Category Archives: General SWTOR

And We’re in Bloom

And we’re back! I apologize for the longer than usual gap in posts. One thing that has occupied my attention lately has been the pursuit of Conquest points. As a member of a small guild with Republic and Sith sister guilds to feed, Conquest and the guild leveling that comes with it can be something of a time sink.

For characters who have completed the Ossus story, additional Conquest objectives are available related to deploying or destroying probe droids outside Republic and Imperial outposts around the galaxy. While zapping probes near the starport on Corellia, I spotted a sign I had not noticed in all my years of playing. However the bright glow emanating from the text made the sign extremely difficult to read.

There is a quick solution to this particular challenge. Disabling Bloom in the graphic settings makes the game world significantly less vibrant, but the sign much easier to read. After some more exploration I located a second example of the sign and was able to snap a clear screenshot for recreation.

At first glance, there isn’t much going on, but upon examination, there are several things worth noting. First, the sign is like many others on Corellia that refer to manufacturers of starships and podracers. “Ord Pedrovia” is a popular make of racer that first appeared during the Boonta Eve Classic in The Phantom Menace and is not, as I first thought, the name of a planet, which is the usual case when the forename Ord appears in Star Wars lore.

The glyph at the right edge of the graphic looks to my eyes to be a stylized English O and P logo, and I can imagine it splashed on the hood of the Ord Pedrovia’s podracer cockpit.

The letter on the left of the sign is not Aurebesh. I’m certain that it is, in fact, a Futhork “G” which has been disassembled somewhat for the graphic. The result is that translation turns the large word from “Ord” into “Gord.” There are many signs around the galaxy which when translated are seemingly random letters and numbers. I suspect some of these contain in-jokes or use the initials of members of SWTOR’s development team. I’m not in a position to know for sure, but in this case I think I can hazard a guess that this sign pays tribute to Gordon Walton who helped found Bioware Austin. Or perhaps it could be a reference to the late Gord Downie, lead singer of beloved Canadian rock band, the Tragically Hip. Or maybe hockey great Gordie Howe. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.

Star Wars Celebration Community Cantina

Star Wars Celebration is just weeks away, and I’m sure I’m not alone in eagerly awaiting news of SWTOR’s future. Bioware has been extra coy this year, but we’re all expecting to hear about the game’s next expansion at the Community Cantina event in Chicago.

Sadly, I can’t make it this year, but if you’re in Chicago for Celebration or find yourself in the area, I highly recommend attending the event. I’ve been to a previous Cantina, and it is genuinely fun to meet the people who make the game, the people who play the game, have a drink and score some swag.

Somewhat remarkably, the official Star Wars website even included shout out to SWTOR in the lead-up to Celebration.

I sometimes think SWTOR is the red-headed stepchild of the Star Wars family. People are constantly posting in the r/swtor sub-reddit that they are shocked to learn that not only is SWTOR not dead, it also has a good population of players who truly enjoy the game. Even Bioware’s own Casey Hudson seemed surprised by the enduring popularity of SWTOR.

And yet SWTOR can’t seem to get much cross-promotional love from the Star Wars brand juggernaut. Last year I bought Chronicle Book’s Women of the Galaxy, an absolutely charming book featuring the stories of dozens of female characters from across Star Wars lore. As I read it, however, I was amazed by the inclusion of some rather obscure characters that came off as filler to me. I was disappointed that despite drawing from a wide array of Star Wars media, novels, comics, cartoons and even other video games, no one from SWTOR made the cut. Call me a homer, but I really do believe Lana or Vaylin or Kira or Vette are far more interesting and dynamic and worthy of coverage than some of those non-speaking background characters who barely rated seconds of screen time.

SWTOR had a fair amount of cross promotion at launch, but I do hope EA and Lucasfilm give the game another push with the next expansion. I’m no expert; I don’t know how to convince Marvel to publish a Theron Shan comic, Hasbro to make a Jakarro action figure (with C2-D4 head-butting action!) and Fantasy Flight Games to include the Gravestone in one of their miniatures games. Indeed, it’s fair to ask if any of that even would be viable or profitable endeavors, but a blogger can dream, right?

April can’t come soon enough!

 

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Ossus Overview

With Jedi Under Siege more than a month behind us, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss it a bit more. I’ve yet to start the story on another character beyond my Republic and Sith mains, but I’ll get to my alts eventually. However, I have taken the time to fully explore the world and finish off the major achievements. Bioware did a very nice job filling out the zone with stuff to explore and do beyond the story and daily questing, and I very much hope Ossus will be the model for new areas going forward.

