Yearly Archives: 2022

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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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

Farewell Charles Boyd

This past week, Keith Kanneg shared news of SWTOR’s next game update. Let’s get the easy part out of the way first: update 7.1 is scheduled for release August 2nd. This is most welcome news. The end of the second galactic season aligned with me more or less completing any gear upgrades I wanted before the new operation’s release, so I definitely feel like the summer doldrums have set in.

I haven’t spent much time on the test server this time around, since I very much want my first experience of R4: The Anomaly to be with my guildmates. I have, however, peeked into a few PTS streams now and then, and what I’ve seen suggests that this will be an exciting operation to learn. I am very much looking forward to it! Furthermore, I hope the new Manaan daily area will be a fun place to visit as well. At the very least, there seem to be enough reputation rewards including many, many decorations, to make visits there worth my while.

However, the most notable part of Keith’s post is the news that Charles Boyd is stepping down from his position as SWTOR’s creative director. Boyd has played a significant role both behind the scenes and as the public face of the game’s development team across’ almost all of SWTOR’s history and certainly since he took over as Creative Director during Fallen Empire.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most expansive Star Wars projects ever created, and that it successfully puts each player at the center of a story that feels like their own meant it had to overcome challenges that tales told in other media never even came close to facing. It’s easy for me to say that some of my favorite Star Wars adventures have taken place in SWTOR, but I can also see the influence of SWTOR in other Star Wars media from movies and TV to comics and books. I think it’s fair to say that Charles Boyd played a significant role in making that happen.

Personally speaking, it was a pleasure to meet and chat with Charles in person a few years ago and I remain grateful that he took time to answer some of my questions about Aurebesh for this blog. I wish him the best in whatever endeavors await him!

All that said, he didn’t do it all alone, and the announcement also includes an introduction to SWTOR’s Design Leadership Team. Everyone on the team has experience with the game and has at least played an active role in SWTOR’s course correction since Knights of the Eternal Throne. We have already seen their work in action, and I am certain we are in good hands.

What Does it Mean?

What does it mean? I don’t know. Why would I? I’m not looped into the office gossip, and, for some reason, no one at Bioware consults me before making major life decisions. It’s fun to speculate about fictional characters, but making hay of real people’s lives is at best rude and at worst irresponsible. People change jobs all the time, and turnover at game studios seems common after big releases. I am reluctant to look for any meaning beyond that.

I am among many long time players who aren’t happy with the support EA seems to be giving SWTOR, but SWTOR will go on. New faces can bring in fresh perspectives on familiar settings and characters, and the one thing I know for certain is that the team at Bioware are good people doing their best to make this a game worth caring about, and I am looking forward to the adventures they take us on next.

 

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What About Kenobi, Though?

Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series recently concluded, and I’ve come away from it with a few thoughts I’d like to share. Given the focus of this blog, I do want to touch on its connections and shared themes with SWTOR, but let’s start with a review of the series as a whole. I can’t promise to avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the show and want to go in fresh, feel free to skip this post.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the show, and rate it the best of Disney+’s live action Star Wars endeavors. Ewan McGregor is one of Star Wars’ most charismatic actors and seeing him slip back into the role of Ben Kenobi again (or maybe for the first time) was an absolute pleasure.  And while it takes a while before we see it, I think it’s fair to call Hayden Christiansen a familiar face as well, and it is cool at long last to see him get his due as Darth Vader. The showdowns between their two characters do a good job splitting the difference between the “Super Saiyan” Darth Vader of Rogue One and the “Old Men Waving Sticks at Each Other” from A New Hope. To me, the show’s version of Vader elides very well indeed with his depictions in the movies.

I also want to compliment Moses Ingram’s performance as Reva, the Third Sister. Star Wars villains tend to fall into two catagories: moody adolescents and somewhat campy old men. Reva is rather different. She is consumed by pure, barely-controlled rage that she inflicts on everyone in her path, innocent victim and supposed ally alike. Reva clearly got dealt a raw deal. She hates the universe and wants to pay it back in kind. Ingram put all of that right there on the surface, but doesn’t go over the top with it, so that when the time comes, and Reva sees where all this hate has left her, it is an affecting moment. I don’t think that’s an easy thing to pull off.

I’ve often thought that there was potential for Obi-Wan stories that could be told of his exile on Tatooine. I mainly thought these would be tales about Old Ben and Young Luke having a Lone Wolf and Cub style adventure. Instead Obi-Wan Kenobi gave me something I didn’t know I wanted: an Old Ben and Young Leia adventure, and the interactions between the two characters are, by far, the best part of the show. Leia being exactly the sassy, troublemaker I’d have expected her to be at that age was a delight, and she serves as the perfect antidote to Ben’s regret-laden cynicism that I’m not sure even Luke could match.

On the negative side, I wonder if this story started out as a movie and not a series. I think there is a thrilling and tight two hour movie in here, but as a six episode series, if feels padded out. You can see the show straining against its limitations compared to a movie. The hanger rescue at the end of episode four is a good example, since it compares poorly to similar sequences from The Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker. With more time, resources, stuntwork and planning, it might’ve been a spectacular set piece, but instead it was staged about as blandly as you might expect of a “TV show” cutting corners and filling out its season before the big finale.

I’d also argue that parts of the plot are driven along by happenstance a bit more than necessary. The show’s very last story beat was made possible because Reva happened upon the holo-transmitter that happened to have been dropped by Haja and that happened to reveal the location of Luke Skywalker that Bail Organa happened to recklessly reveal to Obi-Wan who already knew that information. Rather than have Reva organically discover Luke herself, his location is just handed to her out of the blue. It strikes me as sloppy storytelling.

There are also issues of continuity, but if I’m being honest. I don’t care. Continuity is a tool, not a straightjacket, and retcons are part and parcel of telling stories in shared spaces. I think it is fair to strategically ignore minor plot points from one story so that they can be explored fully in another. Much hay has been made from calling Star Wars “modern mythology”, but all folklore, from the heroes of ancient Greece to the Knights of the Round Table to the cowboys and Indians of the American West, are stories told by different people in different places and different times. Telling old stories in new ways from new perspectives is the very definition of folklore, so I’m not going to be bothered by inconsistencies in movies and TV shows separated by decades.

Yet if the show drags in places, it does, unlike the Book of Boba Fett, make up for it in ways that a tighter, streamlined version of this story would likely have had to gloss over. For example, I’m very glad that the show got to spend time showing Bail and Breha and Owen and Beru being loving parents to Leia and Luke. Those relationships are footnotes in the original movies, but they are just as, if not more important, as the twins’ blood ties to Vader.

Most importantly, I think Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s finale stuck the landing. The climatic confrontation was strong both as a duel of Force users, but also an emotional conflict between brothers turned enemies. At first I thought maybe they’d cribbed a bit too much from Ahsoka’s battle with Vader in Star Wars: Rebels, but the way Anakin’s voice intermingled with Vader’s as he told Ben “You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did.” was a punch to the gut, and this scene alone makes this story a worthy addition to Star Wars lore.

The show ends with a couple of moments that I might consider to be fan-service if they weren’t so well earned. Liam Nesson is the best part of The Phantom Menace, and his brief appearance is a welcome resolution to Ben’s arc from the very first episode. And meme or not, I must tip my hat to the show for its perfect deployment of the line “Hello there.”

From Kenobi to Beniko

Finally, I think it might be fun to look at the show from the perspective of a SWTOR player. Certainly this adventure leaves little doubt that Obi-Wan is a Sage, and as someone who has mained a Sage since launch, I sure would like to pull off some of his moves in the game. No more pebbles, Bioware, only boulders!

There are striking visual and conceptual parellels between Vader’s battle with Obi-Wan in episode three and Vaylin’s confrontation with Senya in SWTOR’s Betrayed cinematic. Both Anakin and Vaylin were robbed of their childhoods and came into their own broken and betrayed by those who should have nurtured them. Like Obi-Wan, Senya is consumed by her regrets and failure to protect her children. It takes more than being one with the Force to raise a kid in this screwed up galaxy, it seems.

Unlike, Vader, Vaylin’s story may not be over just yet, so I’m curious to see how much like the Dark Lord of the Sith she truly becomes.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, like so much Star Wars lore, explores stories of characters struggling to become who they are in a world where it’s not always clear if the Force is with you or it serves you. Are Reva and Lana Sith? Are Ahsoka and Sa’har Jedi? And should those labels matter?

These questions can be the foundations of interesting stories. And that is kind of why I love Star Wars.

 

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No Justice

One month after I launched this blog, Trump won the presidential election and I considered scrapping this project in despair. I decided to keep going because I knew I would need a distraction in the days ahead, and I thought others out there could use one too. Over the next few years, this endeavor, SWTOR itself and the community of wonderful people I get to play with became an important respite from the turbulence of real life. But it can be hard to talk about fake space letters, giant robots and laser swords when so much is on the line. As an old straight white dude in a blue state, I have it lucky, but I fear for my friends and loved ones who just want to live their lives. People should be able to be who they are without fear. People should be able to love who they love without fear. Women should be able to decide what to do with their bodies without fear. People should be able to go to school, to church, to the store without fear.

Star Wars is a story about rebellion against institutions that seek to rule with fear, and its metaphors are not about a bygone age, but of every age, including our own. But it’s just a story, a simple children’s story even. The story of our age is much more complicated and difficult, but now more than ever, in my real life, I will continue to do what I can to stand up for the rights of people who are being forced into the margins, the shadows and the closet. This is the core value of my faith and the aspiration of my adopted country, and I think it is something worth fighting for.

As for this dumb little blog, I’ve got a half-written Obi-Wan Kenobi review and a folder filled with untranslated Aurebesh, and as the spirit moves me, I’ll endeavor to keep this corner of the internet a place for folks to find a small distraction from their day. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I will try.

Justicar Propaganda: Special Edition

I’d originally hoped to feature a new translation in this post, but as you’ll read in the next section, I had to give up on that effort. To get back on track I thought I’d take another crack at one of the first Aurebesh graphics I examined in 2016.

When I started this project, the goal was for my versions to simply be “quick and dirty” copies rather than the more faithful recreations I aim for now. I suppose my first attempt does have a certain rough charm, but I don’t think it’s aged well in comparison to my other efforts so a second pass felt in order.

The challenge of this new recreation was to match the painted texture of the background, the rough edges of the paper, and to more closely duplicate the original layout, things I only gestured at the first time around.

For example, I used lower case text in my first pass, and I’ve since come to the conclusion that Aurebesh (or at least my recreations of it!) work best in upper case. Technically Aurebesh does not include lower case letters at all, but various versions of the font over the years have attempted to fill the gaps in the original with features like case, punctuation and numbers. Some of these additions have stuck to various degrees, but when it comes to rules for upper and lower case, I don’t think any have been successful. I now prefer to always translate Aurebesh into upper case English letters.

While most of the elements of my recreation were made from scratch, I must confess the figure was digitally traced. The generic term for this process is “cheating”, so I guess a little bit of a “quick and dirty” ethos remains. As for the figure of the Justicar himself, I wonder if the symbol on the his sleeve is meant to have a specific meaning. It almost looks likes an Aurebesh “D” or maybe an inverted “S”, but it also somewhat recalls the “service bar” stripe with dashes and pips seen on the lower sleeve of Starfleet uniforms of the original Star Trek movies. All that said, the thing it most closely evokes is the armband worn on fascist uniforms in our own world, and that is, of course, right up the Justicar’s alley.

Atrisian or Not, Here I Come

Since this post has been mainly focused on my process, I thought it might be interesting to look at something in the game that I failed to translate. I’d originally hoped to recreate the monitor used in the terminal in the tunnels during the Rakghoul Resurgence event, but my efforts came to naught.

The font used on the left side of the display is most likely “Dark Katarn” or Atrisian, a typeface inspired by alien writing used in early Lucasarts games, particularly the classic Dark Forces. Like Aurebesh, these letters seems to have been based on those seen in Return of the Jedi. Unlike Aurebesh, however, the Lucasarts version was never codified into a full alphabet, and it remains a mostly obscure typeface. In SWTOR, it is most often seen as the alphabet used on Rakata ruins across Belsavis and the Foundry Space Station. I think it is a clever way to suggest an ancient language similar to, but still different from the more familiar Aurebesh.

As for this display, while I do think it is probably Atrisian, I do see letters here that could be from other fonts like Aurebesh, Huttese and Sith Prophecy. The text is so low resolution that I don’t feel confident making any kind of definitive statement about what we’re seeing here. Does it actually mean anything? Maybe? Probably not? I just can’t say for sure.

And that’s okay. I’ve often said that it’s not necessary for every alien language in Star Wars to be translatable. Fake space letters are meant evoke a fantastic setting without constraining creators to a rigid set of rules that they might break when aiming to simply make something look neat. And this does look neat and not at all out of place in the Star Wars setting whether it has an English meaning or not.

The image linked above shows a closer look at the display as it appears in game with the Bloom setting both on and off. Feel free to take a closer look yourself, and if you can suss out a meaning I’ve missed, please let me know!

 

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