Category Archives: Aurebesh to English

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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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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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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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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Walking on Black Sunshine

This week I’ve maxed out the second Galactic Season track, and I thought it would be a good excuse to take a look at some alien writing that ties into this season’s underworld theme.

If you’ve ever visited the Black Hole sector on Coruscant, even if only to do the “Face Merchants” heroic, then you’ve seen that the neighborhood is covered in graffiti which makes it clear that the sector is under the control of the Black Sun criminal syndicate.

Black Sun’s first appearance in Star Wars lore was in 1996 as part of the Shadows of the Empire multimedia event designed to give to fans all the books, toys, comics, video games, soundtracks and merchandise that they’d expect from the release of a brand new Star Wars movie, only without an actual movie itself. Several of the concepts, characters and vehicles introduced in Shadows found there way into other Star Wars stories, but Black Sun with its distinctive logo and ominous name has remained a regular presence in stories set on the seedier side of the Star Wars universe.

SWTOR players will discover that Black Sun was born out of the chaos caused by Darth Malgus’ surprise attack on Coruscant, a seminal event in the Old Republic’s history. Even after the siege of Coruscant was broken, the Republic capital’s security forces were in disarray, and entire sectors of the world were left to fend for themselves. This void was eagerly filled by crimelords and gangsters who united to seize control of as much territory in Coruscant’s lower levels as they good. Helpless citizens under their thumbs ultimately had no choice but to hope that better a black sun than none. Black Sun’s advancement was nearly unchecked for years, and in that time they became a syndicate whose influence reached both across the galaxy and the ages into the era of the Clone Wars and the Rebellion against the Empire.

The Black Sun graffiti in SWTOR is written using two languages. The first is, of course, Aurebesh, but it is written in a free hand style appropriate for its context as spray painted vandalism tagged on a wall. Handwriting seems to be something of a lost art in Star Wars, with examples in lore being few and far between until the appearance of the “sacred Jedi texts” in The Last Jedi. In SWTOR, as in Star Wars in general, freehand writing most often appears as graffiti. In the example above, the larger text declares Black Sun’s presence with bold authority, and the smaller slogan threatens that they are as inevitable as the dawn.

The second language used for the smaller tag is now called “Outer Rim Basic” but at the time these graphics were created for SWTOR it was generally known as Huttese, and I’ll stick with that identification here. This writing style first appeared during the pod-racing sequences in The Phantom Menace, and iterations of it can be found in many other stories that touch on Star Wars’ criminal underworld. Fans of The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ might recognize the graffiti tag used by the Kintan Strider’s swoop gang as being the letter “K” in a version of Huttese/Outer Rim Basic.

Given the overlap and rivalry between Star Wars’ various criminal syndicates,  it does not strike me as out of place to see Huttese used in this circumstance. For example, Skadge, the infamous and not-quite beloved companion from the Bounty Hunter story, at various times worked for both Black Sun and the Hutt Cartel, although his time with the Hutts (like most of Skadge’s relationships, I’d wager) ended in betrayal and violence. Regardless, an association with the Hutts, whether real or implied, could only help Black Sun’s burgeoning reputation in its early days, both with others gangs and local citizens who doubtless already knew of the danger of crossing the Hutts.

Nevertheless, for those interior decorators who would like to add a dash of scum and villainy to their stronghold’s ambiance, the Black Sun-Graffitied Underworld Couch is a reward for subscribers and free-to-play players alike at the fifth level of the current Galactic Season. As you kick back and plop your backside on top of it, take note, perhaps ironically, that it has been tagged with the same graffiti seen in my recreation above.

 

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February of the Sith

Late to the party as usual, I still feel like I should comment on the big announcement that Legacy of the Sith has been delayed until February 15th of next year.  Many, many folks assumed a delay was inevitable, but this was a bigger one than expected.

This year has been especially light on story content, and I am very much looking forward to jumping back into the thick of things, so it’s a drag that I will have to wait a couple more months. But I think it’s for the best. The version of the PTS that went up this week still doesn’t feel polished, and I would expect that the expansion should launch in a state better than “mostly playable.” As any veteran player can tell you, problems, even very serious ones, that pop up in SWTOR before the December break have traditionally not been addressed until well into January. So rather than rush to meet an arbitrary deadline, the good folks in Austin will get to go into the holidays at an easier pace, and should be able to take some extra time to tighten the nuts, patch the leaks, and smooth the edges out of the expansion. In the long run, it can only be a good thing.

However, delaying the expansion one week before launch and just three after the initial date was even announced is not a good look for Bioware. Does it affect me personally? No. In fact, I’m actually kind of glad that I won’t have to worry about gearing up over Christmas vacation. I’ll spend the extra couple of months keeping on keeping on. I’ve got plenty of achievements to knock out and enough alts in need of care and feeding that I won’t be lacking things to do. But I know other folks are feeling done with Onslaught and will be taking the time to check out other games.

In addition, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that other players might’ve subscribed early to catch up on story or re-familiarize themselves with the game in anticipation of next week’s announced update. SWTOR has long been a game that allows players to come and go as they please, and someone who took Bioware at their word that Legacy of the Sith would be launching next week shouldn’t have to re-subscribe in February.

If it were up to me (and, to be clear, it isn’t) I’d say anyone with an active subscription on December 14, should automatically receive access to Legacy of the Sith. In fact, I’d go even further. Anyone subscribed at any point between now and February 15, should get access to the expansion’s story and leveling content.

Look at me, spending EA’s money!

Titans of Industry, part 3

Finally, let’s not neglect the Aurebesh any longer and take a quick return visit to the moon CZ-198 to check out this hover train car that can be found in the freight depot in the bowels of the Czerka controlled installation.

The translation of the transport company’s logo is not complex at all, and it reveals a name that is either a fairly unusual surname, or perhaps a spelling mistake. The rules surrounding the usage of “I before E” have long vexed me, so if it is in error, it’s not one I’d ever hold against someone. If we read it as “Field Transit”, then the company name is somewhat mundane. I wonder if the logo’s design suggests another possibility. Could the prominent circle be symbolic of a sun or star? If so, “Starfield Transit” strikes me as a rather more poetically Star Wars name.

Spelling error or odd name? The galaxy may never know!

 

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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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