Category Archives: Aurebesh to English

Bits and Bobs

This week,Star Wars: The Old Republic released Game Update 7.2.1 which included SWTOR’s update to a 64 bit client and the debut of both the fourth Galactic Season and the second PVP season.

Updating a game well over a decade old to 64 bit was most certainly a herculean task that, if done properly, should be mostly invisible to players, and from what I’ve experienced so far Bioware has pulled it off. The fact of the matter is that there are so many versions of Windows, graphics cards and hardware set ups that accounting for every possible permutation of computers running the game is all but impossible, but so far I think it’s safe to say the upgrade has been a success. There have been some glitches here and there; it seems like Soa is so deeply woven into the primal fabric of the Matrix that any tug on any of the threads holding SWTOR together causes his encounter to once again bug out, but overall the game as I’ve played it feels a bit zippier. The PVP matches I’ve played this week have been less janky, and the large group content I’ve done has felt smoother over all. Thursday morning, we stuffed so many people into a single area of Voss to fight the Nightmare Pilgrim that the game had to close the instance, but the fight itself ran remarkably well.

SWTOR’s modernization effort over the last year or so has resulted in updates that aren’t necessarily sexy, but they do bode well for the long-term health of the game. Just yesterday, Bioware announced that next week players will be able to test a new cloud based server in the Asia-Pacific region. This is a temporary server, but it does mean that players on the other side of the world from the US may sooner rather than later have a more reliable server to call home. Without the move to AWS, the ability to even test a new APAC server would simply have been impossible.

Season After Season

This update also saw the debut of not one, but two seasonal tracks for the fourth Galactic Season and the second PVP season. For players who like to fill bars, it’s a bonanza of fresh activities, but I’m among those who feel like the last seasons have just barely ended.

It is a very, very rare feeling indeed that SWTOR gives players too much to do, so I don’t want to look this gift horse in the mouth, because I’m certain the summer doldrums will set in before I know it. That said, now that I’m used to the cadence and demands of both seasons, I’m going to take it easy this time around rather than risk burnout, especially when it comes to the PVP season. Two or three levels a week will allow me to complete the season with plenty of time to spare without feeling like I’m queuing beyond the point that it feels fun. As for the Galactic Season, goofing around with friends is the best part of the MMO experience, so I am always glad to team up to take on world bosses and flashpoints and other objectives.

Bioware has indicated that going forward, both seasons will be released at a less frenetic pace, and it does indicate to me that after Legacy of the Sith’s launch delay, the folks at Bioware are working hard to have SWTOR move towards a regular release schedule for its seasonal content.

The new companion at the center of this Galactic Season has an interesting twist and I’m curious to see where his story goes. Likewise, I have not looked too closely at the season’s rewards. Summoning the mount awarded from the first rank of the season track was a moment of genuine surprise that made me laugh, and I’m looking forward to charging around the galaxy like an Odux in a china shop.

Finally, I thought it would be fun to take a close look at a pair of the icons that have appeared on the Galactic Season rewards tracks. These icons have been in the game since launch, but most often seen by players in our inventory as tiny mission items. In the Galactic Season interface they appear much larger and are legible at this scale, so quick translation is definitely in order.

Since I don’t think Star Wars and SWTOR exist in the Star Wars universe, I feel confident in stating that the translations should not be taken as diegetic. That said, the idea that my characters might be playing an MMO and watching and debating the movies when I’m not looking is quite amusing! I’m pretty sure my Smuggler would main a Mara.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Seasons’ Greetings

Just popping in this week to mark the end of 2022.

As I write this I’ve have recently hit rank 100 on the third Galactic Season track and have also started off the new PVP Season.

Once again I had fun with the Galactic Season. There was a nice mix of objectives and a very solid collection of rewards to earn. While I understand that over-the-top armor sets are a staple of the MMO design aesthetic, it’s good to see the Season 3 outfits include a comfortable jacket and pair of pants that look like something an average person could actually wear. While there should always be a place for armors with countless straps, flaming skulls and unnecessary spikes in odd places, I always welcome the option to wear something my character could reasonably sit down in while wearing.

The G.A.M.E. Pit Boss jacket is adorned with patches recalling aspects of games of chance from Star Wars lore including a sideways Cartel Coin symbol, Han Solo’s famous lucky “spike dice”, the face of a Sabacc card on the right shoulder of the jacket, and the back of another over the heart. This symbol also adorns the weapons and mounts rewarded during the Season.

The origins of the card game of Sabacc stretches far back into Star Wars lore as the game of chance in which Han Solo infamously won the Millennium Falcon from his pal, Lando Calrissian. Originally called “sabacca” in an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back, L. Neil Smith changed the name to Sabacc (perhaps to sound less like “Chewbacca”), in his delightfully odd 1983 novel Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. Sabacc has been a stable of Star Wars‘ underworld gambling scene ever since. The first playable version of Sabacc, an amalgamation of Poker and Black Jack, appeared in West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game module Crisis on Cloud City in 1989, but many, many variants and updates to the rules have appeared since. Even in the Star Wars universe, there is no single rules set for Sabacc, and this has allowed creators to include and adapt the game in whatever ways they need from Black Spire Outpost in Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge theme park attraction to the game’s big screen debut in Solo: A Star War Story.

The large patch on the back of the Pit Boss jacket is especially fun, and once I picked it up, it immediately became a go-to outfit on my smuggler. I know SWTOR merchandise is a rare thing these days, but I’d love to see that “Galactic Champion” emblem on a patch or a pin or t-shirt for me to wear in the real world as well!

I definitely recommend sprucing up the jacket with a cheap Secondary Black Dye from the Underworld Reputation vendor who can be found on your fleet’s Cartel Bazarre. If you ever wanted to be cool like Fonzie, this might do the trick!

Weapons, Name Calling and Cheating

The latest game update also saw the debut of SWTOR‘s first revised PVP Season, and I’m dipping my toes again into regular player vs. player matches.

My first impression is that I wish there wasn’t overlap between the Galactic Season and the PVP season. Since participation in either does take time and commitment, having a break between seasons is important. It is nice when the game rewards different activities, but sometimes I just want to kick back and decorate, explore, complete dumb achievements or other stuff that does not actually advance any progress bar. I think that the game should remember to let players direct themselves sometimes.

Since I haven’t PVPed much this year, the PVP season does feel fresh to me, and it’s been fun shaking the rust off. Truthfully, when it comes to player-vs.-player, I am just average, but it’s nice to be able to queue for warzones alone and not have to worry about having an arena popping and dealing with the pressure of having to perform expertly in order to not let my teammates down. In the 8 versus 8 objective-based warzones, while I definitely want to win, I don’t really care if I don’t. As long as I did my part, I shrug and move on to the next one.

Progress down the season’s track, however, does strongly reward winning and active participation in the matches. It is difficult for some classes to achieve 8 medals even in a victory. I can’t tell you how many times my Sorcerer has finished a match with a 59k biggest hit, and once again missed out on the Annihilator medal that triggers at 60k.

While I understand that earning medals is easier in Arenas, in Warzones, it takes active engagement to come away with the magic number of 8 medals needed to advance the weekly objective for earning medals. Players need to aggressively engage in completing objectives, and folks who prefer to act in support or farm numbers may struggle to finish that season task.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. Capping nodes, scoring the Hutt Ball, and planting bombs on doors all make matches faster and, I think, more interesting. I’m certain Bioware will adjust the numbers next year, but I’ve had some entertaining games so far. I have had some stinkers too. Solo queueing into a match against a pre-made group is never a great experience, and isn’t an uncommon occurrence during off-peak hours.

The rewards for the season are worth discussing. The Cartel Combatant armor set doesn’t really stand out in comparison to the Galactic Season rewards and certainly not in comparison to old Ranked rewards. If the armor has a connection to Star Wars lore, I can’t quite place it; likewise it doesn’t feel thematically tied to any of the classes or either faction. I don’t dislike the set, but I don’t feel like it fits any of my characters. That said, the interactive decoration are pretty neat and my favorite items on the track so far.

For me, the rewards that motivate me the most are the season tokens that can be used to buy replicas of the flashy old Ranked Season rewards. I know this is a touchy subject for some, but my general feeling is that it is okay for elite cosmetic rewards to become more accessible after their time has passed. This has long been a staple of MMOs and even SWTOR has been recycling Nightmare armor and weapon cosmetics for years. If you have some leftover Light Side tokens, you can buy weapons identical to the Kell Dragon ones my team busted our humps to earn back in the day.

I won’t lie, I’m hoping to save up enough PVP season tokens to grab the weapon set I came up short earning nearly 8 years ago. But it’s going to take some time. Realistically, I won’t have enough tokens until well into the second season. Players who are better than me and more willing to participate in arenas will earn those tokens faster.

Again, I’d say this is okay. I know many Ranked players are lamenting their rewards being turned into participation trophies, but if I’m being brutally honest, it would’ve been much easier and quicker in the last couple of years for me to win-trade enough ranked currency to buy those replica weapons than it will take me to earn the new tokens through a couple of season tracks where the matches are real and people are trying.

Overall, I think the season is off to a good start. The season should be long enough for me to earn enough tokens towards my goal without feeling like all I must do in SWTOR is PVP. The solo queues have been popping, and I hope that means more people are trying it out. More people PVPing should mean better season rewards in the future and hopefully even new maps. There is no downside to that.

Happy New Year!

Just as the holidays began in earnest, Keith Kanneg, SWTOR‘s Project Director, delivered an early present with news of SWTOR’s ongoing modernization efforts. I’m no expert when it comes to computers, but folks who know tell me that upgrading to 64 bit should help the game be less resource intensive and allow some more robust processes in the game. In addition, by moving the servers to the cloud, most users should see reduced latency, especially folks who play on the Virginia-based Star Forge or Satele Shan servers, but are not themselves on the US’s east coast. These changes are hardly glamorous, and if done right should be close to invisible to most players, but they do demonstrate Bioware’s commitment to the game.

That said, for the vast majority of SWTOR players, the only updates that matter are story updates, and I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the amount of story we got this year. Hopefully as these infrastructure projects wrap up, we might see a more regular cadence of story updates, but we also need to understand that story requires a whole host of additional organizational expenses that other updates to the game don’t. Remember, at the very least, every time your character speaks a single line of dialogue, 48 different voice actors have to record that line, and that’s not including the writers, translators, audio engineers and everyone in the production pipeline who makes SWTOR‘s most prominent feature, fully voiced story, possible. Does moving SWTOR to the cloud mean we’ll get more frequent story updates? I want to hope so, but I think it’s best not to assume too much.

Finally, let me wish everyone who’s stopped by here a happy, safe and prosperous New Year! I’ve got a backlog of topics and weird alien text to translate and I hope to see you on the other side!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR

Andor Review

SWTOR‘s 7.2 Game update Showdown on Ruhnuc just launched, and once again the game finds a way to end the year on a high note. While I gather my thoughts on this year of SWTOR, I also want to put down on the record my two credits about the latest live action Star Wars story.

Season one of Andor is an impressive accomplishment. At its core it is a show about the birth of the Rebel Alliance as seen from Cassian Andor’s perspective. But it’s not only about Cassian, and indeed in his life, he is often powerless in the face of forces he cannot control, from his “rescue” from Kenari to arrest on the resort world of Niamos.

Because the show has bigger fish to fry, it also makes sure to tell the stories of other key figures in the early days of the fight against the Empire. Most familiar to Star Wars fans is Mon Mothma who has gone from a one note character from a single scene in Return of the Jedi to someone who faces a struggle against the Empire that has left her as trapped and desperate as anyone else. It has been remarkable to see Geneveive O’Reilly take Mothma from a sadly deleted scene in Revenge of the Sith to an assuredly played key player in both Rogue One and Andor.

I think the message of Andor is that the Rebellion was not born of one thing; the protagonist of this season is clearly Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthan Rael whose goal is to bring together an alliance that can credibly fight the Empire. He is, by any means necessary, working to unite scattered factions of politicians, spies, smugglers, criminals and terrorists into a whole, even if it means lying to one group or sacrificing another. In Star Wars lore, the Rebellion is typically presented as the “good guys”, but Andor wants to add some nuance to that portrayal.

The show is about the struggle for the soul of the Rebellion. The climax of Rogue One is, of course, the resolution of this conflict, but in Andor we hear many voices describe what rebellion means to them. Nemik’s manifesto details what the Empire’s banal evil is. In Coruscant’s underbelly, Luthan declares how far he is willing to go in the fight. Kino Loy exhorts his fellow prisoners to take their escape in the only direction where it can go. In the finale, Maarva’s epic self-eulogy is a call to arms to everyone within the sound of her voice telling them why they must fight.

Cassian Andor confronts Syril Karn on Morlana One.

It’s all thrilling stuff, and Deigo Luna is fantastic as Cassian who strives to find his place in the midst of this chaos. You don’t have to strain very hard to see parallels in the politics and conflicts of our world’s all too recent history. From its very beginning, Star Wars has worn its anti-fascist politics on its sleeve, and Andor looks to explore the ways people fight back in their most desperate hour. After one season, it hasn’t offered easy solutions or a happy ending. We know how things end for Cassian, but the show has made it clear that no one is safe. Take Mon Mothma, the only character on the show whose survival is assured; when we revisit her again in Return of the Jedi, the Bothans are only the latest in a long line of losses she’s endured in the intervening years.

Under Tony Gilroy’s stewardship, Andor also approaches the cinematic scope of an actual Star Wars movie better than any other Disney+ show so far. In tone and story, it is very much like its own thing, but still feels like Star Wars as well. Season two is quite a ways off, but I’ll be there for it as soon as it drops.

Is Andor the Best Star Wars?

I’ll just cut to the chase. No, I don’t think so.

This section was originally a lot more ranty, went through several revisions, and I nearly abandoned the whole review altogether, but I came around to feeling like I did have something to say about Andor.

Discourse within Star Wars fandom has always been kind of bad, and even from the distant outer rim of things where I live these days, it feels worse. So much of it boils down to people who want to make which Star Wars you like a zero-sum game and then pit one sub-group of fans against another. “If you don’t like Rogue One, you’re wrong and not a real Star Wars fan.” “If you don’t like The Last Jedi, you’re wrong and not a real Star Wars fan.” “If you don’t like the Zahn trilogy, you’re wrong and not a real Star Wars fan”, etc., etc.…

Even leaving aside the CHUDs mining bad faith click baiting shit-takes, it can be exhausting even just to ignore it all.

Among people who mean well, it can get to be a bit much too. I get it. After more than four decades there is a lot of Star Wars out there and sorting through it all is not for the faint of heart. But when it comes to Star Wars, I’m not gonna pick just one. I like apples AND oranges.

Take Andor and Book of Boba Fett. Comparisons only get you so far. They are very different shows with very different ambitions. Book of Boba Fett was pretty much naff; Andor has things on its mind. However, I suspect that if I were eight years old, I’d much prefer Book of Boba Fett, a show with jet packs, high noon shoot outs, and monster vs. robot action, to a show mainly about people talking, in which the hero shoots unarmed people and someone is psychically tortured by the cries of murdered children.

Mon Mothma carefully navigates the political waters of Coruscant.

Ultimately, I think the best Star Wars should probably land somewhere in the middle. I don’t think that’s a spicy take at all. Ideally, of course, I want Star Wars to be smart AND fun, but it doesn’t always hit that mark, and at my most sanguine I might even admit that it rarely hits the mark at all.

All that said, I think it’s good that there are  Star Wars stories with different styles, tones and perspectives. I’ll even go so far to say that this sort of variety is necessary for Star Wars to find and connect with new fans. That I don’t consider Andor to be “The Best Star Wars” does not at all detract from how much I like the show. Hate on Disney all you want, but we’re getting more Star Wars content now than at any time in the franchise’s history. I’m glad they’re willing to explore different stories with lots of creators. In the old days, Andor would’ve been, at best, a second-rate paperback novel, and not the high quality production we got. It’s cool we can pick and choose the shows and movies and novels and comics and video games we like and shouldn’t have to feel like we need to watch, read or play it all, because, holy cats, there is a lot of it.

I gave up years ago trying to keep up with everything, but I do not and would never think that the slice of Star Wars pie that I enjoy is the only Star Wars worth tasting. I love it when someone’s genuine enthusiasm as a fan or a creator encourages me to try something different. As for the parts I don’t like, I honestly don’t give them much thought, and I sure as shebs don’t take it personally. I cannot possibly imagine holding a grudge against someone who just wanted to tell a Star Wars story.

Of all the hills to die on, that’s the stupidest.

 

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Neon and Mudflaps

This week let’s take a quick look at the holographic display that appears behind players who possess the Party Instigator, a device that can be purchased on Balmorra by players who have achieved Social Rank 5. In addition to causing players around you to dance, this item also deploys a colorful and flashing neon sign at the center of the festivities.

There isn’t much to the translation, but like my previous recreation, this image also evokes a slice of Americana, one likely familiar to anyone who has driven the interstate highways of the United States.

The text and figure depicted indicates that this display was probably intended for one of the seedier cantinas or dive bars that can be found in any of the galaxy’s countless wretched hives of scum and villainy. The two large letters flanking the figure don’t strike me as having any obvious meaning. It’s fun to wonder if there is any inside joke at play here, but if there is I cannot say. But in the spirit of baseless speculation, I might venture a guess that since the shape formed by the legs of the figure resembles the Aurebesh letter “Xesh”, it could simply be X Y and Z, the final three letters of the alphabet. Beyond that, who knows?

There is, however, no doubt in my mind about the source of inspiration for the figure seen in neon. She is clearly based on the “Mudflap Girl” whose chrome silhouette has become an iconic presence on many, many of the trucks, big rigs and 16 wheelers that range across America’s highways and byways. In the five decades since its creation, the image of the Mudflap Girl has certainly achieved iconic status far beyond its initial use behind the wheels of trucks, and has been reinterpreted in countless ways and styles. SWTOR‘s version replaces the figure’s flowing 1970’s hair with a Twi’lek’s lekku head-tail, an amusing substitution to be sure. What remains from the original design, is of course the figure’s voluptuous physique.

Special thanks to the good folks in the Ootini guilds with whom I’ve been able to raid on the Satele Shan server. During a break in the action last week, someone asked about this graphic, and it was fun to have an excuse to buy my first Party Instigator and check it out over the weekend. Never let it be said that I don’t take requests!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English

Andor and SWTOR

This week’s post is a quick one, and only indirectly related to SWTOR. The Disney+ series Andor launched today, and it has its own logo. Although the logo has been constantly changing over the course of the build up to its debut to the point that the version used in the title sequence is different from the one appearing in the show’s latest marketing materials, each logo has shared traits that I thought were interesting. In tribute, I decided I’d reinterpret it in Aurebesh with a bit of a SWTOR twist.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I quite pulled it off, but I did have fun in the attempt at least. The most distinctive trait of the Andor logo is the letter O formed in negative space between the D and R. Trying to pull of the same trick with an Aurebesh Wesk or W is pushing the readability of that illusion to its limit. To make it work, I had to trim off half of the lower arm of the letter Trill or T, but since the Andor logo removed the bar in the center of its A, I feel like this cheat is consistent with the original design.

The small Star Wars logo was inspired by/shamelessly ripped off from AurekFonts who has worked to archive and catalogue Star Wars’ long and varied history of alien typefaces across all its lore.

The red letters at the bottom are my own bespoke Aurebesh with serifs, which I’ve used here and there over the years. At best, I’d call it a “work in progress,” but at this point I’ve nearly completed the alphabet, so if I’ve got it, I’m gonna use it!

As for Andor itself, don’t worry, there are no spoilers here! If I choose to write about it, it won’t be until well after the season ends. For now, I’m hoping to enjoy it as it comes out this fall.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General Star Wars, General SWTOR, My Artwork

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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