requires Legend standing with the Bounty Brokers Association. This sleek little droid is ready to help take the edge off with a refreshing cocktail, topped off with a little umbrella, just like Niko Okarr likes it.

Operations: M0-GUL Thrall Droid

Players interested in raiding will also find pets as rare drops in some of the game’s Operations. My favorite of these is  Karagga the Hutt’s gold-plated Roomba, the M0-GUL Thrall Droid. Who couldn’t use a helpful robotic assistant to clean up the dirt, dust and severed limbs galactic heroes tend to leave in their wake? M0-GUL can be looted most reliably from bosses in Veteran Mode Karagga’s Palace.

Honorable Mention: Don’t you just want to pinch the cheeks and hug Dwedtoof, the baby Drouk? Of course you do! Technically, Dwedtoof doesn’t drop in an Operation, but you will need an Ops group to successfully defeat the source of this pet: the empowered versions of Dreadtooth, the infamous world boss who patrols Belsavis’ Section-X.

PVP: Lobelisk and Lawgriffari

Even PVPers have access to a pair of unique pets, but potential owners will need to prove their worth before these scrappy little guys will heel to them. The PVP Items vendors on both fleets sell these pets for 20,000 credits each, but they do have modest Valor Rank requirements that must be met before they can be unlocked by the player. The cyan and orange striped Lobelisk requires Valor 5, and the blue-eyed, silver-plated Lawgriffari requires rank 12. There are other Lobel and Akk Dog pets available in the game, but this space-frog and dino-pup are two of the ones I like best.

This list has barely scratched the surface. There are dozens more fierce, funny and adorable pets sold by vendors, awarded from quests and achievements, won as treasure or hatched out of Command Crates. Whether you’re an Akk Dog person, a Nexu fancier or robo-phile, there’s a pet for you out there. Just remember to change the litter box, scratch them behind the ears, and take ‘em out for a walk every once in a while.

If I missed a rare find or one of your favorites, please let me know! And if you’re someone who gleefully grinds pets into CXP every time one appears in your Command Stash, don’t tell me; it’ll only make me cry. I have hundreds of Fiery Grophets and Venomous Ginxes running wild in my stashes.

 

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How It’s Made

I’m quite certain I would be remiss in my job if I did not translate the four amazing propaganda posters players received as part of Star Wars Celebration’s Community Cantina event. My first selection confirms my longstanding Republic bias, but I will endeavor to do justice to the Imperial posters soon enough!

I thought it also might be interesting to describe the process I go through in these recreations and to point out some of the challenges I face along the way.

Step 1: Get the Perfect Screenshot

Spotting a cool looking poster or sign is the easy part. Finding a clear view, with good lightning is a different cup of tea. I’m sure I’ve spent hours cruising around Nar Shaddaa and Corellia looking for the perfect example of a neon sign or poster to capture. Even then, I may need to climb over nearby terrain or obstacles to get a good angle. I often hop on a tall mount and desperately mash the screenshot button mid-jump to get as high and close a view as I can get.

In this case, of course, I am working with a stronghold decoration, and was able to hang the picture frame at an ideal height in a well-lighted room.

Even under the best of circumstances, however, I still adjust the screenshot when I bring it into Photoshop in order to get the image as straight and front-on as possible.

Step 2: Break it Down into Parts

Next I copy the dimensions of the original poster and then roughly duplicate graphical elements, such as lines, shapes and general text that make up the image. I adjust all of these elements as I go, but I find it’s best to put together a rough pass of the full image before getting too bogged down in the details.

Sometimes the layout of the poster will only consist of a few broad shapes or lines, but it’s not uncommon for various symbols to be included in the design. Many of these, such as planet icons or logos for the Coruscant Market or Hypermatter Corporation are repeated, and I have assembled over the years a collection of common graphics that I can drop in when they appear.

