Category Archives: KotFE

Zakuulan Language Primer

Knights of the Fallen Empire introduced a new planet to the Star Wars galaxy: Zakuul, capital of the Eternal Empire. Zakuul included a host of new characters, architecture, droids, spaceships, customs and perhaps most subtly a new form of writing.

The artists at Bioware designed the Zakuulan script with several variations suggesting an idiosyncratic and evolving language while maintaining a cohesive style whether the context is a fancy sign on a building or a technical readout on a computer monitor.

After pouring through my screenshots, I’ve put together a basic Zakuulan primer of letters and numbers.

I should admit up front that this project is a work in progress. I’ve found no examples of the letters J, Q and X, so folks looking to score big in Scrabble may be disappointed. As with Aurebesh, it’s not unusual for Zakuulan signage to be inverted or reversed; this is most common in the holographic displays in the Twin Rails tram station. The flipped signs made deciphering the numbers tricky, especially since I have not yet come across the number 7, but I think I can extrapolate it based on other numbers in the sequence. Likewise, I’m also not sure what the glyph for zero is, but don’t feel confident enough to guess.

There are two major styles of Zakuulan writing: a digital font seen on monitors in which the letters are rendered with straight lines and hard angles, and a second version that features rounded corners and elegant curves. This script is, to my eye, evocative of the Art Deco style of the early 20th century. There are more gaps in this second style and while I feel comfortable making educated guesses about a few of the missing letters, several others remain unknown to me.

Typically, letters are similar across both styles, but there are variants of a few letters: A, B, C, Y and Z can all be rendered using two different glyph shapes, and I’ve seen examples of both in the “digital” and “deco” styles. In addition, the deco style seems to employ a distinct numbering system from its digital counterpart. With only one example to work from, I’m not confident in even making basic guesses about how to render numbers in that style.

In addition to signs and computers, Zakuulan script is also readable in the costumes of Vaylin and the Scions. The lining on their cloaks and hoods repeat five words thematically significant to both the game’s story and Zakuulan culture. However, so far the writing on Arcann and Thexan’s robes defies translation.

The game has gotten a lot of mileage out of a few graphics; the “administraton” and “RNG Main Office” signs are everywhere for example, but I hope in the future we’ll see more examples of the Zakuulan script. The addition of new and alien writing has been a nice touch to set the Eternal Empire apart from the rest of the galaxy and to make it feel like a real, lived in world that’s not quite familiar to both the characters and the players. It’s perhaps an easy thing to miss while adventuring, but I applaud the artists at Bioware for this cool addition to Star Wars lore.

I want to also give a tip of the hat to this thread on SWTOR’s official forums, which confirmed some of things I’d suspected about Zakuulan writing and pointed me in the direction of a few things I missed.

 

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Cat’s-eye View

Just a quick post this week (it’s that time of year), but here is a look through the targeting scope of the great Aric Jorgan from KotFE’s chapter 11, “Disavowed” in which everyone’s favorite Cathar finally gets to show off his much vaunted skills as a sniper.

Unlike the view through HK’s optical sensors, the information displayed here is much more economically presented with significantly less editorializing on the target’s potential status as a meatbag.

The translation was straightforward, but there are a couple non-standard bits of Aurebesh. The comma symbol is used in the numbers, but I substituted decimal points since that seems to make more sense in context.

The krenth (kh) and onith (eo) symbols are used as angle brackets on account of how the font handles those symbols. Given that the Aurebesh ligatures are almost never properly used, I’m sure they’re at least glad to see the light of day for a change.

Galactic Command Update

I wrote this entry while listening to Bioware’s latest Producer Livestream during which they discussed upcoming changes to the Galactic Command system. There are details to come, but since this week’s post is short, I might as well toss in my two credits. I’m most curious to know how many Command Tokens and Unassembled Components will be needed to buy gear. Assuming that number isn’t ridiculous, I think these are very positive changes, targeting the people, raiders and PVPers, who need certainty in gearing the most, while preserving the benefits of the system for everyone else.  If you do run operations or compete in pvp, gearing alts and off-specs should also be easier. We’ll still be able to throw tokens at fresh 70’s, but I imagine they will still need to get a few Command Levels before they can cash them in. Given how quickly the first few levels come, I don’t think this is too much to ask. I also like the changes to how tokens will be dropping since it may at last encourage folks to raid places other than Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace.

All that said, while I think these changes to gearing are good, I’m still eagerly waiting for some place new to use that gear.

That’s all for now. Have a Rogue One-derful weekend, everyone!

 

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How to Spend Your Data Crystals Before KotET

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Last month, Bioware announced that with the launch of Knights of the Eternal Throne they will do away with all commendation currencies and convert any accumulated crystals and Warzone Comms into credits:

As we have discussed previously, Warzone Commendations and Commendation Crystals are being removed from the game with Knights of the Eternal Throne. Our intention is that all of these currencies will be converted into credits on 11/29 when early access starts. Here are the conversion rates for each currency:

 

1 Warzone Commendation = 50 Credits

1 Common Crystal = 500 credits

1 Glowing Crystal = 1,000 credits

1 Radiant Crystal = 1,500 credits

 

Upon logging in on 11/29 each of these currencies will be completely removed from the game and the appropriate credits will have been granted to each character on your account. Note that there is a 2 million credit per character limit on this conversion. Please check the conversion table above, if you would earn more than 2 million credits on a character, we recommend that you spend the appropriate currency before that time so that it is not lost. If you have any questions about this conversion, let us know.

I don’t know all the details of the transition from crystals to credits, so take everything you’re about to read with a grain of salt, especially if you’re on a low population server. But I can suggest some options for preparing for the upcoming conversion.

Take the Money and Run

This is the easiest way to go. No muss, no fuss and all your characters will find some extra walking around cash in their pockets on the 29th. With the removal of tokens and commendations, I suspect we may have to buy more things with credits during KotET than we’ve been used to. In the meantime this cash infusion will probably cause GTN prices to jump in the short term, so the extra credits might come in handy

I can think of a couple circumstances in which I’d suggest spending at least a few comms and crystals. Preferred status players who are at their credit limit will likely see these credits go straight into their escrow and not receive any benefit, so they might as well burn their crystals now.

It’s also possible to exceed the 2 million credit limit. To do so, you’d need to max out all of the crystal caps and have 5000 Warzone Commendations or be sitting on 40,000 WZ comms. That’s well within the realm of possibility for many players. To them, I’d at least recommend spending down to the limit.

Companion Gifts

Silas Fleetfire, the Smuggled Supplies Vendor who can be found on Odessen and Darvannis will trade you companion gifts and alliance crates for common crystals. Bioware has said that we will be able to buy companion gifts for credits in the future, but that the credit cost will be high since Command Crates are meant to provide a regular source of gifts. Even if the price for the rank 6 gifts is at the conversion ratio of 12,500 credits, it couldn’t hurt to stock up on specific gifts for that companion whose return you’ve been patiently waiting.

At the moment, Companion gifts still have high value on the GTN, so if you want to work the market, you can probably get a better return on those crystals right now.

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Crafting Materials

The few non-gear options that cost Glowing and Radiant Crystals are Exotic Isotope Stabilizers and Dark Matter Catalysts, which are also sold by Silas. These crafting materials are still moving on the GTN, although their prices have dropped in the last few weeks as folks clear out their inventories. I suspect there will be less demand for them after the expansion. However, Exotic Isotope Stabilizers can currently be used to make Dark Projects, which can be traded for starship decorations. I imagine the decorations and projects might be good investments even after 5.0.

Legacy Armor

There are three vendors trading common crystals for legacy armor sets. The Adaptive Gear Vendors in the Supplies section of the Imperial and Republic fleets offer many of the iconic, faction specific class sets from launch, and the Black Market Goods vendor in the Underworld Logistics section of your Alliance base on Odessen sells the Sion set. There is bound to be a look to suit most tastes, and a good looking legacy set or two to trade around will always come in handy.

Mounts! Pets! Decos!

Credits and utility can only get you so far. Decorations are where it’s really at. The Data Crystal Decorations vendors on the fleet hubs sell a variety of Rakata themed decorations. I particularly recommend the yellow and blue hanging lights. The Black Market Goods vendor of your Alliance base on Odessen also has decorations on offer including the beloved and battered stolen shuttle you’ve flown all over the galaxy during KotFE.

That vendor also has some miniature space ships for sale. Who doesn’t want a tiny Gravestone following them around everywhere? Not you, I bet!

The Alliance Vehicle Engineer in the Military Hangar on Odessen has a couple unique mounts for sale. And don’t forget the Common Data Crystal Vendors who can be found on Ilum, Section X and the Black Hole. They will take your green crystals for a couple more mounts. I’ve always thought the red Longspur Blaze was pretty slick.

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Alliance Crates

You might also want to build up a stash of Alliance Crates. I can’t say for certain if these will still be rewarded from max level heroics. I assume they will be, but it never hurts to have a few extra on hand.

Warzone Comms

If you’ve got Warzone Commendations on hand, then you’ve got tons of options. With the removal of Expertise, War Hero crystals will soon give Mastery, and you can buy many different classic color crystals from the PvP Items vendors on fleet. I don’t know if Critical, Mastery or Power crystals will be best in slot at level 70, but I’ll wager that the difference between the three will be so minor that you can pick the color you want and it will be perfectly fine.

I also suggest grabbing a PVP class set or two if you can afford it. These armors’ set bonuses will function in bolstered or level synced environments such as flashpoints and storymode Operations, so they’ll certainly remain useful for leveling and gearing up at max level.

There is also the PvP Weapons vendor on fleet with some unique low level, modable weapons. They’re BOP, but you might find a look you like.

If you’d just like to maximize the GTN value of your excess WZ comms, your best bet is to convert them to Jawa Scrap. Crafting materials wills always be in demand especially during crafting heavy Conquest weeks.

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Finally, pay a visit to the Starfighter & PVP Decoration Vendor in your fleet’s Strongholds and Crew Skills section. They offer a wide variety of decorations that you can get for WZ comms. These decorations are not bound, so they can be traded and sold. But, really, if you don’t have a Custom Huttball Stand in your stronghold or guild ship, you’re doing it wrong.

In the end, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to spend your crystals and comms. Most of this stuff will still be available for credits after the expansion, and credits have never really been hard to come by. However, if you fancy the look of the level 65 armor or weapons from the PVP or data crystal vendors, you might want to grab them now, since that stuff has been cycled off the vendors after the launch of previous expansions.

 

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Dark vs. Light Event Review

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When the Dark vs. Light Event was first teased I was pretty excited. I am a veteran of all the SWTOR events going back to the original Rakghoul Pandemic in 2012, and because it’s been a couple years since Bioware has introduced a new event, I hoped we might see something new.

When the details were announced, however, those hopes were dashed. The Dark vs. Light event is clearly not like the Rakghoul, Gree or even Bounty Broker events. Given that we’re in the closing days of the expansion, I realized that DvL event was actually this year’s version of the Epic Story Boost, in which the material rewards replaced x12 class experience.

Once I accepted that, I decided to give it a go. There were many in my guild looking to reach Eternal and Legendary levels, and we worked together to reach those goals. Usually our group activity is dictated by the ops rotation or conquest objectives, so it was nice to leave that aside for a bit and do a little bit of everything else for a change.

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While the list of objectives seemed long at first glance, by setting modest weekly goals and treating it like a marathon rather than a sprint, I found I could knock out achievements at a steady clip. Progressing eight characters to level 50 was the most time consuming part, but with the complete Victorious Pioneer armor, it wasn’t too bad. To keep things fresh, I made an effort to level each character in different ways: story, flashpoints, pvp, space missions, etc. For the one character that had to complete the story, I revisited my very first character’s class, which I hadn’t looked at since launch. It was neat to play it again with fresh eyes. However, of all the new characters I created, I really only connected with that one. Since I did the event on my home server, many of the characters I created were deleted to make room for the next one to level.

Without a doubt, banging out the world bosses, operations and Hard Mode Flashpoints was the most fun part of the event because I could run those things with guild mates. I honestly feel bad for anyone who chose to do that stuff on their own. Doing group content with friends is the best part of the MMO experience, and I’m fortunate that I play with a great group of folks who are always willing to help each other out. At this point we’ve got Hard Mode Blood Hunt down and can easily clear all the world bosses in one night.

The rewards have been nice. The experience boost armor makes leveling a breeze, and I think it’s a neat look for any Agent. The loot boxes have been okay. I can’t say I received anything ground breaking (a black/black dye was my rarest prize), but neither was I counting on anything in particular. My biggest surprise was how rare the Tunings turned out to be. It’s disappointing to get all the way to Legendary and not be lucky enough to get an item that was promoted as an exclusive reward of the event. Of all the guild mates that I’ve heard from, only one got a Tuning. It’s a bit of a drag.

The other rewards yet to come seem decent. We’re actually a bit short on Force using companions at the moment, so I’ll take another one of those. The turret mount seems silly, but it might be good for a laugh to trundle around in

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Ultimately, the best part of the Dark vs. Light event was the content I did with friends and nothing inherent to the event itself. For that reason, I think an event with achievement based rewards is fine, but I did not like the fact that to earn those achievements I had to put aside characters I’ve been playing for years and start from scratch with characters most of whom will gather dust once the event ends.

As I said at the start, it’s been quite a while since the last event, and with the Rakghoul and Gree events on bimonthly schedules (and lasting two week during DvL), those old events, as much as I like them, are feeling pretty stale. We definitely are overdue for a new event with a unique theme, objectives and challenges. I’m not planning on it, of course, but it would be most welcome.

As a way to fill time between expansions, the Dark vs. Light has been fine, but I hope in the future Bioware can hit a higher mark.

 

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Knights of the Fallen Empire Review

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Hot on the heels of the announcement of the next expansion, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on Knights of the Fallen Empire as it winds down. I won’t promise to avoid spoilers since I think the statute of limitations on spoilers runs out once hype for the sequel starts to ramp up, so beware!

In general, I very much enjoyed KotFE. I was engaged and entertained by the story. It has everything you’d expect from a Star Wars adventure: massive scope, mumbo jumbo about the Force, cool space ships, last minute saves and enough humor to remind you not to take it too seriously.

It’s no secret that SWTOR’s engine has its issues, but I give full credit to the folks at Bioware for getting the most out of it. With KotFE, the visual storytelling makes a huge leap over what we’d seen in the game at launch and previous expansions. The camera moves and refocuses dynamically, the action sequences and environments are dramatic and fun, and the game makes sure you and the characters around you look as cool as possible.

SWTOR is also currently as friendly to new players as it’s ever been. Whether you’re an old hand at other MMOs or just a fan who want to play around in the Star Wars universe, it’s never been easier to jump in and go.

The flip side of this is that experienced players will likely have a very easy time with the combat portions of the game. The non-player companions who accompany the players are extremely powerful, and if you can play your class well, you might find the ease at which you mow down enemies can under-cut the dramatic tension of a scene. I think the overwhelming power of companions is the biggest issue, and it’s telling that the most interesting fights to me were the ones in which I had no companion to help out.

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After completing the story, the primary thing the game will direct players towards is building their Alliance by gathering allies and resources to fight the story’s evil empire. Alliance Alerts are one-time quest chains that involve recruiting companions, and these involve many types of gameplay, including simple puzzle solving, exploration, basic questing and, in one case, participation in player-vs-player warzones. I enjoyed many of the alerts, but not all companions are equally interesting and some alerts felt like busy work. That said, I like the variety of things the alerts ask me to do, and don’t mind that they had me dipping into different aspects of the game. My biggest complaint with the alerts is that the player character’s dialogue is not spoken aloud. Going from years of fully voiced dialogue to one-sided conversations was a shock. Not being able to hear my characters’ reactions in conversations with long lost old friends was a real drag.

Star Fortresses are instanced mini-flashpoints related to the Alliance building, and they fill the role that the old daily quest areas like the Black Hole or Oricon used to. The layouts of the Fortresses are randomized and each boss in the heroic versions has their own abilities, but while there are lots of iterations, the environment and enemies are the same across the board, so going left instead of right at an intersection doesn’t do much to keep the setting fresh. Bioware previously did something like this with the Kuat Drive Yards flashpoint. While KDY has fewer variations, each randomized area has distinct layouts and objectives, and I think the Star Fortresses would have benefited more from that model. That said, the Star Fortresses are a good source of decorations and I don’t mind banging out one now and then.

The most recent piece of content added to the game has been the Eternal Championship, and I am, personally, a big fan. The championship is basically a fight club, with ten different boss encounters. While it can be done (and done easily) with a group, it’s best experienced solo, and unlike most other solo content, it offers a real challenge. The EC can be completed by tanks, healers and damage dealers and it’s been fun to learn it in each role. There are some neat rewards from the EC and it’s been satisfying to earn them.

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In general, I strive to avoid strawman arguments, but there are two common complaints about KotFE that I would be remiss not to acknowledge.

The first concerns the lack of end game content. It is worth pointing out that KotFE has more relevant flashpoints and operations than any previous expansion. If you raid, you can visit a different operation every week and not repeat yourself for months, and if you want to run a flashpoint, there are dozens of options. There is a wealth of terrific multi-player content for new players to discover.

The problem, of course, is that none of it is new. For veterans this is a big problem. Speaking from my own guild’s experience, going from running content that we had on farm-mode (or even faceroll-mode) back to having to jump through hoops we thought were behind us felt at best like treading water or at worst a step backwards. Not surprisingly, interest in ops dropped dramatically, we stopped pushing hard mode progression altogether, and many folks found other games that could meet that need. I don’t blame them one bit. It’s a shame because SWTOR’s operations and flashpoints have been great fun both mechanically and as storytelling devices. The scope of the war with the Dread Masters across a half dozen operations and two expansions was truly epic. The adventure experienced through the flashpoints of the Forged Alliances arc was another high point for the game. I very much hope Bioware doesn’t give up on telling stories through group content.

I’ve also read complaints about the ending and the degree to which choices matter. SWTOR’s story has always been on rails, and you either go with the flow or you don’t. No, the story does not dramatically spin off in different directions depending on the character’s choices, but that’s been the case since day one. That said, tonally the light side and dark side variations of the story are very different. Certainly your choices matter to several returning and recurring characters. The Alliance built by light side characters evokes the Rebellion from the movies, but a dark side player’s Alliance feels more like a cutthroat terrorist organization. Granted tone isn’t the same as fully branching storylines, but I don’t think it’s nothing either.

Additionally, I think the conclusion of KotFE’s final chapter works very well. Structurally, it is nearly identical to A New Hope and The Force Awakens: the main villain narrowly escapes, the evil empire is still very much a threat, but the band of heroes have won their first major victory with the promise of more to come.

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Where KotFE does differ from the movies and sets itself apart is in Senya and Vaylin. Senya, an ass kicking, middle aged mother of three, is easily my favorite character to emerge from the Fallen Empire story and a great and unique addition to the Star Wars canon. Pity poor Arcann; he thought he was the center of a typical Star Wars story: another conflict between fathers and sons. Only now at the end did he understand, he was just a bit player in a tragedy of mothers and daughters. To Valkorian, Arcann was a failure; to SCORPIO barely an afterthought. Only his mother could save him. But Vaylin, she was the one who mattered all along. She was the one who could sense the Outlander during “A Dream of Empire;” she was the one who you fought in the cave; she was the one with the power. The ending works perfectly for me. And I look forward to future chapters.

Update! Information about Knights of the Eternal Throne has emerged since I wrote this post, and I’m glad to see that the next expansion may address some of the issues I expressed here. I’m hopeful that Uprisings will be fun to run with friends, and am crossing my fingers in hopes that we really will have some fresh operations bosses to fight in the new year. And, holy cats, is that trailer fantastic!

 

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