Category Archives: General SWTOR

Ruhnuc and Roll

Last week, the SWTOR team announced their plans for the next big game update 7.2: Showdown on Ruhnuc. The livestream was packed with news. I can’t possibly breakdown it all, but I do want to touch on a few of the major points while the takes are still somewhat hot.

Showdown on Ruhnuc

First and foremost, I’m very happy to have some new story content to play. SWTOR’s storylines of late seem to have flown off in several different directions with characters and arcs seemingly unconnected to the others, but it looks like things are coming together and hopefully coming to a head.

At first glance, the new planet Ruhnuc looks to be an impressive and stark wasteland, inspired by the American west. One of Star Wars’ foundational genres is the Western, so I’m always glad to explore some wide-open spaces, wade behind waterfalls and maybe find a datacron or other fun secrets along the way.

The update of SWTOR’s UI continues with a revised map that is more user friendly and less intrusive than the current one. As some one who frequently gets turned around on Fleet and lost on Corellia, this is a welcome improvement. Messing around on the PTS, I found I was able to leave the map on all the time without it interfering with my exploration and view. The UI changes also have at last allowed for the addition of colorblind mode to the game. I’ve known many colorblind players over the years, and it is long overdue for this accessibility option to be a part of SWTOR, and these UI updates finally make it possible.

For many players, the big news comes with the PVP changes. To summarize, the queues are being pared down into one for 8v8 warzones and one for 4v4 arenas, with rewards coming from a Galactic Season-style objective track.

This means that SWTOR will no longer support Ranked PVP. I am not the best person to comment in depth on this. I made Bronze one season and have dabbled here and there since, so my experience is limited. My first reaction is that I feel bad for the people whose favorite game mode is ranked PVP, and I know how much it sucks when a game stops supporting the play style you like best.

But I think Ranked was doomed. For the last few years, ranked has enticed players with the best cosmetic rewards the game has ever offered, but it hasn’t helped grow the PVP population. We all know the reason. The barrier between unranked and ranked isn’t so much a learning curve, as a buzz saw. It should not come as a shock that most players simply aren’t interested in investing the effort in getting skilled enough to compete while also dealing with the “personalities” of some players they encounter in the queue. I’m not blaming the ranked community, not most them anyway. The fact of the matter is that SWTOR is the theme-parkiest of theme parks MMOs, and Bioware simply has been unable to fully support and effectively police a competitive PVP scene.

If a casual-friendly PVP season attracts more people with the promise of rewards, allows inexperienced players to get their feet wet, and dilute the toxicity that festered in ranked, then I think the changes will be a good thing.

So I am indeed looking forward to 7.2. Bioware says that Life Day will be timed with its release, and since it doesn’t quite make sense to celebrate Life Day after our holiday season, I’m hopeful that we’ll be heading to Ruhnuc sometime next month! Keep your fingers, toes and lekku crossed!

Raffles Winners!

I also want to thank everyone who entered my latest raffle. There were more than enough entries to unlock three Opal Vulptilla Mounts for the lucky winners. While not everyone could win, I was able to sweeten the pot with some extra Cartel Coins and 30 Day Subscription codes to help bring an early Life Day to a few extra folks. If you entered, check the character in your entry!

I’m hoping to do my best for the rest of the year to catch up with everything I’ve missed lately so come on back soon!

 

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Filed under Ancient Jedi Runes, Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Tricks and Treats

Happy Halloween, gentle reader!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I should probably start thinking about a post to mark the sixth anniversary of this blog, only to realize that the anniversary had already passed two weeks before. That time is playing tricks on me should tell you the kind of year I’m having. Still, it’s looking like the dark clouds are starting to lift. I have a lot of ground to make up, including an actual anniversary post which is a little different from what I usually do, and that should be out very soon!

An Ace That You Can Keep

In the meantime, I want to briefly touch on the most current topic in SWTOR: the recent start of the third Galactic Season! My first impression is that Bioware’s approach this time around has been “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If so, it was definitely the right call. I had lots of fun during the second season, but since it ended, Conquest has gotten stale, so it’s nice to hop on and look at the week’s objectives and see what I feel like doing for some neat rewards.

Indeed, I think the rewards this time around, are overall the best of the three seasons’ worth we’ve had so far. I’ve got characters waiting for each of the weapons, and the outfits should fit nicely into the wardrobes of my smugglers and agents. As for this season’s companion, PH4-LNX, she’s quite distinct, with ties to our Fallen Empire adventures. It’s cool to know there are still some GEMINI droids out there still making their way in the galaxy after being freed by SCORPIO.

The most noticeable change in the Season’s rewards track is that this time Bioware has been less generous with Cartel Coin rewards which have been substituted out for Bind-on-Legacy Cartel Packs. I heard of many folks completing the previous season on all five servers and coming away with twenty thousand Cartel Coins. That is a good chunk of cash shop currency, so I can understand why Bioware dialed those rewards back. But I can also see that dedicated players who put in the effort to complete the season on multiple servers made a considerable investment in time and subscriptions themselves. Personally, the cartel coins aren’t the main thing I want out of the season’s rewards, so I’m fine with the change, but I will admit it was nice being flush with cc (by my wasteful standards anyway) after completing the season on two servers last time around.

Bioware also nudged up the cost of the account unlocks for this season rewards, which I am less happy about. I admit the costs are still cheap, but it’s not great to feel like you’re being nickel-and-dimed when unlocking player earned rewards, especially after seeing that the Cartel Coin rewards have be already been reduced.

Despite this, I do think the season is off to a good start. Completing objectives with guildmates is always fun, and running Fay’s basic story quests and many of the odd-ball objectives remains a pleasure.

No Tricks, Only Treats: Opal Vulptilla Mount Raffle!

To somewhat belatedly celebrate this blog’s sixth big, big anniversary, I am pleased to be able to share with members of my community an opportunity to win an Opal Vulptilla mount. To enter this raffle, all you need to do is leave a comment below this post. Do you dress your characters up for Halloween? Do your characters cosplay in SWTOR in general? How have you been enjoying the new Galactic Season? Do you do it multiple servers or is one enough for you? 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 3 mount winners. Just between you and me, I’ve got some extra codes for cartel coins and subscription time, so there should be plenty of prizes for the runners up as well. No candy corn, apples or fun-size chocolate bars here, only full size treats if I can help it!

I will accept entries for two weeks from this posting and will randomly select winners on November 15, 2022 at 12 PM ET.

If you prefer not to comment publicly, I 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 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 six years now and sharing commentary about the state of the game as I see it.

 

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Filed under Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR

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

Opal Puppy Winners and Nerf Herding

Just a quick post this week, to announce the winners of my Opal Vulptilla Pup raffle!

Congratulations to Mie-go from Darth Malgus; Mystriel Nocturi and Ravmali from Satele Shan; and Meaz and Ryomen-sukuna from Star Forge! Feed those puppers well and take ’em out for a walk around the galaxy every once in a while!

Thanks to everyone who entered. I am hopeful I’ll have more pups to award in the not too distant future!

…Who’s Scruffy Lookin’?

I also want to share something else I’ve done recently: a guide to the secret Nerf Herding achievement!

I originally created this guide for my guild mates, and had long wanted to fully update it. However, it didn’t quite seem like a good fit for this page, but thankfully, Swtorista offered to host it. it’s super cool to me that many more players will get to experience my most favorite exploration achievement in the game. It’s a relaxing way to revisit the some of SWTOR‘s classic planets and come away with three pets, a decoration and the quite possibly the best Legacy title in the game.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR

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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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR

Farewell Charles Boyd

This past week, Keith Kanneg shared news of SWTOR’s next game update. Let’s get the easy part out of the way first: update 7.1 is scheduled for release August 2nd. This is most welcome news. The end of the second galactic season aligned with me more or less completing any gear upgrades I wanted before the new operation’s release, so I definitely feel like the summer doldrums have set in.

I haven’t spent much time on the test server this time around, since I very much want my first experience of R4: The Anomaly to be with my guildmates. I have, however, peeked into a few PTS streams now and then, and what I’ve seen suggests that this will be an exciting operation to learn. I am very much looking forward to it! Furthermore, I hope the new Manaan daily area will be a fun place to visit as well. At the very least, there seem to be enough reputation rewards including many, many decorations, to make visits there worth my while.

However, the most notable part of Keith’s post is the news that Charles Boyd is stepping down from his position as SWTOR’s creative director. Boyd has played a significant role both behind the scenes and as the public face of the game’s development team across’ almost all of SWTOR’s history and certainly since he took over as Creative Director during Fallen Empire.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most expansive Star Wars projects ever created, and that it successfully puts each player at the center of a story that feels like their own meant it had to overcome challenges that tales told in other media never even came close to facing. It’s easy for me to say that some of my favorite Star Wars adventures have taken place in SWTOR, but I can also see the influence of SWTOR in other Star Wars media from movies and TV to comics and books. I think it’s fair to say that Charles Boyd played a significant role in making that happen.

Personally speaking, it was a pleasure to meet and chat with Charles in person a few years ago and I remain grateful that he took time to answer some of my questions about Aurebesh for this blog. I wish him the best in whatever endeavors await him!

All that said, he didn’t do it all alone, and the announcement also includes an introduction to SWTOR’s Design Leadership Team. Everyone on the team has experience with the game and has at least played an active role in SWTOR’s course correction since Knights of the Eternal Throne. We have already seen their work in action, and I am certain we are in good hands.

What Does it Mean?

What does it mean? I don’t know. Why would I? I’m not looped into the office gossip, and, for some reason, no one at Bioware consults me before making major life decisions. It’s fun to speculate about fictional characters, but making hay of real people’s lives is at best rude and at worst irresponsible. People change jobs all the time, and turnover at game studios seems common after big releases. I am reluctant to look for any meaning beyond that.

I am among many long time players who aren’t happy with the support EA seems to be giving SWTOR, but SWTOR will go on. New faces can bring in fresh perspectives on familiar settings and characters, and the one thing I know for certain is that the team at Bioware are good people doing their best to make this a game worth caring about, and I am looking forward to the adventures they take us on next.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Fade and Glow: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Color Crystals

The recent addition of weapons to the Outfit Designer has been a bigger deal for me than I ever expected. Up until now, I really only actively used one or two weapons at a time per character. But in the last weeks, I’ve been pairing up countless lightsabers, blasters and rifles with dozens of outfits across my legacy. A big part of accessorizing a weapon with an armor set is the choice of color crystal in that weapon, so I thought now would be a great time for another Dumb Top Five list spotlighting the best color crystals that can be found in Star Wars: The Old Republic without spending a single Cartel Coin.

A quick glance at this post will immediately reveal that there are fifteen crystals on this top “five” list. Leaving aside that math has never been my strong suit, it’s simply down to the fact there are so many neat color crystals available to players through crafting and gameplay that I wanted to highlight as many as possible. Besides, my list, my rules.

The Classics: Red, Blue and Green

A red lightsaber looks good on any Sith, and blue and green are so iconic for the Jedi that any list of the best color crystals should absolutely begin (and could arguably end) with the three classic colors of the lightsabers in Star Wars’ original trilogy. Artificers can craft a dozen different color crystals, including these, but I find I return to the primary colored stalwarts again and again. I’ve seen some strong opinions about these crystals having the wrong shade of green or tint of blue, but the movies are hardly consistent when it comes to coloring, so I’d say that you cannot go wrong with these colors, especially given how quick and easy they are to craft.

Eternal Championship: Cyan, Magenta and Purple

Knights of the Fallen Empire’s Eternal Champion boss rush/fight club encounter reintroduced the neon glowing Cyan, Magenta and Purple color crystals that had previously been included in weapons found in the level 50 Operations. Each crystal costs only two tokens awarded from completing the Eternal Championship, but Artificers who had been around prior to KotFE were able to reverse engineer the Cyan and Purple crystals and to craft themselves. In addition, the recipe for the Magenta crystals still drops from level 50 areas and world bosses. If you don’t feel up for a run at the Eternal Championship, you can still find these crystals on the Galactic Trade Network auction house, often affordably priced, but sadly they can no longer be reverse engineered.

Black Core Crystals: Red, Green, Blue and Purple

There are several brands of distinctive “black core” color crystals available in the game. The Red, Blue, Purple and Orange (not pictured) drop in Operations and the Green-Black crystal can be purchased from Jeelvic the Jawa for four Rakghoul DNA Canisters, event currency that can be earned during the recurring Rakghoul Resurgence. Of the four pictured here, I think Black-Blue is my favorite, but all of these crystals stand out in a crowd and look especially dramatic when paired with the right weapon tunings.

Just like the original purple and cyan crystals, these black core blue, orange, purple and red crystals also could be reverse engineered by Artificers prior to Fallen Empire. Therefore they are likely to be found on the GTN as player made items or simply the BOE versions that still drop in Operations to this day.

Tricolor Crystals: White-Purple-Blue, White-Orange-Yellow, and Red-Blue

Of the many different variants of crystals in the game, the triple color crystals are among the most unusual, and Artificers can craft two of them: White-Orange-Yellow and White-Purple-Blue. I also included the Red-Blue crystal here since its color interactions suggest a white inner glow. Attacks that involve throwing a lightsaber or attacks with wide, spinning strokes really show off all the different hues these crystals apply to lightsaber blades, and I find them fun to see in action. Of these three, I consider White-Orange-Yellow to be the stand out. There are other orange and yellow color combinations out there, but this particular crystal looks and feels the most like gold. If you’re playing a High Republic inspired Jedi, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Best Crystal for a Blaster: Fire Red

Color crystals, of course, most dramatically affect the appearance of lightsabers, but I would be remiss if I did not also include my favorite color crystal for all those pistol packing, rifle slinging and bazooka blasting troublemakers out there. Blue, green and red blaster bolts are the standard from the movies, but the Artifice crafted Fire Red will spice up your blaster bolts with an extra dash of heat. This is my go-to for most of my ranged tech classes, and it looks especially awesome spraying from a Commando’s auto-cannon.

Honorable Mention for the Truly Dedicated: Silver-Black

I like to include a “For the Truly Dedicated” entry on these lists, but I’ve decided to give the Black-Silver crystal mere Honorable Mention status on account of the fact that it can only be acquired through playing Ranked PVP. While it does cost a modest amount of Ranked tokens, I know that for many players, there is no amount of Ranked PVP that they would consider even “modest.” However, if you want to come as close as you currently can in SWTOR to wielding the Darksaber, then the Black-Silver color crystal is for you.

At the time of writing, SWTOR is currently in a ranked “pre-season” so wins and losses do not count towards overall ranking, so now is the best time to dip your toes in the game’s most competitive PVP mode. If you are curious if it is something you’d like to attempt, I suggest checking out this video from the great and powerful Kogass_ who has some advice for those thinking about ranked. Kogass recorded the video during Onslaught, but his advice equally applies to Legacy of the Sith. And if you want to check out some exciting level 80 Ranked PVP action, tune into Kogass‘ Twitch channel!

All of the color crystals on this list are Bind on Equip or Bind to Legacy which means that you will not be able to unlock additional versions of the crystals like you can using Account Unlocked Cartel Market color crystals. So be careful when swapping in new crystals over ones that you might want to save. Artifice crafted crystals can be replaced with relative ease, but some of the rarer ones might be tougher or expensive to reacquire.

Keep in mind that stats on the weapons and armor you stamp into the Outfit Designer do not matter at all, just their appearance! Go ahead and put a Power Crystal in a weapon you stamp on an outfit you intend to tank in. This goes for low level crystals too. If you’ve been getting a pre-order bonus +4 Endurance Black-Yellow crystal in the mail of every character you’ve made in the last ten years, you at last have a reason to slap that yellowjacket in a saber and let it sting!

Finally, if you have a few hundred thousand credits to spare and are at least Valor Rank 10, you can skip the middlemen of crafting and the GTN for most of the crystals on this list and simply purchase Mastery versions of them from the PVP Items vendor in the Combat Training section of both Fleets.

The updated Outfit Designer has made it easier than ever to embrace every color on the rainbow of color crystals and I encourage everyone to check them out. If you’ve got a favorite color crystal, let me know in the comments what weapon and tuning it goes with best. I’m always keen to discover new combinations!

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Outfits, Guns and Money

This week’s game update 7.0.2 to SWTOR has delivered a long requested feature to the outfit designer: the ability to add weapons to outfit slots. The Outfit Designer has been one of the best, if not the very best, features for player customization for its ease of use and versatility, but expanding it to include weapons was a notion that seemed like it would never come down from Bioware’s infamous “Wall of Crazy.”

I know that adding weapons to outfit designer was far more complex a task than it might seem since weapons come with a host of unique characteristics: color crystals, tunings, sound effects, visual effects on individual weapons and more, things that the outfit designer wasn’t originally built to track. I imagine it took a lot of rejiggering to make weapons to work, but I’m glad it’s finally made it into the game. For me the most frustrating part of Legacy of Sith‘s launch was having to retire weapons I’ve been using for years in favor of the non-moldable gear we’re earning now. To be completely honest, I did not care for some of the weapon models I’d been sporting the last couple of months.

But now that it is here, I gotta say this upgrade to the outfit designer is darn good. Obviously its nice to be able to draw my first choice of blasters and sabers again, but it’s even neater to dust off some old favorites from the bottom of my cargo hold to use with different outfits. Since the stats on the weapon being plugged into the outfit slot don’t matter, it’s also been fun to have an excuse to craft some low level, non-moddable weapons with designs I’ve always liked.

The system does have limitations mostly related to what your active Combat Style is and the weapon skills that come with it. If you have two styles that use the same main hand weapons, say Power Tech and Mercenary, you’ll be able to share the same outfits with both styles. Off-hand weapons won’t apply to your PT style, but main hands will work for both Loadouts. However, if your Combat Style uses different weapons and you want to apply the same armor set to both, you will have to set up a second outfit with that second weapon type. This is an inconvenience and a bit of a credit sink, but spending credits is what they’re for. There is an exception is for Snipers who can apply Rifles to their main-hand slot and still access all their sniper abilities. This little loophole dramatically expands the number of options for Snipers, and at last allows rifles to be used by a ranged DPS class! I suspect this exception is because Snipers are the only class that can use two different weapon types that share the same animations.

Should the Outfit Designer allow this exception for other classes? I can see an argument for Vanguards and Operatives to use Sniper Rifles, since it wouldn’t affect their combat animations. But for the other classes the weapon types they use are so strongly tied to their “class identity” that even if there weren’t conflicts between the weapon abilities and animations, it would still seem weird to me to see a Shadow using single bladed lightsabers. Likewise a Gunslinger crouching down with a massive auto-cannon doesn’t quite makes sense to me either. In that last case, however, I would gladly make an exception for Vette so she could use her beloved Spewie again.

Finally it should be noted that color crystals and tunings cannot be stamped into weapon slots in the outfit designer in the same way dye modules can. So if you want to change your lightsaber color or blaster tuning, you’ll need to plug them onto the original weapon and re-stamp them on your outfit.

I make no apologies for caring about how my characters look. Whether it’s with the Kell Dragon lightsaber I fondly recall earning with my operations team, the blaster I got after kicking Skavak in the nuts, or a swanky rifle inspired by The Mandalorian that I just bought from the Cartel Market, I’m glad my characters will be charging into battle with their preferred ray guns and laser swords again, and I complement the designers at Bioware who have made it easier than ever to take advantage of every iron in my golf bag of destruction.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

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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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Galactic Seasons, General Star Wars, General SWTOR, Huttese to English

First Impressions: Legacy of the Sith, Part Two

Before I begin, let me apologize for the unexpected absence. I’ve always found writing difficult, and one of the reasons I started this project was to keep that particular creative muscle limber, but it can be hard to break through the block when the real world keeps intruding. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things now that Spring has sprung!

Without further ado, I’d like to continue my first impressions of Legacy of the Sith with a focus on the story. With the benefit of the extra time between posts, I’ll also touch on my gameplay experiences over the last few weeks as well.

Manaan, Manaan, Do Doo Be-Do-Do

Legacy of the Sith kicks off with a return visit to the Manaan system. If you thought things were a mess the last time you visited, wait until you see it now.

However, before we land, there is a pleasant surprise for players: the return of our class ships which play a prominent roll in the opening sequence. Whether it’s the Millennium Falcon, the Moldy Crow or the Gravestone, a cool space ship is as an important character in a Star Wars story as a trusty droid or adorable Muppet, and I was very happy to see my characters at the controls of their beloved hunks of junks once again. I trust we’ll be taking them out for a spin more often going forward.

Upon landing, we discover that events are already in motion, and whether you are playing a Republic or Sith character, you’ll be catching up with the situation and resolving things as only you can. Both Republic and Sith players will team up with a welcome familiar face, but there are some new characters to meet along the way. Colonel Gallo is very much a soldier’s soldier, someone with whom Republic players will interact, not unlike Major Anri on the Imperial side. She gives a tired, suspicious voice to the people of Manann who yet again are caught in the crosshairs of the galactic war.

Imperial characters will meet Darth Norok, whose initial introduction is a clever fake out. When we’re finally in the same room with him, we discover he is, as Shintar pointed out, every Dark Side Sith player character’s cliché made manifest. Despite being someone who has taken the Sith code to its logical, nihilistic extreme, Norok is a totally entertaining antagonist for reasonable and unreasonable characters alike.

As we saw on Ossus and throughout Onslaught, both the Republic and Sith stories take place in the same setting, but this time around the two narratives feel more distinct. Previously it could seem like the differences between the Republic and Sith play throughs were that you were experiencing roughly the same story, just in different directions. On Manaan there is more separation in time and less overlapping events between both stories. Ever since Shadow of Revan, each of our character’s SWTOR stories has taken place on separate narrative timelines, but once again, the two factions’ stories expands on the events and backstory of the other and once again I think its rewarding to experience both versions.

Regardless, there are definitely themes shared between the tales on Manaan and Elom. The seemingly endless war between the Jedi and Sith, have left the worlds caught in the middle stuck in a hopeless situation. Is the Republic really there to help or just exploit the Selkath with a smile instead of at the tip of a lightsaber? What is victory to a Sith? Is it enough to achieve an objective or must all their enemies be driven before them, regardless of the cost?

It’s into the midst of this morass that our players arrive, and, sadly as current events show, the answers to these sort of questions are not easy to find, and while our characters may triumph, neither story seems to feel like victory for Manaan. And the war goes on.

The renewed conflict between the Republic and the Empire flared up during Onslaught, but was more or less kept in the background with the focus on Darth Malgus’ ambitions and Heta Kol’s rebellion against Mandalore. I think taking a beat to touch base with what’s going on with the war is important to establishing the setting of all the narratives strings tugging at our characters, even if we may have less personal stakes in the larger conflict.

Not for Nothing: Disorder and The Ruins of Nul

Because those stakes matter to Malgus. He’s been in this fight for decades and at the center of every up and down along the way. At this point, it’s fair to say, he’s feeling pretty down about it.

I’ve always found Darth Malgus to be an interesting villain because he’s almost sympathetic, y’know, except for all the murder and the betrayal. Certainly, several of my characters would’ve joined his New Empire on Ilum given the chance. The thought of a united Sith Empire that has its act together is a truly terrifying notion, but his coup accomplished nothing more than to cement the status quo and leave him bound in more chains than the lowest acolyte on Korriban.

At the point, we catch up with him on Elom, he’s done with it all. Free of the shackles placed on him by the Dark Council, he no longer wants to restore or remake the Empire. His goal is to burn it all down, Sith and Jedi alike.

But is he wrong? The war between the Sith and the Jedi has ravaged the galaxy for centuries with no end in sight. Of course the Sith Empire should be resisted; their every policy and petty infighting mark them as the enemy of freedom. But the story of the Jedi in Star Wars is more often than not about their inability to live up to their own standards and their failure to protect those who need it the most.

These issues are reflected in the wonderful “Disorder” cinematic. There are clear allusions to the story of Arcann, Thexan and Vaylin in this interlude, but instead of watching children struggle under Valkorion’s corrupting influence, we are confronted with the sight of a Jedi breaking up a family and forcing another child into a life they haven’t chosen. There is more going on here than we know, of course. Perhaps the machine, or Malgus, or even Darth Nul are manipulating the memories of the young Twi’lek Jedi, Sa’har Kateen. Nevertheless, as a child, how could she have possibly understood the path before her to become a Jedi? She is right to ask her master Denolm Orr whose decision it really was. I think his failure to answer in that moment speaks volumes.

I’ve often joked that if Anakin Skywalker had been able to date girls in high school and call his mom every once in a while, there never would’ve been a Darth Vader. Sure, the Jedi can teach you to move rocks with your mind and do a bunch of cool flips and splits, but they don’t seem to be the best parents. Certainly Theron Shan would agree. Valkorion’s treatment of his family is monstrous, but the Jedi tradition of separating children from their families hardly reflects well on them.

I’m glad to see SWTOR address these issues, because these kind of questions have always been at the center of the game’s stories and every choice our characters have made over the years. What kind of Jedi or Sith do we want to be? What kind of Republic or Empire do we want to represent?

I get it. It’s called Star Wars. “War” is right there in the name. If the Sith defeat the Jedi or the Republic topples the Empire once and for all, there is no game left. But that doesn’t mean the questions shouldn’t be asked. It doesn’t matter if its a Padawan hopping their first shuttle to fleet, a Trooper fighting their way across Corellia, a Dark Lord of the Sith descending upon Oricon, or a Bounty Hunter caught in a shoot out with a Smuggler in a back alley on Mek Sha. The trials never end. And the choices are only meaningful if we keep making them.

As for the flashpoint where all this takes place, the Ruins of Nul is breathtaking in its sublime beauty. I reckon its SWTOR’s most picturesque flashpoint. I took great pleasure in stopping to admire the world’s misty valleys, the snowy peaks, and the cold, grey sky. I’ve thought for a while that players could use a Sith-themed stronghold to call home, and while I had imagined that Oricon or perhaps Nathema would be the ideal place for one, I feel now that I’d love to decorate a mountainside lodge or temple on Elom.

But the thing the flashpoint is most infamous for is the Darth Malgus fight and the bugs that have vexed players and developers alike. Personally, I haven’t encountered significant issues completing that encounter, but a guildmate of mine hasn’t been able to beat it at all, and I watched another get punched through the floor seconds into our first Veteran mode pass. It’s a drag that what should be the dramatic climax to the flashpoint is instead the source of frustration for players. I hope this is a bug that gets squashed very soon indeed.

You Should’ve Killed Me When You Had the Chance

I do want to speculate a bit about what I think might be coming next in the story, but that seems like a topic for another time. Instead, I’ll quickly touch on some of the system changes introduced with 7.0 now that I’ve had some time to play with them.

I continue to love the addition of Combat Styles and Loadouts. It’s allowed me to focus on the characters I most want to play and makes swapping between roles and gear easy.

The focus of a lot, but not all, of my playtime since 7.0’s debut has been gearing. I hit the 326 item rating for my main spec recently and I don’t think it was bad process at all. I took it pretty casually, mainly along the flashpoint path, supplemented with some PVP and Operations gear. I didn’t grind world bosses or pug Nefra, I just did things with friends and guildmates and let the heroics and dailies I do for Conquest take care of the rest.

Gearing in Legacy of the Sith is an engine, and everything you do is fuel for that engine. Once it starts humming, the upgrades come at a steady pace. The problem, I think, is that it can take a bit to get that engine up to speed. It took me longer to get from 320 to 322 than it did to get from 324 to 326. I’d like to see it get a little easier for fresh level 80 players to jump-start the process. Maybe reduce the cost of 322 gear or make it a bit more likely to get those first upgrades from some of the daily sources or easier group content.

I know there have been complaints about the various currencies, but the only ones that I think serve little to no purpose are Medals of Commendation. Once you collect your first Conquest reward, you won’t ever worry about them again. I don’t know any active player who is not capped out in Medals. The cap is low compared to other currencies, but given that I have more than I need and there is nothing to burn the excess on, I just kind of think of them as pennies. The only time I notice them now is when I have to clear out a few to collect even more from the Galactic Seasons reward track.

I vacillate between thinking Bioware should get rid them altogether and wishing there were something else to spend them on. Tech Fragments are still useful to most players, but maybe Kai Zykken could start accepting Medals for his random loot. Or maybe we could purchase crafting materials like Iokath Recombinators or the OEMs and RPMs needed for gold augments. For now I keep the Medals in a jug on a shelf that I only empty when I have to.

The other thing I’ve been doing with my time is fully engaging with the new Galactic Season. The updates to the second season have given me much more flexibility and freedom in how and when I score points along the track every week. It’s so nice to be able to team up with friends and bang out objectives together. I’ve also enjoyed the change of pace from some of the more usual objectives as well, and I hope to see more of that in the future.

I also think the rewards are pretty rad. Fen Zeil may be a hatless Cad Bane, but, he still looks cool in action alongside my characters. The Thurbb mounts are a hoot, and the weapons are all very slick. I’m eagerly awaiting the addition of weapons to the outfit designer so that I can actually start using them!

So, yeah, I’m having fun in Legacy of the Sith so far. Absolutely, I am jonesing to check out the new R4 Anomaly operation, and, yes, indeed, there are many storylines flying around right now that I’m hoping to see resolved before long. Are the bugs annoying and frustrating? Absolutely.

But I’m still having a good time when I play. Since we’re at the start of the gearing cycle, the old flashpoints and operations feel a lot like they did when I first ran them back in the day, and that’s kind of refreshing. It’s satisfying to get upgrades from more difficult content, and it’s been neat playing with different combinations of skills and loadouts.

If your experience is different, I get it. Maybe you’re tired of the same operations and flashpoints you’ve run for years. Maybe the visual changes aren’t to your tastes. Maybe you’re just here for the story. Maybe you’re just not having fun. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone they are wrong about any of that.

SWTOR has always been the theme parkiest of theme park MMO’s, and they made it easy to come and go as you please. Heck, if all you care about is the story, you likely won’t even need to re-subscribe to play the remainder of Legacy of the Sith’s story updates over the next couple of years.

But SWTOR’s not going anywhere for a while yet. There are good people working very hard to put our characters at the center of an epic story and to make it the best game they can. I’m here for that, and I hope they succeed. Because more often than not, over the last decade, I think they have.

As for me, I can’t promise my writer’s block has been crushed to powder just yet. Sadly, my plans for April Fools will have to wait until next year, but I promise, at least, to dust off the Aurebesh and get back to the translation business very soon.

 

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Filed under Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith