Winner Winner Orokeet Dinner

Just a quick post this week to announce the winners of last week’s raffle. My New Year’s Resolution for this blog was to answer every comment I get this year, and to thank everyone for the most comments I’ve received on a post, I’ve decided to pass out some extra prizes. First off, congratulations to the grand prize winners: Gettalla and MagSul! I also awarded four 30 day SWTOR subscription codes and twelve 450 cartel coin codes! Yep, this week everyone is a winner! Because of the current situation many of us find ourselves in, the good people at Bioware were especially generous with codes and I’m more than happy to pass this bounty along to my visitors. I absolutely can’t promise I’ll ever be able to do this again, but it was nice to make it rain during these days when we’re not able to get out as much as we might like.

Stay safe, have fun, and may the SWTOR be with you!

 

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Arise, Go Forth and Conquer as of Old

Top of the Fourth to You!

This week let’s take a quick look at a sign that is quite appropriate for the fourth day of the fifth month. This neon sign glows from many of the cantinas, casinos and skyscrapers of Nar Shaddaa. It is written using the Trade Federation Basic font that has its origins on screen in The Phantom Menace.

I’ve previously translated another display with the same font and similar design that also can be found wherever fine goods advertised around the galaxy. The two graphics have an identical frame and layout, but the one above is animated with flashing lights and pulses between a red and purple glow. Unlike the previous sign, this one can be translated. Does the use of the number 54 refer to May 4th? Maybe, but I’d suggest given its context that it might equally evoke Studio 54, New York’s famous nightclub which was at its height during Star Wars’ initial release in the age of disco.  Perhaps 54 is the “top” floor of the most exclusive casino or sky-palace where only the most famous holo-celebrities, crime lords, and Sith boogiemancers are allowed past the velvet rope blocking the blast door to the hottest dance club atop the Smugglers’ Moon!

Conquest Bonanza

I want to comment on the most recent Conquest changes. Where the last initial round of Conquest revisions had us briefly earning conquest points at Ludicrous Speed, I think everyone now agrees that Conquest has gone to plaid!

Last week I scored on my own, more than enough points to meet my guild’s small yield target. I don’t deny this feels extreme, but I did play that character a lot last week, to the exclusion of most of my other characters. And since it was a character I was leveling, I took full advantage of the many Conquest objectives that came naturally with doing the story, heroics and flashpoints along the way.

Of the people in small guilds I’ve talked to, everyone is happy with the update. These are the folks who benefit the most. Nothing will change for the large guilds, they’ll continue to hit their yields, and the same guild that comes in first every week on your server will continue to dominate. But these changes will be huge for small groups of friends who just want to level up their guilds, gain access to perks, unlock their guild ships and earn useful crafting materials.

No one should have to pick between playing content that will benefit their guild’s conquest effort and playing what they want. Now anyone can level a character and still meaningfully help their guild when previously the points gained from basic leveling were not significant.

Are many of the conquest objectives trivial? To veterans, they sure are! But if Conquest allows new players to safely test out systems like Strongholds and companion influence and Amplifiers, I’m all for it. I do know PVPers feel like they got the short end of the stick again, and I think Bioware could add more objectives to reward PVP play without fear of it turning into the new KP or EV trash farm.

When it comes right down to it, if Conquest points are meant to be guild xp, then I think all activity should count towards it, not just a particular set of goals that change from week to week.

The most common remark I hear is that everyone expects this to be nerfed, so I encourage you to take advantage. Ride that speeder! Place those decorations! And pick those flowers while you can!

May the Fourth Raffle Time!

I fully acknowledge that as fake holidays go, May the Fourth is pretty fake, but I think this year we all could use a reason to celebrate, and as a member of SWTOR‘s content creator program, I’m in a position to help make that happen. The good people at Bioware have provided me a code which can be redeemed for 1050 Cartel Coins and I’m pleased to share it with one of my readers! To enter leave a comment to this post below. Do you have any thoughts about the conquest changes? What outfit, weapon or color crystal would you like to buy or unlock in your collection? How many characters are you planning to level during double XP? Comment below! Make sure you let me know how to contact you if you win: include your character, faction and server name and I’ll mail you the code in game. If you prefer twitter, include your twitter handle and I’ll send it that way. If you’d rather not comment publicly, I’ll also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com.

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

I’ll choose a random winner from all submissions during the Conquest reset Tuesday May 12th.

Good luck, and May the 4th be with you!

 

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I’m Making This Up As I Go

Nearly a month ago, SWTOR’s best blogger Shintar tagged me in her Blapril post to participate is this blogger-themed event. I’m still transitioning into this life where nearly all interactions are online, and I’ve not been able to find as much time for this blog as I would like. Nevertheless, I couldn’t let the month slip by without rising to the challenge and sharing a couple of this site’s origin stories. I’m just barely coming in under the wire with my assignment. It’s just like college all over again!

This Week in Aurebesh was born out of several different intersecting moments in my life and in SWTOR. I’ve been familiar with Aurebesh since it was introduced as part of The Star Wars Roleplaying Game in the nineties, and been stopping to read it in game when I could, but my desire to make English recreations and share them with the world, probably has more do with my work as a graphic and web designer. Often work for clients is meant to be functional and efficient, but that’s not always the most engaging stuff to make. By translating and recreating SWTOR’s alien signs, I’m able to have some fun both with the translation itself but also by deconstructing the design of the graphics the fine artists at Bioware have plastered across the worlds of this game. I was also surprised to discover how many official and fan-made variants of Aurebesh have worked their way into Star Wars’ lore. Aurebesh started as a frankly awkward alien alphabet, and it’s fascinating to me to see how it’s evolved and expanded over the years.

In addition, this blog started during the latter days of the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion. That was a strange time for the game. I did enjoy the story KotFE told, and I especially liked that period in which we were getting story updates on a more or less monthly basis, but the lack of any real endgame and new group content made things tough for my little guild. We understandably lost a lot of people, and many others would only pop on for story and little else. MMO Community commentary is a shitshow, obviously, and I had little interest in the usual venues, but I still wanted to express both my continued enthusiasm for SWTOR, as well as my concerns with where I felt the game fell short, even if I was just speaking into the void. Looking back at very early posts in which I reviewed KotFE and the Dark vs. Light Event, I think that nuance comes through. And it remains a balance I strive to maintain.

The name “This Week in Aurebesh” was the first and pretty much the only title I seriously considered for the blog. I knew at the time that the name would be damnable lie, but it appealed to me in a way I still can’t quite explain, and “Every Other Week or So in Aurebesh” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. However, I did misspell Aurebesh as “aur-A-besh” at launch, which goes to show you how much I knew about fake space-letters at the time. You can still see the error in the address of this site. I could’ve fixed it, but I left the mistake in as a reminder to keep me honest.

Shintar includes lots of good advice in her post and I can only echo it here, but I’ll try to add a couple pointers. First, set limits and until you are comfortable with what you’re doing, keep to them. I am naturally long-winded, but I make sure to keep my posts under a thousand words. I feel like I’m here to amuse my visitors for a few minutes, not take up their afternoon. This means I often cut whole sentences, paragraphs and sections all in service of getting to the point. If the thoughts I edit out are worthwhile I can always revisit them later. Finally, blogging, or “podcasting for introverts” as I call it, can be fun. Try out different things while finding your voice, and don’t be afraid to be stupid. For reasons that escape me, I wrote one entry from the position that the Bob and Doug McKenzie movie Strange Brew was George Lucas’ primary inspiration for Revenge of the Sith. You’ll never be as stupid as that, and even if you are, you can always bounce back with your next post.

Always Read the Plaque

Before I go, let’s not forget the reason for this blog: Aurebesh! My guild-mate, Dav recently completed the Agent story and sent me some screen shots from the Star Cabal’s secret base in which they display the secret society’s treasures from across the galaxy. Each exhibit is marked with a plaque which often functions in the game as a Lore Object to unlock a codex entry describing a nearby piece of Star Wars history or culture.

The most prominent of these plaques can be found on the Republic and Imperial Fleets. I’m always sure to click the plaques when they’re glowing blue. Codex entries are worth a little XP, often advance achievements and their flavor text fleshes out this universe we get to explore! And Lore Objects will almost never get you killed. Almost.

 

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Take Me Away to That Special Place

While messing about on SWTOR‘s Public Test Server this evening, I realized that the character I had transferred over last year still hadn’t leveled their crew skills. To remedy that, I flew over to Mek She to farm up some metals. While running through Brzo’s Wells, I came across an inaccessible instanced area that I don’t believe I had encountered before. Even more peculiar was the Aurebesh sign hanging outside of the area, and it is one I definitely hadn’t seen before.

This neon sign is amusing partially because it seems to advertise a restaurant (which specializes in bone broth soup no doubt) but mainly because its mascot seems to be none other than the breakout star of The Mandalorian series! Leaving aside issues involving canon, the time-space continuum and crass commercialism it’s interesting to note that even in SWTOR this little green foundling is still officially referred to as “Child” and not Baby Yoda.

I apologize for the lack of translation and recreation. I will endeavor to get a better screenshot once the next game update goes live in a couple of weeks, but I thought it would be a fun discovery to share today.

Who’s More Foolish?

Just updating this post with a late in the day addition. This is indeed an April Fool’s Day joke. I honestly wasn’t sure if I should go ahead with this prank, but some friends pointed out that now more than ever we all could use a laugh and more Baby Yoda in our lives. Swtorista has compiled a truly epic list of official and unofficial SWTOR related April Fool’s jokes and if you’re looking to raise your spirits definitely check it out!

Finally, here’s a peak behind the curtain at a higher resolution version of the “Sweet Child O Diner” poster before I resized, distorted, blurred and muddied it up into the Mek She street scene. I won’t lie, I’m quite pleased with how this turned out.

 

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

Five For Five: Revisiting Some Top Five Lists

With so much going on in the real world right now, perhaps it’s only natural that I find myself looking back a bit. Since the earliest days of this blog I’ve been compiling “Dumb Top Five Lists” meant to highlight some of my favorite hidden corners and overlooked collectibles that can be found in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I thought it might be neat to see if some recent additions to the game could manage to secure spots on some of those old lists.

Top Non-Cartel Market Mounts: Feirocian Cruiser

The first list of my favorite non-Cartel Market stuff covered mounts, but there have been many new mounts added to the game since that post. Many of those could be found in Galactic Command Crates during Knight of the Eternal Throne. The best, by far, of these is the Feirocian Cruiser which was a very rare prize found in Tier 4 Command Crates. This large, unique speeder is the closest we’re ever going to get to driving the Batmobile in SWTOR. The massive fins, crackling plasma binders and gold trim all combine to make this one of the sweetest whips in the game.

Does it make the top five? During KotET this would’ve been a tough call since the only source of this mount was the highest level Galactic Command Crates. I won’t lie; I ground a lot of CXP hoping to find this ride. Because of that difficulty, I would have put this in the “For the Truly Dedicated” category, but I’m not sure it could replace the beloved Pleasure Speeder in my heart. However, with Onslaught, the Cruiser can now be purchased from the Spoils of War Vehicle Vendor in the Supplies section of both Fleets for the relatively low cost of 500 Tech Fragments and 300,000 credits. This change parks the Feirocian Cruiser in the Vendor category where it easily earns the top spot. I don’t tend to like big mounts, but this one is worth picking up.

Top Non-Cartel Market Dyes: Dark Blue and Gray

Only two non-CM dye modules have been added to the game since my second list was posted, but they’re both nice combinations of Dark Blue and Gray. Their recipes can be learned from the Artifice trainer at skill level 620.  Despite sharing the same base colors, the two dyes seem to apply different shades. The Dark Blue and Gray dye, in particular, is very nice for a wide variety of outfits. The blue is very dark, nearly black, and the gray has a subtle metallic blue tint to it. I’ve applied this dye to Trooper armor, Agent gear and Sith robes, and it works well on all of them.

Does it make the top five? Absolutely. Despite the dearth of player crafted customization options, the Dark Blue and Gray dye module is a standout. It handily bumps Deep Brown and Red from my original list and doesn’t feel the slightest bit bad about it.

Top Non-Cartel Market Decorations: Bioluminescent Mushrooms

Where SWTOR has not been stingy lately is in providing numerous of decorations for players to earn in game on Ossus, Dantooine, Onderon and Mek Sha. Despite the wide variety of civic, furniture, environmental and technological decorations from these sources, my favorite is easily the Bioluminescent Mushrooms sold by astromech D3-C0 on Ossus. Prior to Onslaught, these decorations cost precious Masterwork Crystals, but they can now be purchased for a mere 50 Tech Fragments each.

Does it make the top five? Given that I have spent thousands of Tech Fragments to carpet the Killik Cave of my Alderaan stronghold with these happy little mushrooms, I think it’s fair to give them top marks in the Reputation category. They are small decorations, but they pulse with a pleasant blue glow and throw off particles for a pleasantly soothing effect.

Top Non-Cartel Market Pets: Flirron

The jungles of Onderon are filled with countless creepy crawlies, prehistoric beasties, and flying fish, and resourceful players can take home a friendly Flirron as a companion pet after completing a short achievement. This four-winged fellow is part fish, part bird and pretty darn slick with its shiny blue scales and red stripes. Onderon is stuffed to the brim with secrets and achievements, and I definitely recommend making friends with the local wildlife while exploring this world!

Does it make the top five? I’m not sure, since it would replace the Nerf Herding achievement which is more involved and, to me, more engaging than the fairly simple Flirron-Friend achievement. On the basis of looks alone, however, the Flirron at the very least merits an Honorable Mention.

Best Worst Ways to Die in SWTOR: The Dxun Train

I’ve been having fun in SWTOR’s newest operation, The Nature of Progress, which keeps up SWTOR’s proud tradition of insuring that not all threats come from bosses. To raid an operation with a real sense of humor and literal running jokes has been a nice change of pace, and it helps that it does not lack for good encounters. The showpiece of the operation is certainly the Mutant Trandoshan Squad in which a brave team of heroes face off against four mighty, metamorphosed Trandoshan hunters. Despite being nigh invulnerable, they are ultimately no match for several tons of high-speed rocket trains crashing into their face. I’ve been running this operation for several months, and it still makes me laugh every single time one of those poor fellows goes splat. The Czerka Express, of course, is also fatal to players who should make sure to get clear when the hear that train a comin’. Under no circumstances should you use abilities like Rescue and Transpose to endanger the lives of your fellow party members. That would be wrong. I would never do that.

Does it make the top five? Without question. That instant comedy deaths can be inflicted on players and bosses alike makes this one of the all time greats.

Thanks for this trip down memory lane. If I missed your favorite decoration or mount, please let me know! I have more Aurebesh in the pipeline, but in the meantime, I hope everyone out there takes care of themselves, their families and their community.

 

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Taking the Edge Off

The topic of controversy swirling about SWTOR’s raiding community concerns the removal of the Veteran’s Edge buff from Master Mode/Nightmare difficulty operations. Veteran’s Edge is a buff that increases a character’s main stats based on the overall item rating of their gear in most group content. With the release of Onslaught all pre-existing operations and flashpoint content were “level locked,” and characters running that content are scaled down to level 70. The buff is meant to take in account the gear characters are wearing and to complement Onslaught‘s emphasis on horizontal gearing. Assuming your character has equipped item rating 306 gear in every slot, you will get 30 stacks of Veteran’s Edge in most Flashpoints and Storymode and Veteran Mode Operations, meaning once you complete the short vertical progression grind, you will out-gear nearly all of the group content in the game. With Game Update 6.1, this buff has been removed from all Master Mode Operations, dramatically increasing the difficulty of these operations across the board.

Before I continue, I should make absolutely clear that I am not a hard-core raider. During Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan, I actively raided SWTOR’s Hard Mode (now called Veteran Mode) operations and I’ve recently picked it up again. The only Nightmare boss I have ever killed without the benefit of an extra tier of gear or extra levels is Nefra. Farming the easiest Nightmare boss for implants does not at all qualify me to talk about the concerns of the Nightmare community.

But I have some thoughts about level locked content, and they intersect with what is going on in the Nightmare community.

The purpose of level locking content is to keep it “evergreen” so that it does not require additional tweaking as the level cap increases in future expansions so that players will always be able to experience it in a fashion more or less as originally intended.

Level sync was first introduced during Knight of the Fallen Empire as a way to keep questing on the game’s many planets relevant for players even if they exceeded the intended level range of a planet. Flashpoints and Operations, however, were instead scaled up to the maximum level and again for Knights of the Eternal Throne. For the most part, level sync has been successful on the planetary scale, and it’s fair that Bioware would want to apply the system to group activity, freeing them to focus on new flashpoints and operations going forward rather than spend time re-balancing old content every time a new expansion launches.

That said, level sync is not perfect. Important stats like Endurance, Mastery and Power are capped in level synced content. The Veteran’s Edge buff is meant to account for our character’s gear and increases those stats. Let’s take two characters in full 306 kits, one has best in slot gear and augments in every slot; the other has a completely random assortment of unmodified equipment. When level locked, the two characters will have identical hit points and mastery. The character that is well itemized will have superior tertiary stats like Accuracy, Alacrity and Critical, but the difference will not be so great as when you run into both of them on Fleet or Dxun where stats are not scaled.

It gets even weirder when you realize that there are many, many set bonuses, stims, adrenals, class buffs, group buffs, relic procs and guild perks that boost Endurance, Mastery or Power and therefore have absolutely no effect in level locked content.

This is why you see people using relics that were previously scorned, why everyone including tanks and healers should use Accuracy stims and why some guides recommend dps and healers use Warding Mods; they are, after all, literally the only mods that have any effect on our stats in level locked content.

Onslaught’s Spoils of War system has given players the ability to customize our gear far more precisely than in any previous expansion; yet in the vast majority of the game’s group content it makes little difference. It’s not a bold statement to say that proper gearing should matter and that it should reward better performance. That some players keep a traditional set of gear for the Dxun operation and another that exploits the exceptions of level locked content strikes me as bad design.

Veteran’s Edge does a good job smoothing over those rough edges in Storymode and Veteran Mode content, but in my experience there are two parts of progression raiding: gearing and practice. During 2.0 and 3.0, gearing took longer since bosses dropped upgrades that people could use. Since 5.0, and arguably 4.0, it’s common to walk into an operation with gear beyond anything you’ll loot from a boss. I’m cool with that. To me, learning fights and getting the point where the team is properly executing them is more rewarding than wondering who will get their Underworld Relic this week. It also means it is much easier to bring in new or returning players without having to revisit old content to gear them up.

I run operations much more casually than I did a few years ago, and it’s nice that Spoils of War allows my teammates and me to jump to the fun part without needing to spend excess time on the boring parts.

Many nightmare raiders have different goals. They want the challenge and the knowledge that everyone on the team needs to perform perfectly to succeed. That is completely understandable and a legitimate thing to want out of the game. I’ve seen some raiders complain that Veteran’s Edge is a crutch, but others say that getting upgrades that improve the individual and therefore the team’s output should be a part of the raiding experience.

I’m not at all the one to resolve this dispute, but I think the problems with Level Sync have exacerbated the difference between those positions. Right now the jump between Hard Mode and Nightmare operations seems bigger than ever, and it may be rougher than necessary for raiders who want to make it to the big leagues.

Rather than put it off, I think it would be worthwhile for Bioware to take a hard look at how level sync works now.

 

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Standing Under the Bar Lights

First off, let me apologize for the longer than usual gap between posts. I had spent a couple of weeks working on another, much more complicated translation, but that project ran headlong into a proverbial concrete wall, forcing me to abandon it completely. Instead I’ve moved on to something whose translation was no challenge at all.

If you’ve spent time on the hollow asteroid Mek Sha, you’ve seen this holographic sign and many others like it. To say that there are a lot of bars on Mek Sha is a massive understatement. There are bars everywhere on Mek Sha. I imagine these establishments are tiny affairs, much like the countless bars and sushi joints packed into the narrow alleys of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Each of the miniature cantinas on Mek Sha likely has space for just a few seats, but serves unique and exotic specialties tailored to Mek Sha’s diverse alien inhabitants.

The sign itself repeats the word “bar” three times and flashes on and off. It includes hex patterns that are common elements on other advertisements seen on Nar Shaddaa and the Republic Fleet. This is a nice aspect, which visually connects it to other holographic displays familiar to players already.

Alderaan Property Values

I should also touch on SWTOR’s latest game update, Pinnacles of Power. The update’s major feature is the Alderaan stronghold. Although I have purchased and fully unlocked it, I haven’t yet done any decorating at all there, so I can only offer some brief first impressions.

Once again, Bioware has provided players with a beautiful and vast space to make their own. The stronghold is packed with secret areas, achievements and a wide variety of spaces to decorate from  the waterfall and stream in the open field out front and the impressively creepy Killik cave to the stained glass glow of the great hall and the snow capped calm of the mountain retreat, my favorite area of the stronghold.

I have the same complaints I have with all strongholds about wanting more hooks in one place, different kind of hooks in another and wishing for more interactive elements, but that doesn’t diminish how cool Alderaan is. Like the Rishi and Yavin strongholds, I’m certain I will be decorating Alderaan for many, many months to come. Hopefully, I’ll be finished before the Death Star comes to pay a visit.

The Task at Hand

The game update also came with some story content. On the one hand, it is a brief interlude that doesn’t really advance Onlsaught’s larger narratives, but it is nice to touch base with characters old and new and see that things are happening even if they aren’t galaxy-shattering events. And if you’re a fan of Star Wars lore, there are some nice extra bits to sink your teeth into. For Republic players, characters from the Old Republic novel Deceived are introduced to SWTOR for the first time. In addition, Sith characters meet Darth Rivix, who is implied to be a Zeltron, an alien species first introduced way back in the Marvel Star Wars comics of the 1980’s. Those comics are my jam, so I am completely on board for this magenta hued Dark Lord.

A bug introduced to the game during Knights of the Fallen Empire does add a sour note to the update. The bug has to do with companions wearing armor that has different appearances depending on what faction the character wearing it is a part of. For example, if Elara Dorne is wearing Trooper armor, it will appear as Bounty Hunter armor in cut scenes. This is something many players may not even notice if they’ve dressed their companions in gear from the Cartel Market or recent expansions. As someone who’s been playing since launch, however, I have a collection of old school armors that are often good fits for my companion.

I understand that Space Barbie problems are far from game breaking, but it really does take me out of the moment when I walk into a cut scene and Kira is dressed like a Sith Inquisitor.

Aside from that, I think the story update does what it needs to do to keep the chains moving. Once again, things play out differently for Republic and Sith characters, and between some different dialogue options and companion interactions, playing through on alts has felt satisfying. I did not anticipate Malgus’ next objective, but I imagine we’ll be catching up with him in the ruins of Dantooine’s Jedi Enclave in the not too distant future. That can only spell trouble.

 

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Relish is a Lie, There is Only Ketchup

Like countless others last night, I tuned into the Super Bowl which is as much an advertising bonanza as a sporting event. I did not expect that anything I saw would inspire me in any way, but a commercial for Heinz Ketchup surprised me with its display of the official fake space language of this blog, Aurebesh.

The commercial features a split screen of visitors to various eating establishments across time and space that are united by a common use of the tomato condiment. One of the settings is an alien market adorned with banners that clearly use the Aurebesh alphabet. Even though some of the letters have been rotated and altered somewhat, there is no doubt that Aurebesh is used here.

If you’re like me and hoped for an inside joke declaring mustard to be the superior condiment, you’ll be disappointed. The letters do not translate into anything with an obvious meaning. I have no doubt that someone in authority made sure that there were no secret messages to be found. Indeed I think the use of Aurebesh itself was the whole of the easter egg for Star Wars fans.

Even if you don’t get the Star Wars connection, anyone can still look at those banners and recognize that they contain writing of some sort, even if it is not legible. That duality sums up Star Wars’ core aesthetic that seeks to strike the perfect balance between the alien and the familiar. Star Destroyers evoke battleships without looking that much like them. No Authurian knight or Japanese samurai ever wielded a laser sword, but lightsabers instantly connect the Jedi to those traditions. What is clever about Aurebesh’s design is how it is also strange and familiar at the same time. Aurebesh’s letter shapes are often based on their English counterparts, but their component parts have been twisted around or turned inside. If I find myself stumped by some Aurebesh, it actually helps me to translate it by “reverse engineering” the glyphs into familiar English letters.

This is certainly one of the more unusual things I’ve examined for this blog, but it never ceases to surprise me how far Star Wars has seeped into pop culture.

 

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The Rise of Skywalker Review

Beware: there will be some light spoilers ahead. My social media feed is filled with people who didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker, and I don’t really disagree with a lot of the criticisms, but I still enjoyed the movie. I’m enormously fond of these characters and I cannot deny having fun watching them fly around the galaxy having adventures.

I’ll start with what I didn’t like. I’m a Rose stan and was bummed to see her get the Return of the Jedi-Lando treatment. Her heart and earnestness is a big part of why I love The Last Jedi. I wish she had more to do than just be there. Related to that is Finn whose story doesn’t feel complete. Finn is the focus of so much textual and subtextual shipping in the first two movies that it is frankly weird that none of it was addressed much less resolved beyond everyone having seemingly friend-zoned each other. I know Abrams has addressed the question of what Finn wanted to say to Rey during a Q&A, but, in my book, that doesn’t count at all.

To raise a plot point, revisit it later, but never resolve it strikes me as awfully sloppy storytelling. For a movie that spends so much time dwelling on other questions that don’t really need answers, it’s disappointing to see ones that should be answered left hanging.

If there were only one thing I could change, however, it would be Rey’s family revelation. I admit that generational conflict and bloodlines have always been part of Star Wars’ story, but I just don’t think it was necessary here. I think you could remove that plot point and still tell the exact same story.

That said, I don’t think Rey Palpatine invalidates The Last Jedi or its message; indeed Rey taking the name Skywalker regardless is, to me, a satisfying conclusion to her story.

I hate to try to read the minds of any filmmakers, but I do agree with the popular notion that J. J. Abrams stuffed into The Rise of Skywalker the two movies worth ideas of where he thought things would go after The Force Awakens, but he never quite squares things with what Rian Johnson did in The Last Jedi. Not since the Expanded Universe, have we really seen the visions of two authors with different takes on the same setting and characters bump up against each other like this. Do I think the goal was to make a safe, non-controversial movie? Absolutely, but I don’t think Episode IX is even remotely close to being the first Star Wars story to do that.

This movie is a shaggy dog and, in spite of its mess, I still like it. The four leads are strong, and their chemistry is engaging. Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in particular are very good. The big set pieces are cool; the rain-soaked lightsaber battle was neat, and the space battle at the end was a blast. The trailer spoiled the reveal of the fleet, and that scene sure does feel like it cribbed from Avengers: Endgame, but I still cheered when Lando and the Falcon came to the rescue. I cheered when Rey handed the lightsaber off to Ben. And I cheered when she crossed the two blades at the end. I am on the record as someone who doesn’t think fan service is inherently bad, so stuff like Harrison Ford’s cameo (which I wasn’t expecting) worked for me, and the voices of the Jedi (which I were expecting) felt right on target. And Luke’s shit-eating grin after lifting the X-Wing out of the water was just great.

Finally, I think Carrie Fisher’s inclusion was handled well. While I wouldn’t call the integration of her old footage seamless, there were really only one or two shots that struck me as obviously CGI’ed, and I’d say they did a good job working in what dialogue they had into the story. I can’t imagine watching the movie not knowing that she is no longer with us, but I think it’s an appropriate tribute to Fisher and her importance to Star Wars.

I realize “Ah, I mostly liked it” is not the hottest of takes, but I’m not embarrassed to like something in spite of its flaws. Is the movie big, dumb and stupid? Probably. But I’m okay with that. Sometimes Star Wars should be those things.

 

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A Mug’s Game: Five Predictions for 2020

Happy New Year! My annual attempt at failed prognostication has become something of a tradition, and, if we grade last year’s predictions on a generous curve, I scored a 1.5 out of 5, which is much better than I would’ve expected. As usual, I shall swing for the fences and not put any pressure on myself to anticipate the next year of SWTOR and actually hope to be right. There is a reason I call these top five lists “dumb”, after all.

Spoils of War

I don’t think we will see major changes to Spoils of War. For the most part, I have the impression that players are satisfied with gearing in Onslaught, especially as it compares to Galactic Command at any point in Knights of the Eternal Throne. I imagine there might be some tweaking in the months ahead. Renown Crates might as well reward nothing but Tech Fragments considering how rarely they contain useful or interesting loot, and hopefully there will be new additions for classes or specs that still lack a cool set or tactical. I also hope crafting gets another look; making basic stuff like medpacks, stims or augments still feels a bit tedious. Having to constantly churn out six types of components every time I want to make something is already getting old. All that said, it’s been a welcome change to have more stability in gearing this time around.

Blurrg Mounts

It’s fair to say that The Mandalorian has been very well received indeed by both Star Wars fans and SWTOR players. I’ve seen a rush of new Bounty Hunters overrunning Imperial Fleet since the show’s debut. I have no doubt that armor and weapons inspired by the show are certain to make their way to the Cartel Market as quickly as the artists at Bioware can crank them out. I predict that among those will certainly be Blurrg mounts. A colorful assortment of adorably ugly Blurrg pets have long been available to players, and I’d be amazed if they weren’t being fattened up for us to ride at this very moment. I’ll be shocked if I don’t score a point for this prediction next year, and perhaps one day our characters will even be the ancestors who rode the great Mythosaur!

The Dead Speak!

Kira Carsen and Lord Scourge have returned to SWTOR‘s main story with warnings of a Dark Side plague apparently unleashed by Valkorion’s defeat. I will go out on a limb and predict that this new threat might somehow also function as a way to allow for Vaylin’s return. Vaylin is arguably the character with the most tragic story in all of the Fallen Empire saga, and that her fate is set in stone regardless of our choices has been criticized by some who just like the character and by others who are uncomfortable with the idea that someone who was so horribly abused by her father had no path to redemption or escape. I don’t think it’s impossible that we could see her return in the not-too distant future. Nevertheless it might be odd to see her join our stable of companions. That the former Eternal Empress and one of the most powerful Force users in the galaxy might wind up helping us complete dailies on CZ-198 or chain run Slicing missions doesn’t feel like a fitting conclusion to her story either.

New Planet: Honoghr

This prediction is complete and utter speculation on my part. I hope we will visit a new world or two this year, but which ones? The Noghri were recently re-introduced into the official canon during the fourth season of Star Wars: Rebels, and I think they could be cool additions to SWTOR. Their homeworld, Honoghr is a jungle planet with links to both the ancient Rakata and Sith cultists, and it very well could be a planet someone like Darth Malgus might us as a base of operations or source of minions to use in his revenge against his hated foes in the Sith Empire and Galactic Republic. The depictions of the Noghri have varied greatly in Star Wars lore over the years, so I think SWTOR might have some latitude in putting their own stamp on them, and that would be neat to see. That said, if I’m being honest, I think we are far more likely to visit the Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk or Black Spire Outpost on Batuu than Honoghr this year. I would be fine with either of those destinations.

My Kingdom for a Porg!

Yes, for the third year in a row, Porgs are on this list, and, no, I will not give up on my fine feathered and tasty friends! Truthfully, I accept that Porgs are now fated to do nothing more than hold Baby Yoda’s beer, but I still cling to the foolish hope they will follow along and squawk at my characters’ adventures at some point in the year to come. Once again, I will also offer some unsolicited advice on additional Porg themed items that should make their way to a Cartel Market near you. First, and most obviously, there should be a Porg Flair that replaces our portrait with a dancing Porg. Second, a Porg Weapon Tuning should perch a Porg perilously close to the end of our blaster barrels and lightsaber emitters and also replace the weapon’s sound effects with Porg mating calls. Finally, I can imagine a countless array of Porg themed decorations for our Strongholds: Porgs nests, Porg perches, Porg Disguise Terminals, and interactive Porg BBQ pits. It’s not too late for 2020 to be the year of the Porg, Bioware!

Feel free to let me know how catastrophically wrong these predictions are in the comments below or to share a few of your own. In the meantime, I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start and that SWTOR roars into the ’20’s with another year of fun for all!

 

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