Monthly Archives: June 2024

Pits and Potes and Skiffs

While I still intend to write about the story of Star Wars the Old Republic’s Desperate Defiance update, I’d like to instead start with a look at a brand new Aurebesh sign that has ties to not only one from the earliest days of SWTOR but also to an extremely obscure bit of Star Wars lore from more than twenty five years ago.

Much of the action in Desperate Defiance takes place in a new area of Hutta called the Minboosa District. Now that I’ve visited Minboosa as part of the story and seen how the changes have also affected “regular” Hutta as well as the Karagga’s Palace operation, I want to take a moment to appreciate how impressive the updated Hutta looks. The old yellow cast to the areas was intense and alien, but now every corner of Hutta is thick with haze and smog. Being outside on Hutta feels gross; it feels like it’s going to stick to your character even when you scramble indoors, and it’ll take more than just a long sonic shower to wash it all off.

At first glance, Minboosa shares similar architecture to the town of Jiguuna on Hutta where Imperial Agents and Bounty Hunters begin their class stories. Minboosa is perhaps a bit more densely packed with buildings, but once you venture outside the town itself, you can really appreciate the changes. Soaring trees, Tibanna gas refineries and landing platforms tower overhead like skyscrapers on Coruscant. Nem’ro’s palace feels positively quaint by comparison.

The center of Minboosa is, of course, the cantina. Shining above its entrance, is a holographic neon sign. This sign is similar to the one above the cantina in Jiguuna, but there are some differences. It’s this earlier sign with which we’ll start. The neon declares that the cantina is called “The Poison Pit” and features radiating circles that act to focus our attention on the logo and the letters atop it; below the three lower letters are framed by octagons and follow the arc of circles. These design elements feature in many examples of the holographic glow that illuminates the player’s journey across the galaxy, most prominently on nearby Nar Shaddaa. The purple creature at the center is a Chemilizard, one of Hutta’s native species that evolved to survive off the pollution that resulted from the Hutt’s short-sighted mistreatment of the planet.

The writing used in this sign is not technically Aurebesh, rather it is a variant known most commonly as “Galactic Standard.” I’ve written about the different types of Aurebesh before, but in general I imagine these alphabets are at least legible and perhaps interchangeable to most of the characters in the game world.

The neon sign above the cantina in the Minboosa District shares a similar design to the Poison Pit sign. This difference that jumped out at me immediately is that this graphic employs a “traditional” Aurebesh font familiar to anyone who’s encountered these letters in other Star Wars media or even Galaxy’s Edge at Disney. While sharing a similar circular design to the previous graphic, this one places the word “skiff” in a horizontal shape which acts as a base for the central graphic which helps enhance the feeling that the speeder is floating above the ground.

I imagine it must have been an interesting design challenge to create a new neon sign for the cantina in the style of one from well over a decade ago, but the artists at Broadsword pulled it off. The two signs are similar, but different enough that they can be told apart at a glance.

However, I do want to explore the meaning of this sign. The image in the center depicts a skiff, a light, open-top repulsorlift “hover-boat” first seen during Return of the Jedi during the battle above the Great Pit of Carkoon.

The name of the cantina, the “Dirty Skiff” sparked a very specific memory for me. Throughout the history of the various Star Wars action figure lines from Kenner and later Hasbro, the toys often includes additional gimmicks: cheap collectible coins, digital bobbins with poorly recorded bits of dialogue or sound effects, and, perhaps most unusual of all, “Freeze Frame Action Slides.” These were two-inch square frames with a small, still image of a scene from one of the Star Wars movies. These images were meant to be seen through an “Action Slide Viewer” (Sold separately, of course; batteries not included, of course) a toy shaped like a pair of Macrobinoculars that allowed you to look at the slides in a manner similar to the old Viewmaster toys. The Freeze Frame Slides could also be used in a traditional slide projector, something familiar to anyone who grew up in the era before digital photography. If this all sounds weirdly retro to you now, believe it, it was nearly as silly back then.

The Freeze Frame Slide included with the “Pote Snitkin” figure, a character both obscure and ridiculously named even by Star Wars standard, features Luke Skywalker in battle during Return of the Jedi’s Sail Barge rescue with a caption that stuck with me all these years.

Some of my Star Wars friends found the phrase “cleaning skiff” to be quite amusing and imagined that it might have come to be slang in the Star Wars universe for “kicking butt.” Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it’s too far a leap from “Cleaning Skiff” to “Dirty Skiff” which, depending on how dirty your mind is, could have all sorts of additional meanings.

Is this holographic sign an intentional homage to an odd accessory from a twenty-five year old action figure? I can’t say for sure, but once I made the connection, I knew I had to share it. And it’s not the first time something from Star Wars toys seems to have inspired something in SWTOR.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: there is so much weird, dumb, silly and wonderful lore across the history of Star Wars. None of it should be taken seriously, but it’s funny what bubbles to the surface sometimes.



Filed under Aurebesh to English, Legacy of the Sith

Spring Has Sprung

At the end of May, SWTOR’s game update 7.5 launched. Called “Desperate Defiance”, it includes a continuation of the expansion’s main story, the next PVP season, a new springtime event, and a system of activities called “Ventures” the first of which is focused around our character training Lane Vizsla’s Basilisk prototype droid project: Bessie. And there is even some Aurebesh for me to translate!

It’s a busy time for both SWTOR and Star Wars, which also saw the debut of the new Disney+ series, The Acolyte. I haven’t been able to make time for all of it, and my desire to cover all of 7.5 in a single post has proven to be impossible. Between the ongoing Galactic Season, a new PVP season and my regular activities, the addition I’ve spent the most time on over the last three weeks is the “Festival of Abundance” the game’s new spring-time event. Given that I publically speculated that there was a gap in SWTOR’s yearly calendar where a spring focused event could naturally fit, I was, as you can imagine, glad to see this addition.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about MMO-RPGs is simply being in the world the game creates for players. I like having an excuse to go out and do things. In SWTOR, these things are most often dailies and heroics, stuff I’ve repeated many times over the years. So I embrace events like the Feast of Prosperity,  the Swoop Rally and now the Festival because they offer a relaxed change of pace. Their focus is less on combat than on just existing as a person in the game world.

If I want to fight and test my skills there are already plenty of ways for me to do so in this game. This new event instead offers me opportunities to pet baby Tauntauns, cook vomit inducing pies, dance around a futuristic Maypole and traverse the galaxy hunting hidden eggs. It’s all very silly, and I’ve been having fun with it.

That’s not to say there is no combat. To my surprise, the event’s story quests include encounters with a few fairly tough opponents. Don’t forget to put your pants on and have a companion at your side, or you might be in for a rough go.

In general, however, the event’s objectives have been very low key. That’s just the way I like it. There are lots of activities and achievements, including many hidden ones, to chase and plenty to keep me busy during my play sessions. I honestly enjoy that I’ve been able to summon my favorite companion and hop on my favorite speeder and just run around and do stuff for neat rewards. There will be plenty of time in the weeks and years to come for me to put my game-face on and jump into the action, but for now I’m having a good time with the event.

Is it perfect? Not quite. The Festive Footwork quest to dance at the holo-ribbon could be more interactive. As it is now, you approach the pole, click a button and wait. That’s it. Being able to move around, try different dance moves or cross the holo-streams for different results might’ve been fun. In addition, if you want to earn more than a handful of the rewards, you really need to commit wholeheartedly to the event. I know Broadsword wants players coming back again and again, but I think the rewards, especially from the story quests, could stand to be more generous with the event currency. And, to be honest, I wish the armor and weapon rewards were legacy bound. SWTOR has done so much to make Legacy gear an integral part of the game, but that I’ve had to “farm” up currency for multiple pairs of both versions of the goggles for all the characters who could use ‘em doesn’t feel great.

But other parts of the event do feel good. Setting a pie on an empty table is satisfying. Chilling out while I zap fishies or dance around the holo-pole for Conquest points beats the heck out of any heroic mission. The “dark side” option at the end of the story made me laugh; that my Sith Inquisitor has put on display an ancient, obviously active Sith relic in the barn of her farm feels very much like something she’d do. And given that the event is mostly about being nice, healing sick animals and sharing pies, it’s fair that those who walk the path of the Dark Side should get the last word in one regard.

And that’s just the tip of the 7.5 iceberg. There are elements of “Desperate Defiance” from how it advances the story, its presentation and a major change in the cast that I want to discuss, but that must be a topic for next time. And later after the series concludes, I also want to explore The Acolyte’s parallels to SWTOR’s lore.

But this post is late enough as it is! Next week, I’ll be back to my routine, but for now I encourage everyone to check out the Festival of Abundance and have some fun with it.



Filed under Legacy of the Sith