I won’t lie, I took advantage of plenty of outside resources while tracking the Ossus datacrons. I had come across one on the PTS during testing, but was relieved to discover an easier route to it once it went live. The Endurance datacron had me crossing back and forth and up and down across Ossus, and I had fun on the chase. The hunt for that datacron was more elaborate than the Endurance datacron on Makeb, but unlike that one, you won’t risk death and have to start from scratch if you miss a jump or take a wrong turn.

That unlocking the Datacron also awards the first non-cartel market weapon tuning is an additional treat. I understand that this particular tuning is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is tied to the lore surrounding Ossus. As someone who fondly recalls the Tales of the Jedi and Dark Empire comics, encountering even a slumbering Ood Bnar was pretty neat. I understand why he won’t rouse for my characters, but that he acknowledged them with a precious sprig was a satisfying reward for the achievement.

Knights of the Eternal Throne has been stingier than other expansions when it comes to unique rewards for completing story arcs and achievements, and it’s nice to have a good reason to revisit Ossus beyond farming gear.

As for the gear grind. It honestly hasn’t been bad. Both of my characters are upgrading at least one piece of equipment to 258 every week now, and this pace feels perfectly acceptable considering the effort I’m putting in. The main weekly is remarkably relaxed. Compared to other daily areas like the Black Hole or Section-X where I race from one combat to the next, the Ossus weekly can be completed with relatively little actual fighting. Indeed, with some cherry picked quests, an extra visit over a day or two, and some patience you could probably complete the weekly without even fighting a single mob.

The heroics are where you’ll see the most action, but if you don’t need or care about the reputation, they can be skipped. I find they are a good source of decorations, so I’m always happy to knock them out.

The outdoor world bosses are another cup of tea. On the plus side, groups are often forming to fight them, but there is no telling if I’ll get a couple of clean kills or a graveyard rush and a 125,000 credit repair bill for my trouble. I’m not sure if the oddly large number of urban legends surrounding these bosses has more to do with the actual bugs on Ossus or the natural superstition of players.

There are plenty of real bugs in 5.10, and it’s frustrating that we’re now into February and legitimately annoying stuff like the inability to share quests and a mix and match set bonuses between older tiers and the 252/258 gear are still in play. Bioware often goes dark in January, but two months of this is even getting on my nerves.

Next time, back to the Aurebesh! I’ve got a backlog I need to get through.

 

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Sometimes You Feel Like Nahut

After a case of post-holiday blues and the near death of my computer’s hard drive, I thought I should get back into the swing of things with a request from Shintar, keeper of the great SWTOR blog Going Commando. Shintar asked me to take a look at the technical readout we see from Nahut’s point of view during the cut scene introducing this boss from the Gods from the Machine operation.

I was eager to oblige for several reasons. First and foremost, I very much welcome suggestions and requests. Second, Nahut is my favorite encounter in the Machine Gods operation. It’s a neat fight against a cool looking boss with fun mechanics in a unique, moody setting. Third, much of the hard work of the translation was already done! Nahut’s Terminator-style internal readout reuses elements from HK-55’s first person view from the famous musical montage from Chapter 4 of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Indeed, translating the Aurebesh from that scene is what inspired the creation of this blog, so I was happy to revisit it.

This also gave me an opportunity to update my original translation, and once again reflect upon the differences between how Aurebesh was designed and how it is actually used. Part of the readout includes appearances of several digraphs that combine two English letters with a single sound (such as “th” or “sh”) into a single Aurebesh symbol. However, it is very rare to see these glyphs used “properly.” Since the key strokes used to type out digraphs are not part of the standard alphabet, it’s far more common to seem them rendered as individual Aurebesh letters. In theory some well known names look quite different depending on how strictly the translator follows the extended Aurebesh alphabet.

In the example of Nahut and HK’s technical readout, all the digraphs used  here are meant to be read as the symbols to which they are bound on an English keyboard. I believe this display was created using the Aurek-Besh font, and here the the Krenth (kh) and Onith (eo) glyphs translate as the open and closed angle brackets: < and >. This makes sense given the context of computer jargon.

One last note, in previous discussions of this topic, I’ve referred to the digraphs as ligatures. The concepts are similar, but I’ve since learned that “digraph” is the more accurate term and I’ll stick with that going forward. “Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a typographer!”

