Bright Light City Gonna Set My Soul On Fire

This week, inspired by the return of the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event, I thought I’d take a look at a pair of the many neon signs that light up the night on the Smuggler’s Moon, focusing on two that are prominently displayed in the Club Vertica Casino.

This sign is written using Naboo’s Futhork font, and variations of it can be seen throughout Nar Shaddaa. In the example above, the sign is flipped and the letters are reversed, but the sign often appears with the letters properly oriented, as can be seen in the image at the top of this post. For my “translation” I’ve oriented the letters to be readable. Not that there is much to read, since the sign is as obscure in English as it is in Futhork. As I’ve said before, this doesn’t bother me, since the alien glyphs are most important as design elements. Besides the sign might make perfect sense to any native speaker of Huttese, Bocce or Mando’a.

A closer look at the graphic reveals that it is made up of several layers of different elements aside from the Futhork letters. The circle and bracket decoration can be seen in many other neon signs. In addition, a semi-scalloped circular pattern appears twice around the letters. This is a common pattern in Huttese decor. Next time you visit Karagga’s or Nem’ro’s palace, look for it on the floor of the larger halls.

This sign is also a common sight throughout the game, and is written using the non-standard Aurebesh font, Galactic Basic. Unlike the previous neon advertisement, this one can be translated; however one of the words in yellow at the base of the sign reads right to left. I would guess when it was typed on a path, the designer forgot to orient the letters “properly.” Again, for my recreation, I opted to make the sign readable in English. As for what the large initials mean, I can only guess. In fact, I’m happy to do so: how about “Jabba’s Dance Barge” or maybe “Jilasi’s Draft Boutique” or perhaps even “DJ Bareesh”? I bet that Hutt can lay down some serious beats!

Nightlife Event Review

Finally, I thought I’d offer some quick thoughts on the return of the Nightlife Event. I won’t lie; it was never my favorite. Clicking on slot machines is about as far from engaging game play as you can get. That said, I can’t deny that the event offers very neat rewards including some of the best legacy weapons in the game, and the new, interactive decorations. Fortunately, the items that interest me the most can be purchased from the vendors using Golden Certificates which are common prizes from the Kingpin’s Slot Machine. In addition, now that slots tokens drop from Flashpoint and Operation bosses, folks can participate and collect rewards without breaking the bank. This is a very nice, player friendly addition to the event.

If I really wanted the Gamorrean Companion or the Rancor Mount, I might despise the event for the monotonous click-fest and money-sink that it is. However, that I can take a pocket full of tokens awarded from a week’s worth of casual play and turn them into a dance floor for my stronghold or a Tommy Gun for my Trooper is something I won’t complain about.

I’ve said it before but, I remain hopeful that we’ll eventually see a brand, new event or at least a fresh coat of paint applied to the old events to keep them interesting for veteran players. Fingers crossed!

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Czerka: Titans of Industry, part 2

This week we return to CZ-198 to look at some more of the unique displays created for Czerka’s secret moonbase, focusing on signs found in the the flashpoint Czerka Core Meltdown.

At the entrance of the area, visitors are greeted with a helpful map, which indicates their position and annotates the major sections of the research facility that makes up the flashpoint.

Aside from the areas of note, this sign is of interest because it demonstrates one of several ways the Aurebesh handles upper and lower case letters. Formal Aurebesh makes no allowance for case, but several of the official and unofficial Aurebesh fonts handle capital letters in different ways. If you’re playing at the time this is posted, you may have noticed an image in SWTOR’s launcher promoting the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event that contains Aurebesh letters that seem to be mirrored. That’s because the image was created with a font that uses reversed Aurebesh glyphs when generating upper case letters. The font used in this CZ sign, however, simply renders capitals as larger than lower case letters. Neither version is correct. It’s just a matter of the various font creators finding different solutions to fill the gaps in the Aurebesh font family.