Here the Republic Propaganda poster has a complicated background pattern. I probably could’ve used Photoshop’s selection tool to make a basic copy, but because I think it’s a neat looking design I decided to render a full recreation in Illustrator. This took a lot longer, but I’m pleased with the result.

I swiped the Old Republic logo from Wookieepedia, and I suspect the artist who designed this poster did the same since it easily aligned with the original. Curiously, the logo is reversed in the in-game version of the poster. Whether this was an accidental oversight or confirmation of Bioware’s Sith bias, who can say? I tend to keep spelling mistakes intact in my recreations, but in this case I could not resist placing the Republic logo in its proper orientation.

For English text, I use a free font called Nakadai. It has a similar line weigh and size to standard Aurebesh, and I find it allows my recreations to maintain visual consistency with the originals.

Step 3: Color Time!

Once I’ve got the layout set, I drop in colors, apply simple gradients where needed and modify the text to match the original design by adding strokes, adjusting spacing and, in this case, applying a perspective transformation to the text.

The colors in this recreation are significantly duller than in the original since I based them on the poster’s appearance in the game with the graphic setting Bloom disabled. This allows a clearer look at the graphic’s design. It wasn’t necessary here, but it will come in handy when I get around to this poster’s Imperial counterpart.

Step 4: Here’s Where the Fun Begins

When I first started this blog, step three was more or less where I stopped. But in the last couple of years, I have aspired to make my recreations have higher fidelity to the originals in the game. This means making sure I get what I call “all the fiddly bits” to look just right. It at least doubles the amount of time it takes me to make these images, but I’m usually much happier with the final results.

The biggest challenge of this part of the process is getting the lighting right. Nearly all signs and posters in game are affected by ambient lightning and the inset lights and shadows from their frames, and many, such as this one, seem to have a glow from behind like you’d see in a movie poster hanging at a theater.

Often parts of the posters are faded or wrinkled or otherwise distressed and I have a whole suite of brush tools I use to create those effects.

I typically pile on a dozen or more extra layers of assorted shadows, gradients and adjustments before I get a result that I deem acceptable. Like George Lucas, I don’t really think a piece of art is ever really finished, so I, on occasion, succumb to the urge to tweak the sliders or poke some stray pixels when I think no one is looking.

I’m no Photoshop rock star, so I hope this post wasn’t too self-indulgent. I enjoy seeing other artists’ process and figure it couldn’t hurt to share a look at mine.

 

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Let the Wookiee Win

Some years ago, I had a brief encounter with Peter Mayhew at DragonCon in Atlanta, GA. While waiting for a table at a restaurant near the convention, I noticed someone very, very tall in front of me but didn’t recognize who it was. As he walked away, I saw a distinctive gait and muttered, “Ha! That guy walks just like Chewbacca.” Mayhew turned and cracked a friendly smile, and I was rather embarrassed when I realized it really was him.

It’d be easy to suggest that he was just a big guy dressed as a shag carpet, but I’m quite certain that had someone other than Peter Mayhew been cast, Chewie wouldn’t not have been as beloved and iconic a character. Maybe it was the way he cocked his head or his soulful blue eyes, but Mayhew did more than just wear a costume, he brought a legend to life.

Artwork by Ron Frenz and Tom Palmer, from Marvel Comics’ Star Wars issue 72, 1983.

 

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Onslaught Semi-Hot Take

The announcement of SWTOR’s next expansion Onslaught is now a week old, and I thought I should at last toss in my 2 cartel coins. I’ve never been one for hot takes, and my main response to the news has been “Sounds cool! Can’t wait!” This is fine, but not especially compelling, so I’ll try to be a bit more specific. Before I get started I must applaud the amazing work by Swtorista, Kogass, Kid Lee, Boomy, Vemapris, Lady Rann and everyone at the swtorfancommunity for their heroic efforts to bring a constant stream of news, photos and interviews from Star Wars Celebration. To be able to tune into the Cantina as it happened was a vicarious thrill and very much appreciated by this homebody.

First, and probably least importantly, I won’t lie, I was hoping for a trailer. Blur’s two amazing Fallen Empire cinematics definitely spoiled me, and I’ll always be eager for more. But as the old joke asks: does a two million dollar trailer cost us raid tiers? I have no way of knowing, but if it means more resources for the actual development of the game, I won’t complain. The in-game cut scenes throughout the Fallen Empire cycle were leaps and bounds above what had come before, so I expect to experience the same level quality with Onslaught.

The two planets we will be visiting in Onslaught, Onderon and Mek-Sha, embody one of SWTOR’s strengths: the ability to explore existing Star Wars lore while still expanding the universe with new locations and characters. Onderon has connections to both recent and older Star Wars stories, but we’ll also get to visit an entirely new world in the gutted-out planetoid of Mek-Sha. If there is one thing the designers of SWTOR have shown time and time again is that they can create fantastic settings for the players to explore and I look forward to setting down on both worlds.

We’ll also be returning to Corellia for the expansion’s first flashpoint. Corellia had a prominent role in last year’s movie Solo so it seems like a good choice for a locale to revisit. Likewise, the expansion’s operation on Dxun reflects this mix of old and new. This will be the game’s first visit to Onderon’s moon, but a welcome return of Czerka’s distinctive brand of corporate villainy which has been a part of the game since the start.

The expansion will also come with a new playable species, Nautolans. Personally, Nautolans don’t float my boat, but not every character customization option has to be for everyone. I would’ve preferred additional appearance options for the existing species, but I don’t deny that many, many people are psyched to play a Nautolan and that “new playable species” is a sexier bullet point than “more haircuts and tattoos.” And, of course, I’m already squatting on a name for my Nautolan.

In January, I predicted that we’d see gearing changes in 6.0, but the Spoils of War system aims to go far beyond what I could’ve anticipated. From the broad strokes Bioware sketched out in the last week, the new system’s embrace Legacy gearing and the ability to customize gear sets for different styles of play all sounds very, very interesting, but the devil is in the details, and I am loath to draw any conclusions until I see those details.

Something that is very encouraging, however, is Bioware’s willingness to solicit player input and feedback before the system goes live, both on the forums now and in the PTS to come. Clearly, they’ve learned a thing or two from the launch of Knights of the Eternal Throne. I don’t expect the Spoils of War system to be without issues or imbalances, but I have faith we won’t have to endure the mess that was Galactic Command’s rollout and growing pains next time around.

Also in January, I predicted an August launch, but with enough caveats that I think I can give myself half credit for the call since the launch will be just one short month later in September.

Finally, Onslaught will be included with the game’s subscription. I know many regular players who would’ve been fine paying extra for the expansion if it had included more story, flashpoints, ops, pvp, etc, but SWTOR’s business model seems to be this: Sub for a month and get access to everything the game has to offer. And it seems to be working for them. When I revisited World of Warcraft last year, I was put off that I had to both subscribe and pony up for the expansion. I’m honestly impressed that someone whose subscription to SWTOR lapsed two and a half years ago still has access to all of the game’s latest story content.

Sure, WOW’s expansions and major patches dwarf SWTOR’s. That will never change, but I think SWTOR has done a decent job of picking up the pace of releases lately, as long as that continues into Onslaught I’ll count myself a happy subscriber.

So, in conclusion, it all sounds cool, and I can’t wait for September, but I think I mentioned that already.

 

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Community and Raffle Time

With Star Wars Celebration imminent and anticipation high for the SWTOR Community Cantina I thought this week I’d indulge in something a little different. For the solo SWTOR player, there is a vast reserve of things to do, places to explore and stories to experience. Indeed, this blog was created to point out some of those very things. But SWTOR is also a multi-player game, and many of the experiences I’ve had with guild-mates, friends and even strangers remain some of my most enduring memories of this game.

I don’t want to turn this into a boring laundry list of remember-whens, but I do want to share a few stories.

Line Forms Here

Two of SWTOR’s original events were one-time only affairs. The Rakghoul event was completely revamped when it returned, but the Grand Acquisition Race or the “Chevin Event” happened once and never again. To be honest, I don’t have strong memories of the event itself, mainly that it involved mini-games and collecting tokens. One of the games was a sort of remote controlled car race on a track that was set up on the Promenade of Nar Shaddaa. This was not in an instanced area and only one person could run the race at a time. So what did the rest of us do? We waited in line. And it was great.

During the summer of 2012, SWTOR was not in a good place. The already low population was spread out across more servers than the game ever needed, and it was an open question whether the game would make it a year. Servers would be consolidated that fall, but at the time of the event, my server Shien was pretty quiet. The wait to run the race for the Chevin Event turned out to be a rare moment to socialize with those hardy few who were still playing. Folks were joking and chatting. Yes, there was the occasional flat-shoed fool who was too cool for the queue and tried to cut the line, but generally people were happy to hang out in a crowd for a change. Shien was an RP server and, in my experience, folks tended to be mellower and more social than I encountered in other places. Maybe that’s why we were less predatory about needing the to click the button and go first.

The coming server mergers gave players a much-needed shot in the arm, and I was proud to call Ebon Hawk home after that, but hanging with folks on Nar Shaddaa during the Chevin Event remains one of my favorite things from my time on Shien.

Clean Sweep

A more recent event was not prompted by something that happened in game, but by Swtorista’s 50,000 YouTube Subscribers celebration. To celebrate, Swtorista amassed the galaxy’s largest supply of Sweep emotes and passed them out freely on a Saturday afternoon on the Republic fleet. The sight of Carrick station overflowing with dozens and dozens people in every direction all diligently swabbing the deck and having a good time in chat and Discord is one the most fun things I’ve done in SWTOR and a fitting celebration of Swtorista whose contributions to the community are second to none. Ted at the State of the Old Republic calls Swtorista the hardest working woman in SWTOR, and I’d call that an understatement.

Afterwards, I also had the honor of being invited to Kid Lee’s post event stream where he and Swtorista interviewed a whole bunch of SWTOR content creators including yours truly. I’d never been interviewed before, and I think I got a little flustered and pooched at least one of the questions. (Of course there are easter eggs in the Aurebesh of the game! It’s the whole reason I started this blog. D’oh!) But I hope my enthusiasm for the game came through. It’s a testament to SWTOR’s community that Swtorista celebrated her success by promoting others.

Dreadful Slayin’

Not long ago, Marcus from the Working Class Nerds podcast was challenged to assemble a team to take on the Dreadful Entity, the secret boss in Hard Mode Terror From Beyond. This set in motion the task of farming masks, essences and amulets from Dreadtooth in Section X. Dozens of people chipped in and in the end three guilds: my guild New Outriders, the Bad Feeling Podcast and Alea Acta Est teamed up for the fight against the Entity. The fight itself is no great shakes; basically you avoid standing in lightning while fighting a ball of lightning that zaps everyone with lightning. But it was cool to see so many people (much more than the sixteen who got the kill) come together for a common goal. Marcus got an amulet and 100,000,000 credits, but the rest of us got some neat titles and achievements, a reminder about the importance of using master looter when pugs are involved, and some fun stories to tell. My great little guild New Outriders isn’t big enough to tackle 16 man secret bosses these days, and I’m glad we could be a part of the action.

If you’re in Chicago this weekend, meet your fellow players at Celebration or the Cantina event. If you’re in a flashpoint, be excellent to the other people in your group. If you’re in an operation be glad when someone else gets an upgrade. If you’re filling space in a ten stack Dreadtooth run don’t be a dick and instead pass the amulet to the guy who organized the group and supplied the essences. Be someone who makes the game memorable and fun for others, and I betcha it will be for you too.

RAFFLE TIME!

As a part of the SWTOR Fan Community, the good people at Bioware and Swtorista have provided me a code which can be redeemed for free 30 Days of SWTOR Game Time and I’m pleased to be running my first raffle! To enter leave a comment to this post below! I’d love to hear about your favorite SWTOR community story, your favorite Aurebesh sign or what you most want to learn about at this weekend’s SW Celebration. Make sure you let me know how to contact you if you win: include your character, faction and server name and I’ll mail you the code in game. If you prefer twitter, include your twitter handle and I’ll send it that way. If you’d rather not comment publicly, I’ll also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com.

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

I’ll choose a random winner from all submissions during the Conquest reset Tuesday April 16th.

I’ll see everyone on the other side of what should be a big, big weekend!

Winner! Winner!

UPDATE! Congrats to Marcus for winning the raffle! I’ll get your code to you today. Thank you to everyone who commented, I very much appreciate it!

 

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Station!

My choice of this sign for recreation was mainly inspired by news that a third Bill and Ted movie would at long last be coming out in the not too distant future. This sign’s only complete word “station” probably indicates a nearby Rocket Tram Station on the planet Corellia and is not a reference to martians with excellently huge butts. Probably.

The sign’s basic design is similar to others in the game, contains one readable word, three seemingly random letter and three seemingly random numbers. But how random are they? If there is one thing I’ve learned working on this blog is that things are often not as simple as they seem.

The top and bottom letters are translated easily, but there is something going on in the middle of the poster. At first glance the large letter in the center seems to be Dorn, the Aurebesh letter for D, but the artist’s choice to slice through the second horizontal bar changes the letter shape into Resh, the Aurebesh R. This suggests to me the intent to combine the two shapes into a single unique glyph. In my recreation I attempted a similar effect by slicing off the lower legs of the R to create a shape that evokes both D and R.

Could the Z, DR (Doctor) and O refer to some of the founders of Bioware? It seems plausible to me. But stare long enough at any random arrangement and patterns will emerge.

Moving on, the numbers 327 on the sign are fairly common throughout Star Wars lore. I’m sure numerologists could have a field day with George Lucas’ recurring use of numbers. 1138 is the most famous of his favorites, but it’s far from the only one. 327 appears in American Graffiti, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back. As for what it means, your guess is as good as mine, but 327 is apparently a “perfect totient number.” Even after researching that term, I still don’t have the slightest clue what it is, but 327 was also the street address of the house I grew up in as a child.

So, Illuminati confirmed.

 

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And We’re in Bloom

And we’re back! I apologize for the longer than usual gap in posts. One thing that has occupied my attention lately has been the pursuit of Conquest points. As a member of a small guild with Republic and Sith sister guilds to feed, Conquest and the guild leveling that comes with it can be something of a time sink.

For characters who have completed the Ossus story, additional Conquest objectives are available related to deploying or destroying probe droids outside Republic and Imperial outposts around the galaxy. While zapping probes near the starport on Corellia, I spotted a sign I had not noticed in all my years of playing. However the bright glow emanating from the text made the sign extremely difficult to read.

There is a quick solution to this particular challenge. Disabling Bloom in the graphic settings makes the game world significantly less vibrant, but the sign much easier to read. After some more exploration I located a second example of the sign and was able to snap a clear screenshot for recreation.

At first glance, there isn’t much going on, but upon examination, there are several things worth noting. First, the sign is like many others on Corellia that refer to manufacturers of starships and podracers. “Ord Pedrovia” is a popular make of racer that first appeared during the Boonta Eve Classic in The Phantom Menace and is not, as I first thought, the name of a planet, which is the usual case when the forename Ord appears in Star Wars lore.

The glyph at the right edge of the graphic looks to my eyes to be a stylized English O and P logo, and I can imagine it splashed on the hood of the Ord Pedrovia’s podracer cockpit.

The letter on the left of the sign is not Aurebesh. I’m certain that it is, in fact, a Futhork “G” which has been disassembled somewhat for the graphic. The result is that translation turns the large word from “Ord” into “Gord.” There are many signs around the galaxy which when translated are seemingly random letters and numbers. I suspect some of these contain in-jokes or use the initials of members of SWTOR’s development team. I’m not in a position to know for sure, but in this case I think I can hazard a guess that this sign pays tribute to Gordon Walton who helped found Bioware Austin. Or perhaps it could be a reference to the late Gord Downie, lead singer of beloved Canadian rock band, the Tragically Hip. Or maybe hockey great Gordie Howe. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.

Star Wars Celebration Community Cantina

Star Wars Celebration is just weeks away, and I’m sure I’m not alone in eagerly awaiting news of SWTOR’s future. Bioware has been extra coy this year, but we’re all expecting to hear about the game’s next expansion at the Community Cantina event in Chicago.

Sadly, I can’t make it this year, but if you’re in Chicago for Celebration or find yourself in the area, I highly recommend attending the event. I’ve been to a previous Cantina, and it is genuinely fun to meet the people who make the game, the people who play the game, have a drink and score some swag.

Somewhat remarkably, the official Star Wars website even included shout out to SWTOR in the lead-up to Celebration.

I sometimes think SWTOR is the red-headed stepchild of the Star Wars family. People are constantly posting in the r/swtor sub-reddit that they are shocked to learn that not only is SWTOR not dead, it also has a good population of players who truly enjoy the game. Even Bioware’s own Casey Hudson seemed surprised by the enduring popularity of SWTOR.

And yet SWTOR can’t seem to get much cross-promotional love from the Star Wars brand juggernaut. Last year I bought Chronicle Book’s Women of the Galaxy, an absolutely charming book featuring the stories of dozens of female characters from across Star Wars lore. As I read it, however, I was amazed by the inclusion of some rather obscure characters that came off as filler to me. I was disappointed that despite drawing from a wide array of Star Wars media, novels, comics, cartoons and even other video games, no one from SWTOR made the cut. Call me a homer, but I really do believe Lana or Vaylin or Kira or Vette are far more interesting and dynamic and worthy of coverage than some of those non-speaking background characters who barely rated seconds of screen time.

SWTOR had a fair amount of cross promotion at launch, but I do hope EA and Lucasfilm give the game another push with the next expansion. I’m no expert; I don’t know how to convince Marvel to publish a Theron Shan comic, Hasbro to make a Jakarro action figure (with C2-D4 head-butting action!) and Fantasy Flight Games to include the Gravestone in one of their miniatures games. Indeed, it’s fair to ask if any of that even would be viable or profitable endeavors, but a blogger can dream, right?

April can’t come soon enough!

 

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Ossus Overview

With Jedi Under Siege more than a month behind us, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss it a bit more. I’ve yet to start the story on another character beyond my Republic and Sith mains, but I’ll get to my alts eventually. However, I have taken the time to fully explore the world and finish off the major achievements. Bioware did a very nice job filling out the zone with stuff to explore and do beyond the story and daily questing, and I very much hope Ossus will be the model for new areas going forward.

I won’t lie, I took advantage of plenty of outside resources while tracking the Ossus datacrons. I had come across one on the PTS during testing, but was relieved to discover an easier route to it once it went live. The Endurance datacron had me crossing back and forth and up and down across Ossus, and I had fun on the chase. The hunt for that datacron was more elaborate than the Endurance datacron on Makeb, but unlike that one, you won’t risk death and have to start from scratch if you miss a jump or take a wrong turn.

That unlocking the Datacron also awards the first non-cartel market weapon tuning is an additional treat. I understand that this particular tuning is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is tied to the lore surrounding Ossus. As someone who fondly recalls the Tales of the Jedi and Dark Empire comics, encountering even a slumbering Ood Bnar was pretty neat. I understand why he won’t rouse for my characters, but that he acknowledged them with a precious sprig was a satisfying reward for the achievement.