I’ve remarked before that the official Aurebesh alphabet is incomplete; it is missing some common punctuation marks, numbers and styles for capitalization. It’s up to the designers and font makers using these fake space-letters to fill in the gaps, and I would never dream of declaring any use of Aurebesh incorrect or wrong. Indeed, I find it interesting to see the different solutions to the problems the numerous artists working with Aurebesh across Star Wars lore have found. In a way, it makes Aurebesh seem like a richer, more living language.

 

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The Future’s Not Ours to See: Five Predictions for 2019

Happy New Year! Once again, let’s start the year off with five predictions for 2019. Looking over my list from last year, I think I would generously give myself a score of 0.5 out of 5. This year, there is nowhere to go but up!

I struggled to come up with an interesting list of predictions, often unable to resolve the difference between what I hope will happen this year and what I actually think will happen. In the end, this list is a mix of both.

Expansion Launch Date

There is no better example of this tension between hope and fear than in considering the date of the next expansion’s release. We all expect to get news of SWTOR’s future at Star Wars Celebration in April. My hope is that it’ll be more than just a tease, but a full on expansion announcement complete with new cinematic trailer. If that is the case, a summer launch would be possible and inline with past release schedules. I’m going to predict an August launch, but I suspect we might have to wait until autumn to catch some of that Episode IX hype. In either case, we’re gonna be in 5.10 territory for a while.

Kira and Scourge Will be in the New Cinematic

I admit, this one is 100% hope. A friend and I recently discussed Kira and Scourge’s over-long absence from SWTOR, and how it seems like the folks at Bioware really have their work cut out for them when it comes to giving the return of two of the game’s most beloved companions the heft it deserves. Seeing Kira and Scourge kick ass in one of those amazing Blur cinematics would absolutely go a long way towards building hype for the new expansion. In truth, I imagine the trailer will focus on Malgus, but that’s okay too.

Gear Changes are Coming

It’s not a stretch to expect gear changes after 6.0. I predict we will see PVP exclusive gear again, perhaps with the return of the Expertise stat. However, games like Fortnite and Overwatch seem to be doing okay without a gear grind, so I don’t think its impossible that Bioware might even take the extra step to remove the need for any gear in PVP altogether.

I also think it’s time for some changes to PVE gear. My hope is that we get new set bonuses on tier sets in the next expansion. Set bonuses haven’t significantly changed since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and something fresh would be neat. Before that happens, I’d like to see some of the bonuses, particularly the healer and tank cool down reductions, get baked into the base class abilities or proficiency paths.

I also hope to see some new Relics. Even tanks default to the Serendipitous Assault/Focused Retribution combo these days. Some relics are bad and have been bad for years. Ephemeral Mending remains a booby trap for healers, and my poor tank has already disintegrated two 252 Imperiling Serenity relics from my weekly Ossus rewards. Let’s see robust on-use relics or relics with weird procs. Heck, even update the Matrix Cubes. Variety is good!

The Dark vs. Light Event Will Return

I won’t lie; this one is filed under the fear category. I predict the Dark vs. Light Event will return as the big time-filler this summer. There is legitimate value in making the Victorious Pioneer armor available again, and I often see folks who missed out wish they could earn Ranos as a companion. But as someone who made it to Legendary level last time, I can say I have little desire to do it again. My biggest beef with the event is that to participate I had to put aside characters whose story, appearance and gear I’ve been invested in for years in order to play new characters I mostly discarded once the event was done. If Bioware does bring the event back, I really, really hope they make some big changes next time around.

Where are the Damn Porgs Already?

When I put Porgs on last year’s list I thought it was a gimme. I am honestly shocked and a little disappointed that we haven’t seen Porgs pop up in SWTOR. So, heck, yeah, I’m keeping them on the list. In addition to the Porg related items from last time, I’ve got more that I humbly request, nay, DEMAND to see in game this year. First, and most obviously, Porg themed tier sets: if you want the best gear in the game, you will have to cosplay as a Porg. Deal with it. A Porg mount: a lone, mighty Porg who will pick up your character by the scruff of the neck and fly you where you need to go. Finally, the highest level of reward for the next ranked PVP season should be a Porg headpiece. Yes, that’s right, we should be able to tell the toughest, most dedicated, most elite PVPers apart from the rest of us because they will have a space puffin sitting on their head. Works for me.

2019 should be an exciting year for SWTOR, and I look forward to the next expansion and maybe getting one prediction right this year. Stranger things have happened!

 

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This Is Not Going to Go the Way You Think

I think everyone would agree that 2018 was a slow year for SWTOR. What story content we did get came and went early. After the Traitor story wrapped up and the final two bosses from Gods from the Machine emerged, there wasn’t much to be excited about aside from a fair number of PVP changes and the Rishi stronghold.

Until Game Update 5.10, that is. I think that Jedi Under Siege is one of the best non-expansion story updates in SWTOR’s history, easily on par with the best of Knight of the Fallen Empire’s chapter updates. I’ve very much enjoyed the last couple of weeks.

The artists and designers responsible for creating the worlds from Zakuul and Odessen to Copero and Nathema have done a consistently great job throughout the Fallen Empire cycle, and this remains the case with Ossus. Elements of the lost world of the Jedi evoke the ruins of Jedha from Rogue One and the beached Star Destroyer from The Force Awakens. In addition, the great halls and amphitheater of the Jedi Library took my breath away, and these locations feel truly unique to Star Wars: The Old Republic.

As for the story itself, I was not disappointed. I very much enjoyed the Fallen Empire saga, but we’re ready for our next adventure, and the events on Ossus do a very nice job setting the stage for the conflict come. The individual Republic and Empire storylines are not tremendously long (this is a game update after all, not an expansion), but the two versions complement each other well.

Bioware has long since given up on the illusion that each of our character’s stories exists in the same “cinematic universe”, and our other characters’ versions of their stories make each play through mutually exclusive. This is something of a controversial change. I always liked the idea that my characters existed alongside of each other and have long hoped they’d get to interact someday, but “choices matter” has been a goal of the writers and something the players often demand. Sharing a single story across our legacy meant that a certain status quo will be enforced. Neither faction will truly defeat the other, and certain characters were guaranteed script immunity. Now our choices lend weight to the resolution of the story on Ossus and already major characters maybe alive in one version of the story and dead in another. Nevertheless, there is enough overlap in the events of the Jedi and Sith’s stories to lend insight into the other’s version of events, such that playing both sides of the story is rewarding and even necessary for a full understanding of the narrative as a whole.

As with the setting, I think the story draws some inspiration from the new films. Like Luke in The Last Jedi, the Jedi on Ossus are hiding out and trying to find their place in this new galaxy. Tau’s struggle to find peace after years of war is compelling; she wants to be more than a Jedi bad-ass and doesn’t know how to do it. The story brings the expectations of the Republic and the Sith Empire crashing down on the colony. Both are looking for the legendary Jedi warriors of old to fight for and against.

It’s interesting that the Empire comes to Ossus looking to pick a fight with the Jedi who they imagine want the very same thing. Instead they find their ancient enemy is far more interested in growing space pumpkins and pouring through ancient manuscripts in a ruined library.

With Major Anri, the Sith have a charming and likeable character, and it almost makes me feel bad that my bounty hunter turned saboteur on my first time through. I’m actually quite curious to discover her reaction to my character’s betrayal.

The big news is, of course, the return of Darth Malgus. Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve never believed Malgus was really dead so I can’t say I’m shocked by this turn of events. While I cautiously welcome his return, there is clearly more going on with him than meets the eye. This is not the same Malgus we met on Vaiken Spacedock and defeated on the Emperor’s station all those years ago. The question of whether the galaxy is better off with Darth Frickin’ Malgus under the thumb of Acina or Vowrawn is something I suspect will occupy our time in the expansion to come.

Sure, I’m excited by the thought of a big, sprawling star war across the galaxy, but what I like most about Jedi Under Siege is that I can’t wait to see what happens to both my own characters and the other new and returning characters in the adventures to come.

Gear Grind

I should also touch on a couple other things that came with this update. The addition of new masterwork gear is the most controversial. After two years of Galactic Command, the acquisition of this new gear seems more complicated than it really needs to be. As a semi-casual PVE-er, I’m really not going to worry about it. It’s gear I don’t need for content I’m not doing. For me the path to upgrades goes through Ossus dailies and other weeklies that I may or may not be interested in completing. Anything I get will be gravy, and I’m not going to bust my behind to get it. That would be my advice to anyone not doing Master Mode Gods from the Machine as well.

PVP-ers, however, do have a legitimate gripe. Having to do Ranked PVP to get the gear you need to effectively compete in Ranked PVP is some weird-ass circular logic. Eric Musco has implied that gearing changes will be coming to PVP next expansion, but for now I hope those Ranked players like Ossus dailies too.

Dailies Grind

Speaking of the Ossus dailies, they’re not bad. If you look at dailies as a cost benefit analysis between time spent and CXP/credits earned, they probably won’t compete with Oricon or CZ, but I think they’re fine. I like that they are mixing in different quests to keep things a little fresh, and I like the extra incentive to only do five quests a day rather than grind out all ten at once.

The quests themselves are nothing we haven’t seen before: kill these mobs over here, click those things over there, the usual. The heroic-2s are a little trickier than normal. I run with my companion in dps stance so I do have to use a little crowd control and be quick with a defensive cooldown. I find that a refreshing change of pace from all other heroic-2s in the game. As for the heroic-4, I suspect I could solo it, but why would I? With the help of a friend or two, it’s both much faster and more fun. Anything to encourage folks to team up is cool by me.

Overall, I’m very happy with Jedi Under Siege. Yeah, the update came with its share of bugs; rare is the major update that does not. It sucks for everyone from Bioware to the players, but aside from having to kill the Ossus world bosses more times than I would’ve preferred to get credit for the quest, I can’t say they affected me too much. The stuff that matters the most to me, they got right. The story is entertaining, the planet is beautiful and worthy of exploration, and the characters are compelling. I couldn’t ask for more.

Actually, that’s not true. I could ask for the next expansion to come sooner rather than later.

 

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Exile’s End

With Game Update 5.10 out this week, SWTOR ends the year on a high note. But there is one aspect of Jedi Under Siege worth focusing on because of the part I played in making it happen.

SWTOR often uses its launcher to promote the latest Cartel Market deal with tag lines like “Wield the Unstable Arbiter’s Lightsaber” or “Drive the Landslide Assault Speeder”. I don’t often give them much thought, but the ad on July 27 caught my eye.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I adore dumb jokes, and I had to share my joy at the appearance of the beefsteak tomato of a Jedi that was “Don the Exiled Knight”. I snapped a screenshot of the launcher and posted it to the r/swtor subreddit. I figured I’d get some cheap karma and a few funny comments, and that would be the end of it.

But it wasn’t the end. The post was received with good humor across the board and even SWTOR’s Community Manager, Eric Musco chimed in with the hope that Don be put into the game at some point. And this week, Bioware made good on that wacky notion.

Not only can Don be found on the planet Ossus, Bioware also included some achievements and a decoration associated with his discovery and history. I could not be happier. I love the exploration and scavenger hunting aspects of MMOs, and with the recent Nerf Herding and unusual Star Fortress achievements, folks at Bioware seem to as well. Exiled no more, Don will find a permanent home as an honored guest in my stronghold.

In discussing this unexpected turn of events with my friends, there was some debate about how much credit I deserve for all this. The consensus was that I deserve very little credit but the lion’s share of the blame, and I’ll cop to that. Making a dumb joke on the internet is pretty easy, and I’m hardly the first to tell this one, but I’ve got to hand it to the SWTOR community who ran with it and the good people at Bioware who rolled with it and did the actual hard work of bringing good ol’ Don to life. As for me, I’m pleased that I get to be a little more in on this inside joke than most.

I do wonder if Bioware had to get approval for Don from the overseers at Lucasfilm. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!

 

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Lok’tar Ogar: Five Things SWTOR Should Steal from WOW

On account of the holiday, I took the week off and instead decided to take the easy way out with another Dumb Top Five list. Back in early 2005, the first MMO I played was World of Warcraft, and although I quit in 2013, I still have friends who play and I recently decided to dip my toes back into the waters of Azeroth. I am certain that any WOW vs. SWTOR discussion ends only in madness, but despite everything that World of Warcraft has going for it, I will confess that this blog will not be renamed “This Week in Zandalari” anytime soon. Nevertheless, there are some quality of life features that I’d love to see SWTOR swipe from WOW.

Before I begin, I want to state clearly that I’m not a developer or programmer or someone with any actual knowledge of how an MMO-RPG gets made. It’s easy to make suggestions, but I understand that the resources Blizzard can throw at a problem are considerable. Whether what I’m asking of Bioware is feasible is an entirely other issue. I’ll leave that to the professionals.

The Launcher

Blizzard’s battle.net launcher is pretty slick, and the thing I most like about it is that it recognizes when I’m logging in from home so that I don’t have to input my password and security key every time I play. I know this only saves a few seconds of typing, but it’s nice feeling like I can jump in to the game that much faster. SWTOR’s launcher received a makeover a few years ago, but I think it could stand a modern overhaul.

The Pet Journal, Mount Collection and Toy Box

I don’t really consider myself a mount or pet collector, but over the years I have accumulated dozens of different speeders and critters to the point that I sometimes forget what I have rusting in the garage or going feral in the backyard. Having a better interface to sort through the many jet cars, rocket bikes, fearsome beasts and tiny robot pals I’ve collected over the years would be a welcome improvement. And if such an interface could also include regen items and other toys such as the Life Day Snowball Bomb that would be great and perhaps open up some needed (to a pack-rat like me) inventory space.

Multi-tapping

One of the least fun parts of the MMO experience is waiting for mobs like Trapjaw on Tatooine, Valen Korik on Dromund Kaas, or the Eradicator Droid on CZ-198 to respawn especially if you arrive just as someone else has engaged them. Even worse is competing with your own faction to tag a mob. Multi-tapping allows everyone who hits a mob and participates in fighting it to get credit for the kill and a share of the loot. I believe SWTOR may be one of the last MMOs to not allow multi-tapping, and I think it’s long overdue. In an MMO, you should want and like to work with your fellow players when you encounter them in the open world (outside of PVP, of course).

Extendable Raid Lockouts

I’ve started running Veteran Mode ops again, and it’s been a lot of fun. But we run once a week, and each week we spend much of our limited raiding time re-clearing bosses we already have killed in order to get to the fights we’re still progressing on. In Warcraft, you can extend Raid lockouts from week to week so that the raid group can jump right into the fights they want to work on without fussing with stuff they don’t. I’d love to be able to do this in SWTOR. Thanks to Galactic Command, we don’t need loot from the early bosses, and skipping ahead to the fights we haven’t done would allow the group to more efficiently finish the operation and move on to the next one we want to learn.

Flex Raiding

My small guild runs a weekly Story Mode ops night and all are welcome. However, it’s not unusual for there to be too many people for an 8 person group but not enough to upgrade it a 16 person operation. There is no worse feeling as a raid leader than asking someone who has shown up to play and have fun to sit out because there just isn’t room. Flexible Raiding gets around this problem by dynamically scaling the difficulty of the instance around how many players are in the group. If you have a couple extra folks, the bad guys will be just a little tougher to account for the extra firepower. I would love to see this system in place for SWTOR’s Story Mode ops. I can see the logic in keeping static sizes for Veteran and Master Modes where mechanics and tuning are more tightly controlled, but if Story Modes are meant for everyone, I say let everyone play.

Honorable Mention: Jokes with Voice Emotes

“So I have this idea for a great movie…” and “She sounded like a Murloc!” are two of the little things I miss from WOW. SWTOR’s voice acting is of course one of its best features, but it makes me sad that my characters in SWTOR don’t crack wise using the /joke emote. So let’s do it. Hire some comedians, have a contest, swipe some groaners from dad and get that great cast to record some gags!

I realize that at least three of these suggestions would affect other systems in SWTOR. How should loot be handled by multi-tapping? How would extending lockouts influence Conquest where last boss lockout farming is a thing? Should SWTOR adopt personal loot? Should a lockout extend or end if anyone in the group clears the operation? These are problems that are easy to point out, but more difficult to solve.

That said, I think they are nuts worth cracking. SWTOR’s debt to World of Warcraft is obvious, but if WOW can adopt AOE looting and finally allow players a choice or two after SWTOR did, then I think it’s fair that The Old Republic can still steal a notion or two from its older sibling too.

 

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SWTOR Unite

Last week I had the honor of being invited to participate in the SWTOR Unite event in which members of SWTOR’s podcasting and streaming community teamed up to tackle Gods from the Machine. It was a real thrill to be the Hawkeye on this team of SWTOR Avengers assembled from the Bad Feeling Podcast, the Council, the Escape Pod Cast, the OotiniCast, the Passionately Casual Podcast, ScrublandShad, the State of the Old Republic, the Usual Podcast, and, last but not least, Working Class Nerds!

The goal of the event was to unite all these content creators in one place and share their enthusiasm for Star Wars The Old Republic. In that regard I’d say it was a big, chaotic, fun success. Hearing so many familiar voices at one time and in one place was super cool, even before we started killing bosses. While the experience level of the group literally ranged from one extreme to the other, I was impressed with how far we got. No, we did not complete the operation before everyone started falling asleep, but we did come this close to killing Izax, so close that there is no doubt in my mind that we’d have gotten him down with one more pull.

SWTOR Unite’s activity of choice was an operation, but it is a testament to the game that it can be a great source of fun for players with many different interests from killing raid bosses and dressing up characters to fighting other players and translating fake space languages.

I want to thank Dr. SWTOR and Marcus for organizing the event. I can’t wait to see what madness they have planned next!

Relay Junction, What’s Your Function?

This week’s Aurebesh translation is a work sign that I found on Corellia. I imagine this one provides information for the technical crews who work to maintain infrastructure around the planet’s war torn capital.

The sign uses of the term “sub-section” and is similar to others seen around the galaxy. The element that I find most interesting is the design’ incorporation of both of Aurebesh’s number styles: the standard style that closely matches our earthbound numerals and the digital-style with dots and dashes style. The large Arabic numerals clearly work better in the design, but inclusion of the smaller numbers in the alternate Aurebesh form is a neat touch.

Here in my neck of the wood, Life Day is rapidly approaching, and I hope everyone’s vacation is filled with clear skies and full bellies!

 

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Jedi Under Siege Livestream

I must hand it to the good folks down in Austin they did not scrimp on the news from the latest Cantina Livestream. That amount of stuff we can expect in the next game update previously might have been spread out across an entire season’s worth of a road map, so color me impressed and punch my ticket for the hype-train. Choo choo.

To start, I’m going to keep this spoiler-free, avoiding even the mild revelations from the livestream. Please check Galactic Antics, MMObits and Vulkk for far more comprehensive coverage than I could ever hope to provide.

For me, there is a lot to be excited about in Jedi Under Siege. The world, the planet’s design, the new and returning characters, it all looks cool. Instead of going into detail on each point, I think I’ll just discuss the two things that jumped out at me the most.

Story

I have written before about how I consider the choice of whether your character supports their original faction or switches allegiances my favorite part of the Iokath story, and I’m pleased that we will be allowed to reinforce that decision. When it comes to story updates, I tend to focus on my two favorite characters, one from each faction: my Consular and my Bounty Hunter. However because both characters opted to side with the Republic my journeys through Iokath were pretty much the same each time. But on the new planet, despite their similar previous choices, it looks like those characters will experience the story differently, and I’m genuinely psyched to dive in.

As we’ve seen previously, completing the story will unlock the new zone as a daily area. I seem to be one of the few people who like the Iokath dailies for their variety and scope (stomping around in a walker will never not be fun to me). I hope the quests and environments are interesting enough to make return visits worthwhile beyond the incentive to farm up the new gear. That the new zone will be populated with datacrons, a pair of world bosses and lots of new decorations is certainly promising. I do hope the world bosses are bit more pug friendly than the Dark vs. Light bosses and don’t have ridiculous respawn timers. If at least one is instanced like Toborro’s Courtyard and my guild can run it on our own schedule, I’ll jump for joy.

Nightmare Mode Lives

I have no plans to raid Gods from the Machine on its most challenging difficulty, and if scaling up all operations to max level remains the plan for future SWTOR expansions, it’s very possible that I will never even set foot inside it at that difficulty. And, yet, the news surrounding the return of Master Mode operations has me pleased.

During Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan expansions, I was part of a Hard Mode raiding team. We played casually, didn’t shatter any records, but were a solid group of fun people. During Hutt Cartel we and made steady progress on a light progression schedule. That changed during Shadow of Revan. The “hard-mare” version of Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice, created to be a compromise between Hard and Nightmare modes with the removal of Nightmare mode proved incredibly frustrating, and we ultimately stalled out after only beating the first two encounters of both operations.

I’ve never been more angry and disappointed with SWTOR than the night we gave up trying to beat the buggy mess that was Underlurker. Attrition set in and soon after Knights of the Fallen Empire launched without new Operations, the hard mode team was no more. I don’t blame any who quit. We found our groove in Hutt Cartel’s middle lane, and it remains a drag that the removal of a raiding mode that we barely ever touched eventually led to my team’s downfall.

The release of Master Mode Gods from the Machine also will included a rebalanced Veteran Mode that I assume will be along the lines of the old Hard Modes from Rise of the Hutt Cartel. If that is the case, then pinch my cheeks and call me Rosy because you can sign me up right now. I’ve recently started raiding Veteran modes again and as much as I do love Terror From Beyond, the thought of learning new hard mode bosses has me thrilled.

That’s just two of the things I’m looking forward to in the December update. Here’s hoping the year ends on a high note! However, I fear avoiding spoilers until then will be a challenge. Fingers crossed!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR, KotET

Design on a Dime: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Decorations

With the release of the sprawling new Rishi stronghold, I’ve been looking through my stash of decorations and realized that many of my favorites can be acquired in the game and that spotlighting a few might make for a good topic for another dumb top five list. Paring down the list, however, was not easy. It’s to SWTOR’s credit that there is no shortage of very cool decorations that won’t cost you a single Cartel Coin.

Flashpoints/Operations: Rakata Mind Trap

There are numerous decorations to be found in flashpoints and operations, and the latest group content has been over-flowing with decorations. As much as I adore Copero fountains and get a kick out of seeing Tyth sulking on Manaan’s ocean floor, my favorite in this category is and always will be the Rakata Mind Trap. I love these things as art objects, technological accents, creepy Force artifacts or just the Star Wars equivalent of lava lamps. I have dozens, I put them everywhere, and I always want more.

Reputation: Ancient Voss Sarcophagus

All of the recurring event and planetary reputation vendors sell some appropriately themed decorations. While I think the Gree vendor has the best over-all selection, my single favorite reputation decoration is the Ancient Voss Sarcophagus. I’m always happy to visit Voss, and this decoration’s spooky sculpted face and eerie, green glow nicely captures Voss’s unique aesthetic. It’s appropriate for a Sith reliquary, a Jedi’s archive or a Bounty Hunter’s treasure horde.

Vendor: Custom Huttball Stand

For a cool 2,018,000 credits you can and should add a Custom Huttball Stand to your stronghold. This decoration is sold by the “Starfighter & PVP Decoration Vendor” on each faction’s Fleet. Before we could truly PVP in the Rishi stronghold, we could play Hutt Potato with friends using this interactive decoration. Grabbing the passable Huttball, starts a timer and the last person holding the ball gets blasted into the air by the exploding orb. Even when it comes to children’s games, the Hutts don’t mess around. One of the fun things about this decoration is that the explosion can hurl characters places they normally can’t reach. Some guildies and I once used the Hutt Potato to make it on top of the massive Holocron of Ancient Masters.

Achievement: All For One Four-Pack

The Star Fortresses added during Knights of the Fallen Empire are jammed packed with achievements and rewards, and while it might be a bit of a cheat, you can get four different decorations for completing a single achievement: All For One. It’s hard to beat that much bang for the buck. The Portable Sentry Turret, the Scramble Grenade Suspension Chamber, the Force Focus and the Prototype Medical Probe are all animated with glowing effects and one or more of these will fit the themes of any number of strongholds. The achievement requires reaching rank 10 influence with all of the Alliance base specialists which is fairly easy if you have a decent stash of supply crates from planetary Heroics, and then completing a Veteran mode Star Fortress with all the buffs that can be found around the Fortress. Unlike a few of the other Star Fortress achievements, this one can be completed in a group, so if you’re having trouble, ask a friend for help!

For the Truly Dedicated: Event Ambassadors

Having a vendor to repair your gear and take all that useless loot off your hands is a must for any stronghold. But wouldn’t you rather have a vendor with style? Not some rusty old droid or poor Felusia Stato and her silly hat. The Event Vendors dress for success. Sith and Republic versions of the vendors are available in the Cartel Bazaars of their respective fleets. Ambassador Ky’lee is a Cather who is not afraid to dress in white after Labor Day, and Ambassador Jirrik is a Chagrian who knows how to contrast his blue skin against red Sith robes. Either of these decorations will set you back nearly forty assorted tokens that can only be earned during the Relics of the Gree, Rakghoul Resurgence, and Bounty Broker recurring events. The events come around so often these days that’s its not that much trouble to save up for these swanky personnel decorations.

Honorable Mention: Craft Your Starship

Crafters can make all the essential utility decorations and many, many others from Synthetic, Industrial and Universal Prefabs, but toss in a few Dark Projects and you can park your favorite class’s personal starship. Dromund Kaas and Coruscant are the only two strongholds without the Starship Hooks these decorations need; otherwise they are prefect additions elsewhere. I won’t tell you which class has the coolest ship, you should pick your own, but it’s the Agent’s X-70B Phantom.

Honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Certainly there are lots of neat decorations for sale on the Cartel Market or GTN, but there are plenty more to be found in the game, and with a little effort you can transform your stronghold from the place you empty your bags to a place you call home.

For more information about Strongholds that I could ever hope to share, please check out these invaluable resources for the decorating fanatic: TOR Decorating and Swtorista’s two episodes about strongholds and decorating from her Academy series.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR