Monthly Archives: May 2019

If That Orobird Won’t Sing: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Pets

“Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” When I started compiling “Dumb Top Fives” I knew that this was one list that I would inevitably have to make, but I put it off again and again because paring it down to five was sure to be a herculean task. There is a veritable stampede of plastic pals, fuzzy friends and good boys and girls that can be collected from nearly all aspects of SWTOR gameplay, and, in the end, I’ve come up with five categories of pets that can be found without ever spending a single Cartel Coin.

 Exploration/Flashpoints/Vendors: Orobirds

There was one family of fine feathered friends that was always guaranteed a spot on this list: Orobirds. There are four Orobirds available as pets in SWTOR, and none of them come from the Cartel Market. The easiest of these to acquire is the Crested Orokeet that can be purchased for 50,000 credits from the Cartel Coin Concierge in either Fleet’s Cartel Bazaar. The Galactic Command Light Side Vendors in the Fleets’ Supplies section will trade you a gray Orochick for a mere 5 Light Side Tokens. To ensure a proper upbringing, however, the vendors do require that the bird’s new owner to at least have a light side alignment of level 1. The last two Orobirds are rather more tricky to locate. They hatch from eggs which players must carefully tend before cracking open. The Unusual Egg, which can be found in nests on Alderaan, Republic Taris and Imperial Balmorra, is the source of the green Orokeet. Finally, the royal blue Orosquab, hatches from the Mysterious Egg that Doctor Lorrick sometimes drops as loot in the Master Mode flashpoint, Lost Island.

Achievements: Nerf Herding

Next up, are the Nerf calves that can be acquired by achievement hunters willing to explore the green hills of Alderaan, the snow capped mountains of Hoth and the dark heart of Voss. Included among the rewards for locating the Arctic Nerf Calf, the Nightland Nerf Calf and the Hill Nerf Calf are a painting of a Nerf to hang in your stronghold and the “Nerf Herder” legacy title, appropriate for stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking scoundrels everywhere! As long as you’re high enough level to visit these planets, I definitely recommend completing these exploration achievements, my favorites in the game.

Reputation: Gree Data Core

Nearly every reputation vendor has a pet or two available to folks who enjoy the essential task of filling up reputation bars. To me, the easy standout is the Gree Data Core. This miniature, floating wonder of Gree technology seems to draw inspiration from both the Bit from the movie Tron and the companion cube from the video game Portal. The Core requires Newcomer standing with the Gree Enclave and is sold for 50,000 credits by the Gree reputation vendor who can be found in the Cartel Bazaar or on Ilum during the Gree event.

Honorable Mention: There are so many neat reputation based pets that I had to include an extra: the Drink Server Probe, which is offered by the Freelance Gear Merchant in the Cartel Bazaar. It will set you back 39 Completed Bounty Contracts which are awarded during the Bounty Broker Event and requires Legend standing with the Bounty Brokers Association. This sleek little droid is ready to help take the edge off with a refreshing cocktail, topped off with a little umbrella, just like Niko Okarr likes it.

Operations: M0-GUL Thrall Droid

Players interested in raiding will also find pets as rare drops in some of the game’s Operations. My favorite of these is  Karagga the Hutt’s gold-plated Roomba, the M0-GUL Thrall Droid. Who couldn’t use a helpful robotic assistant to clean up the dirt, dust and severed limbs galactic heroes tend to leave in their wake? M0-GUL can be looted most reliably from bosses in Veteran Mode Karagga’s Palace.

Honorable Mention: Don’t you just want to pinch the cheeks and hug Dwedtoof, the baby Drouk? Of course you do! Technically, Dwedtoof doesn’t drop in an Operation, but you will need an Ops group to successfully defeat the source of this pet: the empowered versions of Dreadtooth, the infamous world boss who patrols Belsavis’ Section-X.

PVP: Lobelisk and Lawgriffari

Even PVPers have access to a pair of unique pets, but potential owners will need to prove their worth before these scrappy little guys will heel to them. The PVP Items vendors on both fleets sell these pets for 20,000 credits each, but they do have modest Valor Rank requirements that must be met before they can be unlocked by the player. The cyan and orange striped Lobelisk requires Valor 5, and the blue-eyed, silver-plated Lawgriffari requires rank 12. There are other Lobel and Akk Dog pets available in the game, but this space-frog and dino-pup are two of the ones I like best.

This list has barely scratched the surface. There are dozens more fierce, funny and adorable pets sold by vendors, awarded from quests and achievements, won as treasure or hatched out of Command Crates. Whether you’re an Akk Dog person, a Nexu fancier or robo-phile, there’s a pet for you out there. Just remember to change the litter box, scratch them behind the ears, and take ‘em out for a walk every once in a while.

If I missed a rare find or one of your favorites, please let me know! And if you’re someone who gleefully grinds pets into CXP every time one appears in your Command Stash, don’t tell me; it’ll only make me cry. I have hundreds of Fiery Grophets and Venomous Ginxes running wild in my stashes.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

How It’s Made

I’m quite certain I would be remiss in my job if I did not translate the four amazing propaganda posters players received as part of Star Wars Celebration’s Community Cantina event. My first selection confirms my longstanding Republic bias, but I will endeavor to do justice to the Imperial posters soon enough!

I thought it also might be interesting to describe the process I go through in these recreations and to point out some of the challenges I face along the way.

Step 1: Get the Perfect Screenshot

Spotting a cool looking poster or sign is the easy part. Finding a clear view, with good lightning is a different cup of tea. I’m sure I’ve spent hours cruising around Nar Shaddaa and Corellia looking for the perfect example of a neon sign or poster to capture. Even then, I may need to climb over nearby terrain or obstacles to get a good angle. I often hop on a tall mount and desperately mash the screenshot button mid-jump to get as high and close a view as I can get.

In this case, of course, I am working with a stronghold decoration, and was able to hang the picture frame at an ideal height in a well-lighted room.

Even under the best of circumstances, however, I still adjust the screenshot when I bring it into Photoshop in order to get the image as straight and front-on as possible.

Step 2: Break it Down into Parts

Next I copy the dimensions of the original poster and then roughly duplicate graphical elements, such as lines, shapes and general text that make up the image. I adjust all of these elements as I go, but I find it’s best to put together a rough pass of the full image before getting too bogged down in the details.

Sometimes the layout of the poster will only consist of a few broad shapes or lines, but it’s not uncommon for various symbols to be included in the design. Many of these, such as planet icons or logos for the Coruscant Market or Hypermatter Corporation are repeated, and I have assembled over the years a collection of common graphics that I can drop in when they appear.

Here the Republic Propaganda poster has a complicated background pattern. I probably could’ve used Photoshop’s selection tool to make a basic copy, but because I think it’s a neat looking design I decided to render a full recreation in Illustrator. This took a lot longer, but I’m pleased with the result.

I swiped the Old Republic logo from Wookieepedia, and I suspect the artist who designed this poster did the same since it easily aligned with the original. Curiously, the logo is reversed in the in-game version of the poster. Whether this was an accidental oversight or confirmation of Bioware’s Sith bias, who can say? I tend to keep spelling mistakes intact in my recreations, but in this case I could not resist placing the Republic logo in its proper orientation.

For English text, I use a free font called Nakadai. It has a similar line weight and size to standard Aurebesh, and I find it allows my recreations to maintain visual consistency with the originals.

Step 3: Color Time!

Once I’ve got the layout set, I drop in colors, apply simple gradients where needed and modify the text to match the original design by adding strokes, adjusting spacing and, in this case, applying a perspective transformation to the text.

The colors in this recreation are significantly duller than in the original since I based them on the poster’s appearance in the game with the graphic setting Bloom disabled. This allows a clearer look at the graphic’s design. It wasn’t necessary here, but it will come in handy when I get around to this poster’s Imperial counterpart.

Step 4: Here’s Where the Fun Begins

When I first started this blog, step three was more or less where I stopped. But in the last couple of years, I have aspired to make my recreations have higher fidelity to the originals in the game. This means making sure I get what I call “all the fiddly bits” to look just right. It at least doubles the amount of time it takes me to make these images, but I’m usually much happier with the final results.

The biggest challenge of this part of the process is getting the lighting right. Nearly all signs and posters in game are affected by ambient lightning and the inset lights and shadows from their frames, and many, such as this one, seem to have a glow from behind like you’d see in a movie poster hanging at a theater.

Often parts of the posters are faded or wrinkled or otherwise distressed and I have a whole suite of brush tools I use to create those effects.

I typically pile on a dozen or more extra layers of assorted shadows, gradients and adjustments before I get a result that I deem acceptable. Like George Lucas, I don’t really think a piece of art is ever really finished, so I, on occasion, succumb to the urge to tweak the sliders or poke some stray pixels when I think no one is looking.

I’m no Photoshop rock star, so I hope this post wasn’t too self-indulgent. I enjoy seeing other artists’ process and figure it couldn’t hurt to share a look at mine.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, My Artwork

Let the Wookiee Win

Some years ago, I had a brief encounter with Peter Mayhew at DragonCon in Atlanta, GA. While waiting for a table at a restaurant near the convention, I noticed someone very, very tall in front of me but didn’t recognize who it was. As he walked away, I saw a distinctive gait and muttered, “Ha! That guy walks just like Chewbacca.” Mayhew turned and cracked a friendly smile, and I was rather embarrassed when I realized it really was him.

It’d be easy to suggest that he was just a big guy dressed as a shag carpet, but I’m quite certain that had someone other than Peter Mayhew been cast, Chewie wouldn’t not have been as beloved and iconic a character. Maybe it was the way he cocked his head or his soulful blue eyes, but Mayhew did more than just wear a costume, he brought a legend to life.

Artwork by Ron Frenz and Tom Palmer, from Marvel Comics’ Star Wars issue 72, 1983.

 

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Filed under General Star Wars