Yearly Archives: 2019

Cracking the Jedi Code

Today, “This Week in Aurebesh” celebrates a somewhat surprising third anniversary! I’d like to sincerely thank anyone who has taken time to stop by and check out this silly little corner of Star Wars fandom.

To celebrate the milestone, I’ve translated some writing from Star Wars: The Old Republic that is not in Aurebesh, but still figures prominently in the latest story arc and exploration area of the ancient runes near Ood Bnar’s datacron on the planet Ossus.

When Ossus was released last year, I took a half-hearted stab at translating the runes on my own. I assumed, correctly as it turned out, that the glowing letters probably referred to keywords from the Jedi Code. However, I was stymied by the fact that the words to which the letters refer are not in the same order as they appear in the code; additionally the lines of the code were also out of order on the wall in the initial release of Ossus, making translation even trickier. Later, when the Galaxy’s Edge theme park was opened at Disney World this summer, a translation key for the runes was discovered in merchandise available to visitors.

With this new information and a game update that restored the inscription to its proper order, I was finally able to easily decipher the runes. The inscription clearly refers to important parts of the Jedi Code, but which Jedi Code?

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

The version above is the Jedi Code most familiar to Star Wars fans, but according to Star Wars lore, the code’s first version was rather less absolute.

Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.

I believe the Ossus inscription is meant to evoke the earlier version of the code since it does not include the negation of emotion, ignorance, passion, etc. Given the age of the ruins of Ossus, this strikes me as an appropriate choice.

Regarding for the language itself, I am not aware of any official name for this alphabet. As with other constructed languages, including SWTOR’s own Zakuulan, it derives from Norse runes. Furthermore, like so many other iconic images in Star Wars, the specific inspiration for this alphabet comes from the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie who included runic inscriptions on a painting of the interior of the temples on Yavin IV in the 1995 book The Illustrated Star Wars Universe. These glyphs would again appear as inscriptions inside the ancient Jedi ruins on Lothal and in the “World between Worlds” in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels. From there, examples of the writing can also be found in promotional material for the upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order video game and in Disney’s Galaxy Edge theme parks.

Most of examples of this writing seen on Rebels and elsewhere cannot be translated into English, but the Ossus inscriptions can, and they function as clever bits of world building that evoke both the spirit and the history of the Jedi and the ancient world of Ossus. A character’s discovery of these runes is only the first step in a journey across Ossus that I highly recommend that every SWTOR player take!

 

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Recharge and Reload

This week let’s take a look at something that both has been on my to-do list for a very long time and should be familiar to anyone who plays a Bounty Hunter. When using their Recharge and Reload ability, Hunters cycle through a series of animations including one in which they check a pop-up holographic display on their gauntlet.

This graphic is also used by both Imperial and Republic Medical Droids who consult this display when selling medpacks and purchasing players’ vendor trash. The graphic itself features a map, several targeting reticles and some Aurebesh text.

The text readout mostly consists of several numbers spelled out in Aurebesh letters, side-stepping the question of which of Aurebesh’s number forms should be used. I suspect the text itself comes from a collection of semi-random numbers and vaguely technological jargon that can be seen on many monitors around the galaxy. I imagine this array of non-specific text was compiled so that it could be easily inserted into graphics meant to be used in a wide variety of settings in the game.

New York City or Bust

Next weekend, the SWTOR Community Cantina will take place in New York City and I’m planning to attend! This will be my second Cantina event, and I’m looking forward to another fun evening meeting some fellow players and hopefully getting a sneak peek at the latest news of Onslaught.

In addition, I will be meeting up with Dr. SWTOR from the Ootinicast, Max from the Escape Pod Cast and Marcus and Nick from Working Class Nerds. While the swag from the SWTOR team should be your main objective, I will have a bag of “This Week in Aurebesh” buttons to hand out. If you find yourself in the great state of New York, next week, stop on by. I hope to meetcha!

 

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PTS Adventures

In anticipation of Onslaught‘s debut next month, I’ve spent some time on the PTS testing out gear and gearing though the new Spoils of War system. SWTOR is again making big changes to how loot is acquired, and the team is using the PTS to gauge reactions and tweak things before they go live. The quick response from Bioware has been great to see. Things may not be perfect by the end of October, but I’m thinking things are on the right track.

Currently gearing works like this: get your tier set either through Galactic Command or operations/pvp, tweak your stats; repeat three or four more times, substituting Galactic Command for or skipping to Ossus at the last tier. Repeat for each character.

Spoils of War aims to both smooth out and mix up this process. The first step is to get the top level of random gear drops. We know there are 19 levels of gear, but I don’t think of them as tiers like we have now. I ran two Veteran Mode and one Master Mode flashpoints this week and went from item rating 278 to 284. Onslaught will shower us with loot, and we’ll be getting golds before we know it. If anything, there might be too much loot. I have recieved doubles and even triples of the same item from one boss. Even if one is an upgrade the rest are going straight into the Deconstructor. After each boss now there is a pause as everyone stops to play the inventory management mini-game before moving on to the next encounter. This is not super exciting. If all that extra loot is really just intended to be ground into Chuck Bux, I’d almost prefer cutting out the middleman and getting fewer, more focused drops along with more Tech Fragments.

Much of the gear is not perfectly itemized but we spend so little time with each piece that it hardly matters. Something important to remember is that all this gear is legacy bound.and we’ll only have to go through this first stage once before we have gold sets to share with our alts.

Once we’re rocking 306 gear, the next step will be to acquire sets and Tacticals. Traditionally, this has been tied directly to the first step, but it looks like getting our sets might be a separate chase. Beyond getting lucky with the random vendor or Kai Zykken, I confess I’m still confused about how we’re supposed to get class set bonuses. Completing sets has been the benchmark for our readiness to tackle tougher end game content since the game’s earliest days, and I’d like some clarity about how players will do this.

The main issue with the PTS right now is that I feel like we’re testing the system piecemeal rather than as a whole. If you recall the flow chart that Eric Musco presented during the first Spoils of War livestream, the focal point that Renown and Deconstruction orbit around is the big green “Play What You Want” circle, but right now we’re really only able to access a narrow slice of that circle. Chain running Hammer Station is not really how I want to play. The new operation is dropping loot now, so the wedge is getting bigger, but it’s hard for me to judge the whole if the main focus of Spoils, playing what you want, is not fully integrated into the system.

My impression is that gearing through Hammer Station and relying on the vendors will be a massive pain. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Please, Bioware, please, don’t make speed runs of veteran mode flashpoints the best way to acquire gear.

I’d hope to see specifics about where and how to best get our class sets and Tacticals. Currently, if someone in my guild needs, say, set boots, I know which bosses to target to get them what they need. Will that be the case in Onslaught? I’d rather help someone get an upgrade after beating a boss than telling them to grind Tech Fragments and buy or gamble for what they need from a vendor. Moreover, players and teams dedicated to more difficult content, whether it be Operations or competitive PVP, need certainty in gearing. This is not news and should be an important lesson I trust Bioware remembers learning during Galactic Command’s teething stage.

I’m also somewhat amazed to see Spoils of War move away from modular gear. Ever since we got our first orange weapon on a starter planet, the flexibility afforded by modding gear has been a strength and hallmark of SWTOR’s gear system. Leaving aside the fact that it is not fun to replace a favorite weapon with a non-modable one for even a short period, I don’t want to lose the option to tweak and adjust my stats.

I did get more modular gear from Master Mode Hammer Station than Veteran Hammer Station and most of the drops I got from new operation on Dxun were moldable. I assume this is by design, but I’d prefer the game not be so stingy with armorings, mods and enhancements.

I don’t play a ton of video games, but Spoils of War reminds me of Diablo 3 with its flood of loot, most of which we’ll turn into Blood Shards/Tech Fragments in hopes of Kai Zykken selling what we need on the weekend or getting lucky with SWTOR’s equivalent of Kadala on Fleet.

I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. I have the impression that gearing to best-in-slot in Onslaught will take some work (even leaving aside Amplifiers), but I’m not clear on how getting to “good-enough-in-slot” will be. When I ran Hard Mode operations during Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan, I never had a full set of best-in-slot gear. Even getting best-in-tier was a long process. Since 4.0, we’ve been spoiled by how relatively easy it is to get the absolutely best gear possible. Getting actual upgrades from a boss is kind of a rare occurrence these days; while running on the PTS with friends we were laughing about how we couldn’t remember the last time we got upgrades or even dreaded side-grades in Hammer freakin’ Station.

That said, I still wonder how many hoops we’ll need to jump through to get to “good enough” whether it’s for Operations or PVP or soloing. I’m fine with “good enough” being different in Onslaught than it was during Fallen Empire, but it is something I hope will become clear before the expansion launches.

 

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Knights of the Eternal Throne Review

As I write this, no official launch date has been announced for SWTOR’s next expansion, Onslaught. The launcher is still promising a September debut, but at this point I don’t think I’ve spoken with anyone who believes it will be out next month. Regardless the sun is setting on the Fallen Empire era, and this seems like a good time to share some closing thoughts on Knights of the Eternal Throne.

I won’t spend time covering ground that I discussed in my first impression and other reviews of content over this expansion. Briefly, I very much enjoyed the story, it was epic and weird and tragic in all the ways a good Star Wars story can be. Each of the worlds we visited along the way, from Iokath and Umbara to Copero, Nathema and Ossus, was worth the trip. I cannot tell you how many times, I’ve stopped to admire countless breathtaking vistas during this expansion.

However, the thing I will remembe rmost about KotET is its length. We’ve been playing this expansion longer than any other in the game’s history, a year longer than even than SWTOR’s classic era. Knights of the Fallen Empire lasted a bit more than a year, and Shadow of Revan lasted less than a year. By the time Onslaught launches KotET will be almost three years old. I doubt this was the plan going in.

I’m about as far from an insider as you can get, but it is my understanding that there was some significant gear-changing going behind the scenes. I recall Charles Boyd mentioning that the Fallen Empire story was intended to be a trilogy, but Knights of the Fallen Empire’s lack of group content was that expansion’s least popular aspect.

It seems to me the story was streamlined and some content that was intended to be for solo chapters was re-jiggered into the flashpoints of the Traitor trilogy while the Gods from the Machine operation unfurled one boss at time.

While I mostly enjoyed each individual piece of content that has come out since 2016, I keep coming back to how long we’ve had to live with it. Three years is a long, long time for an MMO expansion, and I can’t really argue all that time was filled as well as I would’ve preferred.

Galactic Command and Uprisings

My criticisms of Galactic Command were always pretty measured, but there is no doubt the launch of Galactic Command was a mess. I think it has been fairly retrofitted in a solid alternative gearing path. It would’ve been nice to skip the growing pains, but instead of harping on how bad it was, I’ll instead remark that Bioware did a good job fixing the system. I do hope that Onslaught’s Spoils of Wars gearing will not land with the same belly flop as Galactic Command.

Uprisings were initially touted as one of KotET’s biggest new features, but over the course of the expansion, they have gradually faded from view. Uprisings seem almost inessential now. They’re not a particularly good source of CXP or Conquest points (beyond Rampages) and the vanity items that drop from them appear so rarely as not to be worth farming.

Uprisings and early Galactic Command overlooked one of the tried and true things people like to do most when playing an RPG: kill bosses and take their stuff. Finishing an Uprising and having nothing more to show for it than some abstract Command Points was never particularly satisfying.

It’s a shame, because, Uprisings are fun, quick, madcap mini-flashpoints. My favorite feature are the power-ups. I would’ve love to see the rocket launcher, the thermal devastator and combat clarity boosts make their way into regular flashpoints. Heck, put those power ups in storymode ops! Hearing friends cackle with glee as they cleared a room of of angry mobs with a devastator never got old.

Gods from the Machine

My visits to the Valley of the Machine Gods have been exclusively on storymode, so my comments on KotET’s operation should not be taken as comprehensive. That said, I think Gods is one of SWTOR’s best operations. Each of the bosses are unique and distinct from each other in appearance, setting and mechanics, and its climax atop a spire on Iokath against a giant robotic space lobster-god is unforgettably epic. Nahut is my favorite fight in the operation despite how many times I have fallen to my death while looking at butterflies instead of the holes in the ground.

My main criticism is that there’s too much trash, especially since there are time-consuming puzzle areas leading to the last two bosses. I also don’t really understand the Scyva encounter. I know how to beat it and how to explain it to folks, but I really don’t grok what she’s doing during the fight. I honestly don’t know what the bonus ability does and when to use it. In storymode it doesn’t seem to matter as far as I can tell.

While the final boss Izax was tricky at launch, especially as storymode encounters go, he’s since been toned down that any group that can get through the first two phases should be able to complete the fight. I don’t think Gods as a whole is significantly more complex than Terror from Beyond, but sadly people seem more reluctant to pug Gods than the older operations. Hopefully this will change as more folks get comfortable with it, because it’s an exciting operation and a very fun way to confront the gods of Zakuul’s pantheon.

Onwards to Onslaught

The thing that has me most encouraged for Onslaught is that Knights of the Eternal Throne ended strong. Jedi Under Siege was a terrific addition to the game and while we’ve been poking around on Ossus for nine months already, there have been teases for the new story and a new event world to explore. Will Onslaught have three new operations like Rise of the Hutt Cartel or a regular release of story chapters like Knights of the Fallen Empire? Truthfully, I don’t think so. But I also don’t think it will last three years, and I do get the impression that the team wants to take what they’ve learned and build on it in the expansion to come.

Update! Onslaught arrives October 22!

Not long after this post went live, Bioware announced Onslaught’s official release. That it was pushed back a bit should not come as a surprise and I have no problem waiting a little longer if it means the good folks down in Austin have some extra time to file off some of the rough edges.

 

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Loose Vocabulators Sink Ships

As another summer of SWTOR and the Fallen Empire era comes to an end, I’ve been a bit busier in game that I normally am this time of year. I took full advantage of the double xp bonanza and have used the used the end-of-expansion lull to reach some milestones and complete achievements that I might not have time for once Onslaught hits.

Before the 5.0 cycle concludes, however, let’s check out a pair of posters that feature two very different characters from SWTOR’s lore. The first features our plastic pal who’s fun to be with, HK-55 and was delivered as a stronghold decoration to players as a subscription rewards in 2016 as a part of the more or less monthly chapter releases for the final third of Knights of the Fallen Empire’s story chapters.

The HK subscriber rewards were fairly controversial at the time. Personally, I’m happy to receive free loot in the mail, and I enjoyed and got good use of most of the HK stuff. Indeed, the HK jetpack remains one of my favorite mounts, and most of my characters keep it close at hand. The rewards, like all of the various HKs’ incarnations throughout Old Republic lore, are faintly ridiculous, and ought not be taken too seriously, if at all.

Far be it from me to declare people on the internet humorless sticks-in-the-mud, but many commenters seemed to have reacted to these trifles as though they were personal insults, and SWTOR has shied away from regular subscriber rewards ever since.

I keep my subscription active so that I can play with friends whenever I want and have immediate access to new content when it does come out, so I did not need the extra incentive for monthly rewards. That said, as a regular customer, I do like being told that my business is appreciated from time to time.

The crown jewel of these rewards was the HK themed chapter “Shroud of Memory.” As of this writing, it is the only story content in the game that is exclusively available only to certain players who were subscribed at a certain time. And it’s a shame. “Shroud of Memory” is outright fun and a delightful change of pace from the main Fallen Empire storyline. However, indications from Bioware and SWTOR’s PTS suggest that “Shroud of Memory” will again be available to players, perhaps as a reward or through a purchase from the Cartel Market, and I’m happy to hear it. The folks at Bioware have every right to be proud of the chapter, and players should be able to play it. Hopefully, everyone will be able to experience “Shroud of Memory” without too much hassle in the near future.

Ah, but I’ve gone off on a tangent again. The HK decoration evokes classic wartime propaganda posters with its reduced color palette and bold design, yet the poster’s tagline are rather more playful and it’s fair to wonder how inspired you can really be by a someone who considers us all “meatbags.”

There is another propaganda poster in the game with a similar layout. This poster can be found throughout Separatist controlled areas on the planet Ord Mantell. It is also available as a decoration for players’ use in their own strongholds. This poster uses the Aurebesh variant Galactic Basic, so some of the letters don’t match traditional Aurebesh.

This poster shares many of the same influences as the HK poster, but mostly plays it straight which is appropriate given the seriousness of the situation on Ord Mantell. I always thought it was neat that SWTOR drops brand new Troopers and Smugglers into a morass with no clear “good guys” and asks them to navigate the war tearing the world apart. This poster simply and effectively emphasizes that conflict with a heroic image of someone at first glance we might otherwise think is just a faceless villain.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be back next week with some last words on Knights of the Eternal Throne. The Disney expo is this weekend, so there is sure to be plenty of Star Wars news in the days ahead. I don’t have high hopes that much of will be SWTOR related, but you never know.

 

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Orange is the New Red

This week, I at last return to the second of the four Aurebesh decorations awarded to players during Star Wars Celebration earlier this year. I started with the Republic version, so it’s only fair to give the Empire its due.

This Sith Empire propaganda poster shares a similar design and layout with its Republic counterpart; both feature their faction symbol, a bit of inspiring text and a background pattern. The Republic version expands on the light side Force symbols seen in Tau Idair’s tattoos, but the Imperial version extrapolates out from the sharp angles and jagged shapes of the Sith Empire’s logo.

While I have recreated these posters separately, and most players aren’t likely to see them hanging along side each other either on their Fleet hubs or a in a partisan’s Stronghold, they really should be considered together.

The posters’ complementary color palettes instantly evoke a contrast between the two factions and Onslaught’s stated goal to return SWTOR to the Jedi vs. Sith conflict. Blue and red have been signifiers of the calm, cool Jedi and the passionate, fiery Sith since Star Wars’ earliest days. However, the posters also adopts the Orange-Teal contrast which has been fashionable in film for many years now. There has been much discussion about this trope, but as visual short hand, it is remarkably effective. The inclusion of analogous colors, orange into the Sith’s red color palette and cyan into the Jedi’s blues, strike me as appropriate and natural additions to an existing thematic contrast.

With SWTOR’s expansion now almost in sight, I remain busy. I intend to spend sometime on the PTS in the weeks ahead, and I continue to have fun running Operations, although the Hard Mode Hive Queen is becoming something of a White Whale for me. Hopefully it won’t come to me spitting my last breath at her. But there is also some unglamorous work to be done here behind the scenes, including, maybe, upgrading to a theme that is actually still being supported by its developer.

But, I will keep the Aurebesh coming. My next recreation is likely to be something from my to-do list that is probably best completed before the door closes on SWTOR’s Fallen Empire era.

 

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Gravity Wins Again: The Best Worst Ways to Die in Star Wars: The Old Republic

The Star Wars universe is a dangerous place. Between the lightsabers, blasters, planet smashing super-weapons and busted jetpacks, there are no shortage of ways one can meet an untimely end. SWTOR would be remiss in its duties if the game world did not reflect the hazards of living in a galaxy without handrails, safety belts and lifejackets. Sure, there is an endless supply of rage fueled Sith, righteous Jedi and twitchy gun thugs just waiting to do the players harm as they experience their hero’s journey, but the game also contains many more devious, and subtle ways to dispatch our avatars. This week, let’s take a look at the five best worst ways to die in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Please note that while I generally prefer to present my lists in no particular order, this time around I thought it appropriate to list them in order of best-worst to worst-best.

If I missed your favorite embarrassing way to die, please let me know! In the meantime, mind the gap!

The Sarlacc Pit

The coarse, rough and irritating sandscape of Tatooine’s Dune Sea is home to the ultimate tourist trap: the great pit of Carkoon, maw of the endlessly ravenous Sarlacc. This hazard easily earns the first spot on this list because players who recklessly hurl themselves into the pit of the Sarlacc will not only find a new definition of pain as they are slowly digested over a thousand years, but they will also earn the title “Worm Food” so that all will know just who has been consumed by one of Star Wars’ iconic giant monsters.

Cademimu, All of It

The planet Cademimu is the Galactic Republic’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration greatest nightmare made real. It features not one, not two but three merciless and hazardous elevators that have, I am certain, murdered more players than all of the flashpoint’s bosses combined. Cademimu’s danger extends beyond the elevators to the walkways connecting the planet’s sprawling skyscrapers. A few low railings are no match for the player character’s abilities to push, pull and knock around the droids and mercenaries blocking the way. However, heroes capable of charging into combat, should be especially careful they don’t leap towards an enemy just as it has been pushed off a catwalk and follow it into the yawning chasm below. I have seen this happen; I have done it myself; I have allegedly tried to do it to friends in my party.

Scum and Villainy Bridge Boss

Massively multiplayer online games have a long, proud tradition of making the process of merely crossing a gap far more dangerous that it really ought to be. Careless players can fall to their deaths crossing spans in the Eternity Vault and Explosive Conflict operations, but the road to Dread Master Styrak in the operation Scum and Villainy is paved with danger, in that the bridge leading to his lair is not actually fully paved. Look down and you might be able to discern the countless bodies of Datacron seekers and impatient raiders who heedlessly raced over this bridge. However, the true scope of Styrak’s villainy is only revealed in the operation’s Nightmare Mode difficulty in which, the bridge appears to have been repaired and its gaps filled. This is only an illusion, and the crevices still eagerly devour anyone too foolish to not have remembered the safe path across.

Iokath’s Toilet Bowl

The first time I beheld this sprawling maelstrom of water, holo-bridges and murder droids on the way to Scyva in the Gods from the Machine operation, I knew there would be trouble. In order to safely traverse this churning whirlpool, brave heroes must carefully huddle for safety within the protection of a remarkably small force field carried by a single person; anyone with notions of charging ahead or cautiously waiting behind, or plagued by lag or de-sync will find themselves knocked down the drain by the area’s robotic guardians and flushed with the rest of Iokath’s waste. I am frankly a little surprised every time I make it to the far side of this area without suffering the most soggy and ignoble of deaths.

Ossus Elevator

Imperial players on Ossus have almost certainly encountered and fallen victim to the most devious of these threats to our safety: the elevator down the main deck of Strike Base XR-484. This elevator remains at the top for exactly enough time to convince you that you can safely get on it, but not actually enough time to do so. Moreover, clever players who think they can use a speed boost or mount to more quickly hop on will find the lift’s platform just small enough that they will pitch themselves off the edge if they fail to stop at exactly the right moment. Every time I fall victim to this deathtrap, I have two thoughts. The first is, of course, “Oh no, not again.” The second is that whoever designed this particular area must receive a small bonus every time a character belly flops to their doom from the platform above. Even though it’s been less than year since Ossus’ debut, I imagine they could retire in luxury now.

I apologize for the lack of Aurebesh again this week. It can get tough to find the motivation to poke my computer on a hot summer day. I honestly don’t know if anyone but me enjoys these dumb top five lists, but I do like them as an excuse to explore some of the game’s overlooked nooks and crannies. I will endeavor to get back to the translations very soon along with what I hope will be exciting news from his weekend’s Cantina event in San Diego!

 

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Dantooine, We’re on Dantooine

Before June closes out, I thought I’d slip in under the wire and share some quick thoughts on this summer’s two in-game events.

Dantooine’s Pirate Incursion is the first new recurring event added to the game in many years, and I’d say it’s a solid addition. Like the other events, it’s light on story, but what it lacks in narrative, it makes up in setting. I write this every time we visit a new planet in SWTOR, but Dantooine is another distinct and beautiful world to explore. Don’t ever take for granted the wonderful work the game’s environmental artists and designers do.

The events quests can be neatly divided in two: regular dailies and heroics. The circuit for the dailies will smoothly lead you around the zone, and there is a decent variety of quests which mix combat with exploration. As someone who likes to stop and admire the view and venture off the path for crafting materials, I can still complete the daily patrol quest in under 30 minutes of casual play. I also really enjoy any quest that has me playing as a mouse droid. I can’t explain it.

If you have some patience, skill and gear, the heroics can be soloed, but, really, why would you? Group up with one or more players and they become much quicker and more fun. They can be combat heavy, so be ready to fight.

The weekly meta quest on Dantooine asks players to complete more quests and heroics than are available in a single day, meaning that if you want to complete the weekly, you must visit Dantooine more than once in a week. This is something we’ve seen on Iokath and Ossus. While I cynically understand this is meant to push player engagement in the game, I don’t mind it so much for regular dailies, but for an event I find it annoying. I often use events as an excuse to dust my alts and get them some action with a bite sized time commitment. Combined with the fact that the event currency, unlike all the other event currencies in the game, is character and not legacy based, I essentially feel compelled to run the event on my main characters.

If I have to run the same quests on the same characters every time the event comes around, I can see the Pirate Incursion growing stale, perhaps faster than other events.

Dantooine also has a variety of achievements, some of which can be more easily completed in peacetime than when the actual event is active. Dantooine’s peacetime state is a neat addition to the game. Unlike the testing area on Ilum which is empty when the Gree event is not active or the tunnels which are not accessible at all outside of the Rakghoul Resurgance, players can visit Dantooine any time they want. There are a pair of simple quests to complete and a few scattered hostile mobs, but for the most part, you’ll just encounter farmers going about their day.

Since the advent of level sync, it’s become less possible to visit a planet in more or less complete safety. Sure, there’s no real need to visit Dantooine outside the event, but if you have time to kill, it might be a pleasant alternative to running laps around fleet or jumping on the furniture in your stronghold. One of my fond memories of World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade expansion was when I would just chill out on one of Nagrand’s floating islands and simply enjoy the view. If you’re wondering where to find me while waiting for an operations team to form or a flashpoint queue to pop, look for me relaxing under a tree on Dantooine.

For many players, the meat of these events is the rewards. In that regards, I’d call the Pirate Incursion a mixed bag. The highlights include Quick Vrik, the Ugnaught companion, the Kath Hound mount and pet and an extensive selection of Dantooine themed decorations, but there is nothing I’d really consider a “must have”. I would generously describe the reputation armor sets as “basic” and might be annoyed that they are Bind on Pickup instead of Bind to Legacy, but I can’t see any reason why I’d ever want to buy them anyway. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t dust off the pirate themed armor from Shadow of Revan’s Rishi questline with some bold colors and fancy effects.

Outside of the Cartel Market, there hasn’t been a new crafted or reputation based dye or color crystal added to the game since Knights of the Eternal Throne’s launch, and I wish the Pirate Incursion had given crafters some new fun stuff to make while we wait for Onslaught.

