Category Archives: General SWTOR

A Face in the Crowd: Top Five Faces of the Old Republic

There are many grave and important issues facing Star Wars: The Old Republic these days. Who knows when all the classes will be balanced? What are Malgus’ plans? Where does Theron get his hair cut? When will Vaylin become a romancable companion? Why can’t we have a Baby Yoda pet? How will SWTOR celebrate its 10th anniversary?

However, those questions pale in comparison to the five I will be answering today. Curiously, each answer exposes a different face of the Old Republic, whose visages reveal not only our capacity for pattern recognition in the oddest of places, but also the discovery that no matter where you go, from the most crowded instance of the Imperial and Republic fleets to the depths of Manaan and the darkest corner of Iokath, you’re never really alone.

As you wander around Carrick Station, do you ever feel like you’re being silently judged?

That’s because you are.

Why do the Selkath stan HK Droids?

Welcome to HK-221B Manaan Street.

Is this closest we’re ever going to get to a Porg in SWTOR?

Say it ain’t so, Bioware!

Why does it seem like the GTN section is always hungry?

Vaiken Spacedock is both figuratively and literally ready to devour you and your credits.

How can you know if you took a wrong turn in the Gods from the Machine operation?

It’s okay, I do it all the time too.

Next time you catch the gaze of these friendly faces on your journey through the galaxy, smile back.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

These Go to Eleven

Longtime readers will know that I’m not usually one for hot takes. It’s been a more than week since SWTOR‘s last update, but I think it’s probably worth putting my reactions on the record. Consider this my lukewarm take on game update 6.2.1.

First let’s start with the elephant in the room, because relatively speaking, it takes up about as much space on our screens: the Amplifier sidebar. It is a real head-scratcher. The newly designed character sheet puts Amplifiers in a position of prominence that far, far outweighs their actual importance to players, while the information that actually matters is relegated to a tabbed table in the bottom left.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. The User Interface should, above all, account for how players will use it and make information and functions easier to access. I often check my Accuracy and Alacrity when swapping gear, I generally don’t care what Amplifiers I have. Additionally, putting the weapons smack dab in the middle of the column of armor slots in remarkably non-intuitive. I can’t tell you how many times last week I tried to equip a belt in my weapon slot.

I am all in favor of an improved Amplifier interface, and I have no issue with the cost of rerolling locked Amplifiers. The game needs credit sinks, and the players who most care about their Amps likely have the most cash to burn. I tell new players not to worry about Amplifiers at all; as they acquire maximum level gear, consider setting aside good mods with good Amps if they want, but, aside the daily reroll for Conquest points, I think the vast majority of players have no need to fuss with their Amplifiers.

The Amplifier window should not be a massive caboose that distracts players from the real reasons they want to access the character sheet.

This was not the only annoyance to be found in the latest patch. SWTOR game updates often come with new and unintended bugs. This time those bugs have affected Utilities and Tacticals that grant extra stacks of buffs. For example, the Tactical that is supposed to give Sage healers an extra jump of Wandering Mend currently has no effect, and the Force Harmonics Utility that should grant Shadows an extra charge of Force Potency is likewise ineffective. Pretty much every class has at least one spec affected, and it’s frustrating that we are into our second week of discussing which bad Tactical or normally subpar Utilities should be used instead while we await a hotfix.

Finally the update did bring some changes to Uprisings, Knights of the Eternal Throne’s forgotten group content. The Uprisings have been rebalanced for level 75, and I’m honestly glad to have more max-level content to romp around in. I am on the record as someone who enjoys Uprisings. The have some neat mounts and achievements to farm, the power-ups are fun and they are a nice change of pace from the Flashpoints I’ve run many times over the years. There, however, is legitimate confusion over how the difficulty designations of Uprisings and Flashpoints don’t align. A Storymode flashpoint is meant to be soloed, but a Storymode Uprising is meant for a group, and a Veteran Uprising has more in common with a Master Mode flashpoint. I think some nomenclature clarifications are in order.

While I haven’t tried any of the rebalanced Master Mode Uprisings yet, I have run a few Storymodes with a friend and they seem to fill the spot that the old school Heroic-4’s used to: quick, small group content where companions can fill in for players in a pinch. Even in 270 gear with mid-level companions, we were able to complete several Uprisings in 15-20 minutes without much fuss. The boss fights felt maybe a bit too long, and some mechanics chewed up companions while others had very little effect, but that’s always been the risk when subbing in companions in place of players.

