Beach Front Property

This week I’d like to share my first impressions of the Rishi stronghold. I hesitate to call this a review because I’ve only scratched the surface of all the spaces this stronghold has to explore. The stronghold lag bug meant I did very little with it the first week, and even though I spent a couple hours decorating this week, I’m still only at 12% completion as I write this.

This is fine by me. I very much enjoy the zen of decorating. For the Manaan stronghold I had a good sense of what I wanted to do with each area from the get go and most of the rooms were blocked out quickly. But I expect Rishi will be more like how I decorated Yavin, a process that took almost a year as I played with different options and furnished areas around brand new or old weird decorations.

The first stronghold change I want to mention actually happened earlier this year with the update to Conquest: the separation of the total stronghold completion percentage from the bonus granted from completing Conquest objectives. Removing the incentive to chase 100% completion has been a real boon. Even before the maximum number of hooks on Manaan was increased, my stronghold there was stuck around 75% complete, but it still felt overly cluttered. Now, I can declare a room done when I’m happy with it, not when I’ve maximized its usage of hooks.

Moreover, if in the weeks or months to come, I get a fancy new decoration, it’s nice knowing that I still have plenty of hooks left to place it on. I love my Nar Shaddaa stronghold but adding even one deco means removing another, and that can throw a whole room into chaos. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but I think it’s easier to balance the Force than find the proper ratio of tables to chairs.

The Rishi stronghold has several new features that we’ve not seen before. The most prominent is, of course, the PVP zones, and I’m impressed with how well they’ve implemented them with team colors, score keeping, spectating, and custom decorations for the pitch. I don’t know how much actual PVP I’ll do in my stronghold, but having the option to mess around with my friends whenever we want is pretty cool.

There are also other little things of note. That a dozen of my favorite pets eagerly watch while I beat up a target dummy makes parsing just a little more fun. And let’s not forget Speedy the Turtle who is the first unique inhabitant of a stronghold. I’d still like to see a Force ghost haunting Yavin, but watching Speedy trundle by while I chill out on the beach makes me smile every time.

And if Speedy doesn’t bring you joy, you can kill him dead. The inclusion of secret achievements and earnable legacy titles exclusive to the stronghold has been another fine addition. I don’t know if we’ll see full on questing in a stronghold (I can arm-chair-develop a dozen quest suggestions at the drop of a hat), but seeing the stronghold concept change from something static to something approaching dynamic is pretty neat, and I hope Bioware keeps exploring new ideas for things players can do in them.

There is one new feature that I discovered just last week: light switches in the rooms of the Overlook. I don’t know if it was a simple change, but it’s a subtle one that can totally alter the character of a room. It’s not quite the day-night cycles I’d have liked to see in all strongholds, but I really do like this addition!

Finally, the team at Bioware must get props for the agile response to player feedback they received from the PTS. The removal of clutter, the change of the color of the sand, and the addition of the overlook rooms are just three of the changes that came about because of requests from the players. I understand some of the fixes required herculean effort from the designers, but it has truly made for a better stronghold.

If your favorite stronghold is the front room on Coruscant or Dromund Kaas with the GTN, mailbox, a vendor and your banks all crammed within arms reach of the zone-in spot, then Rishi is an easy pass, but if finding the right rug to tie a room together, being the captain of a space-pirate ship or grabbing some rays on the beach are a few of your goals in life, it’s worth the credits.

 

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One Truth

This week, let’s take a look at the obelisk that dominates the great hall of the Sith Academy on Korriban. This pointed monolith has four faces with a swirling mass of twisted visages on two sides and a repeated Aurebesh inscription on the others.

While most players likely first encountered this monument on Korriban it is also available as a stronghold decoration. The currency needed to purchase it can be rarely found in the Korriban Incursion and Assault on Tython flashpoints. When my guild unlocked our Sith faction Guild Ship, several of us pooled our hard-won Recovered Relics to purchase the obelisk decoration. Unfortunately, the obelisk is very tall, taller even than the ceiling of the command deck on which we had hoped to display it. Instead we placed a more appropriately sized decoration, and the obelisk gathered dust in storage until the guild purchased the new Rishi Stronghold.

While Rishi may not be the most thematically appropriate spot for such a decoration, it was a relief to be able to erect the obelisk in a spot that won’t cause it to poke through the floor into the deck above.

