Just Breathe

My pledge to take the week off has faltered yet again with the release of the trailer for The Last Jedi and its inclusion of Aurebesh on Finn’s medical pod.

Much of the text is so blurry and distorted that it is difficult if not impossible to decipher. Moreover, what is readable, specifically the sets of four characters that shift during the second or two this shot is on screen seem to be random characters. This information can easily be chalked up as medical jargon and acronyms obscure to all but the most seasoned of medical droids.

The information at the top of the red block, however, does seem to be translateable, and might constitute a very minor spoiler, so Caveat Clicktor!

As is often the case with Aurebesh ligatures, they are not used as letters but rather the English keyboard symbol that the font uses to generate them, so I translated the Cherek and Shen glyphs as brackets.

There seems to be more Aurebesh in white on the right side of the pod, but it is far too blurry for me to take a stab at.

To make sense of the Aurebesh in the screen shot, I did have to apply some technical jiggery-pokery in Photoshop. Even so this translation involves more guessing and perhaps wishful thinking than usual. Other translators may very well come to different conclusions.

 

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Why SWTOR Should Pay Tribute to Carrie Fisher

I hadn’t planned to post anything this week since I saw no point in competing with the news from Star Wars Celebration, but then I saw this and it genuinely choked me up:

It reminded me of the suggestion that many folks made that SWTOR should add a memorial to Carrie Fisher to the game. I don’t recall anyone at Bioware mentioning one way or the other about whether it would happen, but I figured I’d use my teeny, tiny soapbox to add my voice to those who have already suggested it.

A statue of a princess and a loyal astromech at House Organa on Alderaan has been the most common suggestion, and this would also be a fitting tribute to Kenny Baker who passed away last year as well. Certainly it could be done in a way that wouldn’t violate continuity any worse than “Hun Duo” and “Greepo” in the cantina on Hutta or the tableau of bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back on the Ziost Shadow.

But even if it did rip a hole in the time-space continuum, I wouldn’t care. SWTOR is not a transmission of historical documents, it’s a work of fiction, a game played and made by people in the real world. It’s only natural that it should pay tribute to someone whose contributions to Star Wars had a real effect on generations of fans.

So, of course, it should happen and I would hope the good folks at Bioware agree.

 

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No TV Party Tonight

One of my favorite flashpoints is Kaon Under Siege. From its slow build to its crazy mutant-space-zombie apocalyptic climax, it’s an effective and thrilling bit of storytelling. One of Kaon’s most distinctive environments is the abandoned auditorium. Players often race through the theater quickly. pausing only to deal with a pair of rogue security droids patrolling the area. However, passing through an area that would normally be bustling but is currently devoid of life adds to the flashpoint’s mounting sense of unease. Prior to the arrival of the Rakghoul plague, I’m sure it was a lovely place to catch a holovid.

The auditorium’s screen features a large display that, as far as I can tell, appears nowhere else in the game. It has three sections of scrolling Aurebesh, several inset portraits of aliens and animated graphics of maps and geometric shapes.

The Aurebesh itself is non-specific and draws from SWTOR’s often used pool of mostly random text that can be seen around the galaxy, from the scrolling text that the bottom on the holonet newsfeed in the cut scene that introduces players to the Rakghoul Resurgence event to the Eternal Empire’s Zakuulan language monitors.

This translation includes all four repeating lines that are shared in the two side boxes as well as the crawl atop the screen. To add some visual variety to the repeating letters, the Aurebesh at the top of the graphic is mirrored, and the text in the side boxes is upside down. This technique is common both in SWTOR and in the Aurebesh seen in the Star Wars prequels.

There are items of interest in the content of the Aurebesh. First is the word “slothfurnace” which seems to be a reference to a real company that makes replica Star Wars props such as lightsabers and blasters. I suspect this secret bit of buzz marketing slipped by without official notice. Finally there is a long series of numbers in the first line of the side boxes. I can’t say for sure, but these digits look like a pair of dates to me: June 28, 1976 and November 16, 1977. A couple of birthdays perhaps?

 

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Falling Down a Bottomless Pit is Never Fatal

A friend of mine who got an invite to the PTS for the upcoming patch 5.2: The War for Iokath sent me this screenshot from the new daily area’s imperial quest hub. He doesn’t know Aurebesh, but figured I could translate it for him so I thought I’d give it a go.

At first glance this seems like a bog standard Imperial recruitment poster featuring one of the game’s most beloved Dark Lords. It’s topped with an invocation of the Sith code, but its tagline, however, is a different thing entirely. Not only does it have significant implications for the future of SWTOR but for the entire Star Wars saga.

Whether this is an inside joke for folks on the PTS or kind of a big spoiler, I cannot say. Click on the thumbnail and see the translation at your own risk. You’ve been warned!

 

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Put Another Credit in the Jukebox, Baby


If you’ve ever dropped a token in a cantina jukebox or have one as a stronghold decoration, you may have noticed that the monitor on the machine will light up with text when activated.

The three different screens that flash through display Aurebesh that, when translated, is revealed to be, not surprisingly, lists of songs, the machine’s playlist as it were.

Looking at the names of the songs, there are several items of interest. First, it’s amusing how easy it is to turn a line from the Star Wars movies into a convincing song title. “You know it to be true.” Is that a threat from a Dark Lord of the Sith, or a refrain from a love song? Context matters!

In addition, one of the songs in the listings is not just a KOTOR reference but an actual use of the term “KOTOR.” Whether this leaves your fourth wall shattered is up to you, but I’d say it barely counts as a crack.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that many of the songs displayed on the jukebox are actual songs from the game’s soundtrack. They can be selected using the cantina jukeboxes and can be heard on the stronghold decoration versions as well.

On a related note, it’s not well known, but SWTOR’s wonderful soundtrack is available for download for free from swtor.com. My favorites are the tracks for Tython and Balmorra. It’s worth a listen!

 

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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Mounts

This week’s post is another dumb top five list of some of my favorite mounts in the game. These can all be acquired by simply playing the game. You don’t need to spend a single cartel coin or hunt the GTN for a deal to hit the road in style. I’ve not included mounts from flashpoints and operations since you’re neither guaranteed to see those mounts drop nor win the role. In addition it’s hard to quantify mounts with epeen value; I’m not sure tentacle jet packs would be a big deal if they didn’t come from one of the toughest boss fights in the game. It’s perhaps another list for another time.

Questing: Tauntauns

SWTOR offers many snowscapes to explore from Hoth and Belsavis to Ilum and Ziost, and there is no better way to lope across these ice-capped worlds than on a Tauntaun. There are several Tauntaun mounts available from the Cartel Market and one as a reward from the Oricon questline, but the two available on Hoth are closest in appearance to those used by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. The spotted Tundra Tauntaun and the tan Mountain Tauntaun can be acquired through simple questing which will have you criss-crossing Hoth, feeding baby Tauntauns and protecting them from Wampas; do this enough times and you’ll earn enough tokens to purchase either mount. It’s not the most engaging bit of gameplay, but Hoth is quite picturesque, and if you’re looking for a relaxing, stress-free way to spend a couple hours, you could do worse.

Reputation: Infected Varactyl

Most of the major PVE reputations offer an exclusive mount or two to folks who’ve earned the respect of the game’s various factions, and it was hard to pick just one, but the Infected Varactyl from the THORN reputation vendor is a standout. As with many of the mounts on this list, there are variants available from the Cartel Market, but the Infected Varactyl’s mottled gray skin and glowing yellow eyes set it apart from its healthier siblings. You will need to earn Legend standing with THORN and gather materials that drop from bosses that appear only during the event, but I think this is a great mount for any Sith Warrior or Inquisitor.

Vendor: Gurian Shadow

If you just want to drop some credits and drive away immediately, the Gurian Shadow might be the mount for you. This is a speeder bike stripped to its essentials: handle bars, wings and a rocket between your legs. Sometimes that’s all you need. This particular version of the Gurian is only available from one vendor in the galaxy: Bleargh, the Gamorrean Black Market Trader who resides in the far end of the Outlaw’s Den on Tatooine. It’s a bit of a trek, but the Shadow’s matte black paint job and glowing red engine mark it as the best of its class.

