Category Archives: General SWTOR

A Mug’s Game: Five Predictions for 2020

Happy New Year! My annual attempt at failed prognostication has become something of a tradition, and, if we grade last year’s predictions on a generous curve, I scored a 1.5 out of 5, which is much better than I would’ve expected. As usual, I shall swing for the fences and not put any pressure on myself to anticipate the next year of SWTOR and actually hope to be right. There is a reason I call these top five lists “dumb”, after all.

Spoils of War

I don’t think we will see major changes to Spoils of War. For the most part, I have the impression that players are satisfied with gearing in Onslaught, especially as it compares to Galactic Command at any point in Knights of the Eternal Throne. I imagine there might be some tweaking in the months ahead. Renown Crates might as well reward nothing but Tech Fragments considering how rarely they contain useful or interesting loot, and hopefully there will be new additions for classes or specs that still lack a cool set or tactical. I also hope crafting gets another look; making basic stuff like medpacks, stims or augments still feels a bit tedious. Having to constantly churn out six types of components every time I want to make something is already getting old. All that said, it’s been a welcome change to have more stability in gearing this time around.

Blurrg Mounts

It’s fair to say that The Mandalorian has been very well received indeed by both Star Wars fans and SWTOR players. I’ve seen a rush of new Bounty Hunters overrunning Imperial Fleet since the show’s debut. I have no doubt that armor and weapons inspired by the show are certain to make their way to the Cartel Market as quickly as the artists at Bioware can crank them out. I predict that among those will certainly be Blurrg mounts. A colorful assortment of adorably ugly Blurrg pets have long been available to players, and I’d be amazed if they weren’t being fattened up for us to ride at this very moment. I’ll be shocked if I don’t score a point for this prediction next year, and perhaps one day our characters will even be the ancestors who rode the great Mythosaur!

The Dead Speak!

Kira Carsen and Lord Scourge have returned to SWTOR‘s main story with warnings of a Dark Side plague apparently unleashed by Valkorion’s defeat. I will go out on a limb and predict that this new threat might somehow also function as a way to allow for Vaylin’s return. Vaylin is arguably the character with the most tragic story in all of the Fallen Empire saga, and that her fate is set in stone regardless of our choices has been criticized by some who just like the character and by others who are uncomfortable with the idea that someone who was so horribly abused by her father had no path to redemption or escape. I don’t think it’s impossible that we could see her return in the not-too distant future. Nevertheless it might be odd to see her join our stable of companions. That the former Eternal Empress and one of the most powerful Force users in the galaxy might wind up helping us complete dailies on CZ-198 or chain run Slicing missions doesn’t feel like a fitting conclusion to her story either.

New Planet: Honoghr

This prediction is complete and utter speculation on my part. I hope we will visit a new world or two this year, but which ones? The Noghri were recently re-introduced into the official canon during the fourth season of Star Wars: Rebels, and I think they could be cool additions to SWTOR. Their homeworld, Honoghr is a jungle planet with links to both the ancient Rakata and Sith cultists, and it very well could be a planet someone like Darth Malgus might us as a base of operations or source of minions to use in his revenge against his hated foes in the Sith Empire and Galactic Republic. The depictions of the Noghri have varied greatly in Star Wars lore over the years, so I think SWTOR might have some latitude in putting their own stamp on them, and that would be neat to see. That said, if I’m being honest, I think we are far more likely to visit the Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk or Black Spire Outpost on Batuu than Honoghr this year. I would be fine with either of those destinations.

My Kingdom for a Porg!

Yes, for the third year in a row, Porgs are on this list, and, no, I will not give up on my fine feathered and tasty friends! Truthfully, I accept that Porgs are now fated to do nothing more than hold Baby Yoda’s beer, but I still cling to the foolish hope they will follow along and squawk at my characters’ adventures at some point in the year to come. Once again, I will also offer some unsolicited advice on additional Porg themed items that should make their way to a Cartel Market near you. First, and most obviously, there should be a Porg Flair that replaces our portrait with a dancing Porg. Second, a Porg Weapon Tuning should perch a Porg perilously close to the end of our blaster barrels and lightsaber emitters and also replace the weapon’s sound effects with Porg mating calls. Finally, I can imagine a countless array of Porg themed decorations for our Strongholds: Porgs nests, Porg perches, Porg Disguise Terminals, and interactive Porg BBQ pits. It’s not too late for 2020 to be the year of the Porg, Bioware!

Feel free to let me know how catastrophically wrong these predictions are in the comments below or to share a few of your own. In the meantime, I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start and that SWTOR roars into the ’20’s with another year of fun for all!

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR, Onslaught

A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part Five

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

Part Five: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m sure you are shocked –shocked- to discover that someone who writes about The Old Republic, also likes Star Wars video games. That said, despite the fact that I’ve been keeping this blog for three years, I’ve never really talked about why I love SWTOR.

I’ve been playing Star Wars video games since my misspent youth in the shopping mall video game arcade. Later, during Lucasart’s heyday, I leapt into the virtual cockpit of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter simulators and later rampaged around the galaxy as Kyle Katarn in the epic Dark Forces games. That said, I discovered Knights of the Old Republic very late in its initial life. To be honest, I had more fun watching my nephew run through the game than playing it myself.

But I was there the day SWTOR launched and have been on board ever since. Sure, the initial pitch of “World of Warcraft, but with Lightsabers” absolutely appealed to me, but the game itself also hits the same buttons as other items on this list: new stories outside the movies, stories that I have some part in telling through my characters, and adventures I can share with friends.

Very early on, after staying up extra late to finish the Taris storyline on my Consular, the game did a perfect job in putting me in the same headspace as the character I was playing. By the time I finished, we were both just done with that mutant-zombie infested, nuclear wasteland of a planet and had no patience for anyone who would second guess our choices. When the Consular expressed that in a way that was far cooler than I ever could, I knew from that moment that this character was my main; and she has been my favorite ever since.

Over the years, SWTOR has continued to put my characters at the center of new Star Wars stories set on new worlds that I always look forward to exploring. There are plenty of times when SWTOR made me smile or laugh or catch my breath: the time my Smuggler finished off Skavak with a Dirty Kick; the time I agonized over Jaxo’s fate; the first time my Inquisitor walked into the Dark Council chamber like she owned the joint, or my first night on Oricon when I looked up and saw the Dread Palace looming overhead.

Like the old tabletop RPGs, SWTOR is also something I get to share with friends. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to play with the fantastic people in the guild New Outriders as well as many other good folks around the game. Overcoming challenges with other people is one of the best parts of the MMO experience. I’ll never forget beating the original version of Hard Mode Lost Island with three other patient and good-natured souls who’d never grouped together before. I’ll never forget when NOR’s first progression team clicked into high gear with our victory over Hard Mode Operator IX during the early days of Rise of the Hutt Cartel. More recently, I’ll never forget cheering like a fool when Scrubland Shad unleashed some true last pull magic and was the sole survivor of the Bad Feelings Porg Team’s first clear of Hard Mode Explosive Conflict.

Beyond that, and perhaps even more importantly, SWTOR is a game which I get to play with people whose company I enjoy. Ops nights and flashpoint runs are filled with running jokes about snowballs, Marauder tanks, pickles, the inevitable triumph of gravity and my regular attempts to “try something stupid” instead of playing it safe.

I won’t lie and say that I haven’t ever been frustrated by SWTOR many times over the years or that it’s the best video game ever or that I haven’t encountered toxic behavior from people who take a game about wizards, laser swords and space cowboys far too seriously, but as SWTOR celebrates it 8th birthday, it remains something I can hop into and know that I’ll usually be able to have a good time playing. And that is a credit both to the good people I get to play with and the talented people who make this game.

Happy Holidays

This is likely my last post of the year. I’ll get back to the Aurebesh very soon and will endeavor to keep future ramblings to a minimum as well. In the meantime, I want to wish all my visitors a joyous holiday season, safe travels and good gaming in the year to come.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General Star Wars, General SWTOR

First Impressions: Onslaught

It’s been a month since the launch of SWTOR’s latest expansion Onslaught, and I’m finally at point where I feel caught up enough to share some first impressions. I’m late to the party as usual, but I’ll still try to avoid major spoilers. In the interest of not keeping you too long, gentle reader, I will hit only a few points. It’s to the expansion’s credit that there are so many things I want to write about, but I just don’t have room to cover it all in a single post!

The Story

I was a fan of the Fallen Empire saga, but I understand it was not everyone’s cup of tea. Onslaught is a return to a traditional SWTOR story, but with extra style and tricks Bioware has learned in the intervening years. The biggest issue with even the strongest of Fallen Empire’s chapters is that there was little novelty in replaying the chapters on alts. There were variations, especially between light and dark side characters, but the general arc of the story was the same for all everyone. However, our characters can enter Onslaught from very different starting positions. The main Republic and Sith faction stories are separate despite intersecting plot points and characters. Added into the mix are the saboteur paths available to characters of both factions, and the outcome of Onslaught‘s story can vary quite a bit depending on the choices we make on the way.

The story itself has a lighter touch than Fallen Empire, with a bit more humor and a focus on classic heroes and villains doing their thing against a familiar backdrop of Star Wars’ ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith. Onslaught features the long anticipated return of some favorite heroes and villains, but makes room for other familiar faces that I did not expect to encounter again. Of course, there some new characters as well; I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Jedi Padawan Arn Peralun. His interactions with my character and Lana and Tau were all fun and established him as someone who’s arc I’m curious to see play out.

As with Ossus, playing the story through a second time on the opposite faction rewards the player with a different perspective on similar events. While the notion that our characters might exist in the same continuity has long since been abandoned, it’s neat to see where the stories overlap. Major Anri’s cameo in the Republic story was an unexpected pleasure and a nice moment that felt totally in character with what we’ve learned about her from the Sith faction’s story.

The dual story continues nicely into the climatic flashpoint, Objective Meridian, on the planet Corellia. We’ve seen flashpoints that played slightly differently between factions before, particularly the Forged Alliances flashpoints, but the Objective Meridian’s bosses are distinct with different mechanics depending on which faction you’re playing. It’s an attention to detail that makes an already excellent flashpoint feel even cooler.

As always, SWTOR makes sure your character is the center of the story and gives them plenty of opportunity to shine, but my two favorite moments involved Lana Beniko, a character who, if I’m being honest, I sometimes run hot and cold on. Lana is thoroughly entertaining throughout Onslaught. Her dramatic actions after a particular choice at the end of the Imperial Mek-Sha story had me clapping in surprise and delight. Even better was her cordial conversation with Gnost Dural in the Republic story. It was the kind of quiet, insightful Star Wars moment that you’d be hard pressed to find any where else but in SWTOR.

Speaking of the strengths of SWTOR, once again we get to explore two impressive new worlds: Onderon and Mek Sha. Onderon is a world steeped in many eras of Star Wars lore, and it’s neat to visit its dense jungles and bioluminescent caverns. With Mek-Sha it is clear the folks at Bioware relished going wild creating this brand new setting. While it seems to draw on aspects of SWTOR’s own Nar Shaddaa, the Stacks from Ready Player One and Alpha from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the dark alleys and suspended walkways of the hollowed out planetoid are fleshed out with interesting factions and plenty of atmosphere of its own.

I very much enjoyed the Onslaught story, and I think old and new players alike will enjoy jumping into it.

Spoils of War

While Onslaught’s story returns to familiar ground, its gearing system dubbed “Spoils of War” diverges greatly from anything we’ve seen before. Even after numerous changes and iterations on the PTS, many, many players were nervous about how it would turn out. And it turned out pretty good, I think. Previously gearing consisted of acquiring sets of equipment with low item ratings, then spending the rest of the expansion slowly replacing that gear with new versions with slightly higher numbers. Spoils of War up-ends this system with a quick vertical progression to the highest level item rating, then a slower horizontal progression in which the acquisition of set bonuses, min-maxed, gear, Tactical items and Amplifiers take a greater time and credit investment.

A freshly minted level 75 character will feel pretty weak with the starter gear from the story, but once they start collecting upgrades, they’ll get far more durable and powerful. Right now, getting a cool set piece or a good Tactical is pretty satisfying. It can take some effort to get the exact pieces you want, but unless you’re really pushing the toughest content, they gear you get along the way will carry you just fine.

With Onslaught many of the big changes SWTOR has made since 4.0 finally feel like they’re coming together into an integrated whole. Legacy group content has been with us for a while, but Spoils of War allows different content to reward upgrades in a different ways. The Galactic Command system of Knights of the Eternal Throne basically gave the same reward for all content regardless of difficulty. Something of that remains in Onslaught, but players who venture into tougher and newer flashpoints and operations will find greater rewards than before. I think this is a good thing.

It’s not all perfect, however. Between the sheer range of gear we’ll be collecting, the huge variety of item modifications, the many sets, the numerous Tacticals and the dizzying array of Amplifiers, it can be overwhelming even to veteran players. I’ve been trying to unpack each of these new systems one at a time, rather than try to make sense of everything all at once. I’ll let you know when I’ve got Amplifiers all figured out. It might take a while.

Where Spoils of War failed out of the gate was with crafting. I realize crafting is a tough nut to crack for any MMO, and Bioware has announced changes to crafting coming next month. As I await those changes, I won’t dwell on this point at length, except to say that I think 6.0 crafting launched in its worst state ever.

Conquest is another system with disappointing changes. I understand the bonanza that was Conquest at the end of KotET might have needed to be dialed back a bit, but I think Bioware went too far. Conquest is the only source of important crafting materials, and the equipment crates rewarded from it are a solid source of gear upgrades. I don’t mind being nudged in the direction of Conquest, but right now Conquest is a hard push. With the changes in objectives it can be a pain for a casual player to even reach the weekly goal. This week, for example, the Pirate Incursion Conquest has only two objectives actually related to the event. One is non-repeatable and the other is a tedious Rampage mob-grind. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Conquest should not be work; there should be sufficient objectives for a any style of player to hit their Conquest target in an afternoon or so of targeted play. And I think Onslaught Conquest fall short of that mark.

There are also oddities with the Level Syncing of legacy content. Rather than beefing up group content to level 75, characters are instead scaled down to level 70. While level locked, our characters’ Mastery, Power and Endurance are set to static values; our overall item level can enhance those stats, but nothing else does. Most of the stats on our gear and augments, most relic procs, most stims and many guild perks have no effect in the vast majority of the game’s group content. I find myself in the odd position of recommending Primeval Fatesealer and Ephemeral Mending relics not because those two traditionally worst relics are finally good, but because they are the few relics that actually do anything these days. It’s very weird, and not at all ideal.

Now What?

Three years ago, I concluded my Knights of the Eternal Throne overview with this same question, but back then I asked it nervously. It would be months before Bioware even started talking about what content would come next. But Onslaught’s more or less smooth launch has me hoping the good folks at Bioware have hit the ground running. Papa Keith Kanneg has already shared plans for the end of the year including more heroics on Mek-Sha and a much needed revision to crafting.

It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan. With Rise of Skywalker only weeks away, and Onslaught, Fallen Order and The Mandalorian appearing to be worthy additions to Star Wars lore, I am optimistic for next year. Onslaught‘s story ends by teasing at least three different possible adventures to explore, and I honestly don’t know which I’m most eager to see, but I can’t wait to find out.

 

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Clip Show

This Week in Aurebesh, I am not yet two weeks into Onslaught, and I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of SWTOR’s new expansion. I still need to the complete the story on the opposing faction, visit the new flashpoint in something other than storymode and venture into the Dxun operation, let alone uncover Onderon and Mek Sha’s many achievements and hidden Datacrons.

I do want to share my first impressions about the good (the story and worlds!), the bugs (lost quest objective spawns, group finder ops!) and the ugly (Conquest and crafting!), but I also want to take my time enjoying leveling and exploring, so my commentary will have to wait a bit longer.

One thing that I do think is safe to say is that Mek Sha is super-cool. It’s as if all of Nar Shaddaa were stacked and crammed into one tiny planetoid with a gigantic picture window into the void of space. It’s dark, dank, claustrophobic and yet another neat setting unique to both Star Wars and the Old Republic setting.

It’s also bathed in a colorful, holographic glow. While there are many new signs and displays to be found on Mek Sha that I plan to examine in the future, there are also many familiar posters, lights and graphics repurposed from the game’s vast library of imagery.

Before you write this off as lazy, it’s worth remembering that whether you travel to Times Square in New York City or Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo or Piccadilly Circus in London you will behold many of the same ubiquitous brands and logos of our own world’s corporate landscape shining down on you in neon light.

So while I lollygag my way through Onslaught, I’d thought I’d take a break this week and revisit some of my favorite signs and graphics that I have already recreated in this blog and that you can spot on your journey into the underworld of Mek Sha.

I hope long time readers to this blog will forgive this self-indulgence, and I hope new visitors enjoy a taste of what this project has been for the last three years!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR, Huttese to English, Onslaught

Cracking the Jedi Code

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Filed under Ancient Jedi Runes, General Star Wars, General SWTOR

Recharge and Reload

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

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

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

New York City or Bust

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

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

 

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Knights of the Eternal Throne Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galactic Command and Uprisings

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

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

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

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

Gods from the Machine

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

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

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

Onwards to Onslaught

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

Update! Onslaught arrives October 22!

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

 

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Loose Vocabulators Sink Ships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Sarlacc Pit

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

Cademimu, All of It

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

Scum and Villainy Bridge Boss

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

Iokath’s Toilet Bowl

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

Ossus Elevator

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

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

 

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Conquest, What is it Good For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words with Friends

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

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

 

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