I don't know if it's just a side effect of having played this game for more than six years and therefore not finding everything quite as engaging anymore or also a function of the way modern life has generally shortened our attention spans, but I'm finding it hard these days to just be happy doing a single thing while playing.

I always want to watch or at least listen to something on my second monitor at the same time, or alternatively I want to at the very least feel that whatever it is I'm doing and focusing my attention on will kill three birds with one stone (no, two is not enough).

For example, I'm enjoying another stint on the Ebon Hawk Star Forge right now, working on my Commando there. Those play sessions are satisfying because they tick a lot of boxes:

- I get to slowly chip away at my main goal of revisiting all the side quests on Republic side.
- If any of them catch my attention in particular, I can record them and add them to my "Favourite Side Quest" playlist (which is a sort of related side project).
- I get to complete the trooper story for a third time. Not a high priority, but might as well while I'm there...
- I get to play without the support of my max-level legacy. Intriguing!
- What's life like with Galactic Command when you don't have/use any of the boosts and just putter along doing quests every so often? Interesting to see.
- A low level legacy means that there are achievements to be had everywhere!
- ... and datacrons to hunt! I used to get my fix for that on the Progenitor but since that has been merged into Darth Malgus, doing them on yet another server is the only way to keep re-experiencing those jumping puzzles in a meaningful way.
- And with all that, I still get to watch things on my second monitor as well... I just pause the video every so often whenever I visit a quest hub, but I can continue watching while cruising around and killing ten womp rats.

Plus, every so often you get to relive fond memories, such as when running into this champion who actually still hits quite hard even to this day.

Now, it doesn't always have to be quite this much. Other times I will settle for something like PvPing on my agent because:

- PvP is fun.
- It gains her Command ranks and she's not 300 yet.
- It's PvP bonus day or we're in a light side victory state, so I'm feeling extra efficient.

Still, always wanting everything to be contributing towards several goals at once is quite a tall order. It's made me wonder whether this isn't the real reason I struggle so much with replaying KotFE & KotET. When I set myself the goal to complete veteran mode KotFE for example, I went through the entire sixteen chapters in a flash! Having more than one thing to work towards was fun. However, the rest of the time those chapters are pretty much the antithesis to my desire to multitask:

- The way combat and dialogue alternate quickly and frequently is very immersive the first time around but doesn't play so well with watching something else on my second screen because I need to start and stop all the time.
- Unless you're making a point of speed-running by skipping cut scenes etc., they aren't a great source of XP or CXP either.
- Beyond seeing the story and how different choices play out (which is fun two or three times) there just isn't... anything. You don't get any good loot, there is little to no room to go off the beaten path for a bit and do something else, there's no reputation to earn, no achievements for killing 100/500/1000 skytroopers... welp, I can't believe I just suggested that as an addition to make chapter replays a bit more interesting.

Don't tell me to go play something else instead though - I like my comfort food! I just really have an urge to be efficient about it at the same time.


Better Late Than Never

I was perusing my flashpoint achievements today - noting once again that despite of my love for the format I'm far off ever reaching 100% completion in the category - when I noticed that in the more than three years that it's been in the game, I've apparently never done Korriban Incursion on hard mode on any Imperial character... according to my achievement panel anyway. I'm still not sure I quite believe it - I mean, yes, I play less on Empire side than on Republic, but... three years!

Fate has a funny way of going about these things, so I actually happened to be queueing for a random master mode on my Sorcerer as I was confronted with this information, and guess what I got?

It was actually a somewhat odd experience. The first boss kept putting dots on everyone, which I could not remember from the Republic version at all. And the bonus boss was a total pushover, where I remember the Republic version being quite a pain in the rear (at least in his original iteration) due to his mass Force choke ability. The Imperial version seemed to do nothing of the sort!

However, the biggest surprise to me was the second boss turning into an utter wipe-fest. Again, I don't recall ever having any issues with this on Pub side. I was starting to seriously question myself and my knowledge of the game: Is the flashpoint tuned that differently for the two factions? Was I just failing at healing? For how long are you supposed to be able to deal with that soft enrage?

Our first tank left after a few wipes, citing that he had just struggled through this flashpoint recently, taking several hours to complete it and that he was feeling unable to cope with all these wipes again. When one of the dps left as well, I got worried that the group might be falling apart, but fortunately the remaining damage dealer was a friendly Assassin who seemed quite keen on getting things done no matter what and patiently waited for replacements with me.

Luckily for us, our replacement tank was both overgeared and very patient, repeatedly telling us after yet another wipe that she believed in us and even going so far as to hand out free stims to everyone in the group. It sure felt good when we finally did get the boss down. The rest after that was easy again, though we learned that our friendly Assassin was even more clueless than he had seemed at first and didn't even know that he had a crowd control ability.

I actually really enjoyed the run despite of all the wipes. It really taught me how to optimise my performance on the second boss, and it was nice to see hapless newbies and seasoned veterans work together in harmony instead of butting heads. So, yes. Master mode Korriban Incursion down on Imp side, woo! Only three years late...


A Love Letter to Odessen Proving Grounds

Dear Odessen Proving Grounds,

That is your preferred mode of address, isn't it? I know that's how you were originally introduced in the patch notes, but since then I've also heard people refer to you as "Alliance Proving Grounds" sometimes, which has made me wonder.

I'm writing to you because I feel sad thinking of all the bad things that you have to listen to people say about you every day. "Not this one!" or "I hate this one!" over and over again, usually followed by a notification that so-and-so has left the ops group. It would make anyone feel bad.

I just wanted to tell you: Ignore the haters. There are those of us who absolutely adore you.

People accuse you of being too complicated? I like a simple good thing as much as the next person, but if everything was simple the world would be quite boring. We love your beautiful complexity and how different it makes you from most of the other warzones. People who just want to bash others' heads in can stick to doing so in their ranked arenas.

I sometimes suspect that a lot of the most public hate for you is fed by well-known PvPers who love to play stealth classes, because stealth provides them with a noticeable advantage in most warzones. That doesn't fly with you however, oh no! Capping an objective? Not possible in stealth. Defending an objective? Not possible in stealth either. Carrying a power-up? No way you're doing that in stealth.

No, instead you decided to give love to those long-suffering support players, the tanks and healers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that those roles aren't inherently fun to play - however, they are probably more prone to being made un-fun by other players than any other. You'll know what I mean if you've ever healed a Huttball game and pointlessly plinked shots off the enemy ball carrier while your team's damage dealers were off having random duels in the middle of nowhere. If you're playing support, you need someone to support who's actually interested in winning the game, and that's not always guaranteed.

However, your unique design has finally set the tanks and healers of the world free, since you offer multiple ways to contribute towards winning that don't actually require you to kill anyone. In fact, you turned a lone tank or healer guarding an objective into a force to be reckoned with all on their own. It doesn't even matter if the enemy eventually kills you, as long as you manage to stay alive just long enough. There is a unique kind of satisfaction in falling over defeated just as a round ends and the objective gets deactivated. You may have won this fight, but you definitely lost the battle, suckers.

I remember once zoning into a match in progress on my Sage healer, with the enemy team having a considerable lead, and I almost single-handedly turned things around because while everyone else was busy brawling in mid, I spent several rounds activating objective points with the green power-up and claiming them for our side.

People may complain that you don't give enough weight to killing the enemy. Again I say, leave those people to their arenas. I enjoy winning even if my enemy is still alive. (If killing was the only point, what would even be the point of playing a healer?)

Others may moan about your map design. The other day I saw someone state on the official forums in all seriousness that sometimes they manage to run all over the map without finding any players! Well duh, I thought, because running all over the map trying to find players isn't the goal. If that person actually focused on the objectives, they'd meet some opposition soon enough.

Again, I actually really love how different your map is, with those narrow tunnels making it hard to see the enemy. It means that you never quite know what's coming and you're rewarded for being able to make good guesses as to what's going to happen in the next round. I gotta write a guide about that some time...

Finally, let's not forget how you achieved that seemingly impossible feat of bringing Republic and Empire together to fight for the same cause. Sure, Yavin Ruins has copied that now, but you were the first. Not only that, but you did it with style. Some people may be clamouring for unity in other places now, but can you really see Pubs and Imps fighting side by side on Alderaan or Denova? Pfft.

Never change, Proving Grounds. Never change.

Lots of Love,

A Fan


Stagnation Appreciation

Like I suspect many others, my guild has been fairly quiet over the holidays, with members spending  a good chunk of time away from the internet and with their families. Last week we finally got enough people together to organise a guild run again but we wanted to take it easy, so we ran Eternity Vault, Karagga's Palace and Explosive Conflict on story mode of all things.

And... I was kind of surprised by how much of a good time I'm still having with these operations. Sure, Eternity Vault seemed amazing to me when I ran it for the first time six years ago, but shouldn't I be tired of this stuff by now? When Bioware first announced their plans to scale all content, I wrote at length about my hopes and concerns about it, and the potential of getting tired of the same instances remaining relevant endgame forever was certainly one of my worries.

And yet, here I am and I'm still having fun. In fact, this week I also ran another group finder operation with random strangers (Karagga's Palace) and had a blast providing guidance to those who were unfamiliar with the content for one reason or another. There's just something extremely comfortable about doing something that you know very well with only minimal variation. It's kind of like knitting another scarf I guess. If you're an experienced knitter I mean.

The other night I decided that I really wanted to do something fresh and different, so I patched and fired up Elder Scrolls Online. Quite a few people in my wider social circle have been playing it as of late and most of them have been full of praise for it. I managed to gain two levels and it was... okay I guess. Nothing was wrong exactly, but part of me found the experience oddly overwhelming and exhausting. While looking for something in the UI, lots of windows kept popping up to tell me about this feature and that, and even though depth is a good thing, something that's supposed to intrigue and entice me, I just felt tired even thinking about having to learn and understand all these new systems.

Back to SWTOR it was.

Bhagpuss also wrote a post only a few days ago about how he's actually quite happy playing all the MMOs that already exist and not exactly dying for something new right here, right now. Like he says, maybe it's the season.

I kept thinking that for me, it's probably also a case of MMOs not just being different things to different people, but also different things to the same person at different times. When I first started playing World of Warcraft over ten years ago (yikes), my real life was in a somewhat awkward, uncertain and unsatisfying place. I relished the opportunity to escape into a virtual fantasy world full of adventure and systems that were a lot more straightforward than the real world (kill kobolds, level up - got it).

No, I haven't become one of those fabled "gamers with real lives" who barely have ten minutes of spare time to play each day, but I do have a full-time job right now and in the last few months in particular it's actually been quite engaging and I've had to learn a lot of new things. That takes brain power, and by the time I come home I'm not really looking to learn a whole new set of rules. I'd much rather have some comfort food that takes me through a well-practised and satisfying routine before going to bed.

That doesn't mean that I don't want new content of course - just that I'm still getting a lot of mileage out of the old stuff in the meantime. While I've been there and done that, right now I'm actually quite happy to be there and do it again.