Monthly Archives: October 2020

Charles Boyd Q&A

This Week I get to continue the birthday celebration of this blog a little differently. Recently I sent a few questions to Bioware regarding SWTOR’s use of alien languages and none other than Charles Boyd came back with some responses!

Charles Boyd has been with the SWTOR team from its earliest days and wrote the original Trooper storyline. Soon after he became Lead Writer and most recently SWTOR’s Creative Director. He is also an avid cosplayer, and if, in the in the hopefully not too distant future, community SWTOR‘s Community Cantina events start up again, it’s worth the trip to stop by and see his excellent costumes in person.

I want to thank Charles for taking the time to answer my questions, and I look forward to seeing what’s next in SWTOR and its fake space languages!

How do the game’s artists and environmental designers interact with the encounter and story team? Zakuul has its own alphabet, and many of the ruins on Ossus are covered in Jedi text. Are these things that were specifically asked for or were they something that the art team created first before being incorporated into the story and scenery?

Charles Boyd: It can happen either way! Sometimes these elements are developed purely to suit the overall visual aesthetic – for example, the environmental signage on Nar Shaddaa or Mek-Sha largely originated from the art team. But in many other cases, that kind of detail is specifically requested by design or especially writing or the Creative Director (me) to suit the overall narrative or gameplay experience. Jedi text in ruins, specific signs for specific places that are key to the story, puzzle elements, etc. are good examples there – stuff that other teams ask for, and then the artists develop and implement to really bring those areas to life.

Lots of alien text in SWTOR can be translated into English. Engraved runes on Ossus refer to the Jedi code and a wanted poster from the chapter “Anarchy in Paradise” seems to feature a distant ancestor of Ahsoka Tano. When incorporating alien languages into the game’s scenery, to what degree do the artists try to make it “readable”?

On the other hand, some of the text featured in the game defies translation. Are these just random letters, secret messages, inside jokes or simply visually pleasing combinations of alien space letters? How deeply should we look for meaning in them?

Charles Boyd: As a rule, any text in the game is meant to have actual meaning. There are exceptions, of course; a few instances of placeholder text have unintentionally made it in over the years, and sometimes text is written to be “gibberish” on purpose, such as computer codes, encrypted data, and any other situation where it would make sense that the text should not be easily read by characters in-universe. We generally don’t use text like that for out-of-universe easter eggs or inside jokes, so odds are if you can’t read something, there probably isn’t a hidden meaning or mystery to decipher.

Some fans have deciphered Zakuulan and its variations, but not all letters of its alphabet appear in the game. Will the missing letters ever be revealed?

Charles Boyd: I’ll take that as a point of feedback! We generally don’t release stuff like this exterior to the game, so it would depend on returning to Zakuul at some point in the story and having a reasonable opportunity to include those missing letters in some background text. Feel free to send me the ones you’re looking for and I’ll make a note of it just in case. 😊

It’s always neat to see alien scripts beyond Aurebesh pop up in SWTOR. Some of the more recently developed languages like Mando’a feature prominently in the Bounty Hunter story and the Fallen Empire chapter “Mandalore’s Revenge”, but the writing seen in the movies’ Sacred Jedi Texts seem like it could also fit logically into SWTOR’s setting. Are these aspects that SWTOR might be able to explore further?

Charles Boyd: We can’t speak to the Jedi texts specifically at the moment, but we have mentioned in recent livestreams that there’s some Mandalorian stuff coming down the pipe later this year… seeing some Mando’a as part of that seems like a safe bet 😉

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR

Swoop-de-Whoop

SWTOR’s latest event, the All Worlds Ultimate Swoop Rally has come and gone, and before the next new thing hits, I’d like to share some thoughts about it.

The short version is this: I like it. I like it a lot!  The Swoop Rally is unlike any of SWTOR’s other events, and is much better off for it. I’ve been active with operations and even PVP this year, and zipping around the Swoop Rally has been a refreshing change of pace.

At its core the Swoop Rally is an obstacle course on three different planets with three different types of speeders and objectives. It’s not the most involved thing ever, but I’ve found it a relaxing way to cool off after a raid night or a fun way to pile up experience and conquest points on an alt. And I absolutely commend the team at Bioware for the speed and skill with which they assembled this content.

The courses themselves vary from planet to planet, and each speeder has a different enough feel and set of objectives, that I’m still enjoying it even after I’ve maxed out all three reputation tracks. For extra challenge I’ve been working on the achievements. I stayed up extra late the last night of the event trying and failing to complete the Horizon Razor’s Perfection achievement for Dantooine. Next time!

Many folks, however, only care about the rewards. On that score, I think they are a mixed bag. Each faction’s armor set has been assembled from pieces of gear already available in the game, and it shows. There are some neat individual pieces but no set stands out as a must have. Making these sets even worse value is the fact that they cannot be dyed and don’t color match to the rest of our outfits. I hope this is a bug that will be swatted sooner rather than later.

Each faction’s vendor also sells speeders of their own, but only one, the Blatent Beks’, features a unique model. That said, I am personally fond of the mounts selected for the Horizon Razors and Pit Screamers factions. And the gold plated versions of all three speeders available at Legend standing are distinctive and pretty neat.

In addition, there are lots of nice new and event-inspired decorations and droid rewards to be found as well.

The most interesting rewards are the Tactical items which all have silly effects related to mounting and dismounting from our speeders.  If you’re looking to min-max your character, there is nothing for you here, but if you want to show off a bit when you arrive at your destination, there is some fun to be had. The Razor’s Kickstart Tactical is genuinely useful for the extra boost of speed you get on mounting, and since it has no level requirement it’s the first Tactical that can benefit low level characters who may already be speeding through their class and planetary stories.

Events are the perfect place to include cosmetic rewards like this, and I’m glad to see Tacticals that are pure fun. Just don’t be like me and forget to equip an actually useful Tactical before pulling an operations boss. At least I got to Dash’roode first.

As with all events, I wish there were more rewards. It seems like dye module and color crystal recipes based on each team’s colors would’ve been obvious additions, and I am disappointed that some of the tougher or more unusual achievements don’t come with extra rewards. At the very least, “Perfect Idiot” absolutely should have been a title given to players for completing those weird achievements.

The Swoop Rally event, however, does come with a surprising amount of story, which unlocks in stages as players advance through each faction’s reputation levels. The story is told using the “KOTOR-style” dialogue interactions that were introduced with the Fallen Empire’s Alliance Alert missions. While I am on the record as not being a fan of this style of interactions, I understand that circumstances this year are unique, and will not object. I enjoyed these stories. They aren’t galaxy shaking adventures; they are about people just trying to work things out. Whether they come together or break apart is determined by the player’s choices.

I do wish that some of the conversations had options specific to our classes. I’m not sure my Consular needed the concept of the Trandoshan Scorekeeper explained to her, and I’m certain the Smuggler and Bounty Hunter’s underworld backgrounds could’ve played into other interactions as well.

That said, I enjoyed them and, as a light-side loyalist, was satisfied with the conclusions of each story.

Is the Swoop Rally SWTOR’s best event? I’m not sure I can make that call just yet. I understand that the racing gameplay isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but personally I’m looking forward to its return, not so I can get more rep or grind more currency, but so that I can run the courses again. Moreover, I hope the good folks at Bioware are open to expanding the event in the future. I’m sure its no accident that there is room in the pits for a forth Swoop team. Additionally, I’d be happy to see the Rally visit other planets around the galaxy. Taris and Corellia seem like obvious destinations, but racing around Hoth and Manaan could be a gas too.

Very Fast, Very Dangerous

Finally, and at long last, let’s check out this Aurebesh sign featured throughout the Swoop Rally event. This sign will be a familiar to visitors to Corellia and Mek-Sha and features a speeder reminiscent of the iconic rocket bike from Return of the Jedi. This particular speeder is available in several versions in SWTOR including one awarded from a sidequest in Knights of the Fallen Empire and another found via excavation with the Seeker Droid.

The sign seems to have been designed as an advertisement for the speeder and proclaims that it is “coming soon” and includes some small text offering financing at an annual percentage rate that only a Hutt could love.

The speeder’s make or perhaps manufacturer is “Dynovibe”, a name you may not be shocked to learn seems to appear nowhere else in Star Wars lore.

As I indicated this summer, this recreation was a bit more challenging that I expected. The small text is somewhat difficult to read and I’m still not 100% confident in my translation. Instead of simply copying the speeder from the original, I had a go at recreating it from scratch. I didn’t get the same angle or lighting, but I’m otherwise pleased with my version. As seen in the game, the sign itself is lower resolution than others similar graphics, but my version is a little sharper in the interest of readability.

Today marks this blog’s 4th anniversary, and it has become one of the longest projects this freelancer has ever worked on. I’m certain I’d have moved on by now if not for the comments and kind words I’ve received from visitors to the site. Thank you so much for stopping by, and let’s hope things only get better in the next four years!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR