Tomorrow Never Knows: Five Predictions for 2023

Before we get too far into 2023, I decided I should bite the bullet and put out my annual list of five predictions for SWTOR in this brand new year.

The results from last year’s list were poor even by my standards, so I’m going to strive a little bit harder this year to predict things that might actually come to be.

Darth Nul is the Big Baddie

Darth Malgus is on ice on Fleet right now, but I don’t think anyone believes that the events he set in motion after breaking free of the Emperor’s control are close to completion, regardless of whether he will see his plans come to fruition in person or not. My suspicion that Malgus won’t survive this expansion has waxed and waned, but I’m starting to feel again that his time may soon be up.

So far Darth Nul, who we first heard about in connection to the events on Elom has remained a remote figure who may not actually even be alive anymore. Nevertheless the spirits of malevolent, powerful Sith have a nasty habit of lingering long past their time, and I think we might soon be in her presence. As the “mother” to the Children of the Emperor, there is no telling how much influence she has over them after Valkorion’s ultimate defeat.

With the Showdown on Ruhnuc story, SWTOR’s plot threads are being woven together, and it seems the next step is to fully reveal Nul’s role in all of this. Whether it’s as a spirit controlling her children, or as a fully corporeal Sith Lady, or a ghost scheming to transfer her essence into Sa’har, I don’t dare guess.

Down for Dathomir

But where will it all happen? Elssha recently posted a poll on twitter asking which planet from live action and animated Star Wars lore folks would like to visit. I voted for Kashyyyk (because Wookiees), but it got me thinking.

Towards the end of Onslaught, Sana Rae, the leader of the Force Enclave of our Alliance sensed a disturbance in the Force, and we had the option to send Arcann to investigate it. Whether or not Arcann was around in your version of the story, the specific source of the disturbance has curiously not been revealed.

This suggests two possibilities. First, the folks at Bioware didn’t know when they started the story, or they chose not to tell the players. I favor the latter theory, but it begs the question: why didn’t they tell us? An answer that makes sense to me is that it is a world that is filled with possibilities and history that the players might very  know of even if our characters would not. Dathomir, a planet steeped in the Dark Side of the Force, with a history in lore filled with defiant female witches seems like just the vacation spot Darth Nul might want to visit or set up shop.

While the infamous Nightsisters are likely not around during this era, the planet itself could still be home to all manner of threats to our characters from Rancors, Dark Side Zombies and Force wielding shaman which the Cartel Market suggest do exist at this time.

A trip to Dathomir certainly would put the Sith in Legacy of the Sith!

Arts and Crafts

This expansion’s launch spread out updates to several systems associated with an increase in the level cap, but crafting has thus far been untouched. It is starting to stand out as something in need of an update, and I hope this is the year crafting gets some attention.

MMO Crafting is tough to get just right. When it comes to allowing players to make endgame gear, the gear is either too poor to bother using or so powerful that it obviates other progression paths, It’s rarely anywhere in between. At this point, I don’t think it really makes sense to add yet another gearing path, but I think there might be other ways to make crafting interesting.

SWTOR crafting, however, has never really been a major part of the game for most players. The ability to craft reusable stims, medpacks and adrenals has made Biochem the stand out crafting skill for endgame players, and the utility brought by other skills has lagged behind. I remain fond of Artifice as a source of cheap dyes and color crystals for my stable of alts, but my other characters’ skills see little use beyond crafting augments and kits.

At the very least, Bioware should revamp the crafting UI which has been hardly touched since launch. Trying to find specific a item amidst the long lists of items in the numerous categories is more difficult than it should be.

In addition, the changes that came with the Onslaught expansion made crafting a slog. To make an item, you need to make components to make more components which are needed for yet another level of components, and then you repeat the process for another type of component. It’s tedious and requires a vast supply of crafting materials and baby-sitting of companions on crew skill missions. It’s not engaging, and it certainly isn’t fun.

But how to fix it? You got me. Should it be possible to craft Best-in-Slot gear? I don’t see why not. Back when 50 was the level cap, Artifice, Synthweaving and Armormech each allowed players to make non-tradable, Bind-on-Equip, best-in-slot gear in a pair of slots. Maybe that’s something that could return to boost the other crafting skills. Should it be easy or hard to gather the necessary materials? Or something in between?

Personally, I love adding recipes for color crystals and dyes to my repertoire, and I feel like there are lots of retired cosmetic weapon and armor appearances that could be given to Armstech, Armormech and Synthweaving. Likewise, it’s been a while since Cybertechs got a new mount or grenades to craft. Are more craftable cosmetics the key? I would dig them, but I don’t know if that would be enough for other folks.

Regardless, I do think it’s time Bioware gave crafting a good look.

Hats and Hoods and Hair, Oh My!

Throughout the game’s history, there have been countless cool outfits that are marred by hoods that make players look bald or hats that come with odd skull caps. It’s time we finally had hats and hoods that show our hair. This wish was actually on my very first Dumb Top Five list, and I would not revisit it if not for one recent addition to the game: Ri’kan’s armor set.

As far as I’m concerned adding headgear that includes Twi’lik head-tails for everyone who wears it is letting the camel’s nose in the tent. If I can wear a helmet that gives Lekku to a Cathar, then we can have a hat the puts hair on Rattataki.

Are there technical limitations to what I’m asking? Can headgear that includes hair even match the color we selected at character creation? I feel like it should, or at least it shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem to solve.

Nico’s wide-brimmed hat looks great on him. A stray lock of hair spills out of Vaylin’s hood. I very much would love to see options like this finally be made available for our characters.

For Every Season There is a Porg

The theme uniting the next Galactic Season will, of course, be Porgs. It all makes sense. Bioware wouldn’t simply throw an adorable, much requested, lore appropriate pet on the Cartel Market; they would have to be introduced with all the pomp and circumstance you’d expect of a Galactic Season.

