26/07/2015

Blog Stuff: Twitter & YouTube

I remember a few years ago, when Twitter first started to become a thing among bloggers, there was a lot of discussion about whether it was replacing blogging or whether it was merely a complementary form of communication. I've certainly seen some bloggers "disappear" onto Twitter in my time. However, regardless of whether one thinks that Twitter contributes to the death of old-school blogging or not, it seems to have become pretty widely accepted that having a Twitter account for your blog is a thing, even if you only use it to promote your blog posts. Personally I held out for quite a while without one, but by now more than two and a half years have passed since I created my own. These days I see very few holdouts that blog without having a Twitter account as well.

I've come to accept it, but I have to admit that Twitter still hasn't grown on me. It's just too chaotic, which is why I can't bear to look at my Twitter feed for any length of time. Random cat pictures are mixed with real life announcements and gaming achievements, and it's just too hard to follow any kind of narrative. I guess I could see how it might be entertaining to look at on your smartphone during your commute on the train or something like that, but I don't have a smartphone and when I'm at my desktop, with the option to play a proper game or blog, Twitter just feels like a waste of time most of the time.

I'm not even sure it's that great for blog promotion to be honest. I can see that I get a fair amount of traffic from it, but I'm not sure how "valuable" those clicks are. What I mean is that there have been times when I've posted the link to a new blog post on Twitter and got people replying to just the headline, blatantly showing that they hadn't bothered to read the actual post. That kind of thing is a bit disappointing.

Sometimes genuine readers also decide to reply to the post via Twitter instead of via the comment section, which always makes me a little sad because it limits discussion, and unlike the comments on the blog post, which are stored with the post for as long as the blog exists, Twitter responses tend to disappear into the aether and are hard to track down later on.

Still, there are some perks to using Twitter as a blogger. Sometimes when I'm having a moment that makes me feel like shouting out into the world, without having enough to say to make a blog post out of it, Twitter does the job quite nicely.
Also, while I find that you can't communicate very effectively via Twitter, it is great for simply connecting to other people. The #SWTORFamily hashtag is a great example. Whenever I find a great blog post somewhere else, it's nice to be able to share it around by re-tweeting, even if I don't have anything else to add. Twitter is also a great source of SWTOR community news... such as that Njessi of Hawtpants of the Old Republic is back in game, woo!

In other news... YouTube! I can't believe it's been over a year since I last posted a video here! I still enjoy making them but have been somewhat starved for time since I started working full time, and video-making can be quite time consuming, even if the result is very basic. However, until very recently I also had an even more pressing problem: lack of disk space. I had to give up creating videos of our operations boss kills because every couple of attempts my hard drive would be full and I'd have to go delete things again or stop recording... but you never know which attempt is going to be the succesful one! It just didn't work.

Fortunately this has been resolved with a new disk which is currently solely dedicated to Fraps and lets me record things to my heart's content again. It's just a shame that I can't promote them more because YouTube broke Blogger's YouTube sidebar widget some time ago. You can still see the newest videos by going through the Google+ page on the sidebar or straight to the channel page, but of course updates are not as prominent there as they were on the widget.

Here's our latest "new" boss kill, featuring some eighties rock! Surely you can't go wrong with that?

23/07/2015

Togruta Day!

Yesterday we finally saw the drop of the long-awaited (and briefly delayed) patch 3.3, or "the Togruta patch" as I like to call it. Sure, there were other things to be excited about, such as the changes to warzone commendations, the new stronghold on Yavin IV, Medical Probe losing its name and tooltip...

 
... wait, what? /scratches head

But the new species was definitely the thing that got me personally the most excited. And I'm not even that crazy about the Togruta. The most prominent in-game Togruta characters that I can think of off the top of my head are the inquisitor companion Ashara Zavros, and Master Bela Kiwiiks from the Jedi knight class story. However, fans of the Clone Wars series were clearly excited to be able to make their own versions of Ahsoka Tano.

Me? I just like playing with the character creator and rolling new alts, even if I'm not sure I'll keep playing them. Can you believe it's been over two years since we got the Cathar? Then again, while that's a reasonably long time, it doesn't really feel unusually long to someone like me who started in World of Warcraft. After all, Blizzard also tends to release new races only every other expansion or so. However, I do like the way Bioware seems to be saving its new species for "filler patches" so far, which means that they come out at what's pretty much the perfect time to roll an alt.

I was curious to see how closely the new Togruta player characters would resemble the existing NPCs in the game. After all, with the Cathar it was a bit of a surprise how different the options in the character creator looked from the non-player characters we'd come to know and love, and that there wasn't a way to recreate your favourite NPC as an alt.

As it turns out, the Togruta deviate a lot less in that regard, though Bioware still hasn't given us the means to copy certain NPC looks. For example I couldn't find the option to have a facial pattern exactly like Ashara's or to have perfectly straight rings on the montrals (the horn/tentacle things) the way certain characters have them. However, the one major difference I noticed was that the top montrals on the male Togruta are oddly short and stumpy compared to what we're used to. I wonder why.


I do like that you get the option to use a much wider variety of colours than we usually see, as most in-game Togruta seem to have a red or orange face with white and blue montrals. Personally, I made one that's all yellow! Again, I don't know if I'll play her much at all - she's only level four, but I just wanted to be part of the release day fun. (I also got to see that I'm up to having thirty items in my inbox now when I create a new character... I didn't even dare touching my mail.)

My little yellow Togruta is a knight, so I was roaming around Tython last night, along with dozens of other Togruta. It was actually startling to see a character that was of a different species. People were joking in general chat about how so many players complain about not wanting to give Bioware any money, yet a new species that cost Cartel Coins was immediately all over the place. Apparently things were similarly crazy at the Sith Academy on Korriban.


Togruta everywhere!

Did you join the craze as well? Either way: Happy Togruta Day(s) to all!

20/07/2015

Directions in Warzones

Gamers Decrypted is a relatively new blog, but already very prolific (partially because it has multiple writers contributing to it). While PvPing this past weekend, I was reminded of this highly amusing post of theirs in which the author muses about the way people call the two sides in Alderaan Civil War "grass" and "snow".

I remember when I first started PvPing in SWTOR, I always used cardinal directions when making calls, e.g. "2 east". But it didn't feel like I was having much success with it, and everyone else seemed to prefer calling things by some different designation. I eventually decided to go with the flow and adjust my calling habits, but I still don't know what SWTOR players have against the compass.

First there is the aforementioned Alderaan Civil War with its grass and snow sides. To this day, I don't like this way of telling the sides apart, for two reasons. Firstly, there is snow on both sides. One has less, but if you don't know the look of both sides very well, it can be confusing. Second: If you're in the middle, you can't actually see which side is which without running very close to the side to peek over the edge - and if you happen to choose the wrong side because you can't remember whether grass is east or west, you just wasted a lot of time while trying to come to your team mates' aid.

Huttball is, thankfully, mostly free of directional calls, since there is only one objective and its position is always highlighted by a giant pillar of light. People might say "up" to encourage someone to pass upwards, or "wrong way" if someone gets turned around and tries to carry the ball back to their own goal line, but those are fairly unambiguous.

Voidstar, the last of the original three warzones, is another fairly confusing one. This one even explicitly refers to the door objectives as east and west (or north in the last room) when bombs get planted, but people insist on calling them left and right. I found this highly confusing when I was new to the game, because what's our point of reference? The map? The way our characters face when we respawn? Over time I learned that it's the latter, which solves some of the confusion, but not all of it. After all, changing between offense and defense means that you're suddenly facing the other way, so right becomes left and left becomes right. All clear?


Is that the left or the right door? Depends on whether I'm attacking or defending!

Novare Coast is the only warzone I can think of where people prefer to refer to two of the nodes as east and west. (South tends to be "mid".) I don't know what makes this warzone different, especially as this one would leave no ambiguity about the question of which node is left and which one is right... if you did want to call them left and right, that is. But for some reason east and west is fine this once.

Ancient Hypergates is another confusing one because once again people don't like saying east or west, but for some reason left and right are not popular here either. There is no unique terrain that can be used to identify the different sides, so people just... don't call them anything remotely useful at all. Pylons get designated as "ours" and "theirs" based on ownership, with each team habitually going left (clockwise) from its spawn point at the start. (GD has a post about this mystery as well.) This has the potential to get really confusing if one team manages to capture both pylons, or a match develops in such a way that the teams "swap sides".

The only sort of common thread I see throughout is that PvPers in SWTOR apparently don't like looking at the map for their directions; they want their calls to make sense from the point of view of their character, as they look out on the world around them. For me this is kind of annoying because I find that the map is a much better way of keeping an eye on the big picture in terms of tactics, which is what I want to do when making calls.

18/07/2015

I'm Thinking About Getting Back Into PvP

I think one reason I haven't been as upset about the news of no new flashpoints or operations coming for another year or so as others is that I've also been seeing this announcement as an opportunity. I recently looked back at some older posts from when I started this blog and was reminded that I didn't even want to raid when I initially started playing SWTOR. And while I do love it now, there are still a lot of other things that I enjoy doing in the game.

The last year has driven home the point to me of just how time-consuming raiding can feel when your free time is limited, and I can definitely understand now why many people feel the need to drop that part of the hobby when work or family commitments "take over". On weekday raid nights I pretty much come home from work, make dinner, run ops (while eating for the first half hour of it or so), and then go almost straight to bed. This doesn't leave much time for other things. Raiding also has a way of making you prioritise it, along the lines of: "Well, actually I kind of feel like doing something else tonight, but I'm signed up and seven other people depend on me to get this run going."

I think that raids becoming less interesting for a long-time player like me for a while, as Bioware retunes them with an eye on new and returning players, could therefore be an opportunity to devote some extra time to other parts of the game that I've been neglecting - such as PvP. I've been doing the occasional match on lowbie characters of course, and just after 3.0 I spent a bit of time working on getting the basic Exhumed sets for my Commando main, my Sage and my Scoundrel. That surge of interest didn't last long however (as grinding for ranked commendations without actually doing ranked is just sooo slooow), and to this day, my main is only valor rank 94 - after hitting Warlord rank back in October 2013!

The upcoming patch 3.3 will be a great opportunity to get back into the fray, what with the massive reduction in gear costs and the removal of ranked warzone commendations. Full Dark Reaver sets for all the alts!


1% there...

The already increased warzone commendation cap of two hundred thousand will also provide an incentive to keep going after you've got all your gear, in order to save up for the next tier. To be honest I'm not sure if Bioware fully thought this through... but then again, maybe not letting people save up in advance is actually an outdated concept and not as beneficial as we used to think? If gearing up is really quick anyway, any imbalance created by people being able to buy their full new set on day one is bound to not last very long.

Also, there's that PvP stronghold decoration vendor... I did a bit of maths and if I wanted to buy all the currently available decorations and add their maximum number to my stronghold ("Why would you even want fifty of the Makeb Pergola, you can't actually place that many!" you might say... "Because I want them," I reply), that would require over five hundred thousand warzone comms! Talk about a long term goal! Of course, I could also change my mind at any point and start selling them instead - as I found out on the Progenitor, selling stronghold decorations is actually quite profitable considering the small amount of time that is needed to earn enough comms to buy a single item. I can see this keeping me busy for a little while.


Fighting for furniture.

14/07/2015

Community Cantina Speeders!

So apparently there was another one of those community cantina events last weekend where they gave out codes for a free speeder that you'll get on all of your alts. No, of course I didn't go - I live in the UK and Bioware hasn't been here since early 2013. However, I'm the sort of hoopy frood* who knows all the right people, so I already got myself a code for a shiny new "Prinawe Congregate", pictured below:


If you want one of your own, feel free to click this link! They've changed it so that these can be shared up to fifty times per person, so there shouldn't be a shortage. All you need is a SWTOR account, and you will then get a box containing the pictured speeder in the mail on all of your characters. The box also contains another random goodie - for me it's usually an ugly dye, but potentially it can also be a cool stronghold decoration. After claiming the unlock through the link, you'll also find a link of your own in your account management, through which you can pass the goodness on to another fifty people. Share the love!


I also got the infamous pink speeder from the Anaheim cantina a couple of months ago, which could "only" be shared five times. I sent my link to one or two people in private, planning to "save up" the rest of my "charges" so I could one day in the far future surprise someone with a now rare speeder. Well, Bioware sure foiled that plan, because apparently the codes expire! I know that it wasn't used up since I never posted it anywhere, but nonetheless my account page says that it's no good anymore now. Something to keep in mind - and the reason I decided to share this new code right away so that as many people as possible would benefit from it. I'm guessing that this one will also expire once the next community cantina code gets released.

* Sorry, re-reading the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the moment.

12/07/2015

Of Level Scaling and Recycled Operations

I apologise for the radio silence on here for the past two weeks. Work has been very busy and then last week I went off on a week-long holiday with no internet connection - which was kind of nice in its own way, but I'm nonetheless glad to be back!

Apparently I came back just in time to see Bioware release more information about their plans for flashpoints and operations in Knights of the Fallen Empire. To summarise in a nutshell:

- They currently don't seem to have any plans for new level 65 flashpoints and operations (that they are willing to reveal).
- All levelling flashpoints will now feature level scaling and therefore be available to a wider range of levels. The ones that are important to the story will receive the solo mode treatement, while the others will become role-neutral tacticals.
- Hardmode versions of most flashpoints will be available from level 50-65.
- All existing operations will be available from 50-65 as well, with updated hardmodes and, in some cases, nightmare modes.
- Some stuff about how all of this will work in terms of loot.

The reactions I've seen around the blogosphere so far have been muted (though I'm still in the process of catching up), ranging from "oh well, I guess that makes sense" to "but what will keep us raiding with no new content"? Myself, I'm actually feeling cautiously optimistic at the moment, even though I agree with many of the concerns. There are two reasons for this:

1) George Smith explains on the dev blog that their reason for not releasing any new operations with the coffee expansion was the following:

We felt it was important to first address some of the issues with our Elder Game before moving on to new content. These changes will allow us to be more flexible with how we release new content, as the content no longer needs to be tied to a new gear tier or level cap increase.

Rav takes him to task for this, as she feels that this is just an excuse and the real reason is that Bioware simply had no resources left for group content after focusing so heavily on the single player story for KotFE. While I believe that she has a point, there's usually some core of truth to any excuse like this (based on my experience anyway), and I can absolutely believe that Bioware wanted to revamp the way their group content works before adding more. And if that's the case, it's at least a sign that they still care about this part of the game and genuinely want to add to it in the long run. From a technical point of view, most of the changes sound good to me.

2) I don't care how many times I've done it, Eternity Vault is still my favourite operation and I'm totally looking forward to seeing it scaled up to level 65, never mind the potential downsides.

More seriously though, let's look at the announcement in more detail:

The changes to flashpoints make a lot of sense. I suppose I'm kind of old-fashioned in the way that I enjoy trinity-based gameplay and would like for people to learn how to handle it while levelling up. But realistically speaking, this hasn't been working so well for a while from what I hear. Personally I don't recall ever having a problem, since most of the alts I levelled more recently were either tanks or healers and always got into groups very quickly. Dps queue times have however been problematic from what I've read, especially on servers which are less populated than The Red Eclipse. The recent focus on speeding up levelling via the class story has also greatly reduced the incentives (and available time!) for people to queue for a levelling flashpoint.

Making all those flashpoints role-neutral and allowing them to scale with level will make them a lot more attractive for the average leveller. Most of all, it means that levellers won't be limited to Kuat Drive Yards for a fast queue pop anymore. The stories of these flashpoints are also self-contained enough that it's not too much of a stretch to insert them at any point in the levelling experience. As someone who generally enjoys doing flashpoints while levelling, I won't have to go "damn, I'm about to outlevel Mandalorian Raiders, I better queue for it now" anymore - especially during the early levels this can happen quite frequently. At the same time you'll have a wider variety of content to choose from at the higher levels, when it feels like levelling as a whole is slowing down. The only risk I see here is that of the scaling potentially being done badly - my recent adventures in Neverwinter taught me that badly done level scaling is worse than having none at all. However, as much as PvPers like to rail against the bolster system sometimes, it has held up well so far and I don't see any reason to assume that Bioware will make a mess of applying it in those flashpoints.

As for solo flashpoints, I've said before that I don't think they are a good way of telling important stories going forward, however as a band-aid to allow people to experience the already existing story of Revan or witness the rise and fall of Darth Malgus they make perfect sense. (As a guildie pointed out however, Bioware didn't list Directive 7 as either a new tactical or a new solo flashpoint. Wonder if that's an oversight?)

The idea of having a large number of flashpoints and operations available to play at the new level cap is a welcome one in many ways, because it means that we'll have more variety than ever when it comes to choosing which content to tackle in order to progress our characters. I've written about how my guild has mostly given up on trying to kill the hardmode bosses in Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice that are still standing in our way and has instead been going back to old operations that don't offer us anything except a couple of achievements. With the new endgame as described in George's blog post, this won't be as much of an issue anymore because you will have a lot more choices to progress.

Of course, the problem for us day one veterans is that we've already been there and done all that. Personally I feel this puts me in a tricky spot because to a certain extent I'm very much in favour of re-purposing or "recycling" content that isn't seeing much use. (I used to find Blizzard's long tradition of using every new expansion to discard everything that came before pretty frustrating.) At the same time I realise that this method is not without its problems. I remember being quite annoyed by my group wiping on Operator in TfB again when the operation was scaled up from 50 to 55 (though my guild's internal issues at the time certainly didn't help). When you were previously able to beat the content easily, suddenly finding it difficult again makes your character feel weak, which is not very fun. And of course there is the matter of repetition - how many times do we really want to rerun Karagga's Palace when we've already done it so many times before? I'm willing to give it a try and see how it goes. Running old operations with a guild group is fun now, there's no reason to assume that we won't be able to squeeze some more life out of that content when it's scaled up.

What mystifies me a little is how loot and future content releases are supposed to work with this system going forward, and how it's supposed to make things more flexible for the developers. What I mean is: Whenever a new operation (or flashpoint for that matter) gets released, where is it going to fit in? If it gets placed "on top", we'll be back to the old problem of everyone just running the newest content and this update won't have achieved anything in the long run. However, the main alternative I'm seeing is that any new content will be considered equal to the existing flashpoints and operations in terms of level, with everything getting scaled up every time they increase the level cap (that sure would make things easier on the devs) - however this would mean that we might still be running EV at level 100 or whatever? Also, I'm really not sure how gear progression is supposed to fit into all of this, but somehow I'm less worried about that as this has never been SWTOR's main draw for me anyway. (Story trumps gear progression in this game really.)

I'll continue to wait for more updates.

30/06/2015

Agent Shintar Continues

I haven't written about my little agent on the Progenitor in a few weeks because I've been distracted by other things, but I haven't forgotten about her. She's now level 28 and has so far completed her class story on Balmorra and Nar Shaddaa.


I still don't miss being rich and having a huge legacy. In fact, I got super excited when I dinged legacy level two today! The only thing I do miss sometimes is faster movement, specifically having rocket boots and my higher-level Scoundrel and Operative's ability to roll. That's just a small thing though.

I'm sadly terrible at taking the story in new and exciting directions; sometimes it feels like all my characters are doomed to have boring middle-of-the-road personalities. I remember reading somewhere that you could take your fellow agent on Balmorra out for a date if you flirted with him enough, but I didn't want to start with a flirt option the very first moment I met him... and then the opportunity never came up again. On Nar Shaddaa, I wanted to see what happens when you actually threaten the former executive in the casino with poison (I seduced him last time), but then I somehow managed to miss the chance to actually use the poison, and we had a really boring and civil conversation instead. The one thing I managed to do differently was that I let Watcher X get away! I wonder what sort of consequences that will have on certain developments in chapter two, where I distinctly remember exclaiming "But you're dead!" on my first agent...

The mission on Nar Shaddaa where you disguise yourself as a droid was ridiculously fun and I spent more time spamming emotes than actually doing the quest. I don't remember if the droid disguise was always capable of executing all the emotes or if I just never tried the first time around, but it sure is fun now.


I feel so pretty, Kaliyo! Don't you agree?


You don't? Well, you might regret saying that!


 I believe I can flyyy...


Or maybe I'll just do a handstand.

Interestingly, the epic story XP boost doesn't seem to actually result in me levelling much faster. It means that I do fewer quests, but I still end up doing other things that "waste time" (which is to say they grant limited or no XP) because I don't enjoy ignoring the world around me. So I drive around to uncover all parts of the map, pick up datacrons, gather materials and craft.

I did the introductory Soovada quest but didn't win anything with my five free chips. The casino seemed pretty abandoned. I'm guessing that the event isn't nearly as interesting to people this time around (to be honest, I didn't think it was all that last year either)... or maybe it's just another Progenitor thing.

I also did a henchman mission for Bounty Contract week. I found myself kind of intrigued by that event again... on the Red Eclipse, I got all the achievements for it during its first iteration (before Bioware imposed additional limits on how many quests you can do each week) and then I felt so burnt out that I basically never bothered with it again. Restarting with a blank slate, it feels like I could actually become interested in it again, dabbling in the content on a more casual basis.


I don't think I ever took a close look at the interrogation probe animations before... it's quite fun to watch them poke people.

I've also been doing some more PvP and have been trying to sell more furniture bought with warzone commendations for some extra cash. It's less appealing than it used to be though, since the new (crazy) warzone commendation cap of two hundred thousand makes it quite viable to just save up loads of comms while levelling and then spend them on a full max level set when you get there. We'll see. I'll probably take a break from PvP for a few levels once I hit thirty, because it's not nearly as fun to be at the bottom of the level bracket than it is to be at the top. Though I feel pretty damn powerful anyway. I mean, I just got my AoE heal two levels ago, the one that used to be the top level talent for healing Operatives. It's pretty bonkers.

27/06/2015

Companions I Wouldn't Want to Lose

I said that I wasn't going to do any more speculating about Knights of the Fallen Empire until we had some actual new information to discuss, but just knowing that changes are coming - even without knowing what they will actually look like in detail - can still serve as an inspiration. Calphaya from Spawn of the Dread Masters used the subject of gaining and losing companions as an excuse to talk about which companions she'd definitely like to keep this week (if she was given the choice to lose some). I found that post and her explanations very interesting, especially as my own picks would have been very different. So I thought: Why not tackle the subject myself? So without further ado, eight companions that I wouldn't want to lose - I decided to choose one for each base class.

Republic side:


M1-4X

Since my main is a trooper, I considered the trooper companions first. Since I like pretty much all of them (with the possible exception of Vik), I thought that I would have difficulty picking a favourite, but in the end it wasn't really that hard after all. The one companion I would really hate to lose (even though I rarely play with a tank companion out) would be that lovable killer droid M1-4X, and not just because he used to have droid boners for me. His unbridled enthusiasm for all things Republic, combined with the fact that he's a highly efficient killing machine, is just too endearing and funny. Unfortunately I can't see there being much room for his particular flavour of patriotism in a galaxy in which the Republic has been reduced to insignificance.

Zenith

When I levelled my first consular, I was quite disappointed that Zenith wasn't a romanceable companion and I found other voices on the official forums expressing the same sentiment. He's a cold-hearted killer and the kind of bad boy you know you wouldn't want to get too close to in real life, but in a fantasy setting you can't help but dream of bringing out the good in him somehow. Even without a romance option however, Zenith is a very interesting companion, a former terrorist that wants to become respectable but who also has huge trust issues and can't quite let go of his roots (and is therefore shunned by his government).


Lord Scourge

Of my Jedi knight's companions, the one I would miss the most if I lost him would probably be Lord Scourge. He's probably the only dark side companion I can think of that never annoyed me. His willingness to work with a light side Jedi for his own (still dark side) reasons is simply fascinating. As many others have stated, it's a shame that Shadow of Revan didn't include any references to his relationship with the former Sith Emperor. I totally would have romanced him too if that had been an option.

Risha

Picking a favourite smuggler companion wasn't easy as I feel that the smuggler has probably the most well-rounded set of companions, but after I had given it some thought, I decided that the one I would miss the most if I were to lose her would be Risha. She's probably one of the most resourceful and clever companions you get in the game, without coming across as being over the top (I'm looking at Gault here...). On both of my lady smugglers she always came across as the kind of friend with whom you could go and steal horses (tauntauns?) and was simply a joy to have around. She also has one of the more interesting companion stories, revealing her to be someone with a serious agenda.

Empire side:


Khem Val

I disliked Khem Val immensely when I rolled up my first inquisitor, because I wanted to be light side and I didn't want to be told at every turn that this made me weak and a bad Sith. It didn't help that inquisitors don't get their second companion until Tatooine. But the end of chapter one really turned my perception of Khem Val around. In his own way, he's very loyal, and he actually has a certain deadpan sense of humour. A Sith inquisitor without his or her pet dashade just wouldn't be the same.

Vector

Vector is one of those love interests that people either seem to love or hate. Personally I loved his quiet geekiness; and his deep loyalty to the Empire meshed well with my own agent's attitude. I was seriously grateful when he became my companion after I'd had to put up with Kaliyo for six planets! I believe that he was also the first companion that I managed to romance successfully. (Yes, I have difficulties with simulated romance.)

Quinn

This one will probably surprise a lot of people, because wherever I go, I only ever see a lot of hatred for Quinn. Don't get me wrong, there was a point in the Sith warrior story when I wanted to kill him too, and I totally would have done so if it had been an option. But it wasn't; we had to move on, and I kind of got over it. Aside from that "little hiccup" I always liked Quinn. He could be kind of whiny, but I actually found that kind of amusing. You're whining to a Sith about your petty little problems? You clearly have some guts! Other than that he's shown to be pretty resourceful, and romancing him is a funny subversion of the trope of the shy girl being swept off her feet by some rough guy, with Quinn constantly blushing and being mortified whenever my rough-and-tumble Marauder flirted with him.


Mako

Despite of having levelled two of them, I can't say that I have much of a connection to the bounty hunter's companions, probably because I never spent all that much time playing with them. If I had to pick one I definitely wanted to keep however, it would be Mako. In general I feel that the "quirky young girl" character is kind of overused when it comes to companions in SWTOR, but out of all the ones that fit this description, I probably like Mako the most. She can be a bit whiny, but she always felt a bit like a little sister to my bounty hunters. She's also incredibly devoted and very clever in certain ways. I can forgive her more naive moments because they are usually caused by her sheer enthusiasm for all things hunt-related.

We'll see if all these guys and girls will still be with us come coffee time... feel free to share your own picks for favourites you'd like to keep!

21/06/2015

Back to Old Haunts

I'm still very excited about Knights of the Fallen Empire, but I feel that at the moment, too much about it is still unknown. Speculation like me commenting about the possibility of faction barriers disappearing in my last post can end up being refuted the very next day. The devs have promised that they will give us more information on all aspects of the new expansion over the course of the next couple of weeks/months, so I guess I'll wait until that time to comment on the more important changes.

Meanwhile, it's been almost two months since I expressed some dissatisfaction about the current difficulty level of operations. As is sod's law, we got a new boss kill two days after I made that post, but since then things have been stalling again. Our attempts on the Revanite Commanders always fall apart in the last phase. On Torque we haven't had as much time to practice since he was bugged for a while so that his flame vents were invisible, but he feels like a very tough fight too. I think there's still a chance that we might get either of those two fights down before the expansion, but it's not guaranteed. Either way, the fights after that are guaranteed to be road blocks for us, as they are known to cause even players who are much more skilled than us considerable difficulties.

The release of the Monolith boss on Ziost didn't offer much of distraction either. On normal mode he doesn't drop anything we can use, and on hard mode he's just as hard, if not harder, than the bosses we are struggling with right now (if you are following the mechanics as intended). There's been talk about how you could ignore the mechanics and brute-force your way through the fight with an extra healer, but I've heard people say that this has finally been patched out now... either way it's not a particularly appealing progression path either.

I've really been struggling to stay motivated and maintain my operations attendance, especially with the way Bioware has been keeping quiet about when we can expect new group content to dig our teeth into. At least we know now that things will be shaken up in October, even if we don't know what Bioware's exact plans for operations are in the expansion.

Fortunately my guildies and I seem to have found a way to distract ourselves while still keeping busy within the game, and that's by going back to old operations and knocking out achievements that we haven't got yet. We're not the only ones who have chosen to go down this path either. Pre 3.0, we were 4/5 in Dread Fortress NiM and hadn't killed anything in Dread Palace NiM. We've gone back there a few times since then and killed Bestia, Tyrans, and made some very good progress on Brontes. After how sluggish things have been in "proper" progression, it's been great fun to make so much more tangible progress again in such a short time, even if it's on old content.

It's been fun too - the fight mechanics are far from negligible even now, but considerably less deadly, thanks to our increased health pools. Combine this with dps requirements which are much easier to reach with our higher level gear, and you get a fun learning experience for all. I found Dread Master Tyrans to be a particularly fun fight, since you can now mess it up in a lot of (often amusing) ways before wiping the group: unintentionally falling down, removing the wrong tile, placing fires all over the place etc. It was good for quite a few laughs.

 
Not even sure how we did that...

How are other guilds dealing with stalling progression and having little information about what's to come?

16/06/2015

KotFE Trailer & Updates

I have to agree with Syp that KotFE is a terrible acronym, though I liked the suggestion of one of his commenters to intentionally misread it as "coffee". SWTOR coffee! Still, fitting "Knights of the Fallen Empire" as a whole into every other subject line for the next couple of weeks would just be a pain.

I actually stayed up to watch the official expansion announcement at E3 last night. It was disappointingly short to be honest, but we did get to see the CGI trailer for the expansion afterwards, and some more bits of information were dropped in an IGN interview after the presentation and in a Polygon article. I haven't been this excited about an MMO expansion in a long time.

First off, the trailer:



I felt like a complete dork when I managed to completely miss the killing blow during the final duel the first time I watched it. I was like: "Yay, they are deactivating their lightsabers because they just remembered that they really love each other...! Wait, why is the one in black falling over dead?" I felt so much better when Syp admitted to initially being confused by this as well.

I think that one of the most upvoted comments on the YouTube video sums up my own feelings pretty well: "Awesome!  But I still have no clue what's going on." Which is a nice segue to start talking about the bits of information we did receive. As usual, if you just want a run-down of all the facts, Dulfy or TORCommunity have got you covered. Personally I want to focus on sharing opinions though, and put the new information in context with the speculation I posted two days ago.

First off, it has been confirmed that it will be possible to start a character at level 60 and completely skip the old content. (Also, the level cap will be raised to 65.) I hope Bioware is preparing a good tutorial - the idea of letting people jump right into the story sounds nice in theory, but being faced with four hotbars full of buttons you don't recognise is likely to be much less well-received (the numerous comments from WoW players calling the author of that article an imbecile for struggling to play his boosted character serves to nicely underline the message in my opinion).

It's also been confirmed that the factions will essentially become irrelevant, as your character will wake up after several years of being frozen in Carbonite to find that both the Republic and the Empire have retreated to their home worlds and are basically insignificant. However, so far Bioware has not elaborated on what gameplay effects this might possibly have. (New, shared hubs? Cross-faction queuing? Guilds? All unknown at the moment.)

As far as companions go, it's been confirmed that there will be five new ones, and that you'll also have to work on re-acquiring your old companions since apparently they scattered when you got frozen (or something). The latter worries me a little because adding sensible reasons for players to hunt down forty old companions doesn't sound like a thing Bioware would do in a post-class-story world. Rohan even speculates that we might simply lose some companions in the process, which I would hate. Don't take away my stuff, Bioware! I'm pretty sure that this would create significant amounts of outrage from the playerbase as well, because you can bet that no matter who they might decide to cut, it will be someone's absolute favourite.

Bruce Maclean also had this to say on the subject of companions: "You're able to recruit help and additional companions from an expanded cast, including companions who were previously exclusive to other classes. Building that alliance involves going to all the planets in the galaxy and doing activities and missions that build faction. If you want to recruit a character who's favorable to the Mandalorians, you'll be able to do missions for them. You want to recruit a character who hates the Hutts, you'll do missions to build your alliance standing against them." So maybe they are going to put a bigger focus on companions than before...

The notion of new class stories hasn't been officially rebutted yet, but frankly, I feel that if there were going to be any, they would have been talking about them by now. Instead they've only been talking about "streamlining" the existing class stories so that you can complete them even faster, though I'm not sure how that's supposed to work. Epic XP bonuses for all class missions, forever? Travel passes that instantly take you from the entrance of one phase to the next? Reduced mob kill/clicking objectives? I can't say any of this sounds particularly thrilling to me.

Overall, I'm simultaneously super excited about everything that's been announced, as well as a little worried. I'm definitely getting Cataclysm vibes off this one. Unlike Blizzard, Bioware is thankfully not planning to destroy its "old world", but the thought of it potentially being banished to insignificance still stings. They keep talking about wanting to get back to their Bioware roots, to what players really want, but to me that also implies that what we've had so far is somehow lacking - not in terms of quantity, but in quality, and I just don't agree with that. Obviously you can debate whether individual patches were better or worse than others, but I've never felt that the game wasn't "Bioware-y" enough. It has always struck me as an excellent hybrid of single-player RPG storytelling and MMO features. I don't see a stronger shift towards single player as a good thing, as I fear that it will just throw the game off-balance. Shadow of Revan's frequent use of personal instead of group phases was annoying enough as it is. In light of that, I don't find Jeff Hickman's reassurance that they haven't forgotten about MMO fans and "flashpoints and operations and raid bosses and PvP and that stuff" very reassuring.

Don't get me wrong, I really am very excited about this new story arc, even if it's currently a bit mind-boggling to think how we could possibly go from Vitiate threatening all life in the galaxy to some unknown Empire - one that nobody seems to have heard of before no less - kicking faction butt instead and becoming the focus of the entire game.

Only a couple of months ago people were ripping into EA/Bioware for not giving SWTOR the attention it deserves in such a year of Star Wars. I think they've just proven that they definitely have big plans for the game. I'm just not sure if they are entirely sensible plans. An MMO can't live off story alone. To stay subscribed continuously, I need reasons to long in when there isn't a new chapter of story to play through, opportunities to hang out with friends and have fun with them. Companions are cool, but they are no replacement for other players. Please don't forget that, Bioware.