There comes a time…

There comes a time in your life where you’ve seen enough, and you realize you have to make a decision. Should you share what you have learned, even if you fear they, ordinary people, won’t understand? Do you run and hide under a rock with your newfound knowledge to hoard it ravenously like an unearthed jewel?

No. The only human thing to do is share what you’ve learned, and allow others to derive their own meaning from it.

Life is made up of a bunch of tiny fragments of ephemeral joy. Small tapestries that, when pieced together, form into a great scene that may or may not have some significance in your human journey. Maybe these scenes, once revealed, mean nothing; perhaps they mean everything, and you will only discover this fact after careful study (and if your rational mind allows).

If your rational mind will allow, perhaps you will glean something wonderful from what I have to share. You may even find something in it that you can take with you on your journey – something that will put the chaos of everyday life into its crystal clear perspective. I hope this beautiful moment serves as a beacon for you – that you find in it as much majesty, as much purity, as I did.

Thank you.

The Eternal Struggle (of the heart) Comes To SWTOR

In BioWare games, companions are quite possibly the most unique, not to mention vital, components to the success of any title.

When you look back at BioWare games, at first glance they may seem like little more than your average RPG’s. Especially in games like Dragon Age, people can look at it and think – foolishly -‘Oh, another fantasy game with castles, dragons, and knights.’ However, what has made BioWare such a giant in the RPG genre is not that they make a familiar fantasy world for you to explore. It is their ability to make you feel like your character is a part of the grand story that makes a BioWare RPG something different from the norm. Most RPG’s place you in the narrative, place you in the world, but few developers give you the chance to really make it your own. In a BioWare game, not only are you a focus of the story, you – Revan, the Grey Warden, Commander Shepard, etc – are the epicenter.

Everything you do has impact in a BioWare game. Not just on the environment, but also on the people closest to you in the game – your companions. Anyone who has played a BioWare game can tell you, NOBODY will let you know how your actions are affecting things more loudly than your companions. They are often your moral compass, but more importantly they are always your emotional compass. They pipe in their disgust with you when they see you do something reprehensible, or else throw in their sinister approval. They applaud your virtuous decisions, or else have no qualms pointing out your “weakness” in the face of taking the harsher action, and so on. Overall, companions really make the BioWare experience. Ask any veteran BioWare player and I’m sure they can reel off any number of companion names that made their lasting mark.

And damned if they don’t worm their way into your decision making… Sometimes whether you want them to or not.

I will admit right now that I’ve often allowed my companions to completely shift my ingame personality to a lighter or darker shade than it would otherwise have gone.

I just can’t be as big an asshole as I want to be knowing that Leliana will be standing just behind me watching my every move.

On the other side, sometimes I want to refrain from driving my lightsaber into a person’s skull – but Khem Val would think I was a little soft wuss (he already calls me a “little Sith” too much for my tastes, as it is).

When you throw romance into this mix, you get an interesting concoction you simply cannot get in any other RPG.

Romancing companions is one of the most fulfilling parts of a BioWare game. Not only because of the implications for your ingame character, but also because they often lead to the most entertaining, hilariously awkward conversations you will ever experience in an RPG.

 

While I am feeling the same familiar companion uncertainties (which choices to make in order to appeal to x or y companion) as I have in previous BioWare games, somehow in SWTOR the phenomenon has made a drastic and interesting shift.

Instead of allowing my companions to dictate which way my character shifts, I find myself struggling to decide which ones best suit the direction my toon is heading.

For as long as I’ve known I would play a Sith Warrior for my main when the game came out, I’ve known exactly how my path would play out.

With all the certainty of a person who knows next to nothing about (the launch version of) a game he claims to already have his path mapped through, I was deadset on seeing my carefully considered trail through to its end. I would begin dark side, then somewhere along the way I would rebel against my dark ways and start to redeem myself. I would traverse the galaxy saving kittens and little bunnies with my goody goody blue lightsaber, as well as Vette, by my side.

Fast forward to the present and where do I stand? Dark III… Murderer of innocents and guilty, alike… Solidly in the midst of my very own Betty vs. Veronica situation.

Vette slave bikini

"Come on, let's go hit the cantinas on Nar Shaddaa! It'll be fun!"

Jaesa dark side

"Come on, let's go murder Jawas on Tatooine! It'll be fun!"

A month ago I would’ve said Vette all the way, end of discussion. Now, with this character… I don’t know.

"Romance is tiresome. Things are so much better when you can just murder people and be done with them."

Truth be told, my Sith Warrior is nothing like I thought he would be when I started – and I’m not entirely unhappy with the way he has turned out.

The Empire is a far different place than I had ever considered. A blue boy would have been chewed up like wad in that world. The Sith are conquerors, and their world is an ever-changing one. The option may be there for someone to be the lone holdout, vehemently opposed to this world from which he was spawned – but somehow that didn’t seem terribly real to me.

The further I got into the SW story, the more I started to feel like the most logical, believable path for a pureblood Sith wanting out of the current ladder system would not be to become a hero type, always making choices for the sake of justice. That almost seems too cheesy. Instead, it seemed more believable to me that a pureblood Sith wanting out of the current system would just rewrite the current system – and pin under his thumb all who would stand in opposition. After all, Qin Shi Huangdi didn’t rebel against the warring states system by becoming an independent, pacifistic patriot – he subjugated (brutally) the states and unified them under one banner (China, fyi).

As a byproduct of this change in philosophy, my romance options have also changed. Throughout the course of the game, I’ve miraculously managed to keep Vette’s affection for me up, despite all the innocent people I’ve slaughtered along the way (and with the help of a few companion gifts *ahem*).  That said, after obtaining my second romance option, the former padawan turned evil apprentice, Jaesa Willsaam, I am not so sure I want to end up with Vette as I had first decided.

To say that Vette and Jaesa are coming from vastly different places in SWTOR’s version of romance would be an understatement.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say Vette is no angel (she has been involved in her share of heists and petty crime), but she is also far from a devil. She prefers non-violence overall, but is happiest when whatever I am doing brings in the cash.  She hates seeing innocent people murdered, and hates ME with a vengeance whenever I succumb to bloodlust. Vette also seems to enjoy seeing me act like a dick to people in charge. Whenever I mouth off to people in authority, I have gotten used to seeing that familiar numbered “like” tab pop up on the bottom left of my screen with Vette’s portrait. I sometimes get the vibe that, while she is somewhat appalled by the world from which my Sith Warrior was forged, she can at least appreciate the fact that I am making a place for myself instead of blindly serving my (current) masters. For my character, who wants nothing less than the galaxy itself, she is a pretty ideal companion for my Sith Warrior. She is probably the only person in my crew that would never turn against me, could never turn against me, and doesn’t want to turn against me – in a world where betrayal is as common as breathing, that has to count for something.

Jaesa, on the other hand, can be a devil – but you have to read between the lines to get the full story. She is happiest when I tell everyone to fuck all and just do my own thing. As a dark side companion, she loves indulging in the vices that she had no access to as a Jedi or even growing up before she was found by her former master. That said, she has a somewhat naive approach to being Sith that I actually find refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, she can be as wicked as a scorpion, but she also picks and chooses which precepts of the Sith to follow and which to challenge (such as the practice of an apprentice eventually killing their master). She also seems loyal to my character above all else, which appeals heavily to my Sith Warrior. That kind of loyalty is uncommon in the world of the Sith – especially by a fellow Sith.

My character, Lord Oktavian, holds true to the Machiavellian principle of ruling through fear – but also giving enough (gifts, compliments) to his subordinates to keep that fear from turning into hate. The decisions I make with the character tend to border on a sort of Sith version of the Conan/Norse methodology (strength above all). I don’t murder for the thrill of murder, so much as I take delight in battling strong foes (and killing those who really deserve it, in my toon’s opinion). I also don’t spare people out of a desire to be righteous, just whenever I feel like killing or cruelty would serve no purpose. Oktavian the Sith Lord has no redemption policies. If you betray him once, you won’t have the chance to do it again. No excuses. No mercy. Having said that, I should point out that “Ok” is not devoid of humor. Whenever I have been given the chance to act like a smart ass, I do it.

When you put those three in the same room, I’m not exactly sure what will happen.lol Vette appeals to my character’s lighter nature (which is there, just buried beneath the inherent darkness of a pureblood Sith forged in the belly of the Sith power structure). Meanwhile, Jaesa is a newborn Sith, still unsure of which way is up, still learning restraint, but also with enough self-awareness to follow her own instincts when they conflict with centuries old Sith teachings. That sort of pick-and-choose philosophy really fits well with a Sith who isn’t interested in becoming just another step in the current ladder.

I had thought that this particular choice would be clear by the time my character took shape – but it couldn’t be murkier.

Damn you, BioWare for doing this to me. 😛

Take it away, Tatsu.

Sorry for the ass level quality of the video, but it does its job.

For those who are out of the loop, the devs at BioWare pulled off a rather impressive ninja update earlier this morning. The result: SWTOR‘s Pre-Launch Guild Program officially hit Phase 2, which the devs are calling “Phase 2: Alignment.”

Those who have followed the game for awhile will remember the day, way back, when BioWare initiated their Pre-Launch Guild Program.

Phase 1 began with thousands of people registering their guilds on the official site, after which GM registrants were given an area on the official site to register other guild members, as well as built-in forums to use on the official site. Further, all players, whether in a guild or not, were given access to a fairly comprehensive search engine, which they could use to find a guild that suited their interests (PvP, PvE, RPPvE, RPPvP, etc.). The program was met with a very large amount of fanfare and positive reception, as I recall – though that positive reception quickly gave way to impatience for the next step of the program.

Fast forward, and we have finally arrived at that next step.

Phase 2 was described in better detail by BioWare dev Courtney Woods:

Back in March we initiated our Pre-Launch Guild Program, where members of the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ community could search for already established guilds or register one of their very own through the Guild Headquarters page. We are thrilled to announce that we have begun the second phase of our Pre-Launch Guild Program! 

With Phase 2: Alignment, we are introducing new features which allow guilds to set their allegiance with other guilds in The Old Republic. Now a guild leader, along with members who have the proper permissions, can select up to three guilds as either Allies or Adversaries, depending on their faction affiliation. Qualifying guilds that are marked as Allies and Adversaries of other guilds will have the highest chance of being placed in the game together, allowing these guilds to coexist on the same server.

Another feature being implemented with Phase 2 is the ability for guild leaders and members with the proper permissions to invite friends to join their guild via email. You can start recruiting new members today!

To learn more about guilds in The Old Republic, check out the Guilds Game System page for details, and to search for or join a guild, visit the Guild HQ now! Also be sure to visit the Guilds FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions.

To me, an announcement like this goes a long way toward easing my concerns that SWTOR could possibly be pushed back into the new year.

In many ways, I am a business-minded person I understand caution, and not revealing your cards too soon.

That said, I am also a gamer who has waited 3+ years for this game to release.

So comments like those made by Eric Brown at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, where he covered EA’s bases, once again, by suggesting that a push into 2012 was “a slight possibility”, wore on my already sagging heart.

Don’t take that as me indicting EA for their handling of the matter. EA are playing this very smart. As a business-minded person, I have to admire their fortitude in sticking with their guns in the face of such rabid demand. They definitely have some brass balls.

Still, updates like the start of Phase 2 of the Pre-Launch Guild Program, gives me real hope that this game won’t fall back into 2012. Add in Damion Schubert’s comments in his interview with TORWars (where he revealed that BioWare are now at the point where they are implementing features directly from their famous “Wall of Crazy”, which, to me, sounds like they are nearing the end of the development cycle), and it sounds even less likely that SWTOR will fail to meet their window.

This is probably the best news I’ve heard about SWTOR in recent months.

By my reasoning, if the devs are already preparing for server placement, they must be fairly confident that they are well on their way to hitting their Holiday 2011 window dead center.

Granted, testing is still very much underway – which is why EA/BioWare cannot give an exact launch date -, but everything in my bones tells me that, barring any major unforeseen issues in testing, SWTOR will be in our hands in a few months time.

I’m still hoping that I’ll have to be shooed off to Thanksgiving Dinner in the middle of slaughtering sand people on Tatooine. 🙂

In celebration of what I consider to be the first sign that SWTOR‘s release is coming sooner, rather than later, here are some screens that I have not seen posted anywhere else, and also some nostalgiac Star Wars-themed videos to brighten your day.

(Just a disclaimer: I don’t support the “gold key” movement, but I still found the video funny and entertaining.)

Get that #@!$ out of my face...

 

Hi, buddy!

 

"Satele, I have bad news: you won't look anything like you do now in ten years time."

 

"Where do you think YOU'RE going!"

 

"You cut my face?! I already had a skin condition, asshole!"

 

"I win."

 

"I object."

 

"NUBCAKE!"

 

Fatality - Malgus Wins

 

"I hate to say it, but you just got owned, son."

Faceless in a Land of Glamour

Cheeky title, eh?

This is going to be one of those posts that’s a little more off-the-cuff than I usually do – but I’ll let hindsight point out the things I regret saying (if there are any).

Despite the fact that I’ve had this blog for months now, there are still times when I struggle to decide what it is I want to say, if I want to say something, and how to present it. I guess that’s not terribly strange, considering the fact that I am probably the most secretive person I know – in real life, or online.

How the hell does someone who values privacy function online? I’ve often asked myself that question. In fact, I’ve often wondered if I should just delete this blog from the face of the internet, entirely. Its not as if I would be leaving hundreds of readers disappointed. Most of my page views come from a picture of a bottle of Louis XIII cognac. Granted, it is a sexy, sexy looking bottle, but what does that say about the rest of this blog?

Ok, now I should point out, I smiled all through that last paragraph.

Why? Probably because I take pains NOT to advertise this site.

Facebook? No (aside from some friends who have posted something I wrote – props to the coolest Aussie I know).

Twitter? I haven’t used my twitter account in close to a year.

Take your pick of every other form of social online gathering places – you won’t find any ads for TheLabyrinthineJar, nor any posts urging anyone to visit. I don’t think that is because I dislike talking to people – I’ve met some of my favorite people online. Sometimes, I think it is just my own personal need to keep things private that fuels my desire to stay hidden.

Trust me, I’m not like that in real life. I’ve often been called a “bastard” (though lovingly – props to you Daleous, my great Viking friend), and I think more than one person might even describe me as a bit arrogant (only a bit – assholes). But I am also a wise-cracking guy, and I try hard to be sincere, and I think that allows people to tolerate me. 😛

But I am far from that online.

So why do I have a blog?

I’ve asked myself that more times than I can count.

Sitting here now, listening to Tula from Cusco, I think maybe I keep this blog just to satisfy my need to write. Whether the topic is about SWTOR, films, music in video games, D&D, or what have you, I enjoy writing just to write.

No kidding.

When I think back on this blog’s fairly recent history, I believe my greatest accomplishment has been making “tl;dr” a viable title for this site (I’ve been thinking of changing this blog’s mission statement to something that highlights that fact).

I think in the future I may post excerpts of some writing projects I’ve been working on here. I may even expand on the little summary I wrote for one of my D&D articles I wrote a while ago, just for fun.

Just one warning: leave all preconceptions at the door.

I am not a horror fiction writer, a fantasy writer, or even a political writer — I am a writer… I don’t limit myself to one genre, nor could I for fear of insanity.

I will be careful to add an appropriate rating if the story contains extreme use of expletives (this is almost a certainty), if the themes are a bit much (this tends to happen sometimes – blame it on Lovecraft), or if the violence contained within is a bit graphic (this, not so much).

Just like anything else on here, don’t expect a theme. I may post horror, and next post a somewhat sappy romanticized piece of work. It all depends on how the cookie crumbles.

For now, since I brought up Cusco, I guess the only fitting thing to do is post it up.

Take a listen, and enjoy. Peace out.

Hump Day Listening: David Bowie

Damn, it feels like eternity since I was here last.

The last few weeks have been… tiring. I won’t go into any intimate details. I’ll just say, perspective really changes when you are faced with something that can affect every facet of your life. Luckily, I didn’t have to find that out the hard way.

That was this past week, however — today, I want to get back into my little groove.

Modern Love always seems to do the trick. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the bright yellow suit. Either way, I’m in the mood for a little lift.

‘Ere ya go, people. Take care.

Hump Day Listening: Talking Heads

I’m starting to wonder if I should post these early on Wednesday — that way, anyone who should happen to care wouldn’t have precisely one hour to listen to it on the actual “Hump Day”.lol

Anyway, I feel like something less serious. I’m in sort of a… I wouldn’t say “playful” mood… But I am pretty good today.

With that spirit driving me, Talking Heads seems terribly appropriate — and of their many, many playful songs, I don’t think anything tops the sight of David Byrne in a huge ass suit. 🙂