Lady Luck, Please Let the Dice Stay Hot

The Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event has made its yearly return to the Smuggler’s Moon. I don’t really have anything new to add to my previous review of the event. I’m very happy with the new decorations that can be purchased with Golden Certificates, but I was able to buy all I needed with certificates won last year. I’m indifferent to the new companion and without adding a new armor set or mount to the vendor, there really isn’t anything I feel a burning desire to to save up for, so I may not be spending much time clicking slot machines this year.

I don’t doubt that the reason the Dantooine and Nightlife rewards seem sparse is that Bioware’s focus is on Onslaught in the fall, but right now I wish there were more incentives for me to really care about these events.

I will be back later this week with some more Aurebesh. What can I say? It’s summertime! I get distracted when the weather gets nice.

 

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Filed under General Star Wars, KotET

Conquest, What is it Good For?

I had been preparing some thoughts on the new Pirate Incursion event, but this week one topic has dominated discussions in guild chat, Discord and on Twitter: the changes to Conquest that were more or less rolled out Tuesday, after a rough and lagtastic launch last week. This post was inspired by and started as a comment on Shinter’s Going Commando blog post criticizing the change. I highly recommend folks check that out first!

I’m also a bit confused by the revision to Conquest. First and foremost, it seems like the change is still causing lag especially where farmers are gathered. I tried to run the non-bug hunt heroics on Balmorra, and the ability delay was noticeable even in an instance with as few as 30 people. Once the population hits the 90s it gets close to intolerable. Likewise, the lag on Dantooine is often rough. Whatever issues I have with Conquest, I’ll smoother play over easy Conquest points any day of the week.

As for those issues, I’m in a small guild with Republic and Sith branches to feed, and while we generally hit our small yield target, we’re still only levels 16 and 14. At the old rate, it might’ve been 2021 before we maxed out the guild’s level. If it didn’t matter I wouldn’t care. But large guilds have access to better perks and better rewards. Excepting guilds that are focused on Conquest and may or may not be using bots to craft medpacks, I don’t think our individual members are putting any more or less effort than folks in large guilds who succeed due to the economy of scale.

My guild would’ve hit a large yield this week, but I didn’t dream it would be possible, so I set the target for a medium planet. We blew through that goal in two days without even trying. Double XP is probably skewing the numbers, but it seems like the only reason to invade a small yield planet is if the guild wants to come in first place. Further more, I don’t see a small or mid-sized guild that does care about Conquest ever being able to win any planet of any yield when larger guilds can just steamroll them off the leaderboards.

If this is a meant to be a catchup mechanism for small guilds, I applaud Bioware’s intentions. I know all too well how hard it is to unlock all those rooms and make sure there are enough funds to fully perk out the ship, but I fear this change is making a bigger mess than the one it hopes to clean up. Generating four or five types of numbers (xp/cxp, legacy xp, conquest points, guild xp) from every action we take is ridiculous system bloat. Why can’t one number handle all those tasks? Like Shintar, I’m wondering what is the point of Conquest now if it is just extra rewards for stuff we’re already doing. Isn’t that what Galactic Command is for? How can Conquest be fun and rewarding to small and large guilds alike? I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think these changes are resolving those questions either.

I’ve long been a fan of Conquest. I like that different objectives direct my play in different directions from week to week. “Oh, lots of PVP objectives? I’m queuing up!” “Well, the operation of the day is this, but if we run that instead, we get more points.” “Let’s look for Battlemasters and world bosses tonight.” That sort of thing. Now objectives barely matter since killing mobs generates so many points. In fact, I’m avoiding worlds with objectives to reduce lag. I think there can be a middle ground and I hope Bioware can find it, hopefully, well before 6.0.

Words with Friends

During the weekend, my guildmates and friends continued to weigh in. The general consensus is that Conquest point generation accelerated to ludicrous speed. I missed out on the last two double xp events and set aside extra time last week. I easily hit the personal Conquest target on every character I dusted off to play. Even folks who were happy to take advantage of the xp bonanza feel like it’s excessive but want to see how it goes now that double xp isn’t over-powering everything. A friend of mine remarked that she liked the change because it meant she didn’t have to choose between playing how she wanted or helping the guild level up by completing objectives that weren’t as fun. Last week she had the freedom to do both. And that is a position I would not dream of arguing against.

I don’t like to play Monday morning quarterback, because, as I often say, I’m not a game developer, but I am increasingly of the opinion that Conquest and Galactic Command/Renown could be merged into a single, more elegant system. Easier said than done, no doubt.

 

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To the Victor Go the Spoils

When game update 5.10.3 was delayed, I figured I could take the week off and enjoy some late spring weather. Sadly, SWTOR had other ideas. During Thursday’s livestream, Eric Musco, Charles Boyd and Keith Kanneg introduced the upcoming Spoils of War gearing system, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting and informative livestreams I’ve ever seen from the SWTOR team. Their enthusiasm for Onslaught is clear, and it’s making me look forward to the expansion even more.

There is a lot to digest, and I encourage all SWTOR players to at least check out Musco’s recap on the forums. I certainly can’t cover it all within a few hundred words, but I’ll try to focus on a few highlights.

First off, it’s clear that Bioware is really trying to make good on the “play your way” promise of Knights of the Eternal Throne, and are working to take what they learned from Galactic Command’s poor launch and eventual evolution into a decent supplementary gearing system and make it work for everyone in Onslaught.

With Spoils of War, Bioware is at last fully embracing, or finally surrendering to, the notion of sharing all equipment across our Legacy, and this is welcome news. To be honest, I had long since accepted that we’d never get meaningful left side Legacy gear. However, it’s cool to know that I will be able to share my best relics, implants and earpieces with alts who can slide into whatever content I’m doing at the drop of a Mailbox or Legacy bank.

Galactic Command will be rebranded Galactic Renown, but it’s not just a name change. The item level of drops from the crates will be based on the character’s currently equipped gear and not their Command Level, so alts can start getting useful gear immediately rather than slogging through hundreds of levels of GC before they have a chance of seeing the upgrades they can actually use.

Spoils of War should also be friendly to our main characters as well. Once again flashpoint bosses will drop loot! We won’t need or want every item we get, but we will be able to reverse engineer/disintegrate those drops into crafting materials or currency (Chuck Bucks!) that can be used to make or purchase the equipment we do want. Right now we can disintegrate Command Stash gear into useful Unassembled Components, but unused equipment from other sources simply gathers dust. I have dozens of Unassembled Tokens won in Operations clogging up my storage bays, and it’s nice to know that in Onslaught I’ll be able to do something with that kind of stuff.

The second part of Onslaught’s “play your way” goal will come from how we put all this gear together. This is where the players and theory-crafters who want to min-max should be able to get their hands dirty. There will be multiple types of set bonuses that can be mixed and match and two new types of gear and stats: Tacticals and Amplifiers.

Tacticals are brand new items that are meant to define and focus play styles with bonuses that change both combat and non-combat abilities. Some Tacticals will be most useful for Operations, others for PVP, still others for crafting and gathering.  This is interesting and potentially scary. To say that the livestream chat went wild at the notion of a Tactical that would let Assassins and Shadows share Force Shroud and Resilience with guarded teammates was an understatement. Bioware has their work cut out for them to keep these both balanced and fun for all specs and classes.

Amplifiers are additional bonuses on armor shells, armorings, hilts, barrels, mods, and enhancements. While it seems like Bioware wants to make it fairly easy to find equipment with a good item level, folks who want to get granular with their stats might find complexity in getting the perfect mix of Amplifiers and Tacticals.

They have indicated that Tacticals will be rarer drops than other gear, and I assume that some Tacticals will be most readily available from harder PVE or PVP content. If you want that awesome Tactical but don’t want to queue for PVP or run difficult operations, you’ll have to get lucky with your Galactic Renown drops or save up your Charles Points. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Galactic Renown provides all players a secondary way to get all gear, but players willing to dive into the game’s deep end should have a quicker path to those upgrades.

I suspect getting Best-In-Slot Amps will be the new gear grind. If my math is right, there will be 32 Amplifiers and getting all those just right might take some time. Again, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Grinding gear is a core part of the MMO experience, and I hope recalibration of Amps and deconstruction of gear will allow us steady progress towards our goals if the drops don’t go our way.

Finally, we will be able to start testing these systems on the PTS this month! Galactic Command was introduced to players at KotET’s launch, and Bioware spent many, many months after responding to player feedback to make the system workable. It is heartening to know that they are already soliciting input from players well ahead of the expansion’s debut. I’ve played MMOs long enough to know that Spoils of War will certainly have plenty of bugs and imbalances, but I’m hopeful that the rough edges will be filed off before Onslaught’s official release. Look for me on the PTS this summer!

I also hope we might see some of this in the game before September. Revamping Legacy storage for crafting materials will make anyone who crafts happy, and being able to earn a Tactical or two to help with leveling prior to 6.0 might be neat as well.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Onslaught