Category Archives: Dumb Top Five

A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part Two

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

Part Two: Action Figures

Growing up, pretty much every single boy (and some of the girls) I knew played with Star Wars toys, and I was no exception, eventually assembling a small army of dozens of miniature heroes, villains, robots and aliens from the original trilogy. Reinforced with assorted Adventure People, Micronauts and G.I.Joes, I staged many epic battles far beyond anything George Lucas would ever conceive or much less approve of.

My favorite Kenner Star Wars figure was Bespin Luke, but Darth Vader was my first and the character I have the most versions of today. All that remains of that original Vader is his head; it is likely that his body was lost to over-eager play or forgotten by me and consumed by my mother’s vacuum cleaner. A tragic outcome in either event.

Even Vader’s replacement has long since lost his lightsaber and stylish vinyl cape/vest. Both as a child and an adult, I had no interest in preserving my figures for future sale or display. I’m what collectors call an “opener.” I’ve never had a figure that I didn’t eagerly free from their clear plastic and cardboard prison. I always have one or two on my desk at any given time. My current figures see the bulk of their action during loading screens or on patch days.

These days I suspect more Star Wars toys are bought by adults than children, and I still indulge in Star Wars figures from time to time. Currently, the figures I buy are mainly from Hasbro’s Black Series line of six inch figures. Selling for at least $20 each, however, these guys are not cheap, so I try to be judicious in my purchases. However, this can be a tough line to hold whenever a new movie is about to come out.

Aside from the cost, the figures can sometimes be a challenge to even buy. Long gone are the days when I could walk into any toy store and find any Star Wars figure I wanted. Today’s figures are produced in limited numbers, and distribution to even large retailers can be spotty. You’re unlikely to find a popular character like the recently released Mandalorian at your local Target or Walmart, so you’ll need to be prepared to hunt various online sources if you want to pay a reasonable price. On the other hand, other figures derided as “pegwarmers” can easily found even a year or so after their release. To be honest, I’m not always sure which figures will be hard to find and which I’ll see marked down for clearance later.

The latest generation of action figures have far greater articulation and attention to detail than anything I would have dreamed possible back in the day. Within the last year or so, Hasbro has begun using “face printing” in which paint details are applied to a figure digitally. The result is that these toys can often have uncanny likenesses to their real life counterparts. If you’ve ever wanted a miniature Mark Hamill for your desk or shelf, it’s a great time to be alive!

Am I too old to be playing with toys? Yeah, probably. But putting Darth Vader into a menacing pose and setting him up against Han Solo as he draws his blaster has never stopped being a satisfying waste of time.

Next week: Dice not included.

 

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A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part One

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

As I assembled this list, I quickly realized that there was no way I could keep it to a single post and give everything the space it deserved, so I’ll be presenting a new item from this list each week until the debut of the movie on December 20.

Part One: Comic Books

Back in 1977, my first exposure to Star Wars came not from the movie, but from Marvel Comics’ 6 issue adaptation of the film that concluded before I even got to see it in a theatre. This in no way spoiled the experience for me; from the opening minutes, I was still blown away by what I saw on the screen.

However, in many ways, the comics informed my overall conception of Star Wars. In the movie, the lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi is not terribly exciting, but if there is one thing comics know how to stage, it’s a fight scene. The comics’ version of the confrontation does a superior job conveying the epic duel between the old master and corrupted apprentice. Indeed, the moment of Ben’s death as portrayed in the comic is particularly macabre.

Marvel produced well over a hundred issues of Star Wars comics starting three months before A New Hope was released and continuing three years after Return of the Jedi. They are very much of their time, steeped in the styles and tropes of 1970s and 1980’s comics, but the two or three quarters I spent each month to follow the continuing adventures of the “Star Warriors” absolutely made the wait between movies easier to take. Forgotten heroes like Dani and Kiro and Plif the Hoojib and villains like Valance, Lumiya and the Nagai loom nearly as large in my memories of the early days of a galaxy far, far away as Luke, Leia, Han and Vader.

In the 1990’s, starting with the terrific Dark Empire series, Dark Horse Comics continued the licensed comic line and expanded the universe with a whole host of new stories. Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics were the first to visit the Old Republic setting and touched every era of the saga’s past and future. Currently Marvel, which like Lucasfilm is owned by Disney is again producing diverse line of comics which feature our favorite heroes from the movies but have added popular new characters like Dr. Aphra and also revisited some old and infamous favorites from the early days of Marvel’s original Star Wars series.

Over the years, countless Star Wars stories have been told, but I think the best of the comics, with their emphasis on impossible visuals and larger than life action in bite sized chunks, come the closest to recapturing the magic of watching the films. When I think of Star Wars, I’ll never forget sitting in a dark theater watching movies I love, but I also recall afternoons sprawled out on the rug of my parent’s living room floor, eagerly turning the pages of the latest four color classic.

Next week: Your plastic pals who are fun to be with!

 

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Gravity Wins Again: The Best Worst Ways to Die in Star Wars: The Old Republic

The Star Wars universe is a dangerous place. Between the lightsabers, blasters, planet smashing super-weapons and busted jetpacks, there are no shortage of ways one can meet an untimely end. SWTOR would be remiss in its duties if the game world did not reflect the hazards of living in a galaxy without handrails, safety belts and lifejackets. Sure, there is an endless supply of rage fueled Sith, righteous Jedi and twitchy gun thugs just waiting to do the players harm as they experience their hero’s journey, but the game also contains many more devious, and subtle ways to dispatch our avatars. This week, let’s take a look at the five best worst ways to die in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Please note that while I generally prefer to present my lists in no particular order, this time around I thought it appropriate to list them in order of best-worst to worst-best.

If I missed your favorite embarrassing way to die, please let me know! In the meantime, mind the gap!

The Sarlacc Pit

The coarse, rough and irritating sandscape of Tatooine’s Dune Sea is home to the ultimate tourist trap: the great pit of Carkoon, maw of the endlessly ravenous Sarlacc. This hazard easily earns the first spot on this list because players who recklessly hurl themselves into the pit of the Sarlacc will not only find a new definition of pain as they are slowly digested over a thousand years, but they will also earn the title “Worm Food” so that all will know just who has been consumed by one of Star Wars’ iconic giant monsters.

Cademimu, All of It

The planet Cademimu is the Galactic Republic’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration greatest nightmare made real. It features not one, not two but three merciless and hazardous elevators that have, I am certain, murdered more players than all of the flashpoint’s bosses combined. Cademimu’s danger extends beyond the elevators to the walkways connecting the planet’s sprawling skyscrapers. A few low railings are no match for the player character’s abilities to push, pull and knock around the droids and mercenaries blocking the way. However, heroes capable of charging into combat, should be especially careful they don’t leap towards an enemy just as it has been pushed off a catwalk and follow it into the yawning chasm below. I have seen this happen; I have done it myself; I have allegedly tried to do it to friends in my party.

Scum and Villainy Bridge Boss

Massively multiplayer online games have a long, proud tradition of making the process of merely crossing a gap far more dangerous that it really ought to be. Careless players can fall to their deaths crossing spans in the Eternity Vault and Explosive Conflict operations, but the road to Dread Master Styrak in the operation Scum and Villainy is paved with danger, in that the bridge leading to his lair is not actually fully paved. Look down and you might be able to discern the countless bodies of Datacron seekers and impatient raiders who heedlessly raced over this bridge. However, the true scope of Styrak’s villainy is only revealed in the operation’s Nightmare Mode difficulty in which, the bridge appears to have been repaired and its gaps filled. This is only an illusion, and the crevices still eagerly devour anyone too foolish to not have remembered the safe path across.

Iokath’s Toilet Bowl

The first time I beheld this sprawling maelstrom of water, holo-bridges and murder droids on the way to Scyva in the Gods from the Machine operation, I knew there would be trouble. In order to safely traverse this churning whirlpool, brave heroes must carefully huddle for safety within the protection of a remarkably small force field carried by a single person; anyone with notions of charging ahead or cautiously waiting behind, or plagued by lag or de-sync will find themselves knocked down the drain by the area’s robotic guardians and flushed with the rest of Iokath’s waste. I am frankly a little surprised every time I make it to the far side of this area without suffering the most soggy and ignoble of deaths.

Ossus Elevator

Imperial players on Ossus have almost certainly encountered and fallen victim to the most devious of these threats to our safety: the elevator down the main deck of Strike Base XR-484. This elevator remains at the top for exactly enough time to convince you that you can safely get on it, but not actually enough time to do so. Moreover, clever players who think they can use a speed boost or mount to more quickly hop on will find the lift’s platform just small enough that they will pitch themselves off the edge if they fail to stop at exactly the right moment. Every time I fall victim to this deathtrap, I have two thoughts. The first is, of course, “Oh no, not again.” The second is that whoever designed this particular area must receive a small bonus every time a character belly flops to their doom from the platform above. Even though it’s been less than year since Ossus’ debut, I imagine they could retire in luxury now.

I apologize for the lack of Aurebesh again this week. It can get tough to find the motivation to poke my computer on a hot summer day. I honestly don’t know if anyone but me enjoys these dumb top five lists, but I do like them as an excuse to explore some of the game’s overlooked nooks and crannies. I will endeavor to get back to the translations very soon along with what I hope will be exciting news from his weekend’s Cantina event in San Diego!

 

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If That Orobird Won’t Sing: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Pets

“Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” When I started compiling “Dumb Top Fives” I knew that this was one list that I would inevitably have to make, but I put it off again and again because paring it down to five was sure to be a herculean task. There is a veritable stampede of plastic pals, fuzzy friends and good boys and girls that can be collected from nearly all aspects of SWTOR gameplay, and, in the end, I’ve come up with five categories of pets that can be found without ever spending a single Cartel Coin.

 Exploration/Flashpoints/Vendors: Orobirds

There was one family of fine feathered friends that was always guaranteed a spot on this list: Orobirds. There are four Orobirds available as pets in SWTOR, and none of them come from the Cartel Market. The easiest of these to acquire is the Crested Orokeet that can be purchased for 50,000 credits from the Cartel Coin Concierge in either Fleet’s Cartel Bazaar. The Galactic Command Light Side Vendors in the Fleets’ Supplies section will trade you a gray Orochick for a mere 5 Light Side Tokens. To ensure a proper upbringing, however, the vendors do require that the bird’s new owner to at least have a light side alignment of level 1. The last two Orobirds are rather more tricky to locate. They hatch from eggs which players must carefully tend before cracking open. The Unusual Egg, which can be found in nests on Alderaan, Republic Taris and Imperial Balmorra, is the source of the green Orokeet. Finally, the royal blue Orosquab, hatches from the Mysterious Egg that Doctor Lorrick sometimes drops as loot in the Master Mode flashpoint, Lost Island.

Achievements: Nerf Herding

Next up, are the Nerf calves that can be acquired by achievement hunters willing to explore the green hills of Alderaan, the snow capped mountains of Hoth and the dark heart of Voss. Included among the rewards for locating the Arctic Nerf Calf, the Nightland Nerf Calf and the Hill Nerf Calf and a painting of a Nerf to hang in your stronghold and the “Nerf Herder” legacy title, appropriate for stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking scoundrels everywhere! As long as you’re high enough level to visit these planets, I definitely recommend completing these exploration achievements, my favorites in the game.

Reputation: Gree Data Core

Nearly every reputation vendor has a pet or two available to folks who enjoy the essential task of filling up reputation bars. To me, the easy standout is the Gree Data Core. This miniature, floating wonder of Gree technology seems to draw inspiration from both the Bit from the movie Tron and the companion cube from the video game Portal. The Core requires Newcomer standing with the Gree Enclave and is sold for 50,000 credits by the Gree reputation vendor who can be found in the Cartel Bazaar or on Ilum during the Gree event.

Honorable Mention: There are so many neat reputation based pets that I had to include an extra: the Drink Server Probe, which is offered by the Freelance Gear Merchant in the Cartel Bazaar. It will set you back 39 Completed Bounty Contracts which are awarded during the Bounty Broker Event and requires Legend standing with the Bounty Brokers Association. This sleek little droid is ready to help take the edge off with a refreshing cocktail, topped off with a little umbrella, just like Niko Okarr likes it.

Operations: M0-GUL Thrall Droid

Players interested in raiding will also find pets as rare drops in some of the game’s Operations. My favorite of these is Karagga the Hutt’s gold-plated Roomba, the M0-GUL Thrall Droid. Who couldn’t use a helpful robotic assistant to clean up the dirt, dust and severed limbs galactic heroes tend to leave in their wake? M0-GUL can be looted most reliably from bosses in Veteran Mode Karagga’s Palace.

Honorable Mention: Don’t you just want to pinch the cheeks and hug Dwedtoof, the baby Drouk? Of course you do! Technically, Dwedtoof doesn’t drop in an Operation, but you will need an Ops group to successfully defeat the source of this pet: the empowered versions of Dreadtooth, the infamous world boss who patrols Belsavis’ Section-X.

PVP: Lobelisk and Lawgriffari

Even PVPers have access to a pair of unique pets, but potential owners will need to prove their worth before these scrappy little guys will heel to them. The PVP Items vendors on both fleets sell these pets for 20,000 credits each, but they do have modest Valor Rank requirements that must be met before they can be unlocked by the player. The cyan and orange striped Lobelisk requires Valor 5, and the blue-eyed, silver-plated Lawgriffari requires rank 12. There are other Lobel and Akk Dog pets available in the game, but this space-frog and dino-pup are two of the ones I like best.

This list has barely scratched the surface. There are dozens more fierce, funny and adorable pets sold by vendors, awarded from quests and achievements, won as treasure or hatched out of Command Crates. Whether you’re an Akk Dog person, a Nexu fancier or robo-phile, there’s a pet for you out there. Just remember to change the litter box, scratch them behind the ears, and take ‘em out for a walk every once in a while.

If I missed a rare find or one of your favorites, please let me know! And if you’re someone who gleefully grinds pets into CXP every time one appears in your Command Stash, don’t tell me; it’ll only make me cry. I have hundreds of Fiery Grophets and Venomous Ginxes running wild in my stashes.

 

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The Future’s Not Ours to See: Five Predictions for 2019

Happy New Year! Once again, let’s start the year off with five predictions for 2019. Looking over my list from last year, I think I would generously give myself a score of 0.5 out of 5. This year, there is nowhere to go but up!

I struggled to come up with an interesting list of predictions, often unable to resolve the difference between what I hope will happen this year and what I actually think will happen. In the end, this list is a mix of both.

Expansion Launch Date

There is no better example of this tension between hope and fear than in considering the date of the next expansion’s release. We all expect to get news of SWTOR’s future at Star Wars Celebration in April. My hope is that it’ll be more than just a tease, but a full on expansion announcement complete with new cinematic trailer. If that is the case, a summer launch would be possible and inline with past release schedules. I’m going to predict an August launch, but I suspect we might have to wait until autumn to catch some of that Episode IX hype. In either case, we’re gonna be in 5.10 territory for a while.

Kira and Scourge Will be in the New Cinematic

I admit, this one is 100% hope. A friend and I recently discussed Kira and Scourge’s over-long absence from SWTOR, and how it seems like the folks at Bioware really have their work cut out for them when it comes to giving the return of two of the game’s most beloved companions the heft it deserves. Seeing Kira and Scourge kick ass in one of those amazing Blur cinematics would absolutely go a long way towards building hype for the new expansion. In truth, I imagine the trailer will focus on Malgus, but that’s okay too.

Gear Changes are Coming

It’s not a stretch to expect gear changes after 6.0. I predict we will see PVP exclusive gear again, perhaps with the return of the Expertise stat. However, games like Fortnite and Overwatch seem to be doing okay without a gear grind, so I don’t think its impossible that Bioware might even take the extra step to remove the need for any gear in PVP altogether.

I also think it’s time for some changes to PVE gear. My hope is that we get new set bonuses on tier sets in the next expansion. Set bonuses haven’t significantly changed since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and something fresh would be neat. Before that happens, I’d like to see some of the bonuses, particularly the healer and tank cool down reductions, get baked into the base class abilities or proficiency paths.

I also hope to see some new Relics. Even tanks default to the Serendipitous Assault/Focused Retribution combo these days. Some relics are bad and have been bad for years. Ephemeral Mending remains a booby trap for healers, and my poor tank has already disintegrated two 252 Imperiling Serenity relics from my weekly Ossus rewards. Let’s see robust on-use relics or relics with weird procs. Heck, even update the Matrix Cubes. Variety is good!

The Dark vs. Light Event Will Return

I won’t lie; this one is filed under the fear category. I predict the Dark vs. Light Event will return as the big time-filler this summer. There is legitimate value in making the Victorious Pioneer armor available again, and I often see folks who missed out wish they could earn Ranos as a companion. But as someone who made it to Legendary level last time, I can say I have little desire to do it again. My biggest beef with the event is that to participate I had to put aside characters whose story, appearance and gear I’ve been invested in for years in order to play new characters I mostly discarded once the event was done. If Bioware does bring the event back, I really, really hope they make some big changes next time around.

Where are the Damn Porgs Already?

When I put Porgs on last year’s list I thought it was a gimme. I am honestly shocked and a little disappointed that we haven’t seen Porgs pop up in SWTOR. So, heck, yeah, I’m keeping them on the list. In addition to the Porg related items from last time, I’ve got more that I humbly request, nay, DEMAND to see in game this year. First, and most obviously, Porg themed tier sets: if you want the best gear in the game, you will have to cosplay as a Porg. Deal with it. A Porg mount: a lone, mighty Porg who will pick up your character by the scruff of the neck and fly you where you need to go. Finally, the highest level of reward for the next ranked PVP season should be a Porg headpiece. Yes, that’s right, we should be able to tell the toughest, most dedicated, most elite PVPers apart from the rest of us because they will have a space puffin sitting on their head. Works for me.

2019 should be an exciting year for SWTOR, and I look forward to the next expansion and maybe getting one prediction right this year. Stranger things have happened!

 

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Lok’tar Ogar: Five Things SWTOR Should Steal from WOW

On account of the holiday, I took the week off and instead decided to take the easy way out with another Dumb Top Five list. Back in early 2005, the first MMO I played was World of Warcraft, and although I quit in 2013, I still have friends who play and I recently decided to dip my toes back into the waters of Azeroth. I am certain that any WOW vs. SWTOR discussion ends only in madness, but despite everything that World of Warcraft has going for it, I will confess that this blog will not be renamed “This Week in Zandalari” anytime soon. Nevertheless, there are some quality of life features that I’d love to see SWTOR swipe from WOW.

Before I begin, I want to state clearly that I’m not a developer or programmer or someone with any actual knowledge of how an MMO-RPG gets made. It’s easy to make suggestions, but I understand that the resources Blizzard can throw at a problem are considerable. Whether what I’m asking of Bioware is feasible is an entirely other issue. I’ll leave that to the professionals.

The Launcher

Blizzard’s battle.net launcher is pretty slick, and the thing I most like about it is that it recognizes when I’m logging in from home so that I don’t have to input my password and security key every time I play. I know this only saves a few seconds of typing, but it’s nice feeling like I can jump in to the game that much faster. SWTOR’s launcher received a makeover a few years ago, but I think it could stand a modern overhaul.

The Pet Journal, Mount Collection and Toy Box

I don’t really consider myself a mount or pet collector, but over the years I have accumulated dozens of different speeders and critters to the point that I sometimes forget what I have rusting in the garage or going feral in the backyard. Having a better interface to sort through the many jet cars, rocket bikes, fearsome beasts and tiny robot pals I’ve collected over the years would be a welcome improvement. And if such an interface could also include regen items and other toys such as the Life Day Snowball Bomb that would be great and perhaps open up some needed (to a pack-rat like me) inventory space.

Multi-tapping

One of the least fun parts of the MMO experience is waiting for mobs like Trapjaw on Tatooine, Valen Korik on Dromund Kaas, or the Eradicator Droid on CZ-198 to respawn especially if you arrive just as someone else has engaged them. Even worse is competing with your own faction to tag a mob. Multi-tapping allows everyone who hits a mob and participates in fighting it to get credit for the kill and a share of the loot. I believe SWTOR may be one of the last MMOs to not allow multi-tapping, and I think it’s long overdue. In an MMO, you should want and like to work with your fellow players when you encounter them in the open world (outside of PVP, of course).

Extendable Raid Lockouts

I’ve started running Veteran Mode ops again, and it’s been a lot of fun. But we run once a week, and each week we spend much of our limited raiding time re-clearing bosses we already have killed in order to get to the fights we’re still progressing on. In Warcraft, you can extend Raid lockouts from week to week so that the raid group can jump right into the fights they want to work on without fussing with stuff they don’t. I’d love to be able to do this in SWTOR. Thanks to Galactic Command, we don’t need loot from the early bosses, and skipping ahead to the fights we haven’t done would allow the group to more efficiently finish the operation and move on to the next one we want to learn.

Flex Raiding

My small guild runs a weekly Story Mode ops night and all are welcome. However, it’s not unusual for there to be too many people for an 8 person group but not enough to upgrade it a 16 person operation. There is no worse feeling as a raid leader than asking someone who has shown up to play and have fun to sit out because there just isn’t room. Flexible Raiding gets around this problem by dynamically scaling the difficulty of the instance around how many players are in the group. If you have a couple extra folks, the bad guys will be just a little tougher to account for the extra firepower. I would love to see this system in place for SWTOR’s Story Mode ops. I can see the logic in keeping static sizes for Veteran and Master Modes where mechanics and tuning are more tightly controlled, but if Story Modes are meant for everyone, I say let everyone play.

Honorable Mention: Jokes with Voice Emotes

“So I have this idea for a great movie…” and “She sounded like a Murloc!” are two of the little things I miss from WOW. SWTOR’s voice acting is of course one of its best features, but it makes me sad that my characters in SWTOR don’t crack wise using the /joke emote. So let’s do it. Hire some comedians, have a contest, swipe some groaners from dad and get that great cast to record some gags!

I realize that at least three of these suggestions would affect other systems in SWTOR. How should loot be handled by multi-tapping? How would extending lockouts influence Conquest where last boss lockout farming is a thing? Should SWTOR adopt personal loot? Should a lockout extend or end if anyone in the group clears the operation? These are problems that are easy to point out, but more difficult to solve.

That said, I think they are nuts worth cracking. SWTOR’s debt to World of Warcraft is obvious, but if WOW can adopt AOE looting and finally allow players a choice or two after SWTOR did, then I think it’s fair that The Old Republic can still steal a notion or two from its older sibling too.

 

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Design on a Dime: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Decorations

With the release of the sprawling new Rishi stronghold, I’ve been looking through my stash of decorations and realized that many of my favorites can be acquired in the game and that spotlighting a few might make for a good topic for another dumb top five list. Paring down the list, however, was not easy. It’s to SWTOR’s credit that there is no shortage of very cool decorations that won’t cost you a single Cartel Coin.

Flashpoints/Operations: Rakata Mind Trap

There are numerous decorations to be found in flashpoints and operations, and the latest group content has been over-flowing with decorations. As much as I adore Copero fountains and get a kick out of seeing Tyth sulking on Manaan’s ocean floor, my favorite in this category is and always will be the Rakata Mind Trap. I love these things as art objects, technological accents, creepy Force artifacts or just the Star Wars equivalent of lava lamps. I have dozens, I put them everywhere, and I always want more.

Reputation: Ancient Voss Sarcophagus

All of the recurring event and planetary reputation vendors sell some appropriately themed decorations. While I think the Gree vendor has the best over-all selection, my single favorite reputation decoration is the Ancient Voss Sarcophagus. I’m always happy to visit Voss, and this decoration’s spooky sculpted face and eerie, green glow nicely captures Voss’s unique aesthetic. It’s appropriate for a Sith reliquary, a Jedi’s archive or a Bounty Hunter’s treasure horde.

Vendor: Custom Huttball Stand

For a cool 2,018,000 credits you can and should add a Custom Huttball Stand to your stronghold. This decoration is sold by the “Starfighter & PVP Decoration Vendor” on each faction’s Fleet. Before we could truly PVP in the Rishi stronghold, we could play Hutt Potato with friends using this interactive decoration. Grabbing the passable Huttball, starts a timer and the last person holding the ball gets blasted into the air by the exploding orb. Even when it comes to children’s games, the Hutts don’t mess around. One of the fun things about this decoration is that the explosion can hurl characters places they normally can’t reach. Some guildies and I once used the Hutt Potato to make it on top of the massive Holocron of Ancient Masters.

Achievement: All For One Four-Pack

The Star Fortresses added during Knights of the Fallen Empire are jammed packed with achievements and rewards, and while it might be a bit of a cheat, you can get four different decorations for completing a single achievement: All For One. It’s hard to beat that much bang for the buck. The Portable Sentry Turret, the Scramble Grenade Suspension Chamber, the Force Focus and the Prototype Medical Probe are all animated with glowing effects and one or more of these will fit the themes of any number of strongholds. The achievement requires reaching rank 10 influence with all of the Alliance base specialists which is fairly easy if you have a decent stash of supply crates from planetary Heroics, and then completing a Veteran mode Star Fortress with all the buffs that can be found around the Fortress. Unlike a few of the other Star Fortress achievements, this one can be completed in a group, so if you’re having trouble, ask a friend for help!

For the Truly Dedicated: Event Ambassadors

Having a vendor to repair your gear and take all that useless loot off your hands is a must for any stronghold. But wouldn’t you rather have a vendor with style? Not some rusty old droid or poor Felusia Stato and her silly hat. The Event Vendors dress for success. Sith and Republic versions of the vendors are available in the Cartel Bazaars of their respective fleets. Ambassador Ky’lee is a Cather who is not afraid to dress in white after Labor Day, and Ambassador Jirrik is a Chagrian who knows how to contrast his blue skin against red Sith robes. Either of these decorations will set you back nearly forty assorted tokens that can only be earned during the Relics of the Gree, Rakghoul Resurgence, and Bounty Broker recurring events. The events come around so often these days that’s its not that much trouble to save up for these swanky personnel decorations.

Honorable Mention: Craft Your Starship

Crafters can make all the essential utility decorations and many, many others from Synthetic, Industrial and Universal Prefabs, but toss in a few Dark Projects and you can park your favorite class’s personal starship. Dromund Kaas and Coruscant are the only two strongholds without the Starship Hooks these decorations need; otherwise they are prefect additions elsewhere. I won’t tell you which class has the coolest ship, you should pick your own, but it’s the Agent’s X-70B Phantom.

Honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Certainly there are lots of neat decorations for sale on the Cartel Market or GTN, but there are plenty more to be found in the game, and with a little effort you can transform your stronghold from the place you empty your bags to a place you call home.

For more information about Strongholds that I could ever hope to share, please check out these invaluable resources for the decorating fanatic: TOR Decorating and Swtorista’s two episodes about strongholds and decorating from her Academy series.

 

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Always in Motion is the Future: Five Predictions for 2018

The New Year is traditionally a time to look forward, and after reading Shintar’s predictions for 2018, I thought I could share a few of my own. However, as anyone knows me can attest, I am terrible at predicting the future. “I’m sure midi-chlorians will make sense in context.” “Don’t be silly, they’d never go a whole expansion without releasing new group content.” “Well, of course Rey is a Kenobi. It’s obvious!” Therefore I thought it best to free myself from the constraint of actually trying to be right and instead base my predictions on a reality where time, money and resources are no object and my own fickle fancies guide the way. So here are my Dumb Top Five predictions for SWTOR in 2018.

Faction, Schmaction

The most interesting choice in the War for Iokath story was getting to ally with either the Republic or Sith regardless of your actual faction. My Bounty Hunter had long felt on the wrong side of things, so it was very satisfying when she was presented with the opportunity to stick it to the Sith Empire. So far this choice hasn’t affected anything outside of Iokath, but this year, if we’re really moving back towards a Republic vs. Sith dynamic, let’s crank the faction choice knob all the way to eleven. Let’s have Sith chilling on Tython before they hunt down the remnants of the Dark Council; Jedi on Dromund Kaas meditating on how to overthrow the Republic; and Smugglers and Agents going wherever the heck they want. I have no idea what impact faction switching would have on grouping, guilds and PVP, I’m just making the predictions. I leave logistics to the people who know what they’re doing.

Legacy Avengers

One of the things I like about SWTOR is the notion that all eight of the original class stories happened in parallel and occasionally crossed over into each other. The Jedi Knight inadvertently created a job opening for the Sith Warrior, Mako and Kaliyo popped by other classes’ stories, and the Republic and Sith characters probably just missed bumping into each other on Makeb. The introduction of the Legacy family tree cemented in my mind the hope that one day my characters would actually get to meet “on screen.” Who wouldn’t want to watch their Smuggler flirt with their Consular, and their Agent butt heads with their Inquisitor? Again, details are for little people. I just want to see Havoc Squad, the Jedi Battlemaster, the Barsen’thor, and the Butcher’s Bane assemble to fight some massive threat to the galaxy, or a least a giant laser beam shooting from the sky.

True Romance

Speaking of the original stories, the choice of which companion was adventuring with the hero was usually up to the players. Starting with Knights of the Fallen Empire, the story nearly always dictates which companion is along for the ride. I don’t mind this since forcing interactions with different personalities is a good way to explore your own character’s… character, but it’s also nice to adventure with your best bud or main squeeze. While I trust that the drip of returning companion will become a torrent this year, I do hope that the romances are not shoved aside in the name of getting everyone back into the Crew Skill Queue. Hopefully the romances won’t just be a couple lines of dialogue here and there, but a whole story or chapter where the Outlander and their lover (whoever it is) have an adventure together. Obviously there ought to be a little bit of mushy stuff, but the focus should be on banter (the cheesier the better) and rescuing each other from improbable danger while reaffirming how awesome each other are.

All You Need is Porg

We need Porg pets, obviously, with flying and waddling variants, of course. A Porg combat companion to help with dailies speaks for itself. I expect a Porg Swarm regen toy that calls down a tornado of Porgs to swirl around my character. Not enough Porgs for you? Don’t worry; I’m just getting started. I demand an assault cannon that fires rocket propelled, armor-piercing Porgs at my foes. And if my Operations team is not fighting a fifty-foot tall, dread-corrupted Porg by the end of the expansion, I’ll consider the year a failure. Get on it, Bioware!

Assault Cannons, Dualsabers and Rifles, Oh My!

The quality of cut scenes in Knights of the Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne has been excellent and really showcase how cool Bioware can make our characters look. However, one thing hasn’t changed over the years. Whenever a Trooper or an Agent needs a weapon in a cut scene, they drop their bad-ass assault cannons and rifles, and instead draw the same dinky pistols they’ve had since level one. As for Shadows and Assassins, holding their dualsabers like a single saber often leads to some very awkward moments of potential self-mutilation. Let 2018 be the year we start seeing the complete variety of weapons that we have in play in the story’s cut scenes.

This post has been especially silly, but this last point is one thing I really do hope to see sooner rather than later. I realize this is also no small request. They’d be going from animating two types of weapons in cut scenes to as many as five (or even seven if they include dual wielders). But I think it would be worth it. Whether you dumped a bucket of credits on the GTN, burned all your cartel coins on the CM, busted your hump to earn it in game or even if you just like the quest reward you got back on Ord or Hutta, everyone should get to show off their favorite toy when the game is working its hardest to show off what it can do.

Well, that was pretty easy. While I expect to go zero for five again this year, you can rest assured that if I somehow back into getting even one thing right this time around, I’ll be claiming all the credit. All right, 2018, let’s do it!

 

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A Little Splash of Color: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Dyes

Patch 5.5 didn’t come with much in the way of content, but it did include several quality of life improvements including a most welcome increase in the number of Strongholds and a revised Cartel Market interface. The most significant change to the Cartel Market has been the addition of many more direct sale items, most notably dozens of dye modules that previously were only rarely available directly from the Market or randomly from packs. For anyone looking to customize their characters this is a very nice change indeed.

However, before dropping Cartel Coins on a fancy dye module, take a look at some of the other options out there. You can often find something that looks just as good if not better for a fraction of the GTN cost without spending even a single Cartel Coin. To that end, I thought I’d share, in no particular order, a dumb top five list of my favorite non-Cartel Market dyes.

Dark Red and Black

I’ll just come right out and say it: Black/Black is boring. Yeah, ninjas are cool but black works best with contrast, even if it’s subtle. Darth Maul’s red skin stands out against his black tunic, and while Darth Vader is armored head to toe in black, he is a case study in creating contrast by mixing flat and glossy tones. Artificers have numerous choices in creating dyes that mix black with other colors including blue, red, gray and even a creepy pale yellow. But I’ll highlight Dark Red and Black which I think is the best alternative to black/black, especially for Sithy characters. The recipe for this dye module can be purchased by characters of Champion reputation rank from the Coalition Forces vendor on Yavin IV, and requires Artifice of skill level 500.

White and Light Gray

Next up is an affordable alternative to White/White. Unless you’re looking to be ghostly white, this dye module should do the trick, assuming it’s not after labor day. This recipe can be learned from the Artifice trainer at skill level 520. If you want to dye one piece of gear all one color, say white gloves or black boots, crafted dyes are the way to go. It’s not at all unusual for the either primary or secondary colors to not register much or even at all on some pieces of gear, and you can easily get the look you want with little expense or trouble.

Secondary Pale Brown

I am a big fan of the single color primary and secondary dye modules. These dyes can make either subtle or dramatic changes that still maintain the original look of the outfit to which they are applied. I’m giving the award to the Secondary Pale Brown Dye Module which can add some faded gold highlights that make details on some outfits pop. But the other dyes of this type can personalize a suit of trooper armor or complete the look of a Corellian Green Jedi. Primary and secondary dye modules of deep green, deep purple, light orange, medium gray and pale brown can be learned from the Artifice trainer at various skill levels.

Deep Brown and Deep Red

Maybe because it’s autumn, but the color red is getting a lot of love on this list. I thought about picking another dye module, but I really do think these warm colors go well together. I’ve used them on an Iron Man cosplay as well as smuggler jackets and bounty hunter armor. The recipe for this module can be learned from the Bounty Broker’s Association reputation vendor in the Cartel Bazaar section of both Fleets and requires Artifice skill level 500 and costs 50 Completed Bounty Contracts.

White and Deep Red

The last dye on my list is not crafted but can be purchased for the ridiculously low price of 5000 credits from the security key vendor on both Fleets. Whether you do it for the account security, the extra Cartel Coins or just easy access to a vendor when you zone into Fleet, I highly recommend anyone who is playing to pick up a security key if they can. As for the dye, my Canadian upbringing may be showing, but this is truly one of my favorites. I’ve lost track of how many members of Havoc Squad are wearing these colors. It may be too strong a contrast, but when it works, it works really well.

Even leaving aside the ability to craft useful relics and the classic color crystals, Artifice is still my favorite Crew Skill. Whenever I’m looking to customize a character’s look, I am nearly always able to find a crafted dye module that fits the bill. That I can do it without spending any cartel coins or millions of credits on the GTN is pretty sweet. Swtorista created a comprehensive guide to crafting dye modules as part of her excellent Academy series, and if you’re interested in much more detail than I can provide, check it out!

 

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Good Hair Day: Five Hair Styles That Should Be Added to SWTOR

Last month, I was pleased to see that three new hairstyles were added to SWTOR’s appearance designer. When it comes to character customization, the more the better. Inspired by Kid Lee’s video exploring the possibility of body tattoos and Xam Xam’s blog post requesting more outfits from Star Wars lore, I thought I’d add to their excellent suggestions a few of my own with another dumb top five list of looks I’d like to see added to the appearance designer.

These suggestions are drawn exclusively from the Star Wars movies, and while I’m totally cool with more popstar and hipster haircuts, I think there is plenty of inspiration yet to be drawn from the film canon.

Leia’s Buns

Yeah, I know that there are already two kinda-sorta versions of Leia’s infamous buns available already, but neither feel just right to me. Leia’s coif in the first movie is THE iconic hairstyle of the entire Star Wars saga, and I firmly believe a screen-accurate version absolutely should be available to players in the game. As far as I’m concerned this one is a no brainer.

Padme’s Braids

Padme wore her hair in a great number of styles over the course of the prequels, but I thought I’d pick one that was both not too outlandish and not too likely to cause many clipping problems. Besides, her bun of tight braids from Attack of the Clones is totally cute and functional for any character of any class.

Anakin’s Shag

Players can find decent matches for most of the male hair styles sported in the movies, but all but one of those haircuts are quite short, so I’d like to see some longer options. Anakin’s shoulder length mane from Revenge of the Sith is similar to the look sported by Kylo Ren and old Luke in The Force Awakens, and having a choice between short hair and the full Qui-Gon would be nice.

Rey’s Triple Buns

I know, I know, still more buns, but, Rey is awesome, and I’m honestly a little surprised this look isn’t already in the game. While Leia and Padme’s hair tends to be neat and smooth, I think this messier look would work well too. And again, this style shouldn’t have too many issues clipping the game’s armor.

Cassian’s ‘Stache and Scruff

Okay, this isn’t technically a hairstyle, but I’d like to see more options for facial hair. Generally you’re out of luck if you want a mustache like those sported by Lando, Biggs and Cassian or a thin beard like Obi Wan’s in both the original trilogy and Attack of the Clones. Sometimes, you just want to be scruffy lookin’.

To be honest, it was tough to stick to just hair. I’d be interested to see more tattoo options for not just humans but also Togruta and Twi-liks and Zabraks, oh my! And pity the poor Cathar whose customization options are the most anemic.

I grok that the right haircut won’t kill a boss or cap a node any faster, but it’s hard to beat the feeling you get when your character looks just the way you want them to. So I hope more customization options will be on offer in the not too distant future.

SWTOR’s 2017 Road Map

Last week, Keith Kanneg shared with us the long anticipated Road Map for the next few months of SWTOR. I’m a bit late to the party with this post and I don’t really have much to add to the general happiness with which the road map has been greeted, so I’ll keep my comments short. On the one hand, most of the announcement contained information we already knew, but having a detailed idea of what is coming and when to expect it is excellent news. I’m not the biggest fan of the Nightlife event, and class changes always make me nervous but knowing that I’ll be able to go nuts decorating a new stronghold next month and run a new flashpoint with friends after that is great information to have. I have every hope the fine folks at Bioware keep up the good work they’ve done communicating with the community lately.

 

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