Achievement: Aratech Speeders

There is an often overlooked quest terminal in the GTN section of the Fleets that offers four distinct Aratech Speeders as rewards for completing much of SWTOR’s original endgame group content, from killing world bosses to completing flashpoints and operations. The Aratechs are some of my favorite speeders in the game; they’re long and sleek and feel fast as heck. Between the four options, there is bound to be one to suit any taste. I’m partial to the flaming red Fire, but the slick, black Nightscythe looks good on anyone. Again, there are other Aratechs available from the Cartel Market, but for my credits, these are the best looking ones in the game.

For the Truly Dedicated: the GSI PMP-06 Pleasure Speeder

I won’t lie, unless you buy the parts from the GTN, acquiring the GSI Pleasure Speeder will not be trivial. This speeder is assembled from parts found by excavating sites using the Macrobinoculars and Seeker droid acquired from the long side quests that first appeared during Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The parts for the pleasure speeder are rare treasures from the dig sites scattered around the galaxy and it will take many, many hours to find them all. Along the way, you’ll certainly find three other speeders and a couple sets of unique Legacy armor, but at the end you’ll have one of the rarest mounts in the game. The speeder’s flame-shooting tail-pipes are over the top in just the right way and it’s glowing orange pin-striping looks fantastic on any shadowy planet. This mount is ridiculous, but I love it.

If you’re looking for a unique mount to call your own, don’t feel like you have to drop cartel coins or pay through the nose on the GTN. Look at what’s available in the game. Reputation and most event currencies are shared amongst your legacy, so check out some of those vendors you might normally pass by. You might find an over-looked gem, with low mileage and great terms waiting just for you.

 

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The Sith Empire Asks That You Stay Alert

This week, let’s look at two Alert posters that can be found on Dromund Kaas, a world that really knows how to make visitors feel welcome.

This notice is posted on many walls throughout the capital. At first glance it seems to be a pretty standard “If you see something, say something” poster not unlike one that might be seen in a major city or airport in this day and age, but the addition of the macrobinoculars makes it clear that not only do the Sith want you to keep an eye out for trouble, they actively want you to be spying on your neighbors, even at a great distance.

I’ve only seen this poster in one dark corner of Dromund Kaas and have tweaked the contrast to make it more readable. Again, this poster looks to be a typical “No trespassing” sign until you get to the last line. You’ve got to admire the efficiency of the Sith Empire. They won’t waste time threatening scofflaws with arrest, prosecution or imprisonment; instead they’ll just let you know that if you cross that line, they’ll kill you. No muss, no fuss. Somewhat ironically, this fenced off area can only be accessed by the Jedi Knight character during the climatic chapter of their class story.

 

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Give In To The Dark Side Of The Force, You Knob

Good day. Our topic today continues last week’s theme of Aurebesh signage inspired by movies. This one found on Corellia recalls the great tragedy of haunted Elsinore, with its murderous uncle, lost daughter, a mouse trapped in a bottle and a flying dog named “Hosehead.” I refer, of course, to the cinematic classic of the Great White North, Strange Brew.

The saga of Bob and Doug McKenzie has inspired a host of stories through the ages including Star Wars. George Lucas has often remarked that in his original vision, Obi-wan and Anakin’s final duel would take place on ice skates and involve hockey stick-shaped lightsabers and Force empowered cross-checking. Sadly, ILM had not yet mastered the technology of rendering digital ice so the entire sequence had to be scrapped and restaged with lava and higher ground. In a final twist of fate, a Betamax copy of Strange Brew fell through a rupture in the time-space continuum and emerged in Elizabethan England where it was discovered by a little known playwright and plagiarist, William Shakespeare. A mere hired player, Shakespeare only owned a VHS machine, so he was forced to crack open the cassette and studied the film frame by frame in order to reconstruct the story for a play he called Hamlet, a Danish word meaning “hoser.” Without access to the original dialogue, several historical inaccuracies made their way into Shakespeare’s “adaptation.” Had Rosencrantz and Guildenstern thought to save a jelly donut, for example, the young prince surely would’ve survived his ordeal. For this reason, Hamlet is typically dismissed by scholars as something between “Legends” and fan-fiction.

 

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A New Life Awaits You In The Off-World Colonies!

This week, let’s look at a couple posters, which can be seen throughout the galaxy. They advertise exciting getaways for vacations and new starts for the restless citizens of the Republic and Empire.

To me, this poster recalls the movie Bladerunner and its ambient and inescapable advertisements to escape to the off-world colonies. However, like the company towns of the old American west, the requirement of little to no credit, is almost certainly a double-edged sword.