Venturing deeper into the flashpoint, visitors will come across two signs outside the facilities Biomes that contain two of the flashpoint’s boss encounters. One biome recreates the environment of the desert world Tatooine, and the other replicates the swampy interior of Dromund Kaas.

Each sign includes information on the planets in question. The resolution of the letters is not very high, making the text somewhat challenging to read. Moreover the text on the Tatooine sign is fragmentary. However, the content of these signs was derived from swtor.com’s holonet entries on Tatooine and Dromund Kaas, and you can read the complete entries on each planet there.

The text in both planetary signs seems to have been pasted into the text box with the hyphenation option active, so some words are broken up across lines. I have maintained the original hyphenation in my translation.

Finally, all three of these signs are available as stronghold decorations from the CZ-198 reputation vendor in the Sith and Republic staging areas outside the flashpoint portals. Check ‘em out!

Update: While collecting screenshots for this entry, I came across a poster, which I had previously examined in this blog. However, the example I translated was cropped, and it seems there was additional Aurebesh text on the poster that I missed. Therefore, I have revised and expanded my entry on that poster.

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Iokath Dailies: The Good, the Bad and the Walkers

This week, I thought I’d share my impressions of the Iokath daily area now that I’ve had some time to explore the zone and get used to the dailies. I’ve maximized my reputation on Republic side and am closing in on finishing Sith side.

Overall, I’d say it’s… okay. I like how SWTOR has handled daily areas in the past. In truth, I personally consider them weekly areas, since completing the weekly quest is the main incentive, and I like not feeling the need to revisit the Black Hole or Section X once I’ve knocked off the weekly. Iokath, however, isn’t like those other areas. The first thing you’ll notice is that to complete the weekly, you will to need finish more quests than are available on any given day, so you’ll have to return to Iokath two or probably more times to complete the weekly. Moreover, the daily quests change every day, and some quests aren’t always available.

Personally, I prefer the type of weeklies we have in previous daily areas, but once I worked out how to approach questing on Iokath, I got into it. Basically, I’ll head over to Iokath, check out that day’s quests, and focus on one zone, typically either the docking level or the main expanse. I will grab the other dailies, but keep them in my log so that when other quests in the same area are available, I can complete them all at the same time. For example, there are three different “kill X number of mobs” quests, and I try to bank those for when the walker daily is up so that I can kill four birds with one heavily armed stone.

Using this approach, it will take several trips to Iokath to complete the weekly; on the flip side, I spend very little time on Iokath on any given day as I only complete two or three related quests at a time.

SWTOR’s other daily questing areas, from Black Hole to Oricon have a flow to them. Completing a quest in one area naturally leads to the next, and the chain often climaxes with a tougher heroic or in the case of Ziost the dramatic reveal at the end of the scanner droid quest.

Iokath’s dailies, on the other hand, don’t really feel connected to each other structurally or narratively. Questing there means zipping around from one unrelated area to another.

I also want to mention a few other issues that I find frustrating. The Monitor daily is just a drag. That the Monitor droid’s most potent attack leaves you stunned and helpless is no fun. Nobody likes being stunned, and that I have to constantly inflict stuns on myself while playing as a Monitor, makes me avoid that quest all together.

Another issue is the mob density in the main expanse area. It is easily the most hazardous zone in the game to travel through. If you want to get to the droid factory or that one out of the way spot for the macrobinocular quest, you will have to fight lots of droids whether you want to or not. Given Iokath’s design, getting around without aggroing crowds of enemies is nearly impossible.

Lastly, it may just be my obsessive need to pick up all the things, but I hate that I can’t loot while controlling a droid or walker. I don’t know if it’s a design choice or technical limitation, but seeing all those loot beams go uncollected drives me bonkers.

However, it’s not all bad. Iokath itself is an impressive environment to explore and play in. There is a decent variety to the quests beyond standard killing mobs and clicking on objectives. And Iokath’s saving grace is the walker daily. Stomping around in a walker is absolutely a blast. You feel tough as crap, your weapons hit hard and all the big attacks are fun to use. I’ve seen some folks say that they won’t spend credits and shards to control the walker, but I think it’s totally worth it. It is the most fun repeatable quest in the game.