Long time readers will, of course, not be surprised by this prediction. In fact, it’s been locked into this spot on this list for months (if not years). But here’s the thing, I think a Galactic Season based around a creature companion is actually a good idea. First off, it obviates any need to worry about voice acting since it’s expected that a creature would only need to growl, chirp or purr. Furthermore, all sorts of extra rewards suggest themselves: customizations with different fur or feather colors, mount versions of the creature we could ride, cute baby versions to hatch as pets, and so on.

Conversation interactions could involve training the creature to be either as friendly and huggable as a Charhound or as viscous as an attack Porg. Would you teach your animal companion to bring you your slippers or go for the throat?

As much as it breaks my heart, a Porg might not actually be a good choice for this idea, but there are plenty of neat creatures all over our SWTOR stories that would work. How about a lion-maned, dinosaur-horned Ranphyx like the ones we encountered on Elom? I think that would be pretty darn cool, especially if we could work towards a customization that gives it the glowing eyes and electrified hide of the boss we fight in the Ruins of Nul flashpoint.

I still want a lil’ Porg buddy though.

So here’s to 2023! I hope it’s a fun and rewarding year for all of my readers, and that all of our Star Wars dreams come true, even if most of these predictions probably won’t! Let me know in the comments your predictions for this year.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Seasons’ Greetings

Just popping in this week to mark the end of 2022.

As I write this I’ve have recently hit rank 100 on the third Galactic Season track and have also started off the new PVP Season.

Once again I had fun with the Galactic Season. There was a nice mix of objectives and a very solid collection of rewards to earn. While I understand that over-the-top armor sets are a staple of the MMO design aesthetic, it’s good to see the Season 3 outfits include a comfortable jacket and pair of pants that look like something an average person could actually wear. While there should always be a place for armors with countless straps, flaming skulls and unnecessary spikes in odd places, I always welcome the option to wear something my character could reasonably sit down in while wearing.

The G.A.M.E. Pit Boss jacket is adorned with patches recalling aspects of games of chance from Star Wars lore including a sideways Cartel Coin symbol, Han Solo’s famous lucky “spike dice”, the face of a Sabacc card on the right shoulder of the jacket, and the back of another over the heart. This symbol also adorns the weapons and mounts rewarded during the Season.

The origins of the card game of Sabacc stretches far back into Star Wars lore as the game of chance in which Han Solo infamously won the Millennium Falcon from his pal, Lando Calrissian. Originally called “sabacca” in an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back, L. Neil Smith changed the name to Sabacc (perhaps to sound less like “Chewbacca”), in his delightfully odd 1983 novel Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. Sabacc has been a stable of Star Wars‘ underworld gambling scene ever since. The first playable version of Sabacc, an amalgamation of Poker and Black Jack, appeared in West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game module Crisis on Cloud City in 1989, but many, many variants and updates to the rules have appeared since. Even in the Star Wars universe, there is no single rules set for Sabacc, and this has allowed creators to include and adapt the game in whatever ways they need from Black Spire Outpost in Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge theme park attraction to the game’s big screen debut in Solo: A Star War Story.

The large patch on the back of the Pit Boss jacket is especially fun, and once I picked it up, it immediately became a go-to outfit on my smuggler. I know SWTOR merchandise is a rare thing these days, but I’d love to see that “Galactic Champion” emblem on a patch or a pin or t-shirt for me to wear in the real world as well!

I definitely recommend sprucing up the jacket with a cheap Secondary Black Dye from the Underworld Reputation vendor who can be found on your fleet’s Cartel Bazarre. If you ever wanted to be cool like Fonzie, this might do the trick!

Weapons, Name Calling and Cheating

The latest game update also saw the debut of SWTOR‘s first revised PVP Season, and I’m dipping my toes again into regular player vs. player matches.

My first impression is that I wish there wasn’t overlap between the Galactic Season and the PVP season. Since participation in either does take time and commitment, having a break between seasons is important. It is nice when the game rewards different activities, but sometimes I just want to kick back and decorate, explore, complete dumb achievements or other stuff that does not actually advance any progress bar. I think that the game should remember to let players direct themselves sometimes.

Since I haven’t PVPed much this year, the PVP season does feel fresh to me, and it’s been fun shaking the rust off. Truthfully, when it comes to player-vs.-player, I am just average, but it’s nice to be able to queue for warzones alone and not have to worry about having an arena popping and dealing with the pressure of having to perform expertly in order to not let my teammates down. In the 8 versus 8 objective-based warzones, while I definitely want to win, I don’t really care if I don’t. As long as I did my part, I shrug and move on to the next one.

Progress down the season’s track, however, does strongly reward winning and active participation in the matches. It is difficult for some classes to achieve 8 medals even in a victory. I can’t tell you how many times my Sorcerer has finished a match with a 59k biggest hit, and once again missed out on the Annihilator medal that triggers at 60k.

While I understand that earning medals is easier in Arenas, in Warzones, it takes active engagement to come away with the magic number of 8 medals needed to advance the weekly objective for earning medals. Players need to aggressively engage in completing objectives, and folks who prefer to act in support or farm numbers may struggle to finish that season task.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. Capping nodes, scoring the Hutt Ball, and planting bombs on doors all make matches faster and, I think, more interesting. I’m certain Bioware will adjust the numbers next year, but I’ve had some entertaining games so far. I have had some stinkers too. Solo queueing into a match against a pre-made group is never a great experience, and isn’t an uncommon occurrence during off-peak hours.