If you’re tired of Hammer Station and the same old heroics, grab a friend and your favorite companions and try a few Uprisings. You’ll get to revisit some familiar locations, watch trash mobs explode like popcorn and hopefully have a laidback, good time. In the meantime, we await official word about whether the Character Sheet will be revised due to player feedback and when those frustrating bugs will be quashed.

 

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Aurebesh is Weird

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cherish the Past

This week let’s take a look at the second of three Mandalorian posters found in the new flashpoint Spirit of Vengeance. Beware! My comments on this poster, found on the Ash’ad ship, the Seeker’s Vigil, could be considered spoilers for the flashpoint’s story, so definitely check that out first.  Although the Mando’a spoken language has been frequently used in SWTOR, the Mandalorian font makes its SWTOR debut, I believe, in Spirit of Vengeance.

The poster is available as a Stronghold decoration that can drop from bosses in the flashpoint, although it seems to have been mislabeled as propaganda from the Dar’manda ship, Fortune’s Glory.

At first glance, the most prominent image on the poster seems to be the familiar Mandalorian skull symbol, but I don’t believe this is meant to depict the Mythosaur at all. The poster’s color scheme and design most closely recalls the flashpoint’s final boss, Heta Kol whose helmet shares a similar arrangement of horns and prominent dorsal fin. Whether it is meant to be an image of a specific creature, I cannot say. I’d actually suggest that the icon better evokes the shape of a dagger or sword or saber hilt.

If that is the case, then the visual design appears to be at odds with the written message of the poster which implies that whoever created it clearly does not believe that the pen is mightier than the sword.

The mystery of Heta Kol has become a hot topic of conversation since the release of the flashpoint, and the text might be a reference to Canderous Ordo, otherwise known as Mandalore the Preserver. Should we take this as a clue that she has ties to the brothers Jekiah and Ras Ordo, whose sister is presumed to be dead? Maybe!

Overall I like how the poster immediately evokes in its color and design classic Mandalorian imagery, but gives it an unexpected twist or two.

Sell the Sizzle

While it’s not unusual for news from SWTOR to dry up this time of year, Bioware has put the next game update on the PTS unexpectedly early. But the most dramatic news this week came from starwars.com which announced that future Star Wars games would now share the official identity of “Lucasfilm Games.” To mark the announcement, they showed off a “sizzle real” of clips from numerous Star Wars games including, The Old Republic! The news has already triggered announcements of more Lucasfilm property games from publishers other than EA. SWTOR has very often been relegated to the roll of the forgotten middle child struggling for attention whenever newer, hotter games come out. Nevertheless, SWTOR has remained a stalwart over the years, and it’s always nice to see it get some love from Mom and Dad at the official website as the game celebrates its tenth anniversary.

Fingers crossed that there is more excitement to come!

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Mandalorian to English, Onslaught

Fight the Future: Five Predictions for 2021

Happy New Year! Let’s all hope that 2021 is a big improvement on the previous year. As is tradition, let’s kick things off with my dumb top five predictions for the next year of SWTOR that are likely to be wrong.

Looking back at last year’s list, it did look for a moment like I might, shockingly, come away with a winning record. A Blurrg mount was briefly teased on the PTS late last year but it did not seem close to making it to the live game. One should always remember that the PTS is not a promise. While this does suggest we might lope around on a Blurrg at some time in the coming year, I cannot fairly give myself a point for that one.

As for my two correct predictions, guessing that we wouldn’t see changes to Spoils of War was not a stretch. No one has ever gone poor betting that something in SWTOR would not change. As for my story prediction, technically it has not been explicitly confirmed, but the subtext is clear enough that I feel confident putting that one in the win column. I am being somewhat vague since it still feels spoilery, but I will say I am pleased with how that beat played out in the Echoes of Oblivion story.

Without further ado on with the show! These predictions are based on my years of experience not developing a mass market videos game inspired by one of the world most popular intellectual properties. So, of course, I know what I’m talking about.

Expansion Hype

SWTOR’s tenth anniversary is next December, and it seems reasonable to expect that Bioware would like to celebrate with an expansion. That will give Onslaught a roughly two year lifespan, a stretch more or less in line with SWTOR’s other expansions. With much of Onslaught’s 2020 content backed up to the end of the year, this does leave a lot of ground for the game to cover before getting ready for a new expansion, so this prediction is far from a slam dunk. Will 2021 end with a new expansion or a new expansion announcement? There is a fair amount of ground between the two, but I will boldly predict that this time next year, we’ll be level 80 and grinding new sets of equipment. Hopefully not in Hammer Station.

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

The possibility of an expansion does make the business of predictions easy this time. I suspect that the Spirit of Vengeance flashpoint and perhaps one more (or two if we’re really lucky) to come this year, will act as the prologue to the next expansion, in the same way the Forged Alliances flashpoints set up Shadow of Revan. That means the next expansion could very well focus on a Mandalorian civil war. Mandalorians are having their moment in pop culture right now so I don’t think it’s outrageous that SWTOR might get in on that action. In addition, it’s also a faction neutral setting into which Bioware could easily insert both Republic and Sith aligned characters.

This could also allow Bioware to keep the loyalist/saboteur storylines going without having to resolve them. I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing Republic Bounty Hunters looking for work on Carrick Station and Jedi saboteurs recruiting on Korriban anytime soon.

End of Expansion Gearing

If we do get an expansion, I suspect it will be preceded by a tried and true MMO end of expansion gear bonanza. I don’t think a new tier of gear would be out of the question to drive up those Veteran’s Edge stacks. At the very least I’d say the Dxun class sets and crafting materials for gold augments will become easier to acquire. While I know the mechanics of how Ossus gear was acquired during Jedi Under Seige was controversial, I do think we might see new loot gained from a new daily area and perhaps a lair boss.

Hey, What About Malgus?

The fate of Darth Malgus remains the major thread from Onslaught still dangling, and resolving his story seems like the thing Onslaught will most likely accomplish this year. Whatever Malgus is up to on Dantooine could very well take us to the ruins of the Jedi Enclave there. In the end, I think we will face and defeat Malgus in final battle. I’ve seen other possibilities suggested for Malgus, but as fond as I am of him and the tragic figure he’s become, I think his days are numbered. I don’t imagine we’ll be able to join him, recruit him as a companion, or install him as the Sith Emperor. He is reasonable to be suspicious, at best, of the player characters regardless of class, faction or allegiance, and I just don’t see him going down without a fight.

A Porg in Every Pot

It’s not a running joke until I run it into the ground. So, yes, I am hopeful that 2021 will be finally the year that an adorable Porg will be able to follow and passively observe me on my adventures! Once again, I am here to offer helpful suggestions for how to add Porgs to SWTOR. First off, clearly, there will be Porg tacticals that replace all our spoken dialogue with Porg calls. This will make the recording of all future dialogue a significantly easier task. But let’s be clear, there must be distinct Porg sounds for characters of all genders and alignments. Clearly a Sith Inquistor’s clucks should be distinct from a Republic Trooper’s chirps. And since I’ve predicted that a new tier of gear is imminent, the system to acquire it should be named “Spoils of Porgs” which will allow us to grind unwanted gear into “Porg Fragments” that we can use to purchase Best-in-Slot equipment. And, yes, Bioware, you can have these ideas for free.

For these predictions to come to pass, it would mean we’d be getting outrageously more content from SWTOR than we’ve almost ever seen from the game’s history. So I’m certainly letting my sunny disposition get the better of me. Still, I believe Bioware plans to mark the tenth anniversary of SWTOR with something special, so I am honestly hopeful it will be a party to remember.

 

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Echoes of Vengeance Review

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

Echoes of Oblivion

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

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

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

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

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

The Spirit of Vengeance

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

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

Dar’manda

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

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

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

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

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

The Undiscovered Country

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

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

 

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A Day Long Remembered

I had been working on an Aurebesh translation for last week, but when I heard about the passing of David Prowse, I chose to set that aside and instead take a moment to pay respects to the man behind the mask of the greatest movie villain of my lifetime. It is literally no exaggeration to say that of the many pieces that went into the creation of Darth Vader, he was the biggest. It’s one thing to wear such an excellent costume, it’s quite another to wear it with poise and understated menace. There is a neat moment in The Empire Strikes Back that illustrates the physicality that Prowse brought to his performance. As the Rebel base on Hoth is overrun by the Empire, a squad of Snowtroopers carefully pick their way through the rubble of the area, but Darth Vader strides through confident that nothing will slow his progress.

Over the years, I’ve drawn a lot of Star Wars pictures, but not so many of Darth Vader. I’ve always found the mask’s confusing tangle of angles and curves a tough nut to crack. But I can’t think of a better excuse to give it another go.

As far as how this topic relates to SWTOR, I’ve discussed the suggestion of paying tribute in game to significant deceased members of Star Wars‘ legacy before, but it is worth repeating. I think the game should honor both the myriad of stories told under the Star Wars banner, but also the real people who helped create them. A monument on Korriban to a legendary lost Dark Lord of the Sith or a statue on Alderaan of a beloved and sassy Princess could easily be done without violating the sacred canon while allowing players a place in the game to pay tribute to the giants on whose shoulders we stand today.

 

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Jekiah Ordo

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

 

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Charles Boyd Q&A

This Week I get to continue the birthday celebration of this blog a little differently. Recently I sent a few questions to Bioware regarding SWTOR’s use of alien languages and none other than Charles Boyd came back with some responses!

Charles Boyd has been with the SWTOR team from its earliest days and wrote the original Trooper storyline. Soon after he became Lead Writer and most recently SWTOR’s Creative Director. He is also an avid cosplayer, and if, in the in the hopefully not too distant future, community SWTOR‘s Community Cantina events start up again, it’s worth the trip to stop by and see his excellent costumes in person.

I want to thank Charles for taking the time to answer my questions, and I look forward to seeing what’s next in SWTOR and its fake space languages!

How do the game’s artists and environmental designers interact with the encounter and story team? Zakuul has its own alphabet, and many of the ruins on Ossus are covered in Jedi text. Are these things that were specifically asked for or were they something that the art team created first before being incorporated into the story and scenery?

Charles Boyd: It can happen either way! Sometimes these elements are developed purely to suit the overall visual aesthetic – for example, the environmental signage on Nar Shaddaa or Mek-Sha largely originated from the art team. But in many other cases, that kind of detail is specifically requested by design or especially writing or the Creative Director (me) to suit the overall narrative or gameplay experience. Jedi text in ruins, specific signs for specific places that are key to the story, puzzle elements, etc. are good examples there – stuff that other teams ask for, and then the artists develop and implement to really bring those areas to life.

Lots of alien text in SWTOR can be translated into English. Engraved runes on Ossus refer to the Jedi code and a wanted poster from the chapter “Anarchy in Paradise” seems to feature a distant ancestor of Ahsoka Tano. When incorporating alien languages into the game’s scenery, to what degree do the artists try to make it “readable”?

On the other hand, some of the text featured in the game defies translation. Are these just random letters, secret messages, inside jokes or simply visually pleasing combinations of alien space letters? How deeply should we look for meaning in them?

Charles Boyd: As a rule, any text in the game is meant to have actual meaning. There are exceptions, of course; a few instances of placeholder text have unintentionally made it in over the years, and sometimes text is written to be “gibberish” on purpose, such as computer codes, encrypted data, and any other situation where it would make sense that the text should not be easily read by characters in-universe. We generally don’t use text like that for out-of-universe easter eggs or inside jokes, so odds are if you can’t read something, there probably isn’t a hidden meaning or mystery to decipher.

Some fans have deciphered Zakuulan and its variations, but not all letters of its alphabet appear in the game. Will the missing letters ever be revealed?

Charles Boyd: I’ll take that as a point of feedback! We generally don’t release stuff like this exterior to the game, so it would depend on returning to Zakuul at some point in the story and having a reasonable opportunity to include those missing letters in some background text. Feel free to send me the ones you’re looking for and I’ll make a note of it just in case. 😊

It’s always neat to see alien scripts beyond Aurebesh pop up in SWTOR. Some of the more recently developed languages like Mando’a feature prominently in the Bounty Hunter story and the Fallen Empire chapter “Mandalore’s Revenge”, but the writing seen in the movies’ Sacred Jedi Texts seem like it could also fit logically into SWTOR’s setting. Are these aspects that SWTOR might be able to explore further?

Charles Boyd: We can’t speak to the Jedi texts specifically at the moment, but we have mentioned in recent livestreams that there’s some Mandalorian stuff coming down the pipe later this year… seeing some Mando’a as part of that seems like a safe bet 😉

 

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Swoop-de-Whoop

SWTOR’s latest event, the All Worlds Ultimate Swoop Rally has come and gone, and before the next new thing hits, I’d like to share some thoughts about it.

The short version is this: I like it. I like it a lot!  The Swoop Rally is unlike any of SWTOR’s other events, and is much better off for it. I’ve been active with operations and even PVP this year, and zipping around the Swoop Rally has been a refreshing change of pace.

At its core the Swoop Rally is an obstacle course on three different planets with three different types of speeders and objectives. It’s not the most involved thing ever, but I’ve found it a relaxing way to cool off after a raid night or a fun way to pile up experience and conquest points on an alt. And I absolutely commend the team at Bioware for the speed and skill with which they assembled this content.

The courses themselves vary from planet to planet, and each speeder has a different enough feel and set of objectives, that I’m still enjoying it even after I’ve maxed out all three reputation tracks. For extra challenge I’ve been working on the achievements. I stayed up extra late the last night of the event trying and failing to complete the Horizon Razor’s Perfection achievement for Dantooine. Next time!

Many folks, however, only care about the rewards. On that score, I think they are a mixed bag. Each faction’s armor set has been assembled from pieces of gear already available in the game, and it shows. There are some neat individual pieces but no set stands out as a must have. Making these sets even worse value is the fact that they cannot be dyed and don’t color match to the rest of our outfits. I hope this is a bug that will be swatted sooner rather than later.

Each faction’s vendor also sells speeders of their own, but only one, the Blatent Beks’, features a unique model. That said, I am personally fond of the mounts selected for the Horizon Razors and Pit Screamers factions. And the gold plated versions of all three speeders available at Legend standing are distinctive and pretty neat.

In addition, there are lots of nice new and event-inspired decorations and droid rewards to be found as well.

The most interesting rewards are the Tactical items which all have silly effects related to mounting and dismounting from our speeders.  If you’re looking to min-max your character, there is nothing for you here, but if you want to show off a bit when you arrive at your destination, there is some fun to be had. The Razor’s Kickstart Tactical is genuinely useful for the extra boost of speed you get on mounting, and since it has no level requirement it’s the first Tactical that can benefit low level characters who may already be speeding through their class and planetary stories.

Events are the perfect place to include cosmetic rewards like this, and I’m glad to see Tacticals that are pure fun. Just don’t be like me and forget to equip an actually useful Tactical before pulling an operations boss. At least I got to Dash’roode first.

As with all events, I wish there were more rewards. It seems like dye module and color crystal recipes based on each team’s colors would’ve been obvious additions, and I am disappointed that some of the tougher or more unusual achievements don’t come with extra rewards. At the very least, “Perfect Idiot” absolutely should have been a title given to players for completing those weird achievements.

The Swoop Rally event, however, does come with a surprising amount of story, which unlocks in stages as players advance through each faction’s reputation levels. The story is told using the “KOTOR-style” dialogue interactions that were introduced with the Fallen Empire’s Alliance Alert missions. While I am on the record as not being a fan of this style of interactions, I understand that circumstances this year are unique, and will not object. I enjoyed these stories. They aren’t galaxy shaking adventures; they are about people just trying to work things out. Whether they come together or break apart is determined by the player’s choices.

I do wish that some of the conversations had options specific to our classes. I’m not sure my Consular needed the concept of the Trandoshan Scorekeeper explained to her, and I’m certain the Smuggler and Bounty Hunter’s underworld backgrounds could’ve played into other interactions as well.

That said, I enjoyed them and, as a light-side loyalist, was satisfied with the conclusions of each story.

Is the Swoop Rally SWTOR’s best event? I’m not sure I can make that call just yet. I understand that the racing gameplay isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but personally I’m looking forward to its return, not so I can get more rep or grind more currency, but so that I can run the courses again. Moreover, I hope the good folks at Bioware are open to expanding the event in the future. I’m sure its no accident that there is room in the pits for a forth Swoop team. Additionally, I’d be happy to see the Rally visit other planets around the galaxy. Taris and Corellia seem like obvious destinations, but racing around Hoth and Manaan could be a gas too.

Very Fast, Very Dangerous

Finally, and at long last, let’s check out this Aurebesh sign featured throughout the Swoop Rally event. This sign will be a familiar to visitors to Corellia and Mek-Sha and features a speeder reminiscent of the iconic rocket bike from Return of the Jedi. This particular speeder is available in several versions in SWTOR including one awarded from a sidequest in Knights of the Fallen Empire and another found via excavation with the Seeker Droid.

The sign seems to have been designed as an advertisement for the speeder and proclaims that it is “coming soon” and includes some small text offering financing at an annual percentage rate that only a Hutt could love.

The speeder’s make or perhaps manufacturer is “Dynovibe”, a name you may not be shocked to learn seems to appear nowhere else in Star Wars lore.

As I indicated this summer, this recreation was a bit more challenging that I expected. The small text is somewhat difficult to read and I’m still not 100% confident in my translation. Instead of simply copying the speeder from the original, I had a go at recreating it from scratch. I didn’t get the same angle or lighting, but I’m otherwise pleased with my version. As seen in the game, the sign itself is lower resolution than others similar graphics, but my version is a little sharper in the interest of readability.

Today marks this blog’s 4th anniversary, and it has become one of the longest projects this freelancer has ever worked on. I’m certain I’d have moved on by now if not for the comments and kind words I’ve received from visitors to the site. Thank you so much for stopping by, and let’s hope things only get better in the next four years!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR