Yearly Archives: 2017

Give In To The Dark Side Of The Force, You Knob

Good day. Our topic today continues last week’s theme of Aurebesh signage inspired by movies. This one found on Corellia recalls the great tragedy of haunted Elsinore, with its murderous uncle, lost daughter, a mouse trapped in a bottle and a flying dog named “Hosehead.” I refer, of course, to the cinematic classic of the Great White North, Strange Brew.

The saga of Bob and Doug McKenzie has inspired a host of stories through the ages including Star Wars. George Lucas has often remarked that in his original vision, Obi-wan and Anakin’s final duel would take place on ice skates and involve hockey stick-shaped lightsabers and Force empowered cross-checking. Sadly, ILM had not yet mastered the technology of rendering digital ice so the entire sequence had to be scrapped and restaged with lava and higher ground. In a final twist of fate, a Betamax copy of Strange Brew fell through a rupture in the time-space continuum and emerged in Elizabethan England where it was discovered by a little known playwright and plagiarist, William Shakespeare. A mere hired player, Shakespeare only owned a VHS machine, so he was forced to crack open the cassette and studied the film frame by frame in order to reconstruct the story for a play he called Hamlet, a Danish word meaning “hoser.” Without access to the original dialogue, several historical inaccuracies made their way into Shakespeare’s “adaptation.” Had Rosencrantz and Guildenstern thought to save a jelly donut, for example, the young prince surely would’ve survived his ordeal. For this reason, Hamlet is typically dismissed by scholars as something between “Legends” and fan-fiction.


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A New Life Awaits You In The Off-World Colonies!

This week, let’s look at a couple posters, which can be seen throughout the galaxy. They advertise exciting getaways for vacations and new starts for the restless citizens of the Republic and Empire.

To me, this poster recalls the movie Bladerunner and its ambient and inescapable advertisements to escape to the off-world colonies. However, like the company towns of the old American west, the requirement of little to no credit, is almost certainly a double-edged sword.

The floating metropolis and the orange and red tones of the second poster are meant to evoke another movie, which is, of course, The Empire Strikes Back. Wookieepedia tells me that Bespin’s most famous port of call had not yet been constructed in the time of SWTOR, so I guess we should say this is a cloud city, not the Cloud City.

These two particular posters can be found in a ruined cantina on post-apocalyptic Ziost. I can only hope that a few lucky people were convinced to take leave of Ziost before that world met its tragic, final fate.


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Top Five Dumb Wishes for SWTOR

This week, I’d like to focus on something a little different and share a short list of changes I’d like to see made to SWTOR. This is NOT a list of important things. Sure, who wouldn’t demand more story, more group content, perfect class balance, and the return of Kira? Of course I expect all that, but here some other, frivolous things I’d like to see once that other stuff is also sorted out.

Hats and Hoods and Hair

It’s one of the sad facts of life in the SWTOR universe that hats and hoods cannot share the same space as hair on our characters’ heads. The recent additions of Nico Okarr, who wears a hat without ear flaps, Vaylin, whose hair spills out of her hood, and even Koth Freakin’ Vortena, who gets to prop his goggles on his forehead, stand in stark contrast to the player characters who can do none of those things. There are tons of awesome helmets and masks that cover the whole head, but there are far fewer good examples of open-faced headgear and hats because almost without exception they must also awkwardly cover the sides and back of the characters’ heads. Likewise, it’s a shame that so many potentially cool Jedi and Sith robes are marred and rendered unusable by hoods that make the characters appear bald. It’s a nut I really hope they crack one day.

Updated Conquest

I enjoy participating in Conquest both as a solo player and as part of a guild working to place in the top ten. That said, Conquest is in desperate need of an update. Let’s invade Darvannis, Zakuul and Iokath and chase new objectives related to those worlds. In addition, don’t forget to add new Utility decorations. There are now two expansions’ worth of gathering nodes that should be included as conquest rewards. The right color crystal deco can really liven up a room, and a slicing node can perform double duty as both a stylish end table and a source of extra walking around money.


I’d like to see crafters have more vanity items to make. That the classic color crystals from the films can be crafted remains great. Whenever I’m looking for a dye for a new outfit, there is now almost always a good choice available from my Artificer. But let’s see some more Cybertech mounts. Or how about a genetically engineered pet or companion made by Biochem? I know Tunings are the fancy new thing, but I definitely hope to see a craftable Tuning. It could be a rare recipe or call for expensive or difficult to acquire materials. I’m cool with that. Even in a video game, there is satisfaction in making something yourself. I realize and understand that items like this usually goes to the cartel market, but there should also be room for crafters to make fun stuff too.

Companion Weapons

One of the weird things about Knights of the Fallen Empire has been getting companions back who suddenly refuse to use weapons they’d gleefully carried into battle for the last few years. All those techstaves and assault cannons are gathering dust as Torian, SCORPIO, Rusk and Jorgan grab sniper rifles. Storywise, it makes sense that Jorgan prefers rifles, but I always thought it was cool when he and my Commando would unsling their big ass guns and go bug hunting like Vasquez and Drake. Certainly Lightsabers should be restricted to Force using companions, as should saber fighting styles; I don’t think Kira should be dual wielding like a Sentinel or Ashara fighting like an Assassin. And, yeah, Doc and Mako probably wouldn’t use assault cannons, but, in general, I think companions should be more versatile in the weapons they can wield. At the very least, the HKs should be able to fire any darn blaster in the galaxy. Heck, if you told me HK destroyed a factory full of skytroopers using nothing but a vibro-mop, I wouldn’t even blink. And for pity’s sake, give Blizz back his rocket launcher!

Star Wars Rebels

There is no shortage of cool material that can and should be imported, borrowed and swiped from the Star Wars Rebels cartoon (Kanan’s partial armor, Sabine’s two-toned hair, Zeb’s bo-rifle, the Inquistor’s lightsaber, etc.), but the continued absence of Loth Cats from SWTOR is the most glaring omission and a crying shame.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back to the Aurebesh next week, but I may slip in some more dumb top five lists in the future as inspiration strikes me.


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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Are You Experienced

As part of patch 4.7 last year, SWTOR introduced a new pack opening experience that included a number of quality of life changes to how items from Cartel Packs are acquired and stored. It also came with a brief animated sequence complete with Aurebesh readouts as each box disgorges its treasures.

I don’t open a ton of packs, but I recently remembered to snap a screen shot of the new animation. The information displayed includes the exact dimensions of a Cartel Pack and the steps needed to slice into each box of goodies. Sadly the security scan cannot reveal its contents prior to opening. If you want to know if you scored an awesome new lightsaber or just another pair of bronze pants, you’ll have to peak inside yourself.


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Corus Can’t

This week, let’s take a look at a sign that contains an infamous spelling error in which the proud capital of the Galactic Republic is misspelled “Coruscnat.” A second error even snuck into the small text at the base of the poster. For historical purposes I recreated the sign with the errors intact.

I point this out not to make fun of the mistakes. In my own work as a designer, I can admit that this sort of thing happens all the time, and I don’t even have the excuse of working with an alien language.

So how should we chalk this up? Human error? A catastrophic shattering of the players’ suspension of disbelief? Just another use of fake space letters to which the rules don’t apply? Or can we imagine that a minister at the Republic Bureau of Tourism and Trade fobbed off responsibility for the final review of a new advertising campaign on an intern who both did not speak Basic as a first language and also had hit the spice a little too hard the night before? Well, probably the first, but I can go with the last too.

Errors aside, this is a fun poster with a lot going on from the starbursts and speed lines to the bold swathes of color and distressed text.

The M logo which I’d previously thought simply applied to a random cosmetics company seems in fact to be the branding used by the Coruscant Market, and is seen on many posters around the Republic’s capital.

A second, similar poster uses many of the same elements as the first, but in a vertical layout. It does not contain the same spelling mistake, which perhaps proves that the good ol’ intern wasn’t completely asleep at the wheel.


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I’d Buy That For a Credit

I received a suggestion via twitter to take a look at the GTN screens, and as my consular often reminds me, “The Jedi way is to serve.”

The Aurebesh used on the four large monitors adorning the Galactic Trade Network kiosks seen on the Fleets, Nar Shaddaa, Odessan and possibly your stronghold is primarily used as a design element. While the screens can be translated into actual, though often fragmentary words, they don’t make sense in context.

Read a lot of Aurebesh displays in the game and you’ll eventually see a stock group of phrases repeated over and over. “Will proceed as scheduled.” “At full power” “All systems active.” There are many others. Fragments from these can be read in the two GTN screens featuring the weapon and armor graphics. This collection of phrases is SWTOR’s version of lorem ipsum. The nonsensical writing is meant to evoke the kind of text on monitors you’d see around the galaxy rather than have specific meaning.

The GTN’s other two large screens display a random selection of letters and numbers much like a stock market ticker. Similar information appears in the holographic “crown” rotating above the kiosk. Whether the letters and numbers have any significance I can’t say. Perhaps the artists snuck in their initials and birthdays, or just pulled them out of a hat. All I can say is that I know what I would’ve done.

This last screen is on the interface players click on to access the GTN, and it does contain text that makes sense in context. The monitor flashes through a variety of items while displaying sale, refund credit, and purchase labels and prices. When it comes to their customers the Hutt Cartel, which runs the Galactic Trade Network, wants to make it clear that they appreciate their patronage.

The War For Iokath

Thursday’s long awaited live stream finally gave us some details regarding the next major content patch for SWTOR. My first comment is that the broad strokes of what they announced absolutely should’ve been shared in October, if not sooner. Fans and subscribers should’ve not have had to wait until two months after the launch of the expansion to know that more story, a daily area and operation content are indeed coming. Certainly details surrounding the setting and story could’ve been held back, but, as both a fan of SWTOR and a guild officer trying to keep my friends engaged, I was very frustrated that KotET launched without even a hint of what the end game is to be. And, no, Galactic Command is not end game. Not even close.

Time gated raid content is not my favorite thing, but I agree that launching one boss at a time is preferable to delaying the whole thing until the autumn, so I will take what I can get.

I am looking forward to exploring Iokath and having a go at the Master chapters and uprisings. And, yeah, I’ll be charging into that Operations instance day one. If all I cared about was raiding, then I’d probably sit out the next few months, but if there is other new stuff to do, I’m on board. What I liked about KotFE is that that the chapters came at a steady and reliable clip, and in the meantime, it is up to Bioware to do the same and keep KotET interesting.


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The Last Jedi

As a long time fan of Marvel’s Star Wars comics of the 70’s and 80’s, I’m always amused to see how prescient those old four color classics were in ways large and small. We are not likely to see Jedidiah on the big screen next December, but it’s neat to be reminded of one of Expanded Universe’s better Star Wars stories.

Central Circle

It is a real thrill to be included amongst the fine group content creators featured by SWTOR Central’s first installment of Central Circle. Sam is easily the most enthusiastic evangelist of SWTOR out there, and his videos are always an entertaining and even handed look at the game. The other creators’ content featured in this video are also worth your time from yet another great guide by Swtorista, FibroJedi’s tips for saving credits, OdBucko’s progression videos, and Aravail’s fantastic commentary on Galactic Command which I really, really hope the good folks at Bioware watch.

I’ll be translating more Aurebesh later the week as I keep my fingers crossed for good news from Thursday’s Bioware livestream.


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Between Jedi and Sith lies obsession

Despite the war between the Jedi and the Sith, women are still expected too look their best, and even in a galaxy far, far away sex sells.

This sultry advertisement can be seen on several planets across the galaxy but is featured most prominently on the Republic’s fleet hub, Carrick Station. The ad draws inspiration from Calvin Klein’s famous Obsession campaign right down to the to suggestive tag line across the model’s mouth.

As is often the case, the Aurebesh on this poster is mirrored and must be flipped to be properly read. The design element of the mirrored M or “mern” glyphs works regardless of the flipped design, which may explain why this mistake slipped through the cracks.

I don’t know the meaning of the double M’s but I’m happy to provide baseless speculation after a few minutes poking around on wookieepedia. Moltokian Maquillage is the provider of the galaxy’s finest, all natural makeup and cosmetics. If you’ve embraced the Light, you’ll find the most elegant lip-glosses and blushes. Even if you’ve turned to the Dark Side, MM has you covered with discreet foundation to hide even your most debased corruption blemishes. Moltokian Maquillage can be found on sale at the poshest establishments in Coruscant’s Core Plaza, Nar Shaddaa’s Promenade shopping district, and Dromund Kaas’ shadow markets.

Update: The M logo which I’d guessed applied to a cosmetics company may in fact be the branding used by the Coruscant Market, and is seen on many posters advertising the fabulous shopping options available around the Republic’s capital.

Update Again: While researching signs on the moon CZ-198, I came across this poster again which, unlike the version I looked at originally, did not have its edges cropped. A tagline (tying it more directly the Coruscant Market brand) can be read at the bottom of the sign. In addition, I think there might be some vertical text on the left edge of the poster, but it’s too blurry for me to read. I have revised my translation based on the newer image, and it can be seen in the link above.

Update! Update! Update: When this poster was added as a stronghold decoration, I took a third pass at this image, and I do believe I have finally the unlocked last of its secrets. I have updated my recreation with a translation of the text of the left side of the image.


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Zakuulan Language Primer

Knights of the Fallen Empire introduced a new planet to the Star Wars galaxy: Zakuul, capital of the Eternal Empire. Zakuul included a host of new characters, architecture, droids, spaceships, customs and perhaps most subtly a new form of writing.

The artists at Bioware designed the Zakuulan script with several variations suggesting an idiosyncratic and evolving language while maintaining a cohesive style whether the context is a fancy sign on a building or a technical readout on a computer monitor.

After pouring through my screenshots, I’ve put together a basic Zakuulan primer of letters and numbers.

I should admit up front that this project is a work in progress. I’ve found no examples of the letters J, Q and X, so folks looking to score big in Scrabble may be disappointed. As with Aurebesh, it’s not unusual for Zakuulan signage to be inverted or reversed; this is most common in the holographic displays in the Twin Rails tram station. The flipped signs made deciphering the numbers tricky, especially since I have not yet come across the number 7, but I think I can extrapolate it based on other numbers in the sequence. Likewise, I’m also not sure what the glyph for zero is, but don’t feel confident enough to guess.

There are two major styles of Zakuulan writing: a digital font seen on monitors in which the letters are rendered with straight lines and hard angles, and a second version that features rounded corners and elegant curves. This script is, to my eye, evocative of the Art Deco style of the early 20th century. There are more gaps in this second style and while I feel comfortable making educated guesses about a few of the missing letters, several others remain unknown to me.

Typically, letters are similar across both styles, but there are variants of a few letters: A, B, C, Y and Z can all be rendered using two different glyph shapes, and I’ve seen examples of both in the “digital” and “deco” styles. In addition, the deco style seems to employ a distinct numbering system from its digital counterpart. With only one example to work from, I’m not confident in even making basic guesses about how to render numbers in that style.

In addition to signs and computers, Zakuulan script is also readable in the costumes of Vaylin and the Scions. The lining on their cloaks and hoods repeat five words thematically significant to both the game’s story and Zakuulan culture. However, so far the writing on Arcann and Thexan’s robes defies translation.

The game has gotten a lot of mileage out of a few graphics; the “administraton” and “RNG Main Office” signs are everywhere for example, but I hope in the future we’ll see more examples of the Zakuulan script. The addition of new and alien writing has been a nice touch to set the Eternal Empire apart from the rest of the galaxy and to make it feel like a real, lived in world that’s not quite familiar to both the characters and the players. It’s perhaps an easy thing to miss while adventuring, but I applaud the artists at Bioware for this cool addition to Star Wars lore.

I want to also give a tip of the hat to this thread on SWTOR’s official forums, which confirmed some of things I’d suspected about Zakuulan writing and pointed me in the direction of a few things I missed.


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