The rewards for the season are worth discussing. The Cartel Combatant armor set doesn’t really stand out in comparison to the Galactic Season rewards and certainly not in comparison to old Ranked rewards. If the armor has a connection to Star Wars lore, I can’t quite place it; likewise it doesn’t feel thematically tied to any of the classes or either faction. I don’t dislike the set, but I don’t feel like it fits any of my characters. That said, the interactive decoration are pretty neat and my favorite items on the track so far.

For me, the rewards that motivate me the most are the season tokens that can be used to buy replicas of the flashy old Ranked Season rewards. I know this is a touchy subject for some, but my general feeling is that it is okay for elite cosmetic rewards to become more accessible after their time has passed. This has long been a staple of MMOs and even SWTOR has been recycling Nightmare armor and weapon cosmetics for years. If you have some leftover Light Side tokens, you can buy weapons identical to the Kell Dragon ones my team busted our humps to earn back in the day.

I won’t lie, I’m hoping to save up enough PVP season tokens to grab the weapon set I came up short earning nearly 8 years ago. But it’s going to take some time. Realistically, I won’t have enough tokens until well into the second season. Players who are better than me and more willing to participate in arenas will earn those tokens faster.

Again, I’d say this is okay. I know many Ranked players are lamenting their rewards being turned into participation trophies, but if I’m being brutally honest, it would’ve been much easier and quicker in the last couple of years for me to win-trade enough ranked currency to buy those replica weapons than it will take me to earn the new tokens through a couple of season tracks where the matches are real and people are trying.

Overall, I think the season is off to a good start. The season should be long enough for me to earn enough tokens towards my goal without feeling like all I must do in SWTOR is PVP. The solo queues have been popping, and I hope that means more people are trying it out. More people PVPing should mean better season rewards in the future and hopefully even new maps. There is no downside to that.

Happy New Year!

Just as the holidays began in earnest, Keith Kanneg, SWTOR‘s Project Director, delivered an early present with news of SWTOR’s ongoing modernization efforts. I’m no expert when it comes to computers, but folks who know tell me that upgrading to 64 bit should help the game be less resource intensive and allow some more robust processes in the game. In addition, by moving the servers to the cloud, most users should see reduced latency, especially folks who play on the Virginia-based Star Forge or Satele Shan servers, but are not themselves on the US’s east coast. These changes are hardly glamorous, and if done right should be close to invisible to most players, but they do demonstrate Bioware’s commitment to the game.

That said, for the vast majority of SWTOR players, the only updates that matter are story updates, and I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the amount of story we got this year. Hopefully as these infrastructure projects wrap up, we might see a more regular cadence of story updates, but we also need to understand that story requires a whole host of additional organizational expenses that other updates to the game don’t. Remember, at the very least, every time your character speaks a single line of dialogue, 48 different voice actors have to record that line, and that’s not including the writers, translators, audio engineers and everyone in the production pipeline who makes SWTOR‘s most prominent feature, fully voiced story, possible. Does moving SWTOR to the cloud mean we’ll get more frequent story updates? I want to hope so, but I think it’s best not to assume too much.

Finally, let me wish everyone who’s stopped by here a happy, safe and prosperous New Year! I’ve got a backlog of topics and weird alien text to translate and I hope to see you on the other side!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR

Andor Review

SWTOR‘s 7.2 Game update Showdown on Ruhnuc just launched, and once again the game finds a way to end the year on a high note. While I gather my thoughts on this year of SWTOR, I also want to put down on the record my two credits about the latest live action Star Wars story.

Season one of Andor is an impressive accomplishment. At its core it is a show about the birth of the Rebel Alliance as seen from Cassian Andor’s perspective. But it’s not only about Cassian, and indeed in his life, he is often powerless in the face of forces he cannot control, from his “rescue” from Kenari to arrest on the resort world of Niamos.

Because the show has bigger fish to fry, it also makes sure to tell the stories of other key figures in the early days of the fight against the Empire. Most familiar to Star Wars fans is Mon Mothma who has gone from a one note character from a single scene in Return of the Jedi to someone who faces a struggle against the Empire that has left her as trapped and desperate as anyone else. It has been remarkable to see Geneveive O’Reilly take Mothma from a sadly deleted scene in Revenge of the Sith to an assuredly played key player in both Rogue One and Andor.

I think the message of Andor is that the Rebellion was not born of one thing; the protagonist of this season is clearly Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthan Rael whose goal is to bring together an alliance that can credibly fight the Empire. He is, by any means necessary, working to unite scattered factions of politicians, spies, smugglers, criminals and terrorists into a whole, even if it means lying to one group or sacrificing another. In Star Wars lore, the Rebellion is typically presented as the “good guys”, but Andor wants to add some nuance to that portrayal.

The show is about the struggle for the soul of the Rebellion. The climax of Rogue One is, of course, the resolution of this conflict, but in Andor we hear many voices describe what rebellion means to them. Nemik’s manifesto details what the Empire’s banal evil is. In Coruscant’s underbelly, Luthan declares how far he is willing to go in the fight. Kino Loy exhorts his fellow prisoners to take their escape in the only direction where it can go. In the finale, Maarva’s epic self-eulogy is a call to arms to everyone within the sound of her voice telling them why they must fight.

Cassian Andor confronts Syril Karn on Morlana One.

It’s all thrilling stuff, and Deigo Luna is fantastic as Cassian who strives to find his place in the midst of this chaos. You don’t have to strain very hard to see parallels in the politics and conflicts of our world’s all too recent history. From its very beginning, Star Wars has worn its anti-fascist politics on its sleeve, and Andor looks to explore the ways people fight back in their most desperate hour. After one season, it hasn’t offered easy solutions or a happy ending. We know how things end for Cassian, but the show has made it clear that no one is safe. Take Mon Mothma, the only character on the show whose survival is assured; when we revisit her again in Return of the Jedi, the Bothans are only the latest in a long line of losses she’s endured in the intervening years.

Under Tony Gilroy’s stewardship, Andor also approaches the cinematic scope of an actual Star Wars movie better than any other Disney+ show so far. In tone and story, it is very much like its own thing, but still feels like Star Wars as well. Season two is quite a ways off, but I’ll be there for it as soon as it drops.

Is Andor the Best Star Wars?

I’ll just cut to the chase. No, I don’t think so.

This section was originally a lot more ranty, went through several revisions, and I nearly abandoned the whole review altogether, but I came around to feeling like I did have something to say about Andor.

Discourse within Star Wars fandom has always been kind of bad, and even from the distant outer rim of things where I live these days, it feels worse. So much of it boils down to people who want to make which Star Wars you like a zero-sum game and then pit one sub-group of fans against another. “If you don’t like Rogue One, you’re wrong and not a real Star Wars fan.” “If you don’t like The Last Jedi, you’re wrong and not a real Star Wars fan.” “If you don’t like the Zahn trilogy, you’re wrong and not a real Star Wars fan”, etc., etc.…

Even leaving aside the CHUDs mining bad faith click baiting shit-takes, it can be exhausting even just to ignore it all.

Among people who mean well, it can get to be a bit much too. I get it. After more than four decades there is a lot of Star Wars out there and sorting through it all is not for the faint of heart. But when it comes to Star Wars, I’m not gonna pick just one. I like apples AND oranges.

Take Andor and Book of Boba Fett. Comparisons only get you so far. They are very different shows with very different ambitions. Book of Boba Fett was pretty much naff; Andor has things on its mind. However, I suspect that if I were eight years old, I’d much prefer Book of Boba Fett, a show with jet packs, high noon shoot outs, and monster vs. robot action, to a show mainly about people talking, in which the hero shoots unarmed people and someone is psychically tortured by the cries of murdered children.

Mon Mothma carefully navigates the political waters of Coruscant.

Ultimately, I think the best Star Wars should probably land somewhere in the middle. I don’t think that’s a spicy take at all. Ideally, of course, I want Star Wars to be smart AND fun, but it doesn’t always hit that mark, and at my most sanguine I might even admit that it rarely hits the mark at all.

All that said, I think it’s good that there are  Star Wars stories with different styles, tones and perspectives. I’ll even go so far to say that this sort of variety is necessary for Star Wars to find and connect with new fans. That I don’t consider Andor to be “The Best Star Wars” does not at all detract from how much I like the show. Hate on Disney all you want, but we’re getting more Star Wars content now than at any time in the franchise’s history. I’m glad they’re willing to explore different stories with lots of creators. In the old days, Andor would’ve been, at best, a second-rate paperback novel, and not the high quality production we got. It’s cool we can pick and choose the shows and movies and novels and comics and video games we like and shouldn’t have to feel like we need to watch, read or play it all, because, holy cats, there is a lot of it.

I gave up years ago trying to keep up with everything, but I do not and would never think that the slice of Star Wars pie that I enjoy is the only Star Wars worth tasting. I love it when someone’s genuine enthusiasm as a fan or a creator encourages me to try something different. As for the parts I don’t like, I honestly don’t give them much thought, and I sure as shebs don’t take it personally. I cannot possibly imagine holding a grudge against someone who just wanted to tell a Star Wars story.

Of all the hills to die on, that’s the stupidest.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General Star Wars

Dominique and Lumiya

As the end of the year looms ever larger, I’m still playing catch up with everything I’ve been wanting to discuss here. For now, I’d like to share my first impressions of SWTOR’s newest operation, but do it from a perspective a little different than normal. But let’s start with the basics!

The R-4 Anomaly

This past summer saw the release of a brand new, somewhat delayed new operation: The R-4 Anomaly.

As with all my operations experience in recent years, my progress through R-4 through has been very casual and my focus has been getting to experience it with friends and guildmates. This means I haven’t set foot in Veteran Mode, but that’s fine me. Storymode is still plenty challenging; it feels in many way like the Hard Modes of old. The dps and healing checks are there, but not wholly beyond reach. The mechanics are the real challenge, and do require a coordinated group and communication in voice chat.

In other words, Story Mode R-4 is unlike every other Storymode in the game. Personally, I’m having a great time learning the fights and teaching them to others. However, this does mean that the majority of actual Story Mode players are left out in the cold. A Story Mode nerf seems inevitable, but I wonder where it will leave my more casual “beer league” operations team. From what I’ve seen, Veteran Mode R-4 seems more akin to the “Hard Mares” of Shadow of Revan, something of which I am on the record being no fan.

With the legacy Story Modes now tuned to be the easiest they’ve ever been, R4’s introductory difficulty stands out as an “anomaly” that is harder than most Veteran Mode operations. Personally, I would’ve notched up the labels of each version of the raid from Story Mode to Veteran and Veteran Mode to Master, and released a universal Storymode for folks without gear or experience to freely explore. As someone without any actual MMO design knowledge, I’m certain this would’ve been fine for Story Mode players and casual raiders like myself, but I’m not sure how the Nightmare community would feel about it. I don’t envy Bioware’s job trying to strike a balance in group content for all the varied levels of players in the game, but the inconsistency in difficulty renders the labels they put on the modes confusing at best.

As for the operation’s setting, R-4 is the spookiest and most atmospheric one we’ve had since the Dread Fortress and Dread Palace. The hallways between bosses are dark, dangerous and cramped, and it’s not until the operation’s climatic encounter that the space opens up at all. The boss fights are distinct and unique. So far I like Watchdog best of all: each player has their own responsibilities and each group can deal with the mechanics in different ways, making it a little different to play every time. When my team executes the strategy perfectly, it is incredibly satisfying and has a real effect on the entire flow of the fight.

ARIA’s story from the Dxun operation continues into R4. Despite her narration throughout, I’m not completely clear how she became involved in some rogue Sith’s plan to rebuild the Mass Shadow Generator. I suppose the move from Czerka to the cult of the Unmasked isn’t that big of a leap. The operation’s overall story is not terribly complex. Basically a Sith cult started playing with powers they didn’t fully understand and things went sideways. For an operation that is essentially a haunted house in space, I’m not sure we need much more than that.

I do want to compliment the voice acting included in the op. ARIA continues to be amusing, and Helen Sadler’s performance as the operation’s climatic foe, Lady Dominque is strong as well. And all due credit should go to SWTOR stalwart, Darin De Paul, who definitely gave his all to Lord Kanoth, quite possibly SWTOR’s most unsettling and creepy operations foe.

The rewards from our Story Mode runs have been a bit of a mixed bag. My team had already collected at least a few pieces of 330 gear from Nefra before R4 even launched, and we very quickly unlocked the 330 modifications from Hyde and Zeek, so the actual token drops haven’t been useful for gearing. I’ve completed two cosmetic armor sets and still have dozens of tokens with nothing to spend them on. However, random mobs do drop some neat decorations, but given that the operation is relatively light on trash, I do wish the drop rate were a bit more generous. I should also say that the Wings of Nihrot that can be looted in Veteran Mode are wicked cool, and I definitely have at least one unhinged Sith who’d look good wearing them.

The only glaring oversight I can see from the operations rewards are the lack of a Watchpuppy mini-pet or even a Watchdoggo companion.

Dark Ladies of the Sith

The encounter with Lady Dominique is a fitting capstone to the raid. She’s a unique foe in an epic setting, both with deep ties to Star Wars lore. There is a lot going on, a lot for each player to figure out and get used to, and I’m enjoying the journey of learning this fight. At least when it has been working anyway.

The Mass Shadow Generator is likely familiar to fans of Knights of the Old Republic, but I want to spend some time exploring Lady Dominique’s design instead. The thing that struck me when I first saw her, was her similarity to the character who is actually the second dark sider in Star Wars lore to be identified as a Lord of the Sith: the Dark Lady Lumiya.

Lumiya has a long history, which extends even into the late Expanded Universe and I won’t go into too much detail except to say that she began as a supporting character and antagonist in Marvel Comic’s original Star Wars comics during the 1980’s. She was an agent of the Empire sent to infiltrate the Rebel Alliance following the events of The Empire Strikes Back. She befriended and possibly seduced Luke Skywalker until he thought he’d accidentally killed her in battle. But she survived and was rebuilt thanks to Darth Vader’s intervention, and reemerged after Return of the Jedi as Vader’s heir intent on defeating Luke and the Rebel Alliance. The aspect of Lumiya’s story that always resonated with me is that if Luke is Anakin Skywalker’s son, then Lumiya is in many ways, Darth Vader’s daughter, making their conflict more personal and tragic.

Lumiya shares with Lady Dominique some design elements including most notably a distinctive V-shaped helmet. While I can’t say for certain if Domininque was meant to be an echo of Lumiya, I do believe both character share inspiration in a style of women’s medieval headdress called the “Escoffion.” The inverted triangular shape of the escoffion evokes horns coming from the wearer’s head and certainly makes for an imposing appearance.

It is an established part of the Star Wars design philosophy to take archaic designs and give them a futuristic spin, from Darth Vader’s Samurai inspired helmet to Din Djarin’s knight in shining armor/Mandalorian regalia. In the case of Dominique and Lumiya, this odd design syncs perfectly with the cybernetics and circuitry inspired patterns that define the rest of their costumes.

But there may be more going on with Lady Dominque than just a similarity to an old comic book character. The design of her helmet suggests other comparisons. Clearly, her helmet is a technified iteration on Darth Nihulus’ split skull mask, but there seems to me more going on here. I can’t help but think that the slits in her helmet’s faceplate are not just random. The design evokes symbols from our world, and I wonder if it is just coincidence. One symbol is the Cross of Lorraine, which was used to inspire French patriotism and reunification during World World II. The other comes from electrical engineering and is the symbol for a common fixed capacitor.

In both cases, however, Lady Dominique’s version of the symbol is broken, suggesting dis-unification in once case or a broken connection in another. I fully admit that I may be looking for connections that aren’t there, but it does strike me as interesting that either interpretation can relate to Dominique’s disastrous attempt to merge her body and consciousness with the Mass Shadow Generator.

Regardless, she’s a really bad-ass looking Sith Lord, and whether I’m seeing things that aren’t there, nothing can change that!

UPDATE! The Vampire In the Room

I do want to mention an additional Lady D that I suspect also had some influence on Lady Dominique, that is, of course, Lady Dimitrescu, the mutant-vampire antagonistic of Capcom’s 2021 survival horror game, Resident Evil Village. Lady Dimitrescu achieved near instant meme status with her debut, and I think it’s fair to say that elements of Dominique echo Dimitrescu’s infamously tall statue and ridiculously wide brimmed hat.

I did not mention this at first because I think maybe it went without saying, but upon reflection, it might’ve been a touch of academic snobbery that led me to overlook a recent pop cultural influence in favor of ones with ties to Star Wars lore and real world symbology. Having had an extra day to rethink my position, I hope this small addendum corrects the record.

 

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Filed under General Star Wars, Legacy of the Sith, My Artwork

Ruhnuc and Roll

Last week, the SWTOR team announced their plans for the next big game update 7.2: Showdown on Ruhnuc. The livestream was packed with news. I can’t possibly breakdown it all, but I do want to touch on a few of the major points while the takes are still somewhat hot.

Showdown on Ruhnuc

First and foremost, I’m very happy to have some new story content to play. SWTOR’s storylines of late seem to have flown off in several different directions with characters and arcs seemingly unconnected to the others, but it looks like things are coming together and hopefully coming to a head.

At first glance, the new planet Ruhnuc looks to be an impressive and stark wasteland, inspired by the American west. One of Star Wars’ foundational genres is the Western, so I’m always glad to explore some wide-open spaces, wade behind waterfalls and maybe find a datacron or other fun secrets along the way.

The update of SWTOR’s UI continues with a revised map that is more user friendly and less intrusive than the current one. As some one who frequently gets turned around on Fleet and lost on Corellia, this is a welcome improvement. Messing around on the PTS, I found I was able to leave the map on all the time without it interfering with my exploration and view. The UI changes also have at last allowed for the addition of colorblind mode to the game. I’ve known many colorblind players over the years, and it is long overdue for this accessibility option to be a part of SWTOR, and these UI updates finally make it possible.

For many players, the big news comes with the PVP changes. To summarize, the queues are being pared down into one for 8v8 warzones and one for 4v4 arenas, with rewards coming from a Galactic Season-style objective track.

This means that SWTOR will no longer support Ranked PVP. I am not the best person to comment in depth on this. I made Bronze one season and have dabbled here and there since, so my experience is limited. My first reaction is that I feel bad for the people whose favorite game mode is ranked PVP, and I know how much it sucks when a game stops supporting the play style you like best.

But I think Ranked was doomed. For the last few years, ranked has enticed players with the best cosmetic rewards the game has ever offered, but it hasn’t helped grow the PVP population. We all know the reason. The barrier between unranked and ranked isn’t so much a learning curve, as a buzz saw. It should not come as a shock that most players simply aren’t interested in investing the effort in getting skilled enough to compete while also dealing with the “personalities” of some players they encounter in the queue. I’m not blaming the ranked community, not most them anyway. The fact of the matter is that SWTOR is the theme-parkiest of theme parks MMOs, and Bioware simply has been unable to fully support and effectively police a competitive PVP scene.

If a casual-friendly PVP season attracts more people with the promise of rewards, allows inexperienced players to get their feet wet, and dilute the toxicity that festered in ranked, then I think the changes will be a good thing.

So I am indeed looking forward to 7.2. Bioware says that Life Day will be timed with its release, and since it doesn’t quite make sense to celebrate Life Day after our holiday season, I’m hopeful that we’ll be heading to Ruhnuc sometime next month! Keep your fingers, toes and lekku crossed!

Raffles Winners!

I also want to thank everyone who entered my latest raffle. There were more than enough entries to unlock three Opal Vulptilla Mounts for the lucky winners. While not everyone could win, I was able to sweeten the pot with some extra Cartel Coins and 30 Day Subscription codes to help bring an early Life Day to a few extra folks. If you entered, check the character in your entry!

I’m hoping to do my best for the rest of the year to catch up with everything I’ve missed lately so come on back soon!

 

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Filed under Ancient Jedi Runes, Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Tricks and Treats

Happy Halloween, gentle reader!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I should probably start thinking about a post to mark the sixth anniversary of this blog, only to realize that the anniversary had already passed two weeks before. That time is playing tricks on me should tell you the kind of year I’m having. Still, it’s looking like the dark clouds are starting to lift. I have a lot of ground to make up, including an actual anniversary post which is a little different from what I usually do, and that should be out very soon!

An Ace That You Can Keep

In the meantime, I want to briefly touch on the most current topic in SWTOR: the recent start of the third Galactic Season! My first impression is that Bioware’s approach this time around has been “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If so, it was definitely the right call. I had lots of fun during the second season, but since it ended, Conquest has gotten stale, so it’s nice to hop on and look at the week’s objectives and see what I feel like doing for some neat rewards.

Indeed, I think the rewards this time around, are overall the best of the three seasons’ worth we’ve had so far. I’ve got characters waiting for each of the weapons, and the outfits should fit nicely into the wardrobes of my smugglers and agents. As for this season’s companion, PH4-LNX, she’s quite distinct, with ties to our Fallen Empire adventures. It’s cool to know there are still some GEMINI droids out there still making their way in the galaxy after being freed by SCORPIO.

The most noticeable change in the Season’s rewards track is that this time Bioware has been less generous with Cartel Coin rewards which have been substituted out for Bind-on-Legacy Cartel Packs. I heard of many folks completing the previous season on all five servers and coming away with twenty thousand Cartel Coins. That is a good chunk of cash shop currency, so I can understand why Bioware dialed those rewards back. But I can also see that dedicated players who put in the effort to complete the season on multiple servers made a considerable investment in time and subscriptions themselves. Personally, the cartel coins aren’t the main thing I want out of the season’s rewards, so I’m fine with the change, but I will admit it was nice being flush with cc (by my wasteful standards anyway) after completing the season on two servers last time around.

Bioware also nudged up the cost of the account unlocks for this season rewards, which I am less happy about. I admit the costs are still cheap, but it’s not great to feel like you’re being nickel-and-dimed when unlocking player earned rewards, especially after seeing that the Cartel Coin rewards have be already been reduced.

Despite this, I do think the season is off to a good start. Completing objectives with guildmates is always fun, and running Fay’s basic story quests and many of the odd-ball objectives remains a pleasure.

No Tricks, Only Treats: Opal Vulptilla Mount Raffle!

To somewhat belatedly celebrate this blog’s sixth big, big anniversary, I am pleased to be able to share with members of my community an opportunity to win an Opal Vulptilla mount. To enter this raffle, all you need to do is leave a comment below this post. Do you dress your characters up for Halloween? Do your characters cosplay in SWTOR in general? How have you been enjoying the new Galactic Season? Do you do it multiple servers or is one enough for you? Let me know what SWTOR thoughts are on your mind!

To enter, leave a comment below with the following information:

  • Your character name (be mindful of spaces and special symbols!)
  • Your faction
  • Your server

That’s it! For every ten entries, I will draw one winner up to a maximum of 3 mount winners. Just between you and me, I’ve got some extra codes for cartel coins and subscription time, so there should be plenty of prizes for the runners up as well. No candy corn, apples or fun-size chocolate bars here, only full size treats if I can help it!

I will accept entries for two weeks from this posting and will randomly select winners on November 15, 2022 at 12 PM ET.

If you prefer not to comment publicly, I also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com or through twitter.

There are no country or server restrictions on any of the prizes that will be awarded.

This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with LucasFilm Ltd, BioWare or Electronic Arts Inc.

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

Please only enter for yourself!

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

If you’re new here, I hope you’ll take a look around. I’ve been translating SWTOR’s alien languages for six years now and sharing commentary about the state of the game as I see it.

 

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Filed under Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR

Neon and Mudflaps

This week let’s take a quick look at the holographic display that appears behind players who possess the Party Instigator, a device that can be purchased on Balmorra by players who have achieved Social Rank 5. In addition to causing players around you to dance, this item also deploys a colorful and flashing neon sign at the center of the festivities.

There isn’t much to the translation, but like my previous recreation, this image also evokes a slice of Americana, one likely familiar to anyone who has driven the interstate highways of the United States.

The text and figure depicted indicates that this display was probably intended for one of the seedier cantinas or dive bars that can be found in any of the galaxy’s countless wretched hives of scum and villainy. The two large letters flanking the figure don’t strike me as having any obvious meaning. It’s fun to wonder if there is any inside joke at play here, but if there is I cannot say. But in the spirit of baseless speculation, I might venture a guess that since the shape formed by the legs of the figure resembles the Aurebesh letter “Xesh”, it could simply be X Y and Z, the final three letters of the alphabet. Beyond that, who knows?

There is, however, no doubt in my mind about the source of inspiration for the figure seen in neon. She is clearly based on the “Mudflap Girl” whose chrome silhouette has become an iconic presence on many, many of the trucks, big rigs and 16 wheelers that range across America’s highways and byways. In the five decades since its creation, the image of the Mudflap Girl has certainly achieved iconic status far beyond its initial use behind the wheels of trucks, and has been reinterpreted in countless ways and styles. SWTOR‘s version replaces the figure’s flowing 1970’s hair with a Twi’lek’s lekku head-tail, an amusing substitution to be sure. What remains from the original design, is of course the figure’s voluptuous physique.

Special thanks to the good folks in the Ootini guilds with whom I’ve been able to raid on the Satele Shan server. During a break in the action last week, someone asked about this graphic, and it was fun to have an excuse to buy my first Party Instigator and check it out over the weekend. Never let it be said that I don’t take requests!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English

Andor and SWTOR

This week’s post is a quick one, and only indirectly related to SWTOR. The Disney+ series Andor launched today, and it has its own logo. Although the logo has been constantly changing over the course of the build up to its debut to the point that the version used in the title sequence is different from the one appearing in the show’s latest marketing materials, each logo has shared traits that I thought were interesting. In tribute, I decided I’d reinterpret it in Aurebesh with a bit of a SWTOR twist.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I quite pulled it off, but I did have fun in the attempt at least. The most distinctive trait of the Andor logo is the letter O formed in negative space between the D and R. Trying to pull of the same trick with an Aurebesh Wesk or W is pushing the readability of that illusion to its limit. To make it work, I had to trim off half of the lower arm of the letter Trill or T, but since the Andor logo removed the bar in the center of its A, I feel like this cheat is consistent with the original design.

The small Star Wars logo was inspired by/shamelessly ripped off from AurekFonts who has worked to archive and catalogue Star Wars’ long and varied history of alien typefaces across all its lore.

The red letters at the bottom are my own bespoke Aurebesh with serifs, which I’ve used here and there over the years. At best, I’d call it a “work in progress,” but at this point I’ve nearly completed the alphabet, so if I’ve got it, I’m gonna use it!

As for Andor itself, don’t worry, there are no spoilers here! If I choose to write about it, it won’t be until well after the season ends. For now, I’m hoping to enjoy it as it comes out this fall.

 

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

Opal Puppy Winners and Nerf Herding

Just a quick post this week, to announce the winners of my Opal Vulptilla Pup raffle!

Congratulations to Mie-go from Darth Malgus; Mystriel Nocturi and Ravmali from Satele Shan; and Meaz and Ryomen-sukuna from Star Forge! Feed those puppers well and take ’em out for a walk around the galaxy every once in a while!

Thanks to everyone who entered. I am hopeful I’ll have more pups to award in the not too distant future!

…Who’s Scruffy Lookin’?

I also want to share something else I’ve done recently: a guide to the secret Nerf Herding achievement!

I originally created this guide for my guild mates, and had long wanted to fully update it. However, it didn’t quite seem like a good fit for this page, but thankfully, Swtorista offered to host it. it’s super cool to me that many more players will get to experience my most favorite exploration achievement in the game. It’s a relaxing way to revisit the some of SWTOR‘s classic planets and come away with three pets, a decoration and the quite possibly the best Legacy title in the game.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR

Viva Nar Shaddaa

This year continues to kick my shebs, but this blog does have an informal tradition of taking a close look at some of Nar Shaddaa’s colorful holographic signs while the Nightlife event is active, and I didn’t want the event to pass without taking a moment to recreate one of the most distinctive examples of neon Aurebesh in all of Star Wars: The Old Republic.


