Knights of the Fallen Empire introduced a new planet to the Star Wars galaxy: Zakuul, capital of the Eternal Empire. Zakuul included a host of new characters, architecture, droids, spaceships, customs and perhaps most subtly a new form of writing.
The artists at Bioware designed the Zakuulan script with several variations suggesting an idiosyncratic and evolving language while maintaining a cohesive style whether the context is a fancy sign on a building or a technical readout on a computer monitor.
After pouring through my screenshots, I’ve put together a basic Zakuulan primer of letters and numbers.
I should admit up front that this project is a work in progress. I’ve found no examples of the letters J, Q and X, so folks looking to score big in Scrabble may be disappointed. As with Aurebesh, it’s not unusual for Zakuulan signage to be inverted or reversed; this is most common in the holographic displays in the Twin Rails tram station. The flipped signs made deciphering the numbers tricky, especially since I have not yet come across the number 7, but I think I can extrapolate it based on other numbers in the sequence. Likewise, I’m also not sure what the glyph for zero is, but don’t feel confident enough to guess.
There are two major styles of Zakuulan writing: a digital font seen on monitors in which the letters are rendered with straight lines and hard angles, and a second version that features rounded corners and elegant curves. This script is, to my eye, evocative of the Art Deco style of the early 20th century. There are more gaps in this second style and while I feel comfortable making educated guesses about a few of the missing letters, several others remain unknown to me.
Typically, letters are similar across both styles, but there are variants of a few letters: A, B, C, Y and Z can all be rendered using two different glyph shapes, and I’ve seen examples of both in the “digital” and “deco” styles. In addition, the deco style seems to employ a distinct numbering system from its digital counterpart. With only one example to work from, I’m not confident in even making basic guesses about how to render numbers in that style.
In addition to signs and computers, Zakuulan script is also readable in the costumes of Vaylin and the Scions. The lining on their cloaks and hoods repeat five words thematically significant to both the game’s story and Zakuulan culture. However, so far the writing on Arcann and Thexan’s robes defies translation.
The game has gotten a lot of mileage out of a few graphics; the “administraton” and “RNG Main Office” signs are everywhere for example, but I hope in the future we’ll see more examples of the Zakuulan script. The addition of new and alien writing has been a nice touch to set the Eternal Empire apart from the rest of the galaxy and to make it feel like a real, lived in world that’s not quite familiar to both the characters and the players. It’s perhaps an easy thing to miss while adventuring, but I applaud the artists at Bioware for this cool addition to Star Wars lore.
I want to also give a tip of the hat to this thread on SWTOR’s official forums, which confirmed some of things I’d suspected about Zakuulan writing and pointed me in the direction of a few things I missed.