Category Archives: General SWTOR

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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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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR, KotFE

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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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Conquest, What is it Good For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words with Friends

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

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

 

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To the Victor Go the Spoils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 Exploration/Flashpoints/Vendors: Orobirds

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

Achievements: Nerf Herding

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

Reputation: Gree Data Core

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

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

Operations: M0-GUL Thrall Droid

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

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

PVP: Lobelisk and Lawgriffari

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

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

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

 

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Onslaught Semi-Hot Take

The announcement of SWTOR’s next expansion Onslaught is now a week old, and I thought I should at last toss in my 2 cartel coins. I’ve never been one for hot takes, and my main response to the news has been “Sounds cool! Can’t wait!” This is fine, but not especially compelling, so I’ll try to be a bit more specific. Before I get started I must applaud the amazing work by Swtorista, Kogass, Kid Lee, Boomy, Vemapris, Lady Rann and everyone at the swtorfancommunity for their heroic efforts to bring a constant stream of news, photos and interviews from Star Wars Celebration. To be able to tune into the Cantina as it happened was a vicarious thrill and very much appreciated by this homebody.

First, and probably least importantly, I won’t lie, I was hoping for a trailer. Blur’s two amazing Fallen Empire cinematics definitely spoiled me, and I’ll always be eager for more. But as the old joke asks: does a two million dollar trailer cost us raid tiers? I have no way of knowing, but if it means more resources for the actual development of the game, I won’t complain. The in-game cut scenes throughout the Fallen Empire cycle were leaps and bounds above what had come before, so I expect to experience the same level quality with Onslaught.

The two planets we will be visiting in Onslaught, Onderon and Mek-Sha, embody one of SWTOR’s strengths: the ability to explore existing Star Wars lore while still expanding the universe with new locations and characters. Onderon has connections to both recent and older Star Wars stories, but we’ll also get to visit an entirely new world in the gutted-out planetoid of Mek-Sha. If there is one thing the designers of SWTOR have shown time and time again is that they can create fantastic settings for the players to explore and I look forward to setting down on both worlds.

We’ll also be returning to Corellia for the expansion’s first flashpoint. Corellia had a prominent role in last year’s movie Solo so it seems like a good choice for a locale to revisit. Likewise, the expansion’s operation on Dxun reflects this mix of old and new. This will be the game’s first visit to Onderon’s moon, but a welcome return of Czerka’s distinctive brand of corporate villainy which has been a part of the game since the start.

The expansion will also come with a new playable species, Nautolans. Personally, Nautolans don’t float my boat, but not every character customization option has to be for everyone. I would’ve preferred additional appearance options for the existing species, but I don’t deny that many, many people are psyched to play a Nautolan and that “new playable species” is a sexier bullet point than “more haircuts and tattoos.” And, of course, I’m already squatting on a name for my Nautolan.

In January, I predicted that we’d see gearing changes in 6.0, but the Spoils of War system aims to go far beyond what I could’ve anticipated. From the broad strokes Bioware sketched out in the last week, the new system’s embrace Legacy gearing and the ability to customize gear sets for different styles of play all sounds very, very interesting, but the devil is in the details, and I am loath to draw any conclusions until I see those details.

Something that is very encouraging, however, is Bioware’s willingness to solicit player input and feedback before the system goes live, both on the forums now and in the PTS to come. Clearly, they’ve learned a thing or two from the launch of Knights of the Eternal Throne. I don’t expect the Spoils of War system to be without issues or imbalances, but I have faith we won’t have to endure the mess that was Galactic Command’s rollout and growing pains next time around.

Also in January, I predicted an August launch, but with enough caveats that I think I can give myself half credit for the call since the launch will be just one short month later in September.

Finally, Onslaught will be included with the game’s subscription. I know many regular players who would’ve been fine paying extra for the expansion if it had included more story, flashpoints, ops, pvp, etc, but SWTOR’s business model seems to be this: Sub for a month and get access to everything the game has to offer. And it seems to be working for them. When I revisited World of Warcraft last year, I was put off that I had to both subscribe and pony up for the expansion. I’m honestly impressed that someone whose subscription to SWTOR lapsed two and a half years ago still has access to all of the game’s latest story content.

Sure, WOW’s expansions and major patches dwarf SWTOR’s. That will never change, but I think SWTOR has done a decent job of picking up the pace of releases lately, as long as that continues into Onslaught I’ll count myself a happy subscriber.

So, in conclusion, it all sounds cool, and I can’t wait for September, but I think I mentioned that already.

 

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