There is a fair amount going on with this graphic, but first and foremost it clearly draws inspiration from the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that has greeted visitors to the city for more than six decades and has become as a distinctive landmark of the city as any hotel on the Strip.

The parallels between Sin City and the Smuggler’s Moon are obvious and intentional across Star Wars lore, so SWTOR’s homage to the sign is a natural fit. Strict traditionalists might be confused and vexed by this sign for both its use of two distinct forms of Aurebesh as well as its disregard for the canonical spelling of Nar Shaddaa. In both cases, I can’t possibly imagine the Hutt crimelords who commissioned this sign caring at all.

“Welcome to” is written using a freehand Aurebesh font which pops up occasionally in other SWTOR signage, but “Nar Shadda” is written using Erik Schroeder’s “Galactic Basic” font, whose usage is a not uncommon sight in SWTOR. This font is more accurate to the alien text seen in Return of the Jedi, but different enough to not actually be Aurebesh, which was itself based on that same text.

The challenge and fun of my recreation was both in duplicating the neon glow and colors of the original, but also replicating its somewhat jagged low resolution. It is my suspicion that this graphic was created early in SWTOR’s development, since other signs and displays tend to have sharper details. Finally, as always, I preserved the spelling “mistake” in my recreation as reminder of the dangers of writing in alien languages.

One Click Bandits Crashin’

Speaking of the Nightlife Event, I thought I’d also touch on this year’s updates. In addition to a somewhat new way to win prizes, three adorable pets, a mount and a complete panoply of weapons were added as jackpot prizes from the Emperor’s Slot Machines.

I admit that my dice were once again hot, and before the event has finished I’ve come away with every prize I wanted, which was honestly mainly the three new pets. I did also collect several of the High Roller weapons, all of which are pretty darn neat. Interestingly this group of weapons are Bind-on-Equip meaning players can trade them with each other in person or through the Galactic Trade Network.

If you’re reading this while the event is active, and you’d like one of the High Roller weapons, I actually recommend buying them directly from the GTN instead of buying Emperor’s chips. The prices will never be lower than they are now while the supply is still strong.

Once again, this year I haven’t needed to purchase chips for the various machines. My leftover stash from previous years is considerable, and simply being active in the game has resulted in a steady supply of Emperor’s tokens allowing me enough chances to get the jackpots I want.

Other new addition to the event have been the “Max Bet” machines available only in the VIP section of both the Republic and Imperial Fleet hubs. As someone who has had access since launch, it’s been neat to see the VIP lounge the most active it’s ever been. Before the addition of Strongholds, it was the location with the most convenient access to our Cargo Hold, a mailbox and the Galactic Trade Network, and I’m glad to again have an excuse to flash my wrist band again and slip behind the velvet rope upstairs.

Max Bet chips can be purchased with either credits or their corresponding chips from your Currency wallet, and have a higher chance to yield a prize result from their respective machines. However even though you might win a prize, you’re still not guaranteed to win the prize you actually want, or even a jackpot. I have not tried a Max Bet Emperor’s machine, but I’m confident I’d get better results from 20 spins of a regular Emperor’s machine than one of the Max Bet machines. Likewise, I see almost no point to bothering with the green Max Bet Smuggler’s machines.

That said, I have taken advantage of the Max Bet Kingpin machines. As a veteran of the event over the years, my stash of blue chips numbers in the thousands and turning a few hundred of them into Max Bet Kingpin chips has allowed me (when used with the Lucky buff from the Smuggler’s machines) to convert them into some extra Emperor’s tokens at a far faster pace that I would otherwise. I don’t doubt that the rate of return would be higher with the regular chips and Kingpin machines, but I simply don’t have the time or interest in the effort it would take to do so.

And I continue to accrue piles of Golden Certificates and Cartel Market Certificates. I’d definitely like something new to buy with them, but it’s nice that if there is a mount, a weapon, a dye, a decoration, or anything at all I want from the Cartel reputation vendors or Golden Certificate vendors, I don’t need to hesitate at all to indulge myself.

Clearly part of the goal of the changes to the Nightlife event was to act as something of a money sink, but I wonder if its having a big effect on the economy. Certainly, you can drop 7.5 million credits on a spin of the Emperor’s machine, but you could also run a flashpoint or play some PVP to earn the chips too. Bioware has done of good job of making the Nightlife event much more player friendly since its debut eight years ago, and I’m glad we can continue to participate by playing SWTOR and not just burning credits.

I’m in favor of credit sinks, but I’d hope for ones that make me want to spend credits rather than making me feel forced to. That cannot be an easy balance to strike.

Opal Vulptilla Pup Raffle!

Finally, I am lucky enough to be able to share with members of my community an opportunity to win an Opal Vulptilla Pup pet. To enter this raffle, all you need to do is leave a comment below this post. How has your luck been at the slot machines this year? What’s your favorite jackpot? Have you run out of alts to give Vectron Wraiths to? Do you prefer the Gamorrean or the Rodian companion? Let me know what SWTOR thoughts are on your mind!

To enter, leave a comment below with the following information:

  • Your character name (be mindful of spaces and special symbols!)
  • Your faction
  • Your server

That’s it! For every ten entries, I will draw one winner up to a maximum of 5 winners. I will accept entries for two weeks from this posting and will randomly select winners on September 12 at 12 PM ET.

If you prefer not to comment publicly, I will also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com or through twitter.

There are no country or server restrictions on any of the prizes that will be awarded.

This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with LucasFilm Ltd, BioWare or Electronic Arts Inc.

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

Please only enter for yourself!

Good luck, and may the Force (or the luck of the Hutts) be with you!

If you’re new here, I hope you’ll take a look around. I’ve been translating SWTOR’s alien languages for more than five years now and sharing commentary about the state of the game as I see it.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR