In the Pink

I thought this one would be easy. I really did.  I had planned to post this recreation during the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event since this neon sign can be seen around the moon’s Promenade and casinos. Clearly, I’m late to the party.

The challenge of this recreation was not in the translation. Like many similar signs, it seems to be a collection of random letters in which I’ve long since given up attempting to find meaning.

At first glance, one might think this sign is written in Aurebesh. Technically, however, it uses Galactic Basic, a font that, like Aurebesh, was inspired by the script used on monitors in Return of the Jedi. Galactic Basic is actually more accurate to what can be seen in the movie, but Aurebesh was codified in official sources first and has since become the official version of the language.

The center logo, the inset letters on the upper left and the two repeating glyphs on the bottom are all written using Galactic Basic. The orange tinted letters in the next-to-bottom row are rendered in the Atrsian font. Like Aurebesh, this font has a tangled history. It also can be glimpsed in Return of the Jedi, and was featured in several early Lucasarts games.

My guess is that all these fake space letters were meant to be parts of the same “language” but because they were fleshed out separately, they all became individual fonts and scripts. I’m certain that had high definition screen captures and copious reference materials been around three decades ago, the current landscape of Star Wars’ written word would be very different!

The use of Atrisian is not an usual sight in SWTOR. This script can be seen not only in signs on Nar Shaddaa, but also carved in the ancient ruins of the Rakata on Belsavis. It’s amusing to think the same glyphs that adorned the great works of a long lost civilization are still emblazoned in neon around the galactic underworld.

The large logo in the center is what caused me the most trouble. The repeated letter rotating around the center translates to J, but I’d wager it was not selected because of any particular meaning but because of how the alien glyph maintains its symmetry in the arrangement. The English J, however, is not quite so accommodating and I tried many variations, fonts and even custom letters attempting to replicate the original layout. In the end I realized I was overthinking the problem, and took inspiration from the actual design. Reshaping the glyph to resemble a J more or less did the trick. I don’t think my recreation is as stylish as the original, but it’s close enough that I hope it gets the idea across.

Living Large on the PTS

Despite having played since launch, last week was my very first visit to SWTOR’s test server. I cannot deny it was fun to get an early peek at the Rishi stronghold and queue up for Saturday’s PVP test.

My first impression of the Rishi stronghold is quite good. I think they are aiming to address the major complaints regarding the previous strongholds on Umbara and Manaan. Unlike Umbara’s train, Rishi has a large variety of environments to explore and decorate, from the massive pirate airship to the beach and the cove. It also looks like they are paying more attention to how decorating hooks are being used. As much as I love Manaan, the widely spread out hooks and limited choices of what hooks are even available has been a source of frustration. Rishi seems to have a larger variety of hooks, placed closer together so that decorators will be able to create areas with more cohesion.

The PVP areas are a gimmick to be sure. But it’s a cool gimmick. And even if I’m just using it every once in a while, I’m fine with that.  As with the addition of target dummies, having more stuff to do in our strongholds is something I’m glad to see. I hope they continue to explore more ideas in the future. Maybe there could be a special boss on the pirate ship that can only be summoned during the Bounty Broker event, or a stronghold zombie survival mode in which the beach is swarmed during the Rakghoul Resurgence. Armchair developing is easy! But, hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?

I also participated in Saturday’s PVP testing during the morning and evening sessions. I don’t PVP a whole lot so take these comments with a grain of salt.

For the most part it seemed like the matchmaking worked. There were a ton of healers in the morning queue, but the teams had even numbers. The matches with three healers per side tended to stalemate; I imagine with a larger pool of dps that wouldn’t happen as much. I did notice that backfilling in arenas would not always keep the tank/healer balance, but I guess filling empty spots quickly might be more important.

I thought the Mandalorian arena was pretty cool. All my matches there were fought on the top level, so I don’t know if the lower ring or tunnel will see much action.

I ran four Voidstars during the day, and aside from the one with six healers, they definitely went faster. Once the first door opens, the other matches became a race to the finish, which I consider an improvement.

Overall, I went 7 and 6, which I rate a smashing success and had a really good time. It seems like most folks were there to poke around and have some low stakes fun. It was neat to cross paths with some SWTOR celebrities, and I like to think my healer saved a dev or two from certain death once or twice during the day.

I’m definitely in the camp that is happy to see the return of open PTS testing. That the good folks at Bioware have been quick to implement changes that have come from feedback has been great to see. I hope to visit the test server more in the future.

 

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A Rose By Any Other Name

This week I want to cover a few topics related to Star Wars, fandom and a bit of Aurebesh too.

Why I Love Rose

It’s not for nothing that we meet Paige Tico first. Paige is a bad ass. Under the worst possible conditions, she keeps her shit together and gets the job done. When it comes to the Tico sisters, she is the cool one. She’s a fighter jock; she gets to hang with Poe Dameron. We all know which table Paige sits at. When we meet Rose a little later, she’s been assigned the glorious task of guarding escape pods.

No one wants to think the annoying little sister can be the hero. We’re supposed to want our Star Wars heroes to be quick with a one liner like Han Solo, wear sweet armor like Boba Fett, and blast stormtroopers like Princess Leia. Rose is too earnest for a snappy comeback, wears a frumpy jumpsuit, and isn’t much of a shot (aside from poor Finn, I guess). Some have complained that Finn and Rose accomplished nothing on Canto Bight. I disagree; maybe their plan to disable the First Order’s hyperspace tracking was a bust, but that’s not all they did. In passing on her ring to the broom kid, Rose kept alive the spark that’ll light the fire of the Jedi again. Small victories matter. They may even matter more than big ones. And if nothing else, Rose and Finn tore that place up, and gave those shit-heels a bad day. Because fuck those guys. Fuck them.

I get it; we all want to be cool like Paige. But we’re not. We’re Rose. Most of us don’t get to be played by an actor as charming and enthusiastic as Kelly Marie Tran, but, like Rose, we can step up and be heroes too if we want to. We can save what we love. Paige knew it. In her last moments, she didn’t flip off the First Order or make a dumb joke. She thought of her sister.

I have debated all aspects of Star Wars endlessly with friends whom I greatly respect and whose opinions differ greatly from mine. I doubt there is a long time fan who has not been disappointed by Star Wars at some point in their fandom, but Star Wars is so big and means so many different things to so many different people, that no one should get to say what the litmus test for being a real fan is. Sadly, fans acting like hateful, spoiled shit-heels is nothing new, but it seems like social media is only capable of amplifying stupid rage these days. Anyone who feels better spewing bile at real people for daring to try to entertain them or goes looking for conspiracy theories in mass market, space adventure stories has clearly taken the wrong lessons from Star Wars.

It’s okay to stop liking Star Wars. Heck, I checked out during the the latter days of the Expanded Universe. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have revitalized my interest, but I’m fully prepared to move on once the Game of Thrones guys take over. If they make a movie I don’t like, I’ll get over it like a fucking adult.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

I kinda hoped waiting a week might give me some unique insight into Solo: A Star Wars Story, but I don’t have anything profound to say. I found it a perfectly fun summer movie with charismatic actors doing exciting things and having a grand ol’ time. It doesn’t have much depth, but I wasn’t expecting it to; I’m not sure I even wanted it to. In many ways it felt like a Fast and Furious or Mission: Impossible movie, except, y’know, in space. Whether you find that a ringing endorsement or a damning condemnation probably will indicate how you’ll feel about Solo. I had a good time. I think it’ll it hold up better than Rogue One and is a perfectly good way to waste a couple of hours on a hot afternoon.

I’ll leave the speculation about why it has not performed like gangbusters to the experts except to say that I think it’s probably for the best that we’re in for a year and a half wait until the next Star Wars movie.

Sometimes It’s All I Think About

Longtime readers will recognize this image from a previous post, but if I’ve learned anything from George Lucas it is that it’s never too late to make changes. After three attempts I think I’ve finally arrived at my “original vision.”

I was prompted to revisit this poster after it was added as a stronghold decoration available to players who complete their weekly Conquest goal. The advertisement’s tag line is in the center of the graphic, and there is additional text at the bottom and vertically oriented along one side. The Aurebesh itself is reversed so it must be read right to left (although my recreation reads normally). Curiously, the decoration version of this poster differs from the one seen around the galaxy. The poster’s frame is reversed, but the image itself remains “backwards.” The result of this is that much of the text along the vertical edge of the picture is hidden in the stronghold version.

Nevertheless, I was determined to put this one to rest and finally translate the faint, vertical text that had vexed me previously. It took a bit of digital jiggery-pokery before the letters finally came into focus. The image above is a peek at my work file; sometimes these translations really do take more a bit doing than you might think.

Next time, something new! And fewer f-bombs, probably.

 

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Revenge, Money or Something Else

Even though it’s been with some nervousness, I have been looking forward to the release Solo: A Star Wars Story. So I thought I’d mark the opening day of the movie with a different kind of Aurebesh recreation.

Rather than translate something from Aurebesh into English, let’s try it the other way around!

It’s obvious to me that the controversial Solo teaser posters were directly inspired by/ripped off from a series album covers designed by Hachim Bahous for Sony Music. On the one hand, it’s a terrific design, but it’s laughable that whoever was responsible for the plagiarism thought that no one would notice. I hope Bahous and his team received significant apologies and compensation from Lucasfilm.

For my version, I made sure to include elements from Bahous’ design to pay tribute to his work, but with a SWTOR spin. To be honest, I originally hoped to feature Malgus or Satele, but their names were just too long. Good ol’ Darth Marr, however, was a much better fit.

Here’s to what will hopefully be a fun time at the movies this weekend!

 

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Summertime Blues

Just a few hours after my last post, Keith Kanneg shared SWTOR’s Summer 2018 Roadmap. I’m not usually one for hot takes, but, what the heck, I’ll give it a go.

I don’t do a ton of PVP these days, but cross-faction grouping, a new Huttball map and the ability to exclude certain types of matches all sound pretty good to me. I prefer objective based PVP, so if I can queue knowing that I won’t get dropped into an arena with three strangers against a pre-made, I’d play more.

On the PVE side, there isn’t much. I’m always up for a new stronghold, but that’s about it until the fall. Welcome to the content drought of 2018.

My first guess is that they’re giving World of Warcraft’s new expansion a wide berth, which, honestly, doesn’t strike me as a bad idea. In addition, Keith Kanneg recently raised the question of how folks want to receive SWTOR content: in smaller, more regular updates (which seems to have been the model for KotET) or in larger full fledged expansions. I hope they’re leaning towards the latter model now, which sadly means having to bide time until stuff comes together. I’m not psyched, but this isn’t my first MMO, and I’ve seen things like this before. If this is the cost for getting story updates that last longer than 5 minutes and not having to wait months between raid bosses, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Besides, it’s the summer, there is plenty of other stuff to do. Time to get some sun!

 

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That’s What They Want You to Think

I was out of town when Game Update 5.9 launched, so this review is coming a little late, but I’d like to share some impressions. Between the excellent Izax encounter in Gods from the Machine and now The Nathema Conspiracy, the last couple of patches have been pretty good for group content.

Nathema is easily the strongest of Knight of the Eternal Throne’s three new flashpoints. It’s not as high concept as Crisis on Umbara or as beautiful as Traitor Among the Chiss, but it hits every mark when it comes to pacing, rewards and fun boss fights.

The flashpoint offers plenty of loot including more than a dozen new decorations, a unique armor set and even a brand new droid companion, all of which are available to all players regardless of skill level.

Nathema’s master mode also feels appropriately balanced for what I expect from a hard mode flashpoint. Thankfully, it’s neither as as brutal as Umbara nor the trash-fest that Copero can be. As long as the group can pay attention to a few mechanics, it’s perfectly doable in a reasonable amount of time by a decently geared team.

Visually, once again the artists at Bioware have created another wonderful environment to explore. Nathema’s landscape is at first familiar from our first visit, but we quickly discover that Valkorion’s death has brought the planet back to life before we finally descend into one of the Emperor’s baroque and spooky crypts.

I should also discuss the events of the story, so spoilers ahead. Unlike the previous chapters, a lot happens here. Things get started with a quick visit to an abandoned Imperial listening post. Exploring dark, deserted ships is something that happens a lot in SWTOR, but it’s almost always done well, so it’s a setting I don’t mind revisiting from time to time.

The story doesn’t waste our time before letting us know that Theron’s betrayal was only for show so that he could infiltrate the Order of Zildrog. This was foreshadowed from the beginning so I’m cool with this result. The real focus of the story belongs to the villains: Vinn Atrius and GEMINI16.  I think the writers did an excellent job with them. Atrius is remarkably fleshed out and sympathetic for a one-off antagonist. In many ways, he’s right; things on Zakuul did get a whole lot worse after the Outlander showed up.

And I also can’t complain about him objecting to my character’s sparing Arcann either. It’s one of those decisions I wish the game had fleshed out more. My character spared Arcann because I believe in mercy, but I still consider him a war criminal. In my head cannon, Arcann is under house arrest on Odessen, but from Vinn’s perspective, the guy who brought the war right to Zakuul’s doorstep got off scott free. I’d be pissed too.

The story also wraps up the GEMINI storyline. The SCORPIO parts of the Eternal Empire saga were some of my favorites (I’d love see KotFE and KotET told from SCORPIO’s point of view because she is so clearly the hero of her own story), but no matter what choices you make, it’s certainly a tragedy for the GEMINIs. I’d like to think that some of the GEMINIs freed during The GEMINI Deception are still out there, but that may not be the case.

I’m not the first the say this, but Nathema is all about clearing the decks in preparation for the next big story arc. The Eternal Fleet is destroyed, the Eternal Alliance will soon be folded into the Republic or Sith Empire, and we’re not too likely to visit Zakuul again. It looks like Lana is the only character left who is certain to be around for what’s to come.

From a storytelling standpoint, I can see why this is necessary. Bioware has done a good job lately letting new and returning players jump back into the current story without forcing them to catch up through stuff that may not interest them, and while launching Knights of the Fallen Empire with a five year jump did the trick there, dealing with the players’ status as Alliance Commander needed more work.

I may devote another post to my thoughts about the missed opportunity that was the Eternal Alliance and why I’m not as excited about a return to the Republic vs. Empire dynamic, but for now I’ll just finish up with the one part of The Nathema Conspiracy that did disappoint me: the destruction of the Gravestone. I loved that hunk of junk; it’s a cool mix of the Millennium Falcon, Serenity, Space Battleship Yamato, and a haunted house. I’m honestly bummed it won’t be a part of the action going forward, and instead got swept up in the rest of Nathema’s house-cleaning. Given the big role the Gravestone played in the whole Eternal Empire story, I think she deserved better.

But that, for me, is the only sour note of a flashpoint which I think stands among SWTOR’s best. Whether you play solo or with friends, definitely check it out.

Many Happy Returns

Game Update 5.9 also marks the first time I’ve been able to play one of the recent companion reunion missions. The two characters I’ve completed the story on are my Consular and my Bounty Hunter so each of them had a companion waiting for them. I’ve seen these missions very accurately described as short and sweet, and I cannot disagree.

On the one hand, it was really nice hearing my characters speak dialogue that was written specifically for them for a change. And catching up with Felix and Mako was most welcome.

