Category Archives: 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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Community and Raffle Time

With Star Wars Celebration imminent and anticipation high for the SWTOR Community Cantina I thought this week I’d indulge in something a little different. For the solo SWTOR player, there is a vast reserve of things to do, places to explore and stories to experience. Indeed, this blog was created to point out some of those very things. But SWTOR is also a multi-player game, and many of the experiences I’ve had with guild-mates, friends and even strangers remain some of my most enduring memories of this game.

I don’t want to turn this into a boring laundry list of remember-whens, but I do want to share a few stories.

Line Forms Here

Two of SWTOR’s original events were one-time only affairs. The Rakghoul event was completely revamped when it returned, but the Grand Acquisition Race or the “Chevin Event” happened once and never again. To be honest, I don’t have strong memories of the event itself, mainly that it involved mini-games and collecting tokens. One of the games was a sort of remote controlled car race on a track that was set up on the Promenade of Nar Shaddaa. This was not in an instanced area and only one person could run the race at a time. So what did the rest of us do? We waited in line. And it was great.

During the summer of 2012, SWTOR was not in a good place. The already low population was spread out across more servers than the game ever needed, and it was an open question whether the game would make it a year. Servers would be consolidated that fall, but at the time of the event, my server Shien was pretty quiet. The wait to run the race for the Chevin Event turned out to be a rare moment to socialize with those hardy few who were still playing. Folks were joking and chatting. Yes, there was the occasional flat-shoed fool who was too cool for the queue and tried to cut the line, but generally people were happy to hang out in a crowd for a change. Shien was an RP server and, in my experience, folks tended to be mellower and more social than I encountered in other places. Maybe that’s why we were less predatory about needing the to click the button and go first.

The coming server mergers gave players a much-needed shot in the arm, and I was proud to call Ebon Hawk home after that, but hanging with folks on Nar Shaddaa during the Chevin Event remains one of my favorite things from my time on Shien.

Clean Sweep

A more recent event was not prompted by something that happened in game, but by Swtorista’s 50,000 YouTube Subscribers celebration. To celebrate, Swtorista amassed the galaxy’s largest supply of Sweep emotes and passed them out freely on a Saturday afternoon on the Republic fleet. The sight of Carrick station overflowing with dozens and dozens people in every direction all diligently swabbing the deck and having a good time in chat and Discord is one the most fun things I’ve done in SWTOR and a fitting celebration of Swtorista whose contributions to the community are second to none. Ted at the State of the Old Republic calls Swtorista the hardest working woman in SWTOR, and I’d call that an understatement.

Afterwards, I also had the honor of being invited to Kid Lee’s post event stream where he and Swtorista interviewed a whole bunch of SWTOR content creators including yours truly. I’d never been interviewed before, and I think I got a little flustered and pooched at least one of the questions. (Of course there are easter eggs in the Aurebesh of the game! It’s the whole reason I started this blog. D’oh!) But I hope my enthusiasm for the game came through. It’s a testament to SWTOR’s community that Swtorista celebrated her success by promoting others.

Dreadful Slayin’

Not long ago, Marcus from the Working Class Nerds podcast was challenged to assemble a team to take on the Dreadful Entity, the secret boss in Hard Mode Terror From Beyond. This set in motion the task of farming masks, essences and amulets from Dreadtooth in Section X. Dozens of people chipped in and in the end three guilds: my guild New Outriders, the Bad Feeling Podcast and Alea Acta Est teamed up for the fight against the Entity. The fight itself is no great shakes; basically you avoid standing in lightning while fighting a ball of lightning that zaps everyone with lightning. But it was cool to see so many people (much more than the sixteen who got the kill) come together for a common goal. Marcus got an amulet and 100,000,000 credits, but the rest of us got some neat titles and achievements, a reminder about the importance of using master looter when pugs are involved, and some fun stories to tell. My great little guild New Outriders isn’t big enough to tackle 16 man secret bosses these days, and I’m glad we could be a part of the action.

If you’re in Chicago this weekend, meet your fellow players at Celebration or the Cantina event. If you’re in a flashpoint, be excellent to the other people in your group. If you’re in an operation be glad when someone else gets an upgrade. If you’re filling space in a ten stack Dreadtooth run don’t be a dick and instead pass the amulet to the guy who organized the group and supplied the essences. Be someone who makes the game memorable and fun for others, and I betcha it will be for you too.

RAFFLE TIME!

As a part of the SWTOR Fan Community, the good people at Bioware and Swtorista have provided me a code which can be redeemed for free 30 Days of SWTOR Game Time and I’m pleased to be running my first raffle! To enter leave a comment to this post below! I’d love to hear about your favorite SWTOR community story, your favorite Aurebesh sign or what you most want to learn about at this weekend’s SW Celebration. Make sure you let me know how to contact you if you win: include your character, faction and server name and I’ll mail you the code in game. If you prefer twitter, include your twitter handle and I’ll send it that way. If you’d rather not comment publicly, I’ll also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com.

We’re on the honor system here, so one entry per person, please.

I’ll choose a random winner from all submissions during the Conquest reset Tuesday April 16th.

I’ll see everyone on the other side of what should be a big, big weekend!

Winner! Winner!

UPDATE! Congrats to Marcus for winning the raffle! I’ll get your code to you today. Thank you to everyone who commented, I very much appreciate it!

 

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And We’re in Bloom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Celebration Community Cantina

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

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

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

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

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

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

April can’t come soon enough!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Futhork to English, General Star Wars, General SWTOR

Ossus Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sometimes You Feel Like Nahut

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Expansion Launch Date

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

Kira and Scourge Will be in the New Cinematic

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

Gear Changes are Coming

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

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

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

The Dark vs. Light Event Will Return

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

Where are the Damn Porgs Already?

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

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

 

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This Is Not Going to Go the Way You Think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gear Grind

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

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

Dailies Grind

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

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

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

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

 

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