Monthly Archives: December 2016

Rest in Peace Carrie Fisher


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Rogue One Review

I liked Rogue One a lot, but I can’t say I loved it. It’s interesting that this is a movie that George Lucas would never have made. It was the mission of the old Expanded Universe to tell stories like this (indeed, this very story had been told several different ways already), but for me Star Wars was always a cinematic experience; neither the books nor even my beloved comics were ever fully able to capture that feeling of watching Star Wars on the big screen, nevertheless I cannot deny that Rogue One does a good job of getting me there.

The things that held it back for me seem to be pretty common complaints. I got used to the “new” Tarkin in an Okay-Dick-Sargent-is-now-playing-Darrin kind of way, but the second computer generated cameo took me out of the moment. I didn’t think “Hey! It’s Princess Leia!” Instead it was, “Oh, that’s CGI Leia.” The Force Awakens and Rogue One end on almost identical beats, but I don’t feel like’s Leia’s appearance matched the power of Luke’s. On an extremely nitpicky note, I also felt like Vader was just a little off. Maybe it was the way the helmet was filmed, but it seemed like his neck was too thick.

I think a fair argument can be made that Rogue One leans too heavily into the fan service, but as one of those fans, I’m not going to complain. I do think it keeps the movie from standing on its own. I would not suggest to someone who has never seen Star Wars that they should watch Rogue One before Episode 4.

Probably the most damning thing I could say is that Rogue One kind of felt like a Marvel movie: Jyn’s arc is straight from the Tony Stark playbook, the villain was the least interesting character, and Vader fills the role of Loki. I was left feeling like many of the characters’ best stories happened before the movie. Who wouldn’t want to watch a Baze and Chirrut buddy movie? Or see Jyn’s life on the run with Saw Gerrera? And I can even imagine a paranoid workplace drama featuring Galen, Bodhi and Krennic. I thought the cast was very good, but a bit under-used and part of me wishes I could’ve seen them in a story where I didn’t already know how it ends. That’s probably where the Expanded Universe might have had an edge over Disney. A comic book series featuring Cassian Andor, Rebel Spy and his sassy droid would’ve made perfect sense back in the day.

All that said, oh, what fun! My previous complaint about the CGI characters aside, the effects were great. Every single shot of the Death Star was terrifying. The sight of a Star Destroyer looming over Jedha sums up the Empire perfectly. The climatic battle in space and on the planet was amazing. And I will never, ever complain about new types of Stormtroopers. I even bought my first Black Series figure to get a Scarif Trooper since I couldn’t find a regular size version. No regrets.


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Cat’s-eye View

Just a quick post this week (it’s that time of year), but here is a look through the targeting scope of the great Aric Jorgan from KotFE’s chapter 11, “Disavowed” in which everyone’s favorite Cathar finally gets to show off his much vaunted skills as a sniper.

Unlike the view through HK’s optical sensors, the information displayed here is much more economically presented with significantly less editorializing on the target’s potential status as a meatbag.

The translation was straightforward, but there are a couple non-standard bits of Aurebesh. The comma symbol is used in the numbers, but I substituted decimal points since that seems to make more sense in context.

The krenth (kh) and onith (eo) symbols are used as angle brackets on account of how the font handles those symbols. Given that the Aurebesh ligatures are almost never properly used, I’m sure they’re at least glad to see the light of day for a change.

Galactic Command Update

I wrote this entry while listening to Bioware’s latest Producer Livestream during which they discussed upcoming changes to the Galactic Command system. There are details to come, but since this week’s post is short, I might as well toss in my two credits. I’m most curious to know how many Command Tokens and Unassembled Components will be needed to buy gear. Assuming that number isn’t ridiculous, I think these are very positive changes, targeting the people, raiders and PVPers, who need certainty in gearing the most, while preserving the benefits of the system for everyone else.  If you do run operations or compete in pvp, gearing alts and off-specs should also be easier. We’ll still be able to throw tokens at fresh 70’s, but I imagine they will still need to get a few Command Levels before they can cash them in. Given how quickly the first few levels come, I don’t think this is too much to ask. I also like the changes to how tokens will be dropping since it may at last encourage folks to raid places other than Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace.

All that said, while I think these changes to gearing are good, I’m still eagerly waiting for some place new to use that gear.

That’s all for now. Have a Rogue One-derful weekend, everyone!


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Filed under Aurebesh to English, KotET, KotFE

First Impressions: Knights of the Eternal Throne

With a week or so of the new expansion under my belt, I’d like to share some first impressions of Knights of the Eternal Throne. To folks who haven’t finished or started yet, fear not, I promise to avoid spoilers.

The Story

Following up on the events of Knights of the Fallen Empire, the nine-chapter conclusion is a terrific ride. Once again, Bioware has crafted a story where you get to be the center of a massive Star Wars adventure. The scope is epic, and the stakes couldn’t be higher, but the drama stays focused on the characters. I’m not embarrassed to admit I got choked up a couple times and sat at the edge of my seat during the climax. While not everything is explained and a few plot threads dangle, the major characters and story beats come to an extremely satisfying conclusion. If you enjoyed the previous chapters, it’s worth hopping on to see how it all ends.

New Abilities

Most of the classes have received some tweaking and several abilities have been revised or replaced with others. Operatives’ new ability to throw ninja throwing stars already feels like something they should’ve been able to do from day one. However, I already miss some of the other old animations. Flame thrower is such an iconic Bounty Hunter ability that not only was Boba Fett shown shooting fire on both his first action figure card and poster but it is also the icon for SWTOR’s Bounty Hunter class. The Jedi Knight’s and Sith Warrior signature channeled attacks have also been replaced with instant abilities. Mechanically, the Jedi’s Blade Dance and the Sith’s Ravage were the same thing, but the animations boldly set the classes apart: the Jedi’s attack was acrobatic and precise and the Sith’s was an overwhelming display of power. The new animations are nice, but they just don’t compare. I understand that these changes were made in the interest of giving melee classes more mobility, but from an aesthetics point of view, I can’t help but feel like something has been lost.

And while Mercenary Bounty Hunters can still use Death from Above, my Powertech has had it replaced with a move a friend has dubbed “Backpack of Doom.” In this case, the change strikes me as a solution to a problem I’m not really sure exists. I’ve always described Death from Above as my all time favorite MMORPG button to press, and I’m disappointed that the Bounty Hunter I play can no longer blast into the air and rain down missiles on her foes.

Galactic Command

Upon reaching level 70, characters will unlock the Galactic Command interface, which provides a wide array of activities in which to participate and the framework from which gear upgrades are now earned. The loot boxes with random rewards have been the cause of much uproar, but I can’t say it’s bothered me too much. After a week and a half, between crafting and drops from the boxes, I feel like my character is appropriately geared considering how early into the expansion it is.

The transition to Galactic Command has been a shock to be sure, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the gearing system we had during KotFE was outright terrible. That we could farm content that ran the entire gamut from trivial to easy for 220 gear every week, and best-in-slot gear two out of every eight weeks was horrible design. It had the net result of rending every other bit of content irrelevant. Crafting and flashpoints and storymode ops (some of which are harder than HM Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace) yielded worse gear, so why bother? As for other Hard Mode Operations, there was no incentive to attempt tougher content. Why spend hours banging your head against Hard Mode bosses for gear you can get for free elsewhere? I’m not blaming the players for taking advantage; heck, I got my 224 mainhand from Soa just like you did, but I won’t fault Bioware for wanting to move away from that system.

Is Galactic Command the solution? I don’t know, but I’d argue it is a step in the right direction. Players can participate in whatever content they like, and still work towards rewards whether their thing is farming heroics or wiping on HM Revan. Yes, there are flaws in the system. It’s not friendly to off-specs and alts; for now crafting is going to have to cover those gaps. And you have to feel bad for folks on cold streaks. A friend has opened twice as many crates as me, but is still waiting on her first set piece. That’s just not fun. In addition I truly believe teams running Hard Mode content beyond EV and KP should have more control over how their group gears up since they are actually doing stuff where that loot matters. However, these are not insoluble problems that require scrapping the entire Galactic Command system.

The last thing about Galactic Command upon which I want to comment is in regard to the Galactic Command XP boosts. It’s not my place to tell people how to spend their money or cartel coins, but I will not be buying any. Having to pay extra on top of my subscription to maximize GC advancement is something I simply refuse to do. These boosts are something more than cosmetics or conveniences, and I think everyone knows that.

Uprisings and Veteran Chapters

I’ve only just dipped my toes into SWTOR’s latest group content, Uprisings, but so far they are a blast. These are flashpoints without the fluff. They are intense and fun with hilariously over the top power-ups and genuinely neat boss fights. So far the best part for me has been how great it is again to be discovering challenges where I have no idea what the junk is going on. Learning fights, getting lost and screwing up with friends is a great way to pass the time in an MMO.

I’ve also tried a few story chapters in Veteran mode and was pleasantly surprised how challenging they are. I expected that they’d be nothing more than non-face roll mode but quickly learned that I couldn’t spam AOE on every pack and expect to survive. I had to use my cool downs and play smart to finish many fights. I’m truly looking forward to learning these a bit more.

Now What?

As I write this, it is a weird time for SWTOR. For the first time, I’m not really sure what to expect of the game next year. Beyond more Uprisings, Bioware has been frustratingly coy about their plans. With previous expansions, I felt like I knew what to expect in the months ahead. I don’t have the impression that more story is coming anytime soon, and “operations” remains “the word that must not be spoken.” Uprisings are great, and I expect I’ll get some mileage out of replaying chapters on increased difficulties, but I’ve got to wonder how long that stuff will hold my interest. It really is long past time that Bioware let the players in on their roadmap for the game in the coming year. The ball is in your court, Bioware. No pressure.


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This is Not the Aurebesh You’re Looking For


Anyone familiar with the Aurebesh will have no doubt encountered many signs in the game that seem to defy decryption. Sometimes glyphs are shaped unusually, often letters are inverted, ligatures appear where they shouldn’t, and the whole simply doesn’t make sense. This is clearly not Aurebesh according to Hoyle.

And that’s because it isn’t. Nevertheless many of these signs can still be translated; you just need to try a different font. That font is Erik Schroeder’s Galactic Basic. In the course of his fascinating and extensive research into decoding the writing seen in Return of the Jedi, Schroeder discovered that the glyphs seen in the movie came from a design for alien writing (seen below) created by the great Joe Johnston at ILM in 1976. These symbols popped up in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back before being seen prominently as the language used in the scan of the shuttlecraft Tydirium.


I assume that the original Aurebesh was designed using low resolution captures from the movies, but Galactic Basic was derived from Johnston’s original glyphs. While Aurebesh has become the official font, Galactic Basic more accurately recreates what appeared on screen. Even though the two fonts share some similarities, there are differences that render them mostly incompatible.

Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell which font is being used, and it adds meaning to a whole bunch of signage in the game. From an in-universe standpoint, I would explain the differences as simply two related languages that use many of the same letters, such as English and French. A great many characters in Star Wars lore are polyglots, so it doesn’t strike me as odd that we encounter variations in similar languages across the galaxy. However, for simplicity’s sake I consider both to be Aurebesh since that is the canonical name for this writing and that both were inspired by the same source material.


This sign can be found in several places across the galaxy, most prominently in the Bounty Brokers Association’s section of the Fleets’ Cartel Bazaars, Hutta, Ord Mantell and even Ziost. Unlike the versions seen elsewhere, the sign on Ord Mantell does not have horizontally flipped side panels, so it at least can be read right to left.

BHG is almost certainly the Bounty Hunter’s Guild run by the Mandalorians. A Mandalorian crest, which first appeared on Boba Fett’s armor, appears on the right and center panels. The central display is dominated by a list of bounties with charming, Star Warsy names. The rewards for each bounty is written in both Aurebesh numbering formats: the standard numerals and “binary” dots and dashes. The right panel includes rules for hyperspace pursuit and the left pinpoints the location of another bounty, although most of the text, including the target’s last name, is too low resolution to clearly read.


This post was written as I downloaded the latest patch, but I hope have some first impressions of Knights of the Eternal Throne next week.



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