But, yeah, they are short, really short. I realize at this point, Bioware just wants to get these long over due reunions out of the way, but it’s a drag that major companions are returning with less gameplay than Broonmark’s recruitment alert. It’s a shame Mako and Akaavi won’t get the Profit and Plunder treatment, or that my Sage could not have led the mission to rescue Felix from imprisonment. Clearly the companion thing is something that got away from the developers, but I hope it’s something Bioware doesn’t overlook again. However, with so many favorites and possible pairings, that’s a lot of plates to keep spinning, and I don’t envy them that herculean task.

We’ve reached the end of SWTOR’s latest road map, so it’s now time to wait and see. A new expansion means a host of new possibilities. I’m curious to see what comes next!

 

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They Call Me The Seeker

I had expected to take this week off on account of some travel and the delay to Game Update 5.9, but I came across a thread on the r/swtor subreddit asking about one of the face paint customization options available to Human Bounty Hunters. The user was curious about their meaning, and I thought I’d offer my two credits. I recognized the writing as Huttese and took a crack at translating it. It turns out this is a rare case of Huttese that can be read in English. Moreover the translation seems appropriate for the bounty hunter class for which it is intended. Confident in my translation, I figured I might as well follow up with a recreation.

I’ve discussed the challenges of interpreting the Huttese font before, and this sample is not without its own idiosyncrasies. The process of transforming the words into tattoos and textures distorted many of the letters, and the “o” in “destroy” is particularly mangled, but I think it’s a safe choice based on the context.

While preparing screen shots I noticed this face paint option also includes on the neck a third word whose translation was trickier. I did some poking around and came across a post on SWTOR’s forums which beat me to the punch in translating these tattoos by four years. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but it’s nice when my interpretation is confirmed by someone else.

I basically agree with my fellow translator, since “spacer” makes more sense than anything else I’d suggest, but the Huttese letters are so distorted that I’d almost say that it could also be read as “shader.” However, I wouldn’t bet on it.

As for The Nathema Conspiracy, hopefully I’ll be able to avoid spoilers until I get back next week. Wish me luck!

 

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Jax’s Back

This month, in the comic book pages of IDW’s Star Wars Adventures 2018 Annual, saw the return of one of the most infamous characters in all Star Wars lore: Jaxxon, the green haired, rocket-rabbit from the very earliest days of what would become known as the Expanded Universe.

Jaxxon and his partner Amaiza (who also returns to the four color limelight), were one quarter of the “Eight for Aduba-3“, one of the first original Star Wars adventures in any media after the release of the movie. Before I wax too nostalgic, I should point out that the Aduba Saga has fairly earned its controversial reputation. Writer Roy Thomas saw in the first Star Wars movie a mix of Flash Gordon serials, samurai, western and World War II movies, and decided to do his own riff on The Magnificent Seven, adding elements from Godzilla movies, Warner Bros. cartoons, female professional wrestling, and even Cervantes. The end result, however, is an over-stuffed, under-cooked mess. In the years to come poor Jaxxon would be singled out by both official sources and fans as an excuse to dismiss the whole Marvel series. This is ironic because, until this month, there was literally a four decade gap in Jaxxon stories, and his last appearance in 1978, issue 16’s “The Hunter” is one of the strongest tales in the original run.

No doubt, these comics are very much of their time, and may not be to modern tastes. The earliest stories between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back tended to be illustrated in a broad Silver Age style: Luke and Leia had the physiques of super-heroes, almost no effort was given to make the characters look like their actors, and the action was very exaggerated and over the top. What was proper Star Wars was still being discovered back then, and sometimes those old comics wouldn’t fit in continuity, used concepts from the movies weirdly or were just too comic-booky. “Eight for Aduba-3” fits all those bills.

And yet…

The giant monster stomps things, Jaxxon cracks wise, Amaiza kicks butt, Don-Wan Kihotay is clumsily heroic, and Han Solo saves the day in spite of himself. What more could an eight year old ask of a Star Wars comic? Nowadays when some folks are genuinely asking if there is too much Star Wars, it’s hard to imagine what is was like back then to be a fan starved for new adventures after just one movie. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye smacked of the low budget sequel it was intended to be and the wholly bizarre Holiday Special left a generation of kids shaking their heads in confusion. But in the pages of Marvel’s Star Wars comics, that’s where the action was. If you wanted to see all the heroes from the movie exploring new worlds, encountering scores of new aliens and playing with all manner of new ships, droids and weapons, Marvel had you covered.

Even as a big fan, I cannot deny that those old Marvel stories have a host of issues, but I think their flaws were more of execution than ambition. Some stories were misses, sure, but they were big misses. And there were plenty of hits too: stories that made the wait between movies easier to take, and stories than even now stand tall in the legendary array of Star Wars canon.

So I’m thrilled to see Jaxxon and Amaiza have another day in the sun. Over the years, there has been the odd sighting in roleplaying game supplements, inside jokes and background references, but the cartoony style of Star Wars Adventures is a natural fit for Jaxxon. The story by writer Cavan Scott, illustrator Alain Mauricet and colorist Chris Fenoglio is a delightful romp with action, betrayal and a charming reinvention of these old characters. You don’t have to know who Jaxxon and Amaiza is to get a kick out of the story, but there are some literal and figurative easter eggs for old timers like myself to enjoy. I do hope they check in with these two star-hoppers again, at the very least they have some unfinished business. Jaxxon is silly and dumb like Star Wars can be sometimes, like Star Wars should be sometimes. If you’re cool with that, by all means, check it out!

Black Hole Redux

This week’s Aurebesh recreation continues my tribute to Jaxxon and Amaiza. Back in the day, Han Solo knew Amaiza as the “den-mother of the Black Hole Gang” so a return to my favorite daily quest hub seemed appropriate. The Jaxxon connection is obvious upon discovering the translation of this sign.

The sign is one of many advertisements for the HyperMatter Corporation and at first glance seems to tout the company’s commitment to the environment. However, anyone who has quested through the zone probably knows that the color in question probably refers to the radioactive glow that one might develop after spending too much time in the Black Hole.

I must admit I missed this sign during my first survey of the zone since it is posted somewhat out of view in the Imperial section of the Black Hole and does not seem to be used elsewhere. The sign itself hangs high on a building and is easy to miss if you don’t look up or don’t back track while completing your weekly quests. I only recently discovered it myself while exploring the area on an Republic character. It’s like Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

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No Disintegrations

Welcome to This, uh, Month… in Aurebesh! In honor of last week’s Bounty Broker Association event, let’s take a look at the holographic display projected by the Investigation Probe during interrogations of Shady Characters across the galaxy.

First off, some but not all, of the text in this graphic is reversed, since it is meant to be read by the target and not the players. In my recreation, I reversed the graphic for the sake of legibility.

Elements of this are shared with others from the game, most notably, the Agent’s regeneration ability, Recuperate, and as a part of the cut scene associated with “From Ashes,” a daily quest on Ziost. In both cases the graphic elements are assembled differently for each context.

Most of the text itself, however, is the same in all three examples, and it seems to be drawn from a collection of boilerplate jargon related to computer error messages. For example, the inset text on another photograph complains that the target “has a slow area server.”

The photographs themselves are of real people, but I don’t know their identities and presume they are or were member’s of SWTOR’s design team. Whoever they are, I’m sure they probably get a kick of being targets of bounty hunters from across the galaxy.

Gods, Conquests and Cartel Markets

It’s a been a while since my previous post, so I thought I’d offer some quick comments on Patch 5.8, “Command Authority” and other goings in the community.

For me, the biggest new addition has been Izax, the ultimate boss in the Gods from the Machine operation. Sadly, I have not yet scored a kill of this giant robot space lobster god. Aside from missing a week due to the holiday, Gods is simply a very long operation. My guild raids only once a week, and the first time there it took nearly our entire allotted time just to get to Izax. Certainly, now that we know the puzzle before him it won’t be as bad, but even so I think the raid itself might be too long, especially when it comes the trash pulls. The Scyva trash, in particular, seems excessive and I don’t think it could hurt to cull a group or two from the earlier bosses as well. It’s not unreasonable to expect that a Story Mode operation be clearable in around two hours, and I don’t think Gods is there yet.

As for Izax himself, my first impression based on a few pulls and watching many videos is that he clearly is the most complex Story Mode boss in the game. This doesn’t bother me, since it doesn’t seem like the gear check is too severe to beat him. The short battle rez timer can cover a whole host of mistakes and sloppy play. I look forward to getting it together enough to beat him soon.

The other big change in this update is the revamp to the Conquest system. Some folks seem to be up in arms, but I’ve got few major complaints with the changes. Previously, I was able to meet my personal target on one or two characters a week and that hasn’t changed. It seems to me that Bioware is trying to move the Conquest system away from one where a small group of players can pile up vast sums of points to one where the guilds that succeed are the ones that motivate the most players to participate. This doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. That individual players had been able to accumulate hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of points doing nothing but crafting or endlessly running the same heroics on every character in their legacy day after day strikes me as contrary to the spirit of what is meant to be a guild activity, not an individual one.

That said, I do wish it were easier for individuals to meet their personal goals on their first character. I think a player with a decent stronghold bonus should be able to hit their personal goal in a solid afternoon or evening of play. I’d like to see more big, one time objectives, that let folks quickly pile up some points without having to log on again and again during the week.

Finally, we are in the midst of the big Cartel Market Spring sale, and while I generally don’t talk about the Cartel Market here (it’s not my place to tell people how to spend their money) I cannot deny that I’ve taken advantage. At this point, the market has such a huge backlog of stuff that the prospect of getting that one item you’ve always wanted all your life is tricky if you happened not to be playing at the time it was released. Inflation has driven many items out of the reach of lots of player who simply can’t afford the prices on the GTN so I think it’s a good thing that folks who’ve been frugal with their monthly grants (i.e. not me) can treat themselves to something cool. As for me, dropping 90cc on an old emote I missed out on back in the day instead of millions on the GTN made my day for sure.

I don’t imagine this will be a one-time sale. I’d like to see it come around quarterly, or at least every six months. Hopefully they’ll also work out the kinks and get decorations on the shelves next time.

Suggestions Are Welcome

This post is especially late because I abandoned another recreation I had hoped to do, a monitor on CZ-198 whose text is both clearly identifiable as Aurebesh, but also just blurry enough to be illegible. In my frustration, it took a while to find something else to do instead. I have a backlog of signs and posters I’d like to translate, but I also welcome suggestions. If anyone has spotted an alien display out there they’d like to see recreated in English, please let me know. Outside inspiration is always appreciated!

 

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Godspeed, Rebels

Star Wars: Rebels ended its four-season run Monday night, and I thought I’d share my thoughts about the show. While I generally enjoyed its predecessor, The Clone Wars, the quality of stories could swing wildly from one arc to the next, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of Rebels at its launch. However, Dave Filoni and the whole Lucasfilm animation team really took what they learned from The Clone Wars and refined it into something special.

Rebels had a tighter focus on the crew the Ghost, and the art team did a great job playing to their strengths. Drawing inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs, we got to see early iterations of many  iconic Star Wars creations, from the Imperial speeders and walkers, to a more angular Darth Vader and a proto-Chewbacca who came to life as Zeb. The world the show created was immediately recognizable as Star Wars, but unique enough to always feel like its own thing.

With the show set in the era of Rebellion, it’s clear that everyone involved was eager to play with all the classic Star Wars toys, and they dove in with gusto. Fan service or not, I’ll never get tired of seeing the alphabet soup of Wing fighters in action. Everyone loves Boba Fett, but Sabine’s Mandalorian armor is a wonder of design, stripped down to its essentials, but with a distinctive Pop Art flair. As for the show’s central ship, the Ghost, I’d argue that it’s cooler than any vehicle or ship we’ve seen in any of the three most recent Star Wars movies.

The core of the show, of course, was the crew. On the one hand, we’ve seen these character types before: the boy hero, the spunky girl, the gruff but loveable tough guy, the patient maternal figure, the haunted veteran, and the scene-stealing droid but the show forged them into a family unit, and the affection these characters had for each other felt genuine. They cared about each other, so I cared about them.

My favorite character was Hera. It’s rare in Star Wars to see a mother figure play a central role in the story, and Hera was the heart and soul of the show. She was the bad-ass mom the Ghost crew needed to help find their place in the galaxy. Coming in second, obviously, is Chopper. He is an unrepentant and unreformed forking son of a bench, and I love him for it. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Rebels did a good job keeping its focus on the main characters and their journeys, even when it touched on other aspects of the larger Star Wars mythos. Filoni got to tie up some dangling plot threads from The Clone Wars with the return of Ahsoka and Rex, but those characters felt like additions to the cast, not distractions from it. Rebels also came to be something of a prequel to Rogue One, but in a way that I think mostly felt natural to the story Rebels was already telling.

Some of Star Wars’ heaviest hitters also stopped by, and it’s a credit to the show’s creators that visits from Darth Vader, Yoda and Ben Kenobi were handled with fantastic drama but still a light enough touch to not overwhelm the course of the show. And I’m impressed with the job they did bringing Thrawn to life as an intelligent and formidable antagonist for our heroes.

I was sometimes frustrated that Rebels would bump up against the limits of what a kid’s show would allow, acting a little too coy about Kanaan and Hera’s relationship and lacking real narrative stakes when most every adventure had to have a happy ending. As a viewer, I could also see the creators straining against the schedule and budget limits of a TV production, but I also appreciate that over the course of 74 episodes, we really got to explore the characters and their settings in a way that movies just don’t have time for.

In the end, however, I’d say Rebels hit the marks it was aiming for, and is a most worthy addition to Star Wars lore. I don’t doubt for a moment that Filoni and company have more stories to tell, and I’m eager to see where they take us next.

 

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Nadia Come Home

I don’t get to do as much old fashioned drawing as I’d like these days, but I’d been wanting to show some love for one of my favorite, long lost SWTOR companions. Between a mild bout of Olympic fever and a light work schedule, I was finally able to finish this off. No Aurebesh this week, but it’s my blog and I’ll draw if I wanna, draw if I wanna.

In other news, Keith Kanneg shared the SWTOR road map for the next couple of months. I am glad to see that Gods from the Machine will reach its conclusion next month. Between the setting and the boss fights, I have very much enjoyed this operation, and I hope the Izax fight will be suitably climatic. It’s cool that Conquest will get some love. I like to bang out conquest objectives while I play and it’ll be nice to have some new stuff to work towards. April will see the next and perhaps concluding (it’s not clear from the road map) chapter in the Traitor story arc. This arc has been to me much more interesting for its settings than actual story, but return visit to Nathema should be pretty neat. In the blog post, Keith mentions augments, but I hope they won’t render moot the ones I’ve been crafting since the last game update. Augmenting gear has always struck me as busy work, and I kinda hope I’m done with it this expansion.

We’ll also see the return of five more companions and some action for lonely ol’ Arcann in the weeks ahead. The Mako and Akaavi partnership is not something I’d have predicted, but it is one I’m curious to play out. It’s also nice to know that Bioware remembers that the Consulars had companions too. Still no Nadia, but Felix is a mensch, and it’ll be nice to have him back on the team.

The road map also includes news that Gods from the Machine won’t include a full Master/Nightmare mode. I don’t have much to say about this since even my Hard Mode raiding days are behind me, and this doesn’t really affect me. I’m sure we’ve all seen the reports about Anthem monopolizing all of Bioware’s attention, but even so we filthy casuals have long since won the war for SWTOR, and I’m not going to lose sleep over the designers focusing what resources they do have on stuff that more players can experience.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, KotET, My Artwork