Finally I’d like to touch on the rewards you can earn on Iokath. The reputation vendor has the bare minimum of loot for sale: legacy armor sets, pets and mounts. What is there is indeed very nice; the sith faction’s armor set in particular is outstanding. Beyond that there isn’t much. No weapons, no decorations, no dye module recipes, no toys, and no companion customizations (how about Iokath themed customizations for HK, T7 or SCORPIO?). Likewise, the achievement rewards leave much to be desired. The Ziost and Star Fortress achievements rewarded decorations, titles and mounts, but aside from a quarter’s worth of cartel coins here and there, there isn’t any incentive to bang out those achievements once you hit the reputation you want. I’ve seen SWTOR do better in the past, so I don’t think I’m asking too much here.

As I said, I like dailies. I still enjoy questing on CZ-198 and Oricon, and I hope Iokath finds a place in the rotation of worlds I’m happy to revisit even years down the line. It’s not quite there yet, but I think it could be.

I hadn’t meant to spent a whole post on Iokath, but I’ll be back to translating Aurebesh soon!

Update

The patch notes for game update 5.2.2 were posted a couple days after I wrote this post and I was very pleased to see this note on the list:

Players can now loot enemies while in other forms while on Iokath, such as the Mouse Droid.

The beams will vex me no more! NO MORE!

 

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Good Hair Day: Five Hair Styles That Should Be Added to SWTOR

Last month, I was pleased to see that three new hairstyles were added to SWTOR’s appearance designer. When it comes to character customization, the more the better. Inspired by Kid Lee’s video exploring the possibility of body tattoos and Xam Xam’s blog post requesting more outfits from Star Wars lore, I thought I’d add to their excellent suggestions a few of my own with another dumb top five list of looks I’d like to see added to the appearance designer.

These suggestions are drawn exclusively from the Star Wars movies, and while I’m totally cool with more popstar and hipster haircuts, I think there is plenty of inspiration yet to be drawn from the film canon.

Leia’s Buns

Yeah, I know that there are already two kinda-sorta versions of Leia’s infamous buns available already, but neither feel just right to me. Leia’s coif in the first movie is THE iconic hairstyle of the entire Star Wars saga, and I firmly believe a screen-accurate version absolutely should be available to players in the game. As far as I’m concerned this one is a no brainer.

Padme’s Braids

Padme wore her hair in a great number of styles over the course of the prequels, but I thought I’d pick one that was both not too outlandish and not too likely to cause many clipping problems. Besides, her bun of tight braids from Attack of the Clones is totally cute and functional for any character of any class.

Anakin’s Shag

Players can find decent matches for most of the male hair styles sported in the movies, but all but one of those haircuts are quite short, so I’d like to see some longer options. Anakin’s shoulder length mane from Revenge of the Sith is similar to the look sported by Kylo Ren and old Luke in The Force Awakens, and having a choice between short hair and the full Qui-Gon would be nice.

Rey’s Triple Buns

I know, I know, still more buns, but, Rey is awesome, and I’m honestly a little surprised this look isn’t already in the game. While Leia and Padme’s hair tends to be neat and smooth, I think this messier look would work well too. And again, this style shouldn’t have too many issues clipping the game’s armor.

Cassian’s ‘Stache and Scruff

Okay, this isn’t technically a hairstyle, but I’d like to see more options for facial hair. Generally you’re out of luck if you want a mustache like those sported by Lando, Biggs and Cassian or a thin beard like Obi Wan’s in both the original trilogy and Attack of the Clones. Sometimes, you just want to be scruffy lookin’.

To be honest, it was tough to stick to just hair. I’d be interested to see more tattoo options for not just humans but also Togruta and Twi-liks and Zabraks, oh my! And pity the poor Cathar whose customization options are the most anemic.