The floating metropolis and the orange and red tones of the second poster are meant to evoke another movie, which is, of course, The Empire Strikes Back. Wookieepedia tells me that Bespin’s most famous port of call had not yet been constructed in the time of SWTOR, so I guess we should say this is a cloud city, not the Cloud City.

These two particular posters can be found in a ruined cantina on post-apocalyptic Ziost. I can only hope that a few lucky people were convinced to take leave of Ziost before that world met its tragic, final fate.

 

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Top Five Dumb Wishes for SWTOR

This week, I’d like to focus on something a little different and share a short list of changes I’d like to see made to SWTOR. This is NOT a list of important things. Sure, who wouldn’t demand more story, more group content, perfect class balance, and the return of Kira? Of course I expect all that, but here some other, frivolous things I’d like to see once that other stuff is also sorted out.

Hats and Hoods and Hair

It’s one of the sad facts of life in the SWTOR universe that hats and hoods cannot share the same space as hair on our characters’ heads. The recent additions of Nico Okarr, who wears a hat without ear flaps, Vaylin, whose hair spills out of her hood, and even Koth Freakin’ Vortena, who gets to prop his goggles on his forehead, stand in stark contrast to the player characters who can do none of those things. There are tons of awesome helmets and masks that cover the whole head, but there are far fewer good examples of open-faced headgear and hats because almost without exception they must also awkwardly cover the sides and back of the characters’ heads. Likewise, it’s a shame that so many potentially cool Jedi and Sith robes are marred and rendered unusable by hoods that make the characters appear bald. It’s a nut I really hope they crack one day.

Updated Conquest

I enjoy participating in Conquest both as a solo player and as part of a guild working to place in the top ten. That said, Conquest is in desperate need of an update. Let’s invade Darvannis, Zakuul and Iokath and chase new objectives related to those worlds. In addition, don’t forget to add new Utility decorations. There are now two expansions’ worth of gathering nodes that should be included as conquest rewards. The right color crystal deco can really liven up a room, and a slicing node can perform double duty as both a stylish end table and a source of extra walking around money.

Crafting

I’d like to see crafters have more vanity items to make. That the classic color crystals from the films can be crafted remains great. Whenever I’m looking for a dye for a new outfit, there is now almost always a good choice available from my Artificer. But let’s see some more Cybertech mounts. Or how about a genetically engineered pet or companion made by Biochem? I know Tunings are the fancy new thing, but I definitely hope to see a craftable Tuning. It could be a rare recipe or call for expensive or difficult to acquire materials. I’m cool with that. Even in a video game, there is satisfaction in making something yourself. I realize and understand that items like this usually goes to the cartel market, but there should also be room for crafters to make fun stuff too.

Companion Weapons

One of the weird things about Knights of the Fallen Empire has been getting companions back who suddenly refuse to use weapons they’d gleefully carried into battle for the last few years. All those techstaves and assault cannons are gathering dust as Torian, SCORPIO, Rusk and Jorgan grab sniper rifles. Storywise, it makes sense that Jorgan prefers rifles, but I always thought it was cool when he and my Commando would unsling their big ass guns and go bug hunting like Vasquez and Drake. Certainly Lightsabers should be restricted to Force using companions, as should saber fighting styles; I don’t think Kira should be dual wielding like a Sentinel or Ashara fighting like an Assassin. And, yeah, Doc and Mako probably wouldn’t use assault cannons, but, in general, I think companions should be more versatile in the weapons they can wield. At the very least, the HKs should be able to fire any darn blaster in the galaxy. Heck, if you told me HK destroyed a factory full of skytroopers using nothing but a vibro-mop, I wouldn’t even blink. And for pity’s sake, give Blizz back his rocket launcher!

Star Wars Rebels

There is no shortage of cool material that can and should be imported, borrowed and swiped from the Star Wars Rebels cartoon (Kanan’s partial armor, Sabine’s two-toned hair, Zeb’s bo-rifle, the Inquistor’s lightsaber, etc.), but the continued absence of Loth Cats from SWTOR is the most glaring omission and a crying shame.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back to the Aurebesh next week, but I may slip in some more dumb top five lists in the future as inspiration strikes me.

 

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