Knights of the Eternal Throne has been stingier than other expansions when it comes to unique rewards for completing story arcs and achievements, and it’s nice to have a good reason to revisit Ossus beyond farming gear.

As for the gear grind. It honestly hasn’t been bad. Both of my characters are upgrading at least one piece of equipment to 258 every week now, and this pace feels perfectly acceptable considering the effort I’m putting in. The main weekly is remarkably relaxed. Compared to other daily areas like the Black Hole or Section-X where I race from one combat to the next, the Ossus weekly can be completed with relatively little actual fighting. Indeed, with some cherry picked quests, an extra visit over a day or two, and some patience you could probably complete the weekly without even fighting a single mob.

The heroics are where you’ll see the most action, but if you don’t need or care about the reputation, they can be skipped. I find they are a good source of decorations, so I’m always happy to knock them out.

The outdoor world bosses are another cup of tea. On the plus side, groups are often forming to fight them, but there is no telling if I’ll get a couple of clean kills or a graveyard rush and a 125,000 credit repair bill for my trouble. I’m not sure if the oddly large number of urban legends surrounding these bosses has more to do with the actual bugs on Ossus or the natural superstition of players.

There are plenty of real bugs in 5.10, and it’s frustrating that we’re now into February and legitimately annoying stuff like the inability to share quests and a mix and match set bonuses between older tiers and the 252/258 gear are still in play. Bioware often goes dark in January, but two months of this is even getting on my nerves.

Next time, back to the Aurebesh! I’ve got a backlog I need to get through.

 

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Sometimes You Feel Like Nahut

After a case of post-holiday blues and the near death of my computer’s hard drive, I thought I should get back into the swing of things with a request from Shintar, keeper of the great SWTOR blog Going Commando. Shintar asked me to take a look at the technical readout we see from Nahut’s point of view during the cut scene introducing this boss from the Gods from the Machine operation.

I was eager to oblige for several reasons. First and foremost, I very much welcome suggestions and requests. Second, Nahut is my favorite encounter in the Machine Gods operation. It’s a neat fight against a cool looking boss with fun mechanics in a unique, moody setting. Third, much of the hard work of the translation was already done! Nahut’s Terminator-style internal readout reuses elements from HK-55’s first person view from the famous musical montage from Chapter 4 of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Indeed, translating the Aurebesh from that scene is what inspired the creation of this blog, so I was happy to revisit it.

This also gave me an opportunity to update my original translation, and once again reflect upon the differences between how Aurebesh was designed and how it is actually used. Part of the readout includes appearances of several digraphs that combine two English letters with a single sound (such as “th” or “sh”) into a single Aurebesh symbol. However, it is very rare to see these glyphs used “properly.” Since the key strokes used to type out digraphs are not part of the standard alphabet, it’s far more common to seem them rendered as individual Aurebesh letters. In theory some well known names look quite different depending on how strictly the translator follows the extended Aurebesh alphabet.

In the example of Nahut and HK’s technical readout, all the digraphs used  here are meant to be read as the symbols to which they are bound on an English keyboard. I believe this display was created using the Aurek-Besh font, and here the the Krenth (kh) and Onith (eo) glyphs translate as the open and closed angle brackets: < and >. This makes sense given the context of computer jargon.

One last note, in previous discussions of this topic, I’ve referred to the digraphs as ligatures. The concepts are similar, but I’ve since learned that “digraph” is the more accurate term and I’ll stick with that going forward. “Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a typographer!”

I’ve remarked before that the official Aurebesh alphabet is incomplete; it is missing some common punctuation marks, numbers and styles for capitalization. It’s up to the designers and font makers using these fake space-letters to fill in the gaps, and I would never dream of declaring any use of Aurebesh incorrect or wrong. Indeed, I find it interesting to see the different solutions to the problems the numerous artists working with Aurebesh across Star Wars lore have found. In a way, it makes Aurebesh seem like a richer, more living language.

 

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The Future’s Not Ours to See: Five Predictions for 2019

Happy New Year! Once again, let’s start the year off with five predictions for 2019. Looking over my list from last year, I think I would generously give myself a score of 0.5 out of 5. This year, there is nowhere to go but up!

I struggled to come up with an interesting list of predictions, often unable to resolve the difference between what I hope will happen this year and what I actually think will happen. In the end, this list is a mix of both.

Expansion Launch Date

There is no better example of this tension between hope and fear than in considering the date of the next expansion’s release. We all expect to get news of SWTOR’s future at Star Wars Celebration in April. My hope is that it’ll be more than just a tease, but a full on expansion announcement complete with new cinematic trailer. If that is the case, a summer launch would be possible and inline with past release schedules. I’m going to predict an August launch, but I suspect we might have to wait until autumn to catch some of that Episode IX hype. In either case, we’re gonna be in 5.10 territory for a while.

Kira and Scourge Will be in the New Cinematic

I admit, this one is 100% hope. A friend and I recently discussed Kira and Scourge’s over-long absence from SWTOR, and how it seems like the folks at Bioware really have their work cut out for them when it comes to giving the return of two of the game’s most beloved companions the heft it deserves. Seeing Kira and Scourge kick ass in one of those amazing Blur cinematics would absolutely go a long way towards building hype for the new expansion. In truth, I imagine the trailer will focus on Malgus, but that’s okay too.

Gear Changes are Coming

It’s not a stretch to expect gear changes after 6.0. I predict we will see PVP exclusive gear again, perhaps with the return of the Expertise stat. However, games like Fortnite and Overwatch seem to be doing okay without a gear grind, so I don’t think its impossible that Bioware might even take the extra step to remove the need for any gear in PVP altogether.

I also think it’s time for some changes to PVE gear. My hope is that we get new set bonuses on tier sets in the next expansion. Set bonuses haven’t significantly changed since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and something fresh would be neat. Before that happens, I’d like to see some of the bonuses, particularly the healer and tank cool down reductions, get baked into the base class abilities or proficiency paths.

I also hope to see some new Relics. Even tanks default to the Serendipitous Assault/Focused Retribution combo these days. Some relics are bad and have been bad for years. Ephemeral Mending remains a booby trap for healers, and my poor tank has already disintegrated two 252 Imperiling Serenity relics from my weekly Ossus rewards. Let’s see robust on-use relics or relics with weird procs. Heck, even update the Matrix Cubes. Variety is good!

The Dark vs. Light Event Will Return

I won’t lie; this one is filed under the fear category. I predict the Dark vs. Light Event will return as the big time-filler this summer. There is legitimate value in making the Victorious Pioneer armor available again, and I often see folks who missed out wish they could earn Ranos as a companion. But as someone who made it to Legendary level last time, I can say I have little desire to do it again. My biggest beef with the event is that to participate I had to put aside characters whose story, appearance and gear I’ve been invested in for years in order to play new characters I mostly discarded once the event was done. If Bioware does bring the event back, I really, really hope they make some big changes next time around.

Where are the Damn Porgs Already?

When I put Porgs on last year’s list I thought it was a gimme. I am honestly shocked and a little disappointed that we haven’t seen Porgs pop up in SWTOR. So, heck, yeah, I’m keeping them on the list. In addition to the Porg related items from last time, I’ve got more that I humbly request, nay, DEMAND to see in game this year. First, and most obviously, Porg themed tier sets: if you want the best gear in the game, you will have to cosplay as a Porg. Deal with it. A Porg mount: a lone, mighty Porg who will pick up your character by the scruff of the neck and fly you where you need to go. Finally, the highest level of reward for the next ranked PVP season should be a Porg headpiece. Yes, that’s right, we should be able to tell the toughest, most dedicated, most elite PVPers apart from the rest of us because they will have a space puffin sitting on their head. Works for me.

2019 should be an exciting year for SWTOR, and I look forward to the next expansion and maybe getting one prediction right this year. Stranger things have happened!

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR, KotET