Like everything else, flashpoints have seen quite a bit of change in 4.0. All the levelling ones are tactical now, and people are complaining that they are too hard. At the same time, they now give crazy amounts of XP to levelling players, as does all group content. It seems that this is due to Bioware's changes to XP distribution in groups - you always used to get bonus experience for other party members completing quests, but now kill experience seems to scale with group size as well, which can lead to some pretty crazy results. I think I've seen one guy gain five levels in a single flashpoint, and I've heard of other players gaining nine levels while running a single storymode operation (though since operations don't become available until level 50, this doesn't have as much of an impact overall).
One of my guildies levelled a couple of his alts through flashpoints pre-4.0, but it wasn't nearly as viable then, as queue times could be long if you weren't a tank or healer, and you would only gain about one level per flashpoint at max. But now...? I decided that dedicating a character to levelling purely through random flashpoints would be an interesting experiment, both to see how long it will take with these accelerated levelling rates and short queues, and to gain more insight into the supposed difficulty of tacticals. And of course since I have a blog, it will provide me with yet another subject to write about! (Just like the Pugging Pally did back in the day...)
I decided to finally pick up the level one bounty hunter that I created months ago and that has been sitting on Hutta ever since. I wasn't really sure what to do with her for a long time - I kind of wanted to finally level a Mercenary... I know, what a shame that I don't have one already - it's my main's Imperial mirror class after all! But at the same time I've already gone through the bounty hunter story twice, and more recently than I've played through several of the other class stories, so I didn't really want to repeat it again too soon. This is of course the perfect solution: I'll finally get to add that Merc to my stable but I can ignore the class story for now without feeling bad about it, plus I'll get to flex my healing muscles while levelling up. Win-win.
I did of course have to level through Hutta first, since you can't queue for your first flashpoint until level ten, but that went super quick. I only did my class story, ignoring everything else including the planetary story arc, and was still up to level ten by the time I arrived at the fleet. (Full disclosure though: I accidentally applied an XP booster while emptying my mailbox of the dozens of starter goodies I get these days, and you can't click those off, so these weren't entirely regular XP numbers I got.)
Somewhat bizarrely, just puttering around the fleet actually got me to level 12, mainly due to the quest to learn about crew skills. It showed up as red difficulty when I picked it up, so I think that Bioware may have accidentally given that mission a higher level than it deserves. (Indeed, if the TORCommunity database is to be believed, the mission is currently classified as being level 55!) I picked up scavenging and bioanalysis, since I might actually be able to level those if I get the right instances.
Then it was time to queue for my first flashpoint... and somewhat ironically, I was off to a terrible start. I got a pop for The Black Talon within a couple of minutes, with one damage dealer and two tanks. (I was queued as healer myself.) However, we had barely started the first conversation when someone initiated a vote kick on one of the tanks. As far as I could tell he was only a bit slow to zone in, but the vote went through anyway and he was removed from the party. The two remaining players then asked for everyone to hit space bar, to which I replied that I'd rather not. We had barely finished the second conversation when both of them rage-quit the group, and I was left standing there alone, unable to re-queue for replacements since I wasn't officially in a group anymore.
Talk about awkward.
For the record, I've said before that I'm not completely anti-spacebarring. Especially in repeatable max-level content it often makes sense. But this was an optional instance for levels 10-15. If you are sick and tired of seeing that content, why even queue for it? Bah.
Anyway, somewhat disheartened for the moment, I put the two quitters on my ignore list so the system wouldn't try to put me into a group with them again and re-queued. Fortunately it only took another couple of minutes to find me a new group, this time consisting of one dps and two more healers. Fortunately group composition really doesn't matter at this level, so we weren't slowed down by our over-abundance of heals. I decided to take the initiative this time and immediately started the run with the words: "Hi, just to warn you: I like watching cut scenes." Nobody commented on that either way, but nobody complained either and it was a pleasant run in the end, something for which I was very grateful after the previous disappointment.
I finished the instance at level 15, but shot up to 17 when I handed in the "Introduction to Group Finder" quest, which seems to have the same "issue" as the crew skill one (not that I'm complaining). Next time the training wheels will come off, because now that I'm past level 15 I could literally land anywhere. You will find out how that goes!