The other benefit of displaying it on Rishi is that it’s a bit easier to decipher than in its usual spot in the mist-shrouded hall on Korriban, and so my translation and recreation was done in comfort on Rishi’s sandy, sunny beach.

A viewer might think that the monument records the principles of a Sith lord from the distant past. Instead, it does quite the opposite! The words were actually spoken by Darth Maul in a television ad for The Phantom Menace. Regardless of how or whether one might want to explain this rip in the time space-continuum, Maul’s “tone poem” is indeed appropriate for such a colossal sculpture.

The base of the obelisk is similar to the bases of glowing red and green triangular Sith holocrons found in ancient, Dark Side ruins from Korriban to Oricon. The Aurebesh at the base of the obelisk reads “Fear in power”, and it matches well with the holocrons that read “Power in fear.” This is exactly the kind of circular logic that appeals to the Sith and is nice design touch to tie these monuments together.

 

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SWTORbringers

This week, I thought I’d take a look at the notorious MMO cinematic in which the leader of the traditionally “evil” faction and their associates stage a brutal attack on a beloved stronghold of the opposing faction. As the leader’s eyes glow red, they slaughter their enemies and leave the site a burning, destroyed ruin.

But enough about Darth Malgus, let’s talk about Shae Vizla. The Deceived cinematic, released nearly a decade ago, was Shae’s introduction to Star Wars lore, and she remains a popular character years later. In the space of this scene, she deploys all the gadgets and weapons you’d expect from a Mandalorian hunter including this pop-up display:

Based on information from my translation, I surmise that Shae had sliced into Coruscant’s space traffic control to track the arrival and explosive entrance of the Sith’s stolen transport. The display indicates that Malgus’ deception was successful, and that the Republic never saw the attack coming.

The Aurebesh text contains some awkward grammar and a misspelling or two, and I’ve tried to keep my translation as faithful as possible. In addition, it seems like the text in the right hand column was truncated mid-word. This could easily be chalked up as panic from the controller as they realized what is about to happen or that their feed had been hacked. The version of the Aurebesh font used here includes numbers that match our Hindu-Arabic numerals, and I did not bother “translating” all of those.

Falling From a Great Height is Never Fatal

Speaking of Malgus, SWTOR’s next expansion looms in the hopefully not-too-distant future. While not much is known, Bioware has indicated that we’ll be returning to a story based on the war between the Republic and the Sith Empire. As part of that, there has been speculation that this renewed focus on the game’s original conflict might also signal the return of Darth Malgus, perhaps as leader of the Sith Empire or an antagonist for both factions.

On the one hand, I am totally on Team Malgus. He’s my favorite of SWTOR’s many Darths, and had most of my Sith characters been given the chance they would’ve gladly joined his New Empire on Ilum. I take the original iteration of the False Emperor flashpoint as canon, and there is plenty of precedent in Star Wars for Sith lords surviving exactly the kind of defeat Malgus saw there. Moreover, there is the infamous moment cut from the Sacrifice cinematic that revealed that Arcann and Thexan had taken Malgus’ carbonite frozen body as a trophy. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Malgus remains on the minds of the folks in Austin.

That said, between the Shadow of Revan expansion starting with the return of Revan and ending with the return of the Sith Emperor, and Darth Maul’s equally improbable return to popular consciousness just this summer in Solo, I wonder if maybe we’ve been there and done that already.

So I’m split and give it an even chance that he’ll be back. Star Wars needs good Dark Side villains, and he certainly fits the bill, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with someone new.

 

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In the Pink

I thought this one would be easy. I really did.  I had planned to post this recreation during the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event since this neon sign can be seen around the moon’s Promenade and casinos. Clearly, I’m late to the party.

The challenge of this recreation was not in the translation. Like many similar signs, it seems to be a collection of random letters in which I’ve long since given up attempting to find meaning.

At first glance, one might think this sign is written in Aurebesh. Technically, however, it uses Galactic Basic, a font that, like Aurebesh, was inspired by the script used on monitors in Return of the Jedi. Galactic Basic is actually more accurate to what can be seen in the movie, but Aurebesh was codified in official sources first and has since become the official version of the language.

The center logo, the inset letters on the upper left and the two repeating glyphs on the bottom are all written using Galactic Basic. The orange tinted letters in the next-to-bottom row are rendered in the Atrsian font. Like Aurebesh, this font has a tangled history. It also can be glimpsed in Return of the Jedi, and was featured in several early Lucasarts games.

My guess is that all these fake space letters were meant to be parts of the same “language” but because they were fleshed out separately, they all became individual fonts and scripts. I’m certain that had high definition screen captures and copious reference materials been around three decades ago, the current landscape of Star Wars’ written word would be very different!

The use of Atrisian is not an usual sight in SWTOR. This script can be seen not only in signs on Nar Shaddaa, but also carved in the ancient ruins of the Rakata on Belsavis. It’s amusing to think the same glyphs that adorned the great works of a long lost civilization are still emblazoned in neon around the galactic underworld.

The large logo in the center is what caused me the most trouble. The repeated letter rotating around the center translates to J, but I’d wager it was not selected because of any particular meaning but because of how the alien glyph maintains its symmetry in the arrangement. The English J, however, is not quite so accommodating and I tried many variations, fonts and even custom letters attempting to replicate the original layout. In the end I realized I was overthinking the problem, and took inspiration from the actual design. Reshaping the glyph to resemble a J more or less did the trick. I don’t think my recreation is as stylish as the original, but it’s close enough that I hope it gets the idea across.

Living Large on the PTS

Despite having played since launch, last week was my very first visit to SWTOR’s test server. I cannot deny it was fun to get an early peek at the Rishi stronghold and queue up for Saturday’s PVP test.

My first impression of the Rishi stronghold is quite good. I think they are aiming to address the major complaints regarding the previous strongholds on Umbara and Manaan. Unlike Umbara’s train, Rishi has a large variety of environments to explore and decorate, from the massive pirate airship to the beach and the cove. It also looks like they are paying more attention to how decorating hooks are being used. As much as I love Manaan, the widely spread out hooks and limited choices of what hooks are even available has been a source of frustration. Rishi seems to have a larger variety of hooks, placed closer together so that decorators will be able to create areas with more cohesion.

The PVP areas are a gimmick to be sure. But it’s a cool gimmick. And even if I’m just using it every once in a while, I’m fine with that.  As with the addition of target dummies, having more stuff to do in our strongholds is something I’m glad to see. I hope they continue to explore more ideas in the future. Maybe there could be a special boss on the pirate ship that can only be summoned during the Bounty Broker event, or a stronghold zombie survival mode in which the beach is swarmed during the Rakghoul Resurgence. Armchair developing is easy! But, hey, I can dream, can’t I?

I also participated in Saturday’s PVP testing during the morning and evening sessions. I don’t PVP a whole lot so take these comments with a grain of salt.

For the most part it seemed like the matchmaking worked. There were a ton of healers in the morning queue, but the teams had even numbers. The matches with three healers per side tended to stalemate; I imagine with a larger pool of dps that wouldn’t happen as much. I did notice that backfilling in arenas would not always keep the tank/healer balance, but I guess filling empty spots quickly might be more important.

I thought the Mandalorian arena was pretty cool. All my matches there were fought on the top level, so I don’t know if the lower ring or tunnel will see much action.

I ran four Voidstars during the day, and aside from the one with six healers, they definitely went faster. Once the first door opens, the other matches became a race to the finish, which I consider an improvement.

Overall, I went 7 and 6, which I rate a smashing success and had a really good time. It seems like most folks were there to poke around and have some low stakes fun. It was neat to cross paths with some SWTOR celebrities, and I like to think my healer saved a dev or two from certain death once or twice during the day.

I’m definitely in the camp that is happy to see the return of open PTS testing. That the good folks at Bioware have been quick to implement changes that have come from feedback has been great to see. I hope to visit the test server more in the future.

 

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A Rose By Any Other Name

This week I want to cover a few topics related to Star Wars, fandom and a bit of Aurebesh too.

Why I Love Rose

It’s not for nothing that we meet Paige Tico first. Paige is a bad ass. Under the worst possible conditions, she keeps her shit together and gets the job done. When it comes to the Tico sisters, she is the cool one. She’s a fighter jock; she gets to hang with Poe Dameron. We all know which table Paige sits at. When we meet Rose a little later, she’s been assigned the glorious task of guarding escape pods.

