Category Archives: General SWTOR

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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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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Beach Front Property

This week I’d like to share my first impressions of the Rishi stronghold. I hesitate to call this a review because I’ve only scratched the surface of all the spaces this stronghold has to explore. The stronghold lag bug meant I did very little with it the first week, and even though I spent a couple hours decorating this week, I’m still only at 12% completion as I write this.

This is fine by me. I very much enjoy the zen of decorating. For the Manaan stronghold I had a good sense of what I wanted to do with each area from the get go and most of the rooms were blocked out quickly. But I expect Rishi will be more like how I decorated Yavin, a process that took almost a year as I played with different options and furnished areas around brand new or old weird decorations.

The first stronghold change I want to mention actually happened earlier this year with the update to Conquest: the separation of the total stronghold completion percentage from the bonus granted from completing Conquest objectives. Removing the incentive to chase 100% completion has been a real boon. Even before the maximum number of hooks on Manaan was increased, my stronghold there was stuck around 75% complete, but it still felt overly cluttered. Now, I can declare a room done when I’m happy with it, not when I’ve maximized its usage of hooks.

Moreover, if in the weeks or months to come, I get a fancy new decoration, it’s nice knowing that I still have plenty of hooks left to place it on. I love my Nar Shaddaa stronghold but adding even one deco means removing another, and that can throw a whole room into chaos. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but I think it’s easier to balance the Force than find the proper ratio of tables to chairs.

The Rishi stronghold has several new features that we’ve not seen before. The most prominent is, of course, the PVP zones, and I’m impressed with how well they’ve implemented them with team colors, score keeping, spectating, and custom decorations for the pitch. I don’t know how much actual PVP I’ll do in my stronghold, but having the option to mess around with my friends whenever we want is pretty cool.

There are also other little things of note. That a dozen of my favorite pets eagerly watch while I beat up a target dummy makes parsing just a little more fun. And let’s not forget Speedy the Turtle who is the first unique inhabitant of a stronghold. I’d still like to see a Force ghost haunting Yavin, but watching Speedy trundle by while I chill out on the beach makes me smile every time.

And if Speedy doesn’t bring you joy, you can kill him dead. The inclusion of secret achievements and earnable legacy titles exclusive to the stronghold has been another fine addition. I don’t know if we’ll see full on questing in a stronghold (I can arm-chair-develop a dozen quest suggestions at the drop of a hat), but seeing the stronghold concept change from something static to something approaching dynamic is pretty neat, and I hope Bioware keeps exploring new ideas for things players can do in them.

There is one new feature that I discovered just last week: light switches in the rooms of the Overlook. I don’t know if it was a simple change, but it’s a subtle one that can totally alter the character of a room. It’s not quite the day-night cycles I’d have liked to see in all strongholds, but I really do like this addition!

Finally, the team at Bioware must get props for the agile response to player feedback they received from the PTS. The removal of clutter, the change of the color of the sand, and the addition of the overlook rooms are just three of the changes that came about because of requests from the players. I understand some of the fixes required herculean effort from the designers, but it has truly made for a better stronghold.

If your favorite stronghold is the front room on Coruscant or Dromund Kaas with the GTN, mailbox, a vendor and your banks all crammed within arms reach of the zone-in spot, then Rishi is an easy pass, but if finding the right rug to tie a room together, being the captain of a space-pirate ship or grabbing some rays on the beach are a few of your goals in life, it’s worth the credits.

 

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SWTORbringers

This week, I thought I’d take a look at the notorious MMO cinematic in which the leader of the traditionally “evil” faction and their associates stage a brutal attack on a beloved stronghold of the opposing faction. As the leader’s eyes glow red, they slaughter their enemies and leave the site a burning, destroyed ruin.

But enough about Darth Malgus, let’s talk about Shae Vizla. The Deceived cinematic, released nearly a decade ago, was Shae’s introduction to Star Wars lore, and she remains a popular character years later. In the space of this scene, she deploys all the gadgets and weapons you’d expect from a Mandalorian hunter including this pop-up display:

Based on information from my translation, I surmise that Shae had sliced into Coruscant’s space traffic control to track the arrival and explosive entrance of the Sith’s stolen transport. The display indicates that Malgus’ deception was successful, and that the Republic never saw the attack coming.

The Aurebesh text contains some awkward grammar and a misspelling or two, and I’ve tried to keep my translation as faithful as possible. In addition, it seems like the text in the right hand column was truncated mid-word. This could easily be chalked up as panic from the controller as they realized what is about to happen or that their feed had been hacked. The version of the Aurebesh font used here includes numbers that match our Hindu-Arabic numerals, and I did not bother “translating” all of those.

Falling From a Great Height is Never Fatal

Speaking of Malgus, SWTOR’s next expansion looms in the hopefully not-too-distant future. While not much is known, Bioware has indicated that we’ll be returning to a story based on the war between the Republic and the Sith Empire. As part of that, there has been speculation that this renewed focus on the game’s original conflict might also signal the return of Darth Malgus, perhaps as leader of the Sith Empire or an antagonist for both factions.

On the one hand, I am totally on Team Malgus. He’s my favorite of SWTOR’s many Darths, and had most of my Sith characters been given the chance they would’ve gladly joined his New Empire on Ilum. I take the original iteration of the False Emperor flashpoint as canon, and there is plenty of precedent in Star Wars for Sith lords surviving exactly the kind of defeat Malgus saw there. Moreover, there is the infamous moment cut from the Sacrifice cinematic that revealed that Arcann and Thexan had taken Malgus’ carbonite frozen body as a trophy. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Malgus remains on the minds of the folks in Austin.

That said, between the Shadow of Revan expansion starting with the return of Revan and ending with the return of the Sith Emperor, and Darth Maul’s equally improbable return to popular consciousness just this summer in Solo, I wonder if maybe we’ve been there and done that already.

So I’m split and give it an even chance that he’ll be back. Star Wars needs good Dark Side villains, and he certainly fits the bill, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with someone new.

 

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In the Pink

I thought this one would be easy. I really did.  I had planned to post this recreation during the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event since this neon sign can be seen around the moon’s Promenade and casinos. Clearly, I’m late to the party.

The challenge of this recreation was not in the translation. Like many similar signs, it seems to be a collection of random letters in which I’ve long since given up attempting to find meaning.

At first glance, one might think this sign is written in Aurebesh. Technically, however, it uses Galactic Basic, a font that, like Aurebesh, was inspired by the script used on monitors in Return of the Jedi. Galactic Basic is actually more accurate to what can be seen in the movie, but Aurebesh was codified in official sources first and has since become the official version of the language.

The center logo, the inset letters on the upper left and the two repeating glyphs on the bottom are all written using Galactic Basic. The orange tinted letters in the next-to-bottom row are rendered in the Atrsian font. Like Aurebesh, this font has a tangled history. It also can be glimpsed in Return of the Jedi, and was featured in several early Lucasarts games.

My guess is that all these fake space letters were meant to be parts of the same “language” but because they were fleshed out separately, they all became individual fonts and scripts. I’m certain that had high definition screen captures and copious reference materials been around three decades ago, the current landscape of Star Wars’ written word would be very different!

The use of Atrisian is not an usual sight in SWTOR. This script can be seen not only in signs on Nar Shaddaa, but also carved in the ancient ruins of the Rakata on Belsavis. It’s amusing to think the same glyphs that adorned the great works of a long lost civilization are still emblazoned in neon around the galactic underworld.

The large logo in the center is what caused me the most trouble. The repeated letter rotating around the center translates to J, but I’d wager it was not selected because of any particular meaning but because of how the alien glyph maintains its symmetry in the arrangement. The English J, however, is not quite so accommodating and I tried many variations, fonts and even custom letters attempting to replicate the original layout. In the end I realized I was overthinking the problem, and took inspiration from the actual design. Reshaping the glyph to resemble a J more or less did the trick. I don’t think my recreation is as stylish as the original, but it’s close enough that I hope it gets the idea across.

Living Large on the PTS

Despite having played since launch, last week was my very first visit to SWTOR’s test server. I cannot deny it was fun to get an early peek at the Rishi stronghold and queue up for Saturday’s PVP test.

My first impression of the Rishi stronghold is quite good. I think they are aiming to address the major complaints regarding the previous strongholds on Umbara and Manaan. Unlike Umbara’s train, Rishi has a large variety of environments to explore and decorate, from the massive pirate airship to the beach and the cove. It also looks like they are paying more attention to how decorating hooks are being used. As much as I love Manaan, the widely spread out hooks and limited choices of what hooks are even available has been a source of frustration. Rishi seems to have a larger variety of hooks, placed closer together so that decorators will be able to create areas with more cohesion.

The PVP areas are a gimmick to be sure. But it’s a cool gimmick. And even if I’m just using it every once in a while, I’m fine with that.  As with the addition of target dummies, having more stuff to do in our strongholds is something I’m glad to see. I hope they continue to explore more ideas in the future. Maybe there could be a special boss on the pirate ship that can only be summoned during the Bounty Broker event, or a stronghold zombie survival mode in which the beach is swarmed during the Rakghoul Resurgence. Armchair developing is easy! But, hey, I can dream, can’t I?

I also participated in Saturday’s PVP testing during the morning and evening sessions. I don’t PVP a whole lot so take these comments with a grain of salt.

For the most part it seemed like the matchmaking worked. There were a ton of healers in the morning queue, but the teams had even numbers. The matches with three healers per side tended to stalemate; I imagine with a larger pool of dps that wouldn’t happen as much. I did notice that backfilling in arenas would not always keep the tank/healer balance, but I guess filling empty spots quickly might be more important.

I thought the Mandalorian arena was pretty cool. All my matches there were fought on the top level, so I don’t know if the lower ring or tunnel will see much action.

I ran four Voidstars during the day, and aside from the one with six healers, they definitely went faster. Once the first door opens, the other matches became a race to the finish, which I consider an improvement.

Overall, I went 7 and 6, which I rate a smashing success and had a really good time. It seems like most folks were there to poke around and have some low stakes fun. It was neat to cross paths with some SWTOR celebrities, and I like to think my healer saved a dev or two from certain death once or twice during the day.

I’m definitely in the camp that is happy to see the return of open PTS testing. That the good folks at Bioware have been quick to implement changes that have come from feedback has been great to see. I hope to visit the test server more in the future.

 

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