Jax’s Back

This month, in the comic book pages of IDW’s Star Wars Adventures 2018 Annual, saw the return of one of the most infamous characters in all Star Wars lore: Jaxxon, the green haired, rocket-rabbit from the very earliest days of what would become known as the Expanded Universe.

Jaxxon and his partner Amaiza (who also returns to the four color limelight), were one quarter of the “Eight for Aduba-3“, one of the first original Star Wars adventures in any media after the release of the movie. Before I wax too nostalgic, I should point out that the Aduba Saga has fairly earned its controversial reputation. Writer Roy Thomas saw in the first Star Wars movie a mix of Flash Gordon serials, samurai, western and World War II movies, and decided to do his own riff on The Magnificent Seven, adding elements from Godzilla movies, Warner Bros. cartoons, female professional wrestling, and even Cervantes. The end result, however, is an over-stuffed, under-cooked mess. In the years to come poor Jaxxon would be singled out by both official sources and fans as an excuse to dismiss the whole Marvel series. This is ironic because, until this month, there was literally a four decade gap in Jaxxon stories, and his last appearance in 1978, issue 16’s “The Hunter” is one of the strongest tales in the original run.

No doubt, these comics are very much of their time, and may not be to modern tastes. The earliest stories between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back tended to be illustrated in a broad Silver Age style: Luke and Leia had the physiques of super-heroes, almost no effort was given to make the characters look like their actors, and the action was very exaggerated and over the top. What was proper Star Wars was still being discovered back then, and sometimes those old comics wouldn’t fit in continuity, used concepts from the movies weirdly or were just too comic-booky. “Eight for Aduba-3” fits all those bills.

And yet…

The giant monster stomps things, Jaxxon cracks wise, Amaiza kicks butt, Don-Wan Kihotay is clumsily heroic, and Han Solo saves the day in spite of himself. What more could an eight year old ask of a Star Wars comic? Nowadays when some folks are genuinely asking if there is too much Star Wars, it’s hard to imagine what is was like back then to be a fan starved for new adventures after just one movie. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye smacked of the low budget sequel it was intended to be and the wholly bizarre Holiday Special left a generation of kids shaking their heads in confusion. But in the pages of Marvel’s Star Wars comics, that’s where the action was. If you wanted to see all the heroes from the movie exploring new worlds, encountering scores of new aliens and playing with all manner of new ships, droids and weapons, Marvel had you covered.

Even as a big fan, I cannot deny that those old Marvel stories have a host of issues, but I think their flaws were more of execution than ambition. Some stories were misses, sure, but they were big misses. And there were plenty of hits too: stories that made the wait between movies easier to take, and stories than even now stand tall in the legendary array of Star Wars canon.

So I’m thrilled to see Jaxxon and Amaiza have another day in the sun. Over the years, there has been the odd sighting in roleplaying game supplements, inside jokes and background references, but the cartoony style of Star Wars Adventures is a natural fit for Jaxxon. The story by writer Cavan Scott, illustrator Alain Mauricet and colorist Chris Fenoglio is a delightful romp with action, betrayal and a charming reinvention of these old characters. You don’t have to know who Jaxxon and Amaiza is to get a kick out of the story, but there are some literal and figurative easter eggs for old timers like myself to enjoy. I do hope they check in with these two star-hoppers again, at the very least they have some unfinished business. Jaxxon is silly and dumb like Star Wars can be sometimes, like Star Wars should be sometimes. If you’re cool with that, by all means, check it out!

Black Hole Redux

This week’s Aurebesh recreation continues my tribute to Jaxxon and Amaiza. Back in the day, Han Solo knew Amaiza as the “den-mother of the Black Hole Gang” so a return to my favorite daily quest hub seemed appropriate. The Jaxxon connection is obvious upon discovering the translation of this sign.

The sign is one of many advertisements for the HyperMatter Corporation and at first glance seems to tout the company’s commitment to the environment. However, anyone who has quested through the zone probably knows that the color in question probably refers to the radioactive glow that one might develop after spending too much time in the Black Hole.

I must admit I missed this sign during my first survey of the zone since it is posted somewhat out of view in the Imperial section of the Black Hole and does not seem to be used elsewhere. The sign itself hangs high on a building and is easy to miss if you don’t look up or don’t back track while completing your weekly quests. I only recently discovered it myself while exploring the area on an Republic character. It’s like Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

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No Disintegrations

Welcome to This, uh, Month… in Aurebesh! In honor of last week’s Bounty Broker Association event, let’s take a look at the holographic display projected by the Investigation Probe during interrogations of Shady Characters across the galaxy.

First off, some but not all, of the text in this graphic is reversed, since it is meant to be read by the target and not the players. In my recreation, I reversed the graphic for the sake of legibility.

Elements of this are shared with others from the game, most notably, the Agent’s regeneration ability, Recuperate, and as a part of the cut scene associated with “From Ashes,” a daily quest on Ziost. In both cases the graphic elements are assembled differently for each context.

Most of the text itself, however, is the same in all three examples, and it seems to be drawn from a collection of boilerplate jargon related to computer error messages. For example, the inset text on another photograph complains that the target “has a slow area server.”

The photographs themselves are of real people, but I don’t know their identities and presume they are or were member’s of SWTOR’s design team. Whoever they are, I’m sure they probably get a kick of being targets of bounty hunters from across the galaxy.

Gods, Conquests and Cartel Markets

It’s a been a while since my previous post, so I thought I’d offer some quick comments on Patch 5.8, “Command Authority” and other goings in the community.

For me, the biggest new addition has been Izax, the ultimate boss in the Gods from the Machine operation. Sadly, I have not yet scored a kill of this giant robot space lobster god. Aside from missing a week due to the holiday, Gods is simply a very long operation. My guild raids only once a week, and the first time there it took nearly our entire allotted time just to get to Izax. Certainly, now that we know the puzzle before him it won’t be as bad, but even so I think the raid itself might be too long, especially when it comes the trash pulls. The Scyva trash, in particular, seems excessive and I don’t think it could hurt to cull a group or two from the earlier bosses as well. It’s not unreasonable to expect that a Story Mode operation be clearable in around two hours, and I don’t think Gods is there yet.

As for Izax himself, my first impression based on a few pulls and watching many videos is that he clearly is the most complex Story Mode boss in the game. This doesn’t bother me, since it doesn’t seem like the gear check is too severe to beat him. The short battle rez timer can cover a whole host of mistakes and sloppy play. I look forward to getting it together enough to beat him soon.

The other big change in this update is the revamp to the Conquest system. Some folks seem to be up in arms, but I’ve got few major complaints with the changes. Previously, I was able to meet my personal target on one or two characters a week and that hasn’t changed. It seems to me that Bioware is trying to move the Conquest system away from one where a small group of players can pile up vast sums of points to one where the guilds that succeed are the ones that motivate the most players to participate. This doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. That individual players had been able to accumulate hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of points doing nothing but crafting or endlessly running the same heroics on every character in their legacy day after day strikes me as contrary to the spirit of what is meant to be a guild activity, not an individual one.

That said, I do wish it were easier for individuals to meet their personal goals on their first character. I think a player with a decent stronghold bonus should be able to hit their personal goal in a solid afternoon or evening of play. I’d like to see more big, one time objectives, that let folks quickly pile up some points without having to log on again and again during the week.

Finally, we are in the midst of the big Cartel Market Spring sale, and while I generally don’t talk about the Cartel Market here (it’s not my place to tell people how to spend their money) I cannot deny that I’ve taken advantage. At this point, the market has such a huge backlog of stuff that the prospect of getting that one item you’ve always wanted all your life is tricky if you happened not to be playing at the time it was released. Inflation has driven many items out of the reach of lots of player who simply can’t afford the prices on the GTN so I think it’s a good thing that folks who’ve been frugal with their monthly grants (i.e. not me) can treat themselves to something cool. As for me, dropping 90cc on an old emote I missed out on back in the day instead of millions on the GTN made my day for sure.

I don’t imagine this will be a one-time sale. I’d like to see it come around quarterly, or at least every six months. Hopefully they’ll also work out the kinks and get decorations on the shelves next time.

Suggestions Are Welcome

This post is especially late because I abandoned another recreation I had hoped to do, a monitor on CZ-198 whose text is both clearly identifiable as Aurebesh, but also just blurry enough to be illegible. In my frustration, it took a while to find something else to do instead. I have a backlog of signs and posters I’d like to translate, but I also welcome suggestions. If anyone has spotted an alien display out there they’d like to see recreated in English, please let me know. Outside inspiration is always appreciated!

 

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Godspeed, Rebels

Star Wars: Rebels ended its four-season run Monday night, and I thought I’d share my thoughts about the show. While I generally enjoyed its predecessor, The Clone Wars, the quality of stories could swing wildly from one arc to the next, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of Rebels at its launch. However, Dave Filoni and the whole Lucasfilm animation team really took what they learned from The Clone Wars and refined it into something special.

Rebels had a tighter focus on the crew the Ghost, and the art team did a great job playing to their strengths. Drawing inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs, we got to see early iterations of many  iconic Star Wars creations, from the Imperial speeders and walkers, to a more angular Darth Vader and a proto-Chewbacca who came to life as Zeb. The world the show created was immediately recognizable as Star Wars, but unique enough to always feel like its own thing.

With the show set in the era of Rebellion, it’s clear that everyone involved was eager to play with all the classic Star Wars toys, and they dove in with gusto. Fan service or not, I’ll never get tired of seeing the alphabet soup of Wing fighters in action. Everyone loves Boba Fett, but Sabine’s Mandalorian armor is a wonder of design, stripped down to its essentials, but with a distinctive Pop Art flair. As for the show’s central ship, the Ghost, I’d argue that it’s cooler than any vehicle or ship we’ve seen in any of the three most recent Star Wars movies.

The core of the show, of course, was the crew. On the one hand, we’ve seen these character types before: the boy hero, the spunky girl, the gruff but loveable tough guy, the patient maternal figure, the haunted veteran, and the scene-stealing droid but the show forged them into a family unit, and the affection these characters had for each other felt genuine. They cared about each other, so I cared about them.

My favorite character was Hera. It’s rare in Star Wars to see a mother figure play a central role in the story, and Hera was the heart and soul of the show. She was the bad-ass mom the Ghost crew needed to help find their place in the galaxy. Coming in second, obviously, is Chopper. He is an unrepentant and unreformed forking son of a bench, and I love him for it. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Rebels did a good job keeping its focus on the main characters and their journeys, even when it touched on other aspects of the larger Star Wars mythos. Filoni got to tie up some dangling plot threads from The Clone Wars with the return of Ahsoka and Rex, but those characters felt like additions to the cast, not distractions from it. Rebels also came to be something of a prequel to Rogue One, but in a way that I think mostly felt natural to the story Rebels was already telling.

Some of Star Wars’ heaviest hitters also stopped by, and it’s a credit to the show’s creators that visits from Darth Vader, Yoda and Ben Kenobi were handled with fantastic drama but still a light enough touch to not overwhelm the course of the show. And I’m impressed with the job they did bringing Thrawn to life as an intelligent and formidable antagonist for our heroes.

I was sometimes frustrated that Rebels would bump up against the limits of what a kid’s show would allow, acting a little too coy about Kanaan and Hera’s relationship and lacking real narrative stakes when most every adventure had to have a happy ending. As a viewer, I could also see the creators straining against the schedule and budget limits of a TV production, but I also appreciate that over the course of 74 episodes, we really got to explore the characters and their settings in a way that movies just don’t have time for.

In the end, however, I’d say Rebels hit the marks it was aiming for, and is a most worthy addition to Star Wars lore. I don’t doubt for a moment that Filoni and company have more stories to tell, and I’m eager to see where they take us next.

 

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Nadia Come Home

I don’t get to do as much old fashioned drawing as I’d like these days, but I’d been wanting to show some love for one of my favorite, long lost SWTOR companions. Between a mild bout of Olympic fever and a light work schedule, I was finally able to finish this off. No Aurebesh this week, but it’s my blog and I’ll draw if I wanna, draw if I wanna.

In other news, Keith Kanneg shared the SWTOR road map for the next couple of months. I am glad to see that Gods from the Machine will reach its conclusion next month. Between the setting and the boss fights, I have very much enjoyed this operation, and I hope the Izax fight will be suitably climatic. It’s cool that Conquest will get some love. I like to bang out conquest objectives while I play and it’ll be nice to have some new stuff to work towards. April will see the next and perhaps concluding (it’s not clear from the road map) chapter in the Traitor story arc. This arc has been to me much more interesting for its settings than actual story, but return visit to Nathema should be pretty neat. In the blog post, Keith mentions augments, but I hope they won’t render moot the ones I’ve been crafting since the last game update. Augmenting gear has always struck me as busy work, and I kinda hope I’m done with it this expansion.

We’ll also see the return of five more companions and some action for lonely ol’ Arcann in the weeks ahead. The Mako and Akaavi partnership is not something I’d have predicted, but it is one I’m curious to play out. It’s also nice to know that Bioware remembers that the Consulars had companions too. Still no Nadia, but Felix is a mensch, and it’ll be nice to have him back on the team.

The road map also includes news that Gods from the Machine won’t include a full Master/Nightmare mode. I don’t have much to say about this since even my Hard Mode raiding days are behind me, and this doesn’t really affect me. I’m sure we’ve all seen the reports about Anthem monopolizing all of Bioware’s attention, but even so we filthy casuals have long since won the war for SWTOR, and I’m not going to lose sleep over the designers focusing what resources they do have on stuff that more players can experience.

 

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A Mote of Dust Suspended in a Sunbeam

Hello there. This past month was busy, and I confess the end of expansion lull has me logging on a bit less these days, so I’ve not been as diligent in my blogging as perhaps I should.

To get back into the swing of things, this week’s recreation is fairly straight forward. This sign with its large planetary graphic is probably most familiar to Republic players who keep up with the Black Hole Weekly since it can be seen by the irradiated zone near the Hyper Matter Tower. It also can be found elsewhere around the galaxy and as a stronghold decoration.

The sign’s content and layout echo numerous others around the game. The use of prominent and seemingly random double letters is common element in many, many, many other signs we’ve seen, as is the featured use of the “D” glyph, Dorn. The planet symbol is also a recurring motif. The awkward English translation is also not uncommon. Threepio is most assuredly disappointed, but this sort of thing must be expected when working with alien languages. That said, even the Aurebesh on display here is somewhat distorted. The “Q” glyph, Qek has been slightly truncated with the downward stroke on the right side of the letter trimmed off, probably to make it fit on the sign. The kerning of the original Aurebesh font is pretty sloppy, so reshaping letters for design reasons seems fair.

It’s Fine. We’re Fine.

There has been a flurry of Star Wars news recently, and I thought I’d toss in my two truguts.

First up, SWTOR released game update 5.7: Legacy of the Creators. The Scyva encounter is neat and not too rough on storymode. If you can do Nahut, learning Scyva should be easy. Since I’ve only completed the Fallen Empire story on two characters, neither of which are a Smuggler or Inquisitor, I have not yet tried the new story content. That I haven’t been running all my characters through the story should not be taken as criticism. I think Breaking Bad is one of the best TV shows ever made, but I’ve still only seen most episodes once. When it comes to alts, I tend to run through the story super-duper casually: maybe a chapter once a week, sometimes not even on the same character. I’m happy to run stuff at my own pace, and I’m not ever going to spacebar-mash my way through just to be caught up. However, my story main is my Consular, and she is definitely feeling a little left out, but I’m certain Tharan Cedrax’s return will be EPIC. In the meantime, I am eagerly anticipating the next road map.

This week also saw the reveal of the long awaited or perhaps over-due trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story. I won’t go too deep, since predicting anything about a movie from its trailer is a fool’s errand. Any Star Wars fan with access to the internet knows that this movie has seen more than its fair share of behind the scenes drama, and I’m reluctant to get too hyped about a movie that may turn out to be a total mess. My expectations are not high, but Ron Howard is a reliable and experienced director who knows how to work within different genres, so I’m not without hope. I’m also down with Alden Ehrenreich. He looks as much like Harrison Ford as River Phoenix did, and what snippets of him we get in the trailer do seem to capture Han Solo’s mix of cockiness and dumb-assery, so I’ve got no issue there. And, c’mon, Donald Glover as Lando? Hell, yes.

And, if nothing else, the trailer confirms that the Terror from Beyond is canon.

Finally, it was also announced that David Benioff and D.B Weiss will be writing and producing some Star Wars movies. As a long time Game of Thrones hate watcher, I’m less than psyched, but I can see why they might be appropriate picks for a big franchise like this. There are a lot of Star Wars stories out there, and I don’t have to love them all. I’ll like what I like, and not worry about the rest.

 

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Always in Motion is the Future: Five Predictions for 2018

The New Year is traditionally a time to look forward, and after reading Shintar’s predictions for 2018, I thought I could share a few of my own. However, as anyone knows me can attest, I am terrible at predicting the future. “I’m sure midi-chlorians will make sense in context.” “Don’t be silly, they’d never go a whole expansion without releasing new group content.” “Well, of course Rey is a Kenobi. It’s obvious!” Therefore I thought it best to free myself from the constraint of actually trying to be right and instead base my predictions on a reality where time, money and resources are no object and my own fickle fancies guide the way. So here are my Dumb Top Five predictions for SWTOR in 2018.

Faction, Schmaction

The most interesting choice in the War for Iokath story was getting to ally with either the Republic or Sith regardless of your actual faction. My Bounty Hunter had long felt on the wrong side of things, so it was very satisfying when she was presented with the opportunity to stick it to the Sith Empire. So far this choice hasn’t affected anything outside of Iokath, but this year, if we’re really moving back towards a Republic vs. Sith dynamic, let’s crank the faction choice knob all the way to eleven. Let’s have Sith chilling on Tython before they hunt down the remnants of the Dark Council; Jedi on Dromund Kaas meditating on how to overthrow the Republic; and Smugglers and Agents going wherever the heck they want. I have no idea what impact faction switching would have on grouping, guilds and PVP, I’m just making the predictions. I leave logistics to the people who know what they’re doing.

Legacy Avengers

One of the things I like about SWTOR is the notion that all eight of the original class stories happened in parallel and occasionally crossed over into each other. The Jedi Knight inadvertently created a job opening for the Sith Warrior, Mako and Kaliyo popped by other classes’ stories, and the Republic and Sith characters probably just missed bumping into each other on Makeb. The introduction of the Legacy family tree cemented in my mind the hope that one day my characters would actually get to meet “on screen.” Who wouldn’t want to watch their Smuggler flirt with their Consular, and their Agent butt heads with their Inquisitor? Again, details are for little people. I just want to see Havoc Squad, the Jedi Battlemaster, the Barsen’thor, and the Butcher’s Bane assemble to fight some massive threat to the galaxy, or a least a giant laser beam shooting from the sky.

True Romance

Speaking of the original stories, the choice of which companion was adventuring with the hero was usually up to the players. Starting with Knights of the Fallen Empire, the story nearly always dictates which companion is along for the ride. I don’t mind this since forcing interactions with different personalities is a good way to explore your own character’s… character, but it’s also nice to adventure with your best bud or main squeeze. While I trust that the drip of returning companion will become a torrent this year, I do hope that the romances are not shoved aside in the name of getting everyone back into the Crew Skill Queue. Hopefully the romances won’t just be a couple lines of dialogue here and there, but a whole story or chapter where the Outlander and their lover (whoever it is) have an adventure together. Obviously there ought to be a little bit of mushy stuff, but the focus should be on banter (the cheesier the better) and rescuing each other from improbable danger while reaffirming how awesome each other are.

All You Need is Porg

We need Porg pets, obviously, with flying and waddling variants, of course. A Porg combat companion to help with dailies speaks for itself. I expect a Porg Swarm regen toy that calls down a tornado of Porgs to swirl around my character. Not enough Porgs for you? Don’t worry; I’m just getting started. I demand an assault cannon that fires rocket propelled, armor-piercing Porgs at my foes. And if my Operations team is not fighting a fifty-foot tall, dread-corrupted Porg by the end of the expansion, I’ll consider the year a failure. Get on it, Bioware!

Assault Cannons, Dualsabers and Rifles, Oh My!

The quality of cut scenes in Knights of the Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne has been excellent and really showcase how cool Bioware can make our characters look. However, one thing hasn’t changed over the years. Whenever a Trooper or an Agent needs a weapon in a cut scene, they drop their bad-ass assault cannons and rifles, and instead draw the same dinky pistols they’ve had since level one. As for Shadows and Assassins, holding their dualsabers like a single saber often leads to some very awkward moments of potential self-mutilation. Let 2018 be the year we start seeing the complete variety of weapons that we have in play in the story’s cut scenes.

This post has been especially silly, but this last point is one thing I really do hope to see sooner rather than later. I realize this is also no small request. They’d be going from animating two types of weapons in cut scenes to as many as five (or even seven if they include dual wielders). But I think it would be worth it. Whether you dumped a bucket of credits on the GTN, burned all your cartel coins on the CM, busted your hump to earn it in game or even if you just like the quest reward you got back on Ord or Hutta, everyone should get to show off their favorite toy when the game is working its hardest to show off what it can do.

Well, that was pretty easy. While I expect to go zero for five again this year, you can rest assured that if I somehow back into getting even one thing right this time around, I’ll be claiming all the credit. All right, 2018, let’s do it!

 

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The Last Jedi Review

I’ll come right to the point. I loved The Last Jedi. Maybe it’s not a great movie, but it’s a great Star Wars movie. I think it’s the best looking one of the whole lot. Obviously, the Ramming Speed! collision is a show stopper, but the white and red salt flats, Snoke’s throne room and Luke’s island are all beautifully realized set pieces. All the performances are good, and Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver do a terrific job holding the center of the story together.

Beyond that, the movie really pushes the characters to grow. One of the things I like about The Force Awakens is that it took the character types from Star Wars, but mixed them up. Poe thinks he’s the Han Solo, but he’s really Princess Leia, and in The Last Jedi Leia herself is kicking his ass to make him accept that truth. Our heroes eventually figure things out, but not by succeeding. Pretty much every plan made in this movie falls apart, but Rey, Finn, Poe and even Ben take their lumps and get back up again. I don’t know if Rose has a story arc, but I don’t care, she’s adorable.

As for Luke, the embittered old hermit, I buy it completely. I’ve always seen Luke as a loner; this is something I don’t think the Expanded Universe ever really got right, so I don’t think it’s out of character for him to retreat to the kind of life he saw Obi-Wan and Yoda living when things went bad. In Return of the Jedi, Luke’s heroic act is rejecting both Yoda and Obi-Wan’s urging to kill Vader and the temptation to the Dark Side. That he struggles to keep his own standards as a teacher is Old Luke’s tragic flaw, and it seems to me that Rian Johnson wants to call out Luke in a way that Obi-Wan and Yoda never were, and to force Luke to take responsibility for failing Ben instead of letting Rey do his dirty work.

I think that Leia was handled much better here than in The Force Awakens (or Return of the Jedi for that matter). I really believed she was leading this rebellion and not just a figurehead in the room. And her big moment seems to me to be the most impressive thing we’ve ever seen done with the Force in any of the movies. If we have to say good-bye to Carrie Fisher, I’m glad it was this way.

It’s not without flaws to be sure. By breaking up the band, the easy rapport between Poe and Finn and Rey, which was such a big part of what made The Force Awakens so enjoyable, feels like a missing piece. There are lots of characters, ideas and stories flying around here, and maybe some of it could’ve been trimmed. This density causes The Last Jedi to not have the same momentum as other Star Wars films, but, it does allow room to explore the Force more than any other movie in the series. And if the Canto Bight section drags, I’m willing to forgive it because it sets up the film’s coda. I think the scene with the kids is not only one of my favorite parts of the movie, but one of the best Star Wars moments ever.

Ultimately, The Last Jedi just works for me. It leaves me wanting more, but also feels complete in its own right. I like and care about Rey, Finn, Poe and Rose. I understand and pity Ben, I mourn the loss of Luke and Holdo. And Carrie. We should remember the truth of them as people, but we should also print the legend.

With that, I’ll bid adieu to 2017. I want to thank everyone for visiting and every bit of feedback from a like on Twitter to an award on reddit. I appreciate it all. Have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!

 

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Got Blue Milk?

This week, let’s revisit two vivid posters that can be seen adorning Nar Shaddaa’s Huttball arena and several kiosks found on Carrick Station. I had given these a look back when I transated another pair of similar advertisements, but I decided to punt them down the road for reasons I’ll go into below.

These graphics recently reappeared in A Traitor Among the Chiss on the planet Copero as handles on bar taps. The colorful nature of these graphics make them appropriate for anything from Space Mountain Dew to Grape Fizzy Glug.

However, these posters show the danger in working with fake space letters that simply don’t translate into English. The bright green poster on the left combines two different alien languages: Huttese for the bold cyan letters in the foreground, and Futhork for the yellow letters in the back.

The Huttese font first appeared in the pod racing sequence of The Phantom Menace and has appeared in other Star Wars games beyond The Old Republic. While some Huttese such as graffiti in the Black Sun sector of Coruscant and the sign above Hutta departures gate of the Imperial Fleet can be translated into English, this particular example cannot. I doubt the letters have any specific meaning in the game, and simply may have been selected for how cool they look.

And I have no problem with that. It can be easily justified by assuming the writing is meant to be read as Huttese instead of English or Galactic Standard. And when designing typography with alien languages, the priority should be in how the final result looks rather than how it reads. Indeed, the Huttese font itself is a designer’s nightmare. Several of the letters use the exact same glyph, but simply flipped or rotated in different directions. If you wanted to write “Porg” in Huttese, all four letters of the word would share the same shape, with each letter oriented differently, and one having an extra accent. I’m quite certain that Hutts across the galaxy have a good laugh every time some poor soul tries to puzzle out their nigh unreadable language.

The poster also contains some Futhork writing. Although they are hard to make out in my translation, the exact same arrangement of letters can be found in another poster that can be seen on Nar Shaddaa and Corellia.

Next up is a purple sign written in Trade Federation Basic, which, like Huttese, was created for Episode I. As with the previous poster, this one does not have a meaningful translation. I suspect the glyphs used were selected not for any meaning but for how they fit into the poster’s design. For my version, I faithfully translated the letters, but adjusted their orientation to maintain the poster’s horizontal and vertical symmetry.

Even though these signs may not translate into English, it is to the designer’s credit that their meaning is obvious. If you should catch sight of them in the cantina in the Copero flashpoint and find yourself craving a refreshing energy drink or an ice-cold pop, then they’ve done their work!

 

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Three Tomatoes

First, gentle reader, let me apologize for my lack of posts over the last month. Life has been particularly life-like lately and something had to give. I hope to be more productive in the weeks ahead.

November and December saw two major game updates, and in the interest of playing “ketchup”, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on both.

5.5: United Forces

This update was probably a much bigger deal on Bioware’s end than the players’. Indeed, I suspect the goal was that the server mergers have as little impact on the players as possible. From my perspective, I think they more or less accomplished that. Everything was where I left it prior to the merger and I didn’t lose any names I cared about. Even looking over my guild’s roster, fewer folks lost names than I would’ve predicted. I know there were some issues with Legacy banks that took a little extra resolving, but I tip my helmet to the folks at Bioware for making the mergers a remarkably smooth process.

The crowds on fleet after the patch were quite the sight, something not seen since the earliest days of the game. And while things have settled down since, I’m definitely seeing more action when it comes to group activity. I’m even getting pops and seeing ops groups form very late at night. So far so good!

That said, discovering that SWTOR no longer has a US West Coast server was an unpleasant surprise. I don’t fault Keith Kanneg or anyone on the community team for this, and given how they were talking about the east and west coast servers up until just before the update, I wonder when even they got the news.

Clearly this was a decision made well above their pay grade. I cannot deny the feeling that if the money people aren’t confident enough in SWTOR to fund a west coast server, why should the player base feel any better about the game’s future? I know bashing EA is and has been all the rage, so rather than just pile on, I’ll just cast that little bit of shade and move on.

5.6: A Traitor Among the Chiss

Last week’s game update’s biggest feature was the flashpoint A Traitor Among the Chiss. It’s easy to discuss this flashpoint without spoiling anything since it doesn’t do too much to advance the story. We do get at least two bits of important information, but the focus of this adventure is spending time with the Chiss and exploring the world Copero.

And what a world Copero is! This is probably one of the most beautiful settings in the game. The flashpoint is divided into three distinct and wonderfully designed areas: starting with the sunset and vistas of the resort town, through to a cavernous and dark factory and finally to the climax atop a picturesque, snowcapped mountain.

I suspect that this flashpoint was originally intended to be a story chapter like those in KotFE and KotET. The length and pacing feel very much in line with “Profit and Plunder” or “Mandalore’s Revenge.” And I’m very much okay with that if it means getting to tour one of the worlds and culture of one of Star Wars‘ favorite aliens.

I don’t think the “War for Iokath” story gave Elara’s return as much attention as it deserved, so I liked actually getting to spend time with Ensign Temple as a guide through the story. I did make the common mistake of running the flashpoint on Story instead of Solo mode, but at least on my second try I remembered to bring some companion gifts for Temple to make the second pass a bit smoother.

The boss fights themselves are pretty neat with some dynamic mechanics. I haven’t had a chance to try them on Master Mode, but I’m certain they won’t be easy.

I’m also pleased that the loot table of the flashpoint is filled with two neat armor sets and a ton of nice decorations. And while I work on crafting gold augments, I’ll take purple ones in the meantime. I’m glad to have incentive to return to Copero again!

On the negative side of things, Traitor is one of the longest flashpoints and the amount of trash mobs and their abilities can make the first section feel like a slog. Honestly, if I wanted to be constantly dealing with stuns, stealthers and immunity bubbles, I’d PVP.

My final nitpick is in regards to Temple’s abilities. She has returned with the standard array that nearly all tech companions have, but has lost the Force attack she originally had (although she still uses the voice emote that went along with it). I’ve touched on this before, but I really do think the various weapon options and abilities that many companions used to have should be restored to them. Nadia and Bowdaar could send enemies flying through the air. Heck, Blizz used to pack a freakin’ rocket launcher! That stuff was fun and cool. With so many companions available to us now, let’s see variety in their abilities to help set them apart.

Finally, the Gods from the Machine operation unveiled its third encounter, Nahut, Son of Shadow. It’s another good one, with atmosphere to spare and some neat mechanics. The wait between bosses can feel unending sometimes, but I don’t deny that I’ve really enjoyed learning each of these fights.

I was hoping to conclude that SWTOR is ending the year on a high note, and, in terms of new content, I think it is, but then an exploit emerged up and pumped billions of credits into the game economy. By now the exploited credits have long since been laundered through the GTN and guild and legacy banks. While I’m sure some folks who took advantage will be punished, the damage has already been done. These things seem to pop up at least once per expansion, and it’s incredibly frustrating to watch bush league mistakes happen again and again. The main result is that any player who engages in the game economy through the GTN is negatively affected and will see their credits have less and less value. So cheers to that.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, KotET

These Astro-Droids Are Getting Quite Out of Hand

This time around we return to Coruscant and a poster featuring an astromech droid, surely the most beloved and indefatigable model of robot in all Star Wars lore.

This is one of many signs whose prominent use of Mern, the Aurebesh “M” immediately marks it as an advertisement for the Coruscant Marketplace. Aside from the large M glyph, this signs shares elements with other advertisements: the double Mern, for example, appears in other posters we’ve seen around the galaxy.

In addition, the circular icon seen faintly in the center, dark gray panel is used on the high-tech banners or street signs that delineate the Old Galactic Marketplace neighborhood of Coruscant.

I think it’s pretty neat to see so many posters and ads, which may seem different and alien at first glance, were clearly designed to share the kind of common branding that we might recognize on our own advertising soaked world.

Finally, while preparing this post I recalled yet another sign that I covered back in the earliest days of this blog that also showcases a droid. To be perfectly honest, my original recreation is pretty much rubbish, so I decided to go all George Lucas on it and give it the Special Edition that every Gonk droid deserves. I think my second try turned out a bit better.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English