No one wants to think the annoying little sister can be the hero. We’re supposed to want our Star Wars heroes to be quick with a one liner like Han Solo, wear sweet armor like Boba Fett, and blast stormtroopers like Princess Leia. Rose is too earnest for a snappy comeback, wears a frumpy jumpsuit, and isn’t much of a shot (aside from poor Finn, I guess). Some have complained that Finn and Rose accomplished nothing on Canto Bight. I disagree; maybe their plan to disable the First Order’s hyperspace tracking was a bust, but that’s not all they did. In passing on her ring to the broom kid, Rose kept alive the spark that’ll light the fire of the Jedi again. Small victories matter. They may even matter more than big ones. And if nothing else, Rose and Finn tore that place up, and gave those shit-heels a bad day. Because fuck those guys. Fuck them.

I get it; we all want to be cool like Paige. But we’re not. We’re Rose. Most of us don’t get to be played by an actor as charming and enthusiastic as Kelly Marie Tran, but, like Rose, we can step up and be heroes too if we want to. We can save what we love. Paige knew it. In her last moments, she didn’t flip off the First Order or make a dumb joke. She thought of her sister.

I have debated all aspects of Star Wars endlessly with friends whom I greatly respect and whose opinions differ greatly from mine. I doubt there is a long time fan who has not been disappointed by Star Wars at some point in their fandom, but Star Wars is so big and means so many different things to so many different people, that no one should get to say what the litmus test for being a real fan is. Sadly, fans acting like hateful, spoiled shit birds is nothing new, but it seems like social media is only capable of amplifying stupid rage these days. Anyone who feels better spewing bile at real people for daring to try to entertain them or goes looking for conspiracy theories in mass market, space adventure stories has clearly taken the wrong lessons from Star Wars.

It’s okay to stop liking Star Wars. Heck, I checked out during the the latter days of the Expanded Universe. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have revitalized my interest, but I’m fully prepared to move on once the Game of Thrones guys take over. If they make a movie I don’t like, I’ll get over it like a fucking adult.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

I kinda hoped waiting a week might give me some unique insight into Solo: A Star Wars Story, but I don’t have anything profound to say. I found it a perfectly fun summer movie with charismatic actors doing exciting things and having a grand ol’ time. It doesn’t have much depth, but I wasn’t expecting it to; I’m not sure I even wanted it to. In many ways it felt like a Fast and Furious or Mission: Impossible movie, except, y’know, in space. Whether you find that a ringing endorsement or a damning condemnation probably will indicate how you’ll feel about Solo. I had a good time. I think it’ll it hold up better than Rogue One and is a perfectly good way to waste a couple of hours on a hot afternoon.

I’ll leave the speculation about why it has not performed like gangbusters to the experts except to say that I think it’s probably for the best that we’re in for a year and a half wait until the next Star Wars movie.

Sometimes It’s All I Think About

Longtime readers will recognize this image from a previous post, but if I’ve learned anything from George Lucas it is that it’s never too late to make changes. After three attempts I think I’ve finally arrived at my “original vision.”

I was prompted to revisit this poster after it was added as a stronghold decoration available to players who complete their weekly Conquest goal. The advertisement’s tag line is in the center of the graphic, and there is additional text at the bottom and vertically oriented along one side. The Aurebesh itself is reversed so it must be read right to left (although my recreation reads normally). Curiously, the decoration version of this poster differs from the one seen around the galaxy. The poster’s frame is reversed, but the image itself remains “backwards.” The result of this is that much of the text along the vertical edge of the picture is hidden in the stronghold version.

Nevertheless, I was determined to put this one to rest and finally translate the faint, vertical text that had vexed me previously. It took a bit of digital jiggery-pokery before the letters finally came into focus. The image above is a peek at my work file; sometimes these translations really do take more a bit doing than you might think.

Next time, something new! And fewer f-bombs, probably.

 

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Revenge, Money or Something Else

Even though it’s been with some nervousness, I have been looking forward to the release Solo: A Star Wars Story. So I thought I’d mark the opening day of the movie with a different kind of Aurebesh recreation.

Rather than translate something from Aurebesh into English, let’s try it the other way around!

It’s obvious to me that the controversial Solo teaser posters were directly inspired by/ripped off from a series album covers designed by Hachim Bahous for Sony Music. On the one hand, it’s a terrific design, but it’s laughable that whoever was responsible for the plagiarism thought that no one would notice. I hope Bahous and his team received significant apologies and compensation from Lucasfilm.

For my version, I made sure to include elements from Bahous’ design to pay tribute to his work, but with a SWTOR spin. To be honest, I originally hoped to feature Malgus or Satele, but their names were just too long. Good ol’ Darth Marr, however, was a much better fit.

Here’s to what will hopefully be a fun time at the movies this weekend!

 

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Summertime Blues

Just a few hours after my last post, Keith Kanneg shared SWTOR’s Summer 2018 Roadmap. I’m not usually one for hot takes, but, what the heck, I’ll give it a go.

I don’t do a ton of PVP these days, but cross-faction grouping, a new Huttball map and the ability to exclude certain types of matches all sound pretty good to me. I prefer objective based PVP, so if I can queue knowing that I won’t get dropped into an arena with three strangers against a pre-made, I’d play more.

On the PVE side, there isn’t much. I’m always up for a new stronghold, but that’s about it until the fall. Welcome to the content drought of 2018.

My first guess is that they’re giving World of Warcraft’s new expansion a wide berth, which, honestly, doesn’t strike me as a bad idea. In addition, Keith Kanneg recently raised the question of how folks want to receive SWTOR content: in smaller, more regular updates (which seems to have been the model for KotET) or in larger full fledged expansions. I hope they’re leaning towards the latter model now, which sadly means having to bide time until stuff comes together. I’m not psyched, but this isn’t my first MMO, and I’ve seen things like this before. If this is the cost for getting story updates that last longer than 5 minutes and not having to wait months between raid bosses, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Besides, it’s the summer, there is plenty of other stuff to do. Time to get some sun!

 

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That’s What They Want You to Think

I was out of town when Game Update 5.9 launched, so this review is coming a little late, but I’d like to share some impressions. Between the excellent Izax encounter in Gods from the Machine and now The Nathema Conspiracy, the last couple of patches have been pretty good for group content.

Nathema is easily the strongest of Knight of the Eternal Throne’s three new flashpoints. It’s not as high concept as Crisis on Umbara or as beautiful as Traitor Among the Chiss, but it hits every mark when it comes to pacing, rewards and fun boss fights.

The flashpoint offers plenty of loot including more than a dozen new decorations, a unique armor set and even a brand new droid companion, all of which are available to all players regardless of skill level.

Nathema’s master mode also feels appropriately balanced for what I expect from a hard mode flashpoint. Thankfully, it’s neither as as brutal as Umbara nor the trash-fest that Copero can be. As long as the group can pay attention to a few mechanics, it’s perfectly doable in a reasonable amount of time by a decently geared team.

Visually, once again the artists at Bioware have created another wonderful environment to explore. Nathema’s landscape is at first familiar from our first visit, but we quickly discover that Valkorion’s death has brought the planet back to life before we finally descend into one of the Emperor’s baroque and spooky crypts.

I should also discuss the events of the story, so spoilers ahead. Unlike the previous chapters, a lot happens here. Things get started with a quick visit to an abandoned Imperial listening post. Exploring dark, deserted ships is something that happens a lot in SWTOR, but it’s almost always done well, so it’s a setting I don’t mind revisiting from time to time.

The story doesn’t waste our time before letting us know that Theron’s betrayal was only for show so that he could infiltrate the Order of Zildrog. This was foreshadowed from the beginning so I’m cool with this result. The real focus of the story belongs to the villains: Vinn Atrius and GEMINI16.  I think the writers did an excellent job with them. Atrius is remarkably fleshed out and sympathetic for a one-off antagonist. In many ways, he’s right; things on Zakuul did get a whole lot worse after the Outlander showed up.

And I also can’t complain about him objecting to my character’s sparing Arcann either. It’s one of those decisions I wish the game had fleshed out more. My character spared Arcann because I believe in mercy, but I still consider him a war criminal. In my head cannon, Arcann is under house arrest on Odessen, but from Vinn’s perspective, the guy who brought the war right to Zakuul’s doorstep got off scott free. I’d be pissed too.

The story also wraps up the GEMINI storyline. The SCORPIO parts of the Eternal Empire saga were some of my favorites (I’d love see KotFE and KotET told from SCORPIO’s point of view because she is so clearly the hero of her own story), but no matter what choices you make, it’s certainly a tragedy for the GEMINIs. I’d like to think that some of the GEMINIs freed during The GEMINI Deception are still out there, but that may not be the case.

I’m not the first the say this, but Nathema is all about clearing the decks in preparation for the next big story arc. The Eternal Fleet is destroyed, the Eternal Alliance will soon be folded into the Republic or Sith Empire, and we’re not too likely to visit Zakuul again. It looks like Lana is the only character left who is certain to be around for what’s to come.

From a storytelling standpoint, I can see why this is necessary. Bioware has done a good job lately letting new and returning players jump back into the current story without forcing them to catch up through stuff that may not interest them, and while launching Knights of the Fallen Empire with a five year jump did the trick there, dealing with the players’ status as Alliance Commander needed more work.

I may devote another post to my thoughts about the missed opportunity that was the Eternal Alliance and why I’m not as excited about a return to the Republic vs. Empire dynamic, but for now I’ll just finish up with the one part of The Nathema Conspiracy that did disappoint me: the destruction of the Gravestone. I loved that hunk of junk; it’s a cool mix of the Millennium Falcon, Serenity, Space Battleship Yamato, and a haunted house. I’m honestly bummed it won’t be a part of the action going forward, and instead got swept up in the rest of Nathema’s house-cleaning. Given the big role the Gravestone played in the whole Eternal Empire story, I think she deserved better.

But that, for me, is the only sour note of a flashpoint which I think stands among SWTOR’s best. Whether you play solo or with friends, definitely check it out.

Many Happy Returns

Game Update 5.9 also marks the first time I’ve been able to play one of the recent companion reunion missions. The two characters I’ve completed the story on are my Consular and my Bounty Hunter so each of them had a companion waiting for them. I’ve seen these missions very accurately described as short and sweet, and I cannot disagree.

On the one hand, it was really nice hearing my characters speak dialogue that was written specifically for them for a change. And catching up with Felix and Mako was most welcome.

But, yeah, they are short, really short. I realize at this point, Bioware just wants to get these long over due reunions out of the way, but it’s a drag that major companions are returning with less gameplay than Broonmark’s recruitment alert. It’s a shame Mako and Akaavi won’t get the Profit and Plunder treatment, or that my Sage could not have led the mission to rescue Felix from imprisonment. Clearly the companion thing is something that got away from the developers, but I hope it’s something Bioware doesn’t overlook again. However, with so many favorites and possible pairings, that’s a lot of plates to keep spinning, and I don’t envy them that herculean task.

We’ve reached the end of SWTOR’s latest road map, so it’s now time to wait and see. A new expansion means a host of new possibilities. I’m curious to see what comes next!

 

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They Call Me The Seeker

I had expected to take this week off on account of some travel and the delay to Game Update 5.9, but I came across a thread on the r/swtor subreddit asking about one of the face paint customization options available to Human Bounty Hunters. The user was curious about their meaning, and I thought I’d offer my two credits. I recognized the writing as Huttese and took a crack at translating it. It turns out this is a rare case of Huttese that can be read in English. Moreover the translation seems appropriate for the bounty hunter class for which it is intended. Confident in my translation, I figured I might as well follow up with a recreation.

I’ve discussed the challenges of interpreting the Huttese font before, and this sample is not without its own idiosyncrasies. The process of transforming the words into tattoos and textures distorted many of the letters, and the “o” in “destroy” is particularly mangled, but I think it’s a safe choice based on the context.

While preparing screen shots I noticed this face paint option also includes on the neck a third word whose translation was trickier. I did some poking around and came across a post on SWTOR’s forums which beat me to the punch in translating these tattoos by four years. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but it’s nice when my interpretation is confirmed by someone else.

I basically agree with my fellow translator, since “spacer” makes more sense than anything else I’d suggest, but the Huttese letters are so distorted that I’d almost say that it could also be read as “shader.” However, I wouldn’t bet on it.

As for The Nathema Conspiracy, hopefully I’ll be able to avoid spoilers until I get back next week. Wish me luck!

 

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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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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General Star Wars, My Artwork