I grok that the right haircut won’t kill a boss or cap a node any faster, but it’s hard to beat the feeling you get when your character looks just the way you want them to. So I hope more customization options will be on offer in the not too distant future.

SWTOR’s 2017 Road Map

Last week, Keith Kanneg shared with us the long anticipated Road Map for the next few months of SWTOR. I’m a bit late to the party with this post and I don’t really have much to add to the general happiness with which the road map has been greeted, so I’ll keep my comments short. On the one hand, most of the announcement contained information we already knew, but having a detailed idea of what is coming and when to expect it is excellent news. I’m not the biggest fan of the Nightlife event, and class changes always make me nervous but knowing that I’ll be able to go nuts decorating a new stronghold next month and run a new flashpoint with friends after that is great information to have. I have every hope the fine folks at Bioware keep up the good work they’ve done communicating with the community lately.

 

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Czerka: Titans of Industry, part 1

During SWTOR’s Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion, patch 2.3 brought players to the secret moon base CZ-198, one of many clandestine research facilities owned by the Czerka Corporation. In addition to being home to a daily quest hub and two flashpoints, CZ-198 is adorned with numerous examples of Aurebesh signage and decorations.

Czerka has it’s origins in the earliest days of the expanded universe, with the company and its logo created as a weapons manufacturer. Czerka played a significant role in both Knights of the Old Republic and in SWTOR where their operatives are the major antagonists of the Tatooine story-arc.

Many of the graphics, especially the ones with specific context, such as signs for the “Tram Station”, “Freight Depot” and “Waste Disposal” are unique to the moon, although a few of the displays can be seen elsewhere in the galaxy, including on the bridge of the Gravestone. Several of the unique signs contain information about Czerka’s research base. The display shown above directs visitors to the various offices found on CZ-198. One department has been appropriately renamed for the setting, and it’s amusing to note that the publicity department seems to have been consigned to the basement beneath even the moon’s facility operations.

Czerka also made sure to provide its employees with the finest nutritional offerings at the Cafeczerka which has options for any tastes and any budget. I’ve got to tip my hat to the artists at Bioware for doing their research on this one. The dishes on the menu are derived from sources across the Star Wars canon. A few do seem to be unique creations of the Czerka Culinary Division, including the spicy Nar Sha Dip and the too often overcooked Alderaan Crisp. Evil geniuses never understand that char is not a flavor!

While this vendor stall can be visited in the Czerka flashpoints, it is also available as a stronghold decoration for folks who like to keep their characters well fed.

There is too much signage on display on CZ-198 for me to cover in a single post, so I will be returning to this moon in the near future.

 

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Fly the Unfriendly Skies

This week, we pay a visit to fragrant, scenic Nal Hutta, adopted home of the Hutts and the starport at Jiguuna. A prominent sign outside the terminal announces arrivals and departures and their current status.

The listings are of transport services, many of which have their origins in Star Wars lore. Camura Lines was first mentioned back in West End Games’ Star Wars The Roleplaying Game. Yarella is a common Hutt name and thus appropriate for the sign’s context. Rim Shipping is generic enough, but could also be a precursor to “Core to Rim Shipping”, which also appeared in WEG’s SWRPG. Finally Gronco seems to be a Star Wars-ification of the word “bronco” or simply just a funny name that could very well apply to many a Hutt, Wookiee, Gamorrean or a hot shot pilot.

Only half of the scheduled flights are on time, and nearly a third are cancelled, so getting to and from Hutta is a coin flip at best. And you better hope the Hutt Cartel hasn’t overbooked your flight. Being put into Carbon Freeze and dumped in with the luggage is standard procedure for folks who won’t give up their seats. But at least you get there. Thawing and dealing with the consequences of hibernation sickness, however, are your own responsibilities.

This is one of many signs in SWTOR that uses the non-standard Aurebesh font Galactic Basic. The small, red glyphs that bracket the large sign seem to feature a stylized Senth letter, so I have re-created it as “s” in my version. Given that the sign is for a star or shuttle port, it seems like a safe pick.

 

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Futhork meets Aurebesh

After an unexpected break, we’re back! This week, let’s look at this huge poster which hangs over the outdoor docks in Coruscant’s Old Galactic Marketplace. Unlike most other posters you might see in this area, it is not an advertisement. Instead it is a notice of trade restrictions that are probably no longer enforced now that the Migrant Merchants Guide is running the zone.

The most notable feature of this poster is the use of the Futhork font in its prominent center section and in the small text at the top and bottom. Conceptual designer Iain McCaig created Futhork as one of Naboo’s writing styles for The Phantom Menace. and it is featured throughout the prequel trilogy. In SWTOR, Futhork and many other languages can be seen most commonly on Nar Shaddaa in the neon and holographic signs that dominate the skyline of the infamous Smuggler’s Moon.

Futhork is described as an elegant hand-written font and I imagine it is used in the same way as Blackletter or Gothic script to make a design seem more elegant or official.

The poster itself has a nice warm feel that I quite like. The Futhork flourishes make it stand out from other signage in the game. The accidentally repeated word in the third line of the block of text in the center section again exposes the danger of writing in an alien language, but I don’t think it detracts from the overall design. Another nice touch is in the orange tabs at the top and the bottom. Although the layout is the same in both sections, each of the small boxes has its own element.

Finally, the text in the two white sections is blown out and difficult to read. If you look at the poster from an angle or play with the levels in Photoshop, however, the text becomes visible. In my translation, I kept the words readable.

Patch 5.2: The War for Iokath

Since I last posted, patch 5.2 was published and I thought I’d share some quick impressions. Overall, I’m pleased. The story itself is mainly seems to be prologue to the next big arc and thus has a lot to set up: the return to Iokath, the return of two of the game’s signature companions, the renewed conflict between the Republic and Sith, the return of Zakuul’s old gods and the emergence of a traitor in the ranks. That’s a whole lot ground to cover and not everything gets the space it needs, but I’m curious to see where things go from here.

Without getting into spoiler territory, one thing that did impress me was the use of Quinn. It’s an understatement to call him one of the game’s most infamous companions. My consular sided with the Republic, and while Elara remained mostly a background character, I was pleased that the story did a good job making Quinn into a quality antagonist who I wouldn’t mind seeing as a recurring villain. Given how story choices work, I’m not sure he’ll ever pop up again, but I never thought I’d want to see more of Quinn!

The operation’s first boss Tyth is a fun fight, requiring appropriate coordination on Veteran Mode, but remaining welcoming to new and inexperienced players on Story Mode. I look forward to facing the twins Esne and Aivela next.

I haven’t spent too much time in the daily area. I received so many reputation tokens just from the story that I haven’t felt the need to dive too deep into the dailies and have only completed the weekly once. The zone is sprawling and still confusing to me. This is a good thing; I don’t mind knowing that I will need to explore the area and get comfortable with its layout. That said, the map’s tooltips pointing to quest objectives need some work. The environment itself is very cool, and I’m happy to just stop and admire the scenery.

However, some of the quests are buggy. I’ve killed the Colossal Droid twice but have yet to receive credit, and surely the Mouse droid daily isn’t meant to be so frustrating and difficult as it is now.

I know having to spend power shards to access the quests to control the various droids and vehicles on Iokath has been controversial, but I can see what Bioware is going for with this system. The problem with daily areas is that they get old fast, and adding a mechanic where certain quests can only be unlocked with extra effort strikes me as a neat idea. The notion that taking control of a walker is something I have to save up for makes it a bit of a special event. The rub is in making these quests as fun and rewarding as possible, and I’m not sure they’re there yet. I won’t lie, getting killed by random mobs while wandering around as a mouse droid is not awesome, especially since I have to burn more shards just to try again.

My stash of shards is pretty thin right now, but if the Iokath currency becomes like all the other event and area currencies in the game, I’ll eventually have shards coming out of my ears, so having a use for them after I have all the reputation rewards I want doesn’t strike me as a bad idea.

Hopefully the bugs will get squashed in short order, and I’m curious to see what comes next.

Lastly, SWTOR’s new Game Producer Keith Kanneg and Creative Director Charles Boyd have both made some appearances on the forums recently and their posts have included actual information and teased upcoming improvements. This has been a most welcome change of pace and I’m hopeful this continued engagement with the community will continue.

 

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Shop Together. Happy Together.

This week, let’s examine a pair of posters that regular visitors to the Republic’s Carrick Station or any player of Huttball will surely recognize.

The orange banner is another travel poster, this time for an interstellar transport firm called DGB. The meaning of the initials and the numbers along side them are unknown to me. The second poster with its delightfully Eighties contrasting blue and pink color scheme advertises a galactic marketplace.

I can only speculate on the meaning of the large letter Besh: Balmorra? Bespin? Buy n Large? The Mern or M letter, however, is a common element on some other marketplace posters. I’ve speculated on its specific meaning before, and see no reason to stop now. The double Ms could very well stand for the Migrant Merchants Guild, which seized control of Coruscant’s Old Galactic Marketplace.

Both posters use design elements seen elsewhere in the game. The triangular “triforce” symbol and the connected hexagons are often seen on their own in any neon-soaked location from the Huttball arena to Nar Shaddaa’s Promendade.

It seems that even in a galaxy far, far away corporate branding is as inescapable, as it is in our own.

 

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Just Breathe

My pledge to take the week off has faltered yet again with the release of the trailer for The Last Jedi and its inclusion of Aurebesh on Finn’s medical pod.

Much of the text is so blurry and distorted that it is difficult if not impossible to decipher. Moreover, what is readable, specifically the sets of four characters that shift during the second or two this shot is on screen seem to be random characters. This information can easily be chalked up as medical jargon and acronyms obscure to all but the most seasoned of medical droids.

The information at the top of the red block, however, does seem to be translateable, and might constitute a very minor spoiler, so Caveat Clicktor!

As is often the case with Aurebesh ligatures, they are not used as letters but rather the English keyboard symbol that the font uses to generate them, so I translated the Cherek and Shen glyphs as brackets.

There seems to be more Aurebesh in white on the right side of the pod, but it is far too blurry for me to take a stab at.

To make sense of the Aurebesh in the screen shot, I did have to apply some technical jiggery-pokery in Photoshop. Even so this translation involves more guessing and perhaps wishful thinking than usual. Other translators may very well come to different conclusions.

 

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Why SWTOR Should Pay Tribute to Carrie Fisher

I hadn’t planned to post anything this week since I saw no point in competing with the news from Star Wars Celebration, but then I saw this and it genuinely choked me up:

It reminded me of the suggestion that many folks made that SWTOR should add a memorial to Carrie Fisher to the game. I don’t recall anyone at Bioware mentioning one way or the other about whether it would happen, but I figured I’d use my teeny, tiny soapbox to add my voice to those who have already suggested it.

A statue of a princess and a loyal astromech at House Organa on Alderaan has been the most common suggestion, and this would also be a fitting tribute to Kenny Baker who passed away last year as well. Certainly it could be done in a way that wouldn’t violate continuity any worse than “Hun Duo” and “Greepo” in the cantina on Hutta or the tableau of bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back on the Ziost Shadow.

But even if it did rip a hole in the time-space continuum, I wouldn’t care. SWTOR is not a transmission of historical documents, it’s a work of fiction, a game played and made by people in the real world. It’s only natural that it should pay tribute to someone whose contributions to Star Wars had a real effect on generations of fans.

So, of course, it should happen and I would hope the good folks at Bioware agree.

 

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