Rediscovering Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR)

I have been a dedicated player of Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) since its beginning, but lately my interest has been waning. I’m not sure if it’s the game content or the need for something different. After all, even filet mignon will get boring after the eighth dinner in a row. There was also a brief sojourn back into World of Warcraft (WoW), but I had no desire to continue there either. I could assume fantasy overload. I write fantasy novels, read and review fantasy novels, play fantasy MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), and have watched several fantasy movies. Perhaps the need for a change signaled the gaming muse to poke and prod me into having a second look at Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR).BLOGSWTOR

In the Beginning

I acquired my SWTOR subscription several months after the game went live and immediately loved it as much as LOTRO. Of course, being part of a gaming guild that spanned multiple MMORPGs helped. The same friends who played LOTRO and WoW were also becoming quickly addicted to SWTOR. The initial era of the game before its first expansion was a fair and fun time. Then a great change took place. We all eagerly awaited the first expansion, level cap increase, new weapon and armor modifications, and new content. But alas, the changes left a bad taste in my gamer’s mouth. Also, less than two weeks before, I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My disappointment with the Star Wars franchise was something of a double blow in a relatively short span of time. Therefore, I cancelled my subscription.

A New Hope

Call it a whim, something in the air, fate, destiny, or even kismet. I logged into SWTOR on a high-level toon. My stronghold (house) and everything else, were still in place as if frozen in time when I unsubscribed three years earlier. I had to dig through my mind’s cobwebs to remember the game functions. After some difficulties completing a quest, my fingers remembered what to do, but I still felt somewhat clumsy in game. Therefore, I decided, why not start from the beginning again? I logged into a server where I have no toons and created a Jedi Knight, to relearn the game from the proverbial “ground up.”

Return of My Jedi

Usually, one can tell when an MMORPG is ready to pass away. Simply create a new toon and play in the starting area. If it feels like a ghost town, call the MMORPG undertaker. But this was certainly not the case with SWTOR. Planet Tython, the starting area, was a veritable flurry of activity, with lots of chatter and guilds forming and recruiting. I gleaned from other players that many were just like me, former subscribers with a sudden resurgence of interest. There were four active layers on Tython to handle the number of players. Applause! Most MMORPG players are “Altaholics” and I am no different. I also created a Trooper and a Sith Sorcerer. Yes, Ord Mantell and Korriban were just as freshly populated as Tython.

I must say, I missed SWTOR and had forgotten how visually gorgeous it is, how non-repetitive it is, and how the interesting stories draw you in and hold your attention. Rediscovering SWTOR is akin to going back in time and discovering lost love with a renewed freshness. If you’re a former player or looking for a new MMORPG experience, then get that SWTOR subscription now!

Indie Review: “Shadows in the Stone” by Diane Lynn McGyver

In her book, “Shadows in the Stone,” Diane transports us into a fantasy world that she describes with enough expertise to fully immerse a reader. There are some overlaps into our own world, but they do not shake a reader out of the fantasy. Now, you may be thinking, “All fantasy does that.” Yes, you’re correct, in the sense that the moment an author mentions a sword, a shield, or a horse, they’re pointing to the real world. However, Diane brought in the concept of canned foods, and described a diligent accounting / government system within Aruam Castle, complete with pre-made forms, records, and bureaucratic filing. Yet she incorporated it so well into her world-building that any reader will seamlessly accept.

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Love is the fine lace woven through the main plot. We see familial love, the love of friendship, and romantic love all growing from the main story. It is the driving force behind the actions and determination of the characters.

Besides love, during our time within Diane’s world, there is murder, mayhem, magic, sword-play and a long, gritty pursuit. From these struggles and hardships, much is revealed about the characters’ pasts, loves, and fears. These aspects of the characters are revealed as a consequence of the main plot, rather than being conveniently parachuted in as filler material.

On Writing Quality: Diane Lynn McGyver stands head and shoulders above other indie authors. Her dialog flows well, as does her setting and internal descriptions. She knows how to show and not tell better than most. There is also a skillful knowledge of writing at work. Diane knows how not to overuse ‘to be’, adverbs, and a throng of other useless crutch or weasel words.

Word Creation: One item in the skill set of any fantasy / sci-fi author is creating new words and terms, either for things out of this world or renaming the mundane. I’ve seen other books where this practice is performed ad nauseam, to the point where a lengthy glossary is needed. But Diane managed it flawlessly. I especially liked her creations of sumortide, springan, yesternight, and Hauflin. These words helped me to immerse and stay there (very crafty, Diane). DLM


 F.Y.I  –  Diane maintains a spiffy blog as well


Characters:  “Shadows in the Stone” is a deep look into the heart and soul of the Dwarf Bronwyn Darrow. Now, I simply ask you to drop all of your Tolkien Dwarven standards. Diane has beautifully tweaked and redefined the notion of Dwarf, both in the physical and cultural sense.

Bronwyn Darrow stands as one of my favorite characters ever created within the sci-fi / fantasy genre. The other is Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Let that sink in about the company Bronwyn Darrow keeps.

Parting Thoughts: I enjoyed every page of “Shadows in the Stone” as you will too. This is the first in the Castle Keepers series, which is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

New Star Wars Content: Ho Hum

In the past few months many things have happened within the Star Wars entertainment universe. We’ve had a media campaign blasting the public with promos, teasers, and intermixing promotions for Star Wars: The Force Awakens from new labels on coffee creamer to soundtrack music in car commercials.

However, there were other things for fans. The MMORG Star Wars: The Old Republic went through a complete facelift and redirection of its gaming content. Billed as a great revamping and improvement, this subscriber will soon be a former subscriber.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoilers abound)

So it all starts on a desert planet with Storm Troopers looking for information stored within a droid. Doesn’t this sound all too familiar? But wait, it’s not Tatooine, it just happens to look exactly like Tatooine, and has the same architecture, economy, moisture vaporators, and a hint of a Sarlac. But this planet is called Jakku, and therefore completely different. Yeah sure, what a stroke of genius!

Wait! The droid with the information isn’t R2D2, it’s has a different design and name, BB8, who (just like R2D2) serves as comic relief and makes cute noises. Another stroke of genius! It’s round features should give way to the lucrative Star Wars themed cat toy market.  Okay I’m lying. That’s not a prediction. I actually saw some Star Wars dog and cat toys yesterday in Petco.

Stroke of genious number three. The Storm Troopers may be wearing the same uniforms from the past six movies, obey every order no matter how brutal, but they’re no longer clones, and they’re working for someone else. A new evil has risen from the ashes of the Empire. It’s called The Order, and uses the same ships and uniforms as the Empire, but wait, we’re supposed to believe it’s different. Yawn!

After our heroes Rey (who is a junk scavenger just like Watto on Tattoine from Episode 1)and Fin get the droid, they board the Millenium Falcon, which just happens to be abandoned near them on Jakku. Deus Ex-Macchina (DEM) for everyone! (and more to come)

Right after they take off from Jakku, they discover hyperdrive problems (Ep. V) and Han Solo and Chewbacca just happen to be there waiting for them (DEM). Wow what a coincidence!

Sigh, our heroic foursome can’t even enjoy a cup of intergalactic tea. Pirates and smugglers have boarded Han Solo’s ship. Han owes them money (Eps. IV & V) and there’s no escape. As luck would have it, Han has some dangerous cargo, namely vicious creatures known as Rathtars. They’re let loose and devour the pirates for our heroes. What luck! Especially for Fin.

After an action sequence where the enemy pirates are eaten within seconds of being caught in a Rathtar’s tentacles, Fin gets caught by one, but this Rathtar holds him for at least a minute. That leaves more than enough time for him to be rescued by Rey.

On their way back to Rebellion territory they stop on a planet for repair parts, a perfect excuse to subject fans to another Cantina Sequence (Ep. IV). Oh boy what a coincidence! The tavern owner just happens to have Luke Skywalker’s light-sabre stored in a trunk in her basement. She gives the light-saber to Rey, who has recently discovered her force sensitivity (Ep. IV). Also, Rey will have a duel and defeat Kylo Ren, a master of the Dark Side. Huh? She’s only a raw novice at best with the force and has never held a light-saber before. But hey, if “girl-power” messages are appropriate for 21st Century Western Civilization, then it’s also good enough in a galaxy far, far away. Really? Just what were they thinking?

They eventually deliver the droid to the Rebellion (Ep IV), and a plan is made to destroy The Order’s superweapon. It’s a Death Star on steroids, and it can destroy multiple planets in one shot. The Rebellion finds the weak spot (Ep. IV) and sends Han and the others to the planet to the disable Force Field that protects the target (Ep. VI).

I’ve merely scratched the surface and this blog post could go on forever, but I think you get the idea about how this latest installment of the Star Wars saga is a truly sub-standard movie experience.

The previews for World of Warcraft, and Independence Day 2 were the best and worthiest part of my ticket price. However, Star Wars: The Force Awakens nearly put me to sleep.

The Death Star Pillow- photo by Ernesto San Giacomo

Star Wars: The Old Republic (Knights of the Fallen Empire)

There were oodles of promises that the game would be an even better invention since the wheel or white bread. However, that is not the case.

The new game content is horrifically boring. Many have rightly complained that it is just too easy. Agreed! However, the game has also become boring for the style of play. You experience all nine chapters like an instance rather than game play. One feels like you’re on a track plodding along. There are no decisions to make. In other words, you’re not playing; you’re being lead along like a dog on a leash.

Part of the enjoyment of SWTOR was crafting the right armor and weapons for your character and companions. Each class had its own story line. Now you have to take every character and run them through the same boring nine chapters.

Before the revamp, if you couldn’t get through a tough fight, then you upgraded some equipment. If that didn’t work then you called upon a guild member for aid.

There’s no difference for light or dark side either. All of the game content has become a repetitive amorphous blob.

Conclusion

Some fans were very worried when the rights to Star Wars were sold. There was talk about the new business interest destroying the saga and reducing the content in favor of some quick marketing. Those voices of doom were correct.

Of course the new style will be defended by the amount of revenue generated. However, they should keep in mind that there were legions of fans world-wide excited at the prospect of new material. They flocked to the movies and the game without even attempting or wanting to see a review. Pssst, you won’t be so lucky next time.

So were you disappointed by the film too? And have you cancelled you’re subscription to SWTOR?

My Favorite Films of the 1970’s

 

I don’t care if some of these films did not win a string of Academy Awards or even if they were nominated. They are the ones that I keep going back to when I want to relax as if I’m seeing an old friend. All films not produced in the USA are marked.

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I Go to the Movies Alone… by Betsssssy used under CC License

50. The Last Picture Show – d. Peter Bogdonovich

49. Black & White in Color – d. Jean-Jacques Annaud (Ivory Coast)

48. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage – d. Dario Argento (Italy)

47. Norma Rae – d. Martin Ritt

46. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – d. Luis Buñuel (France)

45. All The President’s Men – d. Alan J. Pakula

44. The Conversation – d. Francis Ford Coppola

43. Dog Day Afternoon – d. Sidney Lumet

42. The Man Who Fell to Earth – d. Nicolas Roeg (UK)

41. 1776 – d. Peter H. Hunt

40. Animal Housed. John Landis

39. Magnum Force – d. Ted Post

38. Barry Lyndon – d. Stanley Kubrick (UK / USA)

37. Last Tango in Paris – d. Bernardo Bertolucci (France / Italy)

36. Woodstock – d. Michael Wadleigh

35. Rocky – d. John G. Avildsen

34. The Outlaw Josey Wales – d. Clint Eastwood

33. The Seven-Ups – d. Phillip D’Antoni

32. Vanishing Point – d. Richard C. Sarafian

31. Alien – d. Ridley Scott

30. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – d. Stephen Spielberg

29. Jaws – d. Stephen Spielberg

28. Soylent Green – d. Richard Fleischer

27. The Song Remains the Same – d. Peter Clifton / Joe Massot

26. Mean Streets – d. Martin Scorsese

25. High Plains Drifter – d. Clint Eastwood

24. Murder on the Orient Express – d. Sidney Lumet

23. The Last Waltz – d. Martin Scorsese

22. The Stingd. George Roy Hill

21. Smokey and the Bandit – d. Hal Needham

20. Superman – d. Richard Donner

19. Nosferatu the Vampyre – d. Werner Herzog (West Ger. / France)

18. Macbeth – d. Roman Polanski (UK / USA)

17. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – d. Terry Gillian / Terry Jones (UK)

16. Star Wars – d. George Lucas

15. Blazing Saddles – d. Mel Brooks

14. Patton – d. Franklin J. Schaffner

13. Serpico – d. Sidney Lumet

12. Young Frankenstein – d. Mel Brooks

11. Scrooge – d. Ronald Neame (UK)

10. Apocalypse Now – d. Francis Ford Coppola

09. Taxi Driver – d. Martin Scorsese

08. The French Connection – d. William Friedkin

07. The Day of the Jackald. Fred Zinneman

06. Swept Away – d. Lina Wertmuller (Italy)

05. Day For Nightd. Francois Truffaut (France)

04. Jeremiah Johnson – d. Sydney Pollack

03. Let It Be – d. Michael Lindsay-Hogg (UK)

02. The Godfather Pt. II – d. Francis Ford Coppola

01. The Godfather – d. Francis Ford Coppola

Are any of your favorites here? Feel free to comment 🙂