Category Archives: Aurebesh to English

Welcome to the Hype Train

This week, I’m honestly not sure where to start!

Let’s take it slow and begin with a quick look at this sign seen outside the shattered Zoo enclosure at the center of Axial Park on Corellia. If you participated in the recent Feast of Prosperity event, you likely came across the sign on your way to fight Lucky the Rancor who an was objective of one of the World Boss ingredient daily quests.

At first glance you might think this sign is written in Aurebesh, but technically it’s not. Instead it uses “Galactic Basic” a font, which better matches the script glimpsed in Return of the Jedi. That text from the movie also inspired the official Aurebesh, but the two fonts don’t fully match. So while the fonts are similar, I’d say the are more step-siblings than directly related.

If you mouseover these signs near the Zoo, a pop up with alternate text appears. The literal translation indicates this is a welcome sign and its design with arrows and credit symbol are likely meant to point to a ticket booth, but the in-game translation turns this into a warning sign. In context, this make sense given that a dread-corrupter Rancor has broken from its cage, and it’s probably telling that that any authorized personnel who did enter the enclosure are no where to be found.

Legacy of the Sith Hype

The big SWTOR news is that after months of relative silence, a torrent of Legacy of the Sith information has been released, Bioware has made numerous posts about how various games systems will look in the next expansion, and SWTOR is even getting some welcome media exposure in advance of its tenth anniversary.

I should confess that I haven’t spent much time on the 7.0 Test Server. I was fairly active during Onslaught’s testing period but decided to lay off this time around so that I can go into the expansion with fresher eyes. That said I have been vicariously following the news and controversies roiling around the PTS. Nevertheless you shouldn’t consider my takes so much hot as tepid.

Some of the changes have me confused and asking “But why?” In general, however, I think I see what Bioware is aiming for, and I hope they’re able to hit their targets.

Among experienced players, the class changes have been the most fraught. I’m not up to date enough to go into any detail, but when it comes right down to it, ability bloat has become a real problem in SWTOR, and I can’t blame the developers for trying to rein it in. I don’t think we need three rows of buttons to play the game, and the sheer number of confusing and often redundant abilities makes learning the game intimidating to new players and even some veterans learning new classes.

I don’t envy Bioware this task. We’ve gotten used to having all these options, and for skilled players pushing the hardest PVP and PVE content, many if not all of those buttons find their use. Since the ability cull seems to be focused on defensive cooldowns, I’m not surprised tanks and pvp players are worried about what this means for their favorite characters.

This week saw lots of information for how Bioware intends gearing and itemization to work in Legacy of the Sith. I can’t possibly summarize it all, but basically different types of content will reward different qualities of gear. This marks an end to Onslaught’s “play your way” Spoils of War system. The last two expansions made it relatively easy for anyone to acquire the highest item rating gear, but they also fostered negative gameplay loops in that have lead to SWTOR’s group finder being dominated by Hammer Station and Toborro’s Courtyard. It’s not the player’s fault. To gear up fast of course people will run the easiest content for the best rewards.

But it’s not fun, and it’s not a great experience for new and veteran players alike who want to experience the breadth of SWTOR’s diverse group content only to be funneled into the same things over and over and over.

More difficult content will soon reward better gear. This is a good thing. I progressed through Veteran Mode Dxun and Nightmare Mode Explosive Conflict operations this year, and every single piece of equipment I got was ground into tech fragments. Honestly, it’s not a great feeling when collecting loot is more a bag-clogging nuisance than a reward for overcoming a challenging encounter.

It’s probably not an accident that Bioware has dusted off the Tionese, Columni, and Rakata names for the tiers of raid gear, since the expansion’s system is somewhat more old school in design. If you kill a boss, someone on the team gets an upgrade. There’s a reason that’s a tried and true model.

The advantage that 7.0 has over SWTOR’s earlier vertical progression systems is that everyone will have access to the same gear. No more will a solo player grind commendation tokens to buy gear with poor itemization and no set bonuses, gear which was worse than lower rated loot from operations. All players will be able to get Legendary items with “set bonuses,” and everyone will be able to collect and upgrade their equipment. There is no downside to everyone having access to good gear, and I just don’t see that changing.

But, yes, players engaging with the game’s most difficult content will have first crack at the best loot. That’s okay. Raiders make up such a small slice of the player base; let them have this.

I know some solo players are concerned about being left out in the cold. All I can say is that I’m not planning on doing much Nightmare raiding in Legacy of the Sith, so I will be in the same boat as them. I was most active raiding during the Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan expansions, and at no point did I ever have even a single character in a full set of best-in-slot gear, but I still killed lots of Hard Mode bosses, completed every flashpoint and had no problem running dailies and completing story updates. I will do the content I enjoy, collect the gear I get and upgrade it as best I can. I’m not worried.

If you are a solo player worried about gear, then let me encourage you to dip your toes into SWTOR’s truly wonderful flashpoints and operations. The group finder is not for everyone, no doubt about it, but running flashpoints with friends and guildmates is the best part of the MMO experience. There are lots of guilds that welcome players looking for a place to play at their own pace and are more than happy to introduce them to group content. Every weekend my guild hosts world boss hunts and operation runs, and we are always glad to teach folks new things. It’s never been easier to jump into SWTOR’s storymode operations, and seeing that notification when someone gets an achievement makes me smile every time.

This leads me to the announcement that Legacy of the Sith‘s new operations will not have 16 player modes. I have mixed feelings about this. I hear of few, if any, teams that progress on 16 player mode first. It’s almost always done after and only for the achievements, so I can see the value in focusing on the version of the operation that most people will actually experience. That said, I think its worth keeping 16 person modes for Storymode. Even my small guild often has more than eight on our Storymode nights, and we will bump things up to 16 person so that everyone can participate. Going even further, I’d love to see SWTOR swipe “flex raiding” from World of Warcraft for its Storymodes so that those operations could dynamically scale depending on the group size from 8 to 16 or potentially even 20 or 24!

Finally, we are racing to SWTOR‘s tenth anniversary, and still no release date has been announced. I am definitely looking forward to Legacy of the Sith, but the promised “holiday” release is looming ever closer, and it still seems like a lot of things are yet to come together. For now, I’m crossing my fingers, closing my eyes, and punching my ticket for the hype train.

 

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Small Cheer and Great Welcome

SWTOR’s Feast of Prosperity event has made its second annual return. The Feast was a pleasant surprise at the end of last year, and once again I’ve fully engaged with the event.

First off, since there are numerous and generous Conquest objectives associated with the Feast, for the next couple of weeks I can take a break from my heroics, dailies and flashpoint routine but still score buckets of points for my guild. That I can play a few mini games and join a world boss hunt at all hours of the night and day is a refreshing change of pace from the usual busy work SWTOR typically has me doing.

For the most part, the Feast’s content and presentation have not changed. Because of the circumstances of last year, no original dialogue was recorded for the event and all the story interactions are presented in the “KOTOR style” in which our characters are silent and everyone else speaks Huttese or other alien languages. Given the focus of event, this makes a certain amount of sense. However, I am on the record as not loving this format of storytelling in SWTOR and since I’m running through the event again on alts, I don’t feel any guilt about spacebarring through those scenes this time around. That said, if it’s your first time, I do think it is worth it to read through the subtitles of the event’s entertaining story.

Aside from the story, the Feast is mainly structured around collecting ingredients from world bosses and their environs, and completing a pair of mini-games based around cooking meals and serving meals to hungry feast goers. These games are by no means difficult, but two harder versions of each game do require some concentration to successfully complete, at least by me, anyway.

The Cantina Rush dailies have the player take control of a serving droid, and race around a feast hall delivering meals to ravenous patrons in an occasionally hectic race against time. Although SWTOR’s quest tracker does not monitor your progress, the game’s setting does. An Aurebesh display in the back of the kitchen keeps track of how many dishes you have left to deliver in the round and how many mistakes you’ve made.

It might take a second or two to adjust your camera to properly spy the display screens, but if you can spare the moment, it might be worth it to know that the end is in sight!

Translating the Aurebesh scoreboard could not be easier, because it actually doesn’t need translation. Numbers in Aurebesh can be written using two very different styles, and in this case the designers smartly chose the version that can easily be read by readers in both this galaxy and in one far, far away.

Before you think me a complete slacker, the name of the banquet hall has some actual Aurebesh for me to translate. It’s an amusing name for a restaurant, but I would hope that meals served here digest a bit quicker than ones served at its namesake.

Finally, I must commend Bioware for adding a few new rewards to an already well-stocked event vendor. Having a reason to save up more tokens for some decorations and a cool ninja mask gives me plenty of incentive to revisit the Feast of Prosperity. Indeed, it is long overdue that the rewards of SWTOR‘s other recurring events get some attention. Most if not all of those old events have not been updated in years and years, and they could all use some attention to encourage veteran players to participate again. How about a life-sized Xenoanalyst decoration, a miniature Eyeless pet, Swoop team dye modules, a Bounty Broker weapon tuning, Pirate themed weapons, and Life Day color crystals? I honestly don’t believe any of that is too much to ask.

In the meantime, I’ll make the bold claim that the Feast has become my overall favorite of SWTOR’s events, and I’ll gladly spend the next couple of weeks collecting weird ingredients, frying them up in sauce pans and serving them straight into the bellies of hungry celebrants from all over the galaxy!

 

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Star Wars: Visions Review

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any Star Wars tales outside of SWTOR. Although I generally liked The Mandalorian and Bad Batch, I didn’t come away from them feeling like I had much to offer to the conversations around those shows. But having finished Star Wars: Visions this week, I did want to put some thoughts down while they’re fresh. I will, for the most part, avoid spoilers since I feel like we are still within the window of letting folks watch at their own pace. I don’t follow anime as much as I used to, but I did grow up with some of the series that made it over to North America in my youth. A French translation of Captain Harlock was my first exposure to anime, and, as a kid, I was enthralled by Starblazers and then Robotech, which in spite of how the original shows were truncated and transformed for western audiences, were clearly unlike any other cartoons on my TV. I had no interest in He-man or Transformers, but to this day I can still sing every lyric to the Starblazers theme song. When anime exploded in popularity in the US in the 90’s, it was cool to be able to easily see (often even in the theater!) films like Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke. But aside from the odd movie or series here and there, I haven’t watched as much I used to. However, from the get-go, Visions seemed neat, and I certainly was gonna check it out.

To start, I’ll just lay my cards out on the table and get my one spoiler out of the way. Watching someone surfing on the nose of an X-Wing as they cut a Star Destroyer in half with a lightsaber is the Star Wars content I’m here for. I’ve always preferred it when Star Wars bends towards the mystical and weird, so I connected with many of the stories told by Visions. More space rabbits, laser umbrellas, outrageous duels and metalhead Hutts, please.

Clocking in at around 15 minutes each, the episodes don’t have a ton of space to breathe, so the breakneck pace didn’t do some of the stories any favors; maybe too much was left implied and unresolved. I ended up watching the whole series in one or two episode batches over a weekend. Not surprisingly, the installments share many of the same themes, symbols and even story beats, and had I binged the whole thing at once, it might’ve felt repetitive. At the very least, hearing “I have a bad feeling about this” every 15 minutes would’ve gotten old. But taken on their own and with some separation between them, I think I was able to get into each episode a bit more and appreciate the stylistic approach each team brought to the table. I have never been a purist when it comes to the sub vs. dub debate in anime, but in this case I do think that the episodes tend to sound better in the original Japanese with subtitles. Often the the English dub falls into the clichés of anime dubs in which English dialogue is awkwardly verbose and delivered very, very fast.

Given the focus of my blog, I would, of course, be remiss if I did not call attention to the appearance in the episode The Village Bride of an XS Freighter which every Smuggler in SWTOR will know and love as their class ship. The XS is a neat mashup of the Millennium Falcon and the Ebon Hawk, and it’s cool to see it pop up in an unexpected setting. If I’m being honest, the class ships have been neglected in SWTOR lately, so I’m glad at least one can get in on the action again. And additional points to the animators at Kinema Citrus for making an Old Republic reference to something other than Revan, who might be as close to overexposed as anything from that era can get.

Overall, I enjoyed Visions. If nothing else, I found it to be at least interesting. And if not every episode was great, each story’s individual approach to the material and setting gave me something to think about. I can see how the show might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but projects like this keep Star Wars fresh for new and old audiences alike. The answer to the question of which Star Wars movie or show someone should watch first does not have a simple answer these days, but Visions covers a lot of ground, and I think any kid or kid-at-heart can find at least one or two episodes to kick back and enjoy whether they’re coming at it as an anime fan or a Star Wars fan. Ultimately, I think Star Wars: Visions successfully accomplished an anthology’s job of leaving me wanting more, but not needing more.

But I can hear you asking the important question: what about the Aurebesh? And, yep, its all over Visions too. Its most prominent use comes in the episode T0-B1, and fortunately its translation is not a spoiler. Somewhat to my surprise, the Aurebesh does not translate into Japanese or English, but into Spanish. And while I’m not 100 percent certain, I am confident that the holographic text displayed in the episode is snippets of lyrics from the Latin flamenco pop song “MALAMENTE (Cap.1: Augurio)” by Rosalía. I have never been of the opinion that Aurebesh should be used strictly literally. It functions mainly to establish the flavor of Star Wars‘ space fantasy setting whether the translation makes sense in context or not. This blog is filled with numerous references to my favorite songs, so I heartily approve of the animators slipping in a tribute to music they like as well.

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back in a couple of days to celebrate this blog’s fifth anniversary!

 

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Maps and Legends

Well, things sure got exciting this week for fans of the Old Republic era of Star Wars with the announcement of a “remake” of Knights of the Old Republic.

Remastering, remaking, reforging fan-favorite video game classics is common these days and it seemed inevitable that KOTOR’s turn would come sooner rather than later. Indeed rumors have been kicking around for quite a while already.

Details are scant, so this is a great time to indulge in all manner of speculation and hysterical over-reaction. What is the difference between a remake and a remaster? Is the story changing? Is the gameplay changing? Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, it’s probably better.

But baseless speculation can be fun, so I will indulge myself and wonder what Knights of the Old Republic, the remake means for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

In the short term I suspect, very little if anything at all. The remake is a couple years away, at least, so if SWTOR intends any direct cross-over with KOTOR, it will likely come at the end of the Legacy of the Sith expansion’s life cycle or as part of the next, next expansion.

Nevertheless, KOTOR casts a long shadow over SWTOR, and even though Revan seems have gotten their last hurrah at the start of this year, the setting of Legacy of the Sith’s forthcoming operation clearly evokes the mass shadow generator from KOTOR2. Still, if I’m being honest, I hope SWTOR doesn’t wade too deep into the KOTOR nostalgia pool. At this point, it would feel like going backwards to dig up Revan yet again or bring back Malak or Bastila. These days, I am far more interested in learning about Malgus’ interest in Darth Nul than knowing if Nihilus’ spirit is still rattling around somewhere.

There is also speculation that the remake will allow Disney to backdoor KOTOR into the official Canon. While there have been allusions to Revan here and there recently, KOTOR hasn’t quite made the jump into the “Canon.” Long time readers of this blog may have noticed that I rarely mention “Canon” and “Legends.” This is because in my mind there is literally no difference between the two. The Star Wars stories I like are the stories I like, and I do not care on which side of an imaginary line they are supposed to lie.

That said, the line does seem to matter to many fans. If Lucasfilm declares that the KOTOR Remake is “Canon” and SWTOR gets to slide in on those coattails as well, and if this encourages someone who otherwise would not to try either or both games, then I say, “Great!” I hope the KOTOR Remake is a success for the people who make it and the fans who play it. I hope it appeals to new and old players alike. And if it leads players who want to continue to explore the Old Republic era to SWTOR, I say again, “Great!”

There are many terrific Star Wars stories to be found in the Old Republic setting, and I hope as many people as possible get to experience them.

Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

Finally, let’s take a look at the star map featured in the brief story beat “Whispers in the Force” included as part of the latest game update. This holographic display depicts the route Heta Kol seems to be following through the Minos Cluster to the very edge of the galaxy. Before I begin, I do want to say it was nice to see Akaavi Spar again. I always found interactions with her fun on my Smugglers, even if they rarely saw eye to eye. After her disappointingly brief return during Fallen Empire, I feared she wouldn’t get any screen time again. However, her Mandalorian background makes her a logical choice to use in this stage of the story for both Republic and Sith aligned characters, and I’m always glad to catch up with an underrated favorite.

As for the map itself, some of these worlds will be familiar to even the most casual Star Wars fan, but there are others whose lore stretches back to the very earliest days of Star Wars‘ Expanded Universe. If you’re a fan of West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game, you might recognize Elrood and some of the worlds mentioned here.  In the time of the movies, Eraidu is known as the homeworld of Grand Moff Tarkin. The shipyards at Sluis Van were a target of Grand Admiral Thrawn in Timothy Zahn’s first trilogy of novels. In the Old Republic era, Karideph was visited by both Jedi Master Orgus Din and Havoc Squad under the command of Harron Tavus prior to the events of SWTOR, so there is no shortage of rich history associated with this corner of the Galaxy.

Does this mean, we will be visiting the Force Nexus on Dagobah or massing our fleets near Sullust? No, probably not. But the story seems to leading into a part of the galaxy were weird stuff has been known to happen, and I don’t think they just pulled the Rimma Trade Route out of a hat, but we’ll have to wait a bit more to find out for sure where Heta Kol is headed. It should be interesting.

 

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Danger, Will Robinson

I was recently asked by some guild-mates to translate a sign found on Corellia, the Black Hole, CZ-198 and other corners of the galaxy. It led me to another similar sign and I thought it would be fun to take a look at both.

The meaning of these signs ought to be clear even if you don’t read Aurebesh. Triangular and octagonal hazard signs are as common a sight on this world as they are on Corellia, and it’s certainly not a coincidence that they sport the colors of our own stop and warning signs.

Both signs feature a unique symbol. I confess at first glance (especially in the second sign below) it struck me as an icon of a ram’s head, but upon closer inspection is meant to evoke our world’s biological hazard symbol. It shares many of the same basic elements, but with that twist so common in so much of Star Wars’ most iconic designs that make it familiar and different all at the same time.

This second sign comes in orange and blue flavors so I thought I should include both in this post. While not the most complicated graphics in the game, I had a lot of fun with these recreations. Matching the signs’ layouts and weathering was only the first part; duplicating the rather blurry resolution of the graphics as they appear in game was part of the process as well. In my first recreation, I included for comparison’s sake both the final result as well as my original “high res” version.

I want to thank Gloom and Rye for asking about these signs.  They aren’t the fanciest in the game, but I’m glad for the inspiration to take a closer look. As always, I welcome suggestions!

 

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The Absence of Justice

Hello there. Before we get started, I must admit this post is coming quite a bit later than I’d intended. The short version is that I kind of broke this site and was unable to access it for a couple of weeks. Here is my pro-tip to any aspiring bloggers: make sure you know what a plug-in is doing before you start messing with it. Everything is at last ship-shape and Bristol fashion, so let’s get back to it!

Recently, Aviriia asked me to translate a poster in Coruscant’s Justicar sector. Although I’ve examined several other Justicar posters in the past, his particular example had long been on my to-do list, but the screenshots of it I’d saved were taken at a distance or awkward angles, but I figured I’d give it a go. To my surprise (and embarrassment) I found that there was a perfect view of the poster to the immediate left just inside the sector that I’d completely missed despite countless trips to Coruscant over the years.

The poster itself fits stylistically with much of the other Justicar propaganda plastered around the zone and it shares with them the same distressed paper texture and sickly green and black palette. Like the other posters of this style, the message is fascist and ominous in tone. Given what players learn about the Justicars as they play through Coruscant’s stories, this is entirely appropriate.

As we settle into another Summer of SWTOR, I’m planning to clear out my backlog of untranslated Aurebesh. I tend to prefer tackling translations that I can discuss beyond “This is what it says,” but I’m hoping I can bang out more recreations than normal since I’ll be able to skip out on the commentary (or “useless flavor text” as a friend calls it). If there is a sign, poster or display in the game that you’ve always wondered about please let me know in the comments below or via twitter or through email. I’m always thrilled to take requests.

I’m sure we’re all looking forward to SWTOR’s big 10th anniversary celebration later this year, but in the meantime, stay cool and have a most excellent summer!

 

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Aurebesh is Weird

As February ends, gentle reader, I am once again turning in my work at the last possible second. All I can say is that this month definitely did not work out the way I’d planned.

This time, I’ve chosen to take a fresh look at one of the very first translations I made for this blog, and make a more faithful recreation this time around. Given its translation, you will likely not be shocked to learn that this sign can be found most commonly on the planet Corellia. Amusingly, the blue text contains a spelling error. It’s not the only one in the game, but it’s also a common error, one I’ve made myself, so I’m happy to let it slide. The orange text is another example of seemingly random single or paired letters that are seen frequently in holographic neon around the galaxy, and the use of the letters “G” and “Z” are a common popular choice for numerous signs and displays in the game. For the blue text, I followed the original’s use of capital and lower case letters, but for the line of orange, single glyphs I opted to reflect the capital “G’s” rather than alternate it with a lower case “g’s” in order the better match the poster’s original design.

There are several aspects to this seemingly simple sign that make translation a bit more tricky that it might seem at first glance. My initial translation nearly five years ago was completely nonsensical because technically this writing is not Aurebesh. To the best of my knowledge this alphabet has not been formally identified in Star Wars canon, but it is actually the second attempt, after Aurebesh as we know it, to recreate Joe Johnston’s original alien alphabet created for the original trilogy. The particular font used here is likely Erik Schroeder’s Galactic Basic. The giveaway that the font used is not formal Aurebesh is actually the use of glyphs which in Aurebesh are two-letter digraphs. As Aurebesh has evolved over the years, the digraphs have been used less and less over time or repurposed as other symbols. In SWTOR when you see an Aurebesh digraph you can usually assume the font being used is not Aurebesh.

As fake space letters go, I continue to find the evolution of Aurebesh interesting. There are many, many issues with its original, official presentation. The punctuation is incomplete, and there are no numbers or rules for capitalization. Over the years, different fonts, very often created by fans, have filled in the gaps and fleshed it out in ways beyond its original intention. The overall effect of this is that Aurebesh feels rather like a living “language” with weird oddities and quirks that real alphabets develop through generations of use across vast distances. Aurebesh, from the very beginning, was never intended to be THE singular alphabet of the Star Wars universe, just one of many. (including our own English alphabet). In Star Wars: The Old Republic, this diversity of languages and scripts can be found around the game world, and eagle-eyed gamers will spot Huttese/Outer Rim Basic, Naboo Futhork, ancient Jedi and Sith runes and most recently Mandalorian alongside the familiar Aurebesh.

UPDATE! I just noticed a spelling error of my own in my recreation. I’m tempted to claim this is an intentional homage to the error in the original and totally not a basic mistake by yours truly. You be the judge!

 

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Echoes of Vengeance Review

This week I’d like to share some spoiler free thoughts on SWTOR‘s Game Update 6.2, Echoes of Vengeance. I won’t lie, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to SWTOR‘s first significant story update of 2020. I doubt there is anyone out there from the players to the developers who isn’t disappointed that we didn’t get more story this year, but I do think the game has closed out the year with a bang.

Echoes of Oblivion

MMOs aren’t really known for endings. To one extent or another, they’re all about keeping the treadmill running and hyping up the next big thing. Echoes of Oblivion, however, feels like the capstone to a journey started nine years ago. It ties together the major strands and story beats woven through eight class stories and all of the expansions, and brings them together for a conclusion that felt to me immensely satisfying.

There are the expected heroes and villains doing their thing, a few pleasant surprises, and one or two things put right that had gone wrong. In service of the story, there is once again an incredible setting to explore. We visited a similar mindscape before during Knights of the Eternal Throne, but this time the environment seems to have been modeled on the landscape of a brain with synapse-like paths connecting suspended islands of memories illuminated by glowing neuron-like formations. It’s unique and fantastic, and I definitely recommend taking your time to look around as you make your way through this adventure.

The who story itself is appropriately epic with moments of high drama and even a funny running joke early on. Each of the major non-player characters get a moment to shine and be cool, but none of it feels like kill-stealing or overshadowing of our characters. It’s our choices and actions have made it all possible and brought us to the end of all things.

With so many story beats and characters to juggle, it’s not surprising, however, that not every thread got pulled, even ones that perhaps should have. The climax surely could’ve had more personal impact if the Consular’s Shielding technique or the Inquisitor’s Forcewalking powers had been invoked. Moreover, I think it’s fair that players of Jedi Knights who have newly reignited or recently started romances with Kira and Scourge might be disappointed that their relationships weren’t acknowledged on-screen, despite their major roles in the story. I know there are countless combinations of characters and companions, and I don’t envy Bioware’s task of finding space for them all, but it does feel like any romances outside of Lana and Theron have gotten the short end of the stick for quite a while now.

I suppose I could also argue that Echoes of Oblivion is just SWTOR taking a victory lap, but if it is, it’s well deserved. Bringing a decade’s worth of story told by countless writers, artists, designers, developers and players to a rewarding climax is no mean feat, and the good folks at Bioware should be commended for sticking the landing.

The Spirit of Vengeance

But, of course, this is not the end. No sooner have we caught our breath than a new threat has emerged, and we’re off to a new flashpoint, the Spirit of Vengeance. Given the popularity of The Mandalorian, it’s not shocking that SWTOR would want to explore Mandalorian’s unique brand of politics. But they’re hardly riding any coattails. Generations of Star Wars fans have been mad about this stuff since Boba Fett made his debut in 1978, and SWTOR has been having fun with Mandos since launch. If the show’s popularity is an excuse for a deeper dive, I’m cool with that.

The flashpoint focuses on three clans familiar to SWTOR players, and each section is distinctive, giving the whole flashpoint a sense of progression. I’ve run the SoV on solo, veteran and master modes and each of the boss fights are pretty fun, although it’s not always clear how their mechanics work. I’m still not sure how best to deal with Bask Sunn’s tether and Troya Ajak’s songbird volley. That said, aside from the healing check on Troya, I didn’t find the flashpoint too taxing on Master Mode, especially as compared to the Onslaught‘s other new flashpoint, Objective Meridian. It is a long flashpoint, and that may not be for everyone. Personally, I consider Hammer Station speed runs to be the death of fun, so I am more than fine spending some extra time in SoV. That said, a group of four should have no problem moving through at a reasonable click. Curiously, I found solo the slowest mode since I had to slog through all the trash by myself. I wouldn’t mind if those power-ups from the Uprisings were a standard feature of solo-modes. A thermal devastator or two certainly would have come in handy!

Dar’manda

The flashpoint comes with numerous decorations to collect including three new Mandalorian themed posters. One can be seen below.

While the two other posters are written using the Mando’a font, this one is in Aurebesh, and for good reason. It features Indigo, leader of a clan of  Mandalorian exiles called Dar’manda who we met on Mek Sha. To their credit, the Dar’manda understand that it would be completely inappropriate for them to use the Mando’a language in their propaganda.

At first, I thought the text of this poster was a fairly basic aphorism, but in thinking about it in the context of the story and setting, it’s clear to me that the rewards being promised here are not the honor and glory sought by your bog-standard Mando, but far more material rewards. “Besom better have my credits,” as they might put it.

The logo at the bottom is a variation on the mythosaur skull and the standard Mandalorian T-shaped visor and helmet seen across Mandalorian lore. I don’t know if this is the first appearance of the symbol, but it’s pretty cool, and I hope we will get to see it in other contexts again.

I confess I went with a quick and dirty recreation here in hopes of publishing my take on the game update’s content while it was still somewhat hot. However, when I return next year, I plan to take a look at the two Mando’a posters in greater detail.

The Undiscovered Country

As this honestly crappy year comes to a close, I’m looking forward to the next. This silly blog, SWTOR and the good people with whom I’m honored to play have all been things that made a 2020 a lot easier to take. Next year is SWTOR’s tenth anniversary, and as Echoes of Oblivion closes the door on one adventure, the Spirit of Vengeance opens the path to another. Let’s see where it leads.

Stay safe, have fun and may the Force be with us all!

 

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

With the brand new Feast of Prosperity event entering its final week, I thought I should share a short review while the event is still active for once. Like SWTOR’s other seasonal events, the Feast is less about rushing around fighting stuff (although there is some of that), and more about simple and hopefully fun gameplay. And I reckon it succeeds on that count.

Given how this year has gone, I think we could all use a fun distraction or two, and that’s what this event has been for this weary SWTOR player. The Feast of Prosperity consists of a one time story quest chain and repeatable dailies involving gathering exotic ingredients, cooking food and serving meals. None of this is extremely difficult. One of the daily ingredient quests calls for defeating world bosses around the galaxy, but with the respawn timers on those bosses drastically reduced and groups constantly forming to fight them, that quest is remarkably easy to complete.

The toughest quest isn’t mechanically difficult, but the Hard version of the Cantina Rush daily, which has the player take control of a serving droid delivering meals to a busy banquet hall, can get a little tense as you crisscross around the room trying to serve everyone their dinners before the timers runs out. During the seven or eight minutes it takes to complete that quest, I’m paying attention to nothing else!

One of the most interesting and neat things about the Feast has been seeing the crowds on Nar Shaddaa and teaming up to take on the various world bosses at all hours of the night and day. It’s nice to see the event give some love the second M in MMO.

The story is amusing as well and focuses on the two rival Hutts who have spearheaded the event. The choices players make while navigating the story lead to different results and rewards, and the finale felt satisfying to me. In addition, it was also a pleasant surprise to hear that the update includes some new music, specific to the tone of the Feast. Once you factor in the numerous new environmental assets, the Feast of Prosperity does feel like a stand out among SWTOR‘s events.

This is usually the part where I complain about the rewards, but not this time! The team did a great job including a wide variety of unique and fun items, emotes, decorations, pets, titles and achievements for players to earn. It’s all silly and I approve. I think it’s fair to complain about the armor set not being Legacy bound like most other event armors, but I confess I’ve been highly motivated to earn a Food Launcher on as many of my characters as possible.

Make no mistake, the Feast of Prosperity is hardly essential, nor is it meant to be. If you choose to skip it entirely, I doubt you’ll feel like you’ve missed out. However, if you want to earn some quick rewards, you can spacebar your way through the story and still come out with enough event tokens to treat yourself. Toss in a few of the trivial dailies, and you’ll be launching tomatoes at friends and enemies in no time!

Meet Jekiah Ordo

The last game update also included some actual story! Similar to the Task at Hand from earlier this year, it’s just a quick check in with Shae Vizla and an introduction to a new Mandalorian named Jekiah Ordo. This interlude is surely meant to set up the upcoming Mandalorian themed flashpoint. On the one hand, it is brief, but on the other I cannot deny it felt great to hear my characters talking again for the first time in many months. I’m eagerly awaiting the next story update. As I write this, it has not been official announced but hopefully we’ll be back in the thick of things before the year is out.

 

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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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