Day 5: NPCs #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.

I had this idea for a post called "my five favourite Nautolan NPCs" or something along those lines at one point, but then I realised that I didn't actually have screenshots of most of them and I was too lazy to go out hunting for the right pictures. One such NPC that I do have a picture of is Leeha Narezz from the Jedi knight story. She seems like a bit of a one-note character at first with her droid obsession, but later it turns out that there was more to her than meets the eye... 

Colonel Grezor is another interesting Nautolan, I think the only one of his species we see working for the Empire. You meet him during the introductory mission to Explosive Conflict for Imperials.

Nautolans would totally be my pick for next playable species. Aren't we way overdue for one anyway? I can't believe it's been more than two years since Togruta Day! I still tend to think of them as the new guys...

Oh, Arcann, how far you've come. The other day I stumbled upon an old post of mine where I expressed pure horror at the fact that someone had found my blog while googling whether they could romance Arcann. Why would you even want to? I asked. To be fair, I feel that during the KotFE days this was definitely the sensible question to ask. However, redeemed Arcann is a very different man, and since apparently a large percentage of players decided to redeem him, a romance actually appears to be in the cards now. How times change.

Raid bosses are NPCs too! I've said before that I don't think Gods from the Machine gets enough love, but I've been quite charmed by everything I've seen of it so far, even if we're very much behind schedule in terms of bosses released. I'm looking forward to the next one coming out soon.

I didn't even note down the name of this Twi'lek NPC on Balmorra, but I took a screenshot of her because I really liked her look. Despite of the multitude of different customisations available for the species, I find that a lot of Twi'lek NPCs look incredibly samey - always body type one or two, with cute faces and usually blue, pink or green. So I liked this Balmorran resistance fighter in yellowish tones and sporting one of the bigger body types, like my own Twi'leks. (Fun fact: I rather dislike body type one on Twi'leks. I find that they look awkwardly out of proportion when their lekku are almost as thick as their whole body.)

IntPiPoMo count: 38


Approaches to Levelling

The other day the subject of how people level came up on Twitter. Or at least it was "the other day" when I wrote the first draft of this post... by now it's been quite a bit longer already. Either way, the point was that I didn't really follow the conversation then, but the subject remained on the back of my mind and got me thinking about my own levelling.

When I first started playing and created Shintar the Commando, I would say my play style was what you could call exploratory. I wanted to see as many different things as possible, including group content and PvP, but I wasn't hung up on any kind of completionism, skipping both Taris and Alderaan in their entirety except for my class story. I figured that being over-levelled wasn't going to be very fun, and there were always going to be alts. I didn't do Taris's main and bonus story arc for the first time until I levelled my Guardian, and Alderaan on my Sage. This way I eventually explored all the game had to offer, sticking my nose into different types of content with every new alt.

Then my pet tank and I became an item, and he infected me with his completionism. We levelled a couple of characters by doing all the quests on every planet, over-levelling be damned. However, eventually he lost his taste for that and when left to my own devices I returned to picking and choosing whatever I fancied at the time, while sticking to the class story as my guiding thread. With XP gains getting buffed, I actually needed to do less and less to keep up with it, but the changes did allow me to revisit some class stories that I had already completed with relative ease. However, there were only so many times I really wanted to replay the same class story in quick succession.

Last year's Dark vs. Light event managed to reinvigorate my interest in levelling by inviting me not to care about the class story for a change and to simply chase levels. For the sake of the achievement I revelled in things like doing lowbie PvP and flashpoints, where I played with the handicap of a limited skill set and unfamiliar specs, and I had a right blast doing so.

However, in the end the whole experience also left me feeling a bit adrift. The class story always served as a sort of anchor for my levelling. I would even say that story is more important in SWTOR than levels themselves. The progression of the two systems used to largely line up, so their separation wasn't that noticeable for me, but nowadays you'll run out of levels to work on long before you've even scratched the surface of all the story threads.

What point is there then in rolling up more alts if I haven't even bothered to re-experience all the stories with my existing ones? If I did want to re-play the consular for a third time for example, I couldn't help but think of the consulars I already have and that haven't even finished their story, even though they sit at high levels. It's a bit of an awkward situation. Part of why I've been able to throw myself into my new flashpoint levelling series with so much vigour is that it's allowed me to level another character with a purpose. If I want to chase levels just for the sake of chasing levels, Galactic Command offers plenty of opportunity for that at the level cap these days.

Sometimes I think that my best bet might well be to try out alt life on another server for a bit - except that there are fewer of those around now than ever. Not having a huge legacy of pre-existing characters lends the whole exercise at least some semblance of freshness, and I suppose I could work towards getting Legendary Player status a second time or something...

What motivates you to create new alts after you've more or less seen it all?


Day 4: Missions & Conversations #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.

Most of these are going to be from Knights of the Eternal Throne, seeing how that's been the big expansion since I last posted pictures for this challenge. Whatever else you want to say about it, it features some beautifully framed cut scenes that make for some great screenshots, like this one of my Marauder Arrah dreaming of a throne room in flames.


While this screenshot doesn't really do it justice, I was also really impressed by the intro to chapter one, with the way it shows your shuttle weaving through the space battle above Voss.

I even enjoy the look of simple scenes like characters just talking to each other. For example I really like the way my Guardian Fali is framed here while talking to Vette.

Not a cinematic scene, but the curing of Bergola in chapter six is one of my favourite "Easter Eggs" in recent content. If you don't know what that is about, Calph has a detailed guide!

(Sort of) speaking of pets, I purchased my first ever companion from the Cartel Market this year, and I was pleasantly surprised by how acquiring it gives you a sort of "mini quest" to talk to an animal handler or droid merchant. It's only a small touch but (to me) still much better than simply having the new companion automatically appear with no explanation.

One last KotET screenshot because I've said before that I love being able to catch people mid-flight.

And finally, one screenie from replaying KotFE on my Sorc. I hadn't even considered in advance that her lightsaber and Arcann's would be the same colour. Either way, you've got to admit that the lightsaber duels in KotFE are very cool. It's just a shame that moments like these are pretty damn awkward if your character doesn't actually wield a lightsaber...

IntPiPoMo count: 33


Reunited And It Feels So Good

The dreaded/anticipated server merges have come and gone.

Before (with more servers still hiding behind an invisible scroll bar).

After, with just those five now.

Bioware's optimistic initial estimate of twelve hours downtime turned into nearly double that, leading to people raging on social media about how useless they all were (and to some extent, other people raging about the ragers) - what else can you expect nowadays? However, in the end, the servers came back up, and everything had worked out well. Aside from a few UI preferences being reset, everything seemed to be where it should be.

As expected, I haven't really noticed much of a difference, but then I stay away from general chat most of the time, which is where I suspect most of the excitement played out. Dipping my toes into PvP, everything seemed as abysmal as it had been before the merge, only with some new names on both sides. It's been fun to see which guild names were unoriginal enough to have been slapped with an "@ Servername" tag. I can't believe there was apparently more than one "Royal Panda Society"...

I also have two Coruscant apartments and two Dromund Kaas strongholds now, which feels weird. My first thought was that I should probably delete the duplicates since they weren't really used anyway, but then I thought I might as well keep them as long as they don't get in the way of me purchasing any new strongholds. It's a curiosity if nothing else.

I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't lose a single character name, not even those of any of my lowbies. And even better...

I am Shintar with a regular i again. Who's laughing now, "other Shintar"? You may have won back in 2012, but five years of patience have now paid off in my favour. It's kind of funny actually how much this excited me. I mean, I wasn't really that fussed back when I first lost the name. However, it did start to feel like a bit of a rivalry when I kept running into the guy in PvP. At last, victory is mine. If he ever decides to resubscribe, he can put a funny i in his name.


Day 3: Companions & Pets #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.

I apologise if this feels a bit spammy, but I need to make one of these every three days if I want to make it through the challenge before the end of the month! At least I should have the server merges to talk about for my next post.

For now, the picture posting challenge continues with companions and pets.

I just love this shot of my Cathar Sith warrior and light-side Jaesa. They've got each other's backs. I think I like my companions best when the game has them fighting by my side canonically (as opposed to randomly while doing dailies). It's a bonding experience.

In a similar vein, I think this part of KotET chapter nine is one of Theron and Lana's stronger moments (if they are the ones who accompanied you to the Spire). Generally speaking I'm unfortunately a bit tired of them.

I've been thinking about why that is and I think it's not just overexposure, but probably more a feeling that they mostly exist to serve as love interests and to force the plot along. The original companions all had their own stories aside from just following you around, and actually most of the supporting cast from KotFE and KotET have their own agendas too. But Theron and Lana never seem to do anything that isn't about pushing the Outlander into moving the plot along. They have mysterious and convenient connections, but they don't appear to have any friends or interests aside from the Alliance. I kind of want to tell them to go out and get a life.

Shroud of Memory is an enjoyable little story featuring two fun companions, but like with all the chapters, I kind of struggle to make myself replay it. I think I've only done it three times so far? I just don't enjoy being in a solo instance all the time...

On the pet front, fiery grophets are still a thing with me! I'm pretty sure that companion pets are not supposed to show up in cut scenes, so I was very amused when my Marauder's grophet decided to unceremoniously join her for her conversation with the Scions on Iokath.

Also, here we have Pugette receiving emotional support from her own grophet, Charles. All of my alts have grophets now actually and I cannot house any more. I've declared one of my low-level alts the dedicated grophet herder and she keeps any spares in her cargo bay for now. One day their time will come... maybe when Bioware holds another DvL event, asking us to roll up another eight alts.

One thing I really liked about the Done and Dusted uprising is the part where you can summon random desert animals as temporary companions. We spent a really long time in there early on, just constantly summoning and re-summoning more of them, just so that everyone could get the achievement for finding them all. They aren't exactly very useful in a fight, but it's just funny to watch all these random critters engage in combat.

Yes, I already featured the "random companions haunting strongholds" bug in my day 1 post, and several times before that, but I just never grow tired of the strange scenes it creates. Once again, none of the pictured companions were actually mine. My Sorcerer just kind of seems to stand there thinking "WTF..."

IntPiPoMo count: 21


Day 2: Class Stories #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.

The class stories I replayed this year were Jedi knight, Sith warrior and Imperial agent, so this post might feature some spoilers for events occurring in those three. Yes, I still give spoiler warnings for the basic class stories six years later. They are enjoyable, why risk ruining a good thing for somebody for no reason?

I was always curious whether you had to accept the sham wedding to one of Bas-Ton's children on Voss as an agent, but my agents were never nasty enough to find out - until this year! The answer is no, you can just force them to give you what you want at gunpoint. I was still kind enough to not shoot them at the end though. (I think?! Now that I'm thinking about it, I don't remember for certain...)

I've written about how it took me ages to level a second Jedi knight, but to be honest my second Sith warrior was sitting there with an unfinished class story for quite a long time as well. The problem was that she was part of a levelling duo that my pet tank had lost interest in. It was only this year that I finally pushed him towards at least finishing up our class stories. There were so many things I had forgotten! Such as how you get to team up with this Jedi master on Belsavis. Truth be told, he is actually more fun if you're dark side because at least then you get to banter. If you're light side he's just kind of pompous and condescending, never quite believing your good intentions.

Worse, I had forgotten about this too! So many great screenshot opportunities that were wasted back in the day because Print Screen never worked...


Now this I remembered well, but damn was it still a cool moment. Makes me want to roll up another Sith warrior right away just to do get to do it all over again.

I've said before that the Jedi knight story has too many ups and downs for me, oscillating between boring and cliché and twists that evoke genuine emotion. The moment you reach Uphrades always struck me as one of the story's early highs, having your character reach the scene too late and being confronted with just how bad things can get if the baddies get their way.

I'll never forget this random gold guy near the end of Act I. I even mentioned him in my original summary post for the Jedi knight class story. He kicked my arse so badly back in the day, underlevelled as I was and with no companion healer. I felt kind of saddened by how easily he fell over this time.

Finally, I always love scenes where someone flies through the air and I successfully manage to capture it. Just makes for great screenshots.

IntPiPoMo count: 14


Day 1: Bugs #IntPiPoMo

International Picture Posting Month is upon us again! I wasn't sure whether people in my known part of the blogosphere were going to participate in it again this year as I still hadn't heard as much as a peep about it by the end of October, but apparently Chestnut was just waiting until the last minute to put her explanatory post up.

I quite enjoyed participating last year, so I will take part this year again. I will also once again use my self-imposed "10 Days of SWTOR Screenshots" challenge as an excuse to post the 50 required pictures, considering that I don't usually use that many images in my regular posts. This means that November probably won't feature as many "meaty" entries but more random insights into what goes through my head during everyday play. You can find the list of themes I will use in this old post.

We're starting with... bugs. No matter how long I play, the game never seems to run out of those.

Let's start with a classic: doubled-up companions. I already referenced this one back in 2015, but it never ceases to amuse me. Nothing quite like it to throw off an important in-game cut scene, like this one from the Jedi knight class story, where my Sentinel was suddenly seeing Kira double.

Another popular occurrence is companions that shouldn't belong there haunting your strongholds. Like in this screenshot, where upon exploring my newly purchased Manaan stronghold, I ran into Broonmark already there and staring out into the sea. This was extra dramatic because my trooper had already done his Alliance alert and killed him. It's like one of those moments where it suddenly turns out that someone's not dead after all and they've come back to get their revenge.

It seems strangely apt that the world would be broken in the domain of the so-called Worldbreaker Monolith. At least when you stand in a certain place, there is a clearly visible crack/line in the ground where two bits of floor weren't quite properly connected. Or at least this was the case when I took this screenshot - maybe they've fixed it by now; I haven't been to that part of Ziost in a while.

Invisible floors are another popular type of bug/glitch, but there's something particularly unsettling about having to cross the chasm in Voidstar without being able to see the bridge. Actually, now that I'm looking back through some old posts, I had the exact same thing happen on my Assassin before! I'd forgotten all about that.

Somewhat related, but I believe that my Guardian wasn't actually standing on invisible ground here but in actual thin air, as in: I had tried to leap to someone and ended up somewhere I definitely shouldn't have been able to land. Unfortunately vertical movement in warzones is subject to really bad descync issues sometimes, where your game shows you one thing while the server has already decided that the character is actually somewhere else, leading to lots of annoying "teleportation".

This is the same Guardian during KotET chapter eight, appearing to wear a set of gear that looks noting like what she was actually wearing! (I believe it's the equivalent Imperial version of the same gear set.) This is a really jarring bug in some KotET cut scenes, especially if the "alternate outfit" you are given doesn't match your character at all, such as is the case here, with my Twi'lek Jedi losing her lekku and turning into what looks like an Imperial fighter pilot. I reported it ages ago but last time I checked it hadn't been fixed yet.

The Shadow ability Kinetic Ward, more commonly known as "rocks" has the strange habit of sometimes visually dropping off the character that is "wearing" it and just floating around in space for a while. "You lost your rocks over here" is something we've had to say to our Shadow tanks more than once.

Now this one needs a bit of explanation because it's non-obvious. SWTOR is a bit old-school in terms of not having shared mob tagging, so if a mob has already been tagged by someone else, a little padlock appears over their portrait and the tooltip explains that you won't get anything for killing it. Except... sometimes this padlock randomly appears over the head of party members, or like in this case: myself! Nice to know that I won't get any loot for killing myself, Bioware...

IntPiPoMo count: 7


Galactic Command Is Alright Now

The other day, while reading through a comment section that shall not be named, I saw someone comment on how hated Galactic Command was, claiming that Bioware was totally tone-deaf for not changing it. My first thought on reading this was: Oh my, you obviously haven't actually played the game in a while, because if Bioware has done anything in the past year it's make lots of changes to Galactic Command.

However, then it occurred to me that this person probably isn't alone in their thinking, because as I've said before: If you're a game developer, your big mistakes will make all the headlines, but your apologies and fixes after the fact won't; so there are probably a lot of (former) SWTOR players out there who left the game over their annoyance with Galactic Command and have never looked back. I can't blame them for having felt that way, it sure was quite terrible in its initial implementation! But it is worth mentioning that Bioware has done a lot to improve the system and it's really quite decent now. So let's look over the changes in case you haven't actually been keeping up with everything that's been going on with the game.

Galactic Command had loads of problems at launch. Let's start by looking back at them:

1) Non-subscribers got completely locked out of endgame gear acquisition, since all of it came out of Command crates, which could only be earned by subscribers.

2) The loot from the crates was completely random, with no bad luck protection if you kept getting the same pair of boots over and over again, and no alternate ways of filling out those missing slots (except for crafting, to some degree).

3) The loot from the crates was in general pretty crappy. Set pieces were rare, and you would get lots of greens.

4) On top of all that, the rate at which you earned these crates of potentially useless loot felt really slow. I can't find the quote now, but I think they said that their original target was for people to earn a crate about once every half hour, and I'm not sure even that was achieved by the average player.

5) The introduction of CXP boosters to the Cartel Market added a certain uncomfortable pay-to-win flavour (or whatever you want to call it) to the game.

Now let's look at how all that has changed!

1) Actually, that one is still around. At the same time, I always considered that the least of the system's problems. Of course I'm biased, being a subscriber myself, but then I also play other F2P games without their optional subscription and find it acceptable to be locked out of high-end gear progression there. /shrug. Crafted gear is still an option, just without the set bonuses.

2) First off, gear drops were added back onto operations bosses, so those serve as a guaranteed source of loot again. A currency called Command tokens was also added to the crates, and tier 1 gear for all slots can be bought for Command tokens directly from a vendor, allowing you to use them to fill the slots for which you didn't get lucky with a drop directly.

There is also a secondary currency called Unassembled Components, which can be used to upgrade tier pieces. So if you make it through the entirety of tier 2 without ever getting the right relic for example, you can use Unassembled Components to upgrade your existing tier 1 relic to tier 2. Currently this second currency only drops from PvP, GSF and nightmare operations, but the next patch will also start awarding it for disintegrating gear from crates, thereby making it accessible to everyone.

3) The number of completely crappy items has been reduced, and as you advance through any given tier, your chances of earning a set piece are constantly increasing. They also added some more extra goodies to the loot tables, such as Command XP boosts and even Grand Chance Cubes, which contain a random item from the Cartel Market and would previously only make it into the game via real money purchases.

4) I don't have the exact numbers, but the basic rate at which you gain CXP has been increased greatly several times. I think it was at least doubled... or was it even tripled? And that's just the base rate; in addition there are also a legacy and a character perk that you can unlock to increase your rate of CXP gain even more. When the system was first introduced, I felt accomplished if after a whole day of heavy farming I had six or seven crates to show for it. Nowadays a casual ops run with my guild (meaning that we do content that we can clear easily as opposed to wiping on progression) can net me 20+ crates in one go. The other night I did three daily zones with their weeklies and earned 30 crates from it.

5) The boosters still exist, however they can also be purchased from an in-game vendor on the fleet (thus without a real money requirement) and even have a chance of dropping from Command crates.

In short: While I was really unhappy with the state of endgame at the end of last year, on a basic level it has managed to return to something similar to what it was before the introduction of Galactic Command (ability to slowly earn currency to buy basic gear from a vendor, better gear can be acquired more quickly from operations drops), with the crates basically being a nice bonus that results in the occasional extra goodie at the end of the evening. If you stopped subscribing because the initial iteration of Galactic Command annoyed you, don't be afraid to give it another try!


Tank Ego

I seem to remember a long defunct WoW blog (Why did you have to delete everything, Tam? Why?) once coining the term "tego" as a contraction of "tank ego" to describe a certain attitude of superiority found in tanks that the writer would run into every now and then.

At least in all the MMOs I've played, there seems to be a natural expectation for the tank to assume the leadership role in any given group. It does make sense to a certain extent, when the tank is the one making the pulls and generally setting the pace of the run. However, we tend to go a bit overboard with our expectations of leadership sometimes, which leads to things like tanks fancying themselves very important and their lives meaningful above the rest of the group (having a big tego), or groups feeling restless and uneasy when they feel that a tank isn't taking charge quite forcefully and quickly enough.

In larger (raid) groups, tanks are also subject to an odd sort of dominance struggle among themselves, as only a minority of fights feature two tanking assignments of equal importance, which leads to one being designated as the main tank and the other the off-tank. Healers don't have that: While we might also have assignments like "you take the left group, I take the right", and sometimes one might be easier than the other, they are always considered equally important. And while damage dealers are always incredibly competitive about doing the highest dps, they generally operate on an even playing field, without anyone being given a rank like primary or secondary dps.

I found myself thinking about this during the past week, during which I had some days off and spent some time tanking social runs for my guild on an Imperial alt of mine. Just assuming the role of tank was already enough to greatly change my perception of each run - I'll admit that as a healer I'm quite prone to things like goofing off or being lazy on trash, but as a tank I felt like I constantly had to pay attention to make sure nobody got themselves into trouble, though I'm sure that was at least in part caused by my relative unfamiliarity with the role. I know that our regular tanks do also allow themselves moments of slacking off and being silly sometimes.

I was also told that I wasn't "dominant enough" - which was meant as a joke and did make me laugh, but at the same time it also gave me food for thought. Quite a few times I experienced damage dealers pulling for me, and while it was all good-natured fun among friends, I have to admit that at the same time there was a part of me that started to feel a bit stressed out as the evening wore on. Like I had to fight the group for pulling rights to show that I'm the tank instead of them just letting me do my job. Because if you're the tank and you're not tanking, what are you? Useless, that's what, and that's just no fun.

On Friday night, things took an amusing turn when I ended up co-tanking an operation with another guild member who - while a lot more used to it than me - also isn't a "regular" tank. Usually he's "just" a damage dealer, and a fairly mellow and reliable one at that, or in other words: He didn't have much of a tego either. This led to a sort of comedy of over-politeness where we would stand in front of a boss and be like: "No, you should main tank this one. Really, I just had the last one." "Oh but I really don't mind, you go ahead and take this one too." "No, I insist..." I think the rest of the group was a bit baffled. Another time we both chilled at the back scavenging some droids while everyone else threw themselves into the next trash pull with no tanks whatsoever. We just sighed and shook our heads.

The conclusion all this made me come to is that a certain degree of tank ego is actually useful to have and probably quite important if you want to actually enjoy the role. While too much of it is annoying and can lead to people acting quite tyrannical, trying to hold the group hostage to their whims, not having enough of it can lead to other group members making your life hard and forcing you to fight them nearly as much as the hostile mobs, which then results in stress and a lack of fun for you.


Good Changes

Gosh, has it really already been two weeks since the release of patch 5.5? I've been meaning to write about it but have kept putting it off in order to first be able to gather some more first-hand experience with the changes it introduced.

5.5 has been one of those updates that aren't very glamorous, with no new content on offer and a lot of work being done in the background to prepare for the upcoming server merges, but for long-time players there was still some good stuff in there, as Bioware continues to work on all kinds of quality of life improvements.

One thing that wasn't even in the patch notes is that all the daily missions on Iokath are finally available. In my Iokath Daily Tips post back in May I noted that several quests that were listed in the achievement panel had yet to appear in the rotation, and they actually continued to be no-shows for another five months. Something clearly didn't quite go as planned there. However, after this patch the list of missions that are available each day suddenly grew quite a bit longer, and all the ones that had been missing so far were finally in there as well. I was quite pleased to finally be able to complete the achievement for having done them all.

Something that's neither here nor there but which amused me was the update to the conquest board. Even though conquests were introduced in late summer 2014, long after the last round of server merges, the way guilds displayed on the conquest board still made reference to servers that no longer existed for some reason. So on Red Eclipse for example it would list guilds "@ Jolee's Hut" as competing with others "@ Nightmare Lands", presumably some leftover from the way the servers were originally folded together. Nobody really minded, but I guess it could potentially be confusing to newbies.

Exhibit A.

Well, what do you know: Three years later and mere weeks before all the current servers will cease to exist, they finally updated the information on the conquest board so that all guilds on my server were correctly tagged as "@ The Red Eclipse". Now the big question is: When the server merges actually happen, will it show guilds "@ The Progenitor" etc. with the old server names, or will it be updated yet again to actually show the new and correct server names for everyone? You may not be dying to know, but I sure am.

The Cartel Market also received its first real interface update since its introduction. I don't even use it much, but I still found the change to be a pleasant surprise because every now and then I would see someone with a store item and go "hey, that's nice, I would like to buy that too", but the old UI was not very conducive to friendly browsing. Now it finally has an actual search box (imagine any online store trying to sell you things without a search box these days) and everything is much better categorised. When I opened the right category for it, I was surprised to find that there was actually a hairstyle that I didn't own yet. Guess I simply hadn't been able to find it before!

Strongholds have received some nice tweaks as well. First off, the cap was raised to ten, which meant that I finally had reason to go out and buy the Umbara train. I was honestly a bit disappointed when I first found out that I wouldn't be able to buy it without disabling one of my existing strongholds, so I decided to hold off on farming the currency for it originally. It's kind of funny because I don't even use my strongholds very much, other than my Coruscant home's first room, which is where I tend to load in and log out on most of my characters. However, I still like owning them all.

More importantly, they finally fixed the issue with the intro cinematics! It used to be that you could only see the intro cinematic for each stronghold when you first entered it on any given character. This worked okay for that "inspecting the new place you just bought and which is totally empty right now" feel of your first purchase, but once you started decorating you soon realised that on any alts, the cut scene would look so much cooler because you could actually see all the decorations you had placed in the meantime. Yet the only way to see this cut scene again was to roll another alt. (Manaan then turned this on its head by instead playing the full cut scene every time you entered the stronghold on any character. That was annoying too.) Now it's been fixed so that after the initial visit on a new character, you can replay the little cinematic at any time by clicking a new terminal by the door. This was honestly one of those things I figured they were never going to implement because while it probably wasn't hard to do, not enough people would care. Thanks for caring, Keith!

Nice outside view of the one stronghold I've actually bothered to decorate, courtesy of the new terminal that lets you re-watch the intro cut scene.

I still haven't managed to convince my guildies to go hunting for Dark vs. Light bosses, but the new 18-hour-long victory states are definitely handy. Previously it could be quite challenging to catch that one hour when your alignment would line up with the correct victory state to get the most out of your accumulated CXP packs, but with a full 18 hours to go each time, it's become a lot easier.

Finally, last but not least: so many GSF changes! While I talked only recently about how I'm really quite sick of hearing about class changes, I did appreciate these because Bioware changed so much, and more than anything this is exciting because they haven't really touched GSF in several years. Even without having paid attention to all the details of which ship was updated in what way, it's clear that the mini-game has been reinvigorated and people are trying new things. I've continued to stick to my gunship and bomber staples simply due to lack of skill at dogfighting, but I've certainly died in a lot of new and interesting ways lately... mostly to strike fighters, which are suddenly en vogue now and have some sort of ability that disables all my systems for a really long time, so that I can do nothing but helplessly drift through space while they shoot me up until I'm dead. (I've previously talked about how I consider it one of GSF's biggest issues that it doesn't give you good feedback about what is happening to your ship.)

Have any